Wednesday, April 9, 2008
R1, G1: What A Start ...
MSG played a spot where the players and some fans riffed on what it was like to be a Ranger - "I will not get sick of the goal song", "I will play with heart", "This is our town", etc. - and in Game 1, the team finally played like it. After months of watching the pregame video in the Garden where they talk about 'tradition', 'respect', 'honor' and praying for a time when the team actually believed what they were saying, I think that time may be now. The Blueshirts played their best hockey of the season when it counted the most, and they defeated the Devils 4-1.
Ok, for my usual list of game observations, pictures to be added later:
*As I just said, the Rangers were great. This was the most energetic that I have seen them play since March 27th, when they surprised everyone by playing a wide open game to beat who else but the Devils (3-2). There was no relenting, no sitting on the puck or the lead - just good, passionate hockey. I couldn't be happier.
*Chico Resch and Joe Micheletti were together doing a standup before the game during Hockey Night Live's Short Shifts. If I had a hammer and a nail around, it would have driven the nail through my eardrum. Aside from their grating voices, they both have trouble putting together cohesive sentences. That is probably the only negative thing that I can say about this night, aside from the fact that I was trapped at work rather than in Newark, but I gotta pay the bills, right?
*It seems somehow fitting that the opening goal of the series came thanks to the good work of Scott Gomez. The former Devil set up Shanny and then cut to the net, providing enough distraction for the shot to get past MAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRTTTTTTTTYYYYY.
*I yelled that a lot louder when Ryan Callahan slapped in the Rangers' second goal. The veteran netminder seemed preoccupied with protecting the puck from Scott Gomez, while he totally forgot Callahan - the guy who shot it in the first place. The kid came around the net and chopped in the rebound to make it a 2-1 game.
*The Devils said they watched a lot of tape prior to the game and it paid off in their game-tying second period goal. They trapped the Rangers in their zone and kept battering them. The Blueshirts nearly escaped until the Devs found Paul Martin for the one-timer glove side that beat Hank. His glove has been weak in recent weeks and it cost them that goal. I stand corrected on this one upon further review ... as it was pointed out in the comments and I just saw on the MSG+ reair, it went in low. Hank bit on a pump fake and got caught sliding. He was also beaten at least two more times but the iron was there to help out; I hope he thanked the posts Patrick Roy-style...
*Other than that, Hank played very, very well. His lateral movement was spectacular and even his stickwork - which has given me several heart attacks over the last few years - was solid.
*This may seem like a joke but it isn't: where was Sergei Brylin in this one? The guy has been a workhorse for the Devils and was on all of their Cup wins. I didn't even notice him out there ... until he turned over the puck for the Rangers third goal. Meanwhile the Ranger player with three Cup rings was one of their best players: Brendan Shanahan. His vision of the ice and penalty killing was awe-inspiring. And his selfless pass to Nigel Dawes for the empty net goal was a nice touch.
*All of the people who berate low scoring hockey should really start watching this series. It is true that some hockey games are dreadfully boring - that happens in high scoring games too - but the first period was utterly fantastic. It was a treat to watch two teams working so hard to wear down their opponents, to get scoring chances, and to keep the puck out of their own net. It was awesome, and I am truly jealous of the legion of Ranger fans who managed to get there to watch it. While I would love for this to continue, whichever team survives this series could very well be too spent to go further.
*PHR Three Stars
3-John Madden - no points.
2-Ryan Callahan - one goal.
1-Scott Gomez - three assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Dubinsky/Dawes/Callahan - I put all three purely as a cop out because I just couldn't pick just one. They hustled and did whatever it took to make the play whether it was a screen, a blocked shot, a pass or a goal. Great work.
2-Hank - he was beaten three or four times but luckily only one was for a goal. The rest of the time he was nothing less than a brick wall, making big save after big save. Someone hand that man his crown ...
1-Scott Gomez - what a game. He drew attention from the fans ever time he was on the ice and the Devils followed suit. Gomez took advantage of that to set up three Ranger goals. Fan-friggin-tastic.