Friday, May 2, 2008
R2, G4: What A Pleasant Surprise!
Myself and many Ranger fans that I know showed up with very cautious optimism heading into this game and were happily rewarded with a 3-0 win. Admittedly, I had practically written the eulogy for the team for all the faith that I had but the Blueshirts actually showed up and had the bounces go there way to force a Game 5 against Pittsburgh.
I won't step out and make a prediction for the next game, if only because it is hard to imagine the Penguins showing as little heart and devotion two games in a row and at home. However, i will go so far as to say that if the Rangers can carry their momentum over, they will be a hard team to beat. Tonight they did many of the things they weren't doing in Game 3: they fought for position, played physical, made good shot decisions and followed them up. And the main factor that brought them the win was the play of Henrik Lundqvist, who made the timely saves that evaded him in the 5-3 loss.
*I have been a big proponent of Dan Girardi all season so it pains me to say that he was, out and out, the absolutely most horrendous player on the ice in this game. Even worse than Frankenstein himself, Hal GIll. Girardi couldn't keep the puck on his stick, missed the hits he needed to make, and nearly allowed the Pens back in the game by shoving Evgeni Malkin on a breakaway and getting a penalty shot called against.
*About that penalty shot. Wow. This guy is up for Hart Trophy consideration and that was the best he could come up with?? He seemingly threw himself off buy hitting the breaks just inside of the blue line and slowly cruising in before taking a soft wrister than Hank easily turned aside. Up in the 300s, I sat still in shock, disbelieving that he made such a poor effort.
*The same can't be said for Marc-Andre Fleury, who probably played his best game of the series. The two goals against weren't really his fault and his rebound control was textbook. The first goal Jagr shot through a screen and the second was a result of the defense not knocking Brandon Dubinsky on his ass in the slot (the third goal was an empty netter).
*Across the ice, as I said, Hank made all the saves that he needed to make. His positioning was better and he got better breaks (seeing Ryan Malone miss an empty net and deflect a point shot by Frankenstein wide did my heart well). As I said, aside from Game 3, Hank has been putting together a good series and tonight was no different.
*It was nice to see Ryan Hollweg keep his wits about him. The fourth line of Holley, Orr and Sjostrom did well when called upon and added a little physical substance that was very necessary when the Pens stepped up their hitting. Yes, it was a little scary to see them trapped in their own end midway through the third period, but these guys deserved some ice time and did their jobs.
*The same goes for Jason Strudwick. That Tom Renney waited so long to plug him in over the disasterpiece that is Christian Backman is shameful. After Game 3, I said that Strudwick would "one has to wonder how the steady, veteran, calm, strong presence of Jason Strudwick would have effected the other defenders." And with him in the lineup, the defense calmed down, didn't have to scramble (much) and played their positions well. The only thing that was unfortunate was that Strud's skates didn't seem to agree with him and he tumbled to the ice three times by my count. Luckily the Pens weren't able to take advantage of that.
*They were unable to take advantage of the many chances that Cindy Crosby gave them. We all booed him, we all taunt him, we all make signs making fun of him (or at least I do) but he is pretty good. As Barry Bonds once said, "You've got to have some kind of serious talent to have 53,000 people saying you suck" and man is it true. The crybaby made some astounding passes that just didn't work out, he got some good shots off that Hank stopped, and he cried as much as possible to the refs but didn't get any favourable calls. Boo hoo, I feel bad (not really).
*As for the game's elder statesmen. Gary Roberts seemingly barely saw the ice and Brendan Shanahan had a few moments but overall was invisible. If the Rangers are to mount a good counterattack, they will need Shanny firing on all pistons. Those guys at Pensblog asked WWGRD; if I had known he would get the start, I would have made a sign: WSGRD? What Should Gary Roberts Do? RETIRE!
*Shanny was on the power play and yet again the special teams unit was atrocious. As someone near me said, 'Ah well, two minutes off the clock.' And he was right,- the Rangers power play is boring, predictable and spends most of the time dragging the puck back into the zone after their predictable passing leads to a turnover. They got truly lucky when Malone blew his shorthanded chance late in the game and should take heed to be more cautious going forward. The Pens transitional game is too quick so all it takes is a fumble by the point man and the puck is back heading Hank's way.
*Poor Chris Drury; I think he blocked as many shots in the offensive zone as he did in the defensive zone. Captain America just seemed to have a target on his back.
*Michal Roszival. His offensive work is tragically predictable, his defensive play too often sorely lacking, but he did seem to step up his play in this game. He stood up Cindy, he threw his gloves down to take on Sergei Gonchar (hahaha) and made a few big plays late. He was better than he has been, as was Tyutin. Toots played his best game of the round.
*Sean Avery wasn't physically there to provide a boost with a wave or something from the press box, but its nice to hear that he is improving.
*On an unrelated note, the Colorado Avalanche were blown out by the Detroit Red Wings to lose their series in four straight. Hopefully it will not be the last we will see of Joe Sakic, the man has had a helluva career and is a true Scotty Hockey Hero.
*Whoever cuts the highlights for Yahoo! Sports should be shot. Tonight was the first time I ever checked them out and what an atrocious display. There are weird, sudden cuts and no replays ... considering I do that kind of thing for a living, I feel safe to say that it was the worse highlights I have ever seen cut. So while Yahoo! is a good clearing house for AP content and Getty photos, it is not the site to check out for video and they should be ashamed.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Brandon Dubinsky - goal and an assist.
2-Jaromir Jagr - two goals and an assist.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 29 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Nigel Dawes/Ryan Callahan - again I go with a tandem at number three, just because it was hard to distinguish the two from each other. Both forced the play, both skated their hearts out and both got good chances because of it. Dubi played a great game, but he is a victim of playing with Jagr - how much of his success was hung on the big shoulders of the big guy?
2-Hank - big saves at big times, That's what got him the Vezina nomination and that is what we need most now.
1- Jagr - if this game proves to be his last in Madison Square Garden, then he went out in style. Simply said, his play was inspired and it was a pleasure watching him do his thing - just not on the power play.