The New York Rangers played the woeful Atlanta Thrashers tonight and like they always do, they played down to the level of their opponent. It was a miserably close game against a sub-par game but as I put in the title, a win is a win. The Rangers pulled out a 3-2 victory despite playing far below their capability and being outhustled and outworked by a glorified AHL team. I mean, look at the pic above, even Scott Gomez wasn't thrilled with the game.
*Things started off on a great note with the Blueshirts swarming the Atlanta net in the first few minutes but Colton Orr had to go mess it all up. As my friend Greg mentioned, Colton had been pretty good of late avoiding the goonery but tonight he let Eric Boulton goad him into a fight and it turned the game around - at least in the short term. The bout was pretty damn impressive but there was absolutely no reason for it and the bombs that landed on Colton's head ignited the Thrasher offense and they scored just a few minutes later. I have always been for fighting in hockey but I do not subscribe to goonery for goonery's sake. It is stupid, pointless and it justifies most of the negative comments that non-hockey fans have for our fair sport.
*And MSG, we get it, you guys can't sell tickets to the Calzaghe/Jones fight. I don't need to be inundated with promos all game long. It was funny when you played it right after the Orr/Boulton idiocy, but after a while enough was enough.
*MSG Network, you guys weren't much better. Whoever cut Rangers in 60 did a bad job; they repeated the first period segment where Kovy hit the post. Moron. Oh yeah, and Joe Micheletti still sucks.
*The Rangers did get a power play goal in the game thanks to the singular effort of Nik Zherdev, As a unit, the power play was a complete and utter joke - and one that is so not funny. They are playing like the special unit they were last year with Jagr; they stand still, try to make cute passes and lose the puck. Shot selection is poor, the personnel don't seem to have any chemistry and the defense has trouble keeping the puck in the zone. This must change and fast since next month they have a stretch of five games against Jersey, Boston, Vancouver and Ottawa - twice. It's all well and good when you blow chances against bottom dwellers but teams with talent will jump all over you.
*Nik Zherdev has talent and a freaking ton of it. We knew that when we traded for him but inconsistency plagued him in Columbus. To date he has been the only consistent offensive threat on the team over the last six. seven games. And he has made a few stellar plays defensively as well - including one tonight where he broke up a Todd White breakaway.
*That Henrik Lundqvist guy? He is good. Really, really good. It he doesn't fall into a midseason slump from dubious injuries or family issues, he should, should get himself that elusive Vezina Trophy and if the Rangers make it past the second round of the playoffs, the Hart Trophy as MVP (Don't bother telling me the Hart is for regular season MVP, that is utter and complete BS. When was the last time a nonplayoff team had a Hart winner?). On this night he saved the Rangers' bacon on several occasions and even managed to cover up for his own insane wanderings from the crease. Dude should never, ever leave the paint - every trip turns into an adventure.
*Yes Potvin sucks. We get it. Let's watch the Rangers play the Atlanta Thrashers now, ok? Thanks.
*Watching Hank leave the crease makes me cringe only a little less than watching any play with Dmitri
*Atlanta was just woeful. It looked like a bunch of guys playing pickup hockey. They worked really hard but couldn't get much of any flow, their passing was off, their stickhandling weak and overall play was just disjointed. Kari Lehtonen was surprisingly steady but everyone has always said he is capable of wonders when he is healthy, which is rare.
*We should expect it by now but Tom Renney's constant juggling of the lines is just getting annoying. No one seems to have any real chemistry with anyone at this point. Even the reunited Playstation line didn't seem to click tonight with either Voros or Zherdev being left out to dry.
*The more we are seeing Nigel Dawes play, the more aggravated I am getting. The Rangers sent Korpikoski to Hartford to find his game so when will they send out a search party to help Dawes to find his? He has been completely useless and I find it hard to believe he is a better asset than Brendan Shanahan - or even Petr Prucha. Dawes gets beat to loose pucks, loses his coverage, can't carry the puck for more than two strides and seems to have lost his shot. Shanny brings intangibles and defensive acumen and even Prucha battles in the trenches. Dawes ... I am not sure what he does now.
*Dubi took another bad penalty and needs to get his head back in the game because the tools are all there, he just has to use them. The same goes for Freddie Sjostrom who may just be the fastest guy on the team right now. I take back what I said in the last bit about no one having chemistry together: Sjostrom worked fantastically with Cally on the penalty kill tonight, they were all over the ice - I loved it. While they may not be able to block shots like Bettsy and Drury, they pressure the puck handlers well and are a shorthanded threat to break loose.
*Dan Fritshe? Meh. He showed a lot of effort but just doesn't work well on a scoring line. However, credit does go to him for staying out for his full shift despite losing his helmet in the early seconds. It didn't stop him from charging into the boards and getting in the mix, which takes moxie in today's game.
*Maybe Glen Sather was right and a change of scenery was all Markus Naslund needed to find his game. His goal tonight was classic Naslund: come in on the wing wide footed to hold off the defensemen and snap off a beautiful shot far side.
*Slightly on the same topic, the Rangers traded forward
*PHW Three Stars
3-Paul Mara - two assists.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 27 saves.
1-Nik Zherdev - one goal and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Dan Girardi - I almost gave this to
2-Hank - They say that the team's best penalty killer is its goaltender but with the Rangers power play being what it is, Hank is the best on that unit as well. The King came through time and time again when bad passes and lazy turnovers got the Thrashers in deep.
1-Big Z - What can you say? Zherdev was a constant threat, he made a great defensive play and his power play goal was simply stunning. Walking in to the crease and flipping his wrists to top shelf the puck? Wow. And even the penalty he took after setting up the Girardi goal was fun ... well, funny at least.