Saturday, October 18, 2008
6-1-0: Two More Points
You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and then you have the facts of life. The facts of life! And the facts of life right now is that the Rangers have earned 12 of the first 14 possible points. But it must be said that they have done it without playing top-flight hockey. The offense still doesn't click, the defense is all over the place, the coach is juggling lines and personnel and yet the Blueshirts are now 6-1.
On Friday night they seemingly played hockey for about 5-10 minutes of their game against Toronto and escaped with a 1-0 shootout victory over the Maple Leafs. As it is late, let's get right to it:
*Perry Pearn is a terrible coach. Pearn is the Rangers assistant in charge of the Rangers power play and it was utterly ineffective, officially going 0-8. Granted two of those power plays were cut short by bad NY penalties, but 0-6 isn't much better and is just utterly unacceptable if this team is to go forward.
*On the other side of the coin, Ron Wilson is a helluva coach. He has implemented a great system that doesn't necessarily make for great hockey to watch, but it keeps the Leafs in the game. For large chunks of the game they had all five skaters below the hash marks and they did a great job interrupting the Ranger offense.
*But the key to that system was definitely Toskala, because when the Rangers started finding the net in the third period he was nothing short of brilliant. Luckily for New York, Stephen Valliquette was every bit as good and even made a few bigger saves, even if he had to get help from the iron work behind him twice.
*Before the game I told someone who didn't recognize any Leafs other than Blake and Dom Moore that he should watch Toskala because he can steal games, Nikolai Kulemin because he has a ton of talent and Jamal Mayers because he is a tough veteran who will do anything for his team. Toskala was fantastic, Kulemin scored in the shootout and Mayers rearranged Marc Staal's face in a one-sided fistfight that the young Ranger was not prepared for.
*I want to know what was different about Jonas Frogren's charging penalty in the second period and the run Patrick Kaleta made at Paul Mara on Wednesday. Frogren made more contact on Sjostrom but he also didn't leave his feet ...
*All of the talk about Nik Zherdev being quite mercurial is proving correct. Zherdev clearly has more skill than 95% of the league but he just can't seem to focus it. He seems to be a combination of former Rangers Alex Kovalev and Marty Straka. He stickhandles and turns the puck over like Kovalev and he doesn't like putting the puck on the net like Straka despite having a great shot.
*Luke Schenn has a great shot to become one helluva NHL defenseman. Schenn played nearly 26 minutes, doled out five hits and blocked five shots. And he is two weeks away from turning 19 years old.
*The Rangers youngsters were ineffective. Ryan Callahan played less than 13 minutes and never got as involved as he needs to be. Brandon Dubinsky never got into a good shooting position and had every attempt blocked. And Nigel Dawes returned to the lineup and contributed absolutely nothing, while blowing his shootout attempt. It isn't like he is a much better option than Petr Prucha but once Lauri Korpikoski gets healthy, Dawes should be done.
*Now, things worked out for the best, but you have to wonder what is up when the three shooters Tom Renney picks are Zherdev, Dawes and Freddie Sjostrom. For all of the insane money that Glen Sather gave out, Sather didn't feel good turning to Gomez, Drury, Naslund or Redden. I don't get it ...
*Interesting stat of the night: the Leafs dominated in the faceoff circle, going 33-24. That's just embarrassing for the Rangers.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Fredrik Sjostrom - Deciding shootout goal.
2-Vesa Toskala - 32 saves.
1-Stephen Valiquette - 21 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Jamal Mayers - By going after Staal after Staal leveled Matt Stajan by the Ranger net, Mayers taught his young teammates (and everyone for that matter) that if you mess with one guy on the team, you mess with the entire team. I love hockey.
2-Toskala - When the Rangers realized that they were the Rangers and flooded the crease with pucks, Toskala was the boy with his thumb in the dyke.
1-Valiquette - The Ranger defense was terrible and Valley stood tall, as usual. Without him, the Leafs win this one 3-0.