For the second straight game, the Rangers came from behind to win in a shootout, as they beat the Ottawa Senators 2-1. While that sounds like a tightly, played battle to the buzzer, it wasn't. There were people outright sleeping in the stands for stretches of the game as the teams went back and forth afraid to make mistakes and unable to get into scoring positions.
There appear to be two schools of thought among Ranger fans right now: the ones who are happy and content with the team since they are indeed in first place and the ones who feel that this team is vastly underachieving and playing some crappy hockey. Regular readers know I am in the latter but I am attempting to dance along the fence a la Garfield in the moonlight. This team is in first, and all of the points that have been accumulated will be huge when the season hits its doldrums in January. However, passes aren't finding sticks, the team has trouble working into good positions to shoot, the power play is an utter joke and none of the so-called stars have been any good (except for Hank).
So any optimism has to be tempered at this point as it is still quite early in the long, long regular season.
*First things first, how is it that the NHL claims to want to protect their players and outlaw hooliganism? The lip service they give it is utterly shocking considering Jarkko Ruutu is allowed to have a career in the league. Ruutu goes out on the ice with the sole purpose to hurt other players. He doesn't try to score. The classless clown tries to elbow, board, hook and slash the people who are actually out there playing. Is there some offensive upside there? Perhaps; he was selected to go in the shootout over Dany Heatley, but whatever talent he has is utterly outweighed by his desire to inflict injury. Hey Gary, get this goon off of the ice! And if you don't, then stop telling anyone who listens that you care about the well-being of your players.
*While I am addressing our fair commish, something has to be done about the point system. This is old news but watching the Rangers just reinforces the need for a change. Why not make it three points for a regulation win, two for a overtime win and one for a shootout win? Henrik Lundqvist has been incredible in the talent competition and it has led to the Rangers playing defensive, boring hockey in the four-on-four overtime. They put one man deep and keep three high to bide their time until Hank can bail them out in the breakaway contest. Bor-ingggggg.
*It was nice to see the Make a Wish kid drop the puck before the game. I am a sucker for that kind of thing and everyone should donate some money to a charity as they get ready to give thanks later this month.
*I got home to turn on Rangers in 60 just in time to hear Joe Micheletti thinking that the Rangers were arguing where a faceoff would be when in actuality, Wade Redden had clearly shot the puck right over the boards. How is it that he misses that and my entire section sees it?? Sam saw it, and he was sitting right next to him! How this guy keeps his job is beyond me.
*Ah Rozy, you stink. Rozsival was picked off of his coverage of Daniel Alfredsson down low, allowing the Ottawa captain to score the first goal of the game. If Rozy played with any kind of strength, then Alfredsson wouldn't have been able to get off of the boards, much less use a pick to get into the slot. You just can't use the sumo-style defense of pushing people around. Unlike the fat Japanese wrestlers, these guys have a considerable amount of agility and they can get around your pathetic shoving.
*There was nothing pathetic about the hard work of the Rangers fourth liners. Freddie Sjostrom had the game-tying goal, Blair Betts wore the A better than Scott Gomez ever did yet again and Colton Orr's sheer effort resulted in him getting a power play shift (even if his teammates couldn't get into the Ottawa zone and give him a chance to work the paint). The young Rangers seem to be picking up on how these three are playing and now you see them step up their games. The epitome of that is Nigel Dawes, who even handed out a few hits in this one. If he keeps battling out there like that, we will have to start calling him Rutiger after the Notre Dame hero - "he's so little!!"
*Nik Zherdev should start watching those guys because he coasted his way through regulation, despite having an opponent that was ripe for the picking with his spectacular stickhandling. As my buddy Hockey John pointed out, he was benched for a while in the second and third periods but more has to be done to reinforce that coasting is unacceptable. That is called accountability ... hold on ... never mind, Tom Renney doesn't know what that word means. If he did, how could you explain Rozy's place in the lineup?
*Wade Redden faced his old team and he played an acceptable, yet unspectacular game. It is nice to see steady play from him but let's face it, for six-million-plus dollars a year you expect a bit more than that. Another friend pointed out that for the amount of money and the return that we have gotten, Redden and Rozy are the two most over-paid players in the NHL.
*Stat of the night: The Rangers recorded 53 (!) hits, led by Ryan Callahan's six. The only players without one were Zherdev and Lundqvist.
*Second stat of the night: Ottawa out-blocked the Blueshirts 19-5. And, believe it or not, Rozy had a team-high two. This isn't a bad thing - it means the guys are getting out of the way to allow Hank see the puck cleanly.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Fredrik Sjostrom - one goal.
2-Nikolai Zherdev - shootout game-winner.
1-Henrik Lundvist - 27 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Marc Staal - The kid has Norris-type potential and is slowly growing into the man who will bring home that hardware.
2-Jason Spezza - Spezza was clearly the most talented skater on the ice. His skills are scary good and he showed them off in flashes tonight.
1-Hank - As always, the Swedish sensation was stellar. If not for his big saves - on redirects, on Volchenkov's breakaway, in the shootout - the Rangers lose this one big.