Sunday, December 14, 2008
Just one night after a dreadful embarrassment, the New York Rangers bounced back to win a game seemingly the only way they know how - in a shootout, in the shoulders of Henrik Lundqvist. New York defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 thanks to the skill competition, but don't let that fool you - much of what went wrong in the 8-5 Devil debacle was still wrong here but this time their opponent didn't have the skill to take advantage of them. Where the Jersey forwards swarmed the Ranger crease, the Canes remained offshore and out of the way - and yet they still bounced back from two deficits to escape from New York with a charity point. Good for them, sad for us.
*A Saturday night in New York City and the Ranger game doesn't sell out. It was closer than Friday night's game at the Rock but it certainly was troubling. But it was yet another game without a giveaway, so what do you expect when you have a no-name team like Carolina in town? Many season ticket holders had clearly sold their seats and the people who did show up were boring and clueless. It was sad.
*The interesting thing was that there were no chants for Mats Sundin and no sign of him on the videoboard. This team doesn't need him, they need defenders who can play defense.
*It must be admitted that the Ranger blueline was slightly better. Dan Girardi had a much better game then he did at the Rock and Marc Staal played a motivated game, especially against his brother. Michal Rozsival made two nice defensive plays but his all-around game was mediocre while the most over-paid player in the NHL, Wade Redden, was pretty much useless. At least their gaffes didn't end up costing the team ... too badly. Redden luckily didn't get called for holding/slashing Eric Staal in the overtime but Rozy's inability to maintain control of the puck in the Ranger zone let the Canes tie the game at one just seconds after the Blueshirt power play opened the night's scoring. Gross incompetence, the kind you expect from Dmitri Kalinin.
*By scoring on their first power play, the Rangers earned themselves some leeway with their special team, but the fact remains that they rarely follow up their own shots or cycle. They actually did move around the ice during a third period power play but couldn't get into any good scoring positions and made some poor shooting decisions - the days change but some things stay the same ...
*Now on the other side of the coin, the New York penalty kill was utterly fantastic. I would go so far as to say that they were heroic in killing off the long 5-on-3 in the third period. The best player on that unit was, of course, Hank but the other guys let him see all of the shots and mostly kept the Canes to the outside.
*Blair Betts proved beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he deserves an A for assistant captaincy on his jersey. For all of Scott Gomez's flash and dash, Betts is all substance. All Bettsy did was work hard and hustle and it paid off in spades. He was an offensive threat - even at even strength - and was stellar in the Ranger zone. I said it before, if the Selke Trophy was actually awarded to the top defensive forward in the NHL (and not to a scorer who actually knows where his own zone is), then Betts would be deserving. And his speed and skill set was greatly complimented by that of Freddie Sjostrom. While they may have been separated when Sjo got moved to the third line, on the kill they make a great tandem on the order of Madden/Pandolfo and Draper/Maltby.
*Going back to the guys with letters on their jerseys, how is it that Chris Drury can make such a good move in the shootout and can miss so badly during regulation??
*There were no stupid fights in this game, and they weren't missed. But, as Al Trautwig said, there was no snarl. Neither team played with much of an edge, but somehow the NHL off-ice official recorded 66 hits between the two teams. I wonder which game he was watching ...
*Listening to Joe Micheletti and Dave Maloney on Rangers in 60, you can clearly tell who knows his stuff - and it isn't Micheletti. Maloney was informative, interesting and timely with his comments while Micheletti again relied on repeating the obvious, cutting off his compatriots and being his usual annoying self. How long until the Ranger brass realizes that there is no comparison??
*It was lame that the NHL let Carolina use the Garden ice to market their boring black third jerseys. As my buddy the Gregger asked, 'what is with that gray stripe with the black boxes? They look like floor tiles.' Eesh. And the blackened logos on the shoulders just make the jerseys look ripped.
*How did Nigel Dawes get to play again? He did nothing in Jersey and yet he was still called upon over Dan Fritsche or the deserving Petr Prucha. You can't tell me that the Rangers would be better served having any of these three guys over Brendan Shanahan, you just can't. Shanny can kill penalties, can play on the power play and knows how to lead - three things the three kids can't do. He has over 600 goals under his belt and believes in accountability - two things Gomez and Drury don't have. Yes, he is old. So what? The Rangers aren't helping with the kids' development by randomly dressing and scratching them with no regard to actual on-ice accomplishments.
*Stat(s) of the night: Marc Staal was on the ice for a team-high six minutes and 45 seconds killing penalties. His brother Eric was on the Carolina power play for 7:11. The Canes went 0-7 with the advantage.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Chris Drury - shootout game-winner.
2-Blair Betts - one goal.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 29 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Ray Whitney - The wily veteran was a constant scoring threat and he did land a goal during regulation. Of course, he missed his shootout attempt but I think someone on Carolina deserves a nod - they did make it to the shootout.
2-Bettsy - Sorry Scotty, that A on your chest doesn't belong there. Betts is all effort, all the time and he sets a better example for his teammates than your half-hearted rushes down the ice and smart-alecy attitude do.
1-Hank - As everyone has said time and time again, the Rangers need Hank to be their best player if they are to have any success and on this night he was, so they won.