What a way to start a walk through the wild west, huh? The New York Rangers kicked off their California swing with a big, strong 3-1 win over a big, strong Anaheim Ducks team. The Ranger web page got it right when they wrote that the Blueshirts played a "textbook road game" in that it was tight and defensive but no matter how it was done, as my buddy Eric said, it was a "huge 2 pts." If they can beat LA tomorrow before the inevitable thrashing by the Sharks Saturday, this trip will be a huge success. But first things first:
*No wonder Tom Renney loves Nigel Dawes so much. Not because the kid actually scored for once, but because he is a robot. Dawes was interviewed by John Giannone in the tunnel after the game and you would never know that he scored the game-winning goal. His monotone delivery of cliche after cliche was remarkable. He is the exact kind of soldier that Renney wants - highs aren't too high, lows aren't too low, it's all about the team and the opposition will never get bulletin board material. NO PERSONALITY!!
*What makes that even more annoying is how impressive Dawes' goal really was. He easily picked off a bad pass and then walked around Chris Pronger like he was Marek Malik before wristing the puck through Swiss Miss Jonas Hiller. It was a pretty play and something the Rangers desperately need more of out of Dawesie.
*Speaking of Malik, regular readers know that I don't hold plus/minus in high regards as the measure of a player. However, it was nice to see Blair Betts skate away with a team-high +2. It was also great to hear from him during the second intermission in an interview. He has personality and is willing to admit his shortcomings. This guy deserves an A!!
*Scott Gomez (who doesn't deserve his A) yet again led the Rangers in ice time, skating 23:12. And what did he contribute in that time? Two shots and six wins out of 17 faceoffs taken. That is certainly not what this team needs and is playing him for. Perhaps the impending arrival of Mats Sundin will take some pressure off of the Mexican't and he can flourish again. After all, he never was the go-to guy in Jersey ...
*Was it really necessary for the MSG crew to talk about Sundin throughout the game? I am asking, I don't know. Perhaps because I have followed it since this summer, reading every article I could, I am just tired of the tale - even if the end is near. It is a huge story, however, and it would be a disservice to ignore it. What's the cliche? You can only play with the players you have?
*Two plays in the first period set the tone for the game. Teemu Selanne broke in on a rush down the right wing two minutes in and took an easy wrister that Hank handily turned away. Just minutes later the Swedish netminder was in the right spot to block a one-timer by Ryan Getzlaf during a Anaheim power play. The plays got Hank into the game early and helped him get into the minds of the Ducks as well - they seemed to try to make the perfect, pretty play after that instead of outright attacking the Ranger net. Even when they got around the blueliners, they tried to be too fancy and Hank was able to hold his ground and make easy saves.
*Perhaps because of the Ducks' timid tactics, Michal Rozsival and Wade Redden didn't look as bad as usual. Redden, by the way, makes just $250K less than Niedermayer and $250K more than Pronger. The two Ducks - both Norris Trophy winners - each skated for more than 27 minutes and regularly made their presence felt. Redden? Notsomuch.
*Why did Ryan Carter and Bobby Ryan see so little ice time? Both played less than 10 minutes but made the most of their time pressuring the Rangers. Carter even got an assist on the lone goal by the Ducks. I don't get what Randy Carlyle was thinking ...
*There was no heavyweight battle between Colton Orr and George Parros but Orr continued the feel-good story of the season with some good work on the shutdown BKO line. This is a guy who was called the worst skater in the NHL.
*There was some fisticuffs in the form of Aaron Voros vs. Steve Montador. It was a terrible Zach Stortini-type of fight - hold em close and try to inflict damage with short punches to the back of the head or to the body. Bor-ring ...
*How is it that the Honda Center gets to play good music like Living Color's "Cult of Personality" and several old Metallica tracks while MSG spins Kernkraft and other generic garbage?? So incredibly not fair.
*Let's hope that Brandon Dubinsky's 'lower body' injury proves not to be anything big. It happened late in the first period in a collision with Corey Perry and Dubi saw limited action the rest of the way.
*The Ducks have to hope that J.S. Giguere gets over his father's passing quickly. It is a terrible, terrible thing to say but Jiggy would have easily stopped both of the shots that the Rangers scored on. Hiller's positioning isn't as good and his glove is slower.
*There was a third Ranger goal but that really shouldn't count since the puck never went into the net. It is a NHL rule that if a player is pulled down on a breakaway towards an empty net that it is an automatic goal but c'mon, Z shoulda had to actually shoot the damned thing. And it was technically a power play goal, which makes the special team look better than it actually was.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Jonas Hiller - 27 saves.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 19 saves.
1-Nigel Dawes - game-winning goal.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Selanne - If there was any sign that Mats Sundin will be able to come in and contribute at his age, it is the play of Selanne. The Finnish Flash still flies at 37 and he was the only consistent offensive threat for the Ducks.
2-Hank - Where would the Rangers be without him? Probably last place. He was huge, even if he didn't have to show off his skills in a shootout.
1-Lauri Korpikoski - The Korpedo played the way that earned him that nickname. He threw his body around and pressed the action, which helped get Chris Drury his goal. In one of the few times I will ever agree with Joe Micheletti, it appeared to be Korpikoski's best game of the season.