Wednesday, January 28, 2009
29-16-4: Back To Business
The Rangers returned to action tonight and weathered the Hurricanes, coming out with a close 3-2 victory. It wasn't all that pretty, there weren't a ton of highlights, but it was a good win. A team has to be thankful to beat the teams that they are expected to beat and Carolina is an intensely beatable team.
*That isn't to say that the Canes were devoid of talent. Aside from misplaying a rebound into the slot, Cam Ward did a helluva job for them. The Rangers often tested his lateral movement and smoothly moved post-to-post. Granted, he wasn't as good in this one as his opponent was. It seemed like Stephen Valiquette didn't face a single shot that wasn't tipped, deflected or redirected in the first period and on a regular basis throughout the remainder of regulation. And he turned his brain off and let his reflexes make the saves. Solid piece of netminding by the Ranger backup.
*For the first time in months, I will not call Scott Gomez the Mexican't. Sure he still can't win big faceoffs and he still can't come anywhere close to living up to his ridiculous contract, but he did score one impressive goal and did well in the final minutes to help blunt the late Carolina push for the equalizer.
*While I will give Gomez a nod, I still feel that Wade Redden is nothing short of useless. Redden is a better paid version of Dmitri Kalinin - who was soft and stupid by the way, as per usual. Where Kalinin is simply incapable of coherent play, Redden just doesn't seem to care enough. The two penalties he took were both needless and lazy and he was culpable on one of the two Carolina tallies. The official scorers and Mr. X from teh Blue Seats thought they saw something in his game tonight (he was awarded with five blocked shots by the generous scorers) but I just didn't see it.
*Where Redden was given time to feel shame, Voros managed to stay on the ice and continue his pointless lack of production. He came close to getting penalties in after-whistle scrums on several occasions and never came close to any kind of offensive contribution. Tom Renney can talk all he want about Voros' size but he has been incapable of using it productively for almost three months so what's the point? Petr Prucha must have slept with Renney's daughter to have been scratched in lieu of this oversized clown. It has been a terrible stroke of bad luck for prospect Dane Byers to have been injured so early in the season in Hartford or he would have supplanted Voros and the oversized former Wild player could be waived like Rissmiller and now Fritsche.
*On the subject of size, Colton Orr didn't have much of a role. The Canes don't have a tough guy (or any toughness judging by this game) so Orr didn't get very involved. His linemates, however, were nothing short of rock solid. Freddie Sjostrom and Blair Betts were fantastic killing penalties as per always and, if Orr can continue to progress, their unit could prove to be as good as Detroit's classic Grind Line of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby and Darren McCarty - the line which held down the fort for several Stanley Cup winners.
*As remarkable as it sounds to me as I type this, Michal Rozsival was really quite good defensively for the Rangers. After months of outright imbecility in his own end, Rozy had himself a steady game, matching the low-key efforts of his partner Marc Staal. Marc didn't beat on his big brother Eric the way he does Jordan but he still had a good game.
*Did Carolina captain Rod Brind'Amour play? This guy had been outright dominant for the Canes in recent years and barely saw him in this game (even though he assisted on both goals against). How the mighty have fallen. But on the same note, the man who wears the C for the Rangers wasn't particularly involved in this one but he gets a pass as his team came out triumphant.
*Is it me or is Nik Zherdev just thiiiiiiiiiiiis close to becoming a top flight player? Tonight he made a beautiful feed on the Dubi goal and had full control of the puck whenever it touched his stick. He also backchecked, which is just wonderful to see. But there is just something, something perhaps between his ears, that is keeping him from becoming the successful version of Alex Kovalev (the one that helped win the '94 Cup).
*The second period may have been devoid of goals and big saves or hits, but it may have been one of the most entertaining second periods in the Garden this season. The game opened up and featured nice passing and end to end action. Trippy.
*There was actually a guy in the next section over from me wearing a Henrik Lundqvist player tee from the All-Star Game. Why in the world would anyone want to commemorate his six-goals-on-21-shots second period in Montreal??
*Here is an interesting thought: with the essential demise of the Whalers, how could would it have been for the MSG music director to play Brass Bonanza at some point on this evening? That woulda been awesome. It amazes me how the guy/girl does such a bad job during the game (playing Chelsea club music at obscene levels during most breaks) and they do such a good job after the game - tonight they played The Scorpions "Rock You Like A Hurricane" (and they have played the Stones' "Sympathy For The Devil" after we beat the Devils).
*The Garden was half empty at the opening faceoff but filled out nicely. Unfortunately it filled with people who weren't all that pumped to see hockey, leading to one boring building. There was little energy and few chants - I don't think there was a single "Let's Go Rangers" that made its way all around the arena.
*Oh, and thanks to Lauri Korpikoski for making his way back into the arena. By sliding back into the lineup and scoring a goal after being senselessly subbed against Anaheim, he helped prove that Tom Renney is clueless when it comes to his lineup and he needs to leave things that are working alone. If it ain't broke ...
*And on a side note, I doubt I will be able to get to a Peepin' Foes for tomorrow's 7:30pm tilt against the Penguins. I'm sorry about that but I have a hunch work will be quite busy. All you need to know is that Cindy Crosby is likely to make a miraculous recovery from whatever injury it was he used as an excuse not to play in the All Star Game and is expected to face the Rangers. That means that the calls won't go the Ranger way and that the broadcasters will spent a significant amount of time bowing down to the Cole Harbour Queen.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Brandon Dubinsky - one goal.
2-Markus Naslund - two assists.
1-Scott Gomez - one goal and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Gomez - This is painful but I have to give credit where credit is due. Did you see his goal? What a shot!! I still don't like him in the least, but I can appreciate beauty when I see it ...
2-Dubi - Not only did the kid had the game winner, he also went a remarkable 13-2 in the faceoff circle. Dubi is capable of dominating but he just needs to get all of the aspects of his game happening at once.
1-Stephen Valiquette - Valley has already proven himself worthy of more starts than he gets and continues to come through when actually called upon. It is nice to have at least one capable goaltender you can rely upon every night.