Sunday, March 1, 2009
32-24-8: Is This What Happiness Feels Like?
Several hours after walking out of Madison Square Garden, I find myself wrestling with a strange emotion. I am sure I have felt it before, but my memory is failing me as to when. It certainly has been a long time since I felt this particular emotion but I can't pin it down. Time certainly takes it's toll. Hmm, what could it be?
Could it be ... joy??
I think so! Joy! This is wonderful! However, it is quite scary - another performance like the 6-1 demolition of the Colorado Avalanche, and the Rangers may actually fool me into believing that they are a good hockey team. Seriously!
The wonder that was their performance was certainly helped by the utter and complete ineptitude of the Avalanche. Until the late fireworks, the Avs looked like the Rangers did during the 10-2 Dallas debacle. They were caught flatfooted, they couldn't get much going offensively, and they made some outright stupid plays. Where the Montreal Canadiens were able to jump all over the Rangers when the Blueshirts took their feet off the gas in the second period of that classic come-from-behind 6-5 win, Colorado was only able to manage one goal. (And that one goal was entirely Dmitri Kalinin's fault, of course.)
But let's look deeper into this one, which was a win! Joy!
*John Tortorella finally made the statement that he is the head coach of the team. Tom Renney would never, ever have let the Rangers battle physically the way they did at the end of the game. Colton Orr would have been forced to make a beeline for the bench after his roughing penalty and forced to stay on it. There is no way he would ever have been allowed to kick the crap out of Chris Stewart.
*I am willing to make the argument that Colton Orr is the best enforcer in the NHL. Insane? Hear me out - Georges Laraque's reputation has limited his engagements and when he does throw down (like tonight) the fight is over in moments. It is the same thing for the Minnesota Mountain Derek Boogaard. Laraque has played in just 27 games, Boogaard 47 - and is now suspended for five. Don't even put that idiot animal Brashear in the conversation. Orrsie has played in every single Ranger game, takes on middleweights and lightweights alike and wins, and he has turned himself into a solid shut-down winger. This is the same guy who's head I hollered for last year because he couldn't skate but he has turned into a damn good hockey player and deserves accolades for that.
*But back to this game and sticking with the late violence - any goodwill Wade Redden may have earned from his solid play of late was completely washed away by him essentially sitting things out - he skated around the pile tugging at occasional players while Petr Prucha had to jump in and help out Brandon Dubinsky. Someone needs to tell Redden that the jersey he wears is blue, red and white ... not yellow.
*Even Paul Mara answered the bell when that dolt Darcy Tucker jumped him. As many people pointed out, Mara shouldn't be fighting with a mending shoulder but he didn't go looking for a fight, it came to him and he defended the honour of Charlestown. Attaboy.
*I will get to the goals but the different layers of fisticuffs was just so compelling. Two of my friends ripped on Ian Laperriere but Lappy showed why he is one of the best teammates a NHL player can have - the tough little bugger will do anything and everything to stand up for his teammates. After taking that scary puck to the face, he came back to the game, stood up for his guys in the first tussle going nose to nose with Colt, then called out the opposing coach and the rest of the Ranger bench. Was it ridiculous? Sure, Jim Schoenfeld could have kicked his ass. But it was wonderful. Every player on the Avalanche know that Lappy will go to war for them and whichever team trades for him in the next week will be that much better for it.
*Ok, so the Rangers scored like, what, six times? Insanity! Great play by Dubi and Cally to open the game and open the scoring. Ranger fans have to hope that those two can keep that kind of chemistry going for along time to come because that was beautiful. Cally was a beast.
*We have to be happy for Chris Drury as he finally scored - and on the power play to boot. However, this is still the Rangers and the Ranger power play still only went 1-7. But the combination of one goal for and no shorties against make the special team a complete winner tonight. Drury's goal was an easy slam dunk on a five-on-three and it makes me wonder why they couldn't do it countless times this season. Sure, most goaltenders aren't as incompetent as Raycroft, but still - it can be that easy.
*Anyone else have a flashback when Markus Naslund got his stick stuck in the boards? I clearly remember the Rangers-Stars game when Eric Lindros had his stick find a seam in the glass and the idiot stood there trying to wrestle it free as the Rangers went the other way and scored. Classic.
*Scott Gomez made a great tip on Marc Staal's shot to make it a 4-0 game, made a smart pass to Drury for the power play goal and collected another assist when Naslund's shot found it's way through Razor Raycroft (who was ridiculously out of position). That being said, Gomez's best play came when the Rangers were trapped in their own end in the second period and Paul Mara lost his stick. Gomez recognized it and handed his own lumber over but stayed in the action and eventually kicked the puck out of the zone. That is smart hockey and something we need to see from him more often.
*A quick congrats to Nazzy for reaching 20 goals for the 10th straight season. I still think he is far past his prime and is nothing more than a second line winger, but that is still quite the achievement.
*Between his goal early on and his involvement in the donnybrook, is there any way Prucha loses a roster spot on Tortorella's team? And Renney thought that the kid didn't have it in him ... he 'wears down' ... it certainly hasn't looked that way to me.
*Now that the other scoring forwards have gotten going, it is time for Nigel Dawes to put in a goal or two. He certainly is working hard but he has to convert or be replaced on trade deadline day by someone who will.
*Why is the MSG in-house crew so afraid to show replays? They often show just one angle of a goal and rarely replay penalties. Instead of showing the third period chaos, we were treated to children dancing around. Awww. I don't care. I want to see what happened. This is a hockey game, not some five year old's birthday party.
*A five year old would probably do a better job than Michal Rozsival does defensively. What is it with this guy that is making it so hard for him to keep control of the puck? And he seems utterly incapable of keep the puck in the offensive zone, especially on the power play. Arg.
*Also frustrating - the ridiculous number of Potvin Sucks chants. Enough already. And I think there were more of them during this game then there were against the Panthers, when Potvin was actually in the damned building. So annoying.
*Stat question of the night: they posted a graphic after the second period that said the Rangers had blocked 20 shots through two periods. The official event summary has just 14 for the entire game. What gives?
*PHW Three Stars
3-Wade Redden - no points, no heart, a bad penalty, a couple of blown coverages and probably some payola to the PHWs.
2-Scott Gomez - one goal and two assists.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 23 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - The King looked great compared to the clowns on the other side of the ice but Colorado rarely tested him. Most of their shots were like those of the Rangers in recent weeks, soft shots from the wings that barely challenged.
2-Gomez - The Mexican't finally is remembering the lessons he learned from Lamoriello and is actually playing like he cares. A couple more efforts and I may have to call him the MexiCan.
1-Dubi - His hard work has paid off an his new coach gave him more ice time than any other forward. And you know what? He is playing up to expectations. This was the standard that he had set early in the season when Nik Zherdev was playing like Jaromir Jagr. Now Dubi is proving he doesn't need a big winger to take the heat off of him, he can dominate on his own.