What is it about the Original Six matchup against the Boston Bruins that seems to provide memorable games more often then not? Think about it. Recent history of this rivalry is filled with some magnificent moments. Since the lockout we have seen the return of Brian Leetch to the Garden, Jed Ortmeyer (of all players) scoring a penalty shot goal, two 1-0 shootout games in one season, one of the best saves of Henrik Lundqvist's career and yesterday a standing ovation for a player who got an assist on a garbage goal.
Welcome back Sean.
The Garden buzzed every time Avery stepped on the ice (Torts should have started him) and he didn't disappoint. Sean was Sean, working hard to get the puck, getting good opportunities and running his mouth. Sure there was the break down the wing where he took a shot and missed the net by 10 feet. Sure there was the 10 times he fell down. Sure there was the ridiculous interference penalty on him. All have to be expected - he is getting back into NHL shape and the referees will call anything and everything they see as remotely borderline (even though it wasn't even close) as he is public enemy No. 1.
Now, I understand what Torts was trying to do by putting him on a line with Ryan Callahan and Lauri Korpikoski but I hope that experiment doesn't last. Both Callahan and Avery work better alongside skill players. They will certainly get chances to score, but their best offensive work comes when they are making room for playmakers - Jagr, Z, etc. Korp just seemed to be lost out there, trying to figure out where he fit in beside these two lunatics who were throwing their bodies around. But this was just their second game, there are 16 more to go so we will see how things flesh out.
But back into the Bruin game:
*That memorable moments things goes both ways - Boston fans are sure to recall Zdeno Chara's slap shot shootout winner and Tuukka Rask's 35 save domination of the Blueshirts. I bet the Bruin faithful wish that Rask started this game. I know I would Manny Fernandez singlehandedly gave the Rangers the win by allowing three pitiful goals. After standing tall during the pressure-filled first period, Manny lost his bearings and his mind and started spinning and flopping and letting pucks in. While there is no way to say that Rask or Tim Thomas would have fared better, it is almost certain that they wouldn't have fared much worse.
*How cool is it that Hank likes to head away shots? Ole!
*Did Markus Naslund play? I couldn't tell. How about Chris Drury? I am serious, they need to get him a hypnotist or psychologist so he just sees the opposing team wearing Islander jerseys every night.
*Where was Marty Straka when you needed him? Without Straka, Zdeno Chara had a clear lane to the net and rocketed a shot past Hank to make it a 3-2 game.
*Why is it that when Drury and David Krejci went at it in a real hockey fight - one that was actually a result of play - the Garden was deathly silent? When the idiot goons Colton Orr and Shawn Thornton battled in a contrived, pointless dance at center ice the building shook with energy. It is that kind of stupid hooliganism that will get fighting banned from hockey and for folks to go nuts over it is just sad. I love, LOVE a good hockey fight but it has to have some kind of reason. When the other team scores to tie the game at one, there is no reason to fight off of the ensuing faceoff.
*On the fisticuffs note, what is sadder: that we all complain that there are more fights today after clean hits then ever or that it felt like someone should do something when both Scott Gomez and Brandon Dubinsky got absolutely creamed in the third period?
*Stat of the game: Maybe it was me, but as physical as the game was, I really don't think there were 89 hits between the two teams. Somehow Sean Avery had just three while Milan Lucic led all players with nine.
*Sticking with old time hockey, it was a shame that the Garden didn't hold a moment of silence before the game for Alf Pike. Pike was a big enough part of the history of the franchise that he deserved that. Instead we got a quick history lesson during a first period commercial break that most people ignored (for shame!).
*The two newest Rangers got some respect from the home crowd and Nik Antropov put up a pair of points. As much as I dislike Borat, I gotta give him credit. Granted, he got lucky on his goal because he dodged to avoid contact and looked up to see Dubi screening Manny, but it was a nice effort for the big softie. Derek Morris still needs work. Morris clearly has yet to regain the chemistry he had with Paul Mara and nearly collided with his partner at least once. Petr Prucha has two assists in two games with Phoenix.
*When is John Tortorella going to come to his senses and realize that Redden and Rozy are two of the main reasons that the power play sucks? They are useless out there and prone to turnovers.
*My buddy Pete had the line of the day. When I compared Redden to a traffic cone he pointed out that that wasn't true because "people try to avoid traffic cones." Redden may just take over the place of my most loathed Ranger, he has already surpassed Malik and is treading into Poti territory ...
*PHW Three Stars
3-Brandon Dubinsky - no points.
2-Zdeno Chara - one goal and one assist.
1-Nik Antropov - one goal and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Chara - He is the size of a small mountain and will very likely never win a Norris Trophy (at least not while Nick Lidstrom is still playing) but he truly is an incredible defenseman. Chara is smart, moves well for a big man and that shot ... damn.
2-Nik Zherdev - Z disappeared in the second period like most of the Rangers but in the first and the third he was incredible. Maybe Torts has indeed lit the fire because Z played close to his potential and was a constant offensive threat. A better goaltender probably would not have given up Z's game winning goal but that was just one of many times he threatened the net.
1-Avery - Sure the new coach and aggressive style of play has helped, but Avery brought life back to the Garden. That place has been dead for most of the season so far and it was exciting to see him back. There is just something right about seeing him in a Blueshirt.