Sunday, March 22, 2009

38-26-8: Hockey Night In New York

Walking out to the sweet sound of Bob Marley's "Buffalo Soldier" after the Rangers 5-3 win over the Sabres was a treat on Saturday night. The game itself? Almost as nice.

A packed Garden witnessed the Rangers skating hard, creating chances and putting the puck in the back of the net. It is a remarkable change from a month ago ...

Still, the Blueshirts were almost undone by their blueline as a 4-1 lead was cut to one late in the third period. Please, Wade "Out and Drown" Redden, put yourself out of our misery. Leave town. Please? Pretty please? Now. You suck. Redden made one decent play along the boards that was well outweighed by his gaffes. He is atrocious and Sather needs to find a way to slip out of the noose that is Redden's contract. Bobby Sanguinetti, even without a minute of NHL experience, is a safer bet than Redden.

At the end of the night, the Rangers hopefully learned that they simply cannot take their feet off the gas because every opponent is playing like its the playoffs nowadays. Sundays opponent - the Ottawa Senators - won't be any easier, in fact, they come in red hot with four wins in their last five and eight in their last nine and have a better goaltender then Buffalo (that's it for a Peepin' Foes, sorry folks).

I'll try to keep tonight's comments short as there is a quick turnaround:

*First off RIP Walt.

*Sean Avery was a dirty, filthy beast who did his job pretty damned well. If he played as well when the Rangers played the Sabres two years ago in the playoffs, the Blueshirts would have made it to the conference finals.

*Blair Betts, who went 12-6 in the faceoff circle, took two bad penalties - raising his season total to 16 PIM. The last time he took two minors in one game was November 25th, 2006 - a span of 224 games. Usually when he ends up in the box, the puck ends up behind Hank but Freddie Sjostrom, Brandon Dubinsky, Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan were huge to keep the Sabre power play off the board. In fact, the Sabres went 0-6 with the man advantage, keeping the Ranger kill the first in the NHL.

*It is a good thing Lauri Korpikoski did well on the kill because his ice time is coming down and I am sure Tort's opinion of him dropped after the kid missed a penalty shot. Korpikoski waited too long to shoot and had Lalime easily kick it away. Luckily it did not cost the team in the end but he should have scored.

*A Chris Drury goal against a team other than the Isles? And on a nice redirection? And on the power play? Who'da thunk it?!? And a night after Danny Briere also scored on the Sabres? Nice!

*Minutes after I yell that Markus Naslund needs to retire, he scores a nice goal. Typical. But that goal was all thanks to Borat Antropov, who had another big game. As long as he remains this involved in the offense it is easy to overlook how soft he is. Borat is proving to be what Zherdev hasn't been and it would be foolish to re-sign Z if there is a chance to get the Kazakh for the same money. At the same time, neither deserve deals for more than two, three seasons.

*Scott Gomez is really fast. And his speed gets him chances. He just needs to start finishing them more often.

*It woud have been nice to see a Colton Orr-Paul Gaustad tilt. Gaustad thought he was tough try to take on the much smaller Avery and the much more skilled Dubinsky so perhaps he could tussle with someone closer to his own size and temperament?

*PHW Three Stars
3-Ryan Callahan - two goals.
2-Nik Antropov - two assists.
1-Nik Zherdev - one goal that went off of a defenseman's skate and just happened to prove to be the game winner because the Ranger defense gave up two bad goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - Lundqvist gave up three goals on 40 shots but just one was his fault. The Sabres kept pressing and two of the three Ranger defensive pairings let them come. Hank also got crashed into twice and kept his head in the game.
2-Dan Girardi - The top Ranger pairing was solid. I thought Girardi was the better of his pairing on this night, if only because Staal got caught wandering on a Sabre goal.
1-Ryan Callahan - The future winner of the Steven A. McDonald Extra Effort Award gave it his extra effort, as per usual, and it paid off with a pair of goals. And on his birthday to boot. Happy b-day Cally, hope enjoyed your day - we did!

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