Quick note: this was written on the train ride home as I have a quick turnaround for work and there is no Ranger Rewind when games are on Versus. Booooo Versus.
It is amazing how a game with three nice goals, two fights and several solid hits could be as dreadfully boring as Tuesday night's 2-1 tilt between the Rangers and the Wild was.
But that should be expected given the Wild. They play smart, low risk hockey while consistently falling back with a 1-3-1 or 2-3 defense. The Rangers were lucky two get two past Nicklas Backstrom and the Minnesota defensive and reversed Sunday's result against the Sens to take two big points away.
Two bigger points await in Atlanta and John Tortorella and company have to do their damnedest not to play down to the Thrashers level. No one said this playoff run would be easy and taking on a team with nothing to lose is a dangerous thing.
Minnesota had most everything to lose and played like that. Jacques Lemaire runs a tight ship and has a lot of the perfect personnel to carry it out. Sure, it hurt that Mikko Koivu and Brent Burns weren't there to supplement Marian Gaborik's offense and sure it hurt that Lemaire scratched Derek Boogaard but the Wild didn't play poorly. They minimized mistakes and were edged out by the slimmest of margins by a team more willing to shoot the puck. Sucks to be them.
*Mr. X from the Blue Seats pointed out that Scott Gomez barely played the final minutes. Whatever kept him off the ice led to Tortorella utilizing a power play unit of Markus Naslund, Ryan Callahan and Nik Zherdev. Needless to say, they didn't score and the unit went 0-5 on the night.
*Cally also didn't score, which is a shame. He had an empty net and instead tried to feed a covered Gomez instead of taking the gimme goal. It ended a six game point streak that proved that he is a capable and valuable member of the Rangers. Not that he wasn't before, but points are quantifiable.
*Zherdev's goal will help add to his final total and future contract offer but what wasn't recorded was the impressive angle from which he shot it. He showed remarkable patience before calmly firing the puck almost at the goal line over Backstrom's extended glove and into the net. It was purty.
*So was Gomez's shot from the slot. Why he wasn't able to convert more chances like that earlier this season is beyond me. A quick wrister put the Rangers ahead and proved to be the game winner. As they say - shoot early, shoot often.
*Freddie Sjostrom got off several good shots. He seemed poised to tuck the puck in on several occasions but just couldn't finish. The experiment of using him on the third line just hasn't worked out. He has no chemistry with them while continuing to play top notch shut-down pucks with Blair Betts on the penalty kill.
*The third member of the former fourth line, Colton Orr, had a good game. Torts utilized his size and energy and it resulted in some fine play. Granted, he beat up a senior citizen but the Irishman was asking for it.
*Cal Clutterbuck also asked for it and Sean Avery answered the bell. Finally. Avery picked his spot well, taking on someone of pretty much the same size and aptitude. The Garden roared after the first period fight and Avery went on to add another assist. It is interesting that when he is involved in the game, banging bodies and doing whatnot behind the play, the Rangers step up their game and get more offensive chances. When Avery steps back, so do the Blueshirts ....
*The Garden was half empty. Considering the dog fight the team is in for the playoffs, it was pathetic. And the idiots that showed up and kept doing 'Potvin Sucks' were just as terrible - except for the one appropriate time, when Ulf Nilsson was shown on the big board.
*Michael Sauer should have been recognized more. The youngster played in his first NHL game and acquitted himself quite well. Sauer played the puck smoothly with good accuracy on his passes and he picked his spots to go lay hits wisely. He was rarely caught out of position and had a better game than Wade "Put and Drown" Redden, who was mediocre at best (at BEST).
*Oh, a little off topic, I got my 'Please Sens, Take Redden Back' sign back. The security guard who took it away on Sunday was kind enough to return it at the end of this one. According to him, some of the Rangers came out for warmups, spotted it and complained to staff, who ordered him to take it away in the first place. I am thinking it was Gomez and Drury ...
*Drury, by the way, was a ghost in this one. Dru did absolutely nothing of value. No killing penalties, no big faceoff wins, no big shot blocks and certainly nothing on the offensive side of the puck. He has to be a factor if the team is to win in the long run - the captain can't disappear like Z does for games at a time.
*Again off topic but I won't have time before Monday to make another sign but if anyone feels so adventurous, I had an idea: one side says "Marty Want A Donut?" and the other side says "How About An Alimony Sandwich?"
*If there was any doubt that Dan Girardi and Marc Staal were the top defensive pairing, then it should be gone by this point. Torts used them in all situations and they didn't disappoint. They moved the puck well, stepped up at good times and were rock solid in the Ranger end. Should the Blueshirts manage to keep them together on the blueline for a long time, then these two could go down as one of the top pairings in team history. Girardi played more than 26 minutes and was fantastic.
*Who lost the shoe? Anyone out there know the story of the sneaker that was thrown onto the ice late in the third period?
*PHW Three Stars
3-Henrik Lundqvist - 18 saves.
2-Sean Avery - one assist.
1-Nik Zherdev - one goal and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Sauer - The kid was thrust into the Ranger lineup and never looked out of sorts or out of step. While I am not a huge fan of a defenseman who wears a visor, I can understand why kids today wear them and hopefully this performance will be the first of many on the Garden ice for him.
2-Zherdev - Z popped up to make some big plays. It is nice then that happens but is a complete shame he isn't motivated or capable of doing so for more than a game a month.
1-Gomez - As bitter as I was about the sign thing, even I can recognize that Gomer had a strong game. His puck handling skills shone as he slipped around and through the stout Wild defense and his goal was perfect place at perfect time.