Tuesday, March 31, 2009
40-28-9: That Is More Like It
For months I was accused of being quite negative, trashing the Rangers and looking too hard to find faults in the team. After last night, I feel vindicated. This team, despite its various inadequacies, has always been capable of playing like they did last night and yet they didn't. It took a new coach, a new sparkplug, a major rival and the loudest Garden crowd to date but the Rangers played like they cared and won a huge game. The 3-0 victory was the kind of game that could and hopefully should propel the team into the playoffs and perhaps well into them.
Now the odds against this team maintaining the momentum are certainly high as they have often won good games only to fall flat on their faces the next time out but let's not think about that for now. Let's just bask in the glow of victory and the shame of Mmmmmmmmaaaaaaaaarrrrtttttyyyyy.
*The well-hyped Seanvs. Mmmaaaarrrrtttyyy matchup didn't manifest itself far beyond a stick to the groin, a few shots on the net and an assist on the game-sealing goal. Not bad work for Mr. Avery as he still managed to keep the Devils occupied. Granted, for the second straight game he managed not to receive any assistance from the officiating. Avery gets thrown around like a rag doll by a minor leaguer and took a roughing penalty for his troubles. Had he been, say Sidney Crosby, he would not have been penalized and the aforementioned minor leaguer would have gotten a game misconduct as well as the double minor rough and 10 minute misconduct. Semantics? Perhaps, given that it was in the last 10 minutes of the game so it was a virtual game-ender for the minor leaguer but that isn't the point. The refs will do no favours for Avery so he has to maintain the amazing level of restraint he showed in this one.
*Devil fans can try to defend Clarkson all they want and say he is more than a minor leaguer but if he was, then Sutter would have been able to put him out there opposite Avery all night. Instead, Avery skated for 15:41 and Clarkson 4:52.
*As I said up top, the Rangers are capable of winning despite their inadequacies. The power play went 0-5. They still don't cycle well, they have trouble getting the puck through traffic and they have difficulty keeping the puck in the zone.
*And yet, they scored three goals. Not too shabby.
*Blair Betts, yet again, anchored a penalty kill that kept the Devils off the scoreboard. He certainly deserved the nomination for the Masterson pregame and should get more than a look for the Rangers Extra Effort award - even if his ice time has gone down and down over the past few weeks, dropping to just 4:36 last night.
*Bobby Holik remains nothing more than a caveman thug with little skill and less brains. Holik, much like Mike Rupp, decided to play less hockey and attempt to intimidate through meaningless physical play. It is a shame, once upon a time he was the top checking center in the NHL. As for Rupp, he scored one decent goal once upon a time and has parlayed that into classless, skill-less career.
*Mr. X From The Blue Seats made an argument that Ryan Callahan has the top Ranger on the ice and I certainly won't take anything away from him, but as you will see in the stars, I disagree. Nevertheless, the kid has steadily been getting better and better and will certainly receive interest this summer as an RFA.
*In the Peepin' Foes I said even Versus couldn't screw up the broadcast of the game. Watching the replay this afternoon, I was proved wrong. While it is nice listening to Doc Emerick, the production value was its usual disappointing level and the directing left much to be desired. Why they feel the need to switch to a tight camera iso of a player a second or two after said player was in the action is beyond me. I still haven't seen a definitive angle of Drury making or not making contact with Mmmmaaarrtttyy on the second Ranger goal. Oh, and it was nice of Versus to show a goal by Sidney Crosby in the middle of play during the first period. Gotta make sure they show WonderBoy ... Crosby Sucks.
*Oh, and Versus, the Sabres do NOT have the most passionate fans in hockey. That would have to go to the Canadiens, sorry. Half of the Sabre season ticket holders are people who couldn't get tickets for their real team, Toronto.
*Scott Gomez showed several flashes of being the MexiCan he was during the Ranger-Devil playoff series, rather than the MexiCan't he has been all too often this season. I understand playing with emotion and motivation does wonders, but how that switch can be turned on and off so easily is beyond me.
*Corey Potter acquitted himself well in his first game in the bigs in months. He was given a good amount of power play time too, which was bizarre but not unwelcome. Potter made a good case to be with the club during training came and during his other call up but was sent back down. Hopefully he will stick this time and take some ice time away from Wade "Out and Drown" Redden. Granted, I didn't think he was especially better than Mike Sauer was but every coach has his favourites and clearly Sauer rubbed Torts the wrong way.
*Poor Shanny, no ovation, no video tribute and no respect from the Rangers. He was a nonfactor in this game and only got on the scoresheet by taking exception to a Freddie Sjostrom check.
*For the Islander fans out there - if this game wasn't proof enough that no one else cares about your silly excuse for a franchise I don't know what is. The Rangers have a rival that they care about playing, hope you enjoy Kansas City.
*But at the same time, perhaps many Garden-goers thought they were watching a Ranger/Islander game as that damned Potvin Sucks whistle rang out time after time after time. Dammit, make it stop! Even with replacing Potvin with Marty, enough is enough. I was surprised that my "Al-I-Mo-Ny" chant didn't go too far, but still stand by it.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Dan Girardi - one goal and one assist.
2-Scott Gomez - one assist.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 38 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Brandon Dubinski - Dubi played his best game in a while. He forechecked, backchecked, made good passes, scored a nice goal and was a perfect 9-0 at the dot. Torts may also have been testing the waters to see what a life without Betts would be like as Dubi saw several shorthanded shifts.
2-Girardi - Back when Girardi was pared with Redden he was forced to do too much and, by overextending himself to cover his partner's many gaffes, he was worse of a hockey player. Now that he has been freed from the anchor and put alongside the competent and ever-improving Marc Staal, Girardi has been the team's No. 1 defenseman.
1-Hank - Devil fans can talk Cups and records, but the King is 18-6-4 (fixed, thanks guys) now in his career against Fatso. Could you imagine what Hank's numbers and success rate would be if he played behind the likes of Stevens, Niedermayer, Rafalski, Daneyko, et. al. instead of Rozsival, Poti, Malik and Redden?