The Rangers prevailed in a close one this afternoon to the Boston Bruins, holding on to a 1-0 lead to
Marian Gaborik returned from injury and scored the lone goal, of course.
Don't let the scoreline fool you: after a first period where the teams skated off their Saturday night hangover, the action picked up and carried all the way to the buzzer. And, while at times it looked Renney-ish with the Rangers sitting back, overall the team played with a spark rarely seen during that former coach's era.
The win was huge, sending the boys off to western Canada with some confidence.
*It must be said that Gabby is a genius when it comes to the art of scoring. The Rangers broke in on a three-on-two with two more Bruins trailing, instead of plowing right to the net, Gabby pulled up to get room for a one-timer from the slot that blew past Timmy T. I loathe that cliche 'it was a goal-scorers goal' but it certainly came because of his high IQ in the other team's end.
*Boston was clearly missing Savvy's savvy. Marc Savard's injury was huge as their offense had trouble creating chances. They attacked hard, skated hard, hit hard, but didn't create good chances. All the better for us.
*Aaron Voros and Donald Brashear were not missed. In fact, the fourth line of Dane Byers, Brian Boyle and Enver Lisin had one of the best shifts of the game. After the Blueshirts were pummeled in their own end for the first 10 minutes of the third - including two penalty kills - the fourth line hit the ice with about seven minutes left and got the puck deep and worked it there, battling to keep it in the Boston end and give everyone else a rest. It was exactly what the team needed, exactly what the fourth line should be capable of doing every game and, as my buddy Joe said, it was "beautiful, just beautiful" to watch.
*As was the penalty killing. I love a good kill and the Rangers produced several big ones. They controlled play during the two second period penalties, and Hank bailed them out when they got pinned deep during the two third period ones.
*Back to Byers for a second, he played just six minutes and - aside from that third period shift - was invisible. While I think he complimented the other guys well and deserves to stay up, you know that Torts will go back to Brash sooner rather than later.
*Hobey Gilroy was outstanding. Gilroy played his best game of the season with smart positional play, hustle and sheer guile. MDZ was much more physical than he has been of late - taking exception to a hit at one point - and Staalsie bounced back from two bad performances by eating up a ton of time, but Hobey made several big stops that were just plain impressive.
*Michal Rozsival ... notsomuch. Ilkka Heikkinen and Bobby Sanguinetti seem to be racking up the points down on the farm, perhaps it is time to use that accountability thing and bench Rozy. Both of the kids seem capable of contributing and we've seen Hobey and MDZ do quite well with added responsibility (even if there have been bumps along the way).
*I dogged Ales Kotalik quite a bit early on this season - and still feel that he has no idea inside his own blueline - but he is playing close to the best I have ever seen of him and he is creating scoring chances quite well and quite often. He just needs to finish a few more of them.
*The old Sean Avery returned and was quite effective annoying the hell out of the Bruins. But the downsides of that was the ghost of a penalty on him. Hopefully he learned that no matter how tough you are, when you are at the height of Zdeno Chara's elbow, you don't try to check him. The mountain will win.
*Shout-out to the international tourist fans who came to the game. I happened upon a pair of Slovaks wearing their national team jersey with Gabby on the back and a good number of Swedes rooting for Hank - including one with a massive Swedish flag with LUNDQVIST written across the yellow stripe. Very cool.
*Even cooler were the masks worn by Hank and Valley in warmups. Hank's had the TD striping with Jacques Plante's ears, while Valley had Richter redux. Beautiful works of art, just a shame that Hank didn't wear it in the game.
*Richter, Gilles Villemure and Andy Bathgate were all in the house and all properly acknowledged. Great touch by the Garden to have Villemure don his sad-eyed mask.
*Chris Higgins still has to be sad as he remains without a goal. Of course, you can't score if you don't shoot and I don't remember even seeing him in a position to shoot. But he fared well on the pk so something more than nothing.
*Chris Drury ... perhaps, like Jagr before him, the C is weighing him down. When he blocked that shot and went off, my buddy Eric sent me a txt saying that Dru 'went to the locker room, not like he'll be missed.' Sadly, he was right. Drury has done some good things away from the puck but a turnover or blocked shot is almost certain when he gets the puck in the offensive zone. That's not good at all, especially from teh man with the C.
*Derek Morris, how we don't miss you. At all. Loved watching him let the puck get past him at the blue line to allow the Rangers some respite. Glad he is make the same mistakes for someone else now.
*Torts used his timeout well. After not pulling it out of his pocket when he should have in the last two debacles, he used the break to give the boys a rest after a long shift and icing call. Smart coaching.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Tim Thomas - 22 saves.
2-Marian Gaborik - one goal.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 29 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hobey - Sure I could give it to Gabby, but the sun should show on the youngster for stopping several odd-man rushes. They were veteran plays and hopefully signs of more to come.
2-Hank - The King was called upon and took on all comers, stopping them cold. I look forward to the day when he breaks Mmmmaaaarrrtttyyy's soon-to-be-ill-earned shutout record.
1-Jacques Plante - Even if Clint Benedict beat him to it, his mask and subsequent 17 game win streak made it ok for goaltenders to protect their faces. Perhaps Hank can go on a tear like that too after this good start ...