Saturday, December 19, 2009
16-16-3: Two In A Row!
There are two ways to look at the 2-1 Ranger win over the Flyers today:
1 - The Blueshirts got some goals, they killed big penalties and Hank held his ground.
2 - Peter Laviolette is no Freddy Shero and can't get Philly's toughness to work for them. They didn't play like a team and rarely got off a good coordinated attack.
Frankly, both are true. Hank was huge yet again through first and third period deluges - think he got any extra satisfaction from stopping young Finnish forward Mika Pyorala with a sweet glove save? Jeff Carter got off a lot of good shots but few of his Flyer teammates went to the slot to get at rebounds. Ian Laperriere was barely noticed, Dan Carcillo was all over the ice in the first period, Scott Hartnell in the second and Arron Asham in the third but they never mounted a physical attack that wore down the Rangers or forced them into doing anything dumb.
Sucks for them, good for us. This bunch of Blueshirts needed to show that they had a pulse in the worst way and are doing it. We will just have to pray that they can somehow keep the paddles handy when the inevitable flatlining returns.
Case in point: after Wednesday's loss at the Garden, I asked, "Remember when Staal was showing signs of future Norris as he was the one defenseman in the entire NHL to be able to match up with and negate Alex Ovechkin? That seems so long ago ... oh wait, it was only before Tortorella came here." Well, Staal turned back the clock in this one. He did have that one rush where he wristed the puck on net off the left wing but that was it. Staalsie concentrated on working in the Ranger zone and outright starred, giving Hank time and space to make a lot of big saves.
*Wade Redden benched for two games, Rangers win two games. Coincidence?
*Is it any surprise that Brian Boyle gets a mystery injury in the opening period of a game where he was being tested physically? Gets though one scrum and then bails with what they made out to be a groin injury (or lack of groin or maybe he just soiled himself). That guys has been six-foot-seven of nothing all too often this season.
*Talking about underutilized size, Arty Anisimov made up for his horrific first period penalty with a good, lucky goal in the second period. He went around the net, lost the puck but was able to get it back and threw it towards the net where it hit a Flyer and went in. Two goals in two games from just putting his shoulder down and working around the net. Hopefully it is a sign of things to come rather than an aberration. He had such confidence playing alongside Grachev in preseason and then completely disappeared when his boy got bounced to Hartford. Maybe the confidence is coming back? As I've said, I don't have much faith but you never know.
*NYR34 sent me a txt asking what I did with Chris Drury and just who was wearing his sweater. I said I will never tell but, frankly, I didn't do anything. I think that really was Chris Drury and thus, the apocalypse is near. Look at Boucher in the photo at the top - even he is shocked that Dru scored. I mean, it had to be Drury; do you think an impostor would have hit the post of an empty net?
*Sean Avery was effective yet again. He was on the ice for both Ranger goals (actually in the slot for Arty's), got under the Flyers skin on several occasions and avoided any Avery Rule penalties. Say what you want about Hank's importance night in and night out but it is clear that when Avery is on his game, the Rangers win.
*I love when John Giannone shows more hockey knowledge and game awareness than analyst Joe Michaletti. Not like that is saying much ... and why do they keep having Dave Maloney as the 'sideline' reporter? I can't stand it as Maloney displays a much more accessible, intelligent take on the action than Micheletti and yet Micheletti keeps his place in the booth.
*In another questionable move, why does Torts insist on putting Brashear on the ice immediately after goals? He did it again this game after Drury's goal. And he gave Brash ice time in the third with the team hanging onto the one-goal lead. Luckily he wasn't burned this time but why keep testing his luck? Brash has done nothing to earn any kind of trust ...
*For all of the goons out there, it boggles my mind that Chris Pronger is still in the NHL. He intentionally attempts to injure other players. Pronger gets bumped by Lisin, cross checks the kid on the ice, overhand chops at Arty and then throws punches at Avery. Lisin gets boarding and Pronger gets a power play goal. Yeah, that makes sense. I am all for tough play, scrums and fighting - hell, I revel in that stuff - but penalties in today's NHL aren't called even game to game or player to player. Pronger has left a trail of injured players in his wake throughout his career and yet the officiating leaves him alone unless the guy he hits isn't able to get back up.
*Nice to see Bettsy again - too bad it was in the wrong uniform. Betts helped kill both Ranger power plays but lost the even strength faceoff to Anisimov that led to the Russian's goal.
*As I tweeted, Philly had the snow excuse for not being able to fill the Wachovia Center, but what is Dolan's excuse for the empty seats in the Garden night after night?
*Great efforts from Cally, Smithtown, Dubi and Dan-O. No goals among them but they definitely were tryin' ...
*Gabby didn't score either but certainly made a statement. When the Flyers pushed, he pushed back. The Slovak star didn't wilt under pressure and kept going to the net, kept pushing the Ranger attack. Hopefully that will earn him a little more space in future games (but I doubt it).
*Erik Christensen got himself involved early in the game but faded as the afternoon wore on. Maybe it was a symptom of his conditioning as he played 13:44 - the highest total since he came to New York off waivers. But I think he at least earned himself more playing time going forward, if only so the team can decide what to do with him.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Ryan Callahan - one assist.
2-Chris Pronger - one goal.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 36 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Avery - His grit was far more effective than that of the assortment of "tough guys" that masquerade as Broad Street Bullies.
2-Staal - Over 30 minutes of solid work from the best Blueshirt blueliner.
1-Hank - The Incredible Hank strikes again! The best Swedish goaltender since Pelle Lindbergh kept up his string of success against Lindbergh's former team and grabbed a much-needed win for the Rangers.