The Rangers ensured that New York would have a happy holiday by beating the Florida Panthers 4-1 tonight at the Garden. They extended their win streak to four games and broke a five game winless streak at home. Ho freakin' ho, it may just be a merry Christmas.
There are plenty of notes so I won't waste more time, especially as I missed the first airing of Ranger Rewind and am trying to do this from memory:
*So theeeeere is Vinny Prospal, coming in late behind the play to bang in the trash. After far too many games of being invisible in a bad way, Prospal was invisible in a good way to get to the Florida net untouched to finish off a pair of plays and score a pair of goals. Given the attention that Gaborik garners, Prospal should be able to get loose like this more often and tonight he used it to his advantage.
*Gaborik, by the way, is outstanding. He doesn't have the presence or the combination of size and strength that Jagr had but he certainly has the scoring ability. We were screaming for a penalty shot after Drury was hooked at center ice but Gaborik swooped in to get the puck and race in to sweep a backhand through the Czech Vokoun. Jagr was rarely fun to watch, playing a power possession game; Gaborik is worth the price of admission with that speed and that shot. Well, maybe not the price in NY, but the price in most other cities.
*Anyone else panic when they saw Hank down on the ice holding his head in the third period? He made a save and a Panther kicked him on the head going by. Luckily Hank was able to shake it off after a minute and continue but it does go to show just how fragile the future of our franchise is. If Hank goes down, we are done.
*As typical of any fan, while I was calling for blood for that Panther nailing Hank, I was cheering Sean Avery for his work all evening. Avery opened the night with a shift where he swooped past Vokoun three times, making some form of contact each time. A little bit of a bump, a little bit of a slash, another 'accidental' bump ... and from there on out Florida spent an inordinate amount of time going after him - twice taking roughing penalties for chasing him in scrums. It has gone beyond being a theory: when Avery is being Avery, the Rangers are winners. When he is castrated by an incompetent coach, he isn't playing his game and the Rangers aren't winning.
*Mike Duco may think he is tough, but he is no Avery. And big Steve MacIntyre barely played. That's a shame as it would have been nice to see him knock Brashear out but what can you do? Brashear was still able to wander around aimlessly, missing checks and being a complete liability on ice losing pucks and looking clueless. So glad Sather signed him for his 'offensive upside' ...
*Plenty of people have spoken up Arty Anisimov's offensive upside but it is evenings like tonight that cast some doubt. The big kid, who is more Jagr than Gaborik, had a poor game. He lost a slew of faceoffs and was mostly missing from the Ranger attack. Brandon Dubinsky was everything that Arty wasn't. Dubi was certainly missed and his return has taken some of the burden off of Drury, allowing the captain to contribute more and score yet again.
*Just want to give some credit to the opponent, specifically former Ranger Dominic Moore. Moore was the best Panther on the ice, skating hard and playing well on both sides of the puck. No Dominic, not forget aboot it, forget abaht it.
*The Rangers had a in-arena gimmick where they had people text in their favourite holiday present. The results ranged to the expected Ranger jerseys and tickets to the unexpected chocolate menorahs. But the winner, by far, was the leopard print Snuggie.
*Also ridiculous was Wade Redden having yet another bad game. I think it is about time he goes back into the press box because the first benching clearly hasn't done anything. Ill advised passes, blown coverages, turnovers ... this guy is a disgrace. Ales Kotalik? Even worse.
*On the other hand, Hobey Gilroy was better than he was against the Canes. Tonight he was used on the power play quite a bit and didn't look out of place. The kid just needs to learn not to listen to the crowd and not shoot when there is someone standing right in front of him.
*Rozy regressed back to his terrible self - the lone goal against was all his fault - but Dan Girardi stepped up his game and played quite well, despite taking a bad penalty. I hardly noticed Staalsie but I think that in this instance, it is not a bad thing.
*I think it is safe enough to say right now that Ryan Callahan will make Team USA. Even with the Rangers suffering through some awful experiences of late, Cally has never stopped skating. I think Chris Higgins keeps trying as well but he doesn't have the same impact that Cally has.
*Big Brian Boyle had no impact, and yet again leads one to wonder why the Rangers picked up Erik Christensen if they are going to bench him for Boyle. The big BC grad doesn't use his size and doesn't do much of anything. His penalty killing is average and he adds zero offense.
*As I was asked by someone not in the building, there was indeed an "asshole" chant late in the third period. It was initiated by the crowd for a pair of Islander-wearing idiots walking around the entire building on the concourse between the 200 and 300 level seats. Clowns. The crowd, by the way, was far from a sell-out yet again but more numerous than the audiences at the last two home games. And many of the fans who did show up left early once the Rangers went up 4-1. I will never understand why people leave sporting events before they are over (outside of having to take care of little kids).
*Maybe the guys wanted to start their holiday early but their post-victory center ice salute was quite brief and halfhearted, if I do say so. Kinda hard to cheer the win, get your camera out and take the picture before they are already off the ice. I know it is minutia but it was a tad disappointing. Still great to see the win though ...
*PHW Three Stars
3-Chris Drury - one goal and one assist.
2-Vinny Prospal - two goals.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 33 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Avery - When the Panthers are concentrating their efforts on Avery, they are giving more room to the other guys.
2-Gaborik - I'm racking my mind for the last time the Rangers had a slick goal scoring sniper like Gaborik. Mike Gartner? Pierre Larouche?
1-Hank - All hail! No soft goals, several big saves to keep the game close and another win. My buddy Pete pointed out that Florida listened to the scouting report and tested Hank's glove but he passed that test tonight, keeping the Cats out.