Yesterday I asked what it says about your team when your captain is a fourth line winger, today I am pondering the implications of a December waiver wire pickup being your first line center and that same waiver wire pickup scoring one of just two goals against the worst team in the NHL.
But those two goals were enough to get the Rangers a much-needed 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. It must have been much-needed because Henrik Lundqvist started, right? These are the games he is supposed to take off - a terrible team at the end of December is not nearly as important the inevitable post-Olympic desperate run for the playoffs but when Tortorella feels he has to cover his own ass he is quite myopic. So Chad sat and Hank started yet another game, made 17 saves and was beat at least five times - one goal that counted, one that didn't and three posts - but still came out with the win. What's Swedish for lucky?
Don't get me wrong, I am happy Erik Christensen got a chance and succeeded. I am happy Henrik Lundqvist was able to get the win. But let's face it folks, this was a team we were supposed to beat and we didn't do it in convincing fashion. Let's at least see how they fare at home against the same Canes on Saturday ... notes:
*Eight minutes into the first period Joe Micheletti asked "dare I say this is a better start than last night?" Well, duh. The team wasn't trailing 2-0 being booed from a near-capacity home crowd. If it was just an attempt to be funny, then it failed - much like most of his analysis. Stop pointing out that Christensen was getting a lot of ice time - he was the first line center, that is what first line centers do, they play a lot. Moron. I turned the audio off after he said it for the third time.
*The funny thing is that I just looked at the final ice times and Christensen played 20:27. Sure, that is a solid amount, but even more shocking is that Chris Drury got 20:30 - including nearly two minutes on the power play. Really? Really? Drury's last power play goal was on March 26th. Yeah.
*While tearing the captain down, I want to give credit where credit is due and say that Ales Kotalik played his best game since the beginning of November. Alice didn't make any egregious turnovers, kept the puck on the right side of the blue line on the power play and managed to get his shot on or close to the Carolina net. Massive improvement across the board. Happy New Year!
*Aaron Voros did more the enough to justify his place in the lineup for another game. Unlike the so-called goon he replaced, Voros got into a fight. And not only did he get into a fight but he won. This is the same guy who has blocked more punches with his face than any Ranger since Darren Langdon so a win is cause for celebration. Bye bye Brashear, you aren't needed here.
*How was Girardi/Christensen's first period goal waved off for goaltending interference when the goaltender was at the top of his crease, Christensen was hit by Gleason and didn't fall over the goaltender until the puck was already in? But, in typical fashion the Rangers were penalized instead and Carolina scored on the power play past a clueless, scrambling Lundqvist who actually knocked it in himself.
*I guess the karma meter had the level out and it did when Carolina had a goal waved off in the second period. Dan Girardi shoved the Sutter kid into Hank, knocking the netminder out of position. The puck went into the net, the referee points that it is in but the officials then change their minds and decide to wave it off? Yes it worked in our favour, but that was one horrific decision and one that likely cost the Canes the game.
*So what is wrong with Sean Avery? Late in the first period the guy had an empty net and lackadaisically tried to dunk it in, allowing Gleason to clear. He plays with such an edge so much of the time, why would he he half ass it when the puck was on his stick? Avery hasn't scored in 17 games and has just four goals all season - that's just not enough. I love the guy but that isn't enough.
*The box score shows that Arty Anisimov played but I sure as heck can't remember a single shift of his.
*Pssst, Chris Higgins ... you can't score if you don't shoot. And we really need you to shoot. Love everything else that you do, but please shoot and please score already? Make it a New Years resolution to score more.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Cam Ward - 33 saves.
2-Brandon Dubinsky - one goal.
1-Marian Gaborik - two assists.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Marc Staal - Marc was the better Staal brother on yet another night and looked quite comfortable back with Dan Girardi. The two have always had some chemistry but at times the pairing has gotten stale. After just two games it hasn't reached that point again so let's enjoy the best shutdown pairing we've had since Leetch and Beukaboom.
2-Dubi - It feels like I've typed this a thousand times on this blog but good things happen when you go to the net. Coaches preach that from Day #1 and it is about time a Ranger since Graves listened. Playing on the wing gives him less defensive responsibility so let's hope he keeps crease crashing.
1-Christensen - The guy was given a real chance and, after blowing an empty net against the Flyers, came back with more responsibility and played up to it. Thank goodness.