Thursday, January 7, 2010
21-17-6: A Good Road Point
Yes, a win would have been ideal and was well within the Rangers grasp on Thursday night. Accepting that disappointment, getting a point out of a desperate Thrasher team on their ice really isn't that bad of a result. The Moose continued to stop the Rangers in their tracks and limited the Blueshirts two just two goals - one in regulation and one in the shootout - while DosNueve allowed three. That's not bad for a rookie in his first ever start against a veteran backup. While the Blueshirts did go out of their way to help out the kid in his end, they couldn't provide support on the other side and that was the game.
When Matt Zaba took warmups at the Garden on Monday, I saw that the young goaltender kept twitching his legs and was constantly moving. Chad seemed to move as little as possible and it served him well as he rarely got out of position. The few times he was, the puck somehow managed to stay out. From the desperation reach back to stop an empty net goal to the Ryan Callahan crease clear and even the fluttering puck that fell on Johnson's back and rolled away, the goaltender made many huge saves and may have settled the 'who will back up Hank' questions, at least for a little while.
DosNueve should not be ashamed of the pucks that went past him. Sure the shootout winner was tough but there was little chance of stopping Slater's breakaway equalizer or Slava Kozlov's shootout strike. There is no shame in allowing a goal to the skilled, veteran shootout ace with two Stanley Cups on his resume.
Time is short for me so let's get on with it:
*Credit to Marian Gaborik. After missing in the shootout the last time he faced Atlanta, he was asked if he would pull a Jagr and beg out of the skill competition. He refused, accepted his shortcomings and promised to do better. And he did, scoring to force extra rounds. Nice work by the superstar after having a very quiet regulation.
*While I am patting backs, I would be remiss if I didn't admit that Chris Drury put on a gutsy performance. He is still grossly incompetent with the puck but he had no problem throwing his body in front of it to help protect his rookie goaltender. Like I said, the captain deserves credit.
*I won't give credit to Michal Rozsival or Wade Redden but neither of them screwed anything up too badly. For Rozy it was a nice change, for Redden it has been two, three games so that's a streak of almost competence. Gotta appreciate the little things.
*Another good performance by Sean Avery. It didn't quite have the fire that Wednesday's destruction of Dallas had, but Avery still made his presence known every shift.
*Was there a mandate not to allow things to escalate in this game? The second anyone pushed anyone else around, the officiating stepped in and three times called matching minors to calm things down.
*Happy birthday Donald Brashear. Time to join AARP, collect social security and get the hell off of our hockey team. What a useless idiot. He wouldn't have fought even if the officials allowed it.
*Early in the game I looked at Enver Lisin and wondered how he was ever going to score skating with Brash and Boyle. He gets on the ice with his boy Anisimov thanks to a broken line change, goes to the net and scores. It was a beautiful finish on a nice feed from Marc Staal. And yet Lisin had the least amount of icetime on the team tonight, even less than Brash, and he wasn't selected to the shootout. Curious.
*The Ranger line changes the last few games have been horrendous and tonight it cost them. Not in the form of yet another too many men penalty but a goal by Jim Slater. The Rangers turn the puck over, it gets moved inside of the Atlanta blue line and Drury decided to change. A pass gets thrown down the ice and Jim Slater scores. As I said, Chad had no chance.
*Atlanta was without Nik Antropov but it appeared that the Rangers still had him, in the form of Anisimov. Arty played one of his best games in months using his size and soft hands a la Borat. Too bad he couldn't tuck in any of a half dozen good chances he created for himself.
*And it is too bad Ales Kotalik is still on the payroll. What a one-dimensional waste of money. He has a big shot that he didn't use, he takes dumb penalties and he blew his shootout attempt badly. No wonder he wasn't used in the top-three shooters.
*Dan Girardi took a few big blasts. They didn't go in as there were no Rangers near the crease to screen or swoop on rebounds, but it was nice to see a defenseman unafraid to let one loose.
*There has been so much talk about the Yotes or the Isles relocating and yet Atlanta has a mid-week matchup against a legitimate draw and the place is a ghost town. No the Rangers don't have Crosby or Ovechkin, but they are an Original Six side that has drawn a NHL-best 97.3 capacity on the road this season. Judging by the MSG shots, there was well less than 50% at Philips Arena when the game started (they average 74%). Micheletti, ever the apologist, came up with the ridiculous excuse of snow. The Islanders were able to use it when there was over a foot a few weeks back, Atlanta can't with an inch of sleet.
*Oh Sam Rosen, you are so witty, "And Brian Little gets a big chance!"
*Speaking of the television side of it, the over-the-head goal camera - which they showed on the DosNueve reach-back stick save - was absolutely stunning on my HDTV.
*Is it me or is Ilya Kovalchuk just a little more fiery version of Gabby?
*I understand the desire to tap into the passion for college football in the south but let's face it, college football fans aren't and will never be hockey fans. Those Atlanta jerseys are outright atrocious ... and I own a Vancouver chevron sweater.
*And I said this last game but, after going 0-3 with the man advantage, 'I know he is not with the organization anymore but watching the Ranger power play makes me want to punch Perry Pearn.'
*PHW Three Stars
3-Zach Bogosian - no points.
2-Johan Hedberg - 29 saves.
1-Jim Slater - one goal.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Kozlov - Are there any other shooters as silky smooth as him in the shootout? Including playoffs, he has played nearly 1,300 NHL games and has over 900 points: quite the career from former kid of the Red Wings Russian Five.
2-DosNueve - Vally who? Congrats kiddo, great start.
1-Moose - Prior to the game MSG asked Hedberg why he thought he has the Rangers' number and he replied that perhaps it was partially due to him growing up a Ranger fan. I can respect that.