Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Rings & The Rangers

Going back to NHL hockey after this outstanding Olympics will be a difficult task to be certain but it is one we must do - after all, who can wait another four years for more pucks?

Before we look forward to the last 20 games of the regular season, let's look back at the five Rangers who suited up in Vancouver. Three of the five brought back medals, not too shabby but not great considering two were for being first loser and one was for second loser.

Ryan Callahan
USA: 6 games, no goals, 1 assist, 2 PIM, 56:02 total ice time
Cally started the Olympics getting a regular shift but was bumped from the rotation by none other than Chris Drury. To his credit, the demotion didn't knock him down and he was able to contribute when called upon - primarily on penalty kills alongside Dru. Cally made several huge shot blocks in the first win over Canada and was always good for a body check. He had a great chance to score against Switzerland but pulled his best Chris Higgins and blew it; he never really got another good opportunity. Cally's lone point came on Dru's goal against Norway - his low shot was easily stopped by Dru banged in the rebound. Hopefully Cally will come back hungry to show he does indeed have a scoring touch and isn't a mostly useless extra part like he was in Vancouver.

Chris Drury
USA: 6 games, 2 goals, no assists, no PIM, 68:07 total ice time
Drury's other goal was the United States' go-ahead marker in the first match against the Canadians. With the other American forwards battling in front, Dru swooped in unmolested to tap home the puck and put the U.S. up 3-2. It was classic Drury - coming through in the clutch when the opposition was concentrating on the more dangerous players on the ice. But even with the two tallies, Dru's best work came with Cally on the kills. As was written in this space before, when you ignore the contract and the captaincy Dru makes a great third or fourth line center. Too bad the money and the honour are both so grand that they cannot be ignored. Much like the disgrace of losing to Sidney Crosby.

Marian Gaborik
Slovakia: 7 games, 4 goals, 1 assist, 6 PIM, 119:58 total ice time
Gabby's biggest moment of the Olympics was the one that he wasn't there for - with the Slovaks trying to complete a rally and force overtime against the Canadians in the semifinals, he was in the locker room with an unspecified injury. TSN's Bob McKenzie tweeted that it could be groin related but when Slovakia played two nights later, there was Gabby looking pretty good as he scored the first Slovak goal. So we have no idea just what is up with him or what kind of shape he will be in when returns to the Rangers. We do know that he got a measure of revenge against Hank for the goaltender's errant skate a few weeks back with a goal in Slovakia's elimination of the Swedes.

Olli Jokinen
Finland: 6 games, 3 goals, 1 assist, 2 PIM, 77:17 total ice time
Olli is ending his international career and returning to New York with a bronze medal around his neck. He opened the Olympics with a easy power play goal in Finland's first game (against Belarus) before going goalless over the next four games. To break the drought Ollie shaved off his mustache - and looked even creepier if that is possible - and it worked: his fortunes changed for the best with a pair of goals on Jaro Halak as the Finns beat the Slovaks to capture the bronze. It must be said that both goals were sexy - a nice snipe through traffic and a burst through the defense before sliding it five-hole on Halak. Seeing as he scored the game-winner against Pittsburgh just before the Olympic break, we know he can score some timely goals while wearing a Blueshirt as well as the Suomi ... we just have to hope he can keep it up, something he had trouble doing in Calgary when it came down to it.

Henrik Lundqvist
Sweden: 3 games, 179:05 minutes, four goals allowed on 51 shots, .927 save %, 1.34 g.a.a., 2 shutouts
Don't let the two shutouts fool you, Hank did not play particularly well in Vancouver and the Swedes were bounced in the quarterfinals. Hank barely broke a sweat against the Germans in Sweden's 2-0 win where the two biggest saves were made by the iron behind him. He took the Belarus game off but came back to shutout the listless Finns, who were a different team than the one that beat Slovakia. They only put 20 shots on Hank and hardly tested him. In the quarterfinal the Slovaks pressed the attack far more than the Finns had and touched him for four goals. Two were with the man advantage and two came as a result of Nick Lidstrom doing his best impression of Michal Rozsival. Yes, that Nick Lidstrom. I'm just as shocked and hurt to say that as I am sure Hank was to witness it. But in the end, the Rangers will get back Hank in better physical shape than he was after '06 but with an unknown mental state. Was he overconfident or just plain satisfied in '06 after winning gold? Will this defeat make him hungrier this time around or will it defeat him? Seeing as Torts will ride him the rest of the way, we have to hope for the hunger ...

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