Sunday, October 31, 2010
5-4-1: Another Block Party
During the third period of the Rangers 2-0 win over Toronto on Saturday, the Rangers got a little too feisty near J.S. Giguere and the Leafs took exception. Greg Caggiano tweeted "Let's see a scrum like that in front of OUR net."
There shouldn't just be a scrum, there should be a brawl. It is difficult to believe, after performances like this, that the Rangers don't realize that their livelihood rests upon Swedish shoulders. How they don't do anything and everything to protect those shoulders is baffling.
The HNIC announcers broke down Henrik's play, pointing out how he plays deep in his crease more often than not. What they didn't point out is that he does it because 1- he is European and most goalies who come from the wider ice surface play deeper and 2- it is safer.
That being said, the Rangers played their second impressive defensive game in the Air Canada Center. Like the last time, the Blueshirts gave up the body, diving in front of shot after shot. Oh, there were breakdowns and Hank got crowded at times, but they repeated their Biron performance to limit Leaf chances. They blocked 35 shots in all, and yet Hank still made 36 saves.
Insane, right? But it does make sense - Toronto pressed the play with their energy and physicality, while the Rangers cowed back in their own zone. The team doesn't have much toughness and it certainly doesn't have much skill with Gaborik gone, so they fall back on their heels and give up the neural zone and the blue line.
They simply can't allow Pat Kane and the Hawks to do that on Monday. But they probably will. Let's just hope Hank can pull out another gem ...
*Jim Hughson doing the play-by-play makes me think that I'm immersed in a video game rather than watching the Rangers. Brian Boyle scoring his fourth goal of the season doesn't help either, as that is far more likely in the virtual world than reality.
*But seriously, kudos to Boyle for bouncing back from an atrocious effort on Friday. When he plays his size, when he plays to his skill level, he excels. Boyle is not a particularly good hockey player, so being fancy and messing around with the puck is just stupid. When he just keeps it simple, good things happen. He skated hard, went to the net, went to the backhand and caught Giguere cheating away from the post. There was no wild stickhandling, no pulling up to wait for help. Plain, simple, north-south hockey.
*It has been mentioned many times that Chris Drury really shouldn't bother coming back but tonight's game changed my opinion. And it is all because of Ryan Callahan. Watching Cally closely, you can see what the kid has learned from the captain. He is slowly starting to combine the scoring prowess of Drury's youth with the defensive acumen of Dru now. The scoring is not coming easily - he was venturing into Higgins territory - but the talent is there. Dru racked up 47 assists one season, there is no reason to think that Cally can't if he ever gets the chance to skate with some snipers. Not to say that he can't score himself; as we saw with his penalty shot - he has hands. His hard work earned him that shot and he buried it.
*Another player stepping into a leadership role seems to be Brandon Prust. Prust is more of an enforcer than Brashear or Boogaard ever was. After the awful loss on Friday, Prust stepped up to the bell to go after Komisarek and then later Colton Orr. Where exactly was Boogaard? Prust had the visor removed before the game and immediately went to business; that's bold and that's appreciated. I mean, he went after Orr in Eminger's defense ... Eminger!
*Eminger, who stinks. But so does Gilroy and MDZ. The three of them are barely qualified to man a AHL blueline, much less a NHL one. Despite the CBC guys saying MDZ has avoided a sophomore slump (he hasn't), we have reached at the point where I wonder if a little time with JJ Daigneault might do MDZ some good. The only hope for us with Eminger or Gilroy is for an injury because that seems like what it will take to get the reliable Mike Sauer back in action.
*Grachev saw eight minutes or action but frankly, I can't remember most any of it. At least that is better than remembering just how disappointed I was with Alex Frolov. Again.
*Arty was alright - not as bad as he has been at times, not as good as he has been. He was involved and that is a plus for us. It was quite amusing watching him try to pull Boyle's move off in the third period, only to end up getting hammered into the net by West Islip white trash.
*Facing Toronto without Darcy Tucker just seems to leave Sean Avery on the outside looking in. He keeps pressing the action and skating hard but without a foil in Tucker, it just isn't the same.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Brian Boyle - one goal.
2-Dan Girardi - one assist.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 36 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Prust - Face still messed up from the high stick, Prust held his own well being at bay for the sake of the team. More players should be as selfless - right now it seems like four, maybe five Blueshirts get it. Imagine what would happen if more did.
2-Girardi - Ever since the Carcillo/Gaborik incident, Girardi has played remarkably consistant - almost enough to forgive his mistake. Almost. Girardi has done quite well of late, especially when you consider that he is often saddled with MDZ as a partner.
1-Hank - I would say it is a pleasure to watch one of the top five goaltenders in the game go to work but it often gives me heart palpitations. Luckily he, and I, keep managing to pull though ...