After the Rangers choked in the thin air of Denver on Friday night, hopes were not particularly high for Saturday evening's tilt against the Minnesota Wild. As the Rangers often prove, if you set the bar low then they can mostly get over it. But on this night, it wasn't even close as the Blueshirts blew out the Wild 5-2.
Now, It would have been nice for Gabby to return to the Xcel Energy Center and put up five but it was just as enjoyable to see the Rangers as a team do it, in a much-needed victory. Everything went right for the Rangers and they head back to the Garden on a high note. This win was huge because they will face a desperate Calgary team before heading out on another short road trip to complete a six-games-in-nine-days rip.
*One of the best parts of this win? The goals didn't come from the team's primary scoring. No Gabby, no Boyle. (Yes, I just included Brian Boyle in the team's primary scoring but that is how things have fleshed out so far. He did get an assist, his first of the season.) The Pack guys accounted for a pair, Ruslan Fedotenko was finally rewarded for his hard work with a goal and MDZ and Frolov set pigs'a flyin' with a goal apiece.
*Brandon Prust = Warrior.
*Mike Sauer was the guest during a intermission and he spoke just like he plays - calm, cool and to the point.
*Micheletti and Kevin Weekes both attributed the Arty goal to Boogaard's big hit - something the big man should have been penalized for. He nailed Robbie Earl high, something that surely should have been penalized. But, perhaps O'Halloran received an e-mail after the Pittsburgh affair so he swallowed his whistle. In fact, O'Halloran (along with partner O'Rourke) called four of the first five penalties against Minnesota ... hmmm ... how about that? What a co-in-key-dink.
*Not that there is any competition or anything but Minnesota's official scorer gave Cally just one hit in the game while awarding Cal Clutterbuck with six. And it was enough to put Clutterbuck in first in the NHL by two hits over - who else but - Cally with a total of 82 in 19 games.
*The Rangers still suck on faceoffs.
*How great was it to hear Micheletti rave about Del Zotto being the 'best player on the ice' right before he helped Matt Cullen (of all people) break Biron's bid for a shutout with his missed hit and then took a late penalty? MDZ did score a goal - something to be thankful for - but it really wasn't anything special as Backstrom was caught grossly out of position. The kid is still struggling in his own end, he is struggling making passes and one goal into a mostly empty net doesn't change that. Even with the goal, he still finished a -2 in a 5-2 win.
*Alex Frolov scored on a wrap-around. That pretty much sums up just how woeful Backstrom was in this one.
*As mentioned on twitter, "Can't decide who is/was more despicable - Matt Cullen or Aaron Ward ... no love lost for either."
*For all of the talk about how great the fans are in Minnesota, that building sounded dead - even before the Rangers went up four-zip. Were they all in awe that they received Gaborik bobbleheads? I know I would be, our owner is too cheap to give those out nowadays.
*Now there is no reason to demean Derek Stepan's mother by subjecting her to a physical review but she deserves inclusion in this because her presence at the games clearly has an impact on her son. Stepan is simply more comfortable playing with her in attendance. He doesn't seem to grip his stick as tight and just plays, and the Rangers are a better team for it. Perhaps the team should give her one of those season tickets that they are still advertising in late November.
*Matt Gilroy, frankly, was hardly noticed despite playing more than 16 minutes and getting the helper on the Arty goal. And that is a good thing.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Brent Burns - one assist.
2-Marc Staal - no points.
1-Dan Girardi - two assists.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Greg Zanon - Zanon is just so insanely underrated that it is criminal. He blocks shots, he makes good hits and he is right where he needs to be. And, on a night where the usually-stable Nick Schultz is a minus-three and the team allowed five goals, Zanon skated off with a plus-two rating.
2-Fedotenko - The Ukrainian foot soldier keeps fighting the good fight, continually proving the Ranger brass right to have given him a training camp tryout. He goes to the tough parts of the ice and often comes out with the puck and on this night came out with a goal.
1-Staal - Staal didn't score, he didn't even collect an assist in his 25 minutes of work. But he did play some strong hockey on both sides of the ice. Staal showed he can be part of - if not lead - the rush while still making it back to keep up his defensive responsibilities. Last season he over-extended himself trying to do both but he is gradually finding the right balance and is morphing into the No. 1 defenseman he has been forced to be the last few seasons.