Don't let the final 3-0 scoreline fool you, the Ranger victory over the Panthers on Friday night was not nearly that impressive. The Blueshirts came out utterly flat and were lucky that Shawn Matthias couldn't score in an empty net. Had Matthias put the puck in rather than have hit the post in the first period, then it may have been a very different affair down in Florida.
But he didn't, and the Rangers won. So there is cause for celebration, but don't go crazy because there were many issues. Let's take the two points and move on to Nashville, were a much strong opponent awaits. Here is a quick breakdown of the good and the bad in this one:
*Good: Brandon Prust, making $800k (thank you CapGeek), fought a heavyweight to a draw and scored a shorthanded goal. It was just awesome to see this guy finally put the puck in the net and it was the nail in the coffin of the Panthers.
*Good: Henrik Lundqvist made 40 saves.
*Bad: Henrik Lundqvist had to make 40 saves. Against the Panthers.
*Good: Ryan Callahan scored a power play goal on a beautiful redirection.
*Bad: Marian Gaborik didn't score a power play goal. He didn't score a regular strength goal. In fact, he had all of two shots and only one of them made it on net. When the superstar sniper is on the ice for over 20 minutes and he only tries to shoot twice, there is a problem.
*Bad: Alex Frolov saw less than 10 minutes of ice time and didn't have a single shot. This guy is getting paid $3 million this season to score goals and he can't do a damned thing.
*Bad: The engaging Anisimov who paired with Dubi and Cally to pot some goals and press the action earlier this season is all but gone. Arty is back to playing on the perimeter and is quickly pushed off the puck when he gets it. He now has played 262 games in North America (108 NHL, 154 AHL) and he should realize he has to be stronger to contribute.
*Good: Mike Sauer is showing he can be the tough but quiet, stable presence on the blueline that the Rangers have lacked since they got rid of Fedor Tyutin. Toots combined a penchant for big hits with solid positioning and Sauer is getting there. Already he has shown he is willing to stand up for his teammates and for Hank, which is more than can be said for most Ranger defensemen since the lockout.
*Bad: Steve Eminger had his worst game in a while and his blue line fumble - a result of a bad pinch by MDZ - gave the Panthers a shorthanded 2-on-1 that they nearly scored on. Not to mention that he totally butchered the play that Chris Higgins scored on (which didn't count, that poor kid can't catch a break).
*Good: I believe it was either Cally or Mr. Softie the Backstabber who came back to make up for the defensive gaffe on the power play and laid out, forcing Weiss to wait too long to make his pass. By the time Santorelli got the puck, he had no room to life it past a lunging Lundqvist.
*Good: On the Ranger 2-on-1 Sean Avery smartly shot the puck low and to Clemmensen's right side, using the pillows to essentially feed the puck to Stepan. The Rangers usually fire that shot at the logo on the goalie's chest or fire it high and wide, giving the other team a break as the puck zooms around the boards and back towards the NY end.
*Bad: As I tweeted several times, the Fox Sports play-by-play guy Steve Goldstein was simply bad. There is little wonder that hockey isn't taking down there as this clown simply can't call it. He made several mistakes that just made me twitch. On the plus side though, Bill Lindsay was pretty good as an analyst - unlike Micheletti, he didn't shoot his mouth off just to hear himself speak. Another positive was FSN using cutie Allison Williams as the intermission host ... better to listen to her struggle to read pre-read copy than listen to Bill Pidto attempt to have a conversation with Ron Duguay.
*Bad: This isn't game related but Pidto was the wrong choice for the Tortorella/Keenan show. He just doesn't have the personality for it. The framework for a good show is there but the execution blew. And when Pidto jokingly asked Tortorella if he was going to do it again, Torts clearly hesitated - you could almost see the steam come out of his ears. He surely is being forced to do the show and that question made it obvious.
*Good: Well, this is good for Florida: Pete DeBoer clearly knows how to coach. He had his team playing more than the sum of their parts ... sadly for them that isn't saying much. He used his timeout well and he had the chutzpah to pull Clemmensen with four minutes left in an attempt to score. And - if not for stellar work by the Rangers (Girardi and Lundqvist in particular) - they would have.
*Bad: Those Panther sweaters suck. The colouring is a clear Penguin/Blues/Nashville/Columbus rip off, the main logo should be a shoulder patch and the font is completely uninspired and out of place.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Brandon Prust - one goal.
2-Ryan Callahan - one goal.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 40 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Cally - Night in, night out you know what you are going to get from Callahan. You can almost see that C on his chest.
2-Prust - While premeditated fights for no reason are usually cringeworthy, his bout with Hordichuk showed that the Rangers weren't the same team that was mowed down in Tampa. It certainly put an extra spring in the Rangers' step and
1-Hank - I don't think he was particularly great in this one but he made the saves he needed to. He was facing an offensively challenged team and managed not to allow a single soft goal. Let's consider this a nice rebound from Tampa and move on.