Tuesday, November 2, 2010
6-4-1: Did My Eyes Deceive Me?
Is it possible that the Rangers truly beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in an exciting back-and-forth battle at the Garden? I mean, c'mon, no way that happened ... right?
Well, it was real and it was spectacular. Ok, spectacular may be a little strong but it conveys the delight at watching the Rangers find some success on home ice. But then again, I wouldn't be me if I didn't point out that the Hawks are the kind of opponent that the Blueshirts get their game together for - a top flight team that is an Original Six rival to boot. If they do it again on Sunday against the Blues, then I will be seriously impressed (they should put up a good fight Thursday and Friday in Philly and Jersey, respectively, so Sunday will be the true test).
Since there is plenty to talk about, let's just jump into it:
*There were a lot of Hawks fans in the crowd. Credit would be given if you couldn't still see the tags on most of their jerseys. I think I saw one Chelios and one Belfour, and the guy wearing the Belfour left early. All aboard the bandwagon boys!
*You know how the Rangers played? Just like the Islanders did against them. Facing a more talented team, the Blueshirts worked harder, hustled, crashed the net, kept the pressure on the Hawks and got the end result. A little grit goes a long way.
*A lot of grit goes even longer and Ryan Callahan has it. There were plenty of examples of it in this game but the pinnacle for me was his defensive work at the end of the second period. Cally made a shot block that clearly hurt like hell and Chicago was able to retain possession. Cally got up, limped into position, followed the play, tried to block another shot and ultimately cleared the puck. No wonder he wears a letter.
*Alex Frolov would be wise to learn something from the eventual captain. It is easy to see how the Russian was dropped to the third line and eventually just dropped by L.A. Grachev looked far better than his fellow countryman and he saw nine less minutes of ice time.
*The Dave Mathews jangling guitar line with "Woo!" interspaced in it was an utter failure by the in-house"entertainment" staff. That was almost as bad as the abomination that is the techno remix of Danzig that they insist on playing.
*Just put on the re-air on MSG and it is remarkable how Sam said Anisimov scored, Joe said Cally scored and Dubinsky was the one who put the puck in to tie the game at one. Joe then goes on a rant how no team has been able to stop their line ... except somehow the team has lost five games this year. Huh, how about that?
*That goal was a duplicate of a play earlier in the period, with one major difference. The Rangers get the puck deep, Cally gets possession and Arty goes to the far post. The first time Dubi swooped in and curled through the circle, waiting for a one-timer out at the hashmarks. That time the feed was tipped and the puck went out of the zone. On the goal, however, Dubi stayed low, camping out at the top of the paint and jammed in the puck. On his second goal he was heading right for the crease with a man on him and still redirected the Cally feed past Turco. Good things happen when you pay the price kids.
*I gave Arty some credit several times during the game and I have witnesses to vouch for me. The kid played well on both sides of the ice, complimenting his linemates. A friend foresees the three of them growing into another GAG line and, while I initially laughed, it isn't unpossible. (Me fail English?)
*When Brian Boyle realizes he isn't a skill player and simplifies his game, he is a far more useful player.
*I paid extra attention to Mike Sauer on defense and he was nearly perfect playing smart, simple defense. His coverage was solid, his passing was crisp and when he had to get rid of the puck, he did it. His partner Steve Eminger was not nearly as good and should be replaced henceforth. For all of his "experience" and "toughness," Eminger simply grabbed his man several times - narrowly avoiding more dumb interference penalties. Sure he had a decent hit or two but when the Hawks had the puck along the endboards behind Hank in the Ranger end, Eminger wasn't strong enough to win it. He can't stickhandle, he isn't a particularly great skater, his passing is dubious at best and he has no future with the franchise; I fail to see the point of keeping him around. The team would be better suited giving one of the kids the ice time - McDonough, Valentenko or even Gilroy depending on the opponent.
*It would be nice for some of the guys to help Henrik out a little bit. We know he is one of the best in the business but he really can't do everything. And he is Swedish so he isn't about to pull a Billy Smith when a guy like Kopecky sets up in front.
*Derek Boogaard? Not missed.
*Some quick notes on the Hawks: Patrick Sharp is underrated. Troy Brouwer has the makings of a really good, really strong player. Chicago hasn't adjusted to Turco's puck handling abilities. Super Nintendo Hjalmars really deserves more credit. Brian Campbell didn't show any rust for all of the time he missed. Duncan Keith likes to shoot the puck. A lot. For all of his skill, Pat Kane can be awfully invisible when the opponents limit his time and space (and yet he still scored a goal, albeit a softy that wasn't unlike his Cup winner vs Philly).
*It is amazing just how thin the line is that Sean Avery has to toe. He accidentally tipped the puck over the glass and clearly ended up in Tortorella's doghouse. When the bench got called for the too many men on the ice, it was Avery who was sent to serve it. And that came after Avery drew the penalty that the Rangers turned into the go-ahead goal in the beginning of the third.
*Hard to say who was more invisible, Derek Stepan or Todd White. Don't particularly care about White but Stepan has to get over his Garden jitters.
*Erik Christensen's goal was pretty. Many have been willing to toss away the waiver-wire pickup but he does have offensive ability. Christy had chemistry with Gaborik last season so once the Slovak somes back, he might be able to add the consistency that has escaped him so far this campaign.
*Brandon Prust is delightful to watch play, at least for me. Skate, skate, skate, hit, get the puck, chip the puck, shoot the puck, hit. It was scary to see him go down the way he did after that big hit on Hjalmarsson; luckily he was alright.
*Before we get too giddy over the Rangers, there is still plenty of work to be done. They were pinned in their own end twice during the game for more than a minute at even strength.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Artem Anisimov - two assists.
2-Ryan Callahan - two assists.
1-Brandon Dubinsky - two goals.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Girardi - More than 27 minutes of ice time, six blocked shots ... Girardi put forth a stalwart performance. When the Rangers were clinging to the lead late in the game, he was reunited with Staal and they were fantastic - that penalty he took had to be taken. The Blueshirts need to make a move to get someone else to babysit MDZ so they can keep those two together without leaving the kid alongside Rozy, no matter how the Czech has played at times this season.
2-Dubi - The pieces are finally starting to fall into place for Dubi - he is using all of the tools he has to become a strong hockey player. While I envisioned him as an Arnott-esque center, the wing has been better for Dubi and he is growing as a power forward - something you could clearly see on this night.
1-Cally - There are many words that encapsulate his effort on this night but I think one sums it up best: warrior.