Friday, December 17, 2010
20-13-1: Kicking The Dogs
The Rangers edged out the Phoenix Coyotes 4-3 in a shootout at the Garden on Thursday night. As usual, if you are expecting a wonderful wrap raving about the resilience of a scrappy bunch of overachievers who are surely headed to the Stanley Cup, you are in the wrong damn place. Much like on Wednesday, the Blueshirts were outplayed for two periods and yet managed to steal two points on the inept performance of the opposition's backup goaltender.
Somehow I don't think that Philadelphia will be as accommodating on Saturday.
But on this night even though it wasn't pretty it was two points and they are nice to add to the bunch that have been collected of late. There are a few tough months coming up and every point is big; stealing two from a Western Conference opponent is very necessary if the team is to be in the hunt come April.
*As a friend said, "the Garden went from chanting 'Henrik! Henrik! Henrik!' to 'Marty! Marty! Marty!' during the same game, without changing goaltenders. Biron was completely horrific in allowing the three Phoenix goals during regulation and got quite lucky in the skills competition to earn the victory. But between the two he seemed to collect himself and made a few decent saves - maybe because of the moral support given to him by Chris Drury. The captain tapped the netminder on the pads after the second goal and the keeper then kept the team in the game the rest of the night. Oh yeah, the reassuring power of a Little League Champion.
*But seriously, it is hard to dog Dru in this one as that worked, and he won the faceoff that set up Stepan's equalizer - a draw that would have been lost by likely anyone else currently on the Ranger roster. He is no Ryan Callahan, he doesn't deserve 90% of his salary, he is the worst interview in the NHL, he can't score, he doesn't belong on the power play buuuuuuuut he can contribute in other ways and he did so on this night.
*Which is more than can be said about Marian Gaborik. It is nice to see the team able to pot a few goals without him but that has been the story of the season. Something has to spark the Slovak and soon. Aside from the hat tricks against Edmonton and the Isles, I believe he has all of three goals in 18 games. He has yet to pick the team up on his back when they needed it and they have still managed to put together this winning record. But how long will it last?
*Back to Biron for a second. The guy comes to the Rangers not just because they were the first desperate team to come to his door with a contract on July 1st but because he wanted to work with Benoit Allaire. Benoit and his brother are the goaltending geniuses who perfected the butterfly ... so why was it that Biron gave up all three goals while in awkward positions? He grossly misplayed the puck on the first and third Phoenix goals while he lost his angle while looking for it on the second. He got lucky Hanzal shuffled the puck across the goal mouth late in the second period and in the shootout he got lucky Radim Vrbata was unable to lift the puck but, luck or not, he managed to improve to 6-2 on the season.
*Alex Frolov doing a spin 'o rama coming into the Phoenix zone in the first period may have been one of the funniest things I have seen at the Garden.
*What does Tortorella think he can achieve by putting Frolov, Drury and MDZ on the power play?
*MDZ was the worst Ranger on the ice yet again. A year ago to the day that the kid put on a stellar performance against the Islanders, it is clear he is not just suffering from a sophomore slump but is outright regressing. Both Eminger and Sauer are more deserving of ice time and yet this kid keeps being featured. On the other bench on this evening was Kyle Turris, who Phoenix smartly sent to the minors last season and is all the better for it. The Rangers should follow suit with MDZ.
*Much like with Biron, Michal Rozsival overcame an atrocious start with some solid play late in regulation. Seriously.
*Sean Avery had himself a nice little game. He avoided the wrath of the refs, had a few good scoring chances, set up a goal and drew two power plays with his hard work. As Avery didn't make himself the story of the night, his performance won't make the headlines but it was a good one.
*When do you think the Garden brass will realize that having a DJ spin bad remixes of rock songs is annoying and unnecessary?
*There is nothing quite like watching the last five minutes through your hands, praying that the team doesn't screw up the point they rallied to earn.
*No Prucha, no Hollweg, no Ortmeyer in the Phoenix roster - drag. No Bryzgalov - lucky.
*Glad to see Dubi get a few good chances despite his better half Callahan being on the shelf. Just a shame he couldn't convert any of them; he hit the crossbar in the first period. It is dumbfounding though why, when on a two-on-one with Avery, Dubi decided to pull up and feed the trailing MDZ of all incompetent teammates for a shot when he had a lane himself or a chance to find Avery at the doorstep.
*Yep, still hate Derek Morris.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Erik Christensen - shootout goal.
2-Brandon Prust - shorthanded goal.
1-Dan Girardi - one goal and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Prust - During a grossly inconsistant season the one sure thing is Prust's work ethic night in and night out. For him to be rewarded for his hustle with a huge shorthanded goal was wonderful to watch.
2-Marc Staal - Ray Whitney has been quite good against the Rangers in recent history and yet you could hardly tell he played tonight, thanks to Staal.
1-Girardi - The other half of the shutdown pairing, Girardi also starred on the other side of the ice. He fired home the first Ranger goal of the game and sent the puck down the ice for Prust to chase (and eventually score) during the penalty kill.