Thursday, December 30, 2010

22-14-2: Last Place Devils

The Rangers played the last game of the calendar year on Wednesday night, defeating the Devils 3-1. By my count, the Rangers finished 2010 with a 42-34-8 record over 84 games. If you take one win and one loss away to get to the NHL season of 82 then the team earned 90 points in all - enough to get them seven place in the East last year (Philly & Montreal both had 88). Right now it is too early in the 10-11 season to be looking at the playoff picture but it is heartening to see them sitting in sixth, they have earned it.

Yes, that is my giving them credit because the team is winning many of the games that they don't deserve to win. As with the game against the Islanders, the Rangers played quite poorly against the Devils but they escaped with the victory. They let a listless team full of grinders and minor leaguers hang in there with them but ultimately edged them out to escape with two points. And that is what matters.


*It is quite believable that if Zach Parise remained healthy, John MacLean would still be New Jersey coach and the Devs would be competitive. But Parise didn't, MacLean was fired, and we got to enjoy one of the greatest, most enjoyable chants of all time: "Last Place Devils" clap clap clapclapclap.

*That hit that Sean Avery absorbed in the first period will be in every montage used in the Prudential Center probably for as long as it stands. While you have to wish that he could have gotten a measure of revenge with a goal, he did have a solid game and skated away with a Ranger win - which is probably the truest gauge of his success. Said it before, said it again: when Avery plays well the Rangers win games, whether he contributes on the scoreboard or not.

*Each team hit the iron once. The Ranger hit came off the stick of Gilroy and it popped up all the way over the netting behind the goal - an impressive, rare feat. That was the only impressive thing about Gilroy as he played his worst game since getting back in the lineup. Lucky for him MDZ's stomach flu somehow strained his groin ...

*As he has done all season, Brian Boyle scored by just putting his head down and shooting the puck. Many players would try to be fancy when facing Fatso but Boyle just took the shot and it evaded the corpulent keeper to make it 1-0.

*The second Ranger goal - the one that stood up as the game winner - came off of Michal Rozsival's stick. Rozy actually would have missed the four foot-by-six foot goal despite standing five feet away but his shot hit Andy Greene and bounced in. You have to smile when you see the box score with him being listed as having scored but it had nothing to do with his ability (which is quite lacking of late).

*Dan Girardi has very quietly had two poor games in a row. Luckily Marc Staal has not.

*Colin White is quite the tough guy hiding behind a plexiglass shield that comes down to his chin.

*This is sad but I had totally forgotten that Dainius Zubrus was still in the NHL and I had no idea he was 6'5, 225. When Zubrus fought Brian Boyle in the second period he certainly held his own.

*The good and the bad: the Ranger penalty kill went 4-4, the Ranger power play went 0-4. Of course how hard is it to kill penalties when you face an opposing unit that includes Zubrus, lazy Kovalchuk (he actually was on for all eight minutes of the man advantage in the game), past-his-prime grinder Langenbrunner, minor leaguer David Clarkson, and someone named Zharkov? As for the power play, paging Marion Gaborik ... The majority of the Ranger power play goals this season have been scored off the rush; the special team is far from special once in the zone (if they can even get set up in the zone). That has to change if they are to be successful in the long run.

*Jason Arnott certainly has not been the same player he was prior to his 2008 celebration concussion. He should really hunt down Radulov in Russia and kick his ass - it would be a better use of his energy than letting his emotions get the better of him and take dumb unsportsmanlike penalties. He used to be quite the player, but you can't really see that anymore. Not that I'm complaining, just observing.

*MZA saw less time but was no less useful for the Rangers. The Little Viking saw less than eight minutes on the ice and was rarely put in a position where he could contribute. You have to wonder why Torts hid him from the Devils. His linemate Mr. Softy hurt himself crashing into the net behind Fatso, which works out because it has resulted in Dale Weise getting called up. It could be quite interesting if Torts pairs Weise with MZA and, say, Avery.

*How exactly does the music director at the Rock go straight from Beyonce's "Single Ladies" to Pantera's "Mouth for War"?? But the entertainment staff does well: their mascot is fun, their kiss cam was hilarious, their dancers are fetching and they got rid of that spastic dancing idiot who used to throw tee shirts around.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Martin Brodeur - 23 saves.
2-Michal Rozsival - one goal.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 43 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Brandon Prust - Prusty played 18:31, his highest amount of ice time this season. And he deserved every second of it. All this guy does is work hard.
2-Mike Sauer - Staal may have nearly played half the game but Sauer made the most of his limited time with another good showing. His consistently solid performances has given him a pairing with Hobey Gilroy - meaning Torts has faith that he can take care of business while Gilroy gambles upice.
1-Hank - The King kept the Rangers in the game by making saves in traffic, dealing with Devils on his doorstep and avoiding any softies. He could have folded after his flopping allowed Zajac to score but instead he buckled down and took care of business. A good performance to end the year.

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