Thursday, January 6, 2011
Many will find it hard to believe but there are Ranger fans out there more miserable than even the author of this blog. One of those despondent souls walked into the Garden this evening ranting about how the game against the Canes was a must-win. 'Lose this game, might as well not play anymore because it is over.'
The reasoning behind his ranting was that, by his calculations, Carolina is the team most likely to be battling the Rangers for the final playoff spot. They have a young, hardworking team that includes two of the best players in the game (Staal and Ward) and were missing two major parts in Finns Jussi Jokinen and Joni Pitkanen. So the Rangers just had to beat them - the two points were huge and the tiebreaker even bigger.
And, much to the miserable man's delight and shock, the Rangers did beat them - downing the Hurricanes 2-1 in overtime. It was a back-and-forth, grinding affair that seemed to go quite fast and yet be dreadfully boring at times. There were chances to be had on both sides but the goaltenders were up to the task and, in the end, the Little Rookie That Could concluded the evening in exciting fashion. No skills competition, just a perfectly placed shot and that was it. The Blueshirts won their must-win game and live to play another day ... and perhaps that day will be in May. Ok, the rhyming was nice but let's not get crazy now. There is a lot of time left and a lot of games left to be played but the team showed they could find a way to win a tight one - and they did it at home for once; even the most pessimistic of Ranger puckheads can appreciate that.
It's late so onto some notes:
*Zooooooooook. What a great way to score your first NHL goal, huh? Overtime, game-winner at the Garden. Wow. Love this kid and what he brings but, it should be said, he is still new to the league and may need more time back down on the farm before the season is through. How funny was it to see him be embraced by Brian Boyle after the goal? Over a foot difference there but it showed the sheer joy the kid had and joy his teammates had for him. It seemed to be more than just a celebration of a overtime tally, but the delight of older brothers for a younger sibling's success. Storhet = Greatness in Norwegian.
*On the brotherhood theme, Eric Staal vs Marc Staal was an epic battle. Good genes in that family, huh?
*The Rangers dominated in the faceoff circle and it showed in the amount of pressure they were able to put on. It was interesting to see how, after Boyle was beaten on the play that led to the Carolina goal, Drury took his spot in the next defensive zone faceoff before curling back to the bench to change for Boyle.
*When will the Blueshirt brass put Rozy and Frolov out of our misery?
*Mike Sauer's rock solid play has freed Hobey Gilroy to concentrate on his offense and it paid off in a see-ing eye shot to open the scoring. Sauer won't enter anyone's rookie of the year conversations but his play this season has been a delightful revelation.
*Did not spot a single Hartford Whalers sweater in the crowd. Made me sad.
*And FYI, Denis Potvin did not play for the Whale, so there is no reason to chant that he sucks 18 times.
*Marian Gaborik once scored five goals against the New York Rangers. There is a guy wearing a sweater with Gaborik on the back but it surely can't be the same guy. This poor facsimile was actually better than he has been in recent games but that isn't saying much at all.
*For all of the Torts talk about accountability, Steve Eminger took a bad penalty at the top of the third period and was not chastised for his mistake. Instead he had seven more shifts after leaving the box, including one that lasted more than a minute of overtime. Granted, he broke up a three-on-one with a perfectly-timed fall but still - he didn't miss a beat. Dale Weise dressed but that may be it as he was never on the ice (the official sheet has him at three minutes but they must have been quite quiet because they weren't noticeable).
*Anyone know what happened to Sergei Samsonov? The wily Russian vet barely saw the ice - was he busy watching his country upset Canada? Can't blame him if so ... (Canada: the only country in the world that cares about the tournament gets embarrassed in the final for the second straight year, nyeh nyeh).
*Staal, Dubi and Stepan all deserve attaboys for good performances. All three drafted by the Rangers, all three in the franchise's core. Once Cally rejoins them and the team drafts/trades for/signs a scorer, the Blueshirts will be one tough team to face.
*Also helping to make the team tough, Brandon Prust. Prust fought former Duck Troy Bodie in a fun fight near center ice. The two pugilists were pretty evenly matched, making for an entertaining battle.
*Just once it would be nice to see one of the Three Stars throw his puck higher up into the crowd. Sure there are no Nick Fotiu's anymore but c'mon, sending it up to the yuppies behind the bench most of the time is no fun.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Mats Zuccarello Aasen - one goal and one assist.
2-Matt Gilroy - one goal.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 31 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - As always, the defense left the Swede out on his own a few too many times and yet Hank held firm. He took a few too many hits from the physical Canes but he didn't let the contact throw him off his game.
2-Sean Avery - The best Ranger on the ice, by far. Every time he was on the ice he made things happen, whether it was setting his linemates up or going to the net himself. It is just a shame that he couldn't finish.
1-Cam Ward - It is almost impossible to hang Ward out for the two goals against. The first was a shot through traffic and the game-winner came right after he absorbed a hit from Dubi and was a perfectly placed shot under the crossbar. As the miserable man said to me, Ward never enters the 'best goalie in the game' conversation and yet he has never lost a Game 7.