Saturday, January 8, 2011
24-15-3: Simply Outstanding
The Rangers turned in a fantastic effort out on the road Friday night, beating the Dallas Stars in a 3-2 shootout. It would be a wonderful game to go on and on about except it is 6am and the Rangers play again in 14 hours so this will be quick:
*Sean Avery, Sean Avery, Sean Avery. For all of the hype, his return to Big D wasn't all that big. Avery played a big part in the first period, getting seven shifts where he made things happen each time. Torts seemingly didn't see it that way as he gave Avery just eight shifts over the next two frames. The guy can play, hopefully the coach will find that to be true as well and find the proper place for him in the lineup.
*Mats Zuccarello Aasen is getting comfortable in the top six and it looks like he will be there for a while. MZA has shown flashes that he can play either provider or finisher, but they have only been flashes. He needs to keep buzzing around the puck and develop some kind of chemistry with regular linemates (a tough task with Tortorella). While the kid's performance to date has been impressive, he has been going through a bit of a trial by fire due to the injuries and you have to wonder how this forced-adjustment will affect him in the long run.
*Alex Frolov, 41 games this season, one power play point (a second assist back in October). And yet he continues to be thrown over the boards time and time again. Tonight he had more than three minutes of man advantage time ... why, I simply don't know. He was a big summer signing and has a $3 million contract. Ruslan Fedotenko was a training camp invite making a third of that and has two more points this season - one of which being tonight's shorthanded goal.
*Aren't shorthanded goals great, when it is your team that is scoring them?
*Ya gotta love how Ott hugged like he was done fighting Weise and then threw some punches once the linesmen got close and Weise loosened his grip. Hopefully it taught Dale a lesson - either don't fight a clown like Cheap Shot Steve Ott or keep throwing until the stripes pry you off of the guy's beaten, broken body. Weise is in a bad spot, getting little ice time and being forced to play the enforcer when he clearly isn't.
*Just 30 seconds after his fight Dallas scored. Both Henrik Lundqvist and Ryan McDonagh chased the puck behind the net, Arty Anisimov was beaten to the puck in the corner and Brian Sutherby had a slam dunk of a goal. It wouldn't have happened if Hank learned from past mistakes and didn't leave his crease, if McD left the back boards to his goaltender or if Arty powered past or into Segal rather than going after the puck. The first two could/should be fixed with better communication on the ice and more time for McD while the third is a bigger project.
*Arty made up for it with his wicked wrister to tie the game with a third period power play goal. We knew he had the skills, he just needs to be more assertive and to do that he has to be more confident. The best way to get that would be for him to get physically stronger but seeing as the slim Russian has yet to pack on any pounds, we have to wait for him to be paired with guys willing to do the physical work for him.
*That goal, by the way, came off the rush. By my inexact, unresearched estimate, approximately 95% of the Rangers power play goals have come that way this season. They turn the puck over when they try to set up in the zone. They pass too much when they are in the zone. They can't hold the blue line. They try to be too cute. When they head right for the net, good things happen and it did on this occasion.
*Rozy wasn't missed. At all.
*Once Cally and Prospal re-enter the roster, perhaps it will be time to give Brandon Prust a night off. The poor guy is clearly playing hampered by a bad shoulder and yet he has been outstanding all season. The team has been talking about consistency of effort and Prust gives that - he consistently gives all of the effort he can muster. Now imagine all of that effort coming from him 100% healthy ...
*Did Marian Gaborik every return from his injury? Can't tell.
*Nice of the Stars fans to show up for the Friday night game; guess they were all at the Cotton Bowl watching LSU beat up A&M.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Kari Lehtonen - 29 saves.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 28 saves.
1-Artem Anisimov - one goal.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - Another solid effort from the King.
2-Lehtonen - It is astounding how many teams wrote Kari off because of how injury prone he was but there was never any denying that the second overall pick in 2002 could stop the puck. Now that he is healthy and has Gary Roberts around to keep him in shape, he gives Dallas their best goaltending since Belfour at the turn of the century. The Eagle took them to the Cup Finals twice, we'll certainly see what Lehtonen can do in the next year or two.
1-Girardi/Staal - The shutdown pair did their job, quieting Dallas' top notch offense. Brad Richards did nothing. Jamie Benn and James Neal did nothing. Loui Eriksson assisted on the power play goal when they weren't on the ice. Outstanding work by the Blueshirts blueliners. And, while I feel the All Star Game is an utter waste of time and an unnecessary injury risk, if anyone is going to represent the Rangers it should be Staal.