Sunday, January 9, 2011
25-15-3: That's What I'm Talkin' About
After a dreadful first period where the Rangers worked the exhaustion out of their bodies, the team woke up and played what should be Ranger hockey. They battled and battled and battled and grinded out an exciting 2-1 victory over the Blues - another young, tough team that battles and grinds.
For years now Saturday night's tilt in St. Louis would be the kind of game where the Rangers would be outworked and outhustled on their way to a disappointing loss. But they didn't let that happen. Not on this night. For the second straight game the team did not relent, did not give up the good areas of the ice and ended up on top. It was outstanding and exactly why there has been millions of pixels wasted on this website in rants about how bad the Blueshirts were - they have had the ability to do this for a while and simply didn't.
Now let's not start signing Kumbaya just yet as there were still plenty of warts but, BUT this weekend's efforts are a welcomed indication of the Rangers ability to contend. Now let's just see them do it at home, in front of the adoring fans that have been desperate for signs of life like this for a long time.
*This game was so impressive that even Marian Gaborik showed up to take part in it. Gabby and Avery combined for two terrific chances and the second one went in. Going to the net is gooooood. All of the Avery haters should simmer down because when Sean is on the ice things happen. Well, those haters in New York at least. The late double minor for high sticking was an accident, not an instance of him being out of control.
*Highlight of the game? Not what you might think: During the second period the game was tied at one and Matt D'Agostini took off on a breakaway. Marc Staal raced back and took a good penalty to throw the Blue off before he could get a good shot. D'Agostini slid into Biron, knocking the net off. Avery, Staal and Girardi all charge right at D'Agostini, setting off a scrum. That kind of thing rarely happened in recent seasons and didn't even happen during the first month of this one. But, as the team has come together and - to steal the company line - 'found their identity' that is happening more and more. The Blueshirts are doing whatever it takes to get the job done and they are standing up for themselves and each other while doing it. How can you not love it?
*There is plenty not to love: the Rangers can't win faceoffs and can't score on the power play. Too many men on the ice is utterly inexcusable in the quieter confines of St. Louis - it isn't like it is the Stanley Cup Final at the Montreal Forum. Arty Anisimov can't stay on his skates and needs to add at least 15-20 pounds of muscle. Love the flash of his spin o'rama, hate the turnovers and spills the second there is a little bit of physical pressure.
*Marty Biron was rock solid with perhaps his best performance this season. Sure he has other wins but this game saw him exposed numerous times and he closed down the Blues. Sure - as JD pointed out - the Blues were missing three of their top forwards but they still had many capable contributors (led by the Awesome American David Backes). And Biron only allowed one goal on 25 shots; a great job by the backup.
*Derek Stepan's goal was damn sexy coming on a tic-tac-toe passing play. How he made himself wide open, took the pass, stickhandled in close and found a gap in Halak is beyond me but it was enjoyable to see. Something to be wary though - last year Step played 41 games with Wisconsin and seven games with Team USA at the WJC for a total of 48. Tonight was game 43 for the Rangers ...
*Random but I heard the St. Louis staff playing Ozzy's "Shot in the Dark" in the arena. Great song.
*The timing of that was good as it was played during one of the few moments where Joe Micheletti actually shut his mouth. He was at his very worse during this one, getting facts and names wrong, focusing his analysis on minor minutia while missing big trends and events. His performance was made even worse by the contrast that was John Davidson's stop in the booth. JD and Sam showed the chemistry that made for so many years of wonderful broadcasts, and they were just shootin' the sh-t. Joe interrupts, Joe apologizes and Joe blathers on about bullsh-t while play is going on. He does a disservice to current and future Ranger fans. Both Billy Jaffe and Kevin Weekes would be far better than Joe as they offer intelligent insight delivered with an easy-going demeanor. Micheletti is a banshee who should be silenced. And I'm sorry MSG, NO ONE CARES ABOUT JOE'S 15 MINUTES IN THE NHL BACK IN THE 80s!!!!! If anything it shows just how out of touch he is with the current game.
*Anyone else do a little dance when Frolov was helped off the ice injured? Sure the Rangers don't have many reinforcements left but damn, it will be good to get him out of the lineup - at least off of the power play.
*Notice that with Rozsival out with injury Eminger is starting to get his game back ...
*PHW Three Stars
3-Brad Winchester - one goal.
2-Marian Gaborik - one assist.
1-Marty Biron - 24 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Biron - As he said in the post-game interview, Marty closed the gaps and didn't allow any pucks to trickle through despite St. Louis getting several good chances in close.
2-Dan Girardi - Sure I could split the star like last night, giving half to his partner Staal but on this night Girardi was the better of the two. He blocked a slew of shots, helped Biron kill penalties and
1-Brandon Dubinsky - Dubi is finally using all of the weapons in his arsenal, combining his size with his speed and his skill. He used his reach to stickhandle in deep before dishing to his open teammate - he did it with MZA against Carolina and he did it tonight with Gabby (on Avery's goal).