The Blueshirts were battered by the Hurricanes on Thursday night 4-1. At some point people are going to start hanging every loss on the rash of injuries but the fact is that the Rangers actually had a chance to win this one, or at least make it far more of the game it became.
The difference was tactical, as Tortorella's decision to start Hank for a second straight night backfired. After all of that talk about saving Lundqvist for the games that matter, Torts went with the King against the loser Leafs. When he made that call, he had to back it up by using the backup against the more important Carolina team ... but he didn't. Instead Hank was back in the crease and the goaltender gave up the all-important first goal, one that was simply soft. The Rangers had had the energy and the momentum and it all drained out as the puck trickled through his legs. Zook had a good chance six, seven minutes later but the full-team pressure that the Rangers had put on Ward was gone.
And, of course, not too much time passed before Mike Sauer got called for a bad penalty. And, of course, the usually-diligent Ranger PK went into a diamond that was sliced in half by the laser of Uh Oh Corvo. Sure the shot was tipped but it shouldn't have gotten to the slot - Boyle gave him too much room and too much time. Conn Smythe winner Ward was able to calm things down and hold the Blueshirts at bay, showing that he is still one of the best in the business. Hank is too, but he was lulled into complacency by the pop-gun attack of the Leafs the night before.
Hopefully this was a wake-up call for the King as the Southeastern swing continues with games in Atlanta (Saturday) and Washington (Monday).
*How can you not love Brandon Prust? Seriously? Bad shoulder and all, the guy refuses to relent. He blew an early breakaway but kept on battling. He fought Jay Harrison and too a few good shots before turning the tables. And then he nearly lost the puck in traffic but kept with it and scored in the third period ... what more can you want from a guy? Heart and soul. With Cally, Dubi and Prospal all out, it would be great if Prust was rewarded with an A - even if it is temporary.
*From a guy deserves a letter to one who doesn't: nice of Chris Drury to contribute nothing, again. He has to took around and see that he is skating alongside Dale Weise and Kris Newbury - a far cry from Hejduk, Forsberg, Briere, Vanek, etc. Wouldn't that motivate him to be better?
*Marian Gaborik scores four goals against the hapless Leafs and yet doesn't even manage four SHOTS in this one. I said it yesterday, "the guy shows up when there is a dog to kick but when a real opponent comes around this season he has been the dog."
*Nice fight by Newbury. One day after making Sloppy Seconds look stupid Newbury engaged in a good battle with former Duck Ryan Carter. I knew I remembered his name from somewhere - Carter was beaten up by Ryan Hollweg at the Garden a few years back. Newbury, by the way, won eight of 10 faceoffs. Not too shabby.
*Derek Stepan needs to find his consistency. His skill level is unquestioned but some mental mistakes are sneaking through, as one did tonight on Skinner's goal. Step hasn't quite hit the College-Kid Wall but he is showing signs - hopefully the All Star break will do him well.
*So Sean Avery slashes Erik Cole and is penalized. Cole slashes Avery and is not penalized. Cole chases down Avery and both are equally penalized even though Cole initiated the contact. And the officials step in to break up what could have been a good fight. Ok then, that makes sense, right?
*Hopefully that same break won't break the momentum that Zuccarello has built up. The little man is playing big and getting in good spots to score. At some point more of those great chances will go in and when they do ... look out. Torts will want to re-unite Cally with Arty but with Dubi out, perhaps Zook could be a good fit with them.
*While I am still sad we didn't get to see Brodie Dupont make his debut, Chad Kolarik fared well in his first foray in a Blueshirt. He made some mistakes and seemed to struggle with the pace once or twice but he does have good offensive instincts.
*What the hell is that Tarzan cry that they kept playing in Carolina? Ugh.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Cam Ward - 39 saves.
2-Jeff Skinner - one goal and one assist.
1-Chad LaRose - one goal and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Prust - It is becoming cliche but In Prust We Trust. If there is one blue collar Blueshirt who this city could/should be proud of, it is Prust.
2-Skinner - MSG may love to get a laugh out of the kid's figure skating background but it is the former (Kitchener) Ranger who will have the last laugh. With Logan Couture's injury issues many may Believe in Bob for the Calder but my money is on this Carolina kid.
1-Ward - Is it the fact that he plays in Carolina that keeps him out of most people's minds when they name the top goaltenders in the league? I myself have left him out of the conversation in the past but certainly won't do it again ...