Sunday, January 23, 2011
28-19-3: Ain't That Peachy?
I believe it was Mark Twain who said that "it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog." Samuel Clemens could never have known that his words would apply so well to tonight's 3-2 shootout win by the Rangers (ice hockey? in Atlanta? Mah word!).
The Rangers showed that it wasn't size that mattered both their biggest and their littlest players came through in the clutch: Brian Boyle scored the game-tying goal and Mats Zuccarello won it in the skills competition. The size of the fight that is in those players and the rest of their teammates seems to be growing on a game-by-game basis. Occasional let downs aside, the battle level of the Blueshirts is what is making this season tolerable to watch despite seeing the team continually crushed by injuries.
The guys were outhit and outclassed for most of the night but they still escaped Atlanta with a big two points. They keep grounding out wins on the road and staying in the playoff picture despite watching their guys falling like flies.
*A get well soon goes out to Brandon Prust. X-rays on his foot were negative but he is so battered that the All Star break can't come quick enough. Sadly the same can be said for half the roster right about now.
*As per always, Sean Avery was making things happen. Avery was all over the ice, forechecking and backchecking and being a nuisance (giggled at the facewash Byfuglien gave him). That being said, he has just one goal in his last 42 games and no assists in 15 of his last 16 games. Love Avery (as you guys know) but he has to add some production. Perhaps he will find it if Torts ever settles on (and sticks with) two linemates for him.
*It was nice of Andrew Ladd to stop fighting after making Dan Girardi's head bleed for super fan number five. Girardi wasted much of his punches on Ladd's helmet and then ended up on the worse end at the end. It was an unnecessary tussle after a clean hit but a tussle that is understandable when you consider the flak Girardi took for watching Gaborik fight Carcillo - you have to stand up for the stars and Staal is a star.
*With Girardi out after the fight, Sauer and McDonagh seriously stepped up their games. After being a proponent of Sauer for so many years it has been a true delight to see him becoming a bonafide NHL blueliner. And McD is continuing to get better and better; who knows just how far he can go? Just to finish off the defense, Eminger seems to still be recovering his game now that Rozy is gone while Hobey Gilroy had a quiet but solid game.
*The Ranger power play was all-too-quiet, as it has been all season. An option that Tortorella should explore is using the little viking as the primary power play quarterback. Gaborik was used in that spot during the 5-on-3 and he clearly is not cut out for it. Gabby's best weapon is his quick-release wrister and he can't use it sitting out at the blueline. Torts might be afraid that he would be overwhelmed but his speed should be enough to sneak through the pressure. The kid can stickhandle, the kid can pass, the kid can shoot and he can see the ice well. His nifty little feed to Boyle nearly got the big man a goal off the rush - the best chance the Rangers had during the two-man advantage.
*The refs missed at least three penalties committed on the Rangers. Sure two were not called because they were on Avery but how Gabby could have his stick slashed out of his hands with no whistle blown was inexcusable.
*Also inexcusable is the continued employment of Joe Micheletti. ShutUpShutUpShutUpShutUpShutUpShutUpPleaseGodMakeHimShutUp. It is a nightly rant around these parts but every time you think he can't get worse he does. An analyst is supposed to give insight and compliment the play-by-play guy. Joe does neither.
*From one 'favourite' target to another: if Chris Drury was just a little more physical then it would be interesting to entertain the thought of banishing him to the blueline but as he plays now he simply needs to be banished. The captain is nothing less than a liability in the offensive zone, a lamb wandering into a wolf's den. The defenders give him no quarter because they know he is no threat - they simply pounce and take the puck. In the second period Drury skated into the Thrasher end, was quickly overwhelmed, had his halfhearted shot blocked and watched as Atlanta went back the other way and scored. And Dru took all of five faceoffs over the course of the evening; he won three but the two he lost were both in the defensive zone. Kris Newbury has shown he is more than capable of doing what Dru does whole adding a physical element ... and he does it for far, far, far, far, far less money.
*Surprise, surprise, I found Arty Anisimov was disappointing as well. Arty seemingly lost every faceoff he took, he took a poor penalty and for all of the chances he got around the Atlanta net, he didn't come close to scoring. More muscle and more confidence would change all of that.
*After his impressive debut in Carolina, I expected Chad Kolarik to have a better game.
*Brodie Dupont finally made his NHL debut but he only played five minutes and was largely invisible. I'm hoping he sticks until at least Tuesday so I can get a better look.
3-Brian Boyle - one goal.
2-Nik Antropov - one goal.
1-Mats Zuccarello - shootout goal.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Sauer - Nearly 27 minutes of ice time, nearly five of which were shorthanded. He edged out Tobias Enstrom in my opinion purely because he was not cast in the role he succeeded in this evening.
2-Ondrej Pavelec - Pavelec made 29 saves and came an inch away from stopping Boyle too (the puck clipped his glove). This kid has some serious skill and hopefully for Atlanta he won't fall apart like Kari Lehtonen did.
1-Hank - Sure the King only made 20 saves but he couldn't be faulted for either of the goals against - and he came through in the shootout yet again. While more and more Rangers are going down with injury, Hank has been the crutch holding the team up while the replacements get used to their roles.