Friday, February 11, 2011
29-24-4: Evander Knocks Out Rangers
Evander Kane's back-to-back goals in the third period turned the tables and gave Atlanta a 3-2 win over the Rangers on Friday night. When the Thrashers needed him, Kane was a force and he missed a hat trick by inches when his shot at the empty net went wide. When the Rangers needed Gaborik, he blew a penalty shot.
Gaborik's exceptional timing and great speed earned him a shorthanded breakaway and a hook from behind put him on the spot. And, for the second time this month, he had a chance to win the game for the Rangers and failed (the first being the shootout loss to Pittsburgh). His effort on the evening can't be questioned but the results certainly can. He assisted on the two Ranger goals; the first being more luck than anything else as his botched shot went right to Staal and the second being a legit nice play with a smart feed to an oncoming Dubinsky. It was good to see him involved but it simply wasn't enough.
This night will go down as another transitional game as Tortorella works his regulars back into the lineup. There were good signs and troubling signs for the days ahead. The good: Gabby was into it, Hank made some great saves, Arty managed to at least hit some iron and the top four defensemen were strong. The bad: Gabby's failure with the game on his shoulders, Del Zotto dragging Gilroy down with him, Avery still getting royally screwed by the officials and Wojtek Wolski and Erik Christensen having no impact whatsoever. Oh, and after being heavily leaned on during all of the injuries, Brian Boyle and Derek Stepan combined for just under 22 minutes of ice time and Mats Zuccarello saw 9:18. That feisty, overachieving team that battled hard and surprised with some wins is gone; the Rangers are back and they are back on track to battle for the final playoff spot, again. It hurts but it appears that we are headed for a heartache again.
*In the Peepin' Foes I wrote "Prust had better not battle with Boulton for the sake of the fighting" and that is exactly what he did. He fought to justify the Atlanta goon's paycheck and it handed the Thrashers the momentum early. A momentum that carried them to a Anthony Stewart goal five minutes after the fisticuffs. Prust was hurt in the bout but, of course, he came back to play later in the game. He has proven to be the heart of this team and a extremely valuable forechecker, to lose him for five or more minutes in a foolish fight is folly.
*I was wrong in the PF saying Alex Burmistrov would score. Instead he had an assist on the Stewart goal. As per usual, Arty needs to be stronger and smarter - he was looking around trying to figure out what to do instead of accepting the pass, handling the puck and getting it through the neutral zone. Arty did hit the crossbar, but he still lacks the poise, strength and confidence needed to be a force. Dubi and Cally are back, he is running out of time/excuses.
*After much thought, the most disappointing thing about Del Zotto is not his performance. It is that he is dragging down what had been an improved Matt Gilroy. Tortorella had been able to throw his three pairings over the boards with regularity but now he has to pick his spots as his third pairing is a untrustworthy disasterpiece. If keeping MDZ around is un-negotiable, then Gilroy has to be dealt at the deadline. Put Eminger back in to bring back some form of stability while getting something back for Hobey before he bolts this summer.
*While bashing those two, let's even the ledger by praising Sauer and McDonagh. Night in and night out they have been the steadiest pair. They aren't flashy by any means but they can skate and they can do their job. McD's work on Byfuglien just before the game-winner was delightful, standing up the big man at the blueline while his teammates could get back into position. Sure he was at the top of the crease less than a minute later when Kane scored, but he had his man - it was Boyle who blew his coverage, allowing Kane to get the goal.
*It would be easy to rage against the officiating for screwing Sean Avery yet again but that is par for the course, right?
*And what else can I say about Joe Micheletti at this point? He makes watching a Ranger game a task to suffer through instead of an enjoyable experience. His shrill voice, the fact that he pipes up trying to fill every second of silence and his complete lack of chemistry with Sam is just infuriating. He gets plays, players, facts and analysis wrong, apologizes incessantly for his errors and points out the blatantly obvious the rest of the time. If you played a drinking game with a shot for his every apology you would be sent to the hospital.
*Hank was great, which was great to see. There wasn't any rust after his forced time off and he made a half dozen outstanding saves. He will have to do it again on Sunday, because that terrifying scoring force that is Mike Rupp will be in the Garden with the Penguins. If you think that Dan Bylsma will let the short-handed Penguins perform as they did tonight on the Island you will be mistaken; Sunday will be another tough game, let's hope that the Rangers won't need Gaborik to come through in the clutch to win it.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Anthony Stewart - one goal and one assist.
2-Ondrej Pavelec - 27 saves.
1-Evander Kane - two goals and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - Can't piss on 33 saves.
2-Stewart - Anthony is looking like the power forward his brother Chris was before he went down with injury earlier this season. A nice combination of strength and skill, if he can get rolling the Thrashers will be in the playoff picture in two months.
1-Kane - He turns 20 years old this summer. That's just not fair.