Friday, February 18, 2011
31-24-4: Rangers Win But Found LacKing
The Rangers blew two third period leads but managed to beat Los Angeles 4-3 thanks to a shootout. Two points against a tough Western opponent are great but the way the Blueshirts got them is best left forgotten.
John Tortorella's Tampa team won to spite him, and tonight the Rangers won in spite of him. As per usual, Tortorella didn't get his team to start the game well - giving up chance after chance before allowing a goal. Later in the frame the Rangers were on the power play and Torts somehow put Zuccarello in front - apparently thinking Jonathan Bernier would be screened by a guy who is barely tall enough to ride rollercoasters. In the third period the coach didn't have the team play smart hockey after taking a 2-1 lead, letting them fall right back into their own end instead of pressing the advantage. And, after the team regained the lead 10 minutes later, Torts inexplicably gave the Kings a breather and a chance to compose themselves by calling time out - perhaps the dumbest thing he has done this season.
Tortorella had better get his game together quickly because he is going up against Jacques Lemaire tonight, and the former Hab has been hugely impressive turning the Devils season around. If Torts lets the Rangers play the same undisciplined, loose game then they will be destroyed by the Devils.
Some notes on the win over L.A. first:
*Perhaps we should just start calling Callahan the captain and eventually Acacio will sew that letter on his sweater. Cally brought the Rangers back into the game in the second period with the goal and some utterly spectacular penalty killing. His goal proved that going to the net pays off, and his killing proved that hard work pays off. The goal was Graves-esque - meaning not pretty but effective - while the penalty killing was spectacular. He blocked a shot, lost his stick, stuck with the play, tried to block another shot, stuck with the play, laid a check, picked up his lost stick, got back into position and took advantage of fumble by the L.A. point man to take the puck out, carried it deep and allowed his teammates to change. The Garden went wild and deservingly so, it was awesome.
*Dustin Brown is the Los Angeles version of Callahan, but a version who has been justly rewarded with the captaincy. Brown scored the first goal of the game on a great turnaround shot in the slot on a Kings power play. His second goal was blown coverage by Staal and a smart shot up top that snuck past Hank's shoulder.
*How anyone is blaming Hank for what happened is beyond me. He made big save after big save in this one, keeping his team in it. All three goals against came when his teammates were outhustled and outskated.
*Not too long after I mocked a guy for wearing a Los Angeles Frolov sweater, Dubi scored on a wrap-around. Something karmic about that. Box scores have Arty getting credit but I haven't seen a replay yet that showed his stick making contact. Either way, the goal was all thanks to Cally as he had forced a turnover, put the puck off the boards and out before carrying it down the ice.
*Gabby scored! He pulled his best Boyle impression and simply shot the puck ... and it went in! How about that? I pulled out the classic "that's what you're paid for Braden!" and was met with blank stares from the folks around me. Astounding.
*Nice of Christy and Zuke to score in the shootout because they contributed nothing else the rest of the game. And credit to Bernier because after Christy beat him backhand and Zuke beat him forehand, the rookie just said screw it and poked the puck away from the Polish putz Wolski - another offensive player who struggled during the first 65 minutes.
*The officiating was questionable. Dubi was called for goaltender interference when he was pushed into the L.A. crease and yet a King escaped unscathed after the same thing.
*Anisimov ... well, what can I say that I haven't? He skated directly into a King, lost the puck and bounced back five feet. It was hilarious and pathetic. Put 15, 20 pounds of muscle on him and we might have a player. And someone teach him how to properly block a shot. Nice of him to put up some points (the second assist on Cally's goal and the Dubi wrap-around that he was credited with) but they will only prove problematic this summer as his agent will use the numbers to undeservedly inflate his salary.
*Torts brought MDZ back and the kid rewarded him with a weak effort and stupid penalty. Sadly the coach will simply see his third period benching as punishment enough instead of sending him to Hartford where he belongs.
*It really is a shame these teams will only play once this season but at least we got a chance to see them in person - something we didn't with Detroit. Both the Rangers and the Kings have good, young players but does either one of them have the building blocks of a Stanley Cup winner? Tough to say.
*Just saw the Hockey Night Live promo with the Stayin' Alive remake. Horrific. Why MSG would want to show that their analysts are trapped in the past - one that is really far from golden - is beyond me.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Dustin Brown - two goals.
2-Marian Gaborik - one goal.
1-Ryan Callahan - one goal and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-McDonagh - The kid played a good, consistent game and thus gets the star. Girardi logged more, tougher minutes but was on for two goals against. Gabby got lucky on his shot and was dreadful the rest of the time. Kopitar was dangerous but took a bad penalty. Dubi was pretty good but spent too much time in the box.
2-Brown - The perfect combination of power, speed, skill and drive. The exact kind of player I want leading my hockey team.
1-Cally - See above.