Wednesday, February 23, 2011
32-26-4: Rangers Survive The Storm Without Staal
The nickname 'Heart Attack Kids' has been used on teams across all four major sports many times and the latest squad to deserve the moniker is proving to be the Rangers. The young Blueshirts blew a 2-1 lead against the Carolina Hurricanes but rallied to tie the game in the final two minutes and win it 4-3 in a shootout.
If was far from the first late rally for the Rangers this year but it was one of the few that resulted in victory. And it certainly caused more than a few heart palpitations. The incredible range of emotions is astounding considering how many games in recent years simply drew dread, anger and sadness. This is an interesting turn of events and one that must be suffered through until it can be replaced by the expectation and thrill of domination. Let's hope the suffering doesn't last too long, my ticker can't take it.
That being said, it is certainly astounding and encouraging how these kids play their best after they see one of their own go down. Marc Staal's exit just 40 seconds after the Canes took a 3-2 lead seemed to spell doom and yet, there the Rangers were - tightening up and powering on. There has been much said and written about this team finding its identity this season and this was the latest, clearest indication that they have gotten a clue themselves: this is a young, tough, resilient bunch with a big future.
*Staal going down scared the bejesus out everybody. He has been the cornerstone of this team and if his knee is really hurt, so are the hopes for the Rangers. The hit by his brother surely has been debated but, in this writer's opinion, it was a good, clean hit. No matter how Micheletti howled that it was a hit to the head, the replays did not show that Eric tried to decapitate his sibling. The Carolina captain could have and should have eased up, seeing as we live in a day and age where most good hits are bad hits, but it was an attempt to remove the player from the puck - it is just a shame that player had been twisted around by an illegal hook.
*Hank bounced back from some disappointing goals against in the Garden on Sunday with a great performance. Lundqvist matched Ward save for save before edging out the former Conn Smythe winner in the shootout. The duel between the two was quite special, as any meeting of two of the top five goaltenders in the league should be.
*The Rangers scored three goals and Brandon Dubinsky had virtually nothing to do with them. And yet, he had a pretty effective game. Imagine what this team will be like once Dubi combines his success away from the puck with some success with it.
*Why in the world would Michael Del Zotto be on the ice in overtime? Especially when he wasn't so good during regulation. For his two perfectly timed flops to the ice, MDZ made mistake after mistake and even handed Carolina one goal. Yes he is young, yes he will make mistakes ... he should be making them in Hartford where it won't cost us real wins.
*And, while questioning the moves made by Tortorella, why bench Prust, Avery and Newbury for much of the second and third periods? The three of them came out of the gates flying, scoring a goal two minutes into the first and pressing the action for the rest of the frame. Prust saw a bit more ice than the other two but that was because of his penalty killing duties. It makes no sense to unplug the energy unit while keeping the ineffective, soft Erik Christensen in regular rotation.
*Speaking of soft, Arty Anisimov. Ok, that is unfair, he isn't soft ... he's just weak. The kid gets a great opportunity to score breaking down the wing but the least amount of contact throws him off and allows Ward to make the save. On the rare occasions where he tries to set up near the slot, he is quickly pushed away. Meanwhile, Mats Zuccarello holds his ground late in the third period, occupying a defender, distracting Ward and allowing Wolski to score the equalizer.
*On Zuke, well, the novelty of his move has officially worn off. While that would be cause of concern, the way he played over the rest of the evening squashes any questions. The Norwegian skated hard, saw the ice well and had no problems shooting. Sooner or later those pucks will end up going in.
*How the hell did the puck not go in for Vinny Prospal? The Czech vet was all over the ice, earning chance after chance and he couldn't beat Carolina's keeper. Now Ward deserves a lot of credit but Vinny should have been able to get at least one of his 11 shot attempts into the goal.
*Micheletti and Rosen were woeful. Joe, well, he is just awful - worse than listening to the tone that goes with colour bars. Sam is usually good to listen to but it took him half the game to realize which Ruutu played for Carolina.
*Newbury went 5-0 at the faceoff circle. Is there really any need for Chris Drury to ever return?
*Pointed out the many flaws of MDZ earlier but his partner Matt Gilroy was just as bad. If Hobey was getting extra ice time in an attempt to be showcased for scouts, it is easy to believe he played his way out of any trades. You just have to hope that he wasn't bad enough that Sather will overspend for someone to come in and replace him.
*For how annoying "Potvin Sucks" has become in the Garden, it is still awesome hearing it in away arenas. It sounded like there was a large contingent of Ranger fans in Raleigh ...
*Erik Cole deserves some serious credit. This guy came back from a broken neck and is still one of the most dangerous players on the ice for the Hurricanes. Carolina has to be thankful to have him around to help guide Jeff Skinner through his rookie campaign.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Wojtek Wolski - one goal.
2-Jay Harrison - one goal and one assist.
1-Jussi Jokinen - two goals.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Callahan - Captain Cally is laying it on the line every second of every shift in every situation.
2-Wolski - All credit given to Jokinen for his two regulation goals but the game-tying tally and the game-winner tilt the scales in Wolski's favour.
1-Sauer - Sauer has been good this entire season. He has been great at times this season. Tonight, after Staal went down, Sauer was stellar. Like Hobey and McD, Sauer saw a mistake of his end up in the back of the net but his work late in the third period more than made up for it.