Saturday, March 5, 2011
34-29-4: Slump Bustin' Senators
There is nothing like facing off against the worst team in the league on the road to reignite the competitive fires. The Rangers bounced back from their (many) recent home failures with a 4-1 win over Ottawa on Friday night.
Of course, the Blueshirts didn't play all that different of a game than they did against Minnesota or Buffalo but it was enough to beat the woeful O's. The Senators screen door defense was just astounding when you remember the days that Chara and in-prime Redden and Philips ate up the minutes. Now their blueline is led by the past-his-prime Phillips, some soft Europeans and few kids who can't carry Sauer/McDonagh's jock.
But enough badmouthing them, let's just celebrate the two points. It would have been all-too-easy to let Craig Anderson steal this game and the Rangers didn't. They forechecked well, set screens, went hard to the crease and shot from good areas of the ice to throw off Anderson's angles. You have to hope that this one was a big confidence booster because the Blueshirt will go from facing the worst defensive corps in the league to the best on Sunday.
Some random notes:
*Sean Avery makes a great play on the Prospal goal and yet he sees the least amount of ice time on the team. Sure he saw 11:32 - more minutes than he did in his last six games - but that just isn't right. It is especially surprising when you consider that the team had a commanding 3-0 lead by the seven minute mark of the second period. Despite setting up Prospal's goal, Avery still doesn't have the trust of Tortorella. One has to wonder if he will ever get it. Perhaps Avery's declining of Neil's third period offer to dance will go a ways towards that but, at this point, it is doubtful.
*Henrik Lundqvist was extremely shakey early in the evening but settled down as the game went on. After railing for years that Hank needed to have more of a backbone when guys crash his crease, his attacking Chris Neil was nearly heart-stopping. If he gets hurt chasing down a clown like Neil, we are screwed.
*When that scrum broke out Brandon Prust stayed on the outside, grabbing Derek Smith - probably the least-physical player on the ice at the time. If that isn't telling that Prust isn't 100% I don't know what is.
*The days where the Sens had Havlat, Heatley or Hossa out on their power play are long gone. Hell, they didn't even have old Daniel Alfredsson. And yet they broke Hank's shutout with a seeing-eye shot through traffic five minutes into the third. They moved the puck back and forth laterally while stacking the slot and Gonchar remembered that he used to be good at hockey and scored. That's depressing.
*Arty Anisimov is so good when there is no one within three feet of him that is infuriating to see how much he sucks once the going gets tough. Beautiful goal though.
*How much longer are we going to let McCabe off the hook for the power play's woes? He saw more than three minutes of man advantage time and yet the unit went 0-4. His +3 rating for this game was very Malik-esque (just having the good luck to be on the ice at the right times).
*Brian Boyle 0 shots, one goal in his last nine games. Maybe he needs to head back to Barb for a refresher?
*Managed to get through this without bashing Tortorella so let me get a little in - if he lets Gaborik play on Sunday he should be fired on the spot. For 1- you don't rush a concussion back. 2- you don't bring an injured player back against the Flyers because they eat the weak. and 3-Gabby has just two goals in 17 career games against Philly. It just isn't worth it.
*What are the odds that - with no practice Saturday - the guys will stay in and make it a movie night and not go out drinking? Nevermind, lemme pull a Han Solo and say 'never tell me the odds.'
*PHW Three Stars
3-Derek Stepan - one goal and one assist.
2-Dan Girardi - one assist.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 28 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Anisimov - What the hell, give the kid some credit. He was involved all game and scored that sweet goal.
2-Steve Eminger - How exactly was this guy scratched in favour of Michael Del Zotto? Good, decisive puck movement and a smidge of physical play combine to add that stabilizing veteran sense that the Blueshirts blueline needs. Honestly did not see this happening when he was acquired for the People's Champ.
1-Derek Stepan - An impressive all-around game by the rookie, one that should build his confidence and re-energize him.