Sunday, March 20, 2011
39-30-4: Can You Smell What We're Cooke-ing?
On Sunday Matt Cooke was Matt Cooke and Matt Cooke tried to injure an opponent. Same old headhunting Matt Cooke. The referees finally realized he was Matt Cooke and tossed Pittsburgh assistant captain Matt Cooke out of the game - which the Rangers won 5-2. Since everyone else will dwell on Matt Cooke's idiocy, I figured I would join in and say Matt Cooke as many times as possible.
Of course, it took Ryan Callahan's blood to hit the ice for the Rangers to wake up and score (more on that later) but most recaps will surely revolve around Cooke. Frankly, I don't care if he gets suspended or not. The Rangers and Pens do not meet for the rest of the regular season and it is doubtful that any suspension will last more than the 10 games Pittsburgh has left. And there is zero chance any dismissal will extend into the playoffs.
And it appears that those will be a playoffs that the Rangers will be participating in. Carolina is crashing, the Devils' magic is running out and Toronto, well, is Toronto. There is still some time left so you never know but good showings at the Garden this week will be huge. They will be tough (Ottawa is enjoying their spoiler role) but if the Rangers can battle the way they did today back at home, the Blueshirts will be in a good spot. We'll see; after that awesome overtime game in November the boys fell flat two days later at the Garden against Boston. Be wary of the happy hangovers ...
*This win makes it three-for-three this season in Pittsburgh, where the ice is more heavily tilted towards the home team than any other outside of Montreal. It is positively some Rocky-type toughness to come away with wins against all odds.
*By allowing Montreal to run the crease without consequences the other day we saw James Neal head to the paint on the first shift and Max Talbot to follow later in the period. And again, the first person to stand up for Hank was none other than Ryan Callahan. The same Callahan who was gouged by Matt Niskanen, the same Callahan who scored the eventual game winner. If Brandon Prust has been the soul of this team, Callahan has been it's heart. Chris Drury never took the team on his shoulders like this, and for that matter nor did Jaromir Jagr.
*As mentioned above, it wasn't until Niskanen clipped Cally that the Ranger power play woke up. The boys wasted 3:18 of Cooke's major before the second call, and then another 1:34 of 5-on-3 time until Gaborik scored. In the meantime Zuccarello's bad idea to pass to a covered Christensen ended up in the back of the net for a Penguins shorty. Awful.
*It was nice to see Gabby go to the net on his goal. In fact, three of the five Ranger goals came from guys heading to the slot. Arty somehow slid in their unmolested to make it 1-0, Gabby dished the puck and headed low where he banged in McCabe's rebound and Step came crashing after McDonagh was foiled by Fleury. It is this willingness to go to the tough areas that gives me hope for this team. All too often too many of them allow themselves to be kept out on the perimeter.
*Marc Staal's surprise injury hurt the team early on as Girardi and Eminger clearly had no chemistry. They had no idea where they were supposed to be and were caught scrambling several times. But when things got tough in the third they tightened up, McDonagh and Sauer really stepped up and everyone finally helped Hank out. It was fantastic seeing Sauer and Girardi (and Dubinsky) get angry on the penalty kill with three minutes left.
*Seriously, how lucky are we that Sauer and McDonagh have been so solid this season. And to think two years ago Sauer was a injury-prone, borderline prospect and we seemed damned to have to suffer through five more seasons of Scott Gomez.
*Dan Bylsma is acclaimed to be a great coach but if so, why did he limit Ranger-killer Mike Rupp to seven minutes? Max Talbot played 19 but aside from "drawing" the Callahan penalty by crashing Hank, what did he accomplish?
*On ice time, Fedotenko played two minutes more than Gaborik - and deservedly so. Gabby played just two shifts in the third, scoring on his second one. It just goes to show that Torts has finally woken up and seen that Slovakian Slacker doesn't given it his best every shift and has lost whatever defensive acumen Jacques Lemaire taught him in Minnesota.
*The funny thing is that Gabby's goal should have been waved off, if there was any consistency in NHL officiating. As Pierre pointed out on the broadcast, last night Detroit had a goal waved off for Tomas Holmstrom being in front, and Holmstrom wasn't in the crease like Dubi was. Ah well, a (non)call in our favour for once.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Brandon Dubinsky - one goal and two assists.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 38 saves.
1-Ryan Callahan - one goal and two assists.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Dubi - Aside from the obvious, Dubinsky has been much improved at the faceoff dot of late and that has been huge for the Rangers.
2-Cally - Callahan bled for the Blueshirts today in yet another gutsy performance by the future captain.
1-Hank - If not for Henrik's heroics this game was a Penguins blowout long before Matt Cooke's careless elbow.