If you told me that the Rangers travelled to southern California, faced the up-and-coming L.A. Kings and the Anaheim Ducks with the top line in hockey and they came away with two points, I would be delighted. And so I am trying not to be disappointed to see them steal the same pair of points against those teams in Stockholm, Sweden. Would it have been delightful to see a win? Of course. Was it possible for the team to come away with not two points but three or four? Of course. But the Rangers are still the Rangers so, of course, we saw a mediocre squad play lackluster hockey. But they still escaped Stockholm without a regulation loss so we have that going for us.
This summer the franchise was given a new coat of paint and a new, expensive, shiny hood ornament but the car remains the same. Driven by a fool and ridden by too many passengers, the ride that is the New York Rangers has not changed - they pass up good shots, they miss the ones they get, they have little discipline, they are utterly incompetent with the man advantage, they wake up just in time to make a game of it after long periods of middling play ...
Nothing would have delighted me more than to travel to Europe to see a gritty, tough team battle hard against some of the NHL's elite and come away with some wins or even some good losses. But instead it was the usual, accepted mediocrity we've seen under John Tortorella's reign - the setting changed but the story remained the same.
*Henrik Lundqvist for Vezina.
*That being said, serious credit should be given to Sauer, Girardi and McDonagh for their dutiful work on defense. Delightful to see them shut down the Ducks top guns. Sauer lost his helmet in a scrum, stayed on the ice and then went to ground to try to block a shot. That takes some brass ones boys and girls, brass ones.
*The Rangers attempted 45 shots, the Ducks 60. Fifteen went on net for the Blueshirts, 28 for Anaheim. I'm no math wizard but that is roughly 1/3rd vs. 1/2, right? New York needs to get more shots though.
*Really nice job by the in-arena production crew for both games at the Globen. They had montages from all the teams, the unique goal songs of all the franchises and more fun arena stuff (stars in the crowd, kiss cam, trivia, etc.). The highlight, for me, probably was pregame tonight during the Swedish national anthem as they dissolved in and out from the Swedish flag to tight shots of Hank and Tim Erixon. Little things like that enhance the experience (unlike the asinine sponsored tee-shirt shooters during the intermission).
*The game was decided in the skills competition where Hank was only fooled by a whiff by New Jersey-born Bobby Ryan. Christy, the Rangers shootout specialist who so fortunately was inserted into the lineup for a game that went to a shootout, missed the entire four foot by six foot net. Brad Richards nearly lost the puck at center ice before blowing his chance while Zuke's trademark move was easily stopped. Arty was the Ranger's final shooter and he was easily stopped by the Swiss keeper Hiller.
*Sadly it appears that Ryan Callahan is going to be injured sooner rather than later. This 110% stuff is fantastic but he is the only Ranger aside from Hank playing that hard and it will cost him.
*Not sure how Dubi and Perry got matching roughings when they both threw down their gloves and squared to fight. Did the refs feel bad that Perry dove to the ice to avoid getting his ass kicked?
*Speaking of such, as I tweeted, if we wanted a bum to get beat up we woulda kept Voros. Mike F-ing Rupp should go back to Pittsburgh. He could hardly skate, he fumbled the puck the one time it touched his stick and he got abused by the educated mustache of George Parros. He laid a hit on Devante Smith-Pelly (who has a big future ahead of him) and bounced off while, a second later, Mats Zuccarello knocked down the Duck. The big man has to be better.
*Zuke had his moments but, as I wrote last game, he needs an improved Stepan and a better winger across from him to achieve. My buddy Joakim, a big Modo fan, said MZA was a different player the season he dominated the Elitserien. Now he doesn't have the same energy and he doesn't have the same confidence. Torts needs to learn how to get the kid back into that kind of form.
*Erixon is slowly finding his feet, as they skate through the fire of NHL competition. He looks like he is wearing his dad's jersey that is three times too big and the opposition targeted him with contant hits but the kid did not look entirely out of place. The building blocks are there and hopefully his growth won't be stunted after being saddled with the experienced awfulness that is Steve Eminger. Eminger was so solid when filling in for the injured Rozsival midseason last year, what the hell happened?
*If not for his game-tying goal, I was going to rant that the Rangers got a nice faceoff specialist in Brad Richards, a lesser version of Manny Malhotra for three times the cost. Aside from the split second when he scored, Richards was woeful and he definitely is not working out on the power play point yet (neither is Michael Del Zotto but we were already well aware of his incompetence). The supposed chemistry with the Slovakian Slacker Marian Gaborik has yet to form.
*Pretty sure most folks want to see a hockey game and not a gong show with a zebra at center stage. Endless special teams are boring.
*MSG president Scott O'Neil was in attendance and gave me a smile and a 'let's go Rangers' during warmups. I still can't believe I was on my good behavior and didn't rip into him for the way he is raping us Ranger fans. I'm sorry folks, I don't know what came over me.
*Brian Boyle needs to decide if he is a fancy scorer or a big, grinding battler because right now he is somewhere in the middle and it is certainly not working out.
*Why didn't exIslander Jason Blake get called for not having his fight strap tied down when he ended up skating half a shift with his sweater over his arms?
*Sat next to a hockey fan from Germany who decided to root for Anaheim years ago because he saw the Mighty Ducks movie when he was a kid. That is Disney magic people.
*I'm sure there is more worth mentioning but it is after 5am and I head to England in a few hours for a week of work. A final Eurotrip post with some pictures will be up once I get back home mid-month. Hopefully a Islander recap will make it up next Saturday, as long as I can either find an open pub in London at that hour or a good internet feed to watch it.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Henrik Lundvist - 27 saves in regulation, three of four in the shootout.
2-Bobby Ryan - shootout goal.
1-Jonas Hiller - 14 saves, four of four in the shootout.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Cam Fowler - The poise of this sophomore was admirable. And, to think, had the Rangers not wasted draft picks on Bobby Sanguinetti and Michael Del Zotto, they might have drafted him ...
2-Ryan McDonagh - No sophomore slump here either.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - No Hank, no points at all in either game. The King retained his crown in his home country despite little assistance from his serfs.