The current group of cardiac kids that is the Rangers continued to make things as hard as possible on themselves on Thursday night and yet they still managed to escape with a win. They defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 5-3 despite committing two of the worse errors teams can make - they spotted the opposition a lead in the first few seconds and then they gave up goals in the waning minutes of not one but two periods. Utterly remarkable.
Yet again Ryan Callahan led the way. Just over a minute after Jiri Tlusty opened the scoring Cally planted himself in front on the power play. Not down by the goal line but right at the top of the crease. And being there allowed him to score a Phil Esposito-style garbage goal, after Brad Richard$ shot was stopped by Cam Ward. That goal signaled that the team wasn't about to back down and they didn't, later rallying with three straight goals in the second period. It was an accomplishment made even more impressive when you consider the jump Carolina had with new head coach Kirk Muller. But with Muller making them skate an up-tempo style that was unfamiliar to the Paul Maurice disciples, the Canes simply couldn't keep up with the Rangers.
Hey, there were still issues with the Blueshirts' play but the resolution not to relent was certainly heartening.
*The talk on the broadcast and in the postgame was all about the shot blocking of Derek Stepan and John Mitchell. That is kind of curious considering that this team has been shot blocking like mad for two seasons. Just because someone other than Dan Girardi or Ryan Callahan gave up their body to block the puck shouldn't make news - especially when we've seen Step and Mitchell go all-in to make plays. The more impressive moment for me was in the final minute. It is a two-goal game, Carolina is pressing in the Ranger end just praying to get one back and Marian Gaborik of all people goes sliding across the ice to knock a loose puck over the blue line. That was remarkable to me.
*Sean Avery played a team-low 8:37 and yet still contributes with a goal and several strong shifts. The goal came during a rare moment when he ended up alongside Marian Gaborik, showing the chemistry that the two have with each other - chemistry that they have shown before. And yet I still have a sinking feeling that Wojtek Wolski will get a game in at Avery's expense, the second he is ready and the second that Sean takes a bad penalty.
*Avery's normal center nowadays, Brandon Dubinsky, still isn't scoring. While it is to the point where the guys are looking for him to get an empty netter, Dubi did make a great feed to Ryan McDonagh that the defender converted into the game-tying goal. The highlight of that play to me, however, was Brandon Prust smartly letting the puck go past him while heading to the net to try to get a deflection or rebound. No nonsense, by-the-book hockey.
*In the 'timing is everything' department MSG showed the age-old video of Jeff Skinner as a figure skater, giving Micheletti an opportunity to talk about what a good skater is and how great his balance is. Seconds later Skinner stumbled and was crushed into the boards by Brian Boyle. Can't make it up.
*Boyle had to immediately defend himself as Anthony Stewart jumped in to defend Skinner's honour. After watching that, you really wonder if his team-listed measurements of 6'7, 244 are correct. You would think that someone that big should be able to throw a punch. But no.
*At least Boyle is complimenting Mitchell and Hagelin well. The trio is playing smart, simple, hard working hockey and it has been paying off. Boyle won 10 of 13 faceoffs, Hagelin was simply wonderful yet again while Mitchell continued to battle for his NHL life every shift. Their efforts allowed Mike Sauer's soft shot to sail through traffic and Cam Ward for the game-sealing goal.
*Del Zaster had yet another secondary assist on the power play. Remarkable. Very tough to decide to pass it to the highest-paid player on the rink who was standing wide open five, 10 feet away. Ball breaking aside, Del Zaster managed not to feed the puck directly to any Hurricanes in the Ranger end so it has to be considered as a good game for him.
*When I saw the home-run pass to Arty Anisimov ahead of the Gaborik goal, I was sure it was MDZ. Instead, Jeff Woywitka. Kinda unexpected to say the least. Arty's feed to Gaborik is amusing because at first glace he looked like he was making a great fake when instead he nearly fell flat on his face when his skate caught a rut.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Ryan McDonagh - one goal.
2-Jeff Skinner - one goal.
1-Marian Gaborik - one goal and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-McDonagh - Marc Staal can take all the time in the world to fully recover. Sure it would be nice to have him back and thus limit the ice time Del Zaster gets and remove Eminger from the lineup, but McD has more than suitably filled in for our injured number one defender.
2-Cally - When you add the characteristics of former captain Vic Hadfield to those of Esposito you get something close to what we are seeing from Callahan. It is hard not to head out into hyperbole when describing him after Chris Drury's recent tenure seeing someone live up to the letter is wonderful.
1-Gaborik - The aforementioned play to knock the puck out of the zone was more as impressive than his feed to Avery or his own goal from Arty. Gabby scored five goals against us that one time, we know he has offensive ability. But when the Slovakian Slacker goes all-out to make an important play like that you know things are going well for us.