Monday, December 12, 2011
17-6-4: Puttin' Down The Putty Tats
One year ago the Rangers played a three games in four days and they won two out of three. The third game was a 7-0 demolition of the Washington Capitals that was so memorably included in HBO's 24/7. The cable network let us peek in at an emotional Washington squad that was bottoming out with assistant coach Dean Evason pleading with his charges to "grab your f--king sack and do something about it. Compete!"
This year we will get to see what it is like inside the happier locker room but no matter what was said, the play on the indicated a team that was competing. The Rangers outbattled the Panthers all over the ice and the final result was a 6-1 victory. For all of the seething hatred for the head coach that fills this space on a regular basis, there is a bit of admiration: Tortorella's insistence on conditioning resulted in the Rangers looking far better than the Panthers, who had Saturday off while the Blueshirts were battling Buffalo. Of course, it is extremely possible that Florida may have been out enjoying their Saturday night a bit more than they should but hung over or not, they were outplayed and outskated by the Rangers in all areas. Like the 7-0 smacking of the Capitals last year, it was wonderful to watch.
Of course, had the puck that snapped Hank's buckle on his left leg pad rolled into the net instead of the post early in the first period, the result may have been entirely different. I can already hear the dramatic music on 24/7 ...
*Erik Christensen was inserted into the lineup for Sean Avery and was given 12:54 in ice time - more than Avery got in any of his 15 games this season. Christensen got to play on the power play, which Avery has not. Christy did collect an assist but it was because he blew an empty net three feet away from him and a lucky bounce got the puck to Arty, who didn't miss.
*Really wanted Arty to either pull a Terrell Owens or to not celebrate at all but he went back to his boring self. Derek Stepan did an archery motion after his first goal but escaped criticism because it was aimed at the sky and apparently imaginary arrows don't hurt as much as imaginary bullets.
*That goal from Step was utterly outstanding. He won the puck in the Ranger end, cruised down the right win, sidestepped past Erik Gudbranson and beat Three-Or-More with a sick shot inside the far post. Three-Or-More handed Step his second goal of the night by kicking the rebound of a Del Zaster shot right back into the slot.
*That may have been the first shot from the wing that Del Zaster was able to get on net this season; usually they jump start the opposing team's attack by missing and going around the boards. The kid was fine in this one - as was the rest of the Ranger defenders - if only because the Panthers were largely clawless. The Blueshirt blueliners had time and space throughout the night. There was little organized offense coming out of the Florida end and, despite all of the time shorthanded, the kitty cats hardly challenged Henrik.
*It was their ineptness that allowed Torts to finally rest Dan Girardi. Dan-O played just 22:40 - his lowest amount of ice time all season long. Granted, one third of it was tough time spent shorthanded as his teammates continued to take stupid penalties. Surely that lack of discipline was Sean Avery's fault.
*Speaking of stupidity, Brandon Prust fought Krys Barch. As the home team the Rangers had the last change and after going up 4-1 Torts decided to put Prust across from Barch, fully knowing what the Panther pugilist was going to do. For Prust to risk his surgically-repaired shoulder and lower himself to fight a guy who can't even spell Chris right is ridiculous. There was absolutely no reason for it and, if anything, it should have given Florida something to build off of because Barch beat the hell out of Prust. Luckily for us the Cats couldn't be bothered but the move easily could have backfired.
*I wasn't at the game but it certainly sounded like a pretty quiet crowd on tv. Of course, it is hard to hear anything other than the continuous babbling of that harpy Micheletti.
*Really quiet game from Ruslan Fedotenko but he gets the free pass that Sean Avery doesn't because he has a history with the head coach.
*Young Carl is really, really fast. But we knew that already. Still impressive though.
*As I tweeted, that was some really impressive sewing. Never thought I would write that about a hockey game but Acacio Marques worked magic getting Hank's strap sewn in just seconds.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Steve Eminger - one goal, +4.
2-Michael Del Zotto - one assist, +4.
1-Derek Stepan - two goals and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Gabby - Did you see where he scored his goal from? The goal mouth. He battled his way into the crease and was there to jam the loose puck in. The Slovakian Sniper is heading into the tough areas more than ever (and thus has lost the Slovakian Slacker title, for now).
2-Eminger - Clearly not as popular as Del Zaster to get relegated to third star despite playing a stronger all-around game and having his shot actually go in the net.
1-Step - Simply a stellar performance by the Badger. And when you hear him talk about it you have to marvel at his age and the fact that he doesn't have a letter on his sweater.