Wednesday, December 21, 2011
19-8-4: Beating Brodeur
As a Ranger fan, there have been few things as delightful in recent seasons as the sheer domination of Henrik Lundqvist over Mmmmaaaarrrtttyyy. Hank has been largely lights-out while Fatso has been finding life against the Rangers difficult without the stellar defenders who made his career at the turn of the century.
On Tuesday, after watching his team dominate for 37 minutes, Mmmmaaaarrrtttyyy melted like the marshmallow man he resembles. The Rangers rallied from down 1-0 to defeat the Devils 4-1 in the opening game of the season series between the Hudson rivals. Henrik was outstanding, stopping 30 of 31 shots and standing tall as his team was outworked for two periods. And he did it behind a piecemeal defensive corps, making it that much more remarkable. But we call him the King for a reason and he showed it on this night.
*There aren't many more ardent supporters of fighting in hockey then me. That being said, Mike Rupp vs. Cam Janssen three seconds into the game was horrifying and unnecessary. There was no reason for it other than to justify the salaries of those cement-headed neanderthals. This was the first meeting of the teams this season, there was no carry over bad blood between the two teams or the two fighters. It was pointless. And it is exactly the kind of ammunition that the doves crave to push their pacifistic agenda. Dubi fighting Clarkson wasn't part of the game either but at least those guys have been immersed in this rivalry for years and have genuine on-ice dislike for each other.
*Given all of the ice time he eats up and the top assignments he has so often taken on, it has been easy to forget that Ryan McDonagh is just a kid. McD has been helped by stalwart work by Dan Girardi, who seemingly wants to play all 60 minutes alongside Hank. So far the pair haven't shown many signs of grinding down but the team has to be wary - this is a loooooong season. But back to McD for a second - this was just his 72nd game in the NHL. Can you believe that? I can't. It is unfathomable to me considering his level of play 95% of the time. But that five percent does remind you on rare occasion like the performance against Tampa and his catch and throw of the puck in the third period tonight. That was comical.
*Also funny? The majority of the Devil fans. All 4,000 of them. They seemingly have embraced their role as second-class citizens, aping other team's chants and celebrations while knowing virtually nothing about the game. There are a few knowledgable, intelligent members of the so-called Devil's Army but most are ignorant cannon fodder.
*Despite being on the bad side of the battle for two periods, the Rangers could easily have had the lead if their three shots off the iron found the back of the net. They were good shots each, but with Mmmmaaaarrrtttyyy's girth there wasn't much to shoot at.
*Del Zastrous performance. Counted four times that he couldn't hold the offensive blue line, two defensive zone turnovers and a few blown coverages.
*The pairing of Tim Erixon and Stu Bickel wasn't bad but it was clear that Torts was trying to shelter them. Bickel looked better than he did in preseason but is still not quick enough for regular NHL action. Erixon didn't look particularly comfortable but his decision making with the puck was good.
*Bork, bork, bork! Young Carl was the only Ranger aside from Hank to play great buzzer to buzzer. And it paid off in his shorthanded goal. As I said to a friend the other day, shorthanded goals are some of my favourite things in hockey and to see Hagelin score one was wonderful. It was also nice to see the guys try to reward his effort by setting him up for an attempt at the empty net time and time again but it didn't work out. Still, a steller effort from the Swedish Chef.
*Brian Boyle really has been bad of late and has not shown any signs of getting better. The third line center has one goal in his last 27 games and just two this season.
*Dubi has been snakebitten as well but he has been improving the last two games. This game against the Devils may have been his best so far this season, even if he didn't get a single shot on goal.
*Do you think Sean Avery would have been able to wake up the Rangers earlier in the evening? I'd like to think so. He certainly would have been better than Rupp was all night long (all night). That being said, there is no way he would have taken the opening faceoff bullet for Prust the way Rupp did ...
*PHW Three Stars
3-Carl Hagelin - one goal.
2-Artem Anisimov - one goal and one assist.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 30 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Derek Stepan - What a set up to Arty, wow. His second assist on Gabby's go-ahead goal was ridiculous as the Slovak did a give-and-go with Arty but hey, if Del Zaster can inflate his numbers with them so can Step.
2-Gabby - The Slovak absorbed one helluva hit on the play that led to Arty's game-tying goal and went on to pot a pair of his own. Usually little credit would be given for an empty netter but after the Keystone Kops routine that led up to it, we'll take it.
1-Hank - The King kept the Rangers in the game despite some serious scrambling in front of him.