Saturday, December 31, 2011
23-9-4: Success In Sunrise
The Blueshirts closed out their 2011 schedule with a solid 4-1 win over the patchwork Panthers on Friday night. The Florida Island of Misfit Toys has been quite surprising this season in seizing the top spot in the Southleast Division. That being said, they were not particularly good in this game. And that is more than ok for us, as we were able to watch the Rangers do what they had to do to win. The Rangers worked hard enough to get the good bounces, they avoided injuries and thus can skate into Philadelphia on a good note.
And that is all that matters, given all of the hype around the upcoming game. The Winter Classic spectacle has been a major distraction this team doesn't need and the sooner it is over, the better. But before then, some Late Hits on this one:
*You have to wonder if John Tortorella wanted the game to end the way it did - with fists flying. What other reason could there be for him to put his neanderthals on the ice in the final minute, against Florida's top line, up 4-1, with an empty net at the other end? Brian Boyle hasn't scored in forever, why wouldn't Torts give him a shot at scoring? I think it was that Torts wanted to send some kind of message, one that was sent - our guys can cheap shot yours because our tough guys will beat the snot out of you if you retaliate ... at least that was the message I got. Del Zaster inexplicably hit Kopecky with two high crosschecks, got his comeuppance and went down like a ton of bricks. (Who knew he had a glass jaw?) But as he saw stars Rupp and Prust came over to justify their paycheques and Rupp ended up pummeling a Slovakian with two career fights. Bet Rupp felt real tough afterwards. Had DZ fought back it would have been fine - hell, I would have given the kid credit for standing up for himself - but Rupp destroying Kopecky was just ridiculous, the exact nonsense that justifies the NHL's idiotic instigator rule.
Just a quick break for an explanation: personally I love stuff like this: you hit our guy, we don't just hit you - we end you. If I am Kevin Dineen, next Thursday I send Krys Barch to injure Gaborik, Richards or Lundqvist - probably Lundqvist because Barch can't skate well enough to get a mobile target. But eye-for-an-eye isn't reality anymore. As I am reminded constantly, this is the New NHL, the softer NHL where proper justice (and good hard, highlight-reel checking) is outlawed. And thus I feel forced to take this position as these actions don't help the team. If you think they do in the form of camaraderie, then how come Hank was bumped without retribution a few times?
*That being said, the Rangers may have dodged a bullet as Rupp was given a fighting major and a game misconduct but not the instigator he deserved. Had he been tagged with the instigator - one inside the final five minutes of the game - he would receive an automatic suspension. (Only Geno Malkin has been able to get off the hook on a call like that, because he was helping Crosby get a Cup.) Rupp would have had to miss the Winter Classic. Instead he can keep being the kettle calling the pot black by saying Jody Shelley is "fucking irrelevant."
*MSG cleverly cut into the best tight replay just in time for the sucker punch (1:18 of this) - even on the next view, you don't get a clear shot of the point of contact on DZ's hit, making Kopecky's punch look that much more egregious.
*I mentioned Prust having to justify his paycheque by fighting and am very, very sad to have to say it - he is a shadow of the player he was last season. He is getting almost two minutes less ice time per game and his skills have clearly deteriorated - he had a nice little break and missed the net from five feet away. Perhaps the offseason shoulder surgery did not work, perhaps he just re-injured it in his fight against Barch earlier this season. He is not the same threat he was.
*Happier thoughts: bork! bork! bork! Carl Hagelin had a magnificent re-direction of Ryan Callahan's no-look feed for the first goal of the game. It was amazing. And the Swede showed off his speed time and time again throughout the evening. Absolutely love this kid.
*Richards' and Del Zaster's goals were both from lucky bounces. Jeff Woywitka made an absolutely terrible pass right up the middle but Tim Kennedy botched the steal, allowing it to get over to Richards. DZ's shot went off of Matt Bradley's leg. Both goals were still savable but it was not Scott Clemmensen's night. There won't be too many soft goals against the Panthers once Jacob Markstrom is given the starting job.
*But even Markstrom would have had a tough time stopping Dubi. Dubinsky's goal was outstanding; has he gotten his game together or what? Dubi held off Kris Versteeg, skated into the slot and sank a backhand into the back of the Florida net while falling. What a wonderful goal.
*Interesting stat - Gabby saw just 13:45 in icetime, his second lowest this season. The lowest was 13:34, which came against the very same Florida Panthers team. Wonder what Torts sees in the Cats that he feels he needs to hide his Slovakian sniper.
*Jason Garrison's shot is scary good. This guy really came out of nowhere and is a Sheldon Souray in his prime-type threat.
*The decision to waive Sean Avery has nothing to do with on-ice ability. You can't convince me that Ruslan Fedotenko - at this point in his career - is more capable than Avery in anything. Fedotenko is adding close to nothing out there night after night. And I like Feds, he has been a good soldier, but he doesn't add the intangibles that Avery does. Feds rarely helps this team win, he just helps it not lose.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Matt Bradley - one goal.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 27 saves.
1-Brad Richards - one goal and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - Ho hum, another solid effort by the King.
2-Hagelin - Red Berenson really did a terrific job molding this kid into a player, taking the natural ability and teaching him how to use his talents to create offense while being defensively responsible.
1-Richards - You'd think he was comfortable playing in south Florida or something ... that was a helluva pass to Del Zaster.