Wednesday, January 11, 2012
27-9-4: The King Carries On
The Rangers edged out the Coyotes on Tuesday night in the Garden, winning 2-1 in a shootout. It was remarkable: despite facing a talent-lacking team like the Desert Dogs, the Blueshirts needed to receive heroics from the King time and time again to escape utter embarrassment.
And to escape with two points? A minor miracle. The Rangers are the top team in the NHL but they are far from the best. As mentioned, the King was often relied upon to save the castle as his serfs scrambled to keep up with their less-skilled but harder-working opponents. Hank made 18 saves in regulation and three more in the shootout and most-every one was impressive. How he hasn't entered some Hart Trophy conversations is inexcusable. There has been no single player more valuable to his team in the NHL to date.
Phoenix is in the lower half of the Western Conference and likely would be in the basement if not for the stellar coaching of Dave Tippett. As Mr. X From The Blue Seats observed, the former Hartford Whaler has his team playing like he did - talent-free but forever hustling and intelligent. They grind the way he did and they are defensively responsible the way he was.
The Coyotes choked the life out of the Rangers but the Rangers still won the game. That has been the truth of this season so far: no matter how bad they are for long stretches, no matter how many mistakes they make and no matter how often they've had to rely on majestic netminding, the Rangers still managed to win the game. Remarkable.
*What, no tribute video for Michal Rozsival?
*A couple of years ago this evening would have ended in regulation after Hank gave up a soft goal. Lundqvist and Benoit Allaire appear to have taken that largely out of the King's game and it is what is keeping the Rangers atop the table.
*The Rangers top two lines were all-but-invisible, negated by their hard-hatted opponents. Phoenix's defensive acumen kept the New York attack away from the many rebounds of Mike Smith and, in the process, making Smith look like Patrick Roy - quite the impressive feat. With Tampa two seasons ago he had a GAA over three and last season he had a save percentage below 90 but this season he actually looks like the player Tampa hoped they were getting when they traded away Brad Richard$.
*Was the penalty shot call in overtime the NHL's way of saying 'our bad' on the penalty shot in the Winter Classic? Gabby simply stopped playing the puck when he was 'hooked' by Adrian Aucoin (looked like a slash to me, if anything). Too bad the Slovakian Slacker took the easy way out after deking Smith on the ensuing penalty shot - had he not half-assed his wrister the game wouldn't have had to go to the shootout. At least he gained some redemption there, eh?
*Ranger fans, STOP THE POTVIN SUCKS WHISTLES!!! I mean, seriously, stop it. I know for many folks these are their first games at the Garden in years and they want to feel like they are still fans but doing the whistle and chant a dozen times in a game against the Phoenix-freaking-Coyotes is not only annoying but just plain stupid.
*Radim Vrbata has some sick hands. Wow. They were so impressive that four Rangers stopped to watch him shoot the game-tying goal.
*I would love to see Carl Hagelin race Oliver Ekman-Larsson. May have mentioned that before but, seriously, what an exhibition of speed that would be. Young Carl powered down the wing several times and OEL showed off his wheels in overtime. The defenseman took two maybe three strides and ended up ahead of all of his linemates (going offsides). They might even be faster than Mike Gartner. Gartner at 52 years old, not Gartner in his prime. No one can be that fast.
*Mike Rupp fighting Biz Nasty was totally pointless. Sam said it might have had some carry-over from the first matchup of the two teams but I don't recall any incidents in the 0.1 game needing resolution, other than the justification of Biz Nasty's presence in the NHL.
*Prust had one of his best games in weeks. The Rangers can definitely use his skill set with the schedule they have ahead.
*Stu Bickel was on for just one shift in the third period - the one the Rangers scored on. Not sure what was wrong with him or with his coach but it was interesting to see Staal back out on the ice with Girardi. Sadly he is still not yet the Staal of old but we're slowly getting there. A full return to form and a Sauer resurrection would really be something ...
*Multiple Del Zastrous moments in the first period but he blissfully became a non-factor the rest of the night.
*While Boyle was not directly screening Smith on the Feds goal, he had just crossed in front of the crease. Boyle may be snakebitten or he may just not be very good but he has to at least use that freakish size of his for something other than filling out his sweater.
*Really would have loved an all-access 24/7 to hear what Dubi was yelling at Langkow. I mean, Daymond Langkow. Really?
*Seemed like an awful lot of broken sticks for the Coyotes, right?
*Interesting: on the day where Torts says he may send Wolski and Christensen to the AHL to get some games in, John Mitchell blows his attempt in the shootout.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Mike Smith - 31 saves.
2-Derek Stepan - Shootout gwg.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 18 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Fedotenko - Even before he scored Feds was having a great game.
2-Vrbata - Did I mention he has sick hands? Because he does. Game-tying goal and an incredible shootout goal gets him a star.
1-Hank - Just give him the Hart now.