Thursday, March 29, 2012

49-21-7: The Last Of The Cupcakes

Mmmm cupcakes. Well, usually cupcakes are welcomed treats but the Rangers have often made a mess of them this season - not unlike a toddler taking on his/her first tasty cake, just not as adorable. The Blueshirts butcher theirs by playing down to the level of their sub-standard opponents. And, for large portions of Wednesday night's game in Winnipeg they did the same.

But Ryan Callahan wasn't about to let the two points go, and he did what he has done for much of the year - picked up his effort and shamed the team into following him. And they did. And they rallied from a 2-0 hole to defeat the Jets 4-2.

As per usual the Rangers consistency of effort and intensity was questionable and it nearly cost them. But things are about to get real and top teams won't let them off the hook as easily as Winnipeg did. The remaining five games will prove that - two Original Six rivals, two division rivals and one team that knocked them out of the playoffs the last two times the Rangers made it. Hopefully the Blueshirts enjoyed the mess they made, because if they don't clean things up they are going to be thrown out of the house playoffs quickly.

Late Hits:

*Hank had himself a solid game, 22 saves and he could hardly be blamed for the two shots that beat him. That being said, I still don't think he should have been starting - nearly had a heart attack when Kane crashed the crease late in the first period. Just have to hope that the momentum gained was worth the risk.

*Outside of seeing the Stanley Cup being raised by any team other than the Islanders, there is nothing in hockey that I enjoy watching as much as stellar shorthanded play. And the Rangers had that last night. The five-on-three work by Girardi, Boyle, Cally and Hank was something to behold. And Cally's effort to get Del Zaster the tap-in shorty a period later was wonderful. Sheer tenacity. Absolutely adored it.

*Brian Boyle continues to be one of the more frustrating talents in the NHL. How he can be so useless for so long then suddenly realize how valuable his size is is infuriating. The brief moments like last night show why he was drafted so high by Los Angeles and extending the moment will go a long way towards helping the Rangers make a real run at the Cup.

*Honestly had higher hopes for a more hostile crowd but the second the Rangers got things going Winnipeg got awfully quiet. And Evander Kane took after his audience - after a good, physical start he faded something fierce.

*The idea has been batted around quite a bit on Twitter and around the Garden: make Del Zaster a winger. His defense has not improved one iota since he came into the league and he is clearly more interested in joining the attack than in helping Hank out. He simply does not comprehend how to properly play his position. Erik Karlsson can get away with his defensive deficiencies not only because he is astounding on offense but he clearly has been working to improve his game in his own zone. DZ still makes the same mistakes he always has. He doesn't close gaps, he gets beaten wide, he doesn't know when to go to the ice, he doesn't hit for possession and he goes on wild, irresponsible rushes down the ice. Making him a winger would let him off the hook and allow him to concentrate on the aspects of the game he enjoys - carrying the puck, moving the puck, going backdoor to score slam dunk goals...

*The first Winnipeg goal was scored not only because Del Zaster's stick redirected the puck but because he didn't close on his man in the first place. Stu had the skater on the far side and DZ worried about the drop-pass, which was not his responsibility. He should know that by now but he doesn't. Spencer Machacek used the room to get off a shot and the ill-position DZ had it tip off his stick and go past Hank. Horrid.

*Initially I blamed DZ entirely for the second Jets goal but I partially retract that accusation. Watching it again it is clear he is just standing there screening Hank instead of hammering Byfuglien but the slipped coverage in the lost was John Mitchell's mistake. As written in this space, Mitchell has not been the same since Carl Hagelin was stripped from his side. Mitch has showed decent ability in all zones but he has also shown the lapses that left him in the AHL not too long ago.

*How did Blake Wheeler get so skilled so suddenly?

*Interesting how Brad RichardS can win 14 of 17 faceoffs and still manage to be invisible. Gabby at least stays involved in the plays while Richard$ sits on the outskirts.

*Snipe snipe. Snipe snipe snipey snipe. What a shot by Step.

*Solid bounce-back effort by Staal, essentially trading places with Stralman from the Minnesota game.

*Glass vs. Bickel. Why? Why Stu? Why? And he lost to a guy four inches and at least 10 pounds smaller. Ugh.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Evander Kane - one impressive dive.
2-Ryan Callahan - one goal and one assist.
1-Michael Del Zotto - one goal and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Girardi/McD - Not sure anyone would have picked them to be not just the top pairing on the team but one of the top pairings in the NHL.
2-Boyle - Lose a tooth, score a game-winning goal. Seems like a good exchange to me.
1-Cally - Still in his first season as captain Cally already ranks among the league's elite leaders with Toews, Doan and Iginla. Outstanding.


Pete said...

I know it's usually a lot closer of a game than the standings would dictate, so I understand not calling the Habs "cupcakes," but, given the sorry state of affairs in that franchise, can we at least consider them "cream puffs?"

Paul said...

Does anyone know why the Jets fans were booing Richard$ every time he had puck possession?