Tuesday, April 17, 2012
R1, G3: Thank You Henrik ...
The King is a mighty crutch to have in hockey, as last night's 1-0 Ranger win proved. Henrik Lundqvist made 39 saves on the Sens to help give the Blueshirts a 2-1 lead in the best o' seven series.
It was a great result, given the not so great effort from the Rangers. Ottawa, without one of their top scorers, pinned the Blueshirts in their own end for long stretches and peppered Hank with shots. The Rangers transition game was nothing short of abominable as it was a tough chore to get out of their own zone, much less through the neutral zone and in on Anderson. Their puck pressure was poor, their forecheck was sporadic and they pissed away two full power plays and 24 seconds of a third.
However, all was not awful (especially the result). The boys got in a few good counterpunches but just could not finish. No Ranger will be getting suspended for any of his actions. No Ranger cowered beneath the physicality of his opponent. And Henrik Lundqvist showed some simply outstanding form. All are things to build on for Game 4 as the team hopefully turns this tough victory into an easier one on Wednesday.
*Is there anything more awesome than seeing Hank get angry? He put up with Neil in his face all night and finally snapped when Konopka came calling. Konopka, one of the toughest guys in the NHL - a guy who had 307 PIM last season, 76 fights in his last three seasons. Hank's got some big Swedish meatballs, if you know what I mean.
*It is astounding how streaky (and thus frustrating) of a player Brian Boyle is, but you simply can not complain about the timing of this latest hot streak. On a night where Gabby was frustrated and Richard$ was invisible, Boyle kept his hot hand going. People have been saying it since before he was drafted - when Boyle is willing and able to use his size, he is a solid player. The rest of the time ... notsomuch. It is of little coincidence that Boyle's goals start going in once he is willing to use his size to make space in front of the net.
*Erik Karlsson may be a disciple of the school of Nick Lidstrom but it was Dan Girardi who best used one of the lessons taught by the Swedish superstar. One of Lidstrom's top moves is to use the ricochet off the endboards to get a puck through to the slot and Dan-O did just that. The puck bounced off the boards and came back to Boyle for the one-timer past Anderson. Simple, sexy stuff.
*Karlsson, by the way, was hit just once according to the official play-by-play (I didn't notice it) - and that was with an official scorekeeper who counted an outrageous 81 hits in a relatively timid game.
*Both Carl Hagelin and Daniel Alfredsson were missed by their teams. The Rangers were clearly lacking the speed and tenacity of Young Carl's forecheck and, without Alfredson's virtual ownership of Lundqvist the Sens couldn't score. Of course, Carl was Shanabanned so he had no choice. Alfie passed all of the concussion tests and just didn't bother to show up. That's a captain right there.
*That being said, gotta admire the Scotiabank Crowd for their 11:11 countdown and chant in his honour - they are respecting one of their own, a guy who has played in Ottawa his entire career. Ranger fans that mocked it ... most of you join in on "Potvin Sucks" and have no idea the origin of that chant so shush.
*Serious attaboy to Anton Stralman for his play in the final minute. Who knew he had that in him?
*Best save of the night? Not Hank on Turris. Not Anderson on Callahan. Stu Bickel on Jim O'Brien. Outstanding arm save by the big Minnesota boy. Despite being the unnecessary butt of Tortorella's ire often this season, Stu has helped save the Blueshirt blueliners by stepping in for Sauer with strong, capable play. It isn't flashy at all but it has certainly filled part of the huge gap left by Sauer's absence.
*Del Zaster ... not sure what is left to say anymore. He prizes his offense over his defense and yet he often doesn't even do that right. He was utterly incapable of carrying the puck out, he gambled and failed in the Ottawa end several times and his work on the power play is pedantic at best.
*Really had hoped Dubi would have had a far better game than he did. After his early ejection in Game 2, you would think he would have been even more riled up and ready to go. Unfortunately he had a largely timid performance, outside of the facewash to Foligno after the Sen dumped Cally in a post-whistle scrum. He has to be more involved.
*So does Chris Kreider. Kreider looked like a kid with no NHL experience out there but he definitely displayed the skills the scouts said he had. That was clearly evident right from the outset - his initial shift saw him playing proper Ranger hockey: dump, chase, hit and keep after it. This is a trial by fire and Kreider managed not to get burned in his first game. We'll see how he does in his second and beyond ...
*PHW Three Stars
3-Brian Boyle - one goal.
2-Craig Anderson - 22 saves.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 39 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Anderson - Seriously considered Girardi but Anderson does deserve recognition. He was hardly tested but when he was, he came though with solid saves.
2-Boyle - Outshined Richard$, outshined Spezza, outshined everyone due to his battle level. Outstanding.
1-Hank - Considered giving him all three stars for that effort. Outstanding.