Tuesday, May 8, 2012
R2, G5: Better Late Than Never
All of the Rangers' flaws and bad habits were on display for nearly 60 minutes on Monday night at Madison Square Garden. Their creative players didn't create. Their breakouts were abominable. They took terrible penalties. Their own power play was a joke. They inflated the numbers of the opposing netminder with poor shots. They skated past the crease without stopping. They left Hank out to dry. They took a lead and tried to hang on to it rather than add to it ... the list goes on and on, and yet the Rangers were able to escape the night with a 3-2 overtime win against Washington.
Will wonders never cease?
With the sands nearly gone, Blueshirts finally started listening to their own motto "The Right Way." They set out on that final minute man advantage and played the right way - they won a faceoff, they fought for position, they shot the puck and they kept digging until the job was done. If only they had decided to play like that at some point over the first 59:53.4!
Considering how the Caps controlled so much of that time, the Rangers need to get things done in Game 6 because a Game 7 against those guys (again) is just a scary proposition. You never know when a seemingly innocuous shot from Sergei Fedorov will deflect off of Wade Redden's stick to seal the series.
*Joel Ward is probably the epitome of this year's series between the Rangers and Capitals: a fast skating, hard working, honest hockey player willing to do whatever it takes to win. He is not the most skilled player but he does all that he can to help his team. And his accidental high stick doomed his team on Monday to an ignominious defeat. Ya gotta feel for the guy.
*Getting hit by that high stick was the best thing Carl Hagelin did all game as he was manhandled to the margins by the Caps. He can do more and be more, not sure if it is the collegiate wall or a mental thing after the Alfredsson incident. But at least he is more active and visible than Washington's young Swede Marcus Johansson - that kid has been MIA.
*Hey Brad Richard$, 6.6 seconds? That must have felt like an eternity after scoring that winner against Phoenix with 0.1 remaining back in December.
*Anton Stralman showed why the Rangers need to work to get clean shots on goal - they happen to go in on this minor league netminder. Stralman went low and got a clean lane to fire a low percentage shot on net and it ended up being Holtby to open the evening's scoring.
*A key to Staal's goal, aside from the deflection on the shot? At the faceoff Arty shoved Karl Alzner into the linesman, stopping the defender from getting to the puck before John Mitchell could recover from his loss and send it back to the point.
*As with Tampa, if this team wins Tortorella will be underserving of much of the credit he receives. He puts together a line of Arty, Cally and Boyle - the first time this season that they have played as a regular unit (if I recall, they got a shot as he pulled names from a hat to 'ignite' the power play at one pont). Nothing like trying to figure out chemistry in Game #94. And I thought that the benching was Kreider's punishment for his turnover last game? Tonight Torts put the kid in the iron maiden, forcing him to skate with the plodders Rupp and Mitchell. Terrible.
*Dug the postgame fireworks.
*No, Del Zaster's secondary assist on the Richard$ goal wipe away another awful night. That was luck - for once one of his shots wasn't entirely blocked, only partially blocked. But the rest of the game he was just, well, Del Zastrous: bad penalties, bad passes, bad puck work, bad decisions ... the clueless kid has been horrific in these playoffs as all of his (many) faults have been exploited.
*Really wish Mike Sauer was around to be part of this success. He put in a lot of great, hard minutes filling in for Staal before his own head injury and to have the two of them together, in top shape on the Ranger blueline as a second pairing behind Girardi and McD would just be outstanding.
*Pruster was invisible.
*It seems every game there is a moment or three where Callahan does something that justifies his captaincy. Tonight was no different, as Cally put together a powerful third period shift that brought the building to their feet. Several folks called that the point when their hope was renewed.
*And finally, I know some Cap fans visit this space and I want to offer my apologies to them for the conduct of the Ranger fans, especially postgame. Saw several incidents where the Blue Bloods went overboard, drunk on victory (and booze) - screaming in Cap fans faces and being outright rude. It was unnecessary. Ovie sucks, yeah, we get it and I'm sure they do too. But the guy walking out alone wearing his beautiful throwback Al Iafrate sweater wasn't bothering anyone, there was no need to bother him. While I heard some Ranger fans faced the same kind of abuse down in DC, there is no need to sink to their level. We're better than that.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Braden Holtby - 35 saves.
2-Brad Richards - one goal.
1-Marc Staal - one goal and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-John Carlson - Wanted to put Jason Chimera here but Chimera wasn't on the ice for a single goal and played less than 11 minutes. That being said, his deceptive speed and hard-nosed play put the Rangers on their heels more than once. But Carlson gets the nod not just for being far better than Del Zaster (who was picked ahead of him in the draft) but for being a factor on both sides of the ice.
2-Cally - Running out of new things to say about our fair captain ... so, um, he's just swell.
1-Staal - Remember the years where a Ranger/Capital matchup was billed as Staal vs. Ovechkin? Yeah, he is back to that level.