Monday, February 4, 2013

4-4-0: Defrib Down South

Maybe it was the sun, maybe it was the opponent, maybe it was luck. But whatever it was, the Rangers' trip to Tampa gave a jolt of electricity back into the team as they beat the Bolts 3-2 on Saturday night.

Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin finally came alive on the scoresheet and Rick Nash's showboating paid off to power the Blueshirts past the Bay despite two goals from Stevie Wonder.

Now, the key will be keeping the pulse going - and even ramping it up further - against a pair of teams that will be playing their hardest. For the Devils and the Isles, games against the Rangers are playoff games - for the Islanders, the closest thing they will ever get to postseason play. So they will step up and the Blueshirts had better match that intensity. The Rangers weren't anywhere close to their best against the Bolts but a win is a win and victories bring confidence. And they'll need that swagger if they are to succeed.

Late Hits:

*Nash's goal was gorgeous. But, that being said, Victor Hedman clearly gave up on the play and let the hot dog slide right by. Does Nash have skills? Obviously. Does he need to learn how to play for a real team? Absolutely. He has to stop making things complicated - he doesn't have to try to haul the puck out of the zone on the penalty kill by himself. If he made the smart play - dump and change - then McDonagh wouldn't have ended up chasing the wrong man up the boards, abandoning Stamkos in the slot.

*Taylor Pyatt has been the real big summer acquisition; the guy is a stud. He continues to make Brian Boyle look bad by actually using his size, battling like a man and paying the price to make plays.

*So great to see Hagelin finally get himself a goal - he was beginning to look like poor Chris "At Least He's Trying" Higgins. Haveta say, Young Carl had himself a pretty good game. He fired the puck at the net on the Step goal and went to the net to tip in Pyatt's feed for his own. The kid wasn't perfect - he was on the ice for both Stamkos goals and was lost in no-man's land on the second - but he battled and finally, FINALLY scored. Bork!

*BJ Crombeen showed that your enforcer doesn't need to be a Neanderthal like Mike Rupp. The Tampa tough guy skated a few solid shifts (nine minutes worth) and scored a sweet goal, batting the puck out of midair - just inches above the crossbar. Meanwhile Rupp lumbered around for less than five minutes and contributed nothing, as per usual.

*Asham laid a few hits and saw double digits in minutes, but that is only because the opponent wasn't one of his former employers. Expect a few senseless fights and nothing else from him this coming week.


*Benn Ferriero got the Chad Kolarik/Corey Locke treatment: a skater with a scoring touch forced to sit on the bench for most the night because he couldn't perform with cement skated linemates.

*Maybe having Torts nearby messed with Guy Boucher, because the Bond villain gave Matt Carle over 27 minutes of ice time - just 24 hours after the blueliner played 20. Eric Brewer went from 17 to nearly 25. Keith Aulie, who played 18 against Winnipeg, saw that cut in half. Clearly the Ranger bench boss is not the only coach that doesn't trust his entire lineup.

*What the hell was the first unit doing on the ice with the team trying to hold onto a two-goal lead in the last minute?

*And what was that nonsense at the outset of the night? Was Torts trying to get a too many men penalty before the puck even dropped?

*Another quietly impressive game by Anton Stralman. There is absolutely no reason for Del Zaster to be playing 25 minutes. None.

*Man is Stevie Wonder's shot deadly; Stamkos has easily eclipsed Ovechkin to sit in the rarefied air with Crosby, just without the whining.

*Solid, if unspectacular, efforts from both backup goaltenders in this game - Garon and Biron.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Steve Stamkos - two goals.
2-Derek Stepan - one goal.
1-Rick Nash - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Bork! - Let's hope this jolt jump starts his season ...
2-Pyatt - He's been exactly what this team has needed for years.
1-Stamkos - So deadly. 

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