Friday, February 8, 2013

5-5-0: Miller's Moment

The one singular test result that counts - the final score - shows that the Rangers fared better on Thursday then they did Tuesday: they defeated the Islanders 4-1. But it is incredibly hard to say if there was any improvement in their game against the Isles then they did against the Devils. The Isles are a far inferior team to the Devs in terms of quality of players and coaching, and they made more mistakes and weren't as tough defensively.

This was a good win, this was a necessary win and this was a tough win. But, while quality of opponent certainly muddied up the metric a bit, it was clear to see that the Rangers were outplayed physically (despite the ridiculous home hit count), they took bad penalties and gave up a bad goal. Defeating the Isles is always cause for celebration in my book - few folks loathe them as much as I do - but it is worrisome to think that, had the Rangers played a real side we'd be looking a yet another loss.

But they didn't, they defeated the opponent that was set in front of them. Now the trick will be to build upon the victory; the Rangers have gone win/loss/win/loss/win over their last five games. They need to carry the confidence, and the fearlessness of youth, into Sunday night's home leg against the Lightning to buck that back-and-forth trend.

Late Hits:

*Slam the Isles for their awfulness but take nothing away from JT Miller's effort. As I just mentioned, the fearlessness of this youth carried his team to victory. Miller hasn't been cowed by Tortorella's screaming and carrying on yet, the kid just went out there and played his game. He followed up his strong debut at the Rock with another at MSG - a far more intimidating venue. His two tallies were wonderful, and hopefully the first of many. I'm delighted, thus far, to be proven wrong. Miller will just have to keep the wheels going, even after Torts turns his temper in his direction.

*A mistake by the Blueshirt brass not to give him sweater No. 64. Imagine the sales ...

*Miller's second goal came on a power play, off a rush. For years and years - especially those with Perry Pearn in charge - my lament over the man advantage was how stagnant and predictable it was once it got set up in the zone. The smart pass by McD to find Miller was the catalyst, that first feed is just so important and no one has been able to do it well with any regularity since Sergei Zubov was shipped out of town.

*Sure he had nothing to do with the power play goal, but Stralman over Del Zaster on the point? A definite improvement. I was shocked - but delighted - to see DZ didn't have a single second of man advantage time. Let's keep it that way.

*Welcome back Cally, everyone missed you.

*Rick Nash was ineffective, held in check by Travis Hamonic of all people. That is the super power forward who was brought in to save this franchise and bring it the Stanley Cup. Completely rubbed out by a guy who couldn't make a real NHL team's roster. Nash has to be better than that; he should be able to score goals like Miller's on a nightly basis. Size, power, speed and hands.

*Yep, Potvin still sucks.

*Stupid, sloppy penalties. Somethings never change. While Del Zaster is expected to do something stupid, like jumping over the boards early, Darroll Powe can not. Like Bettsy long before him, shorthanded specialists simply can not afford to be stupid.

*Arron Asham needs to follow Rupp out of town, Sather needs to rectify yet another of his signing mistakes. Hagelin was hammered and Hank was slashed and no one bothered to do anything about it, least of all the one clown who's job it was. MSG's cameras even caught him giving Marty Reasoner a pat on the behind after one whistle. Are you kidding me?

*On the other side of the coin, the Taylor Pyatt acquisition is still a winner. Loving this guy, absolutely adoring him. He's big, he plays big, he plays tough, he's effective ... he's everything Brian Boyle has refused to be.

*May Boyle never rejoin the Ranger roster ever again.

*The Rangers lack of injury info is infuriating. What is really wrong with Dan Girardi? Just how bad is  Mike Sauer's situation? Has there been any progress, at all? This team can't take many more nights of Hobey and Eminger dressing and getting so few minutes. It is ridiculous, but absolutely plausible, to think that Torts already burned Girardi out, overplaying him immediately after a lockout where the defenseman was completely inactive.

*Still don't get the Martin holding penalty in the second period. Given Del Zaster's history, you'd think opposing teams would encourage him to play the puck in his end.

*Marian Gaborik's goal? Made me think of this. Haha.

*Can't forget: the Rangers could have signed Mark Streit but instead went with Wade Redden. Whoops.

*Always rail against how horrible Joe Micheletti makes MSG, but serious points to John Giannone for taking one for the team and never stopping. Ripped him a few weeks back for a softball question during an intermission interview but he more than made up for it by still commentating with blood pouring down his face. Beauty.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Ryan McDonagh - one goal and one assist.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 27 saves.
1-JT Miller - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Cally - At no point did you think the captain just came off of a serious shoulder injury, and he clearly made the youngsters more comfortable when out on the ice.
2-Marc Staal - Concussion? What concussion? Staal looks like he's back to the elite level that put him in the Team Canada conversation.
1-Miller - Go kid, go. Now do it again.

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