Now, the fact that the Rangers were able to force OT and eventually the shootout where they are nearly unbeatable is a great feat if you only consider the game from the point where Jussi Jokinen made it 3-2. But I’m not about to let them off that easy.
This was a game where the Rangers needed to make a four point swing in the standings in their favor, and they were set up beautifully to do this by taking a lead into the third period, where they stood at 20-0-0 when doing so. What happened in the first half of that third period was exactly the opposite of what should have happened. The Rangers losing Marc Staal before the period to a twisted knee began the need to rely more heavily on rookie Mike Sauer, and sophomore Matt Gilroy, and it cost them. Ladies and gentlemen the glaring need to bring in a veteran dman who can stabilize the back end is now more apparent than ever after last night’s game.
On the Canes first goal it’s just awful communication between the whole team and Gilroy’s turnover leads to a breakaway on Hank, off the post off Lundqvist and in.
Canes second goal was because Gilroy – who has no business on the PK but was there because Staal is out – has no clue how to play on the penalty kill, and just as the penalty to Sauer I believe it was expires, Gilroy gets bodied off the puck like he’s a 12 year old girl and since Sauer is just getting back into the defensive zone he’s too late to pick up Jokinen in the slot who has a free shot to fire it past Hank.
Canes third goal happens because Sauer takes Jokinen out of the play, but then forgets all about him allowing him to skate untouched into the crease and have a happy birthday present of Prust proportions to put the Hurricanes up a goal.
So with these defensive gaffes you’d think the time is now, especially when we don’t know just how long Staal is going to be out, or if he’s going to miss any time at all. I’ve been advocating bringing in a guy like Montador for weeks and weeks now, and this is a necessary component the Rangers are going to need to add to get themselves comfortably into the playoffs this season.
But it would be awful of me to just focus on the negatives that I found in the game without finding some positives to talk about to, and there were plenty to go around in last night’s effort.
Although his defensive partner played an off game, which is reasonable for a rookie dman, McDonagh was again as solid as can be. His good skating ability allows him to make the subtle plays in his own zone that are required to be a successful dman at the NHL level. McDonagh game in and game out continues to improve and progress and he’s a good guy to have on the back end right now.
Del Zotto was burned a handful of times in his own zone, but he’s not on the Rangers to play strong defense. What was encouraging is that Del Zotto had two good chances in the offensive zone last night, both from reasonably the same spot on the ice and one of them even coming in the 4 on 4 OT play. What is discouraging however is that Del Zotto missed the net trying to pick the corner high blocker side on Ward both times. The ability is there, the confidence is not, but if you’re slumping like DZ is I’m not sure why he’s trying to pick corners, get a good low shot on net next time, force a rebound and pick up an assist kid.
After the Canes took a lead last night it turned into the Wojtek Wolski show, and with the help of his linemates Stepan and Zuccarello (again last night the Rangers most effective line) they were able to accomplish what we have been expecting out of Gaborik and his linemates all season. Wolski turned into a gamebreaker. You noticed him every time he was on the ice, he scored the game tying goal by being patient and just throwing the puck at the net, and he ripped one top shelf for the shootout winner to put the Rangers on his back and get them 2 huge points in the standings. If the Rangers can keep this line going strong, and finally get Gaborik going the right way then they will have two very good offensive units.
Dubi – AA – Cally don’t impress me as much as they used to in the offensive zone as a unit. Anisimov takes too long to get his shots off but it’s promising that he’s always looking. Dubinsky doesn’t seem to have the same type of shot he had going in the beginning of the season, but he’s one of the last people on the Rangers I’d worry about. And even through this lines struggles, Callahan continues to put goals in the net with 6 in his last 10. Last night off a great feed from Zuccarello to deflect it past Cam Ward as the Rangers scored (on the power play) just as their 5 on 3 advantage expired.
Power play definitely had a promising night, it looked good. This means even more last night because Carolina is a very aggressive penalty killing team, and although they had good shorthanded chances the Rangers were able to generate some of their own chances too. It’s a good foundation game to build on for the power play.
Lundqvist at points in the game last night was a one man show, and he absolutely stood on his head. Before Wolski came along and stole the spotlight Henrik was by far and away the player of the game for the Rangers. The Hurricanes had countless odd man rush chances and even breakaway chances and Henrik held them to three goals. This is the reason why goals against average and save percentage statistics are misleading. You’d see Henrik’s numbers after the game last night and be unimpressed, but that was a helluva show he put on last night. I think he’s back for good this time.
Prospal was a man on a mission last night and it’s a shame he couldn’t find a way to bury one for himself. Probably the best he’s looked since returning which is odd as it coincides with his first game away from Gaborik. I thought Christensen was absolutely garbage last night, but that’s no surprise. Boyle too was quiet.
Avery – Newbury – Prust line was a good hard banging line put together by Torts and it paid dividends right away. Newbury was hitting everything in sight, Avery gets the puck and drives hard to the net, something he needs to do more often and Pruster gets a nice birthday present for the easy tap in. Good thing it came the day after I ripped him a new one. Doesn’t change the fact that he’s a glorified fourth liner.
But in the big picture it was a good thing to see. The Rangers lose their lead in the third period and I couldn’t help myself from thinking, oh great, here’s the Atlanta game all over again. But not this time. The Rangers were able to get it together and find a way to tie and eventually win the game.
It’s going to be a grind to the end of the season hoping that all these shootout wins don’t come back to hurt the Rangers because remember, they do not count towards your win total in a tie breaker this season. Rangers are tied for the league lead for shootout wins with 7. Now if they keep winning this number doesn’t matter, but they need to keep winning to do that.
Around the NHL news:
Big day on waivers today, names of interest are former Ranger Nik Zherdev (called that one, thank you) Sabres Captain Craig Rivet (waiving the captain, nice touch) and Marek Svatos (brought from overseas by the Blues, claimed by the Predators and now later waived by the Predators). I don’t think the Rangers are going to be putting in a claim for any of these guys.
Here’s a shot of the standings how they look today…
3 points on Carolina, 8 on Buffalo. Goes to show just how big last night’s game actually was.
Darren Dreger over at TSN is reporting that the Stars will begin to explore trade options for Brad Richards as they have fallen mightily. Richards is still recovering from a concussion but he’s an elite talent and I don’t think that’s going to deter many teams. Dreger has reported that the Rangers are 1 of 6 teams making inquiring about Richards:
“The New York Rangers are believed to be among as many as six teams who have recently discussed the star centre’s potential availability.”
You can read that here: http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/dregerreport/
The Rangers next play on Friday in Washington, another huge four point swing game. I will not be able to catch this game as I am being treated to a Sabres/Senators game here in Buffalo and it’s tough to pass up a rivalry game like that. So, for Friday’s game @jgavriel will have the coverage for you (I’m hoping).
But before that game in Washington…
The Sabres and Thrashers play tonight versus each other, so let’s hope for no 3 pt game there.
And on Thursday the Canadiens play the Leafs, so let’s go Maple Leafs.
And Friday is a huge day as the Rangers, Hurricanes, Thrashers, Sabres, and Devils are all in action.
Monday trade deadline, so these games mean a lot in terms of which way the organization is going to take the team. I’d expect the Rangers to buy buy buy (hopefully a veteran dman *fingers crossed*) but would also not be surprised to see them cut ties with some complementary players like Christensen (hope so) or Eminger (at this point). In any case Monday should be a great day.
Woa, long post.
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Written by Adam Gavriel