With fans around the NHL waiting for the likes of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to decide where they are going to be spending the next decade, give or take a few seasons, other teams are busy making smaller, depth-related moves. Just before former New York Ranger Jaromir Jagr signed with the Dallas Stars for $4.5 million, the Blueshirts added a solid bottom six forward in Taylor Pyatt, who comes over from the Phoenix Coyotes. For people worried that the Rangers would be losing fighting ability, checking, penalty killing, and hard work, all due to grinder Brandon Prust signing with the Montreal Canadiens, the Rangers made up for his loss, first with Arron Asham two days ago (and to a lesser extent, adding Micheal Haley, which will most likely end up being an AHL move) and now with Pyatt, who is a hitting machine that can kill penalties, and also put the puck in the net on occasion.
Here is a signing that no one saw coming, and that is tough guy Arron Asham completing his Atlantic Division tour by signing with the New York Rangers this afternoon for two years, at $1 million per season. While I was surprised to learn of the acquisition, I am very pleased with it, though it probably spells the end of Brandon Prust’s time on Broadway. However, Asham is a much better fighter and a lot more intimidating than the scrappy Prust. He might not bring as many intangibles, but his signing is a bargain price, something that Prust’s would most likely not be, as he is expecting to get both more years and more money with his new contract.
If you want to hear from John Tortorella his reason for why the New York Rangers lost in a dismal game against the Edmonton Oilers, 2-0 last night, you are going to have to take a rain-check. The head coach, who pulls the stunt of not wanting to talk to the media in a post game press conference a few times a year, coming with more regularity as the season progresses, is not helping his image any, one that is already tarnished because of the way his team has started. Though I suppose it was more mature than dropping F-bombs on Larry Brooks, a clunker like the Rangers had last night is one that comes with many questions, two of which included, “Why was Marian Gaborik playing on a line with Dubinsky and Anisimov?” and “How come Richards was centering Stepan and Callahan?”. I know Johnny Juggles has the compulsion to mix up his lines every two shifts, hindering any formulation of chemistry on his own, but is there much sense in putting the team’s best scorer with two players who can’t pass, and putting the team’s best passer with two players who couldn’t hit the ocean if they were standing on a boat?
Sometimes I can find explanations for questionable moves, but the switching of the team’s two best offensive players to lines with zero skill and hockey sense is mind-boggling. Gaborik and Richards have excelled together, so only on the Rangers are they the pair that is split apart. Tortorella is as much to blame for the sloppy play in all of these six games as anyone else. Has there been one game where the four lines he started with actually remained intact? The fact is, the Rangers have not yet had a game this season where they looked decent from start to finish, and had control of the puck for more than a few shifts in a row. The Rangers, who, thanks to overtime’s ridiculous loser’s point, can claim themselves to be a .500 team, have played two good periods in six games. Yes, you read that right; not two good games in six, two good periods. They played great in the third against Vancouver on Tuesday night, where they scored all four goals in their shutout victory over the Canucks, and they looked pretty good in the first against Calgary on Thursday, even though they left the period tied at two. The Rangers have been a dog chasing its tail in these six games, struggling to even get shots on goal.
The Rangers’ two off-season money-makers, Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky, have had an abysmal start, combining for a goal and three assists in twelve games. Callahan, newly sporting the Captain’s “C”, has been completely invisible, not throwing his body around and being physical, while Dubinsky has stood out for all the wrong reasons. Callahan is a shell of himself, for no apparent reason, and Dubinsky has played downright stupid hockey, which is worse than if he was just playing bad. Anisimov could be added to the list as well, but at least he isn’t making more than $4 million. Then comes Dubinsky’s mindless and undisciplined penalties, but at the risk of ranting even further, I will leave them alone.
As good as Lundqvist, McDonagh, Gaborik, Richards, and even Prust have looked, is as bad as everyone has been, save for Dan Girardi who is logging so many minutes on defense, he is probably going to pass out by January. There is all this talk about Staal and Sauer being out, but the Rangers would not have a different record even if they were in the lineup. Their problems have not been defense, they have been puck control and getting shots on goal. Callahan has been famous for missing the net, even when close by, but it seems to have rubbed off on everyone else, as shot after shot sailed wide past Nikolai Khabibulin last night, when the Rangers had their best chance of the game on a minute-long 5 on 3 in the second period. Then came Dubinsky with a glorious chance to tie the game, at that point, with the puck on his stick just inches away from the blue paint of the goal crease, and he elected to pass it over to Callahan instead, a play never coming to fruition, and no pucks being put on net. The Rangers looked so bad at times that when Lundqvist left his net and went to the bench in the third, I thought to myself that he must have quit and got tired of playing behind these pylons. Thank goodness it was no serious injury, and just a leg cramp, otherwise this season would have really been over.
Tortorella is going to live and die by this team because these are the players he wanted. Six games in is a little too early to call for the axe, but if they are still playing like this in December, I think Glen Sather will have to be on the lookout for a new coaching staff (is Mike Keenan still wandering around MSG?). This is a team without chemistry or control. Maybe we did overreact after the third game of the season, but then we also over-celebrated after the two wins that followed. An actual good game has been elusive for the Blueshirts here, and they better figure it out before their home opener on Thursday (still one more chance in Winnipeg tomorrow night), or else they will get the usual Broadway treatment: cheers during the introductions, and boos during the first intermission.
I am really looking forward to that new show on MSG called Beginnings, where they will profile a different player in each episode, telling us about their life. I am most curious to see who Ryan Callahan’s first hockey coaches were when he was little, you know, the guys that were supposed to teach him how to actually hit the net with his shots.
The fate of the New York Rangers’ season is now in the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning. With their backs to the wall, the Rangers needed to win this afternoon over the New Jersey Devils, or their season was over. They would accomplish that, with a 5-2 victory, but unfortunately, whether or not they make the playoffs rests with the Stamkos-led Lightning, when they take on the Carolina Hurricanes tonight in Raleigh. The Rangers did all they could do today, which was win, and will now sit and watch the scoreboard to see whether or not they will make it to the postseason.
- First period: The Rangers got off on the wrong foot when they allowed an early goal, originally credited to Ilya Kovalchuk, before it was changed to Nick Palmieri. The Blueshirts could have folded right there, but instead, they got a much-needed goal from an unlikely source, Chris Drury (1), who returned to score his first goal of the season and first in 25 games, dating back to a year ago today. The Rangers continued to play well, before being deflated by a late goal by Kovalchuk, to trail 2-1.
- Second period: It was in the middle frame that it seemed the Rangers decided that they were not going to take a loss for an answer this afternoon. Wojtek Wolski (12) scored less than two minutes in on assists from Fedotenko and Sauer to tie the game. Ten minutes later, Ryan McDonagh (1) would score his first career goal, in this, his 40th game of the season. He would cap off a fantastic rookie campaign, that will also see him finish with a +16 rating. With Prospal waiting behind the net, Gaborik fed him the pass and he was able to find the open rookie inside the circle, who shot it over the shoulder of Martin Brodeur. In scoring that goal, McDonagh now becomes part of a trio of Rangers’ defenseman, including Matt Gilroy and Marc Staal, who scored their first NHL goal against Brodeur. Four minutes later, the Rangers would jump ahead by two, when Brandon Prust (13) knocked home a loose puck after it was shot to the net by Brandon Dubinsky. The Rangers headed into the third with a 4-2 lead.
- Third period: The Rangers were 28-0-0 on the season when taking a lead into the last period, and thanks to some good offensive pressure and a defense that kept the Devils to only seven shots, the Rangers could tack on one more win to that stat. It was a relatively calm period, and the Rangers were in charge the whole time, and when Vinny Prospal (9) scored on a 2-on-1 with Artem Anisimov midway through, that sealed the deal.
Feelings are still bittersweet at the moment, because as happy as us fans want to feel about a great win over the Devils on the final day of the season, it might all be for naught if the surging Hurricanes keep on flying tonight. The Rangers, who never seem to play well in day games, played an excellent and intense one today, and did everything they needed to do to at least have a chance tonight.
With the exception of the Devils’ second goal, Lundqvist was solid, and stopped what he needed to in order to give his team a chance to win in what became his 26th consecutive start. Chris Drury also came through in the clutch today, scoring in his first game back from yet another injury stint. It truly is amazing how injuries work, and how Drury happened to be ready just as Callahan broke his ankle. It really makes one wonder if Drury wasn’t ready for longer than what was let on, and just kept on the back-burner because he was not needed. I don’t want to yell conspiracy here, but it’s just very odd.
We will now all hold our breath to later tonight, where we will find out if the Rangers will be advancing. I will not say “Goodbye” just yet, to all my Rangers readers, because I will be putting up something tonight once we learn of the outcome. Until then, just try to relax and have some fun during crunch time. I know it will be stressful, but it is out of our hands. All we can do is wait.
Having interviewed New York Rangers’ prospect and current Connecticut Whale left-wing Devin DiDiomete two years ago, when I noticed that he was going to be immersing himself in the online phenomena known as Twitter, I asked if he would ever consider blogging. I told him that if he ever wanted to write anything and send it over, that I would publish it. Devin responded with, “I’m a character, not a writer. I’ve been out of school for too long.” but told me that he would answer any questions I had for him. We talked about trying something a little bit different, with not your usual boring questions that can only garner standard responses. These are only a few questions because this is just the first installment of “Devin’s Den”. We will be getting together again in a few weeks for a second one, and hopefully we can do a third one over the summer.
Devin is the type of player you would classify as the dictionary definition of “fan favorite”. All Whale season ticket holders are nodding their heads reading this, and a few told me after I said I would be doing this series with Devin that he is one of the nicest players you could ever meet. But on the ice, his smile and handshake turns into a snarl and a punch in the face. In 62 games this season, he has racked up 296 penalty minutes, his career high in any league (you can view some of his fights here). He also has six goals, which leads me to compare him to current Rangers’ forward Brandon Prust, as the player who may not be the biggest, but he’ll fight anyone in the league, and even chip in a goal every now and then. While playing for the Charlotte Checkers in 2009/10 for the ECHL on a brief stint, Devin somehow managed to get 128 penalty minutes in just 15 games (next time, I’ll have to ask him how he accomplished such a feat!).
Since 2004/05, Devin has been playing professional hockey. He started out with four seasons in the OHL, playing alongside current Rangers Marc Staal and Ryan McDonagh for the Sudbury Wolves, and Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos for the Sarnia Sting. We can only hope that Devin will be playing in New York Ranger blue next season, to join his old teammates on the greatest stage of all.
Favorite movie? Old School
Favorite TV show? Entourage
Favorite food? Steak with mushrooms and spinach
Favorite player growing up? Steve Yzerman
Favorite team? Toronto Blue Jays
Favorite hobby? Working on my wash board (laughs)
Q & A
GC: I’ve heard from many Hartford season ticket holders that you are a funny guy. What’s the funniest thing that has ever happened to you as a professional hockey player?
DD: Over the past couple of years, I have got the label of being a prankster; always hiding guys shoes, clothes, taping wallets and keys together with pounds of tape, sewing guys pant legs together, cutting guys sticks before practice so it breaks on their first shot—but someone this year is beating me at my own game. For the last month, at least once a week, my one shoe and one sock go missing. [My teammates] always manage to come up with better hiding spots than me, so they go missing for days on end. Needless to say, I’ve had to walk out of the rink in two different shoes a few times this past month.
GC: Another thing I have heard is that you are very personable with fans. Obviously some players are not, so how do you feel players should treat the fans? How would you describe Hartford fans?
DD: I appreciate all the support my fans give me, so I feel the least I can do is give them a little bit of my time or sign some autographs for them. I always remember going to games growing up and being so pumped to talk to players or get a fist pump from them on the way out to the ice. I want to try to bring some of that excitement to all my fans.
GC: Being a heavyweight fighter, what are your keys to success for winning a fight? Do you have any safety tips for young players who may want to begin fighting?
DD: I would say I am more of a pest than a heavyweight fighter. I love feeling when I get under someone’s skin so bad that they want to rip my head off—it means I’ve done my job and they are more worried about me than our more skilled guys. As far as tips go to the young guys out there, hit the other guy more than he hits you. When in doubt, knock ‘em out and ask questions later.
GC: I have to ask this because there seems to be a lot of fans on both sides of this. What name is better, Whale or Wolfpack?
DD: (laughs) I don’t want to answer that question. Some people have taken the name change to heart, but I will tell you one thing: the new jerseys look a lot better!
GC: With all this talk about head shots in hockey swirling around, what are your thoughts on the subject?
DD: I like what they are doing. I don’t think there is a place in hockey for the dirty elbows and dirty shoulders to guys’ jaws. Concussions are a serious issue and each year it seems like more and more guys are missing time due to dirty hits. If they take the instigator rule out of the game, I bet you would see a lot less cowardly plays because it forces guys to stay honest and they might think twice before doing something dirty or cheap.
Devin also had some kind words to offer for Connecticut Whale defenseman Wade Redden:
DD: I have nothing but good things to say about [Wade]. I’m sure he would much rather be in New York, but I think everyone here wants that. He has impressed me with his good attitude and work ethic. He’s a great role model for the younger defensemen and a great leader in the locker room. Having played almost a thousand NHL games, he brings much needed experience and leadership and I think he has done a great job of staying positive throughout this season.
I would like to thank Devin for taking the time out of his busy schedule to contribute to my blog. This is definitely one of the most interesting hockey interviews I have ever conducted (right up their with the Dale Weise one last season, when we ended up talking about Farmville), because it is not your typical “blah blah blah” responses. Make sure to look out for our next edition, coming out in a few weeks! And make sure to follow him on Twitter if you haven’t already clicked the link @deeds2424. He is new to this so take it easy on him!
UPDATE: Read Vol. 2 of “Devin’s Den” here.
In the fourth and final meeting of the season between the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens, the Blueshirts finally were able to break through with a victory and end a drought against the Habs that extended back to last season. Tonight’s game featured the exact hockey one would expect in a game down the stretch, between two teams fighting for a playoff berth. There was aggression, intensity, and goal scoring, and the Rangers would ultimately walk away with a 6-3 win after a hard fought 60 minutes.
- First period: The game got off to a hot start rather early, when just one second in, Brandon Prust squared off with Travis Moen in what would be a fairly lengthy bout. About five and a half minutes in, Artem Anisimov would get the Rangers on the board with an unassisted breakaway goal, but less than two minutes later, the Canadiens would rally to tie it on a slap shot goal by P.K Subban in the slot, this coming before he and Prust would serve minors after Subban yanked Prust to the ice when he made contact with goaltender Carey Price. But the most disheartening aspect about the Canadiens’ goal was the “Ole Ole” chant in the building, offered up by the sea of opposing fans that made their way into the Garden tonight. I have no problem with fans of other teams traveling distances to show their support, but it is unfortunate that the Rangers fans would let that noise happen. I remember a time when it was dangerous for an opposing fan to even wear a jersey, let alone chant, in our home building, but times have changed, and the Dolan’s are getting what they want: an arena packed with corporate suits. Anyway, the Rangers would very shortly shut up the Canadiens’ fans with a barrage of goals. Near the midway point, Dan Girardi would score on assists from Christensen and Zuccarello, and then with less than three minutes remaining, Ryan Callahan would score the oddest goal of the season—with a tangle of players in front of the net, Callahan swiped at a bouncing puck which sent it upwards off the helmet of defenseman James Wisniewski, then higher into the air, when it would fall straight down and cross the goal line in mid-air. However, the backspin on the puck caused it to not land in the net, but a lengthy review would prove that the entire puck crossed the line. With the Canadiens tased, Gaborik scored 32 seconds after that, and then Brian Boyle added a fifth goal 37 seconds later, for a total of three goals in just 1:07. Price would then be yanked and replaced with Ranger-killer Alex Auld. The Rangers would leave the period with a 5-1 lead, perhaps the most exciting and well-played period of the season.
- Second period: At first, the middle frame seemed relatively calm compared to the first. Aside from an early goal by Wisniewski, to get the Canadiens within three, nothing major happened until the end. Both Lundqvist and Auld were solid, but then with exactly three minutes to go, Subban would knock down Lundqvist and cause Michael Sauer to chase him halfway across the rink to challenge him to a fight. Sauer wanted to drop the gloves immediately, but the Canadiens’ brute defenseman ran away like the fraud he is. Magnetic personality be damned, Subban is nothing more than a glorified thug, who already slew-footed Dubinsky earlier in the season (a play that went uncalled) while being in the center of other questionable plays around the league. He’s a fine offensive defenseman, but the edge he walks is very dangerous, and I was hoping that someone would knock him down onto the ice by the time the game was over (maybe he would have been if the refs didn’t jump in to stop the fight). The Rangers would still be up 5-2 heading into the third.
- Third period: Once again, the Canadiens would strike, with a powerplay goal under a minute in from Brian Gionta. Flashbacks from two years ago when the Rangers blew a 5-0 lead were beginning to creep in my head, but thankfully the Rangers would hunker down and not let this one get away. After Lundqvist was ran yet again, this time accidentally, the Rangers would capitalize on the powerplay when Vinny Prospal deflected a hard Girardi pass to beat Auld. The Rangers would go on to win 6-3, but there is some concern for Lundqvist, who remained down on the ice for a few minutes after being hit. When the game ended, rather than celebrate, he pushed his teammates away so they would not tap him on the head, showing an apparent neck injury. We can only hope it is not serious.
The Rangers really stepped up in another big home game tonight to beat a team where wins against them have seemed elusive. The team should be happy about the win, but Lundqvist is injured and that may really effect the team in the long run, if it is not a hyper-extended muscle, and something more serious. Hopefully we will know by later tonight or tomorrow if he will start against the Penguins on Sunday. Lundqvist also continued to set a record he already owns, by winning 30 games in a season six times in a row, a record he set last season with five.
It was also good to see Rangers fans answer back with some “Ole” chants of their own late in the game. Tonight’s game had a very good intensity, that was only escalated by the presence of so many opposing fans. If every game could be this loud, it would be a real treat.
This game also proved that the Rangers do not need Sean Avery any longer. Not that Wolski did anything that stood out, but I did not once think tonight that Avery could have been useful in any of the situations that unfolded. He is clearly out of his element, and with the way he played in the game prior against the Islanders, I do not see how he fits in the rest of the way.
Finally, I was really hoping the Rangers would score at least one goal on Alex Auld, the perennial backup who always seems to kill the Rangers. He really was excellent yet again, keeping his team in it, but the Rangers got him for one at the end. I don’t know if it is just coincidence, but he always plays exceptionally well on Broadway. The Rangers will now head to Pittsburgh for one of those annoying 12:30 afternoon starts on Sunday. I am already prepared for the broadcast bias that follows every nationally televised Rangers game, the same bias that led Pierre McGuire on TSN to say tonight how Subban isn’t afraid of a fight…which is why he ran for dear life when Sauer chased after him.
Just one look at the screen shot above, taken during last night’s game between the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers, and you can tell it just has not been an easy season for the Broadway Blueshirts. Decimated by injuries ever since it was reported in September that Vinny Prospal, coming off knee surgery, would be out indefinitely, the wound has kept on getting wider. Chris Drury also injured himself during training camp, missed several weeks, came back for one game, and got injured again. Marian Gaborik has missed 14 games so far due to two separate injuries, and leading scorer Brandon Dubinsky has missed the last five with a stress fracture; the list goes on and on.
Through all of this, though, has bit a been of a blessing, because like it or not, the Rangers are rebuilding without having to actually rebuild. What is the definition of a rebuild? To get rid of all the veterans and those not hacking it in favor of giving the promising youth in the system an extended look, so that in the next season, management will know who should remain in the NHL, who will be sent to the AHL, and who will be cut all together. If you notice the eight currently injured Rangers, you will see that all of them are veterans, and all have been replaced by rookies or those not far from being rookies. Essentially, the Rangers are rebuilding because they are getting a look at all of their top youth, the only difference is, the veterans will be returning this season, oh, and they are actually playing competitively.
To think, that a team that has had six players make their NHL debut, another four join with under fifty games of NHL experience, and the “old man” on defense be 27-year-old Steve Eminger, sit in 6th place in the Eastern Conference at the All-Star Break, is not only mind-boggling, but tremendously encouraging. The rookies the Rangers are sporting are not being carefully inserted into the lineup for a glimpse, but thrust into games with a regular role because this team cannot afford to waste time analyzing.
The Rangers needed the help desperately, and they have gotten key contributions from Mats Zuccarello, who, since his call-up, has three goals and eight assists for 11 points in 17 games, including going four-for -four in shoot-out attempts. Derek Stepan, who has been with the team since the beginning of the season, has 14 goals and 16 assists for 30 points, and has become the team’s most reliable center, next to Brian Boyle who could vie for Comeback Player of the year. Boyle is looked at as a veteran, and may be on this crop, but before this season he had only 107 NHL games experience spread out over three seasons, with only 12 goals and four assists. This season, he has come up clutch time and time again, with a team-leading 18 goals, more than both teammate Marian Gaborik, and Washington Capital star Alex Ovechkin.
Dale Weise has also been a pleasant surprise because of his willingness to fight, and newcomers Kris Newbury and Chad Kolarik, who have spent a lot of time in different systems in the minors, have fit in well, but will most likely not stay once the injured players make their return.
And how about toughness? This team has never been more eager to drop the gloves and stick up for teammates until after Derek Boogaard was injured. At any given time, the Rangers can throw someone out there who will fight, even if none are “enforcer”-type material. Brandon Prust continues to have an amazing season doing a little bit of everything, while Sean Avery, Newbury, and Weise also hold their own rather well.
Last night’s loss to the Panthers was disappointing, but it was part of the learning curve for this Rangers team that just will not die. They lead the league in games on back-to-back nights, yet always prove to be a tough foe when they play. They have been excellent in third periods when trailing, which they showed last night in rallying to tie the game at three after trailing 3-1 heading into the final frame, despite losing 4-3. Resilient would be the perfect word, because as soon as someone gets injured, the call-up comes right in and plays well.
These rookies have made it difficult for the coaching staff to decide who stays and who goes. When Dan Girardi returns after the break, will it be Ryan McDonaugh or Michael Del Zotto that gets sent back to Connecticut? Ryan Callahan is also close to returning, who goes when he gets back? I think it is safe to say that Zuccarello has won his spot on the team this season because of his outstanding play and speedy footwork, so I guess the first candidates to go back down will be DuPont and Weise, with Newbury and Kolarik remaining until Fedotenko and Dubinsky return.
The Rangers finally have a young, homegrown team that we have all been clamoring for years to get. Would it be a success? That is the question we have been wondering about for all this time. I think with this recent stretch of play, the Rangers will have a bright future ahead of them. The old saying holds true, the best discoveries are made, sometimes, entirely by accident.
Just finished reading a great piece by Larry Brooks in the New York Post, where he asks Wayne Gretzky, who turns 50 on Wednesday, how his life is going and should the Winter Classic be in New York next season, would he play for them in the legends game. The Great One responded with an emphatic yes and an, “I’d be there in a minute if the Rangers had one.” If this doesn’t help sell the NHL that the Rangers should be hosting the WC next season, I don’t know what will. As someone alluded to on Yahoo, wouldn’t it be sweet to see a Rangers-Kings classic, where Gretzky suits up for Los Angeles for the first half of the game, then finishes in Ranger blue? But that does not appear to be the likely scenario, because it seems the Rangers and Flyers are the leading contenders for 2012.
This all begs me to ask the question, if Wayne is so eager to play for them in the legends game, would he play for the Rangers right now? With injuries to Dubinsky, Callahan, Christensen, Fedotenko, Boogaard, Frolov, Prospal, and now Girardi and Prust, Gretzky would be a top-flight player on this team who is featuring half of the Connecticut Whale on their roster. If you would have told me that by January, the Rangers would have peeks at Zuccarello, Weise, Dupont, Kolarik, Newbury, McDonaugh, and Williams, I would have thought you were crazy, but the Rangers have caught the injury bug this season, and no one has escaped it, including Marian Gaborik and Chris Drury who are healthy now but missed an extended period of time earlier in the season.
The Rangers four current centers are Brian Boyle, Derek Stepan, Artem Anisimov, and Chris Drury…HELP! Where would Gretzky fit into all of this, even at fifty years old? I’d say pretty damn well if you ask me. The Rangers are one of the worst teams in the league on faceoffs…do you think Wayne has slipped up in that department. And how about for goals, a category the Rangers are strapped for considering half their team is watching in the press box? I think he still has a few biscuits left in his arsenal.
So Wayne, if you are reading this and still feel ties to New York, please come and help us out! If I see Captain Clutch miss one more open net or flub one more slap shot, or lose a faceoff, because apparently, that’s the only thing his $7 million salary is paying him to do, I’ll scream. You will always be welcome here Wayne, so how about a comeback attempt?
The Rangers entered tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens coming off one of their best games of the season, which was a 1-0 win over the NHL’s best Vancouver Canucks. Unfortunately, more stagnant offense and an undisciplined penalty by Brandon Dubinsky (in retaliation for the P.K Subban slew-foot the last time these two teams met, contributed to the Rangers 3-2 loss tonight in Montreal.
- First period: The Rangers seemed to get off on the right track when Brian Boyle (15) knocked a loose puck past Carey Price a little less than seven minutes into the game. Brandon Prust had swiped at it as well, but Boyle was the last one to touch it; Girardi would also get an assist. It would be all downhill from there, as the Rangers would collapse for three minutes after failing to maintain their discipline. The Canadiens would get powerplay goals from Roman Hamrlik and Tomas Plekanec to take the lead, and then Andrei Kostitsyn would score their third goal. The Rangers failed on the two powerplay opportunities they had, as their offense was simply putrid. It has looked like this for many games, and they don’t even get shots on goal, let alone quality chances. This has to change—a peewee team would look better than they do.
- Second Period: What was a relatively tame period, aside from another two blown mad-advantages, turned very intense at the 17:47 mark. Lundqvist had been bumped into on the Canadiens powerplay minutes earlier, but then he would be completely run into by Matt Pacorietty, causing the goaltender to fall over hard into the net. With Pacioretty laying on the ice, Lundqvist got up and pounced on him, punching him numerous times until it turned into a pile-on. Brian Gionta then jumped on top of Lundqvist, and bodies were locked up everywhere. This was a play that was years in the making—Lundqvist is constantly being bumped into and remains perfectly calm while the gutless dolts this team has on defense do nothing to protect him. Pacioretty was pushed by Dubinsky, but this was something Lundqvist had to do—enough is enough. This melee came off of three amazing saves on Montreal’s powerplay. Lundqvist was not assessed a penalty for the incident, and the crowd would boo him every time he touched the puck or made a save the rest of the game.
- Third Period: For the first few minutes, there seemed to be no indication that the Rangers could come back in this game. They looked disinterested to say the least. There would be a breakthrough at the 6:57 mark when Mats Zuccarello (2) shot one in off a pass from Derek Stepan behind the net, but that’s as close as they would come to tying the game up. Lundqvist continued to be brilliant, but it was to no avail as the team in front of him could not shake their uninspired play, and the Rangers would fall 3-2.
Every game recap after a loss seems to sound the same: the Rangers aren’t shooting enough and with that comes a lack of goals. Gaborik yet again was invisible and I’m not even sure if Chris Drury is actually on the team anymore. It’s great to see the Prust-Boyle-Fedotenko line playing well, but if they are the Rangers’ best line night in and night out, the Rangers are going to start to slip in the standings. That and the atrocious powerplay is equating to some listless offensive play.
The Rangers have been very good at cycling and keeping the puck in the opponents’ zone, but that is a moot point if they aren’t getting shots through. Though the Rangers were able to put up 21 shots in the third period, it was too late. Had they kept the pressure up all game long (and stayed out of the penalty box), they would have won. The Rangers can’t seem to play more than one solid period every game, and that is a big problem.
The team will now return home for a game against the Flyers tomorrow. I would like to see Biron in net, but because it is an important game, Lundqvist may get the start on back-to-back nights. If it was up to me, Biron would have played tonight and Lundqvist tomorrow, but that ship has sailed.
The standings may show the New Jersey Devils to be the worst team in the league, but tonight, when the New York Rangers came to town, they upped their game considerably and battled hard for the entire night. The Rangers would eventually overcome them, with a 3-1 win, but it was a hard-fought sixty minutes by both teams. I stated earlier this afternoon that the Rangers could not take them lightly, and as close as the score was, I do not think that was the case. The Rangers did not play very well, but they were not terrible. The Devils, meanwhile, played very well but when you are in the midst of a season like this, the breaks do not go your way. This would be evident in the ensuing three periods.
- First period: The Devils got off to a great start by keeping the puck in the Rangers end and cracking the score sheet just over six minutes in. With Henrik Lundqvist down and a scramble in the crease, Travis Zajac shot one past Marc Staal who almost got his skate on it. This would cause some worry in the Rangers, as they were getting badly outplayed, but then Brian Boyle (14) would counter with the tying goal less than a minute later. It started in their own zone with Brandon Prust, who carried the puck out and gave it to Ruslan Fedotenko, who fed Boyle for a quick shot, that hit off the bottom of Martin Brodeur’s glove. Needless to say, it was an extraordinarily soft goal that he should have had, but the Rangers will take it. They would only muster up 5 shots in the period, but Brodeur looked shaky, and they may have scored more goals had they not been outplayed so severely. The Devils would have 16 shots and control play for the majority of the period. The Rangers were lucky to get out tied.
- Second period: As unstable as Brodeur was in the first period was as good as he looked in the second. The Rangers still did not generate an adequate number of shots, but Brodeur made several nice saves, including one on Sean Avery later in the period. The tempo of play also increased, as the game became more hard-hitting and even prompted a fight between Boyle and Dainus Zubrus, who is nothing but a gutless thug. The Rangers would end up giving up 20 more shots in the middle frame, bringing the Devils’ game total to 36, but that would not stop the Rangers from taking the lead 2-1, on a goal by Michal Rozsival (3). Stepan would get the puck to Dubinsky behind the night, who fed Rozsival at the right circle, and his shot appeared to be going wide, before it took a dramatic deflection off Andy Greene and past Brodeur short-side. Lundqvist was keeping the team in the game.
- Third period: The two teams kept playing hard, and the Rangers would get a glorious scoring chance early, with a four-minute powerplay. However, the Devils would kill it off easily and the score would remain the same. The Rangers were able to keep pressure off Lundqvist, who had a heavy workload through two periods. He would end the game with 43 saves in total, a season high. The game would wind down and Jason Arnott was just inches away from tying the it late, when he was a foot away from the crease with the puck on his stick and a wide open net, but he shot it over the top of the net and into the crowd. Brandon Dubinsky would ice the game with an empty net goal, sealing a 3-1 victory against the Devils.
The Rangers did not play a very good game tonight—it was not terrible, but I don’t think they were prepared for a Devils team who obviously had tonight’s rivalry matchup circled on their calendar. In other words, they were extremely lucky to come away with a win tonight, and thanks to a blooper first goal, a lucky bounce on the second, and some amazing goaltending, they were able to keep the Devils reeling, and winless with Jacques Lemaire as coach.
Chris Drury also had a sub-par game tonight. He took a very bad offensive zone penalty with under four minutes remaining in regulation, and luckily the team was able to kill it off. He is still looking for his first goal since his return from a broken hand.
Brandon Prust and Brian Boyle continue to be this team’s unsung heroes. They work hard every night and have developed unbelievable chemistry with their other line mate, Ruslan Fedotenko. They have become a true joy to watch on this team, and they deserve some powerplay time, while Gaborik and Co. continue to struggle just getting shots on goal.
And so the Rangers close out 2010 with a victory over their rivals. It really was not as much fun tonight, beating up on the worst team in the league, but a win is a win, and the Rangers did exactly what they needed to do.