With the New Jersey Devils already missing Zach Parise, and it being announced prior to the game that Martin Brodeur would not be in net due to an arm injury, the New York Rangers jumped at the opportunity to get two points, and keep the struggling and wounded Devils at the bottom of the NHL standings.
The Rangers needed a bounce-back game after a bad loss at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers last night, and what they got was a solid team effort, despite being out shot 33-20, and severely outplayed in the second period, including multiple stretches of time that seemed to last two minutes, where the Rangers could not get the puck out of their own zone. Steve Eminger continued his atrocious defense, looking slow and out of place, including one mis-play in the first period that directly led to one of those stretches when the Rangers could not clear the puck. Alex Frolov was also invisible, and he had a glorious opportunity to break out of his doldrums when he was set up perfectly by Derek Stepan in the slot, with a wide open net, late in the third period, and he shanked the shot wide.
Brandon Dubinsky would continue his torrid goal-scoring pace tonight, getting the Rangers on the board seven and a half minutes into the first, on assists from Frolov and Anisimov. He would then strike again in the third period, with a shorthanded goal, and leave the game tied for first in the NHL in goals, with ten. Dubinsky’s career high in goals is 20, and he is already half way there. I do not expect him to keep up this pace, but he has been fantastic in stepping up for the injured Marian Gaborik, who may return sometime next week.
Brian Boyle would also continue his career year, when he scored his fifth, on the powerplay, with assists going to Girardi and Anisimov. This goal came with only 36 seconds remaining in the second period, and after the Devils were gaining momentum by out playing the sluggish Rangers.
Ahead to the third period, Boyle would be checked from behind by David Clarkson, who received a five-minute major for boarding. The Rangers would fail to capitalize on that powerplay, but used it as a time-kill that kept the Devils from scoring.
Derek Boogaard and the fourth line also skated a regular shift tonight for the first two period, and Boogaard himself had two scoring chances that I counted. He played a season high 6:51 tonight, and actually looked like a hockey player. Grachev received limited time tonight, but I noticed that he really is an incredible skater for someone as big as he is.
The Rangers would get their second shutout by Henrik Lundqvist, who made 33 saves including one highlight reel save on Travis Zajac in the third period, robbing him point-blank. Kovalchuk had skated down the wing and powered to the net, backhanding a pass to the front of the crease to a wide open Zajac who could not bury it.
Though it was not pretty, the Rangers continue to hang tough despite all of their injuries, including another one to Ryan Callahan last night, causing him to miss tonight’s game. Between their four injured forwards, the Rangers were missing 95 goals of production scored by Gaborik, Prospal, Callahan, and Drury last season. With Gaborik close to returning, the Rangers need to hold on just a little but longer, and they can say they saved their season very early on by hard work and playing as a team.
In the last recap when the Rangers beat the Devils, I predicted that John Maclean would be fired by Christmas. I have now changed that to Thanksgiving.