Well, this is what we were all waiting for: the series of the year. While fans of the New York Rangers rooted wholeheartedly for the Florida Panthers, and, dare I say it, Philadelphia Flyers in the first two rounds, the New Jersey Devils’ fans cheered on the Ottawa Senators and Washington Capitals with a passion. All the ill-wishing was for naught, however, as it is only by destiny and the fate ordained to us by the Hockey Gods (with a little consideration for league economics; did you hear that sound at about 10:15 Saturday night? That was the thud of NBC Sports Corporation executives jumping up and down) that these are the two teams which will meet in the Eastern Conference Finals, the prelude to the Stanley Cup. These two teams met there once before, when the Rangers defeated them in seven games back in 1994, thanks to a double-overtime winner by Stephane Matteau, but that moment is long gone now, except for the Devils that hold onto the final shred: the only player still currently playing that was on either team, Martin Brodeur. That was his first full season, and now many think this one will be his last—either way, you can be sure that the Rangers would love nothing more than to see Brodeur’s career begin and end with a Conference Finals loss at their hands, while Brodeur will do everything in his power to have the last laugh this time.
With the NHL Trade Deadline less than three weeks away, the excitement and speculation is already underway, as we await yet another frenzy of trades and seeing who goes where. There are plenty of names on the block, which only adds to the suspense. I am not going to bother making predictions this year, just suggestions and observations for the New York Rangers, based on what their needs are. For a first place team, they have plenty of dead weight that they could afford to lose, and plenty of places to plug a player here and there. If they want to stay in first place and actually advance past the first round this season, the Rangers are going to have to be active. This does not mean a complete overhaul by any means (since when has Sather ever done that anyway, except for the 2004 fire-sale?) but rather a series of non-blockbusters (I hesitate to use the phrase “small deals”) that will sure up the team’s flimsy offense. Below are some options, as well as some other things we must consider:
Normally, NHL player agents go unnoticed and are out of the spotlight. We don’t know their names, or what exactly they do, but Jay Grossman is an exception to that. Being very active on Twitter and Facebook, he has made himself very accessible to hockey fans by giving information and answering questions. He works for Puck Agency, which maintains clients such as Ilya Kovalchuk and Pekka Rinne, while formerly representing stars such as Ken Dryden and Brian Leetch.
With Free Agent Frenzy right around the corner, I contacted Jay for an interview. Unfortunately, he was unable to comment on certain players that are not clients, but he still gave me some great information for my other questions. I would like to thank him for taking the time to conduct this interview, which is posted below:
JG: I can’t speak for those two, though they’ve both had great NHL careers, especially Teemu, but it is increasingly harder in this [Collective Bargaining Agreement] for players over the age of 35. Since those contracts count against the cap (regardless of circumstances I.e. injury, retirement etc.), it is hard for the salaries of those players to remain the same, not even to mention some time deserved increases. One thing I think needs to be addressed by the union in the upcoming CBA is greater protection for veteran players. In most unions, the people who have “paid their dues”, so to speak, get (and should get) their just rewards.
GC: What are your thoughts on the Atlanta Thrashers relocating to Winnipeg? What name do you think they will choose?
JG: I believe it’s unfortunate the league had to abandon Atlanta, as I think it can be a successful hockey market. Having said that, there is a ripe opportunity in Canada with the strength of the economy and tremendous interest in the game for the NHL to move a few more teams into places like Quebec, and a second team in Southern Ontario. The difficulty is in predicting the economic viability of these teams down the road, and avoiding a constant do-over in markets where the issues are temporary. I also believe the NHL has a great opportunity to expand into central Europe, taking it a step further, much like the NBA has done in China and MLB in Asia, Latin America, etc.
GC: Working as a player agent, how hectic is July 1st normally for you?
JG: Every year is different depending on the circumstances and which players are in what position. Certainly, not every year is like the last one with Ilya Kovalchuk going all the way out to completion on September 3rd! But, July 1st can be an exciting day, particularly as part of my job is to anticipate the state of the marketplace and proper fit for my client which I have discussed with him as the year progresses. When that materializes properly, as it did for us last year with Kovalchuk, Pekka Rinne, and Anton Volchenkov, there is a definite satisfaction.
GC: When one of your clients is about to get signed, describe the process the two of you have to go through in order to finalize the deal.
JG: Of course, that has changed over the years with jammed faxes close to midnight and the like. Now the process is more streamlined with e-mail signed contracts and scanners. Essentially, the club is responsible for printing the contract, we review it for any changes and then the player must sign and a mutually executed copy from the GM and the NHL is returned.
Once again, I thank Jay for this interview. It was really neat getting a chance to learn about what it is like behind-the-scenes on July 1.
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.
With the way fans of the New Jersey Devils have been acting this season, you would think they were Union Army soldiers in the middle of December 1862 with Ambrose Burnside at the helm. Okay, so Lamoriello and Lemaire are not too far off from that level of ineptitude, and that has caused fans to turn a blind eye to how terrible the team has been this season. We could sit here and joke around all day that the Devils never really had a large fan base to begin with, that aside from games against the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, no one bothers to risk their life trekking through the streets of Newark to that beacon of false hope known as the Prudential Center.
It’s a shame that with such a beautiful arena, the Devils have no one to sit inside and watch them play. They had all their glory at that crumbling piece of concrete and asbestos Continental Airlines Arena, which included three Stanley Cup victories, but at this new arena, they have only three playoff wins. If they would not mind, I would contact Mega Movers and see if they can put the stadium on a truck and haul it over to New York so the Rangers can use it. At least in their mediocrity over the years, there were still fans in the seats.
Even when the Rangers missed the playoffs for seven straight years, there was still a good amount of people who ventured down to Madison Square Garden. They might not have sold out, but they certainly had more than the average 7,000 degenerates who show up for Devils games. The reason I say that is because they are just not too bright; they seem concerned about other teams before their own. It is because they have an inferiority complex, knowing that their team is smack in the middle of the New York and Philadelphia markets. To the north is Rangers’ fans, to the south, Flyers’, and they just cannot get it through their thick skulls that no one cares about New Jersey Devils hockey. This drive to be recognized and make people think that the Devils fan base is wide-ranging is what prompted them to move to Newark in the first place, because fans could now take the train in from New York City, but what they did not realize is that there are no Devils fans in the City. Hell, there aren’t many Devils fans in New Jersey. But I applaud their management for being so considerate to Rangers fans for providing them with an easier way of transportation for three games a season.
This complex is what prompts them to chant “Rangers suck!” rather than “Let’s go Devils”. They whistle their stupid little tune and then all ten fans in attendance scream out against their neighboring rivals. This would not be so bad if it was just at Rangers-Devils games, but they do this 41 times a year. Every single game, old and young fans yell at the top of their lungs about how the Rangers suck. I guess they haven’t taken a look at the NHL standings in the recent months.
Needless to say, I am extremely happy with the way this season is evolving. The Devils sit in dead last place, the laughingstock of the entire NHL, made so by their undying summer quest of trying to lock up Ilya Kovalchuk for eternity. We have all been predicting this for many years, you know, and of course Devils’ fans wanted no part of the truth, because they thought Martin Brodeur was going to stay spry and agile into his 40′s. Now he’s 38 and he is starting to look like a 38-year-old. The unbelievable saves he made in years’ past are now easy goals, while even mediocre shots have been able to find a way past him—just ask Brian Boyle about that one.
The funny part is, it is entirely his fault. Rather than be a team player and focus on championships in later years, he has tried to play as many games as possible, only so he can own every NHL goaltending record. The Devils embarrassing playoff exits three seasons in a row, to the Rangers, Hurricanes, and Flyers have been proof of that, because Brodeur has been on of the main culprits, showing how tired he is. Looks like the Devils won’t have to worry about that this season.
Anyway, what angers me is that the fans are not sticking by to watch this disaster unfold. Even last night, at the cusp of yet another loss, there were no boo’s in the crowd. Oh silly me, that’s because there were more Rangers’ fans than Devils’ fans—poor example on my part. Instead of booing and showing frustration, fans are choosing just to not show up, but that really is not making an impact because they never really showed up to begin with. Even some of my friends, who have been fans their entire life are not even watching the games on TV. I asked one last night if he watched the game and he responded, “Oh, they were playing?” He wasn’t be sarcastic either. These fans genuinely don’t care anymore. It does not matter how bad your favorite team is, but to not turn on a rivalry game? That’s just pathetic. I have only one friend who watches them on a nightly basis. He sits in his recliner with his infant son on his lap, and a glass of hard liquor on the rocks in one hand, to try to teach his kid how to not play hockey. The glass just makes it more easier.
I tell my one friend all the time, who I always ask if he is watching, that it isn’t fair. Other teams have had seasons like this (cue the Flyers in 06/07) and fans actually stood by the team, even if they booed more than cheered. The Devils are going to be bad like this for the foreseeable future because they have no farm system, more importantly, no goaltender who can fill Brodeur’s shoes (before you bring up Jeff Frazee, let’s be real here), and half the aging veterans have no-trade-clauses. In other words: you’re stuck. The Devils enjoyed success for so long, which you could argue was false success because of their boring, trapping ways, but it was success nonetheless. Now they are having a bad season, their first since 1996 and fans can’t take it. They are showing what kind of fans they truly are, and what they have been all these years.
The New York Rangers did exactly what they needed to do on Monday night, when the lowly Islanders came to town. The 29th place Islanders had actually mounted together a couple of wins, and since they always play the Rangers tough, they could not afford to be taken lightly. After the first twenty minutes of play, it looked like the evening was slated to be a classic game in which the Rangers played down to an inferior opponent, as the score was 2-2 and both goals they allowed were soft. However, when push came to shove in the next forty minutes, the Rangers were able to pound the Islanders into submission with a 7-2 defeat.
The Rangers, who lost the first meeting of the season between the two teams, before sweeping a home-and-home series earlier this month, had not blasted their crosstown rivals with a score like that in some time, because whenever these two teams meet, records seem to have no bearing. The last few seasons, when the Islanders have been bad, they always seem to play well against the Rangers. Meanwhile, in the mid-2000′s, when the Rangers were bad and Islanders were good, it was the Rangers who carried the play most of the time, including a six game season series sweep in 2003/04.
Tonight, the New Jersey Devils will be their opponent, a team that sits in last place in the league, with a horrendous 9-24-2 record and a -51 goal differential. The superstar they acquired this summer, Ilya Kovalchuk, has only eight goals and ten assists, and is a mind-numbing -26. The Rangers, if they want to succeed tonight, will have to look at this team as the Devils of old. They must not see their poor record or nonexistent offense which averages less than a goal per game. They must not see Martin Brodeur as an aged, mediocre goaltender with a 5-17-1 record, with a goals against average over three, they must see him as the winningest goaltender in NHL history.
The Rangers have a bad habit of playing poor against poor teams, but a Rangers-Devils game is anything but ordinary, and now that Brodeur is back, you can expect Sean Avery to be mixing it up with him as he usually does, and add David Clarkson to that as well. The Rangers need every point they can get if they want to continue this surprising run. They cannot afford to take a game off against the worst team in the league. They must attack them like they attacked the Islanders, and show no mercy. The Devils will be looking to play spoiler, and see a better Rangers team go down, but they cannot let that happen.
Henrik Lundqvist needs to be on top of his game, while Marian Gaborik needs to build on his performance Monday night, where he scored a goal and added an assist. I would also like to see Chris Drury rewarded for his hard work since he returned from injury, with a goal. Alex Frolov finally looks to be skating with a jump in his step, and they will need that the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Mats Zuccarello has been flying all over the place, showing some skill and even taking the body. I expect him to remain with the team for the rest of this season.
I originally published this in December of 2009 for my old blog, Metro-Hockey. I sent it around to a few people and it was actually NHL analyst and 100 Ranger Greats co-author Russ Cohen who enjoyed it so much, he asked for my address so he could send me a “reward”. Turns out, about a week later, an Eric Lindros jersey card showed up in the mail. I could not help but laugh when I saw it, though it did contribute to my rather large memorabilia-card collection. It’s amazing that even though this is from last season, some of these still hold true. I hope you enjoy!
On the first day of Christmas, my season ticket rep gave to me, a coach that made me miss Tom Renney.
On the second day of Christmas, my season ticket rep gave to me, two Voros punching bags, and a coach that made me miss Tom Renney.
On the third day of Christmas, my season ticket rep gave to me, three softies let in by Lundqvist, two Voros punching bags, and a coach that made me miss Tom Renney.
On the fourth day of Christmas, my season ticket rep gave to me, four announcing Rosen’s, three softies let in by Lundqvist, two Voros punching bags, and a coach that made me miss Tom Renney.
On the fifth day of Christmas, my season ticket rep gave to me, FIVE SHOTS GONE WIDE! Four announcing Rosen’s, three softies let in by Lundqvist, two Voros punching bags, and a coach that made me miss Tom Renney.
On the sixth day of Christmas, my season ticket rep gave to me, six Rozsival’s falling, FIVE SHOTS GONE WIDE! Four announcing Rosen’s, three softies let in by Lundqvist, two Voros punching bags, and a coach that made me miss Tom Renney.
On the seventh day of Christmas, my season ticket rep gave to me, seven Gilroy’s pinching, six Rozsival’s falling, FIVE SHOTS GONE WIDE! Four announcing Rosen’s, three softies let in by Lundqvist, two Voros punching bags, and a coach that made me miss Tom Renney.
On the eighth day of Christmas, my season ticket rep gave to me, eight gallons of agita, seven Gilroy’s pinching, six Rozsival’s falling, FIVE SHOTS GONE WIDE! Four announcing Rosen’s, three softies let in by Lundqvist, two Voros punching bags, and a coach that made me miss Tom Renney.
On the ninth day of Christmas, my season ticket rep gave to me, nine Gaborik hat-tricks, eight gallons of agita, seven Gilroy’s pinching, six Rozsival’s falling, FIVE SHOTS GONE WIDE! Four announcing Rosen’s, three softies let in by Lundqvist, two Voros punching bags, and a coach that made me miss Tom Renney.
On the tenth day of Christmas, my season ticket rep gave to me, ten Michelletti exaggerations, nine Gaborik hat-tricks, eight gallons of agita, seven Gilroy’s pinching, six Rozsival’s falling, FIVE SHOTS GONE WIDE! Four announcing Rosen’s, three softies let in by Lundqvist, two Voros punching bags, and a coach that made me miss Tom Renney.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, my season ticket rep gave to me, eleven Eklund Kovalchuk predictions, ten Michelletti exaggerations, nine Gaborik hat-tricks, eight gallons of agita, seven Gilroy’s pinching, six Rozsival’s falling, FIVE SHOTS GONE WIDE! Four announcing Rosen’s, three softies let in by Lundqvist, two Voros punching bags, and a coach that made me miss Tom Renney.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my season ticket rep gave to me, twelve Crosby’s crying, eleven Eklund Kovalchuk predictions, ten Michelletti exaggerations, nine Gaborik hat-tricks, eight gallons of agita, seven Gilroy’s pinching, six Rozsival’s falling, FIVE SHOTS GONE WIDE! Four announcing Rosen’s, three softies let in by Lundqvist, two Voros punching bags, and a coach that made me miss Tom Renney.
In case I can’t get on here tomorrow to wish everyone a formal Christmas greeting, I would like to extend to all of my readers and their families the very Merriest of Christmases!
It’s a shame that the blame for this disastrous season of New Jersey Devils hockey will rest on the shoulders of a man who once was a fan favorite as a player for this team, one who scored nearly 350 goals while wearing the red, white, and black [and green]. John Maclean is in his first year as a head coach in the NHL, and he is finding out that games are not like the AHL, where it’s okay if the team loses, as long as the players learned something along the way. In the NHL, the big show, games are about winning—something the Devils have done only five times out of 20, and only once on home ice.
The blame can really be thrown in any direction: an aging Brodeur, a shoddy defense, an injury plagued start to the season, or perhaps even a cancerous acquisition in Ilya Kovalchuk, but nevertheless, it is John Maclean who will take the blame, for even though you can use any one of these aforementioned excuses, this team should not be this bad. They have not even been bad, that has been an understatement. Devils teams of the past who were based on 95% defense and 5% offense still found a way to average more than two goals a game, something that the Devils have not even come close to. They have scored a minuscule 36 goals in 20 games—it’s a miracle they have even won five games with that number. In return, they have also given up 65 goals, an amount that does not lead the league, but might as well since it is so disproportionate to their amount of goals scored.
Their goaltending, which has always been their one, true consistency, is in shambles. Martin Brodeur has been injured twice now, including this recent spell that will have him out the next two weeks. His stats this season are 4-10-1 with a goals against average of 2.74. I could jump on the wagon and say Brodeur was never that good to begin with, his numbers a product of a trap defense that had him facing only 20 shots a night, but for now, I will leave that alone as more attention does not need to be brought upon it from someone who is not a Devil’s fan—they can now see it for themselves. What does Brodeur have left to play for, exactly? He has three Stanley Cups, four Vezina’s, and almost every single goaltending record in the book. The drive towards those records reflected a player only playing for personal statistics found on the back of a hockey card, and not playing for his team, something that is so evident when looking at the amount of games he would play during the course of the season, an amount leaving him so tired that his team would be bounced out of the first round of the playoffs in embarrassing fashion. But that’s okay, he’s still the winningest goaltender in history. Keep telling yourself that, Marty.
Johan Hedburg, the Devil’s backup whose signing was praised as the next best thing since sliced bread, has been atrocious this season. His record is only 1-2-1, but his GAA is a bloated 4.53, and the Devils look like they will now be relying on call-up Mike McKenna to hold down the fort until Marty the Magnificent can make his gallant return. With no amazing prospects in the farm system, aside from Jeff Frazee who is said to be solid, the Devils are empty in the goaltending department, and should consider drafting one this season with their first round pick. But they will have to choose wisely, because one of the picks will be taken away by the NHL as punishment for the Kovalchuk fiasco.
As for Ilya Kovalchuk, I already said previously that the Devils had 27 games last season to see what he would bring, in terms of putting extra fans in the seats and developing chemistry. What they got was a point per game player, but nothing outstanding. He continued to be his same old self, being lazy on defense and pretending to not know what backchecking is. The truth is, to write about Ilya Kovalchuk would be cause for a separate article as his season has been a microcosm of the Devils: all promise, and all fail. Remember during the preseason when the Kovalchuk-Zajac-Parise line was tearing it up and scoring two goals a game? Remember when The Hockey News picked the Devils to finish in fifth? Parise’s injury cannot be why this season has gone by the wayside. Kovalchuk is a six-time 40 goal scorer—you don’t score 342 goals before reaching age 28 by being terrible. No, the blame will rest on the shoulders of coach John Maclean, who has not been able to motivate this team.
It is worthy of mention that last night, as the Devils were having yet another loss handed to them, Maclean could be standing on the bench with his arms crossed and shaking his head, the obvious frustration strewn all over his face. But unfortunately, shaking your head does not translate into anger with your players. I am not one to advocate a coach having a conniption, but if there is a team in the league that needs such a wake up call, it would be the Devils. Had it not been for the New York Islanders losing twelve in a row, and the Edmonton Oilers stuck in the middle of a rebuild-and-learn season, the Devils would be occupying last place all by themselves. But still, this team is not so bad that they should be playing like this.
Jacques Lemaire coached this team to their best regular season in franchise history last year, winning 48 games. What thanks does he get? He was booed out-of-town because fans were sick of defensive hockey. “Give us run and gun!” they said, begging Old Lou for an offensive minded coach, and this preseason, fans got their wish when the Maclean-lead Devils were tearing through opponents on the score sheet. But when the regular season started, that all went away. The team did have the offensive tools in Parise, Kovalchuk, Zajac, Elias, Rolston, and Arnott, but the defense was just not there to protect the team’s 38-year-old goaltender. The goals against mounted while the goals for went down, to compensate for the lost defense. Maclean is now left there with no options to go to. He cannot spark his superstar, because Kovalchuk is now in one of his frustrated moods, and he cannot wait for Parise to return, because it will be too late.
If the Devils want any hope at salvaging this season, they will need to fire John Maclean. When they get healthy, they are just one large winning streak away from coming close to contention, and then one more from surmounting the deficit they have created. It may sound crazy, but the Devils are not done yet—every season we sit back and say that this is the year they miss the playoffs, and every year they make it. This season we said nothing, and look at what has happened. The Devils are one team that can still salvage this season, but they will need a new coach. There are not many options out there, but I can think of one that absolutely makes sense, and that is Bob Hartley. The ex-Avalanche and Thrashers head coach has Stanley Cup experience, has coached Kovalchuk in the past, and most importantly, plays a defense-first style. Devils fans may shudder at that phrase “defense-first”, but look at where it got you: three Stanley Cups and the top of the league’s respectability (before angering the league with the Kovalchuk situation).
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.
If John Maclean is still coaching the New Jersey Devils at Christmas, he can consider that to be his big gift for the holiday season. One night after he alienated the team’s superstar, Ilya Kovalchuk, by scratching him for no apparent reason, the team came out tonight against the New York Rangers looking flat as ever for the majority of the game.
However, if the Devils can somehow find a way to play the entire game like they did the last ten minutes tonight, then Maclean’s job will be safe. The Rangers controlled play in the first, dominated in the second, played even for the first half of the third, and then the Devils finally woke up late, and the Rangers were barely able to hang on.
After a scoreless first period in which the Rangers had plenty of chances with no goals to show for it, Michal Rozsival would get the Blueshirts on the board with a slapshot from the point that sailed over Brodeur’s shoulder. The goal was originally credited to Ruslan Fedotenko, after it look like the puck deflected off of him, but later replay showed that it hit a Devils defenseman. Fedotenko would still get an assist, and Avery would get the other one, bringing his season total to five.
With eight minutes remaining in the second, Ryan Callahan would net his first of the season, on the powerplay, when he redirected a Brandon Dubinsky wrist shot. Michal Rozsival would pick up an assist on the play, giving him two goals and four assists on the young season.
As the third period wound down, the Devils would finally wake up. Their play accelerated before they finally broke through on Henrik Lundqvist. Ilya Kovalchuk would redeem himself with a tap in goal on a pass from Dainus Zubrus. The score would get to 2-1 before Brandon Dubinsky would ice the game with an empty-net goal with just one second on the clock.
The Rangers played a decent game except for certain stretches in the third. With the scoring chances they had, they should have scored more than three, but they will settle for the win. Henrik Lundqvist was great and made key saves with time winding down to preserve the lead for the Rangers.
Rozsival also continues his solid play on offense, though his defense has been shaky of late. Michael Del Zotto also had a great game tonight, blocking a pass on an early Devils 2-on-1 break.
This is now the third win in a row for the Rangers, and their first on home ice this season. Their next game will be Wednesday night at home against the Atlanta Thrashers.
Also, check out this really awesome video of Del Zotto breaking a camera when his shot deflected and went into the netting: