As crazy and rambunctious as last night’s game between the New York Rangers and New York Islanders in the opening match of the home-and-home was, tonight was as equally subdued and controlled as a game could get, especially in comparison with such a performance the night before. Both teams would have plenty of chances, and there would be some good hitting, and of course, a fight, but the two teams only mustered up a grand total of 38 shots combined, and the Rangers were able to shutout the Islanders by a score of 2-0.
- First Period: This game would get off to a much quicker pace, though there were far less shots, compared to last night. The Islanders quickly went into what Sam Rosen referred to as a neutral zone trap, although I would hesitate to be that drastic. Nevertheless, it was effective in keeping the Rangers from generating offense, while it zapped their own offense as well. It would take the Islanders nearly fifteen minutes to register their first shot on goal, and the Rangers would exit after twenty minutes with a 6-3 advantage in shots, in what would be a scoreless first period. It is notable to mention a borderline blindside hit that Ryan Callahan made on Franz Nielson. He tried to hit him with his shoulder but ended up getting him on the side of the head with his elbow. Jesse Joensuu would quickly rush over and fight Callahan who held his own against a much bigger player. Callahan would be assessed an elbowing penalty, while Joensuu would get a minor for instigating, as well as a rarely called unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for instigating a fight while wearing a visor. The Rangers would not be able to capitalize on the powerplay then, or later in the period when some shaky officiating ensued. Jon Sim was called for goaltender interference when he was clearly knocked into Henrik Lundqvist by Steve Eminger. This call was on the heels of another questionable one, when Sean Avery recieved a minor for roughing, and then a ten minute misconduct when he questioned the call, though the replay showed he did not say much.
- Second Period: The intensity of play would increase and the pace would speed up in the second. The two teams would trade chances and then Sim was once again called for goaltender interference. The Rangers passed the puck back and forth for the majority of the powerplay, and just when it looked like they would fail again, Marc Staal (4) would come through with a slapshot from the point that found its way over the shoulder of Dwayne Roloson and through a maze of players standing in front. Derek Stepan continues his excellent all-around play and work as point-man on the powerplay, with an assist on the goal; Dubinsky would get the secondary. Three minutes later, Sim would again come close to Lundqvist, and was soon after crosschecked by Dubinsky into the boards. He did this right in front of the referee, and was assessed a penalty, but Sim would go to the box for the third time, for diving. Later in the period, the game would open up on an Islanders powerplay, when the two teams each had glorious opportunities on odd-man rushes. Dubinsky would ring one off the crossbar on a three-on-one, while the Islanders would be stopped by Lundqvist on a two-on-one. The Rangers would end up hitting iron twice in the period.
- Third Period: Really nothing noteworthy would happen in the third period until late, when Roloson was given a penalty for tripping Avery. The play would be more calm as the Islanders attempted to press. The Rangers would do a good job in keeping them to the outside, and with three seconds remaining, Brian Boyle (11) sealed the deal with an empty net goal, on assists from Dubinsky and Callahan. The final shot total would be a minuscule 21 for the Rangers and only 17 for the Islanders. This was a very important game for Lundqvist, who really did not have to work that hard to earn his fourth shutout of the season.
The Rangers really were able to have a good bounce back game after a sloppy win on Long Island last night. Tonight’s performance was not perfect by any stretch of the word, but it was more tame and controlled compared to last night. The defense for both teams came through with plenty of blocked shots.
Sean Avery continued to play well, and get under the skin of opponents. However, tonight, he was not able to stay out of the penalty box and ended up with 14 penalty minutes. Meanwhile Jon Sim continues to pretend he is even a shadow of an agitator, as the player who has been on eight teams in twelve seasons bumped into Lundqvist on several occasions.
All hope has now been lost on Alex Frolov, who was invisible yet again. He has not recorded a point in his last six games and only has one goal (his only point) since he “breakout” game against the Edmonton Oilers on November 14th, a stretch of ten games. Frolov has landed himself a spot on the fourth line, and the next stop will be as a healthy scratch. The Rangers can be thankful that he is only signed to a one year deal, and no development of youth is being impeded by his presence on the big club. His only noticeable moment tonight was a glaring giveaway in the third period.
I must also say that I was very impressed with Pat LaFontaine, who was this game’s in-studio analyst. He was very composed and intelligent and has a good on-camera personality. I really wish the Rangers would finally choose someone instead of having a different guest every week. Personally, I liked Butch Goring last season, but LaFontaine would be a pretty good replacement.
Finally, I must mention a conversation that took place between my mom and I, who overheard the game: “Are they playing in Las Vegas?” she asked. Surprised by the question, I responded, “No” and just looked at her. She then said, “They keep saying Lake Como.” I just had to sigh and reply, “No, there’s a player on the Islanders whose name is Blake Comeau.” Ah, the trials and tribulations of having a n0n-hockey fan in the family…