This game began looking like the early-90’s Roger Neilson-led Rangers against the mid-90’s Jacques Lemaire-led Devils—it was just that boring, but the New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues were able to put together some solid entertainment from the second period and on, as the Rangers skated to a 2-1 victory tonight in St. Louis. It was not necessarily a bad game, but neither team was too sharp early on, and it was not a masterpiece, but the Rangers were able to win their third game in a row, once again without the help of Gaborik.
- First period: Everything that hockey should be was nowhere to be found in the first twenty minutes. There were no glaring scoring chances, no big hits, no nice passes, just nothing but boring and slow hockey. The total shots on goal for the period were 6-2 in favor of the Rangers. They did find a way to blow two powerplay opportunities, though, while being able to kill off one of the Blues’.
- Second Period: The Blues would open the scoring a little more than two minutes in, when Brad Winchester redirected an Eric Brewer shot past Martin Biron, who had no chance on the play. The Rangers would even the score seven minutes later, on a beautiful passing play by Mats Zuccarello, who found Derek Stepan (12) streaking to the net, before he shot the puck between the legs of Jaroslav Halak. Stepan remains third in the league in rookie scoring. Six minutes after that, Sean Avery (2) would finally snap his 35-game goal scoring drought when he tapped home a rebound off a Marian Gaborik shot. Originally, it was thought that Gaborik had scored the goal, but after looking at the replay, the puck went off Halak’s shoulder, then off the crossbar before floating even with the goal-line, for Avery to knock in. I somewhat predicted Avery’s goal on Twitter, when early in the first period, I said, “I say Avery scores a goal tonight. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sooner or later.” Dubinsky would end up with an assist on both goals, giving him 20 on the season.
- Third Period: This would be much like the first period, only it was the Blues who controlled the play for most of the time. The Rangers had a hard time even entering their zone for the first half of the period, and had to kill a double-minor to Sean Avery near the midway point. They were able to hold St. Louis to only one shot on goal in the four minutes, and only eight for the period, despite spending most of the period in their own end. With the Blues pressing late, David Backes would take a bad cross-checking penalty with under a minute to go, and the ensuing faceoff in their end would kill any hopes of a rally, and the Rangers would finish with a 2-1 victory.
Martin Biron may have only faced 25 shots, but he was superb tonight. He made several key stops in the second period, and more in the third. He was very steady and had excellent rebound control. The move to play him tonight instead of the hot-hand in Lundqvist was questioned by some, but this is why Biron was brought in—to play in, and hopefully win the second of back-to-back games. (By the way, he is also a fantastic talker. What a post-game interview this guy gives!)
The Rangers powerplay was futile once again tonight. It’s almost comical that they get better scoring chances while shorthanded than with the man advantage. As nice as it is to score a shorthanded goal, or rush down the ice and get a good chance, their powerplay is in trouble. As I said earlier today when I called out Gaborik, he and the team as a whole need to shoot more—it is that simple.
Not related to the team’s play, would the Rangers consider replacing Joe Micheletti with Kevin Weekes, who filled in with the HNL crew tonight? Every time I see him, whether on MSG or a Canadian Network, he always sounds intelligent and his commentary is spot on. In other words, he is not a bumbling, nonsensical fool like Micheletti. He and Sam Rosen would work well together.