No, i am not drunk. I am aware the Rangers played the Canadians tonight, but they beat themselves. The canadians were a non-factor in the game, other than Carey price, and to a lesser extent Alexei Kovalev. Tremendous amount to talk about here, so get ready for a long post.
First, this game could not have been more frustrating. Montreal is an awful team right now. Amazing how much things can change in a year. One year ago today, heading into the playoffs, you could have made a case that the rangers and the canadians were the two most dangerous teams, getting great goaltending, strong penalty killing, pretty much every facet of their games were strong, each team only had one real weakness, for the rangers it was their power play (no surprise), and the canadians, it was whether a young carey price could handle the playoffs and the pressure of living up to Dryden and Roy. Now a year later, and neither team has the look of a real threat in the playoffs. With the rangers, the veterans are there, and they have a goalie that COULD win a series on his own, so if they get in, with a decent seed, maybe they can make some noise, but the Canadians? They look awful. IF they make it, and after tonight I am saying they may not, they are one and done. (I am not overly impressed with buffalo or florida. They can be great one night, awful the next. I don't think either can overtake the Canadians, the canadians have to lose the spot, and I am not sure that crowd will let them)
What an amazing crowd to play for. The montreal fans always bring such energy, the place is always exciting, even with an AWFUL effort being displayed. (Perhaps its because next to the Yankees, who no team is really "next" to, the Canadians are the greatest sports team in history and the fans are just used to winning and trying to get the team fired up, but they really create the best atmosphere in the NHL in my opinion) What an awful show by the canadians. They have been terrible of late, especially 5 on 5 where there own coaches said they have been owned. The first period the rangers were VERY average. Their play was inconsistent, and if it weren't for the FANTASTIC play of Hank, they would have been down 2-3 goals. (More on Hank later) The rangers brought nothing to the table (despite what the announcers wanted to hype up). The play was equal, equally sloppy.
(I need to pause my train of thought for a second because Stan Fischler just said, "This is one of the greatest, funnest, runs of all time that tortorella has the rangers on"....the rangers are 6-3-1 their last 10....that's solid...but not as good as their 10-1-2 to start the season, or the 9-0-2 the penguins are on currently....someone kill this guy already)
The rangers came out in the second and def picked up their level of play (I assume after getting lit into again). Once again Hank was solid. The rangers took a 1-0 lead on a nice goal by antropov. (He followed up a solid shot by drury by crashing the net, that's where goals are found) The rangers looked like they were gonna start to put the game away...then took 3 penalties, giving the canadians their 5th power play of the game, they finally scored to tie it. And somehow through 2 periods the rangers and canadians were tied 23 shots a piece, and the canadians didn't play ONE SINGLE GOOD MINUTE in the game yet.
In the third, the rangers ABSOLUTELY dominated. Outshooting the canadians 16-5, scoring 2 goals....and giving up 2 goals. Leading 2-1 Marc Staal let a puck bounce over his stick (AGAIN), which turned into a scoring chance the other way, girardi made an awful defensive effort, callahan decided to KICK Hank while he was trying to make a save, and it was 2-2. The rangers kept pressing, got a 3-2 lead, and then drury tries to get fancy with a puck he should have dumped, especially with a lead, gives up a scoring chance the other way, and Hank gives up his softest goal of the year. (Which he just called in the post game "Absolutely awful, terrible goal" and "inexcusable") From a bad angle, not much on it, hit his shoulder and bounced into the net, awful goal.
It went to a shootout, where the rangers got goals from Naslund, Antropov, and Drury to back up a suddenly shaky Hank that allowed 2 goals, and won 3-2 in the shootout, 4-3 overall.
Some of the positives:
- Scoring 3 or more: Rangers now 31-3-2 on the season
- Hank, overall an "ok" game, 26 saves on 29 chances, gets the win. He was great the first two periods, but in the third seemed to fall asleep, including the shootout, allowed 4 goals on the final 8 shots he saw. Now 6-1 last 7 games with 2.29 GAA.
Hanks game tonight reminded me about Martin "Fatso" Brodeur. Marty became the all time winningest goalie tonight, 552 wins, pretty amazing accomplishment. A friend asked me earlier tonight, with the wins, second all time in shutouts, and the 3 cups, is brodeur the greatest ever? It's tough, and the fact that he makes it tough to answer is a credit to how good he has been for how long (and hasn't shown much sign of slowing down, aside from injury this season), but right now I can't give him the nod. He is certainly one of the greatest, but unlike a guy like Roy who took multiple teams to cup victories, with different styles of play in front of him, and more offensively minded teams, Brodeur played the majority of his career in the most defensive, low scoring era in NHL history, with a team with very strong defenders who sole game plan was "do not allow shots on goal", especially in that 1997-2002 area where the devils were very good, and the rangers were in a heavy decline, it really stood out when watching a guy like mike richter, every game you would see, "Richter, 35 saves on 38 chances, rangers lose 3-2", and then you'd check the devils boxscore and see, "Devils win 2-1...brodeur with 13 saves" 13? That's it? He was getting routinely sub 20 shots per game the vast majority of games. And if you watched the devils, they were rarely tough saves. It was a team that gave away almost no chances, rarely a break away. So I think brodeur is great, but he also probably played for the most defensive minded team in the league, in the lowest scoring era ever.
But a plus for brodeur which I have said before. If you watch Hank in games where he only gets 15-18 shots, VERY RARE, but you might see him give up a weak goal or two. Most goalies would say that they prefer to see consistent shots throughout the game. It's very tough to stay on your A game, when you see one shot every 5 minutes. We saw that tonight with Hank. When the rangers took over in the third, allowing just 5 shots all period, only 2 shots the first 10 minutes, Hank looked VERY shaky, giving up his weakest goal of the year, and just losing his touch in the shootout. I would def say brodeur had the focus of an all time best goalie, because he always seemed to stay in his game regardless of how slow a night it was.
- Tortorella. This is a game they don't win under Renney, at least this year. You could tell when they came out at the beginning of the second, and especially the third, that they had had a fire lit under their asses during intermission. They have a renewed focus and energy that they absolutely didn't have earlier in the season. (Part of that is due to the influx of new players, especially avery, but still) And the one move I give Torts total credit for, Drury in the shootout. Drury has not only not been great in the shootout his two years with the rangers (and said he didn't want to be in it last year (as did Jagr...which created a bit of a problem)), but he also made the key giveaway in the third that caused the tying goal and the overtime. Drury would not have been my choice. I was preparing my "Is their a better 3-some hands wise in the NHL, then Naslund, Antropov, Zherdev?" (Scoring, sure, but pure hands, no way, no one can top that) By going back to Drury, torts wanted to make a "Your my captain, go win this game" sort of statement, and Drury delivered with the winning goal. Drury looked real fired up afterwards, got some big high 5's from the team, big goal for him and usually with a guy like Drury, that sparks a nice scoring stretch. I would absolutely put money on him scoring in 3 of the next 4 games. Also for Torts tonight, the win makes him the winningest US born coach ever. Congrats, 245 wins.
- I've been on him all year, so I will give him tonight. Redden was very strong. Despite the CONSTANT jerking of girardi and Staal by Micheletti and Rosen (despite their normally very average play), Redden was the best defender for the rangers tonight. He not only made a fantastic play to break up a 2 on 1 in the first (which girardi later butchered in the third), but he also was very effective on offense pinching in all night. He had a great deflection in OT that almost won the game, and picked up an assist on Antropov's goal. Strong game for him.
- Callahan. After just an ugly play where he rushed back on HANK, pop up slid in front of him, kicked Hank with his SKATE, and then knocked the net out of place as the tying goal was scored, Callahan rebounded, and showed why he is a young player worth hanging on to. Kept his head, kept crashing the net, this time against Price, and scored a big go ahead goal for the rangers. Strong come back for the kid.
- Antropov. The guy has been great since he arrived. (Can I really give sather credit? I mean he did f*ck up the team first right, just because he is fixing some of his screwups, can I give him that much credit?) He is a 6'6 monster with fantastic hands, that crashes the net and has been a force on the power play. He scored his 25th goal tonight, (4th with the rangers), and I'm excited to see what he could do in a playoff series. Also scored a goal in the shootout with a wrister over price on the stick side where he had NO chance. Amazing release. Very shannahan esque.
- Morris and Avery. Again, Morris, Avery, and Antropov very strong games. Avery and Morris didn't light up the scoreboard, but both were skating very well, and creating good chances, and I love Morris' shot, and avery's intensity (again, avery drawing penalties)
- So much here. The rangers as a team CARRIED the Canadians to a point in the standings. The Canadians had NO BUSINESS getting a point in that game. A team that plays that bad, in front of that crowd, should not go to postseason, but the rangers helped them along.
- Gomez...he can be so good....and so flaky. A ridiculous penalty in the final two minutes, where he had no shot at the puck and went off for a trip, could have cost the rangers the game..and their season? And then at the start of OT he throws a very ill advised pass across the middle of the ice, looking to make a play to zherdev, who was behind him, when he should have been dumping the puck. Had the canadians handled it cleanly, it's a 3 on 1 on Hank in OT. When gomez and zherdev are on the ice together, it is a "ANYTHING can happen, but something WILL happen" sort of moment. Either they are going to create a fantastic chance for the Rangers...or the other team.
- Sjostrom, Hank makes an AMAZING save to preserve a one goal lead after Zherdev just scored, and you throw the puck over the glass for a penalty that sets up the tying goal for the canadians??? That play was indicative of the entire game. The rangers would do something great, then do something awful, and would find a way to keep both teams in the game.
- Staal and Girardi. If your going to give next to nothing on offense, you have to make ALL the plays on defense, and they didn't tonight. Staal let a bouncing puck hop over his stick as he was trying to make a play off it, rather than just stopping it with his skate and dumping it, and girardi was then beat BADLY one on one to allow a goal on Hank. Not an awful night for them, but not a great one either.
Overall, the rangers got the 2 points they had to, in a tough place to play, but they gave away one. Around the league, the flyers blew a 2 goal lead to the red wings and lose in regulation (huge, that basically negates the rangers loss on Saturday, the 4 seed is alive and well). Sabres and Panthers both lose in regulation, so rangers gain another crucial game on them each, and they keep pace with Pittsburgh who won 6-2. Pittsburgh is still 2 points up, but has played one more game than the Rangers. So the opposition went 1-3-1 tonight (including Montreal), so rangers gained on 4 of 5 teams playing, good night overall.
Rangers hold the 6 seed, 2 points out of the 4 (Philly has 2 games in hand, but 2 left against rangers)
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