To realistically catch the Flyers and have a shot at the 4 seed in the east (and home ice in the first round), the rangers needed to win all of their final 4 games against philly (since philly has 2 games in hand). After the depressing loss yesterday, it's not out of reach, but Rangers absolutely had to win the next 3, starting with today on home ice.
Thanks to solid Hank again, a more and more dominant avery, and a resurgent power play (which got plenty of practice) the rangers were able to overcome some tired legs, and some awful announcing by Doc Emrick, to hammer the flyers 4-1. The win moves the rangers up to 80 points on the season and guarantees they will stay in the top 8 heading into next week. It also moves the rangers 4 points back of philly for that 4 spot in the east and keeps some hope alive to attain that spot.
- Avery, 2 goals, drew a couple of penalties, and took a very debatable one (an interference on the goalie where he was pushed into the goalie, made an effort to not run him over, and it was still called. The refs were terrible all game, but for the most part it benefited the rangers, since the flyers, while the bigger team, clearly had no legs coming off yesterday and were hooking almost every minute to compensate for their lack of energy). Avery was probably the quickest skater on the ice, constantly driving to the net and putting pressure on Nitimaki. NBC did a nice job of showing Avery keeping his stick on the ice for his first deflection of a hard slap shot from Morris. Often players leave their sticks up, and try and bring them down when the shot is on the way, which is MUCH more difficult then starting low and bringing your stick up. Also having the stick low gives a guy like Morris a target to shoot for. As big of a jerk as he is on the ice (which helps him take the star player on the other team out of his game), Avery actually is an incredibly well schooled, fundamentally strong player, who happens to also be a great skater. Avery has played his "best game with the rangers" now three straight games.
- The Rangers power play was strong. They got a lot of work thanks to a ton of calls on philly (most of them deserved). Morris really looked great with his ability to not only find the open man, but to actually SHOOT when he had a lane. Antropov also scored his third goal with the rangers, second on the power play. He has very talented hands, and is a big body that plays down low. I think it would be fair to say outside of Hank; Avery, Antropov, and Morris have probably been the rangers 3 best players the last 5 games. (Gomez has been solid as well, but I give the edge to those guys)
- The rangers penalty kill was excellent again. They gave up a deflected goal in the second period, but otherwise gave up almost no chances short handed on Hank. Sjostrom and Betts are fantastic on the kill. Betts has now almost reached that special "He's overrated for being underrated" place as a player. He is one of, if not the best penalty killing forward in the league, and for the most part, announcers never notice this. So it went un-noticed for well over a year. Then finally, one announcer says it, and it immediately goes on every announcer's pregame notes sheet that "betts top penalty killer for rangers, underrated". So now every time the rangers do a game on Versus, or NBC, some announcer that has covered them maybe twice all year has to say how great Betts is on the kill to show he knows what he is talking about.
- Hank, strong per usual. Coming off a tough game in Philly, glad torts went back to him infront of the home crowd today. With the win, Hank now 5-1, 2.16 GAA the last 6 games in net (Rangers 5-2 last 7). Hank has been incredible down the stretch in each of the last 3 seasons, need to have that again.
Guys I have been on, and how they did today:
- Redden and Doobie: Neither had ANY positive impact on the game. They weren't bad though, they just didn't do much if anything. That's the way it has been with these two most of the year. Redden either is no help on the power play, lets a puck hop over his stick that turns into a goal the other way, and plays soft, OR he has a game like today where he did nothing to stand out, but didn't hurt the team. Hard to imagine 5 more years of this type of play (for 30 million dollars). Doobie on the other hand isn't washed up, he just won't realize his talent (or his talent was drastically overestimated). When he tries to be physical, he takes a penalty hitting guys upstairs with his elbows. On offense, you didn't even know he was on the ice.
- Rozsival:.......wow....just wow. That's all I can say. I don't think it is a completely absurd statement to say that was the worst game a rangers defenseman has played this year, in a winning effort. He was taking bad penalties, he missed a WIDE OPEN NET on a perfect feed from callahan rush, at the time a huge missed shot. He is playing incredibly soft, and on the powerplay, he is starting to do more and more of a Dan girardi-esque slow wrister with nothing on it towards the net in traffic that never even gets close to the goal. He makes VERY slow decisions with the puck. He looks lost. 3 more years of him and redden together at 11 mill a year is a bit of a nightmare. (Mark Streit, with the Islanders, got a 5 years, 21 million dollars deal in the offseason. Rozsival got 4 years and 20 mill. Streit was a part of a Montreal power play that led the league in goals two years in a row, and he was a huge factor why. Now he is playing great on a terrible Islanders team. Where was sather???)
Today was a huge win. Team played hard after a tough loss yesterday, gotta rest for an ENORMOUS game on tuesday in Montreal, where the rangers play has been "poor" the last two seasons.
Only game of relevance the rest of the day, Bruins at Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is hot, Bruins are skidding badly. I really can't root for a team from Boston because I have a college education and no one in my family has ever been a roofer or worked with any type of stones or bricks for a living that I know of. Also most people in my family would probably think the guy that bashes a girls head into a windshield over and over because of something she said was at fault, not the other way around (http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/03/13/many_boston_teens_surveyed_say_rihanna_is_at_fault_for_assault/) OOh well, hope pittsburgh loses.
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