CHAD! We've been talking up this young man all season - saying he needed a longer look in camp - lamenting that he didn't make the team - commending his promotion over Valiquette - and begging Tortorella to start him more. And well, it may have taken a stomach flu by Lundqvist - but the kid finally got a few chances. And after Saturday nights rough first period - the kid has been superb. Just one goal in his last 5 periods - and that only came after he lost his stick. (Very classy move by a visibly ailing Henrik Lundqvist to skate out to Chad after the game to congratulate him and give him the game puck from his first-ever NHL win.)
But it's not just his saves. There’s something about the kid's manner - the deliberate movement - the poise - that seems to calm down his team. Now - make no mistake - we still think Hank is the best Ranger goalie ever - but Chad can be a huge asset as a change of pace - and to give Henrik the rest he needs to be at his best.
MARIAN! The Gifted One finally got back on track - producing nothing less than the entire Rangers offensive output - three goals - and showing us why he's an elite player. How could you not love this guy? With a hat trick on the books and an empty net to shoot at - Gaborik was looking to feed his teammates to give one of them a goal.
MARC! And Marc Staal played a tremendous game. Huge minutes - great defense - and 2 assists to top it off. His best night as a Ranger.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves:
The Goalies: The numbers tell the story. The Rookie Chad Johnson stopped 34 of 35 shots on goal - for an amazing save percentage of .971. Colorado's Anderson saved only 31 of 34 and that was the difference.
Special Teams: The Zebra-men called 12 penalties last night - giving each side 6 powerplays. And our result was our usual mixed bag. The PK has been excellent - stopping the Avalanche in all six tries - but the PP was pointless again. The game was won at even strength.
The New Veteran Rangers: - well one of them in particular - took over the game. It was Marian Gaborik's 10th career hat trick - but his first as a Ranger - and man, did we ever need this one. The Gifted One was everywhere - supplying our whole offense and putting the team on his back. Prospal had two big assists - one of them a beautiful no-look backhand pass from behind the net right to Gabby's stick on the edge of the crease. If Vaclav (that's his name) and Marian can get hot together again - they sky is the limit for this team.
Your Returning Rangers produced as well. Sean Avery assisted on the first goal. And Marc Staal had a career night - playing almost half the game - shutting down whichever Colorado players were in his path - and earning 2 big assist on Gaborik's 2nd and 3rd goals.
The Kid Rangers helped with an assist by Artem Anisimov. We noted that Del Zotto was kept off the ice for much of the 3rd period - but with his plus-minus you can understand why.
Defense on Offense? Two assists.
In conclusion: We really needed this one. And to the Ranger’s Credit – we rose up and got it.
Firing The Cannon: The Rangers just about completed a trade to remove Ales Kotalik from the lineup. Kotalik – who has a cannon-like slapshot but a plus-minus that was like an anchor around the team’s neck – has been sent home awaiting the final announcement. The reported deal was to Calgary for Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust – with Kotalik being sent along with either Chris Higgins or an unnamed defenseman (please God, let it be Redden – or Rozsival). But the trade wasn’t finished yesterday – and now we’ll have to see if it ever happens at all.
Next Up: The Western road trip concludes in Los Angles Tuesday against the Kings at 10:30 NY time.
Where We Stand: In the middle of The Clump the win boosts us back from 12th to 8th. We're tied in points for 6th and 3 points out of 13th.