Thursday, October 22, 2009

GameNight Tonight: Rangers-Devils II

With our hated rivals in the building, the flu on the rise, and an ugly loss to try and shake off - tonight should be fun to watch. On to the Preview:

Who The Hell Are We Playing?: Our opponent tonight is the Devil we know – the New Jersey Devils – our nemesis – that team we hate above all others. The Newark team is 4-3 so far this year, with one of those losses to your New York Rangers. If the season ended today (everyone would freak out that season ended in October and) the Devils would be the Eastern Conference's 7th seed.

Primary Skaters: NJ is led by the 7 points of left winger Zach Parise (3 G's, 4 A's) and the 7 points (4 G's, 3 A's) of center Travis Zajac. For a team leader though, Zach's goals-per-shots-on-goal are an anemic 9.1%. Not a lot of scoring here.

In Net: The one and only – most overrated goalie in the history of hockey Martin Brodeur. His save percentage this year is .903 and his goals against average is 2.68. Our King Henrik dominates in both categories with a 2.33 goals against average and a save percentage of .927

Scoring & Defense: The Devils have had trouble putting the puck in the net, much like we did last year. So far they've average 2.57 goals a game. The Rangers are faring much better this year with 3.89 goals a game. And the Devils are letting up 2.71 goals per contest while our guys have let up just 2.44 per game (and this average was much better before Valiquette forgot to show up against the Sharks this week).

Scheduling Conflicts: After back-to-back games on Friday (Atlanta) and Saturday (Carolina) where the Devils scored a pair of goals in both games – they have been given a surreal 4 days off to rest and focus their rage on the New York Rangers. We, on the other hand, have had 2 free days to try and get our mojo back after our streak-ending blowout loss to the Sharks. And the trip for the Devils couldn't be shorter – so no travel trauma is on our side this time (not that it helped last time).
Special Effects: the Devils are converting a sad 14.7% of their powerplays, good for 24th in the league. Your New York Rangers convert 26.8% of their changes, 6th best in hockey. On the Penalty Kill your Rangers, with their 6th best 85.7% success rate dominate the Devils 77.8% PK ratio (good for 16th place). So the special teams tilt toward New York.

And for your New York Rangers, Probable Lines:

1: The GAB line: (named for Gaborik) will have Gaborik-Dubinsky-and Prospal. These linemates have netted 12 goals in 9 games, but suffered their first shutdown of the season against San Jose.

2: The Classic Rangers with Avery, Drury, and Callahan put together a goal and 3 assists on Monday – a good start for a line Avery just joined.

3: The Third Line, will be changing for the third consecutive game. This time Lisin, who has scored twice in two games - moves up from the 4th line to join the frustrated Mr. Higgins and Anisimov. Kotalik will drop to the 4th line...

4: The Brash Line – Brashear and Boyle, “Pointless” last time out - will be joined by Kotalik - who is free falling from the 3rd line - and this is the last stop before exile.

On Defense – our guys took a huge step back Monday, letting in more than 3 goals for the first time this year (7 goals). But the 6 man rotation of rookies, bloated-contract veterans, and Rozy and Staal, seems to be doing the job most nights. Word is that Torts and Sather are looking for that 7th blueliner, and that 33 year old Mathieu Dandenault, the 13 year NHL vet, has signed with Hartford. So help may be on the way.

In Goal, It's got to be Hank. The bloom is off the Vali rose. Steve Valiquette after getting a shut out the first time out, was lit up like your drunk uncle on New Years by the Sharks with 5 goals on 23 shots in 2 periods. It got so bad that Hank had to suit up and rush on in for the third period – ruining his opportunity to rest. Well, there's no question who will take the MSG ice against the Devils tonight – Hank has owned the Devils and we love him for it.

Dave Puck Predictions: We'll see how well the Blueshirts bounce back from a tough loss. With Hank in the pipes, we'll give up 2 goals or less, so it will be up to the offense to get 3 or more and take this one – and I say we'll do it. But the one wild card – Gaborik and Callahan were sent home from practice with flu-like symptoms yesterday. If Gabby can't go – this is a different hockey team – but with him it says here we'll jump back in the win column.
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