Tuesday, December 22, 2009

And Then There Were Three (in a row!)

Well, I don't feel giddy. Any of you guys feeling giddy? I didn't think so. But still, a win is a win and a streak is a streak and it's a lot better then the alternative. And hey, we'll take it. So even if we can't get all the way to giddy – let's summon up a little holiday cheer. In fact, let me start over:

And Then There Were Three (in a row!)

Just when we had given up and left them for dead, the New York Rangers have risen up and put together their first three game win streak since October. And all three are road wins. And for the first time in a long time, we can walk down the street with a little bounce in our steps and our head held a little higher.

Now, as three game streaks go, this is not a great one. We've beaten the Islanders and then the worst two teams in hockey: the Flyers and now the Hurricane (who, like their name implies, blow) .

The formula seems pretty simple. Once again we were outshot. Once again we struggle to score. And once again our franchise goaltender is amazing and delivers us the win.

After a scoreless first period the Hurricane struck first. Sergei Samsonov snuck a wraparound past Lundqvist. And for a few seconds you got that sinking feeling.

But 28 seconds later it was tied. Dubinsky, centering the top line, won the face off. The puck went to Rozsival, and then there was a flurry of action in front of the Hurricane goal, with the puck coming to Marian Gaborik just 12 feet from the net. Gabby had one of his easiest goals of the season and the Rangers had tied it before the Carolina public address guy could even announce the Hurricane's Goal!

And 1-1 is how it stayed until Brandon Dubinsky – playing with no bandages on his hand for the first time since the injury – took a pass from Gaborik and netted a 10 foot backhander. And in the end it was Marc Staal, playing against his brother by the way – who launched a perfect 150 foot shot at the empty net in the final minute to provide the final score of 3-1. You know, after the last two games I was going to recommend that Tortorella hold some empty net practice – it had been so long since we had any leads we were getting rusty. But Staal's goal was a tough one – over a lot of traffic – to finish off a Hurricane team that still hasn't won ten games.

And here's the recap:

The Goalies: Three times in a row now that Hank faced more shots than his opponent but has won anyway. We technically got him three goals – but really, it was 2-1 until the final 33 seconds. After back to back games where we let up 37 shots on goal, this time, with Redden and Gilroy back and our opponents the worst team in the league, we reduced the shots from 37 to, uh, 31. Better, but not good.

Lundqvist saved 32 of the 33 shots fired at him, a .970 save percentage. His resurgence is the sole reason we're winning again. Cam Ward (whose name sounds made up to me) was not bad, saving 28 of the 30 shots he faced for a .933 save percentage. But King Henrik was better. I still say we should have played Chad Johnson in goal, but just like here at home with Mrs. Pucks, no one listens to me.

Special Teams: Our PK was a perfect 3-3. Our PowerPlay did not score on one attempt.

The New Veteran Rangers: The Gifted One (of course) had a goal and an assist. Prospal had an assist as well. Brashear had 2 hits, passed when he should have shot, and looked a little lost and slow out there.

The Kid Rangers: No points for the youngsters, but Gilroy returned from exile and was +1 with 2 hits in 15 minutes of ice time. Anisimov won 4 of 8 faceoffs.

The Returning Rangers: Dubinsky is starting to look like his old self with a goal, and assist, 12-of-19 faceoff wins, and a team-leading +3 on the night. Now that he's back, we're starting to realize how much we missed him. His plus-minus is better than Gaborik's. And an empty netter for Staal and an assist for Rozsival. Captain Drury, demoted to the 4th line, did win 11 of 19 faceoffs but was -1 on the night and did not get a shot on goal. Redden, who may be playing for his Ranger life right now had 2 shots, 1 hit, 1 takeaway and 2 giveaways in 16 minutes of play.

Defense on Offense: One goal and one assist for this unit.

In Conclusion: We were outhit 39 to 20, which helped a weak Hurricane team stay in this game for a long time. But, hey, it's a whole lot more fun to nit pick about victories than it is to find positives after loses.
Next Up: An off day and then, on the eve of Christmas Eve – Wednesday night – we face the Florida Panthers – the team just above us in the standings - 8th place in the east.
Where We Stand: We're still in 9th, just two points below Florida – our next opponent – although we have 2 games at hand.

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