Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Return Of The King: Rangers Score 2 – Hank Does The Rest

I said on Thursday that a shut out win would go a long way toward restoring Tortorella's faith in Henrik Lundqvist and Hank's faith in himself. And well, the Rangers got within 59 seconds of doing exactly that. But despite Boyle missing an empty net and Hank missing a 49 foot slapshot by Jason Pominville at 19:01, the Rangers held on to win 2-1, ending their 3 game losing streak with a big time road win against a good hockey team that had won 4 straight.

The win was good, but what was great was the way we looked while doing it. The Rangers played one of their most complete games of the season. As far as I could see they let up no odd-man rushes, protected the puck, defended their zone, and disrupted the neutral zone. We won the faceoffs 33-22, outhit the Sabres 18-12 and had only 8 giveaways to Buffalo's 24.

And even though Hank once again let up a big goal late – his overall level of play was spectacular. And if Hank can play well – the sky is the limit for this team.

On to the Happy Recap:

The Goalies: Vintage Hank. Even though Buffalo's Miller had a .938 save percentage – Hank outplayed him and that was the difference. King Henrik had a .973 save percentage, stopping 36 of the 37 shots he faced – including several high on the glove side. And although he let in a stoppable one in the final minute – he was super overall and was the difference last night.

Special Teams: A draw. We were 0-2 on the Powerplay and 3-3 on the Penalty Kill. All the goals were at even strength.

The New Veteran Rangers: Marian Gaborik did not score tonight – which is almost a news item – but he did grab an assist with a beautiful set up for Chris Higgins. And Higgins finally scored his 3rd of the year. I'm really happy to see Higgins score – maybe this will cheer the poor guy up – he always seems to take every missed shot so hard. And in his Ranger debut fresh off the waiver wire, center Erik Christensen won 5 of 6 face offs and did okay for a guy who hasn't played in two weeks. His arrival means that several other players could play their natural positions. He was once a good shooter – so maybe this guy can surprise us and stick. He'll certainly get an audition here.

The Kid Rangers: You know, on defense, with Wade Redden still hurting, we're half rookies now, with the K-man (Heikkinen) playing his first big league game. 9:27 of ice time, one hit, and an even plus-minus. Not a bad start. Anisimov, playing his first game on the top line – had an assist as well.

The Returning Rangers: A huge goal for Callahan to make it 2-0 in the third – off a shot from Avery that was pretty much a pass off the goalie's pads. Avery got the assist and Marc Staal collected one as well. And Chris Drury was everywhere – especially on the faceoffs where he was 13-8.

Defense on Offense: One assist for this unit. But they played real defense last night – so no complaints.

In Conclusion: To quote my son, 11 year old Pucks Junior: “Yay”!

If we can play like that every night and if Hank can find that old Lundqvist magic inside him, this team can be very very good.

Of course, we were playing a team that was much more tired than us – and a team that has trouble scoring. But the Sabres are way above us in the East Conference standings and we beat them on the road – outplayed them badly for most of the game. You can nit pick about the late goal but the bottom line is we played well in all aspects of the game and we won. And after losing 3 straight – that feels mighty good.

Next Up: No rest. We return home to play the Detroit Red Wings Sunday night.
Where We Stand: We're 14-13-1 now and have moved up to 9th place as I write this. We're tied with the Islanders – how can that be? - and 1 point below the 8th place Lightning.

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