Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mr. Smith comes to Gotham

26-7-4. First Place in the NHL. Unbe-freakin-lievable. The Ranger bandwagon rolls on with a 2-1 ShootOut win over the Phoenix Coyotes last night at Madison Square Garden.

You have to admire the Coyotes. Outshot 32-19, out face-off-ed 33-14, and out hit 39-29, they hung in, keeping the Rangers off the board for the first two periods and fighting back for the equalizer in the third. And the reason was one guy: goaltender Mike Smith

Smith was stupendous and kept Phoenix in the game. Through 65 minutes of ice time he out-saved Hank with a save percentage of .969% to Lundqvist's .947%.

The key moment - in the last 2 minutes of overtime Marian Gaborik swooped in alone and Aucoin hooked him from behind. The refs blow (the whistle).

Penalty Shot!

And it all came down to Gabs and Smitty. The Gifted One pulled a triple move, leaving Mike Smith sprawled on his back - flailing his stick handle at the left post as Gaborik lifted the puck...

In retrospect - Gabby may have been too cute. Had he just slid the puck along the ice it would have ended the contest. But Marian anticipated a low stick and lifted the puck. Smith anticipated Gabby's anticipation and kept his stick handle off the ice. The result....

"Thwack." Smith's stick handle found the puck.

Play On!

And play on they did - right up to the shootout.

In round 2 - Radim Vrbata broke through with a perfect 10 foot backhander that beat Hank and the Rangers were suddenly down to their final shot.

And - once again - it was Marian Gaborik one-on-one with the game on the line. The G-Man skated full speed at Smith - most likely unnerving him - but certainly getting his full attention - as he launched a 12 foot wrister that tied the shootout at 1.

After that it was scoreless until the 6th round - when Derek Stepan did what I think everyone should do on shootouts. He pulled up and shot from 13 feet out - and scored.

So it came down to the Coyote Captain and the Swedish King. Shane Doan put it on net - Hank stuck out his pad - and the Rangers had won their 7th straight contest.

There was one regulation goal - for Feds - which nearly won the game for us - and assists by Boyle and the speedy Hagelin.

Another night – another way to win.

Enjoy the standings folks. We haven't been this high up this late in the season since the mid 1990s.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

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