Saturday, January 3, 2015

Words Can Hurt – Buffalo Bench Minor Opens Floodgates For Rangers 6-1 Win

2015 is here and the Rangers are rolling.  Back at home to start the New Year – the Rangers jumped on - and blew out - a Buffalo team that had played the night before.

At 8:56 of the first period Andrej Meszaros was whistled for tripping Lee Stempniak, beginning a sequence I don’t think I’ve ever seen before in a professional hockey game (and I’ve been watching since Jean Ratelle centered the GAG line – okay?).

So a few seconds later – with the man advantage - Derick Brassard tipped the puck past Michael Neuvirth and the Rangers led 1-0.

Then things started getting weird.  Ted Nolan – the Sabres Coach – was penalized for – get this –abusive language.  Abusive language?  What does that even mean?  How was John Tortorella not called for this 3 times a night when he coached the Rangers?  Can there be a penalty for bad words?  Did he hurt the ref’s feelings?  Isn’t abusive language pretty much the way coaches talk to everyone all the time?

Whatever the explanation – the Rangers were instantly on a 2nd man advantage – a back-to-back.  And this time is was the resurgent Kreider – who broke in alone on Neuvirth – used his strength and speed to cross over through the crease - and buried the backhander to get the Rangers up 2-0.

And now it gets even weirder.  Because Kreider scored despite a hooking call on Cody McCormick.  Normally the goal would negate the penalty.  But – because the Sabres were already serving that bench minor for swearing – well, the Rangers instantly got their third consecutive back-to-back-to-back powerplay.  And that is something that yours truly has never – ever – seen before in a hockey game.  (Editor – me neither).

And of course - in the third man advantage it was Rick Nash who took a pass behind the end line – backhanded the puck to his own forehand - to Neuvirth’s left – and buried the puck for a 3-0 lead at 11:18 of the first period.  The Rangers had cashed in on three consecutive (uninterrupted) powerplays. 

And then – 76 seconds later – the Rangers added an even strength goal.  Defenseman Dan Boyle – cheating up on the left side fired the puck through Neuvirth and it was 4-0.

The rout was on – and Neuvirth was out – benched after surrendering 4 goals on the first (Editor - and only) 9 shots he faced.

So – in came Jhonas Enroth who held the score at 4-0 for the rest of the first period.  But the damage was done.  The red hot Rangers had pretty much blown the visitors out of the arena in less than 13 minutes of ice time.

In the second it was again the Rangers getting on the board first.   Hagelin circled to the front of the net and fired it straight at – well, at a Buffalo player's rear end.  The puck bounced off the Sabre posterior and right on past Enroth and it was now 5-0.

That lead lasted all of 22 seconds before Buffalo got their lone goal.  Kevin Hayes made a brilliant feed to Jester Fast at the side of the net – and Jesper shot the puck off Enroth’s left pad.  At full speed it looked like a save but slow motion showed the puck over the line before the goaltender’s leg kicked it back out. 

And so – after review it was 6-1 with 5 minutes to go in the 2nd.

And - that’s how it ended.  A great all around effort for the Blueshirts.  The Rangers outshot the Sabres 39 - 25, Henrik Lundqvist saved 0.960% of the shots that came his way.  What we have here is a team that can score – and defend – and play special teams.  It’s a winning formula and now a 2 game winning streak.

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  What do you think?  The Rangers were a huge 3 of 4 on the powerplay and a perfect 3-3 on the Penalty Kill.  This game was nearly over in the first 13 minutes.

Where Do We Stand?  The Rangers were already in the 8th playoff spot when the night started (although the Daily News seemed to think they were trailing the Caps for the final spot)(Editor – stop that – it’s unprofessional)  (Dave Pucks – that’s the point of running your own blog – if no one pays you – you’re automatically unprofessional by definition)  (Editor – good point).  Anyway – with the win we jump past the Capitals into 3rd place in the Metro – a full three points above the Line-Of-Death.  I sure wish the Capitals would start losing – but I’m sure they feel the same about us.  The Islanders and Penguins – damn them – are sitting about 7 points north of us. 

Now What?  A few days off then a western swing – beginning Wednesday night against the Ducks – who may not be Mighty by name anymore - they are by reputation – with the most points in the National Hockey League.   It will be a good test of how we’re playing this year – a phrase that may not actually mean anything.  But who’s complaining?  The Rangers have now won 11 of 12 and after a raucous New Year's Eve celebration I have managed to find my pants!  

Dave Pucks out and thanks for stopping by.

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