I really wrestled with how I wanted to analyze yesterday’s game. You know why. It was a good win over a good opponent (although Boston has been struggling) in which the Rangers scored four goals, which used to be a week’s worth.
But, you know …
If John Tortorella thought the Rangers “wet their pants” then how would he describe what Bruins backup goalie Manny Fernandez was doing all day long?
And while I mentioned after the Islanders game that some of the greats of the game live by the “don’t critique the wins” belief, it’s hard not to wonder if the Rangers lose the Boston game 3-1 against an average goalie. Then, how do we judge the way they played if they lose that game 3-1, or even 3-2, allowing the two third-period goals as they did?
So the Rangers go on the road for the next three, still in the tightest and most tenuous of playoff positions. They need to continue to get points (and to prevent their opponents from getting points) the rest of the way. A two-game streak either way can mean the difference between sixth and ninth place.
So, while trying really hard not to be negative over three straight wins against two lousy opponents and one lousy goalie, here’s a review:
1) You’ve got to be happy that the captain is showing a little fire. Chris Drury dropped the gloves after what he perceived to be a cheap shot. He was mad, and mad is good sometimes. I think Drury’s an OK captain, by the way. I know a lot of you guys want him out, or not to wear the C. But I don’t think his leadership is the problem. It’s been his performance on the ice. You can’t lead when you play poorly. You have to maintain a certain excellence before others will follow. Drury’s game is clearly on the rise.
2) The power play isn’t just scoring, but it is also creating. There are more open one-timers being fired per two minutes than there had been for games. Nik Antropov can fire it, but he gets a little Kovalevian sometimes, looking to make a perfect play or perfect shot.
3) I think way too much is being made out of Sean Avery’s return, by everyone. NBC is promoting its next Rangers telecast as “Sean Avery and the Rangers against the Flyers.” For gosh sakes, he’s a third liner. That said, Avery has had a solid impact on both of his games back. And he’s a pretty good hockey player. In other words, he does simple things that all players should do, or don’t do nearly enough, like fire bad-angle shots at the net when the options are limited. He did that twice Sunday, and they resulted in a near-goal and a goal. As for his penalty in the last minute, sorry everybody, but that is the correct call. That was the definition of interference.
4) I love the “donate blood” signs in the penalty boxes at MSG.
5) Boston sure brought out a physical challenge, and the Rangers answered it.
6) The Rangers’ aggressiveness will allow some chances, and we saw that off the opening faceoff, when Drury had to take a penalty to prevent a 2-on-1, and we saw it again on one of Boston’s goals (of course it was Wade Redden trapped pinching).
7) Once again the Rangers allowed a goal shortly after they scored one, a season-long problem. And later, nearly another.
8) Good to see Mark Recchi can still “embellish” with the best of them.
9) I know Pierre McGuire for a long time, and so I don’t feel the way a lot of you do about his work. But it really irritates me when he repeatedly starts his comments with “Edzo …”
So it’s on to Raleigh and Nashville (did you older fans ever think you’d hear that) for the Rangers. Tonight is a Versus game, which means a lot of us will be listening to Kenny Albert and Dave Maloney on the radio.
I’ll try to check in later.
Yup, it’s Valiquette in goal tonight. First time since the debacle in Dallas. He beat Carolina Jan. 27, in the win before the big slump began.
CORRECTION: Should read his first start since the 10-2 loss in Dallas. He appeared in relief vs. Flyers.