First off I’d like to thank Carp for letting the inmates run the asylum while he’s on his forced absence. I’d also like to thank Sean Mayer for filling in with the daily updates and some thought provoking posts during the week. This has been a frustrating week for Rangers fans, with the team mired in a nasty slump and the long period between games.
Ugh, now at 6 games or 0-5-1 with the Bettman charity point. This streak is threatening to undo a lot of good work the Rangers have done over the first 50 games of the season. Even if the objective of this year is to grow the young core of players, long slumps like this are never amusing for either the players and especially the fans. I personally believe that making the playoffs with this current team will at least give the core of the team some valuable experience even if it only lasts one round.
As for the game:
1) You want to believe that playing all these one goal games one will eventually turn their way. I thought before the game started that scoring first would go a long way in breaking their current slide. They were not able to get the first goal tonight, making it 8 of the last 10 games where the Rangers did not score first. The exceptions being the Toronto blow out and the loss last week to the Penguins. For a team that has been struggling to score goals and at this point probably dealing with some questions about their confidence, falling behind is not an ideal situation.
2) The first period deficit masked a reasonably strong period by the Rangers offense and a lot of that was created by the much maligned Marian Gaborik. Off the opening faceoff he looked like Gaborik from last year. Yes he missed a penalty shot (now 2 for 7 in his career) and Staal’s power play goal happened because he couldn’t bury the puck in a very open net, but if the Rangers are going to turn things around efforts like his tonight will certainly have to become the rule and not the exception. I also thought some of the best high pressure, cycling shifts the Rangers had came from his line. I liked the interview that Prospal gave after the second, I’m sure he injects some energy into the team.
3) The heavily discussed new power play format not only yielded a goal, but it also created much more pressure. The key I thought was player movement away from the puck which opens up better passing and shooting lanes. I think if this new scheme quickly yields results and becomes more of an instinctual style of play that will help spark some more scoring.
4) The second goal of the night featured a number of key plays with Gaborik leading the initial rush, Sauer pinched deep, McDonagh made a nice keep-in and Dubinsky finished with a blistering shot. Not quite the puck movement you saw the Red Wings pull off the other night, but that part of their game has been sorely lacking for a long time.
5) Speaking of McDonagh, I think some of the things we’ve been saying about Staal this year (sans the terrible giveaway on Kane’s tying goal) will be said about McDonagh in the not so distant future. He almost never get beat cleanly in one on one situations, is very strong on his skates and like the rest of the defense tonight was very active from the point.
6) I wouldn’t go so far to say that Michael Del Zotto had a terrible game. On the first Atlanta goal Anisimov was stripped of the puck from a great effort by Kane and Gilroy fell down. Unfortunately Del Zotto graduated from the Dan Girardi school of 2 on 1 defense and belly flopped on the ice. I think if you’re going to take yourself out of the play like that you better get the puck. On his penalty, it was a bad spot to lose control of the puck and you could tell that he looked very deflated after getting back to the bench. But Dan Girardi also terribly misjudged a puck that came off the end glass and Lundqvist bailed him out.
7) As for the Staal and Girardi pair, I thought Staal played his usual strong game until the careless giveaway that led to Kane’s tying goal. I thought Girardi had some difficulties with losing the puck and as I said in the previous point, he was caught standing around on an odd bounce that almost gift wrapped the Thrashers a goal if not for some heroics from Lundqvist.
8) Also, does anyone think that Girardi is becoming the Drury of blocking shots among defensemen? I appreciate that he gives up the body, but seeing him hobble around the ice can really have a counterproductive effect.
9) Lundqvist made some great saves tonight and a few bad defensive breakdowns put him in bad spots on the first 2 goals and he did as much as humanly possible to stop shots before the Thrashers cashed in on the power play for the game winner.
10) With Gaborik’s line going strong tonight, the Boyle-Prust-Avery line saw their time at even strength reduced. Avery was trying to be the agitator extraordinaire and although Torts didn’t think Ladd’s slash on him at the end of the second warranted a penalty, I have a feeling that Avery’s reputation did not help his cause.
11) Thank you MSG for the update on Crosby Concussion-gate 2011. Do you think Penguins fans will get updates about Chris Drury’s recovery from knee surgery over the next 6 weeks? Also, we understand the Knicks are broadcast on the same network but I wonder whether the Knicks game had updates of the Rangers game.
12) Due to the injuries the Penguins have sustained I suppose it was either the Fleury joke for the commercial for the Penguins game on Sunday or they could have mentioned that Jordan and Marc know some of the same people. I’m really interested to see who from the Penguins is even eligible to play on Sunday. Has this been a crazy few weeks for fighting, particularly involving goalies?
13) In the post-game interviews, Marc Staal looked frustrated, Lundqvist looked angry, Torts looked exasperated. These guys obviously aren’t happy with how things have gone the past couple of weeks and at this point you hope this motivates them to play better because this is looking like a dogfight for the last 25 games.
14) I was going to try to one-up Carp with adding a 14th, but nobody one-ups Carp.