I’ll link later to my game story … which was about how there’s always these goofy swings in Rangers-Isles games, and how the Rangers survived the lows by going back to basics — down low, straight-ahead play. They do it after bad periods. They do it after bad games (see: California trip last week).
It is another one of those characteristics of this Rangers team. They are low in top-end skill, their best offensive player is having a bad year, their goalie hasn’t had his best season by any stretch, they’ve had a lot more injuries than they’ve had in years, they are learning on the go with a very, very young defense. And yet they impress.
1) I was just starting to wonder about Bryan McCabe. I get it that he’s a good team guy, that it never hurts to have a veteran back there, that he’s got a little edge and a lot of experience. But they brought him here to get booming shots on the net, and before last night, he had 13 shots on goal in seven games as a Ranger and six of those had come in one game. And I understood that in some of those games, the Rangers didn’t get a lot of PPs. But still … then he goes and fires all those big shots last night, and makes a good defensive play in a big spot.
2) I love that wheel play, or rotation play, or whatever they call it, that they used on the power play goal by Christensen, and have used a few times this season with success: Where Staal on the left point moves the puck across the ice and goes to the net, and a forward rotates to replace him on the point and gets it back for a shot with traffic. Of course, it still took a great pass from Zuccarello and a good shot by Christensen and you can’t do it on every power play or teams will simply take it away. Plus, the whole thing goes in the toilet if you lose the draw, and Dubinsky won it.
3) Speaking of which, Dubinsky had another interesting game. Some really good things. Some pretty lousy things. The two plays where he gave up the puck at center then lost his man in the slot for an Islanders goal was particularly bad. But he played a hard game, won that big faceoff, did some cycling, stood up for teammates. The usual good stuff. He needs to erase some of the bad to get back to where he was in the first half. But his line, especially Anisimov, and Callahan were integral in the Rangers getting untracked after the two Islanders goals.
4) Michael Sauer=Monster.
5) Henrik Lundqvist seems to be thriving on the work, doesn’t he? He was so much better than Montoya last night … and he should be. He’s been very, very good lately. A great sign.
6) Of all the MSG faithful’s Islanders taunts: “Season’s over,” “We want Fishsticks,” “1983,” even some of the old, old Potvin chants, my personal favorite is still when they do the mock Nassau Coliseum “Woooo” thing after a Rangers goal.
7) Speaking of which, read an interesting blog item from Andrew Gross that I missed yesterday. Seems Ryan McDonagh, who was born a decade after Denis Potvin took out Ulf Nilsson’s knee, thought the “Potvin Sucks” chant was aimed at “the goalie” … meaning Felix Potvin.
8) Marian Gaborik is flying in the two games since being reunited with Erik Christensen and Vinny Prospal, and so are they. Sometimes you can’t explain chemistry. Christensen sometimes is a fourth-liner, or a healthy scratch, and yet at times — several times the last two seasons — he’s absolutely clicked with those two, and they with him.
9) On the McCabe goal, Derek Stepan lost the draw and battled to immediately get it back. That’s a good lesson for all the Rangers’ centers. You don’t give up on a faceoff. Especially during a 5-on-3 or 5-on-4 where you outman the opponent. If Stepan gives up there, the Islanders clear the zone, which should almost never happen with a two-man advantage, and McCabe doesn’t get that 5-2 goal
10) Sean Avery sure aggravated the Islanders, and he was thisclose to being the Avery of old. That’s why I thought Avery should play this game. And then he aggravated John Tortorella, rightfully so. And what he did, especially late in the game with an undisciplined penalty, is why he shouldn’t play against Montreal. The Habs can kill them on the PP. Wolski should be back in.
11) I’ve said it before, the Rangers don’t need a goon who simply fights the opponent’s goon. But the Rangers could sure use another guy who can play and who would and could fight a guy like the Islanders’ Matt Martin — other than Brandon Prust — in certain games. Maybe a Kris Newbury type.
12) Brandon Prust went from nearly, maybe, being scratched for overall body injuries to — along with linemates Brian Boyle and Ruslan Fedotenko — being a catalyst for a crucial strong start to this game. And of course he took a beating to score that short-handed goal. It’s Just Pain.
AP photo, above.