Another fabulous, fabulous game by two excellent Bestern Conference teams last night. Seriously, that was great stuff. A carcillo-y way to end the game (poor Antti Em), but a tremendously tremendous game nonetheless.
But almost everything I noticed in that game reminded me about the Rangers.
1) Last night, and throughout these crazy playoff games, how crucial have faceoffs been? None more than the one on which Vancouver tied the game after the incorrect icing call against the Sharks. The Rangers really, really, really need to address that part of the game.
2) These good teams, they don’t dive in front of shots nearly as much as the Rangers do. Part of that is because they have the puck a lot more than the Rangers have it during the course of a game. But they mostly block shots the old-fashioned way, on their skates, straight ahead, letting the shinpads do what they were designed to do. Once in a while, they go down in front of a shot, but not all the time.
3) And most of the better defensemen in these series don’t leave their skates very often, if ever. And they don’t chase the puck to the boards. They remain around the net, collapsed on any and all opponents in more dangerous positions. I know, the Rangers defended well for the most part this year, but they didn’t defend the way these teams defend, for the most part, and that’s just an observation.
4) If Vancouver goes on and wins the Cup, I’m really going to be happy when they pass it to Manny Malhotra.
5) And that would make a Cup-winner of one Christopher Higgins, which makes me think of two things. If Higgins—who really did try hard, and play well away from the puck in his short Rangers tenure, when he couldn’t hit a bull in the aasen with a snow shovel—becomes a very good player again, regains some of his scoring touch, well A) that makes the Scott Gomez deal look even better, but B) it makes the Brandon Prust deal look a little less like a steal. Not saying I’d rather have Higgins than Prust. But it could turn out the Rangers gave up some value for Prust—and maybe got exceptionally lucky that Prust turned into what he did, when they had no idea he would.
6) Do you think Ryan Callahan can ever be Ryan Kesler?
7) In 1999, when Brian Burke was wheeling and dealing so he could draft the Sedin twins at No. 2 and No. 3, Neil Smith was wheeling and dealing so he could draft Pavel Brendl and Jamie Lundmark at No. 4 and No. 9. Ouch. Burke’s been a bust in Toronto so far, but he did build the core of this Vancouver team, and he won a Cup in Anaheim. Not a bad resume.
8) Back in the summer of 1994, would you have bet that the Canucks would get to another final before the Rangers?
9) Today is the anniversary of Mark Messier’s Guarantee Game (he didn’t say “We Will Win Tonight,” by the way, because he said it the day before … and he never said
the word guarantee). Which means Friday is the anniversary of Matteau! Matteau! Matteau! I spent a little time with the Great Howie Rose the last few weeks, once at a funeral, once at a baseball game.
There. I’ve been dying to talk some hockey. Some Rangers. Haven’t had the time lately, or the topics. Not that I dislike the gibberish (jibberish) here on a daily basis, but it’s nice to get back to what we’re supposed to be, you know, most of the time.
Manny Malhotra photo by AP/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck, above.