Thursday, February 19, 2009

Little Boy Blue Delivers the Knock Out Punch: NYR 3, Isles 2

In the midst of 1-6-2 stretch and down 2 starters, Paul Mara and Lauri Korpikoski, due to injuries, the Rangers faced the pesky Islanders at the Garden. The battle hearkened back to the good old days of this rivalry. The hostility between the teams was palpable early in the game and truly erupted in the 2nd period. I cannot remember the last time I saw a game stopped to pick up nearly a couple of dozen gloves littering the ice. Official game recap (and it's a good one) is here.

Fans who have given up on the Rangers and the season were reminded of one thing last night if they watched the game. The team may not score, it may not have top-flight talent, it may not have the best skaters, and its power play is awful, but no one can question the heart of the youngsters on the team.

To wit, Callahan threw his body around like he has a spare in the closet. This guy has been bringing it every night all season. He was effective on the PK unit as well.

Dubinsky's skating energy has returned and with it some feistiness. Now he has to get on the scoreboard.

Girardi and Staal are starting to reassert themselves. Dan had several shot attempts on goal last night and nearly each made it to the goalie resulting in some juicy rebounds.

Sjostrom, Orr and Betts continue to comprise the most engaging line on the ice. They bottled up the Isles for shifts at a time. They killed penalties. Betts pickpocketed an Isle at the blue line to totally ruin the rhythm of an Isles powerplay. They nearly scored thanks to aggressive forechecking.

Dawes was aggressive on the ice and scored on a beautifully placed bullet over the left shoulder of goalie Yann Danis in the first period.

I think that covers everyone. I keep thinking I am leaving out something or someone . . . Oh, yeah, that guy in the #25 uniform. What can you say about Petr Prucha? During the last 2 games he did not appear to have his legs, but against the Isles, during a great shift with Drury and Dawes, Prucha assisted Nigel's first period goal. That line almost scored again shortly afterward and made their presence felt throughout the first 2 periods.

It was during the 2nd period, the diminutive one showed why everyone on the team loves him so much (except perhaps for the head coach). A scrum developed when Eric Reitz kneed Sean Bergenheim by the sideboards. Bergenheim, enraged by what he thought was a dirty hit, then delivered a cheap shot to the back of Pru's head. Petr turned around and engaged him in a David v. Goliath battle. Pru held his own despite giving up 35 pounds or so.

Even though the Rangers gave up the early lead, you sensed that they were skating with more purpose than recent games. After Gomez scored a fluky goal during a 2nd period power play (you'll take whatever you can get), you also sensed the Rangers would hold on. The Isles did have several unfettered rushes to the net, but Henrik was a stone wall and he simply denied them. (It should be noted that early in the first period, Henrik was out of position on a shot that fortunately whistled by the far post. The game and the Garden atmosphere might have been different if that had gone in.)

The Rangers played a strong passing and puck possession game. Rare were the blind passes that become scoring opportunities for the opponent. The Rangers skated well and especially in the 3rd period, their forechecking was excellent. It was as if they had been watching old Devils' highlight reels as to how to preserve a one goal lead.

The Isles could not get out of their zone all that often in the final 20 minutes. The 4th line kept the Isles on their heels in the defensive zone for more than a minute in the middle of the period. Later, during a rare opportunity in the Rangers defensive zone, 3 Isles touched the puck and each one ended up on their butt as three different Rangers including Roszival and Callahan punished them. Each hit was nastier than the prior with Callahan's being the most devastating. After that, you sensed the Isles lost their offensive resolve for the remainder of the game.

The crowd was much more vocal and engaged than in recent contests. The fisticuffs and hitting certainly energized the team and the fans. This win is a baby step. Granted it was the lowly Isles as competition, but it is important that the Rangers have won 4 out of 5 against them this season. Stiffer competition is coming and we'll see whether the Rangers are turning it around for the stretch run.


1 comment:

  1. Watching the game last night felt strangely like last October -- low scoring but a strong passing and defensive minded system -- I agree Graying. The felt that they WERE going to maintain the lead through the third period -- I am hopeful if our dynamic (ha ha) coaching staff can bottle up some of that mojo, we might have a shot at getting to the first round of the playoffs. Second...not a chance. Nice post GM.



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