Sunday, March 22, 2009

Bleed all over 'em. Let 'em know you're there | NYR 5 Buffalo 3

Prior to the game, I saw the movie, Slapshot, for the first time. I now understand so much more about hockey and understand why it is a classic and why one of our fellow bloggers, Scotty Hockey, likes to quote from it. The Hanson Brothers mean something to me now. Viewing it was an epiphany especially compared with how hockey is no longer so rough and tumble.

Saturday night’s game itself also presented an interesting contrast of the Renney Rangers and the present version. For this game, the Buffalo Sabres played the early season version of the Rangers by taking a too many men penalty, nearly giving up a shorthanded goal to Lauri Korpikoski (which he did not convert and then failed to score on the penalty shot) during a powerplay, leaving men wide open in front of a defenseless Patrick Lalime (who was chased after 3 periods) that led to 3 goals on deflections, letting Ryan Callahan and others skate unimpeded up ice, failing miserably on the power play, falling behind early and frantically trying to catch up at the end.

The New Rangers prevailed by a score of 5-3 to put some distance between themselves and the other teams following in close pursuit for a playoff spot. The Sabres are a bit closer to elimination or for now, trailing the Rangers by 8 points, not an immediate threat. Official recap here.

The Tortorella version of the Rangers was aggressive offensively creating numerous scoring chances throughout the first 2 periods especially. They also avoided for a substantial portion of the game the pesky Sabre forechecking that was so troubling in prior games this season thanks to nifty cross-ice passes that outdistanced the Sabres. Also, I saw that the defensemen are starting to look around over their shoulders a bit more when heading into the end boards and corners to survey what passes might be open. Staal did that in the 2nd period when he saw a Sabre coming in from his right. Instead of passing that way, Staal moved to his left and circled around the goal to lead a successful rush out of the zone. Meanwhile, the Sabres were often guilty of making blind passes in their own zone that came quite close to being converted by the Rangers.

The Rangers scored a first period goals on deflection by Naslund, that was later followed up by deflections by Avery and Drury on the power play (what a beauty that one was) in the second that lifted the Rangers to a 3-1 lead in the second. Then birthday boy Ryan Callahan scored to make it 4-1 still early in the 2nd period with an outrageous deke to the right past Lalime and capped the Rangers scoring with an empty-better.

The game was wide open and fast-paced just the way Buffalo likes it. They fired 40 shots against Lundqvist but overall he was sharp. The old Rangers did show up for parts of the game as they allowed the first Buffalo goal a mere 27 seconds after Avery scored to make it 2-0. Then the Rangers permitted the Sabres to draw within 4-2 a mere 54 seconds into the 3rd period started. The Blueshirts weathered the storm for the most part before allowing Buffalo to draw within 4-3 in the final 80 seconds. The potential for a brutal loss beckoned but the Rangers defense held on before Callahan was sprung by Sjostrom for his empty-netter to end the scoring.
Not even Bill Belichick whines as much as this guy.
During the telecast of the game, I must have seen the Gomez hit in the February 21 game on Ryan Miller 150 times and read a quote from Buffalo coach Lindsay Ruff calling Gomez’s play dirty. Time to move on, Lindsay. Even with Ryan Miller in goal this game, the Rangers were buzzing and were going to score.

Nik Antropov continued his salary drive. He had a nice rush up ice that led to an assist on Naslund's goal and later added another on Drury's. Some have referred to him as Borat from whatever Tongue-Twister-izatan he is from.

Add black rimmed goofy glasses and stir.
Yield one Hanson Brother.

Instead, at least for one game, he reminded me of one of the Hanson Brothers (pick any one) -- gobbling up big expanses of ice with his stride and then leveling anything in sight -- on this occasion, Patrick Kaleta in a nice bit of payback for the hits he delivered on Mara last season and the usual annoyance that he can be. It was nice to see Kaleta's helmet flying off his head after Antropov introduced him to the Garden ice surface. One would think Kaleta had become Tim McCracken with a $100 bounty on his head.

Tonight is a quick turnaround as the pesky Ottawa Senators arrive. They are out of the playoff race but have made life miserable for some of the teams above them.

With a win, the Rangers can leapfrog over a suddenly hot Carolina team back into 6th place. The Rangers have 2 games at hand on the Hurricanes going into tonight's game. Other than seeking to secure a playoff spot, it has become silly to think about potential playoff match-ups as the top 3 teams in the conference are now all bunched up. The Rangers now have a 3 point lead on Montreal, currently in 8th, and a 4 point lead on Florida. The season ends in 3 weeks and we're looking at one helluva finish.


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