Friday, March 13, 2009

Rangers Awaken to Unleash 40 Minutes of Hell on the Predators | NYR 4, Nashville 2

Outside of the playoff race for the first time this season and watching the teams ahead of them winning all week, the Rangers traveled to Music City to face a Western Conference playoff contender with one of the top home records in the West, the Nashville Predators.

After a lethargic first period, the Rangers prevailed 4-2 thanks to the energetic play of Scott Gomez and Sean Avery, and stellar goalkeeping by Henrik Lundqvist. An assist should be given to Coach Tortorella for grabbing the team's attention after the first period. The official recap is here.

At first, the Rangers brought the memories of their not-so-sweet Carolina performance with them in a first period that saw them skate listlessly, draw penalties and give up 2 goals as they trailed 2-1. The Nashville go-ahead goal was scored on an unfortunate deflection off Dan Girardi's skate. Sean Avery, in a foretelling of what he was going to bring to the game, scored the first goal for the Rangers.

During the intermission, Coach Tortorella "shared" some thoughts with his sleep-walking team as alluded to by Lundqvist in a post-game interview. The coach also demonstrated that he knew words mean nothing without action by benching Nikolai Zherdev for the final 40 minutes and limiting Markus Nasland's overall minutes to fewer than 10. Apparently, both raised the coach's ire with their penalties in the first period.

Avery had a fine night hunting down Predators.

The newly constituted line of Callahan, Avery and Gomez (1 G/2 A) dominated the Predators for the final 2 periods. In the 2nd period, the Rangers outshot them by 17 to 5 and scored 2 goals to take the lead into the 3rd period. The trio had 13 out of the Rangers 32 shots. They buzzed around the Predator defensive zone for most of the second period.

Avery threw his body around to keep pucks in the offensive zone and set up the ultimate game winner with a stop along the boards, then carrying the puck between the circles. His shot led to mayhem in front that enabled Staal to sweep in to slip the puck into the net with 2:30 to go.

It was a lonely walk off the ice for the Predators after the second period
as Nashville fans expressed some serious verbal disapproval.

In the 3rd period, the PK unit killed off 3 power plays and even scored the 8th SHG of the season to increase the lead to 4-2. That goal came on an aggressive clear-out pass by Staal after a Betts face-off win in the defensive end. After Ryan Suter slipped trying to save the puck at the blue line, Betts swept it up and went off to convert on a nifty 2 on 1 by passing to Sjostrom for a one-timer that beat Dane Ellis cleanly to his left side.

Proving how good the PK unit is this season, the 8th SHG puts the team into the top 8 of the league. Nashville with the 29th rated powerplay cannot harbor much hope of doing much in the playoffs if they make it. (Of course, the same can be said about the Rangers with their 26th rated attack, but let's focus for now on the highlights.)

After the first period, the defense had a good night. Girardi and Staal played well positionally and used their bodies and stick work to keep the Predators away from Henrik. Staal simply has been terrific recently and is showing a stronger offensive bent as evidenced by his game-winning goal. Derek Morris is slowly convincing me that he is a solid defender. No doubt he is a step up from Kalinin.

The expert PK duo of Betts and Sjostrom eliminated
Nashville hopes with a SHG midway in the 3rd.

Now comes the hard part -- back to back games against Philly this weekend. First up will be a Saturday matinee in Philly followed by an afternoon tilt back at MSG. The Rangers are fortunate that Montreal keeps stumbling and Florida hit a rough spot this week. The Blueshirts vaulted back into 7th place after the win in Nashville.

A regulation sweep would bring the Rangers to 4th or 5th in the East and tie the Flyers. That may be beyond what one can realistically hope for, but it's worth mentioning.



  1. Helluva win and I love Jesse Ventura as Sean Avery. Quality!

    Hmm, what should we call the new line of Cally, Gomer and Avery? The Mighty Mites? The RSS Feed (Ryan Sean and Scott)?

  2. Do I smell optimism, Rangers' fans?

    Not sure what team I was watching last night, but I sure enjoyed seeing something resembling chemistry and grit.

    Players' coaches don't turn confidence around, and Torts aint one of them -- so I was more pleased than ever to read the comments of Chris Drury and Henrik and Scottie Gomez all talking about how Tortorella ripped into them after the first period and gave them a tongue lashing - one that actually motivated them to play better hockey. The double-edged sword psychology of benching your star players worked in our favor last night.

    Thanks Torts. You are reviving our spirits and making us believe again.

    Great post Scotty Hockey I most enjoyed the Jesse-Sean pick and any reference to AH-NOLD....too bad Schwarzeneger never made a hockey movie. THAT would be worthy.


  3. C'mon TDR - Arnold was Mr. Freeze in that terrible Batman movie and had hockey player henchman!

  4. Tortorella has no time to baby anyone. If a few feelings get hurt ...Oh well. He's going to go with who's getting the job done, not the name on the jersey.

    Flyers/Rangers gotta love it. Nothing like these two getting together at such a critical juncture in the season.

  5. Drury has been garbage for 2 years now...unless we're playing last place teams..and Zherdev sits and he gets the day off!!!!All hail total mediocrity for 7 million a year!!!


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