Saturday, October 2, 2010

B-List Stars Lead Rangers | NYR 5 OTT 4 [SHO]

It was a strange day in NYC yesterday at least for me. Torrential rains wreaked havoc for commuters. I thought I was getting a police escort along the Northern State when in fact, the cops were racing me to a point on the highway where they wanted to shut down the road because of flooding. 2 1/2 hours later I arrived at my office to mock cheers from my loyal co-workers.

Ticketmaster lost my quartet of ducats for the game in the ether causing me to call MSG to reissue tickets via the box office (they were great by the way) so 4 friends could see the game. And just when I thought nothing else could be weirder, Brian Boyle and Derek Boogaard put on a show at the Garden (in front of a good sized crowd of 15,000) that led the Rangers to an entertaining 5-4 win over the Ottawa Senators. More surprisingly, they garnered the first and third stars of the game. Strange day indeed.

Derek Stepan scores a SHG. Order your jersey now.

Thank goodness other big-time scorers like Marc Staal (masquerading as Bobby Orr late in the game) and Derek Stepan scored because I would have thought my eyes were deceiving me. For those of us watching the game late Friday evening in front of my office computer monitor, it was an eye-opening game.

The official recap is here. Here are some thoughts about the game:

1st Period --

Scoreless first period but Rangers had some good energy. One of my friends texted me from the game with simply "Blah."

Gaborik was buzzing around but the first line was not a major presence tonight (Gaborik, Stepan and Frolov) except in the second period for about 12 seconds.

Who are these guys? Boyle with his 2nd goal this week. Prust with 2 assists.

2nd Period --

Boyle scored (NYR 1-0) with a strong slapshot that Brian Elliot, the Ottawa goalie missed -- as the game went on, we wondered how this guy survived any roster cuts to be on Ottawa.

Boyle certainly made another statement in favor of making the team. Between periods, Trautwig interviewed Boyle and we learned that 2 of his favorite foods are Skittles and Lucky Charms. (What, no Twinkies?)

Stepan had a SHG to make the score 2-0 - what a play that was -- Rangers won the faceoff after the penalty, and Frolov and Stepan raced up ice -- the aggressive quickness and teamwork both showed was spectacular as Frolov fed Stepan who crossed in front of Elliot to stick the puck in for a SHG within 18 seconds of the penalty. That was terrific.

What was not so terrific were the continuing defensive breakdowns by Staal and Girardi and so it was not surprising to see Spezza scoring LATE with 24 seconds left in the 2nd period to make the score 2-1.

3rd Period--

Sens ended up scoring three goals in a row -- terrible defense by Staal on at least 2 of them - to take a 3-2 lead in 3rd with 5 1/2 minutes gone. What was particularly galling was the Rangers letting the Sens tie the game EARLY in the first 40 seconds of the period -- completing a bookend of terrible play at the end of the 2nd and beginning of the 3rd periods.

Boogaard scored to tie the game at 3 a minute later -- big lug muscled the puck in on a nice pass from Prust. Prust had 2 assists. Quite a performance by the 4th line -- Boyle, Boogaard and Prust.

Sens scored to make it 4-3 on a PP with 8 minutes to go but then Staal redeemed himself with a beautiful rush up the right side sprung with a pass from Dubinsky. He moved to center and shot left to beat Elliot (what a terrible game he had) to knot the game.

OT and Shootout --

The OT went quickly -- end to end and it was fun -- I wish it had been 10 minutes.

Erik with the game-winner in the shoot-out.

The Shootout also was fun. Neither side scored first. Then Stepan used a beautiful series of dekes and head fakes and executed a perfectly placed shot between Elliot's legs. Then Daniel Alfredsson totally undressed Henrik and went backhand to Henrik's right to tie it at 1. Then Erik Christensen (decent game overall) made a strong move from right to left and beat Elliot to his stick side for the winning goal as Henrik denied Peter Regin.

Overall thoughts:

  • Henrik looked a little shaky again -- perhaps the lack of defense has not helped so far -- these preseason games have all been high-scoring affairs (except for the 5-1 rout of Detroit) by both teams.
  • If Henrik cannot be relied upon to play at the elite level of the past few seasons, we will see many 4-3 and 5-4 games throughout the upcoming season. His knee may be bothering him still despite silence from management.
Saves like these will be an integral ingredient to the Rangers success
this season. Here, Henrik stops Regin on his attempt to tie the shootout.

  • It would be nice to see Vinny Prospal play sometime. Meanwhile, Dubinsky was invisible last night. Except for his pass to spring Stall for the tying goal, I thought he had been scratched as well. Remind me why everyone loves this guy?
  • Rangers continue show some real flashes of quickness and energy. Like early last year, you can see some ability to move the puck, pressure on offense, forecheck and score.
  • In fact, through 5 preseason games, the Blueshirts have scored 19 regulation goals, for nearly 4 per game.
  • If you want to see a team that has truly lost its Renney identity -- defense first and opportunistic scoring, look no further. What we are seeing now is what we are likely to get (until the energy fades if it does like last year).
  • Watching the game from a computer monitor was fun. Fans who were there told me it was a great game to watch especially for a preseason game. The blend of a couple of stars and youth may make fans take notice.
Tonight is the final game of preseason as the Rangers and Senators finish their home and home. Then, final roster cuts occur sometime tomorrow. Boyle and Christensen are making it harder for the coaches to settle on a final roster. Stepan may have locked in his chances not only for the roster but perhaps the first line.

Tonight may spin the tale for some players and their future for the opening night roster.

---The Graying Mantis

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