Friday, January 14, 2011

Rangers Swarm Canucks in Finals Quality Contest | NYR 1 VAN 0

In a game that had 1994 Stanley Cup Finals intensity written all over it, in front of a vociferous and appreciative Garden crowd, against an opponent with the best record in the NHL, the Rangers protected their King and home ice like a hostile swarm of bees against invaders from the Northwest, the Vancouver Canucks, in perhaps the most intense game of the year by prevailing 1-0. The official recap is here.

Henrik Lundqvist recorded his 30th shutout in his career (and 6th this season) -- he is now tied for 3rd in the Rangers' record books. He outdueled Corey Schneider, who entered the game with an 8-0-2 record.

How good is Vancouver? Let's try these little nuggets: They had not lost in regulation since December 5 -- a 14-0-3 stretch. They were 13-5-3 on the road. During their previous 22 games, they were held to fewer than 3 goals, 4 times. (Meanwhile, during their past 7 games, the Rangers have scored 3 goals ONCE.)

Oooops. "We're going to need some goals
tonight," Tortorella said before the game. "We're
not going to win a hockey game 1-0 tonight."

Fans, forgive me, were buzzing all over the Internet last night about the game. At my office today -- with its semi-regular "Jeans & Jerseys Day", plenty of employees proudly sported their Rangers sweater. The Rangers' play has started to capture the spirit of New York fans even in the face of the upcoming hate contest this weekend between the Jets and Patriots. When the Blueshirts took the ice this fall, who would have thought that.

Wall of Blue. The Rangers protected their Swedish King
all night long against Vancouver's high-powered offense.

The game did not start off well when Derek Stepan took an early penalty and the Rangers seemed to be on a different flight schedule than their visitors.

From the opening faceoff, the Canucks sped around the ice leaving the Rangers flailing behind at times. Fortunately, other than Stepan's early penalty, the Rangers did not panic and although outshot early by 8-3, they settled down and the scoreless first period ended with Vancouver only having an 11-8 edge. During the period, the Rangers blocked 14 shots (and 24 for the game).

Save of the game? Henrik stretches out to use his toe to (maybe)
deflect Mason Raymond's effort to go top shelf in the 1st period.

During the second period, Vancouver found out about the Rangers' lunch pail, blue collar mentality.

Outshooting the Canucks by 16-9 and defending the blue line and Henrik's goal with wave after wave of checks, blocked shots, stick checking, and faceoff wins, the Rangers dominated play territorially, and most importantly, on the scoreboard.

The Rangers' aggressiveness was rewarded with 2 power plays early in the second period. The first was called on Manny Malhotra for hooking at the 6:49 minute mark.

Within 30 seconds, the Rangers would score the game's only goal as the Rangers won a faceoff to Corey Schneider's left. Marian Gaborik immediately shot the puck after the faceoff win and after Schneider stopped the puck, new acquisition Wojtek Wolski moved his way to the goal and pounced on the loose puck to shoot into the net.

Fedotenko. More than 19 minutes played. He has been rock solid
all season long. Here, he gives Henrik Sedin a chance to rest his jaw.

During the remainder of ther period, the Rangers pressured the Canucks and Schneider denied them every step of the way.

He registered 34 saves for the game, but as in Tuesday's game against Montreal, the Rangers failed to finish plays, shot wide or high and let Schneider off the hook several times just as they did with Alex Auld of Montreal.

The playmaking, passing and skating -- which were missing early in the season -- have developed. What is needed is some finishing.

Conversion Rate Issues. Against Montreal and Vancouver this week, the Rangers have come tantalizingly close to scoring but have been foiled by good goalkeeping, bad luck or simply poor decisions. Here, Boyle cannot use his 6'7" frame to get the puck into the open net. Later, Gaborik failed to convert a breakaway in the 3rd period, a miss that could have proven fatal.

The most important stretch of the game occurred late in the second period. During a Vancouver attack, Marc Staal was guarding the front of the net when Alex Burrows stuck his stick between his legs, toppling Staal with a cheap and dangerous shot to the groin.

On his way down, Staal whacked at Burrows' ankle, knocking him down. Of course, that was what the ref saw, so Staal was whistled off for tripping with 5:07 to go.

Jewel Heist Averted. Marc Staal celebrated his 24th
birthday by nearly losing his delicates to spearing by Alex Burrows.

The Rangers proceeded to start to kill the penalty when Chris Drury, who won 7 of 11 faceoffs, tried to clear the puck out of the Rangers' zone. The puck took an unfortunate deflection off his stick into the crowd for a delay of game penalty.

Two questionable (to be charitable) penalties to a team that has a PP success rate of 25% did not bode well. The Rangers persevered to kill the 47 second two man advantage. The home crowd cheered and gave the team a standing ovation in salute for the efforts. The second period ended with the Rangers leading 1-0.

In the third period, the pace was frenetic with few stoppages and no penalties -- reminiscent of playoff hockey. Both teams had 11 shots in the final 20 minutes. Marian Gaborik, with perhaps the Rangers' best chance of the period, failed to score on a breakaway that gave Vancouver some hope.

Ultimately, it was the Rangers' stingy defense and the work of the Prust/Fedotenko/Boyle trio that shut down the Vancouver offense. During the final minutes, the Rangers worked hard to keep the puck in the Canuck end and keep Schneider from leaving the net.

Finally, the goalie was able to get off the ice and play remained in the Rangers' zone for the final 40 seconds or so. With the teams fighting for every inch, the game ended. For once, an opposing team's media acknowledged how well the Rangers played.

Meaningless Regular Season Game? Brian Boyle -- with nearly
19 minutes of ice time -- kneels on the ice after the final horn mercifully
sounds. His improved play this season epitomizes what Tort's coaching is all about.

There is no rest for the weary. For Saturday night, the Rangers travel to Montreal for a Hockey Night in Canada tilt with the Canadiens.

Then they return to MSG for a Sunday night contest with the Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia Flyers, who will be visiting NYC for the first time this season.

--The Graying Mantis

1 comment:

  1. Well as a die-hard canuck fan & british columbian, i am impressed with the defesive play by the rangers, lets hope for another showdown of 1994, except with our loungo & shneider, and your lack of mike richter, my beloved canucks will prevail, with a flood of 9 million or so tears from new yorkers watching on!


This site/blog is not affiliated with the New York Rangers or The National Hockey League in any manner whatsoever. Some photos on this site are used w/out permission but are hosted on the blogger server, therefore not interfering with the profit or bandwidth of the original owner. If you are the owner of a specific image that we have used in our blog , please email me at to have it removed - we will gladly remove it immediately.

If you have a hockey blog/website and would like to place a link on our site, please contact me & we can do a link exchange (the best way to get more traffic to our blogs).

Any offer of 'tickets at cost' is exactly that -- I have season tickets and will sell them for what I paid --- so no mark-ups.

The Dark Ranger is a not-for-profit site, not officially, but we derive no income at all from anything on this site; in fact, DARK at his own expense enjoys the freedom of having no sponsors and speaking his f*cking mind.