Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bell Ringer - Brendan's Late Goal Leads Rangers to 4-3 Victory in NJ | NYR 4 at NJD 3

It's so nice to watch an exhibition hockey game because it reminds you how different it is from  baseball and football.  You know the NFL -- the sport that charges outrageous prices so you can watch stars play a couple of series or two before they sit down and work the steroid pumps (I mean weight room and saunas).

Or baseball where you may be lucky to catch an A squad under the Floria sun or in the Arizona smog for a couple of innings before they have to rest their tender groins, elbows or whatever else those pseudo-athletes try to protect.

If you were lucky enough to go to the Rock or watch MSG you got to see Brad Richards score a goal early in the first period in his debut for the Blueshirts and work on chemistry with his first linemates.  Martin Brodeur played the entire game.  Ilya Kovalchuk hauled ass over the ice for the entire game.

All in all, despite some ragged play, you ended up with an entertaining 4-3 win by the Rangers. The recap (such that it is sits here).
Hallmark moment -- Brendan Bell getting the #1
Star for scoring the game-winner with 4:54 left. 

Some observations:
  • When the Rangers defensemen avoided the penalty box, we got to see the promise the first line has.  There was some slick passing among the crew, a Wolski and Richards engineered a pretty give and go at the blue line. 
  • Brad Richards certainly displayed that he knows what he is doing and will definitely show Ranger fans what we have been missing on a nightly basis while he was on Tampa and Dallas. 
Brad Richards in what should be a familiar
picture -- leading the rush up ice.
  • When Rangers Kris Newbury and Tim Erixson led a parade in the 2nd period to the sin bin, Ranger offensive momentum died as the first line was not on the ice for approximately 10 straight minutes and the Devils took advantage to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 3-3 thanks to 2 power play goals.  
  • That impact was evidenced by the Rangers having a 20-8 shot advantage midway through the game before the Devils out-shot them 18-11 the rest of the way.  I was hard pressed to remember any shots after the Newbury (2 penalties leading to Devils goals) and Erixon (provided a 5 on 3 advantage) took their penalties. Amazing the patience the Devils showed as they set up Kovalchuk to score with 1 second on the 5 on 3 so that the Devils still had the man advantage.  Fortunately, they would not score again in the game.
  • The Devils, under Peter Deboer, employed an uptempo offense that Kovalchuk was enjoying.  You can tell when the whole team is together (Parise did not play), they will not have the same slow start they did last season.
  • Martin Brodeur -- hard to believe it is his 20th season in Devils' goal.  You do have to admire his longevity.  What is noticeable is that he is not the same Brodeur.  Yes, he was beaten on 2 deflections including the game winner last night by Brendan Bell but he was also clearly beaten by Gaborik (but for the puck being on its side) and Callahan (a pass slid under his stick).  If you are a Devil fan, you have to be worried that Martin's side-to-side movement may not be what it once was.  This season is also the last year of his contract so that will become an interesting story as we proceed.
  • Goalies were beaten high all night -- Derek Stepan beat Brodeur with a beautiful shot to make the score 2-1 in favor of the Blueshirts as they scored 2 goals within 81 seconds after Brad Richards scored his first goal as a Ranger on a deflection.  
  • Marty Biron was beaten high all 3 times including quite the rocket shot by Kolvachuk to tie the score 3-3 near the end of the 2nd period.
  • The game was ragged in stretches especially on the defensive side.  The fact that Girardi and Staal were not playing did not help secure the defense.  The Rangers also were missing Dubinski and Prust so the overall forechecking was not at the level we have come to expect.
  • The third period was outstanding for the Devils offensive pushes and the Rangers' defenses.  Chad Johnson replaced Marty Biron in goal and was up to the task.  The Rangers worked hard to keep the crease clear.  Both teams threw their bodies around.  Dale Weise had a crunching but clean check behind Brodeur as both teams got more physical as the tentativeness wore off.
After Bell scored with 3 minutes to go on a simple shot thrown from the blue line at Brodeur that was deflected past him, the Devils had the tying goal called off thanks to goalie interference with 2:22 to go.  They pulled Brodeur but then Martin Gaborik was called for an interference penalty with 1:55 remaining.  That killed the Rangers power play that could have ended the game and put the Devils on the offensive.

The Devils immediately took residence in the Ranger defensive zone like evacuees from Hurricane Katrina in the Superdome for the remaining 100+ seconds of the game.  The Rangers could not get a change as the Devils kept the puck in the zone.  Finally, the Rangers were able to get possession of the puck for a moment and threw it into the corner where the final 6 seconds mercifully ticked away.

Mike Rupp introduces himself to Jacob Josefson.
The things to take away from this game are: (i) the first line of Gaborik, Wolski and Richards certainly looks like it will be fun, (ii) there ought to be a trickle down effect because the next two lines will blend skill and speed and energy that should payoff against other teams' defenses, (iii) when the Rangers' full roster is healthy enough for everyone to play, the team should be a lot of fun to watch; and (iv) the East is going to be loaded -- there is no doubt that the Devils will pick up on their season-ending push from this past Spring.  They have Bryce Salvador back, Parise is back, and they have the hint of great young talent in Jacob Josefson and Adam Larrson.  Besides Kovalchuk and Sykora.  It is unlikely, unless a catastrophic injury rears its head, that they will start off as poorly as last year. 

Next up -- the Rangers renew acquaintances with the Flyers on Monday night in Philly.  A scorecard will be necessary to see who is now on that team.

Your eyes may glaze when you see who is wearing #68, if he plays.  If he comes out in this uniform, it will certainly be news.  This is his picture from the Flyers' website.

Apparently, the orange and black could not be photoshopped in.  Nice to see that JJ still bleeds blue. 

Jaromir Jagr
Jaromir Jagr
Right Wing  - PHI

-- The Graying Mantis

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