Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cane-Do, Cane-Do -- Rangers Run Win Streak to 6 | NYR 5 CAR 1

The cheers rained down on the Blueshirts on Friday evening as a 4 goal outburst in the 3rd period put away one of the squad's nemeses, the Carolina Hurricanes, 5-1 at Madison Square Garden.

For once, I can write a happy recap about a visit by Carolina to the Garden as opposed to the past 3 seasons.

Since blowing a 3 goal lead 2 Saturdays ago against Ottawa, the Rangers have reeled off 6 straight wins and are now a dazzling 5-1-1 at home for one of their best home starts in years.  The official recap is here.

Your eyes are the eyes of a woman in love... 5 Ranger heart
throbs scored on Friday -- Avery, Girardi, Dubi, Cally
and Richards. Female fans had plenty of reason to swoon.
5 different Rangers scored -- all of the heart throbs of the fan base -- on Friday night and the way the end of the game could not come fast enough for bewildered Carolian Hurricane goalie Cam Ward as he was peppered with 40 shots for the game including 15 in the 2nd period and 17 in the third.

Throughout the game, the Rangers found all sorts of ways to score:
  • in the first period, a partial breakaway by Sean Avery in the first period after the Canes showed incredible slowness in exploiting a 4-on-2 into the Rangers zone.  The Canes misplayed a pass, took a terrible shot at Henrik Lunqdqvist and then got vicitmized when Jeff Woywitka snapped the puck out of the zone off the boards to center ice.  Chasing after it was Sean Avery on the right side, who broke in and deked, charged Cam Ward and lifted a shot over a sprawling Cam Ward that hit the inside of the crossbar.  It was Sean's first goal of the season.  Right from the start of the game, you could see him skating confidently -- he apparently has gotten his skating legs back.  He also brought his pesty self to the game as he drew 2 penalties;

    Happy Place -- Avery celebrates his first goal of the season.
  • a powerplay goal by a defenseman -- Dan Girardi, who together with Henrik, is the team's MVP. Here is one player who has earned every penny of his raise from last year.  He took a high-sticking penalty from Cane's captain Eric Staal in the third period to negate a potentially dangerous powerplay with the score tied 1-1.  During the Rangers' powerplay after the 4-on-4 finished, he teamed up with Brad Richards to score the game-winning goal.  Throughout the game the Blueshirts showed a better appreciation of puck management during the powerplay by holding the puck in, making excellent passes to move around and actually shooting the puck.  During the second period, they kept the puck in the offensive zone for nearly the entire powerplay.  Unfortunately, they failed to score and then yielded the tying goal when they could not complete a line change.  That was perhaps the only miscue of the defense all night long;

    Pretty Power Play -- Dan Girardi scores on the power play
    with 9:15 to go. Credit Mark Richards with a great no-look pass
    and patience to set up Girardi.  The Rangers engineered a power play
    that was beautiful all game and a pleasure to watch.
  • opportunistic and aggressive rushes -- on the ensuing faceoff after Girardi's goal, the Rangers went for the kill as Ryan Callahan led a rush in on the right side, his terrfic shot was kicked out by Cam Ward to an opportunistic Brandon Dubinsky who scored his first goal of the season and looked skyward as if the largest albatros of his career had departed his shoulders -- within 9 seconds, the game had gone from a tight 1-1 contest to a 3-1 Ranger lead with 9:06 to go in the game;
    Net Party.  Callahan again finds himself in
    the goal crease with the puck.  This time the goal counted.
  •  a full squad rush led by Dubinsky into the Carolina end led to him being swiped and knocked down by Cam Ward (no penalty called because no ref saw it), but Dubi did not let up as he fought for 11 seconds in the corner to keep the puck ini play and in the Canes' zone, he won the puck got it behind the net and on his return trip to the front of the net, drew a penalty, but helped to keep the play going.  In a pile-up in the crease, Callahan made his way into the crease where he shot the puck into the net as he was getting crushed from behind.  On a play where the Rangers drew 3 penalties, they got a back-breaking goal to make the score 4-1; and
  • Happy Place #2 -- Dubinsky celebrates his first goal
    of the season at the same place where Avery celebrated.
  • finally, Brad Richards got a well-deserved goal with 1:35 left on a wrap-around to cap the scoring as a reward for all his work all night long.
Although he was scoreless, Marian Gaborik was again magnificent.  Whatever cobwebs he and his teammates were having at the beginning of the season have been long shaken.  He is skating effortlessly, making tremendous passes, took 7 shots on goal and missed one or two one-timers that on any other night should have connected.  He is beautiful to watch again especially during this recent stretch.  Derek Stepan with 6 shots has shown the form he was developing last year.
Henrik Solid Again -- 34 saves for Henrik on Friday night including 15 in
the first period.  The offense came through to make the last 10 minutes of the 3rd period
comfortable.  The Blueshirts kept usual thorns, Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner off the scoreboard.
What can you say about the team's defense?  Defensemen take time to develop as can be seen now with Michael Del Zotto, who is showing a lot more steadiness on both sides of the ice.  Michael Sauer and Girardi are "known" quantities but their continued improvement has been outstanding.  RyanMcDonagh is becoming a stud and GM Glen Sather continues to get a pass for converting Scott Gomez (who?) into something that helps NY while hurting the Canadiens.  The Rangers defense contributed a goal and 3 assists against Carolina.

Stop the Presses.  The Rangers' improved overall play can
be seen as Erik Christensen introduces Hurricane forward,
Zach Boychuk, to the base of the boards.
Steve Eminger and Woywitka won't lead any all-star balloting but they have been serviceable.  Anton Stralman, who is getting raves about his skating ability, will be joining the team shortly.  All in all, the Rangers' defense has kept other teams off the scoreboard (the team is currently tied with Edmonton for the fewest goals yielded with 32), bought the offense time to gel, has started to protect Henrik in the crease and surprisingly has scored rather often in fact, and most importantly are a squad that have banded together to cover up for the loss of Marc Staal.  

Girardi, McDonagh, and Del Zotto have gained some comfort at the point and making usually controlled rushes into the offensive zone and are becoming an offensive threat is something that has not been seen for some time. Girardi has 8 points (3G, 5A), McDonagh has 7 points (3G, 4A), and Del Zotto has 6 points (2G, 4A) -- they are among the Rangers' top 10 scorers.  They also have gaudy +/- numbers.  Truth be told, their aggressiveness and ability to not mistakes have taken pressure off the forwards.

We are heading to the conclusion of the first 20% of the season.  Certain teams, the Rangers included, that started off slowly -- Bruins, Canuck and Red Wings -- are starting to show up for games and put together serious win streaks.

Over the past couple of weeks, the Rangers have shown glimpses of how talented they are.  They have played well overall but improvement is always possible.  There are times when their offense disappears but during these past few games, their overall level of play has been raised.

During the next 2 weeks, they only have 4 games, 3 of them on the road.  The benefit is that some aches and pains suffered by players (Brandon Prust and Dan Girardi especially) will get a chance to heal.  Lundqvist will get some rest.  The disadvantage may be a loss of momentum.  They also have away games against three of their favorite foes -- the Islanders and Canadiens and Capitals -- on opposing ice before returning to take on the Flyers on November 26.

The Rangers are challenging for the top of the conference and have a couple of games in hand.  Let's hope this is not the highwater mark of their season.

Next game is on Tuesday against the Islanders.  It seems a while back when they dominated the Rangers in game #3 of the season.  The Isles have not had much success since.  The Rangers want to keep it that way.

--- The Graying Mantis


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