Thursday, February 17, 2011

Rangers vs Devils ~ BATTLE of the HUDSON V




NEW JERSEY DEVILS:  Playing Possessed.

No one has been talking about the Devils Ownership situation as of late.  But the way they have been pounding opponents on the ice lately has put the Eastern Conference on notice.  They want a playoff spot and it's going to cost some team theirs.!

The DEVILS are only playing the most insane Hockey in the League right now.  And being that I am not taking the Florida Panthers nor the Toronto Maple Leafs very seriously, I fully expect the Devils to leap-frog over those two clubs.  The big question for the Devils is will they have enough games left in the season to qualify for a playoff spot?  Let's keep that far-off idea in perspective and just say it's the Eighth Spot we're talking about.  But, if they keep-up this hellish pace of play, in the last week of the regular season they can very well bump another team with playoff aspirations out of the tournament.  A few short weeks ago, we wouldn't even have entertained this topic.  Two weeks ago I laughed off the notion with some friends.  But I can actually envision the Devils sustaining this fury. 

The only problem I see with their pursuit of a coveted playoff spot is their goalie situation.  Johan Hedberg will have to be New Jersey's goalie to make that happen.  It's fair to question how reliable Martin Brodeur will be down the stretch.  I don't mean Marty still can't deliver them to a playoff spot, but the way it looks right now reliance on Johan Hedberg seems very necessary to their success.  Working in concert with Brodeur and having him agree to a more limited role more-so than he's used to seems odd in the land of Devils.  What's wrong with odd, if it works?  Plus, Marty has yet to prove he can be healthy this season and sustain it.

NEW YORK RANGERS:  This Game Against Devils Is More Meaningful Than I Care For.

Finally, a game! 

I hate extended breaks in the schedule.  But against the Kings, the Rangers for the most part didn't look rusty at all.  The off-days perhaps did them well.  But tonight's game was going to be exhausting.  You could see it from the start.  Both teams were in a skating and hitting mood. 

A sense of urgency and desperation might have sparked them tonight.  While the Rangers have been idle, other teams have been playing and accumulating points.  Then when L.A. scored first, Purpose finally entered the building and laced up some skates.  They rebounded in this game after giving up that early first period goal.  The Blueshirts played L.A. to a 1-1 tie after two periods.  Then a BIG goal by Gaborik seven minutes into the third period, off a defensive end turnover recovered by Sauer gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead.  It was Marian Gaborik's first goal in too long of a stretch.  I don't know the exact number, so I won't try.

But because we don't do things the easy way, the Kings made it 2-2.  Lundqvist couldn't react in time to a shot from the top of the right circle that deflected off Brian Boyle's stick.  That's so typical of the kind of goals that get scored against Henrik.  But The King came up with a huge save when L.A.'s Richardson received a sweet pass and snuck in with a clear path towards Henrik.  The King stopped him cold and made perhaps the save of the game.

With 3:08 left in the third period, Brandon Dubinsky scored on a wrap-around after an awful lot of hard work by Ryan Callahan that started on the other end.  Callahan caused havoc for L.A. along the far boards and heading towards the 7th Avenue end, fought his way up ice all the way towards net.  Dubinsky was there to clean up the play and stuffed a loose puck home with the Rangers' go-ahead goal.

Then Los Angeles scored again!  From behind the goal line, the Kings banked a shot off the back of Henrik's shoulder for the tying goal 47 seconds after the Rangers took the lead.  Hey, it was that kind of game, and for the second time, it was that kind of a goal. 

Regulation time expired and the Rangers, Kings and Madison Square Garden would go to over-time. Remarkably, with the Rangers in need of a big break at this point, they got one.  After Staal sustained a high-stick penalty called a double-minor to end regulation, they would go on a four-minute power play to start the five minute over-time.  But four Blueshirt shots later, the Rangers committed a penalty; a high-stick by Dubinsky.  ...And I'm thinking...You're kidding me...right?  So naturally, you know what that meant;
Three on Three Hockey!!!  Neither team could generate much.  There was just a-lot of jostling for the puck..  Four on four play resumed for the last minute of over-time which only resulted in 1 shot on goal for the Rangers. 

Over-time expired with the score tied 3-3.


NYR ~ Christensen; GOAL.
LA ~ Handzus; SAVE.

NYR ~ Zuccarello; GOAL.
LA ~ Stoll; GOAL.

NYR ~ Wolski; SAVE.
LA ~ Kopitar; SAVE.

...And the Rangers wound up victorious over a tough Los Angeles Kings team.

** GAME NOTE:   Henrik Lundqvist ~ Win Number 200 as a New York Ranger.

It was a rough way to earn two points.  But right now points are at a premium.  This is in no way a statement of panic on my part, but the Rangers' play-off lives are being played for, Right Now!...  There's a couple of teams bunched together in the neighborhood of 60+ points.  Carolina already came on like a Hurricane to join the Pack of Eight.  Buffalo has stormed back from the abyss to put themselves at the doorstep.  At this point, the top five teams in the Eastern Conference you can pretty much write in stone.  Those teams aren't dropping anywhere.  The sixth place team; Montreal....I'd write them in ink.  Then, like I said, that leaves us, Carolina, Buffalo and Atlanta all futzing around in our 60's.  And those Devils....What do we make of them?  They are now only 12 points away from 8th place Carolina.

This game against the L.A. Kings may have been Coach Tort's best game managing and distributing minutes amongst his forwards.  All game and past the half way point of the third period, Torts maintained a high/low ice disparity of four minutes on average.  We know from Coach's history, getting ice time from him is like a lightning strike.  He never seems to hit the same spot twice.  And knowing him, he's about to trim down his "set" lines to three and abandon a fourth line altogether.  Who's going to comprise those three lines?  I'm sure we're about to find out.  But with him, nothing has ever been set.

Friday Night Fights Hockey

February 18, 2011



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