NEW YORK RANGERS:
Crisis Narrowly Averted Just in the "Last-Tick" of Time.
After a trip through the mid-west and to the Arizona desert where the Blueshirts played some good, bad, and at times ugly hockey along the way, the Rangers return to the metropolitan area to play an off-off-Broadway game against the Devils in Newark this Tuesday night at The Rock.
As for that last trip, the Rangers dropped a tightly contested 1-0 game to the Dallas Stars. One singularly huge mistake on a defensive zone clearing/pass attempt cost the Rangers dearly. It made me rethink what I said in my last post and if may have spoken too soon? But I doubt it. I believe this to be a very solidly built team. I stand by everything I say. They will suffer hiccups along the way like everyone else. The Dallas game was well played. We just came up short through fault of our own and I can live with that. It's not like we had circles skated around us as was the case in game two of the road trip.
Case in point, loss number two in St. Louis is one we should probably bury deeply into our subconscious. There weren't too many redeeming qualities about that 4-1 loss. It wasn't necessarily poorly played. It's just that the Blues out-everything'd us that game. What stood out most to me was how much more physical they were than us. This game was similar to the Toronto losses. Battling for pucks is something the Rangers do very well. But St. Louis did it better than us like many things this night. If only...........
How long did you think I'd go before bringing Sean Avery into this discussion? Because battling for pucks down low, and winning those battles, and great passing from behind the net, and playing defense, and fore-checking, and crashing the net, and knowing how to move without the puck, are Sean Avery's forte.
So What Now? What can possibly be the reason Coach Torts hasn't played Sean Avery in...three games is it? Was it something he said? Because I sure as hell didn't see anything he may have done; not on the ice at least. What gives Coach? We were just getting used to seeing him get some regular shifts during even strength. Then...Poof!
That leaves us to talk about the last game against the Coyotes in Phoenix. It only took the Rangers 179:59 through three games to do it, but finally with just 0:1 left in regulation of a two all tie, a Brad Richards' backhand from the goalie's right circle found it's way through and lit the lamp just in time to give the Rangers a hard fought victory. And after a review, they were finally awarded with two points - a resilient two points at that. So much for being content with a tie and taking your chances in over-time. That goal was good stuff and a hell of a way to salvage what was otherwise a Bad Trip...man.
Marian Gaborik; Mr. Comeback Season himself; scored the 300th goal of his career. In fact, he scored two goals against Phoenix. His 16th of the season came in the first period putting the Rangers ahead 1-0. His 17th goal of the season tied the score at two apiece a little over a minute into the third period.
The score stayed that way until Brad Richards swatted a backhand towards net. And in that fraction of a second, the Rangers gained a whole lot to smile about for the long flight back from Arizona. In the 179:59 prior to that goal, not so much smiling. .....And I want to give Marty Biron props for a job well done between the pipes.
That win propelled the Rangers into the forty point club. Their forty points are actually tied for fourth in the conference with Pittsburgh. In hot pursuit? - The New Jersey Devils with thirty-seven points.
Tuesday night is the first time the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils will meet this season. Game One in The Battle Of The Hudson takes place at The Rock in Brick City, New Jersey.
Of all teams, will Coach Torts finally allow Sean Avery to play against Marty Brodeur and the Devils? Coach has to get him back in the line-up sometime. After the Devils, the Rangers play host to the Islanders Thursday, then the Flyers Friday night. That's three games in four nights. Yes Coach, it's time to get Sean Avery back on the ice; especially against Philly. The team is gonna need the fresh legs Coach. And with all the injuries we're sustaining on the blue line, we need Avery's defensive tenacity and back-checking on the ice.
The first place Flyers (43 points) are now without Chris Pronger who's lost for the season. So the timing is right to seize the moment and stake a claim on first place. And without a doubt, Sean Avery can help get it done. And the thing is..., Coach knows it too!
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NEW JERSEY DEVILS: Changing of the Guards.
Scott Niedermayer was one of greatest clutch playoff performers I ever watched play. Of course that has much to do with living in the area and getting Devils games on TV. But in truth, while only spending eight years in a Devils' jersey, Niedermayer did so much for this franchise. Say what you will about Marty Brodeur or any of the other Stanley Cup contributors, much of that success is not possible without this defenseman. His #27 is very deserving indeed of being lifted up among the retired jerseys of fellow defensemen, Ken Daneyko, and Scott Stevens. Congratulations to you.
Once he hangs up the pads, the next obvious member of the retired jerseys club will be Martin Brodeur. He is already on record as saying he will decide when to step away before someone else makes that decision for him. He says he's having fun this season. And well, with the games he's missed, it's still rather early to tell if that happiness will translate into saves and wins. Personally I feel Johan Hedberg is ready to step in as the full time goalie. But Martin Brodeur is still a very capable goalie if A) - he stays healthy, and B) his overall number of starts are managed. But you let the All-Time Career Wins and All-Time Shut-Outs Leader make the call when it's time to step away. I suspect he'll retire after this season. And I think Big Lou is crossing his fingers that he does. Lou Lamoriello was always a proactive kind of guy. So it would be nice to see these two, Martin Brodeur and the Devils, end their time together the right way.
Being that 'tis the season, the subject of Patrick Elias' jersey one day being lifted to the rafters also came up. And the consensus is/was, eventually, Yes. And why not; he's not only a life-long Devil, a Stanley Cup Champion; but now is also the organization's All-Time Goals Scored Leader breaking the mark held by former Devil great; John MacLean. He tied and broke the record with two goals against the Montreal Canadiens this past Saturday in a 5-3 Devils win. Franchise record breaking goal #348 was Patrick's 13th goal of the season.
But what of John MacLean? I hope the time he spent here as Head Coach hasn't taken away from all the great years he spent as a Devils' forward. And after all, it was his record Patrick Elias recently broke. He grew with this organization in the days Wayne Gretzky was calling them a Mickey Mouse organization. Then back in 1988, John MacLean scored the goal that clinched the organization's first ever playoff berth. He was part of their first ever Stanley Cup Championship. I ask Devil Fans, - If Patrick Elias is deserving, then isn't Johnny Mac just as much a consideration?
Of course this is Zach Parise's team now; a healthy Zach Parise that is. And this is the team of Ilya Kovalchuk who appears to have joined the fold. It took a season to bust the Russian bronco, but it appears he's ready to be a Devil now. And of course, Patrick Elias is still, Patrick Elias. The fact that the Devils are NOT stumbling their way through a historically bad start unlike last year at this time, should concern hockey fans who spend Christmas pondering their team's standings in April. If you're not a Devils fan, than this is a team to be worried about. That's not to say that can win a Cup. But on a given night, they can mess you up.
BATTLE of the HUDSON
NEW YORK RANGERS
New Jersey Devils
BRICK CITY, N.J.