NEW YORK RANGERS: Blueshirts Earn Three Points in Two Days for Three Point Eastern Conference Lead. Now Tied With Detroit for Number One in NHL.
Marian Gaborik and Ryan Callahan Score in Shoot-Out for 1-0 Win
Over Buffalo Sabres
Over Buffalo Sabres
That's two shoot-out games on consecutive nights coming off the break and three points to show for it. I'll take it. Tuesday night's loss to the Devils was a somewhat bitter pill to swallow. The Rangers kept building one goal leads, and the Devils kept tying the game. Victory was less than a minute away when they got duped on a bad bounce off the boards. Then Martin Brodeur decided to turn on the greatness again, and well, New Jersey earned the second point of the night. But as I mentioned in my last post, the Rangers three goals Tuesday came from Stralman; Boyle; and Del Zotto. The three have combined for twelve goals all season.
There's your seg-way into Wednesday night's game against Buffalo. The game itself was actually a very high-paced; high-intensity affair. Dare I say it was a great game? These games against Buffalo always are. It was a game that got me thinking which ever team makes the big mistake down the stretch, loses. Playoff games are like that where neither team is willing to take overt risks with the puck. And no fights. There was too much good hockey going on and things were moving too fast for harboring ill will away from the puck. Both teams however, committed their fair share of dumb penalties at the worst times, but escaped.
Why? Both goalies, Ryan Miller and Henrik Lundqvist, were brilliant in net. Henrik turned away all twenty-nine shots he faced over the first sixty-five minutes, while Miller stopped all thirty-four he faced as well. And there-in lies the rub. No goals from the Rangers' relied upon scorers again. No not Gaborik. There's others the team needs more scoring from like Dubinsky, Anisimov, and Fedotenko. And to a lesser degree, it's not wrong to expect a little more from Brad Richards. We also knew last year Brian Boyle was having am unusually good season scoring goals. But we can certainly use a few more from him the rest of the way. Guys like Hagelin and Mitchell have been very nice sparks though.
Sure we'd all like for the PP to be better. Well, we only had a man-advantage twice against Buffalo. And OK, we were 0-3 against the Devils as well. But the truth is this team's strength has long been at even strength. And every goal is worth it's weight in gold as defenses around the League get better from now through the end of the season.
The Rangers should know something about that as they are now the stingiest defense in the NHL; giving up a League low 100 goals this season. They've achieved that through a supreme defensive effort by all players. But here's a matter keeping that stat in check - The Bruins own a +70 for/against goal differential. The Rangers stand at +36 for the season. This all means we're playing with a vastly smaller margin of error than our closest competition is. Yet, for all our apparent problems putting the puck in net, the Rangers now own a three point lead over Boston for the Eastern Conference lead. What's more, their two points Wednesday night gives them sixty-nine on the season which ties them for the League lead with the Detroit Red Wings.
The Philadelphia Flyers are next. And if you remember last time we met in the Winter Classic, it was Mike Rupp who rose-up to become the unlikely hero with two goals that game. To his credit, Brad Richards figured mightily in that game as well. But will we be in need of another hero against the Flyers again? Or will one or several expected players step up like a trio of Devils did against the Rangers on Tuesday, when Parise; Kovalchuk, and Clarkson all scored for New Jersey?
Indeed, what I described (or complained about) is all emblematic of overall good team play. But some individuals need to start cranking things up a bit. If not, the Rangers' margin between successfully sustaining this season long momentum, and starting to fall short and slip in the standings will keep tightening. This is by no means doubt on my part. It's simply what needs to be done.