Monday, January 24, 2011

Video: Tortorella Praises Stellar Defense Following Caps Win

Rangers Continue To Work Magic With Another Comeback Shootout Win

The Rangers certainly did not put on the same performance tonight as they did in the trouncing they gave the Capitals in their last matchup, but this one might have been even more impressive.  With only ten guys in the lineup who played in the last meeting the Rangers were a different team than the one that beat the Caps last month and with that they played a different game.  They knew that with all their missing pieces it was going to have to be a grind it out game as most of their victories are and this one was no different.  A late ugly goal would give the Rangers enough to get it to extra time and eventually the skills competition in which they have become masters.
Tonight it would take four rounds in the shootout, but Artem Anisimov, who was previously 0 for 4 in his career, would go to his backhand for the winner.  Earlier in the shootout Wojtek Wolski and Mats Zuccarello would convert for the club.  Zuccarello’s finish would make him 4 for 4 in his brief NHL career in the shootout format.
Martin Biron would stop Marcus Johansson to seal the game and send the Rangers back to New York having gotten four huge points on this three game trip.  Overall in the game Biron would turn aside 22 Captials shots in what many, including myself, considered a somewhat suspect decision to give him the nod.  Reality is the Rangers have a plan for their goaltenders and Biron has played well enough this season that no game he is placed in should lead to questions of the decision from here on.
The Rangers goal as I said was an ugly one, but the kind of goal the Rangers need right now especially from Marian Gaborik.  It will never make a highlight film and for some homers calling the game was “controversial,” but it was a goal that only happens with Gaborik going to a dirty area on the ice.   The play happened when Brian Boyle took a shot from atop the right faceoff circle and after it bounced off Gaborik and then the stick of Alzner it got through Holtby.
The only goal the Rangers would surrender on the night was to Matt Hendricks 1:27 into the second period.  The goal came on a brilliant diagonal pass by Marcus Johansson to Hendricks at the left side who was left open on a blown assignment.
This team continues to play through injuries and you have to believe in what they are doing and more importantly the way they are doing it.  Pretty is never a word to describe in, but this is an honest team that plays an honest game and they are getting rewarded for it.  Scary to imagine what this team will be if they combine the mentality with a full squad of healthy bodies.
  • I expected to miss Dan Girardi more than I did tonight, but the credit for that goes completely to Michael Sauer.  Sauer gets no hype from anyone, but as important as Stepan has been I will contend he has been as if not more important as a rookie to this team.  At least that is what I told gmanuelian and BlueshirtBanter in our twitter conversation
  • When Girardi comes back I would leave Sauer with Staal and play Girardi with another standout tonight, Ryan McDonagh.  How good is this kid this soon?
  • Add those two to the rock back there, Marc Staal, and this defense core is ridiculously good.  Staal was Norris trophy worthy with work tonight in frustrating and at time straight owning Ovechkin.
  • I Michael Del Zotto has been enjoying Hartford because he still has a lot of work to do to get his game back.  He had multiple coverage mistakes, is still trying too many long passes and still is unable to hit the net with his shot.  Combine that with the phenomenal play of McDonagh and it might be awhile before he comes back in a non-injury related scenario.
  • Thought Evgeny Grachev was much more impressive tonight than in any of his earlier games as he showed more speed, strength and threat in his limited time.

Video: Rangers Youth Feature During Versus Pregame 1/24/2011

During the pregame tonight's Rangers game against the Caps the Versus crew showed a feature on how the team's youth has been critical to the success they have experienced.

Lineup News: Biron Starts; Girardi Out, Del Zotto In; Prust Game-time Decision

Following a crazy last couple hours of differing impressions and information surrounding the New York Rangers lineup for tonight against Washington it appears to be somewhat sorted out.
The morning started with Prust missing practice and Girardi being out there leading to thoughts of Prust sitting and Girardi being in.  By the time practice was over it was said that Prust is a game time decision while Girardi is out of the lineup tonight. That flip in thinking typifies what the mass confusion was over an hour.
Prust says he's good to play tonight and he sat out skate to rest for the game.  Too bad he did not do an Allen Iverson, "We talking about practice," number. Prust also talked about tremendous theory on playing and pain. All I can say about Prust playing tonight is what I said in this morning’s story about him; warrior.
If Prust plays the decision will come down to Grachev or Dupont for final spot.
On defense there is no word on the combinations, but there were plenty of quotes from Torts on Michael Del Zotto making it clear that he is only here because of injury and not because they feel he is ready to be back. 
I would pair Staal-Sauer; McDonagh-Gilroy; Del Zotto-Eminger for the game as those are in order the way they have played in my opinion.
With all the attention on updates over Girardi and Prust injuries/availability for tonight’s game, the most surprising news of the morning had to be Martin Biron getting the start tonight.  Biron has been excellent and Tortorella cited not wanting to use Henrik five games in seven days, but there were other games (Toronto) that would have been better for Lundqvist to sit.  It is assumes that Lundqvist will go tomorrow against Florida.
Funniest quote of the morning came from Derek Stepan when asked by Jesse Spector about the cut near his eye and the hit from Nik Antropov, “You remember, when I almost died?" Classic.

Not that they matter much now, but here is how the lines looked during practice from Jesse Spector:


Brandon Prust Is a Warrior

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Brandon Prust is a warrior.  That statement goes without saying, but it must be said.  You watch him and with each passing game you become more amazed at the will and toughness he brings to the New York Rangers.  For the past few months Brandon Prust has been playing with a bum shoulder, yet he never misses a game and refusing to take shifts off.  He has fought less, but to best heal that shoulder he should not be fighting at all.  That sort of reality is not one that Brandon Prust subscribes to because he will do whatever it takes for the team. 

It is why Brian Boyle, who is having his own phenomenal season, can say with no hesitation and absolute sincerity, "He's a warrior and it's an honor to play with him."  From this end, it is an honor to watch him as well.

Last week, with his team flat against Carolina, Prust decided trying to spark the team was more important than the pain he was going to experience in the shoulder as a result of fighting Jay Harrison.  Fighting a man who is significantly bigger than him is something few people want to do even when healthy, but for Prust it is a common occurrence and on that night he would do it even with an injured wing.  Even more impressive is the fact by the time the fight was over he would be the winner.  That is what defines Brandon Prust.  That is what has come to define this year’s New York Rangers. 

The next night in Atlanta, Prust takes a slap shot off the foot and crumbles to the ice.  You could tell it was bad from the way he hobbled to the bench and for most it would be the end of their night immediately.  Most are not wired like Brandon Prust.  For the rest of the first and second period you would see Prust take every shift with his line noticeably hobbling, but continuing to give it maximum effort.  It was not until the start of the third period where John Tortorella would have to make the decision for Prust that his night was over.  That is the mentality of a warrior.

Following Saturday’s game there was good news in regards to the injury to Prust in that x-rays were negative.  The team listed Prust as day-to-day and while he should take tonight and even tomorrow off so that he can heal all his injuries over the extended break, I do not suspect we see that.  If Prust can stand today, he will find a way to get himself into the lineup against the Capitals tonight.  It is just the mentality of a warrior.

Pekka Rinne's Stick Saves Nashville in OT (Video)

There are memorable stick saves every season, but rarely is it the stick that saves the team all on its own as was the case tonight in overtime of the Edmonton Oilers versus Nashville Predators game.  In overtime, Pekka Rinne’s stick saved the goalie and the team from an OT loss while not being under the control of Rinne.
On the play the stick had been knocked from Rinne’s hand and was on the ice, partially in the crease and partially inside the goal.  Play would continue and Shawn Horcoff would make a tremendous diving backhand attempt on goal that beat Rinne only to be hit the goalie paddle, ride the shaft and never make it into the net.

Rinne and his stick would then combine to stone all Oilers in the shootout for the 3-2 Nashville win.
Here’s the video: