Tuesday, January 25, 2011
|Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images|
A night after the Rangers got the bounce on the tying goal in Washington, the bounce would go against them midway through the third period against the Panthers. The Rangers were clearly the better team for the bulk of the game, but they did not catch many breaks tonight and instead of having another third period comeback win in them they came up one goal short. It is a tough way to go into the time off, but they will take where they currently rest in the standings and enjoy this next week to get healthier.
The Rangers came out strong early in the first period. The team did a great job in pinning the Panthers deep in their own zone and creating chances. The would be rewarded with an early power play that led to a chance for Sean Avery, but a good defensive play by Chris Higgins would spoil it before it got on goal.
The Panthers would get on the board first despite the Rangers dominating the first period when Higgins would feed Olesz who’s shot would deflect off Anisimov and over Lundqvist’s glove. The period would end with that being the only goal despite the Rangers outshooting the Panthers 12-4.
Early in the second period, a flurry of goals would happen starting with Derek Stepan tying the game 1. On the play Mats Zuccarello would make an excellent play to push the puck up the wall to a streaking Wojtek Wolski who drove the net hard and had his rebound put home by Stepan.
To answer the Rangers tying goal the Panthers would get two of their own. The first came just 46 seconds after Stepan tied the game, when Keaton Ellerby, after barely keeping the puck in, would fire the puck on goal and it would get through Lundqvist. It appeared the Rangers all stopped on the play assuming it was offside.
The second strike would come only 1:08 after Ellerby’s tally, as Santorelli crashes the crease and knocks it over a downed Lundqvist. Brian Boyle had Santorelli behind the net on the initial play but he left him to go play the slot and no one picked him up so he had two whacks at rebound chances.
It would take another third period rally if the Rangers were going to salvage points out of this one and for half the period it certainly seemed they were on their way to doing just that. In just a shade over three minutes the Rangers had erased the two goal deficit and were back to even. Brandon Prust would deflect Michael Sauer’s shot home to cut the deficit to one.
The Rangers would tie it 1:51 later when Brian Boyle would stuff home the rebound of a Marian Gaborik backhand attempt on the power play. With the goal, Boyle now leads the Rangers with 18 goals on the season.
In the end it was not meant to be tonight as Mike Weaver would score a fluke goal that deflected off Artem Anisimov’s back, popped up in the air and landed behind Lundqvist, trickling into the net.
Following the game the Rangers announced that Michael Del Zotto, Evgeny Grachev, Chad Kolarik, Brodie Dupont and Kris Newbury were being sent back to the Connecticut Whale (AHL). Presumably a couple of them will come back next week, but I would not expect them all to return with the expectation of returns for Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi.
The team also announced that both Ryan Callahan and Vinny Prospal have been activated from injured reserve.
- Lundqvist certainly was not at his best tonight, but the Bronx cheer he got during the second period was an absolute joke and they should all be ashamed of themselves. Yes, buying a ticket gives you the right to act like an idiot, but having a ticket, even season tickets does not make you a fan of this team.
- Mats Zuccarello was phenomenal tonight with his three assists and I repeat my call that the NHL should select him to replace Jordan Eberle in the SuperSkills competition during All-Star weekend.
- Michael Del Zotto was good tonight, especially the third period.
Early in the third period last night, apparently in an attempt to get his team a power play to try and get an insurance goal, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals decided to work on his diving skills after feeling contact from Brandon Prust. The worst part is that Ovechkin could have been seriously injured if he landed the wrong way on the play.
Video from CSN Washington
Video from CSN Washington
|Scott Cunningham/NHLI via Getty Images|
The New York Rangers might hold an answer to some of the injury issues currently plaguing the NHL All-Star weekend in the form of Mats Zuccarello. The game itself has lost marquee names like Crosby, Iginla, Malkin and lesser known ones in Enstrom and Hemsky to injury or personal issues. Beyond that from the rookie selections Oiler’s forward Jordan Eberle is also out of the skills competition. The goal of the weekend is as much about promotion of the league and the marketing side as it is the game itself. With that in mind, I propose the NHL select Rangers’ rookie Mats Zuccarello as Eberle’s replacement. With the NHL looking to add life to the weekend events via the fantasy draft on Friday, this might be the year to make an outside the box choice for injury replacement.
I am not arguing that Zuccarello is the next best rookie forward statistically. The numbers are there with him only having 16 games at the NHL level and only eight points on the season. What I am saying is that Eberle was slated to be in the skills competition and what Zuccarello has shown in his short time in the NHL is he is dynamically skilled and a master in the shootout phase of the game. The Norwegian winger is now 4-for-4 in tiebreakers in the NHL, with two game-deciding goals, including key shootout tallies in each of the last two games. With each passing attempt the reaction of the goaltenders is the same; helplessness.
In addition to his qualifications for the position he would be chosen for, a move like this would be excellent PR and marketing for the NHL. The league is looking to continue to grow the game around the world and adding Zuccarello would only increase interest in Norway and throughout Europe. The NHL would also obviously be able to sell the story of the ‘little guy’ beating the odds and playing with the world’s best players on the biggest stage. Imagine the intrigue of Mats Zuccarello taking a shootout chance against Henrik Lundqvist on Saturday night. Add to that the number of jersey’s the league could sell both from Rangers fans and Zuccarello supporters around the globe and this move makes too much sense not to do it.
While Martin Biron has been stellar as the New York Rangers backup goaltender this season former goalie Steve Valiquette is now minding the net for CSKA Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League. On Monday, the contrast between the two became even more stark as Biron was getting a shootout win against the Capitals and Valiquette was being benched in a game against Dinamo Riga. The reason for the benching was him giving up an embarrassing long-distance blooper goal.
Video via [videoKHL]
|Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images|
New York Rangers rookie Derek Stepan has been one of the many pleasant surprises for the team so far this season. The 20-year-old rookie center has 13 goals, 16 assists and 29 points in his first 50 games. His performance allowed for him to be one of 12 rookies selected to participate in the Honda NHL SuperSkills on Saturday, Jan. 29, during 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend. The question today though is whether Stepan might be playing during Sunday’s main game as well.
Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com, during his weekend wrap, discussed the idea that NHL is going to give the injured players selected for the game all the time they can to decide if they can participate in the All-Star game. According to Pierre, that means there would not be any selection of additional replacement players to participate in the game.
Why? Because the league will replace any injured All-Star from the pool of rookies already attending the skills event. I think this is an absolutely brilliant solution.
Mats Zuccarello continues to come up with special plays for the New York Rangers and his interviews continue to be entertaining. In this one he talked about size is not only not a disadvantage to him, but an advantage over the bigger players in his mind. After that he looked for the cliches about directional hockey and then just went with straight forward, which was fun to see. I love that he understands the honor it is to be selected to try and get his team an extra point in the shootouts, even if I hate that they have so much importance. The plug for Avery's bar was hilarious.