Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Video: Alexander Ovechkin's Beautiful End-To-End OT Winner

For most NHL players having 24 goals and 39 assists in 63 games coming into tonight would be a very good season.  Most NHL players haven’t set a standard for their performance as high as the Washington Capitals Alexander Ovechkin though as so it is considered a disappointing performance.

In overtime tonight Ovechkin turned back the clock and reminded the entire league of the just how special he can be.  Ovie took the puck and went end-to-end while abusing a very good defensive forward in Frans Nielsen before blowing past him and beating Islanders goalie Nathan Lawson with a backhand shot upstairs to the far post. This goal is why he has been called the Great Eight.  The Capitals are going to need a lot more of this if they are going to do anything in the playoffs.

If the Capitals didn’t score with just 48 seconds left in regulation, then this goal never happens.

Rangers Drop Closer To Playoff Edge After Losign Crucial Game To Sabres 3-2

Any loss at this time of the year when all points are so tightly contested hurts, but this game has some extra sting to it.  Part of the sting is the fact we have seen this movie far too often in the past two months.  Rangers fall behind by two, rally to get within one, have countless chances to tie the game and “just run out of time.”  I am tired of talking about how hard they played and how close they came, at some point all loses are loses as there are no moral victory points in the standings, which got a lot worse for the Rangers tonight. 
The overreactions are flying from everywhere about how the season is over and this team is worthless and if you believe that, then frankly just stay away for the rest of the year because we do not need you around.  This team lacks true talent, but you cannot question their heart and that is part of what makes them so frustrating right now because unlike past years where they would mail games in, they fight to stay in it and are coming up short.
Yes, the officiating was awful tonight.  Yes, the awful officiating led to goals for Buffalo and maybe stopped us from getting some with our power play actually looking good.  In the end though it doesn’t matter because they aren’t going to go back and undo it.  Have to move on and look to Thursday and beat the Wild at home.
Recap of the action after the jump:

Rangers Season Will Rise or Fall On The Shoulders of Their King, Henrik Lundqvist

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
At the beginning of every New York Rangers season one of the talking points is about how the organization wants to lessen the workload for Henrik Lundqvist.  Over the prior four seasons, Lundqvist played 73, 70, 72 and 70 games respectively.  This season the talk was about a schedule and how Martin Biron was going to ease the burden on Lundqvist so that the total was closer to 60 than 70.  For much of the season the team has stuck to the plan regardless of who the opponent has been, but even before Biron went down yesterday the Rangers appeared to be deviating from the plan.  With the playoff race tightening Lundqvist had started each of the previous eight games. The Rangers currently sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference three points ahead of eighth, five points ahead of ninth and only three points behind sixth.  With the tightening in the standings it was likely they would ride Lundqvist most of the stretch run anyway, but now with Biron likely down for the rest of the regular season things will look a lot more like previous season between the pipes for New York.  
Hopefully Lundqvist made the most of that early season rest as in the final 18 games on the schedule and once can safely expect the Rangers linchpin to play in 16 or 17 of those contests.  This scenario is nothing new to him, but it certainly deviates from what they had hoped would be the situation this season with his playing time.  While far from ideal it is a situation that he has proven he can handle and even thrive in if he gets hot at the right time and this team needs that right now.
The New York Rangers have done a tremendous job this season of playing as a team and being a unit where a single player is not necessarily forced to carry the load every night.  Having said that, everyone knows that the fate of this franchise each season is determined by how far Henrik Lundqvist can carry them.  Other players have emerged this season to take some of the burden off the 28-year-old net minder, and the play of Biron had led others, including myself, to think about how players such as Marc Staal might be more irreplaceable this season.  That fallacy is now over.  There is no one else. 
As the Rangers begin the stretch run tonight with a crucial game against ninth place Buffalo the fate of this team will be on the shoulders of the man in charge of defending that 6 x 4 cage each night.  The 2010-11 team is filled with great stories of players raising their games to levels others did not expect them to be at, but the final chapter of this story will be defined by the one guy everyone expects to be the backbone of this team.  Whether the Rangers rise or fall in these next six weeks and beyond will all be about their leader for he is the only person capable winning a game or sending a team on a steak all by himself.  With the race as tight as it is the time for rest is over and the time for excellence is here.  For the next 18 games the entire team, franchise, city and fan base will look to their King to put the team on his back and carry them as far as he can.  In that cause they will all follow, but the key is for him to lead.

Analysis: Rangers Make Right Move Buying Into Players/Course They Are On

Nick Laham/Getty Images

Yesterday was a relatively slow trading deadline day around the league and particularly for the New York Rangers, but sometimes the best moves are the ones you do not make.  The “experts” will criticize the Rangers and GM Glen Sather for not making the big move for Brad Richards simply because it means Sather did not, at least on the surface, give his team the best chance to win this season.  That side of the argument might be right because, if healthy, Brad Richards certainly makes the New York Rangers more dangerous this season.  What that argument fails to account for though, as all instant analysis of a trade deadline does, is the bigger picture and in that frame what the New York Rangers did was a pure win because it took the long term and prioritized it over a quick fix at a high cost.  The decisions made within the franchise as the deadline came and went will be characterized as standing pat, but I look what happened as them buying in a different form; they bought into what they have and decided to continue on the course.
All season the Rangers, as an organization, have talked about this year was about development and building a foundation not for one season, but for consistent contender down the road.  On deadline day, with the whole hockey world glued to see whether they would cave to the demands of Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk, they put their money where their mouth is.  The easy move for Sather would have been to take the deal and use the excuse of he is doing everything he can to help this team win the Stanley Cup this season.  It is exactly the move that the Rangers used to make.
Obviously the team wants to win.  All teams want to win.  What the Rangers have said with their statement in avoiding the temptation of big names and now is that they believe these guys have enough to compete today and the focus is on allowing them to grow this organization into a contender later.  According to Andrew Gross at Rangers Rants, Glen Sather said that there was plenty of interest from teams around the league in obtaining the youth the Rangers are building around.
“A lot of people were interested in our young guys but we really didn’t want trade any of our kids,” Sather said.
We will never fully know what the Stars or any other team wanted in order for Glen Sather to have made a move to help the team for this season.  What we do know is that they decided whatever the options were to buy from outside it was not as attractive as buying into the pieces we would have had to let go.  That should excite Rangers fans for the future.  Any Rangers fan that is spending today mourning what the team did not do is missing the beauty of this team and this season.  When I watch Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, Michael Sauer, Mats Zuccarello and all the other young players that litter this lineup tonight, continue the push for the playoffs this year, I will not be thinking about Brad Richards or any other player that was out there on the market.  Instead, I will be thankful that this organization believed enough in this core to see the bigger picture regardless of what it means for this one single season.  That is the best kind of buying the Rangers could have done on Monday and we will all reap the rewards for years to come.