Friday, March 18, 2011

Five Goal First Paces Rangers Over Canadiens in 6-3 Win

The New York Rangers came into tonight's game against the Montreal Canadiens talking about looking ahead in the standings and not behind. If they wanted to do something about that they had to start this evening as they came in trailing Montreal by seven points for sixth place in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers certainly came out to prove their intentions to catch the Canadiens with their best period of the season in the first period in which they tallied a season high five goals. The Canadiens would climb back in and get within two, but the Rangers would hold on for their third straight win and climbed within five points of Montreal for sixth and expanded their advantage on Buffalo to four.

Anyone looking for some "edge" to this game got it right off the opening faceoff when Brandon Prust and Travis Moen dropped the gloves. Prust continues to be the ultimate warrior for the Rangers and never turns down a willing opponent.

The Rangers kept up the energy with Artem Anisimov giving them the early lead 5:28 into the game. The goal was started by Anisimov making an excellent defensive play blocking Yanick Weber's shot inside his defensive blueline and then took off the other way on a breakaway. Anisimov skated in on Price and made multiple deke's before beating Price with the backhand shot. The goal was his 17th of the season and fourth in the last eight game.

The Canadiens answered back quickly when P.K. Subban unleashed a howitzer of a slap shot from the high slot that when through tons of traffic. Lundqvist had no chance to stop that one as it was just simply too good a shot and he could not have seen it. The roar from the visiting Canadiens was as loud as any I ever heard on a visiting goal at Madison Square Garden.

The chippiness continued as Prust and Subban received coincidental minors off a scrum in front. The next shift down the ice it would be Roman Hamrlik going off for two minutes for crosschecking Marc Staal giving the Rangers a four-on-three advantage. The Rangers would not score on the advantage but the pressure they had would be rewarded just 9 seconds after it ended. Dan Girardi would pick up the rebound from Erik Christensen’s shot and fired from the top of the circle at 10:25 to give the Rangers the lead again. The goal was Girardi’s fourth and first since December 16.

New York poured it on late in the first with three goals in 1:07. Ryan Callahan banged home the first one on a scramble in front. The shot sent up the back and off the head of James Wisniewski in which the puck hopped over Carey Price and in. Marian Gaborik added his fourth in four games when he collected the loose puck in the slot and fired it home. Brian Boyle would finish the onslaught and send Carey Price packing at 18:16 with his 21st of the season. The play was created by a beautiful rush from Marc Staal who then fed the puck across to Boyle and he didn’t miss making it 5-1 in a tremendous period for New York.

The Canadiens struck early in the second on a goal from James Wisniewski. The blast can't from the right point at 4:13 of the period.

Late in the second P.K. Subban pulled another one if his BS moves that is going to get him wrecked one of these days. Subban deliberately ran Henrik Lundqvist and when Michael Sauer challenged him to fight over it he backed away like a coward and waited until the refs were in the way to drop his gloves and pretend he would have fought.

Ryan Callahan took a bad penalty late in the period and it carried over into the third with the Rangers up 5-2.

The Callahan penalty ended up biting the Rangers as Brian Gionta deflected a Wisniewski slap shot in just 54 seconds into the third.

Late in the third Benoit Pouliot would crash into Henrik Lundqvist and Hank would remain down for several minutes as he was worked on by Jim Ramsay. Lundqvist would stay in the game and watch as Vinny Prospal capped the scoring as the Rangers finally beat the Canadiens this year by a final of 6-3.
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Is Mats Zuccarello Getting A Free Pass From Rangers Fans?

Al Bello/Getty Images
One of the best parts of being a fan of sports is having players you love to follow and for each fan there are different reasons that certain types of players or individual guys strike a chord with them.  New York Rangers fans are certainly no different and there favorites are totally up to them.  It is also a part of reality that fans judge their favorites on a different scale than other players.  That statement should not shock nor surprise you and it is true of every team in the league and their fans.  There is nothing wrong with it and it is a very natural thing because there is more of an investment in those players.  The place where I take issue with it is when certain players are getting called out for poor play while favorites are getting a pass while producing even less.  One of those players, at least it appears to me, who is getting a pass from Rangers fans is Mats Zuccarello.
Let me try a blind test to see how well this works.
Since January 11

PP Points
Player A
Player B

Rangers Need More From Derek Stepan Down The Stretch

For the New York Rangers offensive production is something that is a constant problem in terms of finding consistency.  The team has shown an ability to explode for huge goal scoring games, but then they go into prolonged droughts where they can muster two goals, at most, per game.  They obviously need scoring from their veteran players and those guys have started to come around of late.  In addition they need some of the young players who have produced for much of the season to bring their game back up again.  One player the Rangers are going to need more from down the stretch if they are going to maintain their playoff position is rookie Derek Stepan.
The Rangers have asked a lot of Stepan at different points in the year and he has responded well to all the challenges they have given him.  Overall Stepan has put up and impressive 39 points (18-21) on the season.  He has been as high as the top line with Marian Gaborik and as low as the fourth line. 
The flip side for Stepan has been the lulls in his performance and production has crept in at different points of the season, which is to be expected from young players.  He is currently experiencing one of those lulls as he has recorded only one goal and two assists in the team’s last 8 games, which will not be enough the rest of the way.  In recent games his play and the play of his linemates has made their line fall in the pecking order to fourth once again. 
What has happened previously when Stepan has fallen down the order is that he has gotten back to playing his game and worked his way out of it.  When he has been at his most effective this season it has been when he has added a physical element to his game which has been lacking lately.  Stepan is never going to be a big hitter or anything of the sort, but when he plays with contact his entire game changes because he is more aggressive at the front of the net.  They need him to do this again as it will lift not only his game, but the game of his wingers.
The team has to be happy with the recent surge in the offense, but with the standings as tight as they are they cannot be content relying on the same guys to score each night.  They need others to rise to the occasion down the stretch and Derek Stepan has shown he, as much as anyone, should be expected to increase his level when it counts most.  While not at this level he has been in critical games and performed whether it be helping Wisconsin reach the national championship game or the USA win Gold at the World Juniors both last season, so he can handle the moment.
The 20-year-old rookie has shown he can be an impact player with a knack for scoring goals at key times in the game.  There will come at least one moment in these last 11 games where the Rangers will need Stepan to come through with a goal to tie, win or send a game to overtime and I expect him to rise to the occasion.  At each turn this season Stepan has met the challenge and found another level when his team has really needed it from him and now they need that guy again.  This time of year there is no such thing as a rookie anymore, and Stepan has not carried himself like a rookie all season so the Rangers need him to find his game again and bring the offense back so that he can have a chance to make some history come playoff time. 

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