Rangers 1, Blackhawks 0.
Today’s review is graciously provided by regular bonehead James G. Great job, James!
1) First of all this game was all Doodie’s fault. Why you ask? Because earlier in the day he just had to bring up how he was at this amazing game years back when the Rangers lost to the Devils in a shootout 1-0 after a classic goaltending duel between the King and Marty Brodeur. This one was right up there. But relax. While this was the first game in a while that we got to witness highlight reel saves in net, there’s no goalie controversy just yet. BUT…boy oh boy this was one of those games that will get fans jawing a little louder about the King and his royal stinkers that have been way too common over the first 30 games.
2) Wasn’t really sure what to expect going in. Chicago was beat up (though not as bad as the Rangers). No Toews, No Seabrook (isn’t he a former future former Ranger?) (Editor’s note: yes, for Petr Prucha) and no Crawford. Still, you had Darling in net who had shut the Rangers out in the only appearance he’s had against them previously. Meanwhile in Rangers land the boys got into Chi-town late last night after squeaking out a last minute win against the Jets Thursday night and after AV confirmed that he indeed had the cajones to start Raanta again, I figured this was going to be an interesting one to watch.
3) Had no idea Raanta had such staggering numbers at United Center coming in. 17 career starts. 14-0-3 with a .934 save%. I remember hearing that he was really good in home games before coming over from Chicago, but those are some really impressive stats. And he was sharp right from the get go as Ryan Hartman stormed to the net looking for that all too common first goal on the first shot within the first minute (FGFSFM) that’s we’ve seen given up several times this season. (mainly with Lundqvist in net this year). Even though Chicago only had 9 shots in the first period it felt like they spent a month in the Rangers zone with Panarin and Kane getting a bunch of chances before the 10 minute mark.
4) When the trio of Hayes Miller and Grabby got stuck on the ice for that extended shift I was just waiting for them to break through but Raanta didn’t blink. He seemed to have Panarin talking to himself after the whistle at one point. I love seeing that. But even after all that pressure the Rangers escaped the first scoreless and outshooting the Hawks 12-9.
5) They seemed to pick it up a little in the second and did a pretty good job of playing some stingy “collapse in front” defense but they really didn’t look great, with a lot of sloppy passing and shots missing the net. Around the 13 minute mark I though they began to fade a bit which was no surprise with this being the second night of back to backs and all but when they started trading chances and Chicago had a couple of odd man rushes I started yelling at the tv loud enough to wake the dog who shoot me a dirty look and left the room.
6) Lucky dog, left before the 2 on 1 chance with Kane and Panik breaking in on Girardi. He actually turned his back to the play (a move I don’t think I’ve seen since Roszival was a Ranger) and Raanta had to stand on his head to stone Panik who was shaking his head afterwards along with most of the fans in the arena. On the other end of the rink Darling wasn’t going to be outdone flat out stoning Stepan while on his stomach and then breaking up Fast’s attempt on the 2 on none with Hrivik. Back to the other end, after getting flattened by Holden (and embellishing it a bit) Patrick Kane got up and had that wrister that Raanta knocked that one away with his glove. Meanwhile Kane then goes and gets the stick up in Miller’s face. No one retaliates of course.
7) Miller looked shaken up and you couldn’t help but hold your breath watching him leave for the locker room with Rammer. This was after he had already shaken off the shot that he blocked off his leg in the first. They don’t need any more forwards bitten by the injury bug.
7) To back that last statement up I give you exhibit A) The fourth line. While they had themselves a pretty good third period, there’s just no finishing ability there. To his credit, Lindberg probably had his best game of the season as he’s slowly made it back into game shape. At this rate he’s going to stick around while Jooris heads to Hartford once the Rangers get some broken bodies back.
8) Speaking of players that may lose a spot, I have to admit that after nearly 30 games, I’m still getting used to having two guys wearing numbers in the 70s. Pirri in 73 and Skeji in 76 really messes with me at times, especially since they both seem to make some pretty bad decisions at times in the defensive zone. Skeji wasn’t terrible but Pirri gives me acid reflux in the defensive zone. He seemed to be coming around a bit the last couple of games and was shooting the puck more. But he really is a very limited player despite being about to shoot it. In the beginning he was providing offense and getting an A for effort despite his putrid defensive abilities. I was willing to give him a pass but that ship seems to have sailed- he’s another guy that isn’t guaranteed a spot once those broken bodies start healing.
9) Going into the 3rd Salmon Joe starts yapping about how he thinks the game is going to be decided by a lucky bounce or a deflection and at the 6 minute mark, Hossa- who is having a solid year-scores off a shot that seemed to graze Mcdonagh and redirect passed Raanta. Then AV channels his inner Tom Coughlin and used his coaches challenge which clearly showed Hossa’s foot off sides. Boom. No goal. Salmon Joe is somewhere right now still trying to figure out the rule. And whether you think its stupid or not, it’s in the book and the coach made the right call again. Good stuff.
10) The snow angel by Girardi is always painful to watch. But man, did he ever get lucky breaking up that 2 on 1. I always joke that it works for him 1 out of every 500 times he does it and this was the 1. G has been better this year. That is to say he hasn’t been as bad as I thought he may be even though Mike Rupp could outskate him at this point. Joe M raved afterwards as if he pulled some defensive play of the year. Can’t make this stuff up.
11) Trading chances with 10 minutes to go in the third Fast had a wide open net and until I saw the replay thought he just flat out fanned on it. Darling had no idea where the puck was and as it turned out Gustav Forsling lifted Fast’s stick just enough to stop him from putting that one in. On the other side of the rink, Raanta lost sight of one himself and Zucc cleared it out of the crease before any of the red sweaters could get there. Exciting stuff as the third came to an end. Of course it’s only exciting if they win. If they lose it’s just another one of my rants about how they can’t muster any offense in the midst of all these injuries. At least I am giving you honesty. Appreciate it.
12) Before the OT began, I actually said to Carp that Holden had been great. And he really had been. He was all over the place. I mentioned the hit on Kane earlier which was only one of the big hits he threw. Don’t remember who it was late in the third that he dropped just inside the blue line but you could tell he was pumped up for this one. Maybe he gets up for games against Western teams being a former Av, or maybe he’s settling in a bit here. Regardless, he had a monster game. And the OT goal was just icing on the cake. I got a kick out of listening to his post game interview too. He had a big ol’ grin the entire time while sporting the broadway hat. It’s nice to see the love of the game oozing out of a player. I hope it works out for him here long term
13) And I have to give some love to Opie the victim (Stepan). I was in the midst of cursing at him watching him skate out of his own zone in OT like his legs were made out of tapioca pudding just moments before he gained the zone. Can’t deny that he’s a smart player Instead of dumping it in and going for the change he held up and made that pass to Holden. Just obnoxious amounts of room on the ice during the 3 on 3 OT. Not sure if I like it yet. Anyhow, Stepan hasn’t been perfect, but you can see he’s tried to step it up a little in the absence of Zibanejad. And while we make a mockery of the “he tries hard” routine, you need your vets to do exactly what he’s been attempting to do when injuries set in the way they have
14) I have to say, I was impressed with Ryan Hartman’s game. He was all over the place and looked like he could be a poor man’s Andrew Shaw for the Hawks. And no, I’m not just saying that to calm Wicky down after dishing out the love for Opie.
15) So, It may not have been pretty (and from what I’ve read, the one in Winnipeg wasn’t either) but over the last 48 hours they’ve done exactly what they need to and just found ways to win. Win ugly, win by the skin of your teeth- whatever. Just find ways to pick up points until they start getting some guys back here. They just picked up 4 of them after two really ugly road losses in Brooklyn and Buffalo.
16) Now they’ll go home for a Sunday game against the Devils for the first time this year. The boys from the Dirty Jerz haven’t lost at home in regulation but they’ve been atrocious on the road this season. The big question is do they stick with Raanta? He’s certainly earned the opportunity. With that said I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see LQ back in net.
17) Just want to wish Doodie a happy birthday. I left him hanging the last time I was supposed to do one of these reviews because a family member wound up in the hospital so I hope covering this one gave you the opportunity to celebrate a bit more, my friend.
I turn 35 in two weeks and I’ve learned that the chance to celebrate birthdays the right way is a rarity as we get older so you better have enjoyed it.
James G’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. Antti Raanta
2. Nick Holden
3. Incomplete, because he put Scott Darling.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Antti Raanta
2. Nick Holden
3. Oscar Lindberg
Your Three Rangers Stars:
1. Antti Raanta
2. Nick Holden
3. Oscar Lindberg