Denver is known as the mile high city. Sitting 5280 feet above sea level, first time visitors, not used to the thinner air, are often surprised to find that breathing is labored if you’re a weekend athlete hitting tennis balls, playing 3 on 3 hoops, or 4 on 4 touch football. Visiting NHL players, are not nearly as affected, but do labor more than they would in their home rink.
One of my wife’s sister’s families lived in Denver for 25 years until a recent move to DC and still own a mountain retreat in Winter Park which is in the Rockies. On one visit, we went for a monster hike going up to 14,000 feet, the highest I’d ever been, literally. An interesting thing happened as I neared the summit. For every 3 steps I took, I had to stop and catch my breath and I thought how in the holy hell would anyone climb Mt Everest, at 29,000 plus? Especially with no oxygen? I was sucking so much wind, I was worried that I was going to drop dead, if not from getting enough air, then from embarrassment.
But I survived. As did the New York Rangers on this brief road swing and have now won three in a row and nine of the last 12.
1) This could have been one of those omen games. Rangers have one of the best road records in the league, the Avs had lost nine in a row at home, it was New Year’s Eve, Hank was starting and count off the flu, and the Rangers’ siblings were along on the trip and possibly the team and sibs partied a bit after beating the yotes 4-3 Thursday night. Well, not to worry. Make that 10 losses in a row for the team based in Colorado as the Rangers won in a rout.
2) For the second consecutive game, a Ranger had a hat trick. Against the Coyotes, it was Matt Pumpernickel who scored three PP goals making him only the third Ranger in their long, if not storied, history to do that. The pump joined Mike Gartner and The Captain Mark Messier as the other two. This game it was THE Kreider potting three.
3) THE’s first goal was due to some great hustle by Zuccini as he kept the puck in, sliding a pass to Stepan on the wall, who in turn threw a blind spin around centering pass to a streaking Kreider who was cruising into the crease. The puck bounced off him then hit the Avs D man before making its way to back of the net tying the score at one.
4) Colorado scored first on their first shot of the game as Ribbit lost the face-off (a big problem all night long) back to the point where Barrie wristed a shot that Hank seemed to track but it was deflected by Cody Macloud, a pain in the azz if there ever was one, continuing on thru about seven players and 14 legs before going five-hole. Not a good start.
5) One thing about this Ranger team is that they have no problem if the other team scores first. For the most part, the Rangers just buckle down, ignore the scoreboard and get right to work. I don’t have the stats, but I’d be curious to see their record when down 1-0 and even 2-0. Certainly the Rangers are playing with a lot of confidence to win as many games as they have when given up the early lead.
6) The season opened with Zman, Kreider, and Boosh as the hot line. Then Haze, JT, and Grabner took over as the go to trio. Now, it’s THE, Step, and Zucc playing lights out offensive hockey. It’s hard to argue that the Rangers, currently the third best team in the Metro, the third best team in the East, and the third best team in the league are not a major threat to make a deep run once Gnasher, Zman, and Boosh are healthy. Seriously, what team has this much depth? If the D can continue getting help from the back checking forwards, the team continues scoring as many goals as they’ve done to date, and get timely sold play from they’d net minders, I wouldn’t bet against our boys come springtime.
7) It wasn’t all that long ago that the teams in the west were best and the teams in the east were least. Those days, however, are in the past. The west is worst and the east are the beasts by a country mile. The Blue Jackets might not lose again. The Penguins continue to put up win after win. And the Rangers, ignoring that 2 game slide in the abyss vs Pens and Wild, are not showing signs of going away.
8) The Rangers, via Kreider’s second of the game, took a 2-1 lead after THE scored a PP goal on a tip from a shot by Zucc. Lately, the Rangers are scoring bunches of goals with the man advantage. Four against the Yotes and two more vs the Avs. Now while it’s true those two teams are cellar dwellers, to be fair, the yotes had the best home PK in the league earlier in the season. And the Avs? Well they’ve now lost 10 in a row at home, so there’s that.
9) The Rangers were hardly dominant in the first period and with under two minutes to play in the first, were probably quite happy to go into the second period up by one. But, with a bit over 1 minute left in the first, after losing a defensive zone faceoff, again, the Avs controlled the puck, and eventually it was back to the point where another deflection best Hank to tie the score at 2. I can’t fault the King for either goal.
10) In the second period, the Rangers began to dominate possession time and peppered the Avs net with several good chances. But it was a bad goal that gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead. JT Miller came screaming down the left wing and fired a rocket over the far shoulder, glove side, for the GWG. I see dead people as once again I correctly predicted who’d score the GWG.
11) The game was effectively over at this point. Poor Avs have major negative puck luck. They couldn’t buy a third goal even though they could have had at least three more. Hank was solid. Outstanding positioning. The puck was hitting him in the arm, the chest, the pads. Good game for the King coming off the flu bug. Will he ascend to the throne and lead his team to a cup? Time will tell. He’s been spotty at best, and bad at worst, but he and Raanta are a potent 1-2 in net.
12) The Avs might have lost on the scoreboard, but they sure did win the gurney count. JT was crushed in open ice on a clean hit but nevertheless drew a penalty. Pumpernickel was smashed in the corner and didn’t draw a penalty. Hey those NHL refs. THE was crushed into the boards. Shay was pounded a few times. McD was cross checked hard and his stick flew up nicking an Avs player yet it was the Rangers called for 2 minutes. For the Rangers, Zucc threw a nasty hip check on Mackinnon at center ice and he tumbled like dice on a craps table. Nice hit. Very nice check.
13) Ingila is amazing. His rookie season, which was Chelios’ third year in the league was a long long time ago. Twenty years in the NHL. Still a tough power forward. His sale date might have expired, but if the price were dirt cheap, he’d be a welcome addition come the playoffs.
14) Derek Stepan, after a seriously slow start, is the team scoring leader and playing excellent hockey. His line has really jelled. What on earth is going to happen once the team is fully healthy and can remain healthy? For once, line combos will be a fun exercise. What to do? What to do? Here’s one thought! Maybe good, maybe bad!
15) Gnasher – Zman – Boosh
16) THE – Step – Zucc
17) JT – Haze – Grabber
18) VC – Pirri/Lindberg Pumpernickel/Couch
19) Keeping step’s line together makes sense. Reuniting Haze with JT and Grabby makes sense. Putting the three injured amigos together makes sense. And that 4th line looks like it could score some goals.
20) Kreider with serious mitts gets the Hattie on a really good tip off Step’s shot for the second PP goal. VC scores on a tremendous finish. He’s got a soft pair of hands. Rangers win 6-2 and its on to MSG and let’s win there.
My three ranger stars:
1. THE; 2. JT; 3. Step/Zucc
Your three Ranger Stars? I have no ******* idea. This truly is a HAV.
Happy New Year my bruthas and sistas. Especially to our fearless leaders – Blog Captain Ricardo Carputha, my brutha from anutha mutha and Blog Asst. Captain RR2.
Lets go Rangers. Bring it home boys.