Today’s guest review is provided by Stranger Nation (SN). Great job, SN.
Before we get to that review, I just want to say for myself how great Michael Grabner was last night. Easily the best player on either team, by a mile. I was very happy he was rewarded with two late goals.
NYR 5 – Loafs 2
Check Up for the Neck Up: For a regular season game toward the end of January, this contest carried significant weighting from a weary Blueshirt fan base. The recent struggles of the mighty King had left his minions questioning his sovereignty over the domain of MSG hockey goals. Had his mighty knights not adequately protected the fortress or were there deeper flaws hidden inside the psyche of our proud King. Only time will tell and based upon a legacy of excellence and stand out performances in the current season, one had reason to believe/hope all would balance out in the Ranger Kingdom and King Henrik would continue to sit high on his throne (not to be mistaken for E3’s throne). I will leave discussion of the King’s ransom being paid by Prince James the Zero for another day.
The Loafs: Toronto is playing with 8 rookies and their tenacity, speed, and recklessness is in full evidence. When coupled with Coach Babcock’s on puck interference plays [Editor’s Note: I’m so glad somebody else noticed], it creates a challenge for teams unwilling to make quick passes and move their skates. Currently, the Loafs are tenuously perched as the 2nd wild card and 2 pts out of 3rd place in the weak Atlantic Division so there is some reason to believe in the Capital of Hockey. Matthews, Nylander, Marnier are very good players but Defense wins games after the ASG and they are lacking in that area regardless of the strong affinity for the Hunwick’s game by Norm and Papa [Editor’s note: Hunwick is their normal third pairing defenseman. He was OK last night].
Road Warriors: The Rangers started strong and controlled play in the first showing an urgency missing from most games; particularly at home. This year’s team are Road Warriors, leading the league in road wins. Why play so well at home and not in front of the mobile phone wielding fans of MSG? Are T-shirt tosses not enough to inspire these players? Do they need loud music played at ear splitting levels or, dare I say, a dancing buffoon with less moves than Kreider on a break away?? This will need to be straightened out prior the playoffs (Playoffs?!? Did you say Playoffs!!!), if they hope to win at least one round.
Cupboard Full of Forwards: The lineup features all of the front line talent that tantalized the fan base in the beginning of the season with only Pumps (#12) missing as part of the misfit 4th line. From the beginning, the forwards pressed down low and won 50/50 board battles to create some Grade A opportunities. While his puck skills are evident, the two way play and faceoff prowess of Zika (#93) along with smart play of Butch (#89) joining Nash creates a formidable line requiring a matching of the opponent’s better D pair and opening up more opportunities for the 3rd line of JT-Blaze (#13)-Grabber. If I was King of France or Bazooka Joe, I would move THE (#20) back over with Zika and Butch and put Nash with Step/Zucc. Nash provides a better defensive presence so Step doesn’t have to cover for both Zucc [Editor’s Note: I thought Zuccarello had a very strong two-way game last night] and THE and #61 is a shoot first, pass last player who would be playing with 2 players who refuse to shoot unless ordered to by the bench. THE had great chemistry with 93/89 earlier in season and will look to pass when controlling the puck. If the lines remain the same, both lines will continue to score, but in the long-term better line balance is needed.
Clean Slate…Grabber it! The best bargain in the NHL is #40 of the NYR. As a 3rd line forward last season with Loafs, he had 9 goals; currently he has 21 with no PP time, leading the league in even strength goals ahead of some guy named Crosby on Pittsburgh. Kreider with 18 is nipping at his heels for team lead so he needed to turn on the jets. That is exactly what he did on a short-handed break away on a beauty of a feed by Lazy Hazy. Grabber actually slowed down to let the passing lane develop as the Loaf’s D-man angled over to Haze’s side to allow a perfect pass on the tape and ending in the back of the net for market #20 on a wicked wrister past Anderson’s glove to make it 4-2 in what had become a tenuous one goal lead entering the 3rd period. He quickly added to that lead two minutes later as the Loafs pulled Anderson and Grabber made a great play to intercept a pass at the blue line and wrist it in while falling down. He also drew two penalties; one a break away in the 1st and one in the 3rd. Haze drew one in 2nd as well. The refs missed a number of other calls, mostly from the stick work of #47 Komarov and 8 Carrick [Editor’s Note: The worst player in the game last night] along with a kneeing by Polak on Zucc.
Youngblood on D: The game started with Shea (#76) paired with the Miracle Met (#4). The NYR fan base held their collective breath as Shea’s wandering nature in the D-zone creates chaos and the Miracle Met’s forte being on the Offensive side of the ice [Editor’s Note: I continue to believe that Clendening is a marginal NHL player, at best]. The pair played well, being on the ice for 2 even strength goals and limiting grade ‘A’ chances against. Shea had the first goal off a beauty of a feed from Zucc who made a nifty play to win a 50/50 board battle after THE only the forecheck forced the D to cough up the puck. The Miracle Met was also the victim of a Toronto pick-pocket to lead to a short handed goal. Butch left the puck on a cycle down low to begin the break out and Zika and The Miracle Met did not communicate well and next thing you know, a high danger shot is in the back of the net. Salmon Joe let us know #11 is a tireless worker, aren’t all the other teams good plays made by hard work?? The PP is really something once establishing possession in the Ozone with the excellent passing by Zika and Butch but there have been some scary moments getting the puck up the ice. Earlier in game#4 made a nice play at the point leading to the second goal on a goal mouth scramble, started by Nash outmuscling Matthews and finished by Butch beating Hunwick; #89 always seems to be in the right place at the right time. The young D pair was also on the ice for ‘tripping call’ by #4 late in the game when big bad Matt Martin ‘lost his footing’ with a stick to the thigh. Didn’t notice Martin during the game, must be his new hairdo.
The King: Ultimately, the game (and season) hinges on the play between the pipes and the King was up to the task. There were plenty of rushes by the Loafs early in the game where he was tested and proved up to the task. The 2 goals were the result of a bad bounce off of Ein Kleiner’s stick from a blind hard pass into crease which ended up right on the tape of Bozak. This was mostly bad luck and the 2nd period shortie where Henk was drawn out of the crease and beaten high corner from in close. The Loafs only had 25 SOGs so the D did their job limiting opportunities, especially in the second half of the game. [Editor’s note: I actually give the forwards a lot more credit in that regard] NYR seemed determined to play all 200 ft and Dan Girardi, playing in his hometown, found the fountain of youth for a game and played effectively in his own unique and unorthodox style. This is only one game to build on with the following week leading up to the break will provide a peak into the second half potential of this team. The talent up front will help alleviate the pressure on the D and, in turn, the King. The 3rd goal showed how the offense can counter punch as a mini break away by Loafs led to a quick outlet and break by JT who eventually got the puck back from #13 and shot it in off Hunwick’s helmet; love the Hunwick!
Hope Springs eternal in the playoffs. This team is still a steady top 4 RD and a 4th line fore-checker (in addition to Fast) away from a full complement to attempt to wrestle the Cup away for Pissburgh, albeit not very likely. The Puree experience has turned and is now starting to stink up the joint. Matt Pumps is not a 4th liner. At the beginning of the season, VC was all over the place, now there are fits and starts but the college player ‘wall’ looks like something out of the North in Game of Thrones. Don’t want to give up the farm, well, actually not much back on the farm to give up, so I prefer not to give up any young talent on the roster. Would prefer Brassard type deals, where we get younger and better while giving up a bigger contract and experience. Since the expansion is coming, all bets are off as to what the market will bear. Just don’t want to mortgage the future for a very uncertain present/near future.
Let’s Go Rangers!
SN’s Three Rangers Stars:
#40 – Grabber
#30 – Shampoo Boy
#10 – Miller Time
Ranger Report 2.0’s Three Stars:
Your Three Rangers Stars: