Alright, raise your hands if you know Rangers backup goalie, Steve Valiquette, should be given a great big pat on the back for playing as well as he did and getting the Rangers the win in the shootout last night. All raised? Good, we're on the same page.
Credit Steve Valiquette. No, it wasn't his most remarkable game ever. But it was solid. And he needed to be solid in the face of his own team which was not taking shots, at least not really until the third. And he needed to be solid in the face of a team that had a pretty hot goalie last night in Vesa Toskala. While we are handing out credit, hand some to that guy. If anyone told me in advance of last night's game that it would be a 0-0 tie going into the shootout, I wouldn't have believed it. (Now for the record, I liked Vesa when he was in San Jose, but I just don't know how much support he'd be getting in TO, but he is a very good goalie.)
Back to Valiquette. I love how he can step in and get the game for his guys. Because he wants to be that guy. And I kept thinking, don't blow it, Rangers. Not for him. I mean Hank will get the majority of the games and the team will blow one or two (or a dozen) for him and he will have a shaky one himself, but for Valiquette, whose job has to be to win those against Philadelphia and Toronto, he has stepped up marvelously to do so. With a smile. And he's intense. He wanted to win. And he did. Credit all around for letting that happen.
However, before the third and before the OT, I was playing a game of count the jerseys in the stands. (Lotssssssa Drurys and leftover Jagrs for the record). It was boring. Again. But here are my pressing thoughts as the game progressed:
-Toronto's is a big team. I knew this. But guys like Mikhail Grabovsky, Pavel Kubina, and Nik Antropov are huge. Even young Luke Schenn, is pretty big. There really isn't any reason to comment on this except to say that, to the contrary, the Rangers are small. Very, very small. Even if Toronto's players might not be "better" than others - they are decidedly bigger. And that has to count for something. And this is minus Hal Gil, people.
-I did the math on the first unit PP for the Rangers and they make a total of 29.5 million (maybe it's technically closer to 30 with the change, but for argument's sake). So 29.5 million of Drury, Gomez, Naslund, Redden, and Rozsival to skate the puck around, not shoot, and watch it fly back out of the zone. And we still think it's Jagrs fault. Rangers were 0-8 last night. 0-8! Renney, Perry Pearn, anyone who will listen - - - fix it!! It's really that painful. What either Gomez or Drury make in one game is more than double what I make in a year; and I think I would have faired better last night than them.
-Pavel Kubina made a nice move to skate through the neutral and then the Rangers zone and take a nice shot on Valiquette, which was stopped. Valiquette, for not seeing a ton of shots (21 on the night) made a few particular ones that looked great.
-About halfway through the second period, I started thinking, hmmm, where is Petr Nedved? At least he had gotten a few goals in the pre-season. But, no, no, we're watching centers Drury, Gomez, and Betts look like they've never scored before in their lives. Yes, Blair, you have. Remember, Philly, last weekend? And, what like four times before that. It'll come back to you. Paging #93. . .
- Somewhere around the tail end of the 2nd, I believe, Drury misses the goal (perhaps on one of the 8 failed PPs) and comes back to the bench and Paul Bunyans his stick over the edge of the bench. Very close to three of his teammates, I might add. I appreciated this if only that it showed, yes is has been confirmed that #23 does in fact still have a pulse. But. . .
-Dan Fritsche had a good game. If anyone deserves another shake in the lineup tonight, with perhaps, an additional winger named Prucha. . . hmmm. . . it's Dan Fritsche. He had four shots which was second on the team. Gomez had five. But. . . Fritsche played 9 1/2 minutes, Gomez played close to 19. And over 8 of those minutes for Gomez were on the PP. So, Fritsche both in the box score, and to my eyes, did more with his ice time than half the team. Good game for him. He was skating.
-Nigel Dawes, on the other hand, looked like he was skating better, but he does not look to be showing any more prowess for scoring or where to be. And he did gain weight (fine, muscle), but he doesn't seem to be moving as well as he did. Is that the reason? I'm not sure. But to open the game, he, on a line with - awe, hell, I forget who he opened the game with - went down into the Toronto zone, got beaten to the puck and fell over. Like a toy. I just don't see his strength on the puck. At least Prucha bounces back up more quickly. . .
-Whoo, was that Marc Staal, in a fight? Well kinda in a fight. Good for him. More than just a pretty face, although yes, a pretty face, for sure. Again, someone was awake. And for the record on him, he hasn't looked spectacular. But he hasn't stood out for the wrong reasons. As a young D man still trying to establish himself in the league, that's as good a thing as any. I'll take quiet and consitent over standing out for the bad plays. (Dmitri Kalinin. . . you play for the red, white, and blue, now, - ok?)
-If I again had to make a plea, I'd hope again for the Prucha, Callahan, Fritsche combo, although I'm not sure tonight in Detroit is the place to showcase it. I'll leave that to the coaching staff, as if I get a vote anyway.
I sadly will be missing - the Rangers game, the first of the Colorado/Dallas games I was most looking forward to, and HNIC. But, I must continue to do other things with my life, or so I keep telling myself. I'll try to Tivo Rangers in 60 so I can make a report tomorrow. If not, I'll preview what should be a fun and exciting tilt of brothers, and formers teammates, at the Garden on Monday.
Enjoy the weekend. . .