8:23pm...Break in game action. So I moseyed downstairs a few minutes late to the game and low and behold, the Rangers had a 2-0 lead. Which was surprising on many counts. 1) The Rangers already had their total amount of goals per game on average and less than 4 minutes in. And 2) They scored in the first, not once, but twice.
A thought. So maybe it wasn't Aaron Voros that was making the Zherdev/Dubinsky/PS3 line click. Maybe it was the Dubinsky/Zherdev combo after all. Because those guys have looked very sharp once again and for the last handful of games. I'm not sure what happened during the Dubinsky "lost" phase and the Zherdev "benched" phase, but you know what, as long as the two of them look that good together, keep it that way. I hope they do. Now Naslund. I was never down on Naslund. I thought a player like him, who was switching conferences and teams to come to NY, should be given a fair amount of time to judge his play. And I did, and about 1/2 way through the Rangers games, I started being relatively impressed with him. His talking to the refs, his being a leader. And the way he began playing. He is a good puck mover. And I think playing with young guys (a la Dubinsky and Zherdev) complements his style more than playing with Gomez and Drury. I'm still holding to the fact that that combo was doomed from the start. I think Naslund needs speedy young guys and I like this line a lot right now.
As for Gomez and Drury. I don't really care how much they like playing with one another. Unless they can start to show consistent results together, it's a waste of Gomez. I'm sorry. The Rangers already have two lines that aren't scoring. They need another one that does!
I was just going to say that Aaron Voros has been invisible recently - another case of a player playing with the wrong type of linemates perhaps or just a player gone dry? - when he drew that penalty. I'm not sure.
So Renney did not put Prucha in the lineup after all. He can still do so against Florida on Sunday at the Garden. If not, he must, must, send him to Hartford for conditioning. In the pre-game, Renney said his "good solider" might not be "game ready" after being out of the lineup for 8 straight games. Excuse my language, but no $hit, Tom, really? Honestly...
Florida is not as bad a team as their record. And no, this isn't my trying to justify making Florida playoff team. They have good goaltending from time to time. They have the strength of guys who should be playing better, but aren't. I think it's yet another case of one or two missing pieces or just something that needs to be jumpstarted. But they are better than their record, much like the Rangers are perhaps not as good as their record indicates.
Off to watch the 2nd. . .
9:05pm - end of 2.
Ah, now those late period penalties. Team being undisciplined. That's the Rangers I know and love. Honestly, Florida did not look bad to start the game. One had to assume if the Rangers gave them the opportunities, they could come back in this game. A powerplay goal late in the 3rd (after the Rangers took 3 penalties in a row) and the game is now tied. Credit Florida for taking advantage of the Rangers mental lapses.
Of note: Dubinsky is 8-0 on faceoffs through 2 periods.
Curious to see how the 3rd plays out.
10:32pm - end of game.
Okay so is it wrong I actually chuckled to myself when the Rangers took that many penalties and gave up the tying goal? Probably. But I'm sorry, this team does not play 60 minutes. If they do, it's a rarity. Betts and Sjostrom did not have good games this time around. And their minutes were actually less than usual I think. Fritsche and Voros both scored, and both they and Korpikoski had no more than 7 minutes each. In that sense, they made the most of their time on the ice. Although Korpedo did not seem to be very visible to be honest.
Chalk this game up to another typical one for the red, white, and blue. Play glimpses of smart hockey, mixed in with undisciplined or indifferent play. Allow a team to catch up (if they themselves are not the team playing catchup) and get the game to OT, then a shootout, use the secret weapon (re: Hank) and go home with 2 points. Reverse the early quick 2 goals in this one with the coming from behind late which they've done so often, and that's been a good percentage of the Rangers games this year. Different night, same story.
And it will not work forever. So I guess enjoy it while you can. I enjoy the 2 points, yes. But the team is not exactly playing inspired hockey. Something is missing, guys. What? Again, I'm glad I'm not the coach.
Credit Hank though, for keeping them in it. And credit Florida for taking advantage. Their goalie Anderson made 43 saves. Well deserved point for them.
Random mention. I love Devo, but that was a lousy non-thinking move by Dvorak slew-footing Sjostrom. Not a typical move by him. Now, according to rules, he should get a suspension for it, no? But we all know how Evgeni Malkin got one for the 2 times he slew footed Paul Mara in last year's playoffs, so I'm guessing Radek will play on Sunday. Good guy - bad move.
All in all, a game I'd like to just forget. And perhaps they would like to as well.
One more little funny thing (although not really funny at all, if you get me). As per Andrew Gross's of the Record on his blog [http://njmg.typepad.com/rangersblog/] Tom Renney had a few more interesting things to say about Prucha:
"He's still a Ranger," Renney said. "He's a very helpful player. What we have is a guy that hasn't had an opportunity yet. Because of that, he's had no base on which to develop any level of confidence. He might need a jump start. That's why I contemplated in a game like tonight or the next one or maybe it is the other option we have available to us. It's very important this kid knows he's very well thought of by this organization, coaches, and his teammates. We want to get him playing at a level he can play at."
So this is what it means to be "very well thought of" by an organization? Oh COME ON now.
It's been bandied about on the blogs that the Rangers organization doesn't want to let Prucha go outright because they feel he'd be a good player for another team. So they don't play him, waive him, or send him to Hartford for that reason. Which is great. As the situation stands he benefits no one. To me, it's selfish to not let him play somewhere. If it's Hartford on a conditioning assignment, that's fine. If it's on another team, that's fine. But to let him have "no opportunity", no "level of confidence" and no opportunity to "get him[self] playing at the level he can play at" not only wrecks a player, it wrecks a human.
Unless Prucha has more heart and more loyalty and more inner strength than any of us have.
And you know what - he just may have that. Because for him to still be smiling and still wants to Be A Ranger!, takes a lot more heart, loyalty, and inner strength than I think I'd have right now if I were him.