Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Win In Music City. . .

Not a perfect symphony for the Rangers, but two points very much needed after coming away empty three nights ago in Carolina.

I didn't see every part of the game's first two periods; I was going back and forth between the NJ/Coyotes game. So I can't speak to everything. And what I saw to start, honestly, was very sloppy. A lot of penalties and some laziness to boot.

As the game got into the later stages, the Rangers thankfully woke up and righted themselves. Big goals from some key contributors and overall good play from Avery, Callahan, Gomez, Staal. That's now 4 games in their last 5 that the Rangers have scored four or more goals (Colorado - 6, Islanders - 4, Boston -4, Carolina - 0, Nashville - 4). Very important to see them rebound in that manner both after being shutout and after the season they've had overall.

And as for Sean Avery, he played an effective game from my eyes. Getting to the net, making nice passes from behind the net, and getting the puck to the net; all things that have been lacking this year from this team. He's not going to be perfect, no, and he's not the master solution, but I still believe that with him on the ice and Tortorella on the bench the Rangers stand a better chance at making the playoffs than they do without.

Of course, it might not be up to them. Surely they have to play their part, but a few things may stand in their way. Time. Other teams. The Rangers might have temporarily ended up back in the playoff standings, but it's going to be an up and down, in and out battle. And they did it to themselves with their two month break in the middle of the season that they couldn't afford to take.

Also of concern, the plethora of penalties they took. With this team, it's almost never one and done. They always go to the box in bunches. And it was the return - a first in the Post-Renney era - of the two man men penalty.

I'm also going to take a moment to say that I am not sure why Naslund's play has regressed so. He led this team in goals, essentially all season, and if Antropov didn't join this team, he still would. BUT, besides finding the net from time to time and scoring important goals late, he has not looked steady in the last month or two. In fact, where he used to be more vocal and more mobile in the beginning of the season, I'm now seeing a player that looks tired and ineffective. Not at every moment, but certainly more often. Perhaps a mid-season break for a game or two might have helped. Or perhaps it truly is not 2002 anymore, for Naslund or for me.

Overall, good win, and a very important one heading into a home and home set with the Flyers this weekend. It's not going to get easier. Every night is a must win.

One last thing. Congratulations to Henrik Lundqvist for becoming the first goaltender in NHL history - NHL history - to have 30 win seasons in his first four years in the league.

Yes it may have been aided by the shootout wins. Yes things certainly have changed over the history of the league. But goodness knows it wasn't as if he was aided with perfect defensive teams for the last four years. I repeat and hold true that he's kept this team in more games than he's kept them out of. Big Kudos to Hank. Very, very impressive stuff.

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