This is the Rangers team that has been MIA for the last month. We went into San Jose to play against a team that is among the best in the NHL and that has one of the best home records in the NHL. We got outshot and out-chanced. But this was to be expected. The Rangers made up for the lack of talent with a superb 65 minute effort. The physicality was there the whole night. The forecheck was in full effect and specifically led to Christensen’s goal. The defense got in front of shots. Just a typical effort from this team. With the win, the Rangers are now in 7th place in the standings. Let’s look at the key players in this game:
Henrik Lundqvist- He continues to be the best Ranger, which is what has to be in the case in order for the Rangers to make the playoffs. Both goals scored on him were on deflections, including an unlucky one off of Staal. Can’t blame a goaltender for those. When the Sharks were spending a lot of time in the Rangers’ zone to start the game, as I predicted would be the case, Lundqvist kept the puck out of the net and the Rangers in the game. In the third period it was clear that the Sharks were just going to dominate the Rangers in terms of opportunities, and Lundqvist was essentially unbeatable, making numerous key saves such as the glove save on Jason Demers and bailing Ryan McDonagh out after he fell down, giving the Sharks a two-on-one. Overtime was basically all San Jose as well, and only letting in one goal in six shootout chances clinched the win for the Rangers. The win gives him 205 all-time, which puts him past Gump Worsley and 3rd all-time for Rangers goalies.
Dan Girardi- He was rewarded with the third star of the game. Staal certainly had a good game as well, but Girardi was even better. Again, he doesn’t end up on the scoresheet, but he is a major reason the Rangers win the game. He played over 30 minutes, blocked 9 shots, and had 4 hits. The whole Sharks team had 14 blocked shots, and he had more than double the total of Michael Sauer, who had the second most in the game with 4 blocked shots. Yes, every once in a while he makes a ridiculous decision with the puck that leads to a goal, but it’s worth it when he puts up games like this.
Erik Christensen- Rangers fans, including me, ridiculed the decision to play Christensen over Avery. Now we know why Tortorella gets his paycheck. Nothing brilliant on the goal but he went into the slot and flawlessly connected with the puck and put it into the open area of the net. The goal was really one of the more important plays of the game. The Rangers were playing hard, but weren’t getting too many scoring chances in the first period. Combine that with the pathetic job the referees did that virtually handed the Sharks a goal, and the Rangers could have entered the intermission feeling down. The goal kind of relaxed the Rangers and allowed them to continue to play their game, instead of scrambling to try to tie it up. Outside of the goal, he made some other nice offensive plays to, such as a pass that he somehow needled through the San Jose defense to give Dubinsky a very good shooting opportunity that he unfortunately couldn’t finish. Erik the Enigma continues to be the most perplexing player on the team, and because he’s signed another year we’ll likely have to deal with him again in the 2011-2012 season. Could you please develop some sort of consistiency? PLEASE?!
Brandon Dubinsky- He had the goal against Anaheim, but this was his best game in a while. Five shots and four hits on the stat line, but he also just appeared to be a more confident player. In the two minutes of the game he basically single handedly ran the cycle and blew off multiple Sharks as they tried to knock him off the puck in the offensive zone but failed miserably. This for me was the play that let me know that Brandon Dubinsky is back. The maintaining of the puck simply because he willed it; because he decided he wasn’t going to let anyone else let him do otherwise. Stepping up with all the confidence in the world and putting the puck in the net on the final shot of the shootout was just the cherry on top.
Michael Sauer- In my opinion, his best game as a Ranger. In the defensive zone, he punished anyone who got near Lundqvist, and broke up numerous San Jose passes in the slot. The four blocked shots I mentioned earlier were great, but the offensive instinct he’s begun to show since the All-Star Break finally paid off with a goal for him. It seems that every time Ryan McDonagh or Michael Sauer impresses, the other guy one-ups them the next game.