Usually, when your team’s starting goalie gets scratched right before game-time due to a sudden injury you’re at a disadvantage. In the Buffalo Sabres case tonight it was their equalizer as backup Jhonas Enroth outdueled his Swedish counterpart Henrik Lundqvist for his 1st NHL shutout.
The game had a playoff atmosphere to it throughout as both teams battled for 2 crucial points in the standings. The only goal of the game come in the 2nd period with Buffalo on the power play. After a rush lead by Brian Boyle that lead to a blocked pass, Tim Connoly ended up with the puck on the left wing and fired a slapshot past Lundqvist. It would turn out all the Sabres would need to seal a victory.
Despite the small goal total, there’s enough to dissect here. Let’s take a look at how the game unfolded…
While not his scintillating self tonight, Henrik Lundqvist was still the best Ranger on the ice. He made 34 saves and kept his squad in the game. It falls on the offense to help their goaltender out occasionally, who consistently bails out his teammates. Hank did suffer some sort of lower body injury in the 3rd period but stayed in game.
Moving Derek Stepan to play with Vinny Prospal and Marian Gaborik had some success. At times, they were the best line on the ice and generated most of the scoring chances.
Congratulations to Jhonas Enroth on his first NHL shutout. I will say that he played well. However, I will also say the Rangers never really challenged him with any of the 23 shots he faced. I’m not discounting or discrediting his shutout but the Rangers did make it easier on him to actually get it.
The Rangers’ penchant for passing in prime, high-percentage areas rather than shooting was prevalent tonight, specifically Brian Boyle’s mistake that lead to Buffalo’s only goal. Boyle has to get a shot on net in that situation, considering there were 3 Rangers deep on the rush. The Rangers sometimes look as if they would rather pass the puck in the net rather than shoot it.
Does Mats Zuccarello really deserve to be scratched? According to coach Tortorella, Zuke hasn’t “hit a wall” and is “just inconsistent.” If Zuccarello has hit a wall, then what has Erik Christensen done? Splattered himself all over it? After coming back strong from his benching, Christensen has gone AWOL again. I think he deserves to sit more than Zuccarello. At least the tiny Norwegian brings the effort.
Say what you want, the refs did make the right call on Ryan Callahan. He wasn’t pushed into Enroth, Callahan wandered in there on his own. He did try to get out of the way but impeded Enroth from making a play on the Anisimov shot. Anyone trying to pin the loss on this particular play is mistaken. Even the Rangers will tell you they had their chances to score and couldn’t finish.
The effort level for the Rangers tonight, in such a crucial game for them, was not up to snuff. They were outshot by Buffalo 12-3 in the first 12 minutes and didn’t turn on the panic button till the 3rd period. The playoffs aren’t a lock yet and to come out and not play a full 60 minute effort is troubling to see.
3 goals in their last 4 games. Nothing else needs to be said.
Where They Stand:
Both Buffalo and New York are in a tie at 87 points, but since the Sabres have more regulation wins they sit in 7th while the Rangers sit in 8th. Carolina’s 6-2 win over Montreal give the 84 points, just 3 behind the Rangers for the final playoff spot.
Tomorrow night at 7:00PM in Long Island to face the Islanders. This could be a good thing, as the Rangers will be right back at it thus stifling the sting of losing a close game such as their latest one.
Check out Sabre Noise here on FanSided to get their thoughts on tonight’s game.