As the Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994 Sam Rosen shouted out on the broadcast, “No more 1940!” Well, today was not even remotely close in importance, but, after NBC tortured us with replays of Olli Jokinen missing in last year’s shootout to end our season, the Rangers perhaps did enough to make us put that in the past, too. As usual, it was an ugly win, but the Rangers do best when they play ugly. The effort tonight was certainly there, as opposed to the previous two games. Though there are clearly more teams that are more preferable than others, today showed why I’m not too concerned with whom we face in the playoffs (if we make it in). The Rangers have played up to their competition the whole year. After two pathetic games against Buffalo and the Islanders, the Rangers then go on the road and beat arguably the best team in the conference with an energetic attitude. Let’s look at the game notes:
Marian Gaborik- He had a wide open shot in the slot, but instead decided to sit there with the puck until Hartnell could come back and hit him from behind. He drew the penalty, but he needs to take the shot there. Gaborik sitting alone in the slot with the puck is a situation Tortorella dreams about. Outside of that, Gaborik had a very good game today. He took five shots and got the assist on McCabe’s goal, and broke up numerous plays in the defensive zone. He even blocked a shot and threw two hits. Gaborik is being paid big money to score, and that’s not to be forgotten, but he certainly played a role in the win.
Bryan McCabe- The five-on-three against the Islanders occurred with McCabe sitting in the penalty box, and the powerplay looked miserable. Today, he was out there, and he scored a big goal with under a second left in the first period. The powerplay has been significantly better since McCabe was acquired, not only visually but in terms of execution. He also showed some snarl today, something our blue-line could use. Sather’s deadline moves since the lockout haven’t been necessarily bad, but they’ve been insignificant at best. McCabe has worked out tremendously, and when looking what he has contributed to this team compared to what was given up to acquire him, the Rangers got a bargain for sure.
Ruslan Fedotenko- He deserves a mention for his goal. His play hasn’t been as good as it was before he went through the slew of injuries, but he’s still overlooked. Blocked a shot and threw two hits today, and he’s been a difference maker on the forecheck with Prust and Boyle. Those two weren’t as effective forechecking when Feds wasn’t in the lineup. Good for him to put the puck in the net today. 10 goals in 63 games for him as of right now. We certainly couldn’t have asked for much more than that kind of production from him when we brought him in on a tryout basis.
Dan Girardi- 7 blocked shots today. His 228 blocks lead the NHL, with Greg Zanon the closest competitor at 199. Think about that. Pierre McGuire, despite his awkwardness, realizes how key Dan Girardi is to this Rangers team. It’s time for Rangers fans to really give him credit. Staal might be the best defenseman. Sauer might be the most physical. McDonagh might be the the guy with the most room for growth. But no defenseman on this team puts it all on the line every night like Dan Girardi.
Marc Staal- 34 minutes of ice time today, and majority of that time was spent with a broken nose. That’s absolutely ridiculous. Three hits and three blocked shots, and he did his part to more or less contain the fourth best offense in the NHL. After the season he’s had, I hope the remaining people who insisted he wasn’t a number one defenseman have finally changed their mind.
Penalty Kill- Succeeded in stopping Philadelphia three of four times today. Lundqvist was a big part of that, but so was the Rangers’ ability to close down the shooting lanes as well as limit the number of times Philadelphia could even set up in the offensive zone.
The Rangers’ magic number is down to six. Buffalo plays the Hurricanes later tonight, and though we clearly don’t want to see either team win, one inevitably will. The best we can hope for is that it doesn’t go to overtime. I think we have no choice but to root for the Sabres to win, just to really give the Rangers the advantage going into these final games. We play again tomorrow at MSG against the Bruins.