I’m not going to lie. After Ponikarovsky scored to tie the game 1-1 in the second period I began to think about Tortorella’s comments from earlier in the season when he said that there would be games the Rangers lost despite playing well. I was very concerned that tonight would be one of those game. The Rangers completely outplayed the Hurricanes in every facet of the game and one bad icing tied it up. The Hurricanes were the better team for the last few minutes of the second period. But the Cardiac Canes were not that tonight. Girardi’s goal was more than just a go-ahead goal. It felt like the Hurricanes were just deflated. As if they knew they weren’t coming back. Sure enough, the Rangers scored two more in three minutes and put the game away. Lets look at some notes:
Brandon Dubinsky- I’m not sure if you’re aware, but it was Hugh Jessiman of all people that suggested that Dubinsky grow the mustache again. Dubinsky took his advice, and sure enough finally put a puck into the net. So thank you to Hugh Jessiman for making your greatest contribution to this franchise. Dubinsky had his most productive game of the season, but I’m not even so sure that it was his best game. That’s not to put him down, but rather the complete opposite. There have been multiple games this season where Dubinsky played like that but just had bad luck. Tonight he finally gets rewarded with his first goal of the season. However, his best play of the game was setting up Callahan’s goal, where he managed to pin the puck against the boards and fight off two or three different Hurricanes before taking it behind the net and putting it in the crease. He won 3 of 5 faceoffs and threw three hits as well. Perfect all around game for Dubinsky.
Sean Avery- Credit Sean for being patient despite getting only a handful of minutes in his first few games since being called up. Also credit Sean for what I believe is the best goal of his NHL career. His speed, the most underrated part of his game, helped him get by Bryan Allen to get the puck. His power helped him fend off a second Carolina defender to get the breakaway. An absolutely perfect shot finished it off. Avery also drew multiple penalties and was active on the forecheck.
And I’ll say again that I’m an Avery fan, but for the overdramatic followers of Avery who are going to boast about his game today, you also need to acknowledge your harsh words for John Tortorella. Torts showed confidence in Avery and rewarded him with more ice time, eventually bumping him up to the second line. It’s clear that Sean Avery is not Tortorella’s favorite player of all time, but it’s also clear that John Tortorella wants to win hockey games. If Sean Avery gives John Tortorella reasons to give him more ice-time then he’ll get it.
Brad Richards- I was extremely annoyed with Richards the first half of the game. He was just making uncharacteristically stupid decisions with the puck, and it was he who unnecessarily iced the puck, leading to Ponikarovsky’s goal. However, Richards collected himself and was brilliant in the third period. His pass to Girardi was world class. Very few players can do that as consistently as he does. Ward gifted him his goal, but I felt he earned it with the way he turned around his game in the third period. Third period Brad Richards was well worth every penny Glen Sather gave him.
Bryan Allen- One of the more underrated defensemen in the NHL had an absolutely terrible game. He got burned by Avery on the first goal. He got burned right off the faceoff that resulted in Dubinsky scoring a few seconds later. And he took an interference penalty on Sean Avery. Carolina needs him to be better than that.
Henrik Lundqvist- Back-to-back strong performances by Lundqvist. 34 saves on 35 shots. Carolina only had two power play opportunities but Lundqvist was key on both of them. Anyone who saw even the slightest hint of a goaltender controversy has been quieted. With all due respect to Marty Biron, the Rangers are clearly best off with Henrik in the goal.
Cam Ward- The five goals let in is completely unfair to him. The Rangers could have scored five in the first 25-30 minutes of this game alone. It was like watching a Rangers team from one or two years ago, with the whole Hurricanes team sleepwalking while the goaltender bailed them all out. Eventually it just became to much for Ward. The Hurricanes had absolutely no business being in that game. Props to Ward, who seems to always play well against the Rangers.
Every night Dan Girardi seems to be better than his previous. I’m not so sure he’s not worthy of a look for the All-Star squad. What a career this guy is creating for himself considering how he started. I didn’t want to mention it previously because if the Rangers lost a lot of people would have been mad at me, but I was aware of the possibility of the Rangers being on top of the East with a win. The Penguins won as well, which canceled that out. However, here’s the situation. Only two teams in the NHL have more points than the Rangers; the Stars and the Penguins. And the Penguins are only two points ahead while playing an extra game. Certainly there is way too much of the season remaining to draw conclusions, but we have a very good hockey team right now with not too mant holes. Even our 4th line and our bottom two defensemen are contributing. Not too many holes right now.
So there we have it. Six wins in a row. Only one the result of a shootout. Rangers travel to Long Island on Tuesday to face a struggling Islanders roster. I think we’ll be much more prepared for them this time than our first time facing them this season. In the mean time, Blue Line Station placed a wager with Cardiac Cane, the Hurricanes blog on Fansided. The Rangers winning means Kristina had to right her post-game in the format of a Backstreet Boys song. I implore you all to check that out. Talk about humiliation.