There are 3,600 seconds in a regulation hockey game. Tonight, the Rangers needed 3,599.9 of those seconds to win the game. It was a garbage goal. Mike Smith is prone to letting in bad ones, but that just might be his worst. But nonetheless, the Rangers have been the recipient of bad bounces in recent games and clearly the better team tonight. A flukey goal in what was overall a flukey game, but nobody can argue that the Rangers haven’t earned their breaks. Let’s review the game:
Martin Biron- Another typical game from Martin Biron. At points he was a little shaky and gave up a few bad rebounds, but ultimately 21 saves on 23 shots and making the saves he needed to is all we can ask. The Rangers improve to 6-1 with Biron in net. Biron now has an absolutely ridiculous .934 save percentage this season. The NHL is such a competitive league and there is very little that separates a division winner from a 5th seed. Martin Biron might one of those elements making the difference.
Michael Del Zotto- The bashing Del Zotto has received since last season (and even still continues to get) has gone from looking stupid to now just looking beyond laughable. The Rangers defense came into the game banged up and Eminger going down did the team no favors. Del Zotto logged almost 26 minutes tonight, and came away +1 with a hit, a blocked shot, and a takeaway. On the offensive side, he made a perfect pass to set up Marian Gaborik for the first goal of the game. Del Zotto entered the game tied for 28th out of all defensemen in points and with the assist tonight is now on pace for 43.7 points this season. It’s time to give this guy respect.
Marian Gaborik- Ryan Callahan is the captain and leader. He plays harder than basically everyone and is a catalyst. I get that. But is there any doubt as to who is the most important player on the team offensively? When Gaborik plays well, everyone plays well. When he doesn’t, the whole team is lost offensively. Gaborik reached 300 career goals tonight thanks to two pucks in the net. He was given a gift by Yandle on the second one, but he still needed the poise to capitalize on it. Gaborik is now on pace for 46 goals this season, which is a far cry from the 22 he had last season.
Erik Christensen- I just do not understand why he continues to be inserted into the lineup. The powerplay was performing better without him a part of it. Faceoffs, which used to be one of his assets, have now become difficult for him. Korpikoski’s first period goal came off his inability to simply tie up his opponent in the circle. Thankfully, John Tortorella lost his patience with him and benched him for much of the game. Christensen ended up with only 6:42 of icetime and I would be surprised if he is playing in New Jersey on Tuesday. This team doesn’t rely on shootouts anymore. Time to move on.
Brad Richards- To be honest, he has not been good the past three game and for 59 minutes tonight he was pretty much a non-factor. But the great thing about Brad Richards is that he doesn’t get frustrated and just sticks to his game. The goal tonight was partially aided by luck but he was aware of the situation and being able to snap a backhander like that is no easy feat. The Rangers were outplaying the Coyotes but just couldn’t catch a break and terribly needed a win to break their slump. Brad Richards scored a goal so clutch even Chris Drury was blushing.
The Rangers play Tuesday in New Jersey. It’s our first matchup against the Devils this season. Steve Eminger injured his shoulder tonight and didn’t return to the game. We don’t know the extent of the injury yet but Tortorella said after the game Steve will be out “a while.” Expect Tim Erixon to be recalled once again.