Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Two Straight Wins

Anytime the Rangers beat the Devils, it's nice. Why does every game against that team feel like facing the Old Soviet Union? Nevermind. You'd have to watch a Devil game to understand how annoying their style is. Such attention to detail.

If Jaromir Jagr had more Devils around him, I'd have thought they were part of his body. It's just a sickening strategy but effective by a team that prides itself on perfection. Jagr still hasn't figured out how to get shots through. Even when he makes a good move, he gets it blocked. Sooner or later, he has to conquer his demons.

So this was a good win. And for two out of the three periods, the Blueshirts were the better team. They outhit the Devils and generated more chances off the cycle. The best part was they got offense again from Petr Prucha, who put them ahead midway through the third when Jagr deflected the puck to him. Prucha was the most encouraging player tonight. For the second straight game, he scored and looked very confident. If this team is to get going, they'll need Prucha to continue his solid play.

Maybe the most disappointing aspect of this game was that a silly penalty by Thomas Pock allowed the Devils to tie it when Jamie Langenbrunner stuffed home a rebound past Henrik Lundqvist to get the first place Swamp Rats a point. Considering that the Devils were unable to get much sustained attack after they trailed, it just reinforced how mistimed Pock's penalty was. He just is too uncertain in his end. He's a good stickhandler and shows potential offensively but teaming him with our best defenseman Michal Rozsival is a nightmare. It forces Rozy to do more.

It seemed like both teams were content to go to the shootout during the 4-on-4 OT. Each played tenatively until the last frantic minute which included the only real scoring chance when Jagr setup a cutting Martin Straka, who was robbed point blank by Martin Brodeur to force the shootout.

The shootout was totally unpredictable. Who would've thought seven goals would be scored? Lundqvist took his perfection into it but allowed Zach Parise (backhand deke), John Madden (backhand deke) and Patrik Elias (backhand deke sensing a theme here) all to score. A couple of them Henrik admitted to FSNY's Steve Cangialosi he should've had. Even more odd was how the Blueshirts got four on Brodeur. Michael Nylander and Brendan Shanahan each beat him in the same spot over his pads while Matt Cullen and shootout hero Marcel Hossa went upstairs. I guess it was only fitting that Hossa would win this one. He's been ripped apart by many fans. So he morphed into his much better brother and made it look routine against a Hall of Famer.

It would've been possible without Lundqvist stoning Jamie Langenbrunner. He beat Langenbrunner's forehand deke by getting a leg out at the last split second. When he denied Travis Zajac's backhand deke, the Rangers had won their second in a row.

It comes at a good time with the Islanders suddenly having dropped four straight. The Rangers are now up to 44 points in the crowded East. They must continue to turn it around Thursday when they return to the Garden to host the suddenly hot Flyers. The Flyers have won three straight after holding on to beat the Islanders 3-2 tonight. They've gotten splendid goaltending from Robert Esche. Can it keep up? We'll know in a couple of days.

Almost forgot to mention that Jed Ortmeyer finally returned to make his season debut. It was nice to see the 28 year-old gritty forward back from a pulsonary embollism condition. He only got nine shifts playing fourth line but looked alright. Look for Tom Renney to work him in slowly. Aside from that, the unsung heroes in this game were Ryan Hollweg, Blair Betts and Adam Hall. This checking unit played well all game and took the body. Hands of stone Hollweg even had a point blank chance but predictably fired wide. If only Santa had given him a new pair of hands. He's all heart (game best six hits). Hall also had one of his most effective games physically while Betts was solid in all facets. They'll need that to continue.

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