Monday, April 30, 2007
But it's the rest of this team's fault. Their absolute unwillingness to take the body, or try to permeate the interior of the Ottawa defense, and just hope that the puck would go off Emery and make it into the net. We were awful tonight from goal crease out. Marty deserved a better effort from his team tonight, and that's why we lost. A half-ass effort could've beaten the Sens tonight, but the forwards and defense couldn't even come up with that.
Detroit-San Jose tonight at 10, enjoy that.
Devils can win a game in one period if the game is tied. They just need to win this period and take control of the series.
That said, some keys to tonight's game:
1. Discouraging the Sens, and the crowd, early. A goal in the first 5 minutes would be huge. This crowd has a taste for meat and a true belief that this is their year. An early strike would quiet them quickly.
2. The Madden line. Jay Pandolfo agreed that they have not been playing up to snuff the first two games of this series. They have to stop the Spezza line. We can deal with one mildly dangerous scoring line. What we can't deal with is the CA$H line going through us faster than Chinese food thru the digestive system.
Tonight's game is on VERSUS, in Jersey and Nationally. Here are the VERSUS channel listings:
Blue Ridge/Gouldsboro, PA
Blue Ridge/Hemlock Farms, PA
Blue Ridge/Huntington Hills PA
Blue Ridge/Milford, PA
Blue Ridge/New Foundland, PA
Cablevision/Cross River, NY
Cross River/North Salem
Cablevision/Dutchess Cnty, NY
Cablevision/East Hampton, NY
Cablevision/East Hampton, NY
Cablevision/Long Island, NY
Cablevision/New York City, NY
New York City
Cablevision/Port Chester, NY
Cablevision/Port Jervis, NY
Cablevision/Raritan Valley, NJ
Cablevision/So Westchester, NY
Cablevision/VTV Long Island, NY
VTV Long Island
Cablevision/Wappinger Falls NY
Comcast/Jersey City, NJ
Comcast/Long Beach Isle, NJ
Long Beach Island
Comcast/Toms River, NJ (R)
Comcast/Toms River, NJ (R)
RCN/New York, NY
SMS/Brighton Arms, NJ
Brighton Arms (D)
SMS/Glen Ellen Apts, NJ
Glen Ellen Apartments (D)
SMS/Kuser Village, NJ
Kuser Village (D)
Ocean Terrace (D)
SMS/Quail Ridge, NJ
Quail Ridge (D)
SMS/Trump Tower, NY
Trump Tower (D)
TWC/Bergen Cnty, NJ
TWC/Mid-Hudson Valley, NY
TWC/Mt. Vernon, NY
Mt. Vernon (D)
Orange Cnty/Sullivan Cnty
Orange Cnty/Sullivan Cnty
Quics - Consolidated (D)
TWC/Staten Island, NY
Staten Island Cable Division
TWC/Upper Manhattan, NY
Upper Manhattan (D)
TWC/Warner Comm of Brooklyn,NY
Warner Comm of Brooklyn (D)
TWC/Warner Comm of Queens, NY
Warner Comm of Queens
US Cable/Paramus, NJ
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Game 3 is on Tuesday at 7:00 on VERSUS.
5:33 PM ROY HIT THE POST!!!!!
5:32 pm Diluted 2-on-1 is broken up, Rangers now have possesion the other way. Nylander had one tipped wide by Jagr. 1 Minute left power play, Straka a backhander, Scramble in front! Nothing from it,loose puck, to the back, Roszival shot it wide!
5:31 PM Shanahan and Drury on the draw, it's cleared, one man outta the box, 5-on-4 Rangers.
5:31 PM What an atmosphere!
5:30 PM Timeout Rangers. :05 of a 5-on-3, then 1:55 Of a 5-on-4, 2:33 left in the Overtime. Renney's talking to his players on the bench.
5:29 PM Chance for the Sabres 2-on-1 Connolly couldn't get it away, Rangers take it back, they don't produce anything but the Sabres clear it OVER THE GLASS!! PENALTY ON BUFFALO!!! BRIEF 5-on-3 Followed by another 5-0n-4
5:28 PM :55 to go power play, Avery missed wide and they clear, puck into the mesh, 3:05 Period, :37 power play.
5:27 Roszival long bomb blocked by Miller. Offside Rags.
5:27 PM Buffalo clears with 90 seconds on the kill.
5:26 PM Here we go with a Ranger Power Play...
5:24 PM Big chances for the Rangers lately, the tide seems to be turning.
5:22 PM 7:10 to go in Overtime. Very cautious still, the Sabres are being very cute on this one.
5:21 PM Long shot on goal is stopped by Miller, Rangers clear the puck and the PENALTY IS KILLED!
5:21 PM Wonderful work by the Rangers on this kill. Offside on the Sabres, :30 to go on the man-advantage for Buffalo in Overtime.
5:20 PM Cleared by NYR with 1:10 to go.
5:20 PM This is the Sabres 6th consecutive power play uneventful through 40 secs.
5:19 PM 8th Power play for the Sabres, they are 1-7 this afternoon.
5:18 PM Malik is off for I believe a hook.
5:17 PM Nylander and Hossa! Two shots , big stops. Stafford centered one off of Lundy and a PENALTY ON THE RANGERS!
5:16 PM Rachunek blocked a Briere shot. Wrister by Hecht went wide.
5:16 PM Shots are 4-2 Buffalo in OT
5:15 PM Prucha fed it to Rachunek for a shot, then another that Spacek blocked. Oh, it is tense right now.
5:14 PM Drury a big shot the Lundqvist stopped.
5:14 PM Buffalo gets it out.
5:13 PM Isbister a brilliant pass to Jagr and he missed it. Rangers with possesion as Tyutin shoots wide.
5:12 PM Offside Rangers
5:12 PM Cullen shot one wide.
5:11 PM Tyutin a big shot that got the glass.
5:10 PM Icing on Buffalo
5:09 PM A feed in front went through Nylander and a few seconds later, the Rangers go offside
5:08 PM Offside BUF, they get a change.
5:08 PM Stoppage in play as the puck was frozen.
5:07 PM Afinogenov's backhander wouldn't go. Icing on the Rangers.
5:06 PM Callahan fed one to Cullen that he couldn't handle, Callahan and Prucha combined for a chance in front that Miller stopped and covered.
5:05 PM Briere a shot that Lundqvist blocked down and covered. Nobody wants to risk too much right now. Somewhere, an NBC exec sweats.
5:03 PM That crazy deflection hit the post!
5:03 PM Timeout Sabres
5:02 PM Betts took one that took a crazy deflection on goal that Miller kicked away. Kotalik took a huge hit and iced the puck.
5:01 PM Kotalik the first shot, shrugged away by Lundy.
4:59 PM Briere came right out in front untouched, but the net dislodged.
4:59 PM Here we go...OT at the Garden has begun!
4:58 PM Pierre McGuire says that Brendan Shanahan told him that the ice was as bad as it's been here all year.
4:56 PM I really hate that Comcast Spiderman commercial. Is that comedian Zach Galifinakis as the Spidey dude?
4:55 PM Commercial during OT here, 1-1 is our score of course. Jagr for NYR, Briere with a possible tip from HG Chris Drury for BUF. NBC looks to be sticking with this game for the duration. I remember FOX going with a Philly-Florida game through 3 OTs, but I can't imagine NBC staying with this game past 6PM for local news.
Possible locations? VERSUS? USA? MSNBC? CNBC? If anyone knows of a precedent for this, leave a comment or E-Mail at SMLepore@comcast.net and we will try and get it to the readers as soon as possible.
More coming up very, very shortly.
However as good and as strong as the Devils stormed out of the gate in the first period, you just knew a counter-assault was coming from the Sens.. they're too good not too come back. And 4:23 into the second period Daniel Alfredsson finds a hole in Brodeur from the left wing boards and rips one through Marty to cut the lead in half... and the assault was ON as Ottawa outshot the Devils 26-8 in the second and third period... and it took the 26th shot from Danny Heatley in the high slot, with Alfredsson in front to get the game's tying goal with a mere 26 seconds left in the regulation. (nothing like a little bit of playoff drama is there??)
But this isn't your Devils of old type team that would sit back and wait for a mistake that was never going to happen....this team's strength flows through it's top 6 forwards and their ability to control the play and make big plays in big spots (though to be fair Ottawa did have it's share of control in the 4th period as well, thanks to some overtime penalties (and does anyone else HATE overtime power plays? It cheapens the drama of playoff OT... LET THEM PLAY) by Gionta and Matvichuk ... and Ottawa did fire 14 potential game-ending shots at the goal that Brodeur steered away) and this team's strength came through in the second overtime with Jamie Langenbrunner just WILLING his way into a breakaway and then with brute RAGE getting the puck on the deke and over the pad of Ray Emery who had NO chance in the world on as pretty a goal as you will see for a playoff OT winner !!!
--Patrik Elias returned to the line up tonight, playing shorter and semi-effective shifts and assisting on the Devils first goal, but did seem to have to hurry off the time on longer shifts and did get knocked around a little bit (yeah he doesn't look 100% still :p) and David Clarkson sat out for the returning Elias
--Devils goalie Martin Brodeur after the bad first period in game one, burned his pads and glove for some new equipment... and it paid off as he dominated for most of the game aside from the fluke Heatley score with just 26 seconds left in the regulation (a goal that was eerily similar to a fatal second period goal by Eric Staal in Carolina in last year's Second Round Game 2)
--Jamie Langenbrunner's OT winner is his fourth career OT Winner
-- During a first period TV Timeout Ray Emery TOOK OFF from the ice and hustled into the locker room.... possibly from a leg cramp or a left knee injury and was seen often favoring this knee and stretching it out awkwardly during stoppages.
-- a strong contingent of Ottawa fans made the trip to New Jersey (we will be doing a similar trek to Ottawa for game 6) and their presence really ignited the crowd into an attack frenzy that was VERY audible on TV and it looked like the Devils came out WORLDS of fired up from it!
--oddly enough right before Sergei Brylin's goal with micro-seconds left in the first period, I was rather upset that the refs let almost a second tick off the clock with a late whistle on a Jamie Langenbrunner blast... but hey guess these things work out eh?? :-)
Friday, April 27, 2007
If you need any articles, info or postgame analysis, I'll be supplying it for the rest of the playoffs in the NHL Playoff section.
So what do the Rangers need to do to respond to a disappointing Game One 5-2 loss against an explosive Buffalo team?
1.Remain disciplined. They took some very unnecessary penalties in Game 1 which killed their momentum.
2.Smart decisions with the puck. The Sabres love to aggressively attack and force turnovers. The Rangers reset too much and paid the price. Move the puck quickly and get it out.
3.A better forecheck. This pretty much goes without saying. The Rangers just didn't get the puck in the corners enough and work the Buffalo D. They can be attacked.
4.No silly turnovers. Buffalo is the best countering team in the game because of their dangerous speed and skill. The Rangers must stay away from glaring mistakes.
5.Don't back up. Too many instances, this happened and hurt them. You can't do it against this team.
6.Lundqvist must shine. Enough said!
7.Jagr and Avery play their game. While No.68 created chances, he didn't get many shots (2). Avery also was a nonfactor and was minus-three with two minors. He needs a much better game.
8.Get the lead. Take that crowd out of it.
9.No mental lapses.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
But I will bore you (well not too much I hope) with what I think the keys to this series are.... for the Devils:
--Martin Brodeur MUST be Martin Brodeur and not the poster boy for average goaltending he was in the first round (again there's no need for him to EVER play 78 games like he did this year in the regular season)
--the scorers need to keep scoring (re: Gomez, Gionta, Parise and Langenbrunner)
--I don't think this Devils team is built to shut ANYONE down anymore (and the 7 playoff games this year show this), but John Madden/Jay Pandolfo/Sergei Brylin MUST be better then they were last series (and should be because Ottawa is better but not FASTER then Tampa is)
And now what Ottawa needs:
--Stay the course, they SMOKED a really good and high tempo Penguins team making them look like minor leaguers in the process (well aside of Fleury and Crosby)
--Don't fear the Madden match-up... like I just stated, the Devils shut down line ain't what it used to be and if you can use that match-up to keep the Devils offensive guns off the ice... go for it!
--Depth and Grinding... Ottawa can go four lines and six D... I don't know if the Devils can
-- Joe Corvo... watch this man UNLOAD from the point if the Devils give him time on the power play.. his shot is scary good....
-- Ray Emery, average is good enough with the team he has in front of him and I think he's better for the most then he gets credit for (he was bad tonight though)
Tonight's game was a baffling, hard to explain contest, much like most of the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals (well what you could endure of Gary Thorne and Bill Clement's ear bleeding play by plays of the games).... anytime one team took control of the game and it looked like it was time to go home... Case in point 4-0 Ottawa when Martin Brodeur was missing saves like me on the roller hockey rink 4 hours into a 95 degree game session in July)... Ottawa took a quick lead 90 seconds into the contest (and the stats show like 80% of the team's who score first win this year) and then just steamrolled the Devils most of the period keeping them bottled up and just looking worse then the Atlanta Thrashers did last round...but then just as Dean McAmmond scored a brutal shorthanded goal that had every fan in the building (and if you expect me to comment on the attendance go find a tall building to jump off, because any fan who endures that out of date inaccessible shithole deserves a medal and 50% discount on our entrance into a civilized arena!), but a minute after ruling the game over... Travis Zajac gives you a flicker of life to hold onto into the second period and the Devils Storm the Castle and make a game out of it, cutting the lead to 4-3 with good effort and equally as BAD goaltending from Ray Emery (it was like he said "Hey Marty any suck you can do I can do better!") and two long goals by Brian Gionta and Andy Green making it a hockey game again.
But the big comeback was not to be as the 3rd period arrived and only 43 seconds into the period Wade Redden iced the game with another seemingly stoppable wrister (at least from my seats in Section 216)... and that made the hill too big to climb over and only some more Zach Parise magic with 30 seconds to go (does any team score more with the empty net then the Devils do?) made it just mildly interesting... and not bad for the league's most boring team ... yeah you know... the one on top of all the offensive stats (2 guys with 7 goals and Gomez near the top in assists, points and contract demands!) and the only team left playing with a worse team GAA is the San Jose Sharks, but that will change once Nabokov's Shutout is added into the stats.... so yeah it is boring... we get 3-5 goals a game from the same freaking guys!!! Makes you wonder what a difference even half a Patrik Elias would have done in this game on the top line instead of the unimpressive Erik Rasmussen and the overwhelmed by the playoffs David Clarkson.... but that's why they play seven games right ???
Most of you know him from NJDevs and Crasherline.net, ladies and gentleman, welcome Scott, AKA CRASHER!
He'll be posting very soon and covering the 1st 2 games of NJ-OTT for us. Enjoy his ramblings! And believe me, there will be ramblings.
New Jersey Devils and VERSUS/NBC lead Play-by-Play man Mike "Doc" Emrick on Mike and the Dog's morning show:
Buffalo Sabres Owner Thomas Golisano:
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Thinking about what Buffalo can bring on offense is daunting. Every line has unbelievable skill, speed and finishing ability. The Rangers will have to play a near flawless game to win. Meaning no silly turnovers, remaining disciplined and a solid forecheck. And oh yeah. Great goaltending which they have been getting.
I will be having extensive coverage over at my site on each series. Let's drop the puck already!
NJ RW Jamie Langenbrunner with Evan and Joe:
NYR C Michael Nylander with Evan and Joe:
#5 Buffalo vs. #1 NY Rangers
Steve: Sabres in 6
Derek: Sabres in 6 (NOTE: This is the 2nd Round in a row that Derek has picked against NYR!)
#4 Ottawa vs. #2 New Jersey
Steve: Devils in 7
Derek: Senators in 6
#6 San Jose vs. #1 Detroit
Steve: Sharks in 6
Derek: Red Wings in 7
#3 Vancouver vs. #3 Anaheim
STEVE AND DEREK: Ducks in 5
Rangers and Sabres Game 1, VanCity and The O.C. at 10, all on VERSUS, even in the local markets. Enjoy your hockey, and enjoy Round 2!
Monday, April 23, 2007
Game 1 - April 25 - 7:00 - VERSUS
Game 2 - April 27 - 7:00 - MSG
Game 3 - April 29 - 2:00 - NBC 4
Game 4 - May 1 - 7:00 - VERSUS
Game 5 - May 4 - 7:00 - MSG
Game 6 - May 6 - 2:00 - NBC 4
Game 7 - May 8 - 7:00 - MSG
The Devils have yet to announce a TV schedule, but here is how their series will likely go:
Game 1 - April 26 - 7:00 - FSNY
Game 2 - April 28 - 8:00 - VERSUS
Game 3 - April 30 - 7:00 - FSNY
Game 4 - May 2 - 7:00 - FSNY
Game 5 - May 5 - 8:00 - VERSUS
Game 6 - May 7 - 7:00 - FSNY
Game 7 - May 9 - 7:00 - FSNY
MEDIA BUZZ (all times ET)
New York Rangers forward SEAN AVERY: Today at 3:30 p.m. on MTV's "TRL"
He certainly was a big part of the Rangers' sweep of Atlanta and will once again need to be a factor against Buffalo if his team is to pull the upset in the Conference Semis.
Some other stuff:
HE SAID IT
“I can’t believe you’re that good" -- Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur to Lightning forward Vincent Lecavalier during the post-series handshake.
Nice compliment from one champion to the other. I'm sure the feeling was mutual.
Here's an article from the Tampa Tribune on Brodeur's turnaround:
Brodeur Back On Form For Devs
"We knew it was going to come sooner or later," Lightning coach John Tortorella said of Brodeur's Hall of Fame form. "And the last two games, I thought he was the difference."
I strongly feel that Yashin should be bought out. He has got to be the worst captain in the history of the NHL. He does not produce, and does not lead the team either. No one on that team would shed a tear if he was gone.
Trent Hunter and Aaron Asham are also two guys I'm wondering about. To me, Hunter had about six weeks of very good play, just after the new year. Yes, Hunter leaves it all on the ice, but where is the value added? Asham has a wicked shot and can play tough, but he rarely shoots and is fairly invisible.
DP looks like he may actually earn his contract as long as his noggin holds out. Dunham proved his worthlessness. I'd actually consider Dubie as the back up for next year. Randy Robitaille? I keep reading quotes by Nolan regarding how valuable he has been. I have seen very little to get excited about and would jettison him in a heartbeat.
Hilbert and Park played important roles and have a lot of heart - I'd keep them around.
Satan? I'd trade his lazy butt to someone in return for a kid with promise or even a high draft pick.
Kozlov? Enigma. As lazy as he seems to be much of the time, the numbers were very good. Keeper.
Simon - I'd like to replace him with a younger, faster character guy with toughness, but I'm not sure who that would be.
Defense - I thought Witt was incredible this season. A leader on and off the ice. In fact, if Smyth does not stay, I would make him a captain.
So this leads us the UFA season - and I have just three words to say: Defense, Defense, Defense.
I would get rid of the dead wood and build from DP out. I'd stockpile at least 2 top tier D men and pair them with Witt, Bergeron, Gervais, and Martinek. I would keep Campoli as a 7th defenseman if Hill is not retained, that would only play when Martinek suffers his annual injury. I would kick Freddy Meyer out the door. I'd only keep Poti id we could not get 2 top UFAs. The D would then look like:
I thought Hill was awesome this year. Many will say that was completely due to roids, but I'm not convinced. I think he was looking for an edge at his age, but still think he can get it done, especially as part of the third pairing, getting less minutes.
Who to get on D? I'd go for Rafalski and Hannan. Raf to rush the puck and Hannan to stay back. A. Markov is probably too expensive. Sarich would be an excellent signing. Souray is too weak defensively. Redden would also be an excellent choice.
As for the offense, if we build a solid D, it will take care of itself. I would make sure to get Bergenheim back here and would also give spots to Nielsen and Tambellini as well. Their time has come.
It has been an exciting season, but in the end, a first round boot does not get it done. Yes, they played top seeded Buff, but you know what, Buff did not impress me as much as I expected. I think they can be beat, and I think the Rangers may be just the team to do it. The Rags can play tough, which the Sabres do not like - and can put a lot of pressure on the opponent's D when they feel like it. and so far this playoff season, the Rags seem to have the right mindset.
I predict Rags in 6.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
I'll post the whole thing here though. For more hard hitting info on puck or other sports, it's Hitting Back!
Forwards-The Devils rely on their top two lines for most of the scoring. The line of Zach Parise (6 goals), Travis Zajac and Jamie Langenbrunner has been their most consistent all season. Though they didn’t connect in the last two wins, they’re always dangerous due to their aggressive forecheck. If they’re not scoring, then it will be up to the EGG line of Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta (5 goals). Criticized throughout their first round against the Bolts, the trio got better as it went on and has a huge hand in turning the series in their favor. They’ll need to be even bigger against Ottawa. As usual, the checking line of Jay Pandolfo, John Madden and Sergei Brylin will draw the assignment of stopping the Sens’ dynamic top line of Daniel Alfredsson (3-3-6), Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley. They’ll play a large role in how the series goes.
Aside from that dynamic trio which was excellent against Pittsburgh in their five-game First Round win, the Sens also get balanced scoring from their supporting cast up front which includes underrated pivots Mike Fisher and Antoine Vermette. Chris Kelly and Mike Comrie also had good series against the Pens combining for seven points (5-2-7). Grinders such as Peter Schaefer and Dean McAmmond can’t be overlooked. Neither can the brute of pest extraordinaire Chris Neil, who does a bit of everything. Unless Devil brass has a change of heart and dresses enforcer Cam Janssen, they’ll have no answer for Neil’s antics.
Slight Edge: Sens
Ottawa will match the tandem of Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov against either the Parise line or Egg line. They both have size and are physical making it tough on opponents. Each can also skate well and contribute if needed. With them drawing the checking assignment, it lightens the load on Wade Redden and Andrej Meszaros. Both are excellent skating D who can jump into the rush. They are extremely dangerous on the power play as is Joe Corvo, who likes to bomb away from the point. There’s also the most underrated D on the roster in the solid Tom Preissing who can do everything well. It’s worth mentioning that in Round One, Bryan Murray used seven defensemen. He also mixed in Christoph Schubert, who is a decent skater but is nothing special. Will they try the same formula here? Remains to be seen. But this unit can make teams pay.
Goalies- Martin Brodeur will be matched against second-year netminder Ray Emery. On paper, it looks like a mismatch. But Emery has played well and given his team confidence. The good news for the Devils is that Brodeur finally returned to form in the last seven periods only permitting two goals (both PP). In order for the Devils to advance, the three-time Cup winner will have to be just as brilliant in this series. He did it to the Sens four years ago. We’ll see how it goes here. Emery will have to also be equally as good for his team. The challenge will be shutting down the Devils top two lines. They’re particularly dangerous around the net. So they should pose more of a threat than the Pens shooters did.
Coaches- Lou Lamoriello is coach in name only. He defers to assistants John MacLean and Jacques Laperriere to change personel. Murray has been around forever and never been great. He’s used the underdog role all Spring. Expect more of the same now.
Prediction: The Devils do have home ice. So after careful consideration, we think it will be a little closer than earlier today. However, I just see that Ottawa blueline making a difference in this one. They have a huge edge there. Look also for the grinding style of the Ottawa forwards to wear on their opponents who just got through a tough series in which Tampa pounded them. The Sens are a little better geared for this one. It’s revenge served cold.
Ottawa in six because this team is extremely focused and way overdue on delivering a big playoff run for Canada. They’re the best team we’ve seen so far in this tournament.
#8 NY Islanders vs. #1 Buffalo
Steve: Sabres in 6
Derek: Sabres in 5
Outcome: Sabres in 5
#7 Tampa Bay vs. #2 New Jersey
Steve: Devils in 5
Derek: Lightning in 6
Outcome: Devils in 6
#6 NY Rangers vs. #3 Atlanta
Steve: Rangers in 7
Derek: Thrashers in 6
The Outcome: Rangers in 4
#5 Pittsburgh vs. #4 Ottawa
Steve: Penguins in 6
Derek: Penguins in 7
Outcome: Senators in 5
#8 Calgary vs. #1 Detroit
Steve: Flames in 7
Derek: Flames in 6
#7 Minnesota vs. #2 Anaheim
Steve: Ducks in 4
Derek: Ducks in 6
Outcome: Ducks in 5
#6 Dallas vs. #3 Vancouver
Steve: Canucks in 5
Derek: Canucks in 6
#5 San Jose vs. #4 Nashville
Steve: Sharks in 6
Derek: Sharks in 7
Outcome: Sharks in 5
1. Jordan Staal, Pittsburgh, December 13, 2006 vs. Philadelphia
Saturday, April 21, 2007
The Stars used a five-on-three PPG by Mike Modano in the opening period and a Stu Barnes insurancy tally halfway through the third.
So what's happened to the Vancouver offense? They haven't scored once against Turco in the last seven periods. In fact, their last tally came from experienced warrior Trevor Linden which proved to be the winner in Game Four. At the time, it put the Canucks in the driver's seat up 3-1.
But much like 2004 against Calgary, they haven't put Dallas away. So can they possibly choke in a similar fashion to that first round when they fell twice on home ice? Anything can happen in a final game. The bad news for the Canucks is that the Sedins haven't found offense and there's been little support.
Roberto Luongo has performed extremely well in his first playoff series. But without offense, the Quebec native can't do it by himself.
Though Dallas controlled the final 20, it wasn't without possible concerns for Game 7. Sergei Zubov didn't return and captain Brenden Morrow was banged up by Alex Burrows which drew the ire from the fearless leader before he limped off and some of his teammates as well. If either isn't available, that could hurt the Stars' chances to pull this off big time. But you just know those guys will suck it up and play.
It's the playoffs!
In the second stanza, they were unable to carry that momentum forward and self destructed literally on special teams to hand the Wings the game. Any time you allow two shorthanded goals including a nifty backhand deke by Daniel Cleary on a penalty shot which got Detroit on the board, you aren't going to win at this time of year. Hell. It's hard to win like that in any game.
I thought the Flames were careless with the puck and also didn't continue to get shots on Hasek. While that was taking place, the Wings continued to test Kipper and eventually got to him even though his goaltending was spectacular in that period despite giving up three. It could've been much worse and reminded me of how Calgary imploded in the first two games at Hockey Town.
The Chelios shorty was nice. Not bad for a 45 year-old 22-year vet. That guy is remarkable. And Lidstrom as predicted had a much better game than the last two. That pass he made to Zetterberg was something for that PP tally which made it 2-0. And no Pierre McGuire. Holmstrom didn't hit Stuart from behind. Try watching more closely mad scientist. It was from the side and just a good takeout by the game's grittiest player in front of the net.
It makes one wonder if the home ice is that intimidating in this series. When you see how these teams have played at home so far, it sure seems that way.
Obviously, tomorrow night in Alberta, the pressure shifts to the Flames. It's a quick turnaround. So they're going to have forget this debacle.
In terms of what happened at the end, I can't really comment much other than to say that's just frustration. You will see that in these playoffs. They're trying to send a message that they're not done. You saw it the other night with the Lightning and Tortorella. Hell. Even the Thrashers down two games sent the same message with some of that chippy play.
When it comes to the playoffs, teams who are almost on the brink aren't going to back down. And sometimes that does lead to borderline dirty play and confrontations. But the team who prevails has to understand why. They want to get payback. Do it by taking care of business on the scoreboard next game and eliminating their opponent(s).
I think that's what makes the NHL postseason so amazing. These guys battle so hard in these series. And sometimes it gets really intense. But at the end of those same series, you see these guys shake hands and show respect after it's all over.
The Canucks have some pressure on them at the top of the hour because they don't want to go to a Game Seven. Even if it's at home, anything can happen. The Stars are playing with house money. You know this game will be close. They all have been.
Then Iginla butt-ends and cross-checks Matheiu Schnieder on the same rush. Nilsson butt-ends Draper after that.
Just disgusting from Calgary. I am so ashamed of my sport for that.
25 games for McClennan.
5 games for Iginla.
3 games for Nilsson.
1 game for Jim Playfair
$50,000 fine to the Flames for embarassing our game.
Is deja vu about to occur to the top seeded Wings yet again by another Alberta team? Find out later today on NBC as they try to hold serve in this home ice battle against their pesky opponents from Western Canada at 3 ET/12 PT.
The pressure is on!
Also, the Gionta tally was an end result of a horrible read by Pratt, giving away the puck while his team was late changing. The Devils took advantage of two costly Bolts' mistakes. You'll need more of an attack on Sunday to put that team away.
Brodeur was good but Matvichuk was the best player on the ice. Amazingly enough, he's your best defenseman. Go figure.
If you want to put Game One on Holmqvist, go right ahead. He was dreadful in that one. I think he's played fairly well since.
For more analysis on this game and the Sabres' elimination of the Islanders, please check out what we had to say last night:
Hard Hits 4-20-07
Friday, April 20, 2007
Yeah, some shots went wide, but most of the shot's were from well out. Brodeur did a great job stopping the first shot and preventing the rebounds from happening.
The 2 key differences in this game were Richard Matvichuk and Johan Holmqvist. Matvichuk was spectacular tonight, blocking shots left and right, and never really going down to the ice to have to do it.
As for Holmqvist, he should've stopped both of those first two goals. So much for Marty's stock falling and Holmqvist "Out-playing" Brodeur. Count it as now 2 games that Holmqvist has lost by himself. Brodeur wasn't the sole reason the Devs lost Game 2 & 3, Holmqvist very well may have been the reason Tampa lost Game 1 as well as tonight.
We're in good position right now. With Sunday's game moved to 1:00 P.M. (NBC), this one will come quick and there'll be little chance for the Lightning to pick up the pieces. I think the Devils come out and win Game 6.
... For the 5th consecutive game, the team that scores first, wins.
...18,096 at the Meadowlands tonight. They're drawing at the level that they've drawn for non-division rival playoff series.
02-03 vs. Boston: 16,718 in 3 Home Games in Rd 1.
02-03 vs. Tampa: 17,304 in 3 Home Games in Rd 2.
05-06 vs. Carolina: 17,223 in 2 Home Games in Rd 2.
06-07 vs. Tampa: 16,940 in 3 Home Games in Rd 2.
This may not look like much, but Game 1 hurt us. Those previous 3 series did not draw an audience as high as Games 2 & 5 have this time, so the Devs are OK. I wouldn't be shocked if we sold out a Game 7.
...David Clarkson was on the roster, but didn't dress tonight.
...Cam Janssen was again a healthy scratch.
...Game 6 in Tampa Bay will be on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 PM. NBC will televise the game to a national audience. Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire will call the game. If necesary, Game 7 will be Tuesday night in New Jersey and air on FSNY.
Martin Brodeur can because he did his job tonight picking up the shutout. The three-time Cup winner was much sharper. But even he would admit to getting some lucky breaks as the Lightning misfired on wide open shots a bunch of times and rang at least two posts. This easily could've been headed to OT. But instead, Brodeur's strong play along with the shotblocking of Richard Matvichuk allowed them to escape.
So is this series over? Find out what we think at 10 PM!
Meanwhile in Buffalo, speaking of lucky, the Sabres held on for dear life to win 4-3 over a gutsy Isles team who gave it all they had. They got it down to one and had several point blank chances to tie it. But it wasn't meant to be. And so Buffalo is marching on. But something tells me they are a really susceptible team. I want them in the second round! Make it happen Devils. I can't believe I said that. LOL
2. David Clarkson? He's listed on the Devil roster tonight, could we see him on the ice? And in place of whom? Dowd? Rupp? Rasmussen? Sarge???
3. St. Louis and Lecavalier. Listen, this is Game 5 of a best-of-seven, we are quickly finding out that there aren't too many keys to the game at this point.
4. Score first. Devils are 2-0 when scoring first, 0-2 when they don't in this series.
Enjoy folks, and as Snoop Dogg said at the Ducks game last night, "Yabba Dabba Dizzle"!
Bill Clement on Joe and Even today:
Doc's weekly "Emrick's Angle":
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Welcome back, Mr. Richards
"It kind of snowballed. I'm not stupid. I know I didn't play 82 perfect games, but I think I'm a better player than I was this time last year. That's what is frustrating when you hear some of the comments that are being made."
Avery upping the misery quotient for Thrashers
“I think I’m pretty miserable as it is to play against. The fact that they have to play against me every other night is probably more taxing than anything. So it’s going to be good.”
I'm not going to post too much about this game because I already put too much into it over at my Hitting Back site. Here's a little excerpt with the full post over at HB if you want to check it out:
For a long time, many diehard Blueshirt fans including my Dad, brother, myself and buddy have been waiting for something like this to materialize over the past decade. That moment came Tuesday night in a chaotic atmosphere which ate it all up about as much as the Rangers ate up their mismatched opponents.
From the time you could barely hear the national anthem singer about midway through (an old tradition) to the game’s signature shift (yes it really was) which set the tone when Jaromir Jagr, who was brilliant all night setup Michael Nylander for the first of a playoff hat trick just 32 seconds in, the Garden was alive and rocking like it hasn’t in years.
However, there was a quote from Henrik Lundqvist which summed up his first playoff shutout as well as the team's play from 12 forwards to six D out perfectly:
"It felt like everything was working for us. It's not every night, especially not in the playoffs, when everything just seems to work for you."
It summed up what amounted to a perfect night for the Blueshirts as they pulled within one win of the second round. They know that Win No.4 won't be handed to them even if the Thrashers forgot to show up Tuesday. The fourth 'W' is always the hardest. They must come with the same type of effort tonight. Get a couple early and that could put Atlanta out of its misery. When you have a wounded animal down, you got to finish them! Plain and simple.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Did I just say color me something? This must be a special night.
Nylander a hat trick, Callahan had 2, Malik and Shanny chipped in. Lundqvist had 21 saves and the Rangers look absolutely dominant. Right now, a Rangers-Ottawa series looks to be mighty appetizing to me. Well, I'll hold my horses on that, but it looks good, after a 2-1 Ottawa win at the Igloo. Anton Volchenkov got the winner.
VanCity leads Dallas 2-1 in the 3rd. Anaheim up on Minnesota in a broom game 1-0. Calgary and Detroit are scoreless.
“Our best player for 10 years. Quietly. He’s not flashy. But if you watch him during a game, he’s Mr. Perfect. He rarely makes a mistake. He plays effortlessly. Scott Niedermayer skates effortlessly, Nick does everything effortlessly. It’s hard to explain. A perfect player—that would be a good way to put it. When they talk about our team, he’s always the fifth or sixth guy they mention . . . when, really, he’s our guy.” - Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood on defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom.
FROM THE STAT WIZARDS AT ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU
Vincent Lecavalier scored the first goal for Tampa Bay in last night's victory. He and Martin St. Louis have combined for six of Tampa Bay's nine goals in the 2007 playoffs. During the regular season those two accounted for 39 percent of the goals scored by the Lightning, the highest percentage for any two teammates in the league.
I'll be headed out to what should be an electric atmosphere at the Garden for Game Three. Kari Lehtonen will be back in goal for Atlanta. It doesn't really matter who Bob Hartley plays. The urgency still must be the same for the Rangers. Put this team away!
Trent Hunter, Same Show:
Billy Jaffe on Mike and the Mad Dog:
Monday, April 16, 2007
First, it was the Bolts notching their second straight win over the Devils by virtue of a Vinny Prospal redirect of a Vinny Lecavalier shot with 6:29 left in the third to pull out a home win before over 20,000 at St. Pete Times Forum.
It was a disheartening defeat for New Jersey because after a sluggish first 20, they dictated much of the play and seemed in good position to steal home ice back. Especially when they got a fortuitous bounce for Zach Parise's fourth of the series which tied the contest at two with 15:14 to go.
But despite carrying much of the stanza in which they got 15 shots on Johan Holmqvist, they couldn't get another past the Tampa netminder who was sharp in making 30 saves to outduel Martin Brodeur (21 saves) for the second game in a row.
To Tampa's credit, they did find their game in the final part of the third and that's what led to the eventual Prospal winner. Coming off a relentless forecheck after Brodeur robbed Shane O'Brien of a sure go-ahead tally on a backdoor a minute earlier, they attacked relentlessly and finally worked the puck to Lecavalier along the right wall. The Rocket Richard winner fired and it was deflected home by Prospal for his first.
The Devils really didn't get many good chances to tie afterwards. A costly Richard Matvichuk boarding minor (his second penalty of the game) with 3:52 to play made the challenge even tougher. The defenseman had replaced a banged up Colin White.
Brodeur would make two of his best saves late to give his team a chance to tie by robbing Lecavalier and Brad Richards. The three-time Cup winner would be pulled for an extra attacker with 1:30 left. However, despite getting some attack time, they weren't able to muster the kind of opportunity which would've forced OT.
New Jersey now knows the challenge will be even tougher if they want to advance. Game 4 becomes a must win Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, for the Islanders, they also suffered a tough loss at home to Buffalo by the same margin. After a scoreless first in which both netminders stood tall in denying all 19 total shots in their path, the play opened up featuring all five goals not surprisingly.
First, Chris Drury would find Adam Mair on the doorstep to get the scoring started. A few minutes later, Thomas Vanek would sneak a wraparound just inside the right post which he felt he scored on. Only neither the refs or goal judge saw it. But after a lengthy review in Toronto, a TSN replay confirmed that the dangerous Buffalo sniper had indeed snuck the puck just inside the goal line past Rick DiPietro to put the Sabres up two.
Instead of letting the tough call get to them, the Isles came right back 1:14 later thanks to some hard work from their best two forwards tonight as Ryan Smyth and Trent Hunter combined for the Fishsticks first home playoff goal since 2002 against Toronto. Smyth outworked a Sabre in the corner and setup Hunter in front, who after a second attempt jammed the puck past Ryan Miller for his second of the series to slice the deficit in half.
A pivotal full two-man advantage called by the refs on Tom Poti (4:00 high sticking) and Marc-Andre Bergeron (slashing) would result in a Daniel Briere PP tally. After taking a Tim Connolly feed at the left circle, he had his initial shot blocked by Brendan Witt but stayed with it and roofed it home for his first to restore the two-goal margin.
To the Isles' credit again and continued resiliency, they got it back to one again thanks to a Smyth tally at the doorstep with only eight seconds remaining in the period.
But Buffalo rebounded with a strong final period outshooting the Fishsticks by a wide 17-2 margin. Only DiPietro, who was again strong in making 32 stops gave them a chance late to tie. After the refs justifiably let go of a clean defensive play by Buffalo on a Chris Campoli chance in the slot, they made a very questionable tripping call on Randy Robitaille with only 1:34 left which drew the ire of the Coliseum crowd. While it's true that his stick did trip up a Sabre, it was very tacky at that stage. The only way I could agree is that they decided it would've led directly to a scoring chance which very well might've happened.
Still though, it's one they should've let go of. Some angry fans stupidly tossed debris on the ice in protest. Good for FSNY color analyst Billy Jaffe for chastising these individuals for their overreaction. It was a tough call and I understand that. But you don't go as far as a silly few did making it more difficult for a fiercely competitive game to finish.
The Isles did pull DiPietro for an extra attacker to make it five-on-five and did a decent job on the cycle. But they never could get a shot as the Sabres ran the clock down to take back home ice and go up 2-1 in the series.
It was the fifth straight playoff defeat for the Isles on home ice. They'll need to change that recent trend starting Wednesday if they want to have a realistic chance of pulling this upset.
I do want to conclude by applauding the Isles' effort. They haven't played like an eighth seed so far. They have mixed it up and reminded me of another dangerous seed from last year which Smyth and Bergeron played for. The Oilers.
Yeah. Maybe they didn't get enough shots on Miller (20 saves) in the third. But also the puck didn't bounce for them a few times as they did have some chances. They have played the Sabres extremely tough thus far and must be encouraged.
Our Three Stars for both games:
Lightning 3 Devils 2
Third Star- John Madden (goal)
Second Star- Johan Holmqvist (30 saves)
First Star- Vincent Lecavalier (goal, assist)
Sabres 3 Islanders 2
Third Star- Henrik Tallinder (assist)
Second Star- Daniel Briere (GW goal)
First Star- Ryan Smyth (goal, assist)
The Devils, well, they let the Lecavalier line beat them. You can't let 4 or 5 players beat you. As for Marty, I'll defend him to the end, but he had to have at least one of those. The Devils played better, the Madden line was great, but the Parise line wasn't as good and the Eggs weren't good enough. Gotta play with some desperation on Thursday.
Isles also lost 3-2 to Buffalo and fall 2-1 in their series, and that penalty at the end just took the life out of this game and possibly the series. The Isles are still in it as well.
Sabres lead the Isles 1-0 on a goal by Chris Drury. The game is still in the balance if the Isles can be resillient. They've played extremely well tonight.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
1. Stop Lecavalier and St. Louis. I don't care if you have to split up Pando and Madden. I don't care if it ruins our offensive game. If you are able to stop Lecavalier and St. Louis for 2 periods, chances are, they will get frustrated and be coerced into taking some penalties. That leads into...
2. Special Teams. This is where we have to do our scoring against the Lightning. We need to slow them down on defense before anything else, but getting goals on the PP and shutting down the Lightning on the PK would be a huge boost.
3. Marty. Marty, I love ya man, you're the greatest ever, but you gotta step it up. You were a little shaky in Game 1, and in Game 2 you gave up that awful St. Louis goal. You have to make this your statement game Marty. Also, no more falling down on the ice.
4. The EGG Line. If they are together tonight, they have to look somewhat interested. They were terrible on Saturday and left Parise and Langs to do all the work. Gomez, Gio and Patty must, must, must be a factor tonight if the Devils are going to win this game.
5. The Refs. The refs were putrid in Game 2. That high stick on Luko and a hold on Elias have no business not being called. There has to be better officiating in Game 3 or else the Devils could be in trouble.
PREDICTION: I gotta pick the Devils. You all know that. 3-2 in Game 3. Gionta breaks through, and Parise and Elias get the others.
Ricky D on the Fan in the morning.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Dean McAmmond setup a beautiful goal by Daniel Alfredsson to make it 4-1. McAmmond finished with a goal, assist and a scrap. A complete game for the journeyman forward who's fit in extremely well with Ottawa. Ditto Mike Comrie, who also has played well and got a goal in this one.
Though Sidney Crosby struck to cut it to two and became only the fourth NHL player to score in his first three playoff games joining Paul Coffey, Wendel Clark and Glen Wesley, it wasn't enough to lead his team to victory.
The Sens were just better today and very determined to bounceback from a tough loss yesterday. A game they probably felt they should've won. They were very active on the forecheck and took advantage of a weak Pittsburgh D.
They also were physical as Christian Schubert nailed Rob Scuderi from behind and wasn't penalized. Versus analyst Brian Engblom felt it should've been a major and game misconduct which would've given the Pens a chance. It doesn't matter now because it wasn't called. Was it a dangerous hit? Yes. Keith Jones says, "Schubert showed no respect for Scuderi." Wow.
Given how it finished, expect more fireworks in Game 4.
Our Three Stars:
3rd Star-Mike Comrie (goal)
2nd Star-Daniel Alfredsson (2 goals)
1st Star- Dean McAmmond (goal, assist and scrap)
In the other game out West, the Ducks are ahead of the Wild 1-0 courtesy of an Andy McDonald tally from Chris Pronger as they enter the second period.
Dallas is getting ready to faceoff against Vancouver from American Airlines Center half an hour from now.
A turning point took place when Gary Roberts and Michel Ouellet mixed it up with Jason Spezza during a line change. While that was going on leading to matching roughing minors, Sidney Crosby put in a wraparound too late. Instead of a tie game, it was wiped out. The Sens would then draw a hooking call on Evgeni Malkin and cash it in when resurgent captain Daniel Alfredsson rifled one home from the left wing through a screen.
But the bigger story with the Sens up 3-1 halfway through is the cheap hit Colby Armstrong put on Patrick Eaves. After Eaves had released the puck, he caught the Sen with a high shoulder which KO'd the winger sending him out on a stretcher. It resulted in a scrap between Ottawa teammate McAmmond and Maxime Talbot. McAmmond would get the decision to avenge his fallen teammate.
Armstrong has always been a borderline dirty player. He's pulled this stuff before. Maybe before it's over, he'll get his.
As for the game itself, my feeling is the Pens haven't played smart. It was clear that Ray Emery was shaky early on after they took the lead. But instead of testing him by getting shots to the net, they haven't. They allowed Ottawa to regain composure and dictate play instead.
There are two other games on tonight's schedule. Dallas hosts Vancouver for a crucial Game 3 with that series tied later on and Minnesota plays host to Anaheim trailing 2-0 in half an hour.
The Pens have come out sharper here than the first two games where they were outshot by a wide margin (74-47). They definitely have gotten some energy from the soldout Mellon Arena.
I didn't watch the entire Flames-Wings Game 2 before but saw enough of the final two periods to know what's wrong with Calgary. They just can't deal with Detroit's speed. As NBC's Brett Hull and Ray Ferraro pointed out, they're unable to get any sustained attack and also have lacked their trademark physicality they've been known for. The Wings are moving the puck very rapidly and with succession. If not for Miikka Kiprusoff, the combined score could be 15-2 instead 7-2.
That's how dominant the Wings have looked. They seem very focused and really paying attention to detail. At this point, I'm eating a ton of crow with how poorly the Flames have played. To be outshot by as much as they have so far in this series is just insane. I can't recall the total number but it was pretty significant.
So can Calgary go back home to the Saddledome and get some momentum on their side at a place where they had a great record? They'll have to be a lot better.
P.S. David Hale was dreadful. Remember when he was compared to Scott Stevens? It kind of reminds me of what happened to Jamie Lundmark, who once drew Stevie Y comparisons. Ironically, both guys wound up in Alberta. One is now on his fourth team with LA while the other is trying to regain the confidence he lost with his first team. Not for nothing but the Devils ruined him. It's similar to how the Rangers mistreated Lundmark. I really wonder if Hale can recover. Lundmark hasn't.
Detroit Leads 1-0
Doc, Eddie and Pierre have the call.
6:00 Ottawa vs. Pittsburgh - VERSUS (HD)
Series Tied 1-1
A huge game. The Igloo will rock tonight.
8:00 Anaheim vs. Minnesota
Anaheim Leads 2-0
9:30 Vancouver vs. Dallas - VERSUS (HD)
Series Tied 1-1
Another huge one.
Derek and I will be around with updates throughout the day. Enjoy your hockey!
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Dave Strader and Joe Micheletti with the recap.
Shanny's post-game interview with Darren Pang.
Bill Clement, Brett Hull and Ray Ferraro recap the NBC action.
Click for VERSUS' nightly review
Bill Clement, Brett Hull and Ray Ferraro analyze a couple of Jagr (and Crosby) shifts. It's really funny.
Only this time, it's in a big playoff game!
The Devils easily could've one this, if the EGG line plays to half it's potential (see: Game 1) the Devils take that game. The Lightning ARE NOT a better team than the Devils.
Thumbs Up: Parise and Langenbrunner. The two best players on the ice. Zajac was very poor tonight, but Jamie and Zach showed up. They were physical and played with a lot of speed. They were the reason the Devs had a chance.
Thumbs Down: Sergei Brylin. I hate to say it, I really do. But Sarge, you've been atrocious these first two games. Poor man looks lost. All of a sudden, he's turning it over and playing poor defensively. I hope he picks it up, or else there's a spot on the 4th line that Jim Dowd or Eric Rasmussen would gladly let him take.
We can win this series. We could've won this game. We need to win 2 in Tampa. Not one, two. We need to at least win game 3. Our whole season could depend on Game 3.
Congrats to the New York Islanders. Didn't see any of their game, but absolutely great that they were able to tie their series. I predicted it would go 6, unlike the many who said sweeps and 5 game wins for BUF. Do not count this club out. Do not.
The feisty Avery was a factor all game and factored in on both Blueshirt tallies. He caught a huge break to get his first NHL career playoff goal when a puck he dumped from center ice went off the boards and took a fluky bounce into a vacated net which put the club up early in the opening period. Atlanta backup Johan Hedberg was expecting the puck to go behind the net but it took an unusual Ranger bounce.
As expected, the Thrashers came with much more fire today and deserved a better fate to be perfectly honest. They controlled a large portion of the 60 minutes with a more effective forecheck and the same physicality they used late in Game One which almost resulted in overtime. However, for two-plus periods, the Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist wouldn't buckle.
Despite a few Atlanta power plays, New York's penalty killing was outstanding in containing the Thrashers by keeping them off balance with smart positioning and more aggressive play along the boards to clear the puck out. I would even see it's the best job I've seen from the forwards and D at being on the same page in terms of getting the puck out.
But finally, Atlanta's persistence paid off when grizzled veteran Keith Tkachuk setup Ilya Kovalchuk for a wicked one-timer from the right slot which found the back of the net through traffic. The fiery Russian sniper who netted 42 during the regular season had his first postseason goal was pumped up as was the crowd. Atlanta had the momentum and also would draw a power play but couldn't capitalize for the fifth time. Each team's special teams struggled combining to finish 0-for-12 on the day.
Most of the game, the Tom Renney's club wasn't able to work the puck deep and cycle due to a much more determined Thrasher D. In particular the Jaromir Jagr line had a quiet game except for one solid shift late. Maybe that's where it turned because not long after that, a hustling Avery negated an icing and then worked some magic behind the Atlanta goal. After getting a favorable bounce along the glass, the Ranger pest stayed with a loose puck in the left slot and found a wide open Brendan Shanahan for a slam dunk into an open net to put the Rangers up one with just 4:01 left.
Playing solid team defense, they protected the lead without much trouble. Even a late Shanahan crosschecking penalty with less than 30 to go couldn't stop them from getting a second straight 'W' in Hotlanta. They would work the puck out twice without the Thrashers getting a sniff. And when Atlanta reset for one last ditch effort in the neutral zone, a Marek Malik clear was followed by some more hustle from the game's No.1 Star in my book, Mr. Avery.
The undersized forward who logged over 21:00 (more than Jagr) would outrace Kovalchuk to a puck behind a vacated net and bang him with a clean hit. All game long, Avery took his lumps and delivered some as well in a more intensified game which was expected. The hit to the Atlanta superstar ticked him off and resulted in No.17 decking the mouth that never stopped for a retaliatory high hit which drew a roughing penalty and essentially ended the game for his team with 3.4 seconds left with a draw 90 feet away. Before that draw, a bloodied Avery smiled cause he knew he had done the job and played a whale of a game getting underneath the Thrashers' skin.
Not surprisingly, a game which Bob Hartley's club fought so hard in ended with a little more rough stuff as defenseman Andy Sutton caught Jed Ortmeyer with a cheap hit as the buzzer sounded. The play was uncalled for but also indicative of how hard Sutton plays. So it was naturally expected. He is Atlanta's best overall defenseman in terms of physicality. I've always been a fan. Clearly, he was just trying to send a message that his team might be down 2-0 but they're far from out with the series shifting to Broadway Tuesday night for what should be a fired up MSG capacity crowd. Along with family and friend, we'll be there cheering as loud as possible trying to drown out outstanding national anthem singer John Amirante and supporting my boys. Unlike last year when you knew they had no chance, this time should be great!
Here's a few observations from today's game:
-Hartley's decision to play Hedberg over a shaky Kari Lehtonen proved out to be right as the Moose played rock solid in stopping 37 of 39. I kind of believed that Hartley might go back to Lehtonen for Game 3 but after today's performance by Hedberg, how could he not come back with the Moose. He was oustanding and was a solid choice by the hockey beat writers for their No.1 Star. I would've made him second to Avery only cause his team fell short.
-Lundqvist was sharper today in making 27 saves to net his second consecutive playoff victory. Many of the King's stops were difficult due to the traffic Atlanta generated in front. Henrik definitely played an underrated game as NBC's Between The Glass look/sound alike Scott Hamilton Darren "Holy Jumping" Pang noted throughout. He earned that No.3 star in our book.
-Clearly, for the second straight game, defenseman Thomas Pock struggled. He was on for the only goal against and got just 8+ minutes from Renney. If Karel Rachunek is ready to go, expect him to be back in the lineup Tuesday night paired alongside Paul Mara.
-The Czech tandem of Marek "Big Bird" Malik and Michal Rozsival logged a ton of minutes but they didn't break in this one playing a steady game. I realize they get on everyone's nerves but today that duo didn't make any glaring mistakes and were very effective against Atlanta's forwards.
-Also thought rookie Daniel Girardi had a tough game again but battled through. He has looked a little nervous and for good reason. But the 22 year-old is a vital cog on the blueline and needs to relax. He'll be okay.
-For the second consecutive game, Girardi's partner Fedor Tyutin played extremely well. The baby faced Russian was solid in his end and jumped into the play picking up two assists though one was kind of lucky on that Avery tally. Tyutin has looked comfortable and is playing very good hockey as his four helpers and plus-two rating would indicate.
-The Rangers were beaten badly in the faceoff circle by Atlanta losing 36 of 51 draws. Somehow, top pivot Michael Nylander lost 17 of 18 which is just inexplicable. This can't happen again in three days.
-Club enforcer Colton Orr got only six shifts (3:43) and took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. What's the point of having him in if you're hardly going to use him? Next game, Ryan Hollweg needs to be back in.
-The Thrashers once again won the physical battle outhitting the Rangers 22-10. I still feel they need to be more physical because things can change in a hurry. Especially in a back-to-back situation Tuesday and Wednesday at home.
-While Kovalchuk and ex-Ranger Bobby Holik played well, Marian Hossa and Slava Kozlov were non-factors. That can't happen if Atlanta wants to get back in this series.
Our Three Stars:
3rd Star- Lundqvist (27 saves)
2nd Star- Hedberg (37 saves)
1st Star- Avery (goal, assist)
In the other NBC network game, the Penguins cameback to beat Ottawa 4-3 thanks to third period tallies from Jordan Staal and Sidney Crosby 2:10 apart. Crosby finished with a goal and assist while Calder frontrunner Evgeni Malkin added two helpers. The Pens overcame a 16 shot discrepancy as Ottawa outshot them 37-21. Marc-Andre Fleury rebounded from a tough game Wednesday night to make 34 stops in evening the best-of-seven series as it shifts to Mellon Arena.
The Devils and Lightning are scoreless a few minutes in. The Islanders and Sabres get underway in 20 minutes with Rick DiPietro back in goal for the crucial Game 2 at HSBC Arena.