Sunday, November 7, 2010

Blues blanket Rangers

It was the Blues tonight at The Garden for the Rangers literally as they were blanketed by a good team 2-0. So much for getting back to .500 on home ice. It wasn't for lack of effort. Simply put, St. Louis is just a better team. Stellar defense, physicality, a great penalty kill and faceoff dominance allowed John Davidson's club to rebound from a shootout loss in Beantown despite little offense.

Alex Steen's second period tally off a three-on-two rush stood up as the winner in a throwback game that saw little time and space for either side to make plays. In a battle of backups, Ty Conklin outdueled Martin Biron, repelling all 27 his way en route to the shutout. Biron, who had little chance on Steen's perfect wrister high blocker, also was solid turning aside 20 of 21 in his third start.

It just came down to a foolish mistake by enforcer Derek Boogaard, who with rookie linemates Derek Stepan and Evgeny Grachev in on the puck behind the net, went for a big hit catching all three deep. Had he backed up instead, there's probably no odd-man break with Brad Boyes dishing across for Steen, who used Dan Girardi as a screen for his second of the season. He would also score into an empty net with four seconds left, sending a disappointed crowd home.

Frustrating, yes. But the Rangers did some good things, competing hard and playing perhaps their best D so far. There's still plenty to work on for John Tortorella's club before hosting the Alex Ovechkin Caps Tuesday and the Sabres Thursday. Figure it to center around faceoffs where they again were victimized badly, losing 38-of-54 (70 Pct). Even a legit boarding major on human wrecking ball B.J. Crombeen with over 12:00 left when he crushed Stepan, who still cameback for his next shift, wasn't enough to get it tied. They couldn't win any draws and never got set up. The best opportunity came late with Artem Anisimov blowing a gimme with Conklin out of position. He didn't realize how much time he had, firing too quick and hitting the side of the net. That was the chance.

Save us the build in MSG excuse about vet ref Bill McCreary erring on a hi-stick call which negated an actual Alex Frolov goal. Yes, the puck probably never touched any Blue and they never gained clean possession before Frolov put in an errant Conklin clear attempt. However, mistakes happen all the time. Too much so these days as I debated with plenty of #NYR Tweeps before. McCreary is one of the best officials out there. He simply missed it. There was enough time for our team to score one measly goal. It just never came with Boogard's boneheaded play costing us at least a point. Speaking of Boogey Man, he also took a needless rough in the offensive zone. If he's not scratched next game, something's wrong. That cannot happen. Cam Janssen was out too. God forbid he challenge him. It's already Brashear II.

As for the five minute power play from Hell, we don't have one PP QB right now, especially with Mike Del Zotto struggling. At least he was stronger in his end. Michal Rozsival was the only consistent defenseman who pinched effectively. Outside of one nice Marc Staal rush, there just wasn't enough aggressiveness. Dan Girardi had another stellar game. He really should have Staal's 'A,' but I get why they're doing it.

As far as Tort's employment of forwards, I felt he didn't use Brian Boyle enough up front and never even gave Grachev a sniff in the third despite another decent outing. In the second, Grach had a nice takeaway and almost broke in clean using his size and reach. Only a hustling defensive play by Vlad Sobotka prevented the big chance. Is eight shifts (4:10) enough for the 20 year-old Russian? No but this stint should benefit his development. When Marian Gaborik returns which might come next week, he'll go back down to Hartford. I don't view him as Jessiman II as some have already unfairly labeled. The instincts are there. He just needs more time to develop offensively.

Frolov had one of his better games. He was more involved on the cycle which included a nifty Stepan backhand pass which Fro fired into Conklin. I get the feeling he's gonna get one soon and that should open the floodgates. D-Step played better, looking more confident with the puck and was rewarded with more ice-time, playing with Frolov and Ruslan Fedotenko in the third. He had one sneaky try from behind the net along with a couple of good passes but as teammates did, was brutal in the dotted circle losing six of seven faceoffs. Insert classic Don Cherry HNIC rant here. If only I could find it.

One other parting shot before we finish up. Fedotenko was properly called for a late hit after a whistle. Fine. But how come a punk like Daniel Carcillo gets away with it against the Islanders in a tie game late in the third yesterday? Simply amazing.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Michal Rozsival, NYR (2 takeaways, 4 blocked shots, hit in 21:23)
2nd Star-Alex Steen, Stl (2 goals incl. decider in 2nd, 7 SOG, +2 in 18:07)
1st Star-Erik Johnson, Stl (2 hits, 2 blocked shots, +1 in 25:47-simply dominant)

Star Note: Neither goalie earned a star because they didn't have to make many tough saves.  

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