Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wins on Both Coasts

What night it was to be a hockey fan last night. Plenty of great games including a humiliating loss for the Calgary Flames who blew a five goal lead to lose in overtime (sound familiar Ranger fans?).
But for the two main teams victories were achieved albeit through very different means.
In New York the Rangers were coming off a big win over the Anaheim Ducks where Steve Valiquette stopped 18 shots for a 3-0 win. He filled in with a solid effort for Henrik Lundqvist who was back in the crease last night as the woeful Toronto Maple Leafs came into New York looking for their first win of the season. They could not have gone through a worse affair.
The Rangers put up a lucky 7 against the Maple Leafs as Dan Girardi and Sean Avery had two goals each. Wade Redden looked like the Redden the Rangers signed as he had a goal and two assists. What a snipe his goal was as another high performing Ranger, Vinny Prospal, fed Redden the puck and he drilled it short side high off the cross bar and behind frustrated Leafs goaltender Vesa Toskala (By the way Toskala suffered an injury last night making Joey MacDonald the starter for Toronto for the foreseeable future).
Prospal and Artem Anisimov finished with two assists each. Marian Gaborik had a goal and an assist to extend his point scoring streak. It was a dominating win for the boys in blue. Two points I want to make however:
1. As expected Donald Brashear and Colton Orr met up and dropped the gloves. Up until this point many people had been booing Brashear because of his prior history against the Rangers. Last night the two heavyweights met up as they have many times during their careers and it was a pretty good battle but the edge goes to big Brashear as he landed some good punches. If this win over Orr was not enough Brashear had his family hand out gloves with the finger tips cut off to certain sections in Madison Square Garden. One glove had his number and the nickname "Brash" on it while the other one was signed by him. Inside were plastic cups that made the gloves into noisemakers of sorts. It is sad that Brashear has had to try and win over fans like this but I think he has earned the respect for Ranger fans...at least I hope.
2. Last night Leafs forward Jason Blake ran Henrik Lundqvist twice and he did not get challenged. If you are the Rangers, you need to get on Blake and make sure he does not do that. Whether it is giving him a face wash or making him apart of the boards the Rangers cannot let that happen. Lundqvist is the most important piece to the Rangers and he needs to be protected. The Rangers need to get a little mean and make sure players know that if they run into Lundqvist they are going to pay for it.
The Rangers are practicing today and then are at home again on Wednesday when they take on the Los Angeles Kings who are coming off a win against the Islanders. They will pose a stiffer test than the Leafs did.
On the other coast you could say the Rangers won another game. The Phoenix Coyotes were coming off their shutout loss in their home opener and now were visiting the San Jose Sharks who are expected to be a major player in the Western Conference.
If you are a fan of high scoring games then this was not the matchup for you as good defensive play and goaltending made this game completely scoreless and forced a shootout. Evgeni Nabokov and Ilya Bryzgalov both earned a shutout but a winner still had to be decided.
The shootout came with both goalies hot as they both stopped the first shooters they faced.
Bryzgalov got lucky as Devin Setoguchi missed a wrist shot on his blocker side.
Peter Mueller gave Phoenix the lead when he used his nice wrist shot and slipped the puck under the glove of Nabokov.
Dan Boyle came in next and made a nice fake to avoid the poke check attempt from Bryzgalov and used a nice back hand up into the back of the net.
As I mentioned before the Rangers won two games last night. Lauri Korpikoski was the last man to go for the Coyotes. His first career shootout attempt would be a big one as he came up against Nabokov fast. A little bit of a change of the angle and a good wrist shot was enough to get it by the Sharks goaltender.
This was an absolutely monumental win for so early in the season for the Coyotes. They went up against a high powered offensive team and shut them down. The defense has really improved this season as the Coyotes have given up just two even strength goals this season. However they will need to get the offense going as well. They peppered Nabokov with 30 shots last night which means they are getting chances but they need to finish the job a bit more. Not having the speed of Matthew Lombardi was probably a big reason why the offense could not generate but regardless, they need to get going.
The power play needs to be more organized and more creative. Passing is key for a power play and Phoenix needs to get better at doing that. The power play did not convert on four chances last night. A big part of getting Phoenix's offense going will be converting while on the man advantage.
Bryzgalov played exactly how he needs to for the entire season. He was solid all night and stopped all the shots he should have to keep his team in the game.
A positive night overall in hockey with the two main teams on here. The Rangers play on Wednesday against the LA Kings (I will be there) while the Coyotes return home on Thursday to host the St. Louis Blues. If you are in Phoenix, make sure you get yourself to that home game. The Coyotes will be better.

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