Rangers got exactly what they needed in last nights meeting with Atlanta, and to their credit they earned it. After last weekends meltdown against Boston, the Rangers found themselves in need of a spark. Tom Renney’s shaking up of the line ups gave the team precisely the fix they needed. My gripe was that the lines did not make much sense, and through explaining why I was conceived as overly pessimistic from some readers. Although the result of a 4-0 win would indicate that the line ups were strong and successful, I still disagree. Each goal shows a flaw in the theory that these lines led to the win.
The first period was dominated by the New York Rangers as they fore checked hard, paid attention to their back checking, and played like a team that was looking to win rather than playing not to lose. Through the first several minutes of the period the Rangers had out shot the Thrashers 6-0. The Rangers also received a power play in which looked much stronger than in previous games. The key to the power play was simply “get the puck to the net.” Shanahan took shot attempts from anywhere possible and in doing so helped the team generate scoring chances. The Rangers first goal came at even strength off of the stick of Sean Avery. Now don’t get me wrong it was a good goal and I was happy to see the “first line” score it, but take another look at the goal and notice what type it was. See it? It is a gritty goal. The type that you would expect a player like Sean Avery to score. Like I said last night this is not the type of goal you should expect to see set up by Gomez, or Jagr nor was it. Jagr and Gomez did not set our feisty winger up for the shot, but rather Sean Avery was an opportunist and found the puck uncontested in the slot after shots taken by his fellow line mates. This is a type of goal you come to expect from a third liner. The type of gritty play is somewhat similar to what we have seen from the Prucha–Dubinsky–Dawes line. Do not expect many more goals like that from our first line with or without Avery being apart of it.
The next goal by Dubinsky also shows that the line up changes were not key to scoring goals. The reason being is his goal was assisted by Jagr who happened not be on his line in last nights game. The goal was a result of the lines being jumbled as the team was in the middle of a line change. Dubinsky’s linemates were Shanahan and Dawes who were all absent from the ice when the goal was scored.
The Rangers were sharp in the period owning the shot category 16-4. Ilya Kovalchuk took a bad penalty in the period on a dangerous hit to Rozsival. This led to a game misconduct and five minute major penalty that deflated the Thrashers more than it helped the Rangers. The Rangers inability to convert on the extended man advantage cause some concern as it gave them an opportunity to put away the game, but instead Atlanta killed it off and had only a manageable 2-0 deficit.
The second period was full of sloppy play from both teams; particularly the Thrashers. The Rangers were opportunists on their 3rd goal of the night and you can credit the goal by Straka’s quick read before the line change. The sloppy line change by Atlanta led Straka to a short handed goal on a breakaway. Yes, that means the once again the goal was not scored by one of the original lines made up by Renney. The penalty kill line earned the tally, and trust me this was a goal that nines times out of ten would never happen. This goal was allowed by a defensive melt down from Atlanta.
The Rangers were again the aggressors and dominant ones in the period. Lundqvist remained in command as well saving 7 out of 7. The defense was in command not allowing any shots from the slot.
Finally the third period was a conservative approach by the Rangers. They kept the Thrashers honest while entering the zone and forced shots from the outside. The Rangers took the dominant lead on a goal by Jaromir Jagr who was able to control the puck long enough to create a strong scoring opportunity. The assist was by Gomez and Tytuin which excludes Avery the new man on the line.
In the end the game was a dominant performance by the Rangers. The team played with a fire under their rear and paid attention to every detail of the game. The game was won by the desire of the players more so than the shake up of the line ups. Will this carry over for the remainder of the season it’s hard to tell. The Rangers have beaten a few teams in recent weeks decisively (Canadiens, Sabres) just to continue to lose in badly played games.
Enjoy Leetch night Thursday and expect the Rangers to come out of the gates quickly. Expect a lot of shots on Lehtonen who was very beatable Tuesday night. As far as the new lines go, it will be interesting to see if the flaws I point out begin to show. Expect these lines to spark the team a bit, but don’t expect them to be the answer in solving our scoring woes. _X_