Congratulations to Brian Leetch as last nights game was really about him. The ceremony was “first class,” and deserving for the Rangers legend. It was also nice to hear that Adam Graves will gain immortality at the Garden as his jersey will be retired next year. Well deserved for such a class act.
The game was not as entertaining as the ceremony that preceded. The fans were treated to a slow paced, defense first hockey game. The Thrashers were well award that the ice was tilted in New Yorks favor. With the loss of Ilya Kovalchuk who was serving his one game suspension, Atlanta knew they would have difficulty generating much offense. Don Wadell kept that in mind as he had his players structured as defensive wall.
The Rangers generated 9 shots in the first period, but failed to get quality scoring chances. The Rangers also passed up the opportunity to scored on a long 5 on 3 power play. In a game where the opposition is stifling your offense it is important to capitalize on opportunities on the man advantage. The Rangers failed to do so, and even worse failed to really pressure on Johan Hedberg. Gomez forced the puck too much on the power play resulting in turnovers and time lost on the advantage. The Rangers failed to take shots from the point, or use the defense to help set up a scoring chance. The power play has been non existent now for a solid three weeks, and is integral if the Rangers are to make a playoff run. Tom Renney needs to fix the power”less” play, and using Prucha on it more often.
The Rangers stayed disciplined throughout the game minus the hook from Drury. One penalty a night would be a great habit for the Rangers to pick up, but you need to kill it. The Rangers didn’t and it almost cost them the game. Special teams failed to show up for this game as the penalty kill went 0 for 1.
Speaking of Drury, he has got to shoot more. It is becoming more and more apparent that his confidence is in the gutter as he has taken a chapter out of Rozsival’s book telling him not to shoot. Drury gave up at least two good scoring opportunities by passing rather than shooting. COME ON DRURY GET YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME! Shanahan was looking mighty hungry to get his game going again as he took 6 shots on Hedberg which was good to see.
Tyutin, Staal, and Rozsival must have watched some of the Leetch footage before the game because they all look strong offensively tonight. Tyutin look great on the power play in the second period taking many chances at the net, and joining the cycling effort deep in the zone. Staal looked like a winger on numerous plays last night as he came deep along the boards to help out and set up chances.
Rozsival’s goal was reminiscent of Leetch’s notches in the past. The way he waited for Hedberg to come across and lunge out of position before shooting the puck top corner made him look like a real finisher. Also the passing work by Dubinsky and Dawes was great to watch. Dubinsky has really impressed me this year as each game he just gets better. The kid is making major steps to becoming a bonafide second line center men for years to come.
Lundqvist had a strong game, although he didn’t have to be superb. If you take a look at the shot chart you will see that the majority of shots he faced came from the outside. He played well in the shoot out as well stopping all three shooters from Atlanta.
As far as the new lines are concerned they did not help the Rangers generate anymore offense than the lines of old. Avery missed the net on a couple opportunities that were set up by Jagr. Like I said Avery is not a finisher and does not belong on the first line. Drury’s line with Straka and Prucha looked strong last night along with the fourth line. Straka continues to play strong as he generates chances just by his speed and tenacity.
The Rangers continue to look very strong in overtime. The 4 on 4 play really benefits the Rangers as they have more room for their speedy wingers to get free. The shoot out was anyones game tonight and fortunately Shanahan buried the first shot giving Lundqvist the confidence he needed to blank the Thrashers.
Good to go into the all star break on a good note. The Rangers are tied for a playoff position and can work on fundamentals this weekend and try to fix the ailing power play. Hopefully the rest will help Lundqvist as we are going to need him at his best for the final push to the playoffs.
Congrats to Leetch for a well deserved honor. His tremendous play and dedication earns him the title as the best Ranger to ever play in my book.
And how about that poke check Hedberg pulled on Jagr in the shootout. _X_