Rangers Finally Break Through?
Needing a win in the worst way after blowing a three-goal lead against Ottawa on Saturday, the Rangers played easily their best game of the young season in a 5 - 2 victory over the San Jose Sharks. Ryan Callahan led the way offensively with two goals and an assist while Marty Biron picked up his second win in two starts on the year finishing with 24 saves. Meanwhile Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan, two important players struggling to get it going so far this season, potted their first goals of the year.
The Rangers played their most complete game by far. They pressured the puck in all three zones and consistently played a great puck support game. Too often this season a Rangers puck carrier would be challenged by a defender and stripped of the puck effectively killing any chance to gain the offensive zone in order to create scoring opportunities. That wasn't the case last night as the Rangers seemed to always have another player in position to support the puck carrier.
Another huge factor in the Blue Shirts win was the special teams. The Rangers converted 2 of 5 PP opportunities while holding the Sharks off the scoreboard in their three chances. Allowing just three PP opportunities continues a trend of taking fewer penalties. After allowing an unbelieveable 27 man-advantage chances in their first four contests, an average of 6.8 per, the club has been shorthanded just 21 times in the last six, 3.5 per.
Just seven seconds into the game, Brandon Prust engaged Sharks winger Ryan Clowe in a fight. The bought seemed to spark the Rangers and also launched a very entertaining debate between Keith Jones and Mike Milbury on the Versus Network telecast. True to his old-school nature, Milbury defended Clowe's answer to Prust's challenge while Jones argued there was no benefit to the Sharks for Clowe to do that. Conversely, Jones believed the fight could only have helped the Rangers, a theory supported by what happened during the game.
I've always found it humorous that guys like Milbury find employment commentating in today's NHL. He reminds me of Don Cherry in that they seem to be stuck in the game of the 1970's and are only on TV for amusement purposes. Call me amused last night watching Milbury try to argue that Clowe did the right thing despite the fact the Rangers completely outplayed the Sharks that period following the scrap.
Avery is Back
As expected, the sideshow that is Sean Avery cleared recall waivers and has been brought up officially by the club from Connecticut. He may or may not play Thursday against Anaheim. It's hard to find someone to sit after Monday's impressive display. Still, it might be that Avery's pending arrival may have motivated a few guys that had previously been underachieving. Guys like; Erik Christensen, Wojtek Wolski, Anisimov and recent callup Andre Deveaux all had good games and it might have been in part because of Avery.
Shut Up Thornton
I'm sure you've all heard about "Jumbo (playoff failure)" Joe Thornton's critical comments of the Blue Shirts following the Sharks loss last night. He stated the Rangers were the "softest" of the six teams they had played on their road trip. He attempted to back-track today but the damage was done. Joe looked like the idiot.
Rangers coach John Tortorella responded today saying, "Joe's a heck of a player, but here's a player popping off about our team, and Joe hasn't won a god d--- thing in this league. He could go down as a player, being one of the better players in our league never to win anything. So what he should do is just shut up. It was uncalled for, it was classless, and I've never had it happen like that before."
I applaud Torts for his response. He's right. Thornton is the last player in this league who should call anyone "soft." It's too bad we won't get a rematch; at least until perhaps the Cup Finals.