The Rangers Game Log

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Game 14 - Rangers 4 at Devils 2

2005 Record: 7-4-3, 17 pts.
Last Year: 0-0-0, 0 pts.
Days In First Place: [gulp]
Islanders: Crushed at home 5-1. Hey Islander fans, aren't you happy that hockey is back?

- Petr Prucha and Ryan Hollweg were back in the lineup as the effect of the injury to Martin Rucinsky continued to ripple through the lineup. During neither of Rucinsky’s two prior stints with the team, when he was a lesser light than many if not most of the other players on the roster, would his being hurt have nearly such implications, which shows how much things have changed. Whatsmore, the angst caused by the injury, particularly amongst those loudly questioning why Prucha wasn’t called up for Monday’s game (and I’m sure they feel vindicated by the way he played in this one) shows, I think, that the impressive start of the season has us all pretty hepped up, and thinking in terms that we’re not really supposed to this year.

Because, really, a two- to-four week injury to a 34 year-old signed to a one-year contract on a team in the first year of what many have projected to be a long rebuilding program is really a non-event in the long-term scheme of things, which is what this season is supposed to be about. A 7-4-3 start has us all dreaming of hockey in springtime, and why shouldn’t it? Damn it, I’m SICK of missing the playoffs and I don’t want to wait another three-four years; I’m tired of the taunts by Islander fans who haven’t seen their sorry-ass franchise on the winning side of a handshake line since 1993. But I think things need to be kept in perspective here. If the Blueshirts were 4-7-3 instead of 7-4-3 with the same effort and spunk they’ve shown for most of their games, we’d have to be happy with that, right? And ditto if they continue to display effort and grit but fail to qualify for the post-season, because in the big picture, making or missing the playoffs this year isn’t supposed to be the point as long as young players develop and grow throughout the year, giving us hope for the future.

There’s years and years of damage to be undone, and it’s natural to be skeptical of roster moves and non-moves because of the demonstrated incompetence of Sather. But the fact is that we’re stuck with him for now, and as another inept leader who somehow still has his job recently said: we have to fight with the GM we have, not the GM we wish we had (or something like that). So I’m putting my trust in Tom Renney and his staff, and if they felt that Prucha would better benefit from some ice time in Hartford – and who’s to say that his stint there didn’t contribute to his performance in Jersey - or if they want to soon take another look at Fedor Fedorov (who I’m not quite as down on – yet – as others seem to be), I’m not going to question it. In the long term picture, the question of who is playing wing on the second or third line in a game on Halloween night is just a tiny part of a rebuilding process that certainly isn’t supposed to produce the results we desire overnight. Even if a good start has us thinking (and hoping!) that it just might.

Big Plays - Kevin Weekes had little chance on Langenbrunner’s perfectly placed roofer to open the scoring, but he served notice of his sharpness during an ensuing two minute five-on-three five early in the game. It helped that Kozlov missed a wide-open net, and Roszival was splendid in the last thirty seconds with a block and two clears. Weekes made a huge save late in the game after the Devs cut the lead to 3-2, when Mogilny fed a streaking Gionta in front as Malek lost his stick trying to check the latter. On the radio pre-game show, I heard Don LaGreca say that Weekes, being a “big goalie,” is the type that gives the Devils trouble. What the hell does that mean? Perhaps the Rangers should dress Channing Frye on Saturday?

With the Blueshirts up 2-1 with 14 minutes left in the second, the Jagr-Nylander-Straka line, left intact all night, had a dominating shift resulting in some good chances foiled by Devils goalie...who the hell was that guy anyway? That led to a TV time out, and after a brief shift by the Rucchin line, Renney rolled the big guys right back out. It was well into the second minute of that shift that Jagr demanded the puck behind the Jersey net, stood there unchecked for what seemed like a minute, came out, and I’ll be damned if he didn’t know exactly what he was doing when he lobbed the puck off this strange goalie’s mask, right to Nyalnder, who knocked it down and stuffed it in for what would turn out to be the winning goal.

- I know this is a totally incongruous comparison, but Prucha reminds me a bit of Mario Marios. Probably just the uniform number 25 and the slight build; certainly Marios had none of the Czech’s considerable offensive skills. But perhaps it’s Prucha’s fearlessness too, venturing into the corner against Dan McGillis and coming away with the puck; or gliding into the crease against Malakhov and putting a perfect tip on net.

- Straka looked like Stevie Wonderboy streaking from nowhere to get back and help break up what looked like a sure two-on-one; man, he can skate. He added another assist and now has 14 on the year. That’s also Jagr’s goal total. He just shrugged off a helpless Richard Matvichuk on his first tally and added the empty net goal.

- A graphic after the game said that it’s the first time the Blueshirts have defeated the Devils twice in one season since 1996-97, when they also took Jersey in five games in their last playoff appearance.

3 Comments:

  • At 11:03 AM, Anonymous throwaway said…

    Great point re. that 2nd period Ranger goal. I'd ordinarily oppose skipping the 3rd and 4th lines in that spot, but the Jagr line had such a strong shift before the goal that it was the perfect time to bring them right back. Good job by Renney there.

    The Jagr line had tremendous puck control all night, and I often found myself wondering why the Devils gave them so much space to handle the puck. It's much more effective, to my thinking, to pressure Jagr, possibly with a double-team the way Buffalo did. He's prone to make errant passes when pressured -- he had a few last night -- and it may be yet another sign of Devil-decline that they were so futile in defending him.

    Glad to see both Prucha and Hollweg back on the ice. I agree that both seemed to have benefited from the Hartford-time -- gotta keep that big picture in mind! This game, refreshingly, seemed to have more hitting than others (Kasparitis seemed to enjoy it), and it was useful to have Hollweg there for that purpose -- i like him better than Niemenan. I also like the way Prucha aggressively attacks the net -- I favor him over Hossa at this point.

    Early in the 1st, the Devils looked like they might dominate the game. After their 1st goal, they continued to carry the play. Eventually, though, Moore's line had a strong, momentum-changing shift, the Rangers went on the powerplay, and the game began to turnaround. Yes, this is a team game.

    11

     
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