The Rangers Game Log

Friday, December 02, 2005

Henrik the Katt

- I’ve been around for awhile, but fortunately not long enough to say that I saw Emile Francis tend goal for the Rangers. I don’t know how he got the nickname of “The Cat,” whether it was reflection on his goaltending style or perhaps because he drank a lot of milk and purred if you rubbed his neck.

But Henryk Lundqvist, solid in the nets for the Blueshirts’ 2-1 win over the Pens on Thursday night, is reminding me of the first Rangers coach I ever remember (OK, I’m old enough for that) with his play. Crouched low, like a cat, or perhaps we should say, katt in honor of his Swedish roots, waiting to pounce, Lundqvist stopped 35 Penguins shots to outduel the Penguins’ young goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with Katt-like quickness, flashing his glove, his blocker, and his pads and skates, all with equal effectiveness and flash. He seems to know when to gobble up the rebounds, and when to kick the puck clear. He protects the net less economically in terms of movement than Kevin Weekes, more of the stoic, positional type, and thus projects the kind of visual panache that has made him the favorite of the fans.

Fleury was perhaps the second best player on the ice. His circus save on Darius Kasparaitus was followed by a minute of sustained Pittsburgh pressure that led to the tying goal early in the second, and he kept his team in the game in the third, as the home team revved up their play to protect their lead.

Face-offs were a topic of discussion during the off days, as the team had slackened off in that category of late. But Martin Straka, taking his only draw of the game after Nylander was tossed from the circle, battled Mark Recchi, the Pens’ best player last night, to a draw on the draw. Nylander however was able to sweep the puck back to Roszival, who passed it across to Marek Malik. If you think this guy isn’t blessed these days, take a look at how the ice parted biblically as he skated in with a clear look and an absolute clear path before beating Fleury with a wrist shot for the winning goal.

On the other hand, we saw perhaps the worst face-off effort in NHL history. With the Blueshirts briefly down two men, Dominic Moore, who continued to struggle on draws, was tossed, and Roszival stepped in to face Mario Lemiuex. Roszival made like a little point guard in a jump ball against a seven foot center, making hardly an effort at all before dropping back into position. A true defensive defenseman indeed, Roszival logged a team leading 24:51 of ice time, and was one of the keys in the Rangers’ holding Sid the Kid and Mario to a single shot apiece; that’s pretty impressive.

- Team effort in compensating for the absence of Jed Ortmeyer, as no less than 14 Rangers registered at least one blocked shot.

- I’ve been calling for Kondratiev to get a shot on the power play point, and he scored from there last night. However, a shot deflecting off of two different Penguins isn’t exactly what I had in mind.

- Energetic game for the Betts-Ward-Niemenen line. Ward throws in some nifty moves from time to time, as he did early in the second, faking Brooks Orpik out of his uniform pants and cutting towards the net for a shot. Betts outhustled Orpik to the puck in the third, and despite being hooked got the puck over to Rucinsky for a shot, and drew a key penalty with just eight minutes left.

- A funny phenomenon I’ve noticed so far this year at the Garden is that despite the team’s success, the fans are still hooked on stars of the past. Walk through the building and notice what jerseys people are wearing and you’d think it was still 1994. 11….2…..9…..35…..those are the numbers that still dominate. (One recent night, I saw two Walt Tkaczuks.) But I did see one Lundqvist jersey last night, and no doubt we’ll be seeing more of those. When I see someone wearing a Marek Malik sweater, I’ll know that this team has truly arrived.


  • At 10:54 AM, Anonymous throwaway said…

    Glad to see you've found the time during the busy december racing season for this outpouring of hockey posts!

    I saw someone with a Prucha jersey last night, and had the same thought as you on how it stood out. Suppose it won't be long now, though, before a Malik-jersey sighting -- they're milking his folk hero status big time -- ie. 1st star of the game?!?

    Also impressed with Betts' line. Ward's hustle to negate the icing with less than 2 min's to play was one of the highlights of the night for me. Moore's line had a great shift with about 6 min's left in the 2nd; even with the Hollweg injury, they should have seen more ice time.

    Nylander stinks on faceoffs -- they should consider having Straka take more. And Larry Brooks beat me to the punch on this last point: what the hell is that Nylander crew doing out there for that last shift?! Sure, Nylander drew the penalty with 10 sec's left, but they were fortunate to get to that point. We're being outplayed by an inferior team, but by the grace of Lundquist we're about to grab the 2 points, and Renney is screwing around with that no-defense line in the last minute? i almost was hoping the pens would score on principle. well, not really, but i was pissed.


  • At 11:10 AM, Blogger alan said…

    Nylander was particularly poor and behind the play in his own zone all night. Didn't seem like the time for Renney to make whatever point it is he wanted to make.

    Who sits when Ortmeyer returns?

  • At 1:39 PM, Anonymous throwaway said…

    Good question. Jagr's line stays in tact. I'd keep Moore's line together as well. I like Betts/Ward/Niemenan. Which means Hossa may be the odd man out, with Prucha playing with Ruccin and Rucinsky? Seems the least disruptive. My main concern is that they don't sacrifice any of the energy players? (I have some additional thoughts on some of the more "established" guys -- one of whom we've discussed above -- but i'll hold my computer-tongue a bit longer).

    What do you think?



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