I always get a little more excited than usual when the Rangers play the Penguins. They are always great, hard fought games. This time, both teams are looking to right the ship against their divisional rival. The Penguins, losers of four in a row, have gone 5-10-1 since December. They haven’t won back-to-back games since 11/13 and 11/15. But any team that boasts two of the three top scorers in the NHL can right that ship really quickly and is incredibly dangerous. In fact, any team that can put up nine goals in one game scares me. Yes, it was against the Islanders, but keep in mind the offensively-challenged Devils put up eight goals on our beloved Blueshirts with Hank in net.
The Rangers haven’t been much better. They are 6-6-1 since December, playing some of the most inconsistent hockey I’ve ever seen, and treading water while their other playoff opponents remain red hot. There is no Sean Avery type boost coming via the trade deadline (or via a return from injury) this year. There is no cap room, and anyone worth while (Jay Bouwmeester) is going to cost a lot more than anyone of us would want to pay (think Anisimov, Sanguinetti/Del Zotto, Callahan/Dawes, a first rounder, and whatever else Sather would have to throw in to make the cap number work) for a three-six month rental. I’m not a fan of that, and neither should you.
The answer has to come from within this locker room. That starts, and ends, with correcting the “special” teams. It’s actually come to a point where I actually pray that Tom Renney calls the ref over and asks to forfeit the power play, and just play 5 on 5. When your power play goals outnumber your shorthanded goals against by a margin of ONLY 2:1, then your team is in trouble. The only good thing in the special teams is the penalty kill, which has allowed a stingy 19 goals all season (league leader: Minnesota, 17).
I would expect more line changes after two poor efforts against the Islanders and Ovechkins, but I hope that Renney realizes that Prucha is probably the best Ranger skater not named Staal right now, and leaves him in the lineup. We shall see.
I’ll probably be doing an in game thread tonight. Keep checking back.
Update: As per Sam Weinman, Aaron Voros will be in tonight for the Korpedo. I don’t really understand this move, but I’m not a professional hockey coach.
Update 7:42: I just got back from dinner, and of course they put up a PPG. Dawes from Mara and Roszival makes it 1-0. This kill has been pretty good too.
Update 7:56: From the five minutes I was able to watch of the first period, it looks like Pittsburgh has lost its mojo. They just don’t seem to connecting or skating. They remind me of the Rangers of November/December.
Update 8:03: So the Dawes shot was a pass that banked off a defenseman and they have two PP shots on two PP opportunities. I knew that goal was a fluke. But hey, I’ll take it. In hockey, you’d rather be lucky than good.
Update 8:08: Ok I have no idea what just happened, but my VS. feed just froze. I hear the announcers going, but the image is stuck with 19:04 left in the period. Both the HD and regular feeds are frozen.
I don’t think VS. can ever do anything right with their NHL games. Cablevision dropped the ball on this one. This is terrible.
Update 8:14: Why is Kalinin on the PP?
Update 8:18: It’s amusing to listen to the Marines commercials while looking at the image of Whitney with the puck on the Penguins PP early in the period.
And as amusing that was, it’s really fucking annoying that I can’t watch the game.
Update 8:23: So my VS. feed is back. I went from 19:04 left until 8:58 left without an image.
For the record, the Ernie’s Auto Body commercials are worse when there are no images. I hate that song.
Update 8:26: Wow Malkin is good. Ugly as sin, but so good.
Update 8:30: This game is moving rather slowly. It looks like both teams are in severe need of some adrenaline.
Update 8:34: What a shot by Kalinin. I hate him, but that was a rocket. I haven’t heard a ping that loud off the post in a while.
Update 8:36: Another PPG?! I need to check if hell froze over. What a blast by Mara. Gomez wins the draw clean and Mara just ripped a howitzer through Fleury. 2-0 Rangers on two PPGs.
Update 8:39: That was a stupid play by Drury. You can’t keep giving this team powerplays, especially on something as stupid as that delay of game.
Update 9:06: Note to Tom Renney: Keep playing Prucha. He hits, he skates, he TRIES! Plus, the fans love him.
Update 9:16: That was one of the prettiest goals I have ever seen this team finish. Wow. What a pass by Prucha. He can do it all folks. Fleury stood no chance. Drury from Pru and Dawes makes it 3-0, and the Crosby Sucks chants rain down from the heavens.
Update 9:23: And Therien pulls Fleury for the remainder of the PP. That’s a really interesting call. And as I write this, Drury fires for the empty net, and with no icing, Gomez buries the carom off the boards. The gamble doesn’t pay off, 4-0 Rangers. The funny thing is that this is a short handed goal for the Rangers, not against. And more Crosby Sucks chants from the heavens.
Update 9:25: Goddard just got the crap knocked out of him to start that fight. Orr rarely loses a fight. Looks like the Rangers got that shot of adrenaline about 15 seconds after I said they needed one.
Update 9:3: This is a big win for the Blueshirts. They outplayed the Pens all game. And the icing on the cake is a shutout for the King, his first of the season, and long overdue. 4-0 is your final score.