It took the Rangers a strong forechecking effort and a little bit of luck, but they prevailed 2 - 1 last night against Minnesota to pull even with Pittsburgh in the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference. (Rangers hold the head-to-head tie break)
Unfortunately, a last minute family emergency held me from the Garden last night (very disappointing), but thanks to modern technology I caught the entire game on the old boob tube.
It's fair to say that the Rangers played better than the 2 - 1 score dictates. They held solid offensive zone pressure for much of the game, had a few decent opportunities on the power play, and sustained some fierce offensive zone work along the boards.
Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan seemed to lead the charge, causing several turnovers throughout the game. Nik Antropov continued to battle along the boards and use his size to his advantage.
Much-maligned centers Chris Drury and Scott Gomez had some good hop in their step and have flowed nicely with their linemates.
Nik Zherdev also put forth a decent effort. You can see he is teetering between his old "dipsy-doodle" self and the work ethic that John Tortorella requires. It's still a work in progress, but he is progressing. His game-winning goal was of the highlight variety as he took a near no-angle shot from the goal line into the top opposite corner.
Not even Mommy could hide the cookie jar there.
The main story was really how 21 year-old Mike Sauer would fare in his first NHL game. He played a respectable 13:33 minutes, without any penalty kill or power play time, and was even on the night in +/-.
Nothing flashy, but his game was simple and hardworking on the boards, as any fan could hope of a rookie defenseman. Sauer showed a nice calmness with the puck and saw the outlet pass well, something that the Rangers have struggled with in years past.
Sauer will likely see another four games before Michal Rozsival returns. If he is able to contend at this level, it will give the Rangers another option for next season and perhaps the impetus to consider trading Rozsival for some salary cap relief.
Overall, the team seems to be jelling on the ice. The line combinations are comfortable, particularly the line of Callahan - Dubinsky - Sjostrom. One question that will come into play is the decreased role of Lauri Korpikoski. It's unreasonable to think he is best served in a five minutes per night scenario.
However, you can't risk sending him to Hartford and hoping Aaron Voros can perform. One possibility that does exist is Korpikoski being sent down and Mark Bell being recalled.
The Rangers next game is tomorrow in Atlanta and we will be doing a Live Game Log here at Blueshirt Bulletin. Tune in tomorrow for the details...
Blueshirt Bulletin is also available in digital format at Zinio. You can read a single issue or take out an online subscription there. You can read it within your browser or you can download it and read it offline. Click here to subscribe (there is a link on that page for single copies). You can test drive the Zinio reader and read a sampling of the print edition while there. Blueshirt Bulletin+ access comes with all Zinio purchases -- single issue buyers will get access for one month from today, full year subscribers will get access for the duration of your subscription term. While Zinio handles all the logistics for taking out a subscription and delivering each copy, you must contact us directly about accessing BB+ -- E-mail your receipt to email@example.com to get access instructions.