After 3 consecutive losses and having only recorded 1 point out of a possible 6, it was nice to get back into the win column last night against a surprisingly tough Phoenix squad. Marian Gaborik again showed why he is easily worth $7.5 million annually when he is healthy by potting 2 goals (#’s 9 and 10 for the season) and also assisting on Vinny Prospal’s 4th goal of the season. Gaborik is now tied for the league lead in goals with the Kings’ Anze Kopitar.
Prospal finished with a goal and two assists giving him 16 points in 12 games this season. New line mate Enver Lisin also scored a goal and an assist against his former team and now has 8 points on the young season (5 in his last 5 contests).
The Rangers jumped out to a 4 – 0 lead mid-way into the second period on goals by Artem Anisimov, Prospal and 2 by Gaborik before the Coyotes doused the Rangers momentum by replacing Ilya Bryzgalov in net with former Ranger farm hand Jason Labarbara. The Coyotes scored 2 goals in the 2nd period including a short-handed effort by Vernon Fiddler just before the end of the frame.
Once again the Rangers came out on fire only to see their opponents take the momentum away from them in period 2. The Coyotes out shot the Rangers for the game 32 – 24 even though Lundqvist wasn’t challenged much besides the two goals. He was still sharp in winning his 7th decision on the season.
Let’s face it Rangers fans, we knew this team was going to be up and down all season. How could they not be when they are breaking in two rookie defensemen and a bunch of new players up front? There are going to be games like the San Jose contest where they are just blown out of the water by a good team working hard and skating fast. They are going to blow games, like the one in Montreal, from time to time. As long as this team keeps working hard and the new players show improvement then we have to be happy.
Clearly this team has improved in a big way offensively. Last season this squad would be buzzing about but couldn’t bury the puck in the net. This year’s edition has some real skill. Gaborik is just tremendous and Prospal has proven to be a steal so far. Lisin is flashing the skill that excites scouts and fans alike and if he can continue to improve in the other facets of the game then the Lisin-for-Korpikoski trade will be a huge win for New York.
The one thing that I find truly amazing is the play of Del Zotto. Not only is this kid maintaining his point-per-game production but he is getting more comfortable and decisive in the defensive zone. He is really starting to step up and play the man more in the defensive zone. His instincts are plain to see. For a kid drafted just a year ago to step right into the responsibility he has earned so far and produce like this is amazing to me. After all, we aren’t talking about a kid like Tavares or Crosby here; someone drafted #1 overall with undeniable gifts. Del Zotto was taken 20th overall in 2008. Half of the players drafted around that spot never make an impact in the NHL much less do so at 19. If he continues his level of play and doesn’t win the Calder it will be because of blatant ignorance on the part of the voters.
One concern was a possible knee-on-knee collision to Gaborik with 5 minutes or so remaining in the game. He has already come out and said that it isn’t “major” and has nothing to do with the groin or hip problems he’s had previously. Hopefully that is the case and Gaborik will be on the ice tomorrow against the Isles. Just in case, the Blue Shirts called F P.A. Parenteau up from Hartford.
This Rangers team personifies why it is important for fans, coaches and players to never get too high when things are going well or too low when things aren’t. This team can go from one extreme to the other within a single game. Even still, there sure appears to be enough talent that with Lundqvist in net, that this should be a playoff team.