There is euphoria in Rangerland. Yes, the team played great and the power play, 1-5, clicked on a wrister by Petr Prucha, that looked like it may have surprised Martin Brodeur. Jaromir Jagr, off of a great save by Lundqvist on a shot by Scott Gomez, fed a beauty to Michael Nylander, coming off the bench, to beat Brodeur with the eventual game winner.
The penalty killers returned to form shutting out the Devils 0-6. The HMO (Hollweg, Moore and Ortmeyer) line with the return of charter member Ryan Hollweg were tough, disruptive and all over the puck all night long. Although the Rangers were outhit by the Devils 20-18, Hollweg and Prucha led the Rangers with three hits each. Although he lost a fight to Devil tough guy, Janssen, Hollweg played a tough and disciplined game.
The defense, playing one man short for 54:09 minutes was outstanding. The five defensemen took only one more penalty the rest of the game, a Malik holding penalty. Four of the five logged over 20 minutes of ice team each. Malik was tops with 26:32, Tyutun had 25:41, Poti at 23:40, Rozsival 22:30 and Strudwick at 15:41. They held the fort by staying at home, clearing the crease and keeping it smple. It worked to near perfection. The one goal for the Devils by Scotty Gomez was off a good rush and short of a miraculous save by Lundqvist could not have been prevented.
And then there was The Prince. I am running out of superlatives to say about this guy. After the game he was named by the NHL as the Defensive Player of the Week, the second time he has received that award. In three games against the Pens, Bruins and Devils he had a GAA of 1.62 and a save percentage of .946. His 20 wins are the highest for a Ranger rookie goalie since Mike Richter logged 21 wins in 1990-91. The Ranger's rookie goalie wins record of 29 is held by Johnny Bower, 1953-54, and Jim Henry, 1941-42. These marks are well within reach of The Prince. For the year his record is 20-6-5, 2.14 GAA and a .927 save percentage.
Last night he was brilliant. His save against Patrik Elias in the waning seconds of the second period, as the Rangers were killing a five on three, was out of this world. Elias had deked a Ranger defender and came in on Lundqvist and tried to go over his glove after a fake and The Prince flicked it away with his glove hand as the period ended. His poke check of the puck in the third period from an oncharging Devil forward, coming out of the net, rather than wait for him to get to the puck was classic stick work. Without Lundqvist the Rangers lose this game and we spend the day writing about what a great game we played and how we could have won it. Now we are eight points up on the Devils rather than four.
The question now is how far can Henrik Lundqvist take these Rangers? Also, when does the fatigue factor come in? In Europe, Lundqvist played in
40 44 games last year. He has already been in 33 for the Rangers. Will it catch up to him or can he continue this torrid pace? Tomorrow the Rangers have another tough game against the Buffalo Sabres. This one is for fourth place. The Rangers are two points up but the Sabres have two games in hand. This is another big game that Lundqvist must play. Weekes does not seem to be ready to play these big games right now. Perhaps, the game Saturday against the Penguins would be the game to play Weekes. However, there is no doubt that Lundqvist is the man, the hot goalie, and play he must in all the big games and rest assured the Sabre game is another big game. In fact it looks like all the games are big games.
The Rangers will live or die with the Prince. Making the playoffs for the Rangers is very probable. Going deep into the playoffs will be more difficult and going all the way to the promised land, The Stanley Cup, is almost insurmountable. I use the word almost because with The Prince, Henrik Lundqvist I, anything is possible.
ICINGS: Lundqvist ranks third in the NHL in GAA and save percentage. His save percentage is only .003 behind Manny Fernandez's leading .930.
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The Hockey Blogosphere - A complete listing of hockey blogs [James Mirtle]
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