Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Promised Land!

Kevin Weekes stops Jeff Carter in 3rd period - Rangers clinch playoff berthSo check out the back page of the New York Post today and lo and behold, what do we see? We see a bunch of Rangers in a group hug with the headline reading, "Berth Day." It seems the Post gave up its lenten fast to finally put the Rangers on the back page. So there they are. Dominic Moore, who played a whale of a game, Marcel Hossa, Ryan Hollweg who fought Mike Richards, and Kevin Weekes who played his greatest game of the season.

Weekes was voted the number one star of the game. The crowd chanted his name. Weeeekes!, Weeeekes!, Weeeekes! Forgotten were the soft OT goals against Montreal and Philadelphia. Gone was the poor performances against Ottawa and Buffalo, when he was pulled from the nets.

This was the night for retribution and Kevin Weekes was in the nets on the night that the Rangers clinched their first playoff berth in nine years. He made a series of saves on Kapanen, Pitkanen and Jeff Carter that was as good a sequence of saves that the Garden has seen this year.

The save on Carter was a thing of beauty with Weekes sprawled to his right and poking the puck away with his stick. Weekes called that one a Hasek, copied from the master. The crowd was all Weekes' in the third period. The crowd dispelled the notion put forth by the mass media that the treatment Weekes previously received was for anything but performance. It was always about performance and nothing else. Weekes made 21 saves, 8 in the third period, one in OT and two biggies in the shootout.

While Jagr was held without a goal, he picked up an assist on the first goal, a beautiful tic-tac-toe play of Jagr to Ozolinsh to Nylander. Jagr put twelve shots on goal which included a breakaway. On one shot when Esche made a glove save, Jagr came around the net and tapped Esche on the pads in recognition of the save. Jagr later commented that, "It wasn't my night it was his (Esche) night". This year Jagr has torched Esche for nine of his league leading total of 52 goals. He was right on target with the comment that the team hadn't won anything yet and had a tough schedule ahead of them.

This was a playoff type game for sure and was a rock 'em sock 'em contest. The Rangers actually outhit the Flyers 30-28 and the biggest hitter was Fedor Tyutin with six hits. His thundering check on Brian Savage left Savage dazed and brought down the house.

The Rangers were futile on the power play. They are now back in one of those funks and are 3-30 in the last four games with a 3-1 record. Its the same rut they fall into every time of waiting for Jagr to shoot. Interesting was the last play of the game prior to the shootout. With a faceoff deep in the Flyer zone, Nylander won the faceoff back to Jagr who fed Rozsival who put the puck on net and it was saved by Esche. Esche made 38 saves and was voted the third star of the game. Nylander with a first period goal and a shootout goal was the number two star.

Petr Sykora won the game with a shootout goal when he went with his forehand instead of the usual backhand. Sykora is now 5-7 on shootout goals and has had three game deciding shootout goals.

The Rangers are now three points ahead of the Flyers for the Atlantic Division lead with seven games to go for each team. They both have three home games and four away games. They have one more game against each other, April 15th, at Wachovia Center. The Rangers are 4-1-2-0 against the Flyers and Weekes is 3-1 against them. With the Islanders coming in tomorrow night at the Garden it would seem logical for Weekes to get another start and let Lundqvist heal, but Renney has defied logic before and the way the Rangers have been going why question Renney's logic.

ICINGS: Post Olympic count now has Rangers at 7-6-1-3 with seven to play. The Rangers are now 8-2-1 in there last eleven home games. The Rangers 96 points ties them with the 1995-96 Ranger team for six highest in team points. Their 42 wins ties them with the 1983-84 team for sixth highest in team wins. The Rangers Stanley Cup Champions of 1993-94 hold team records for most points(112) and most wins(52). Both beyond reach for this years group.

Blogger Eric McErlain says Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has taken the time to talk to four hockey bloggers. The latest being, Paul Kukla [Kukla's Korner], who recently got Ted Leonsis on the phone for a chat:

"When Alexander [Ovechkin] reached the podium, he stood beside me and I felt his heartbeat against my shoulder, it was pumping fast." What a way to describe your first meeting with your future.

Who would bet on the Dolan's taking a call from the RangerPundit?

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