It's very simple. Jagr scores a goal, his 600th, Thomas Pock plays, sparingly, and the Rangers come out of their funk, for one night at least. Jagr got it done early (1:43) to kick start the Rangers and also picked up two assists to get back to the top of the NHL in scoring with 32 points. Brendan Shanahan picked up his 16th goal which ties him for the league lead in goals. Thomas Pock played on a line with Hollweg and Hall taking nine shifts as a left winger. Hollweg was his usual aggressive self crunching out six hits. Betts centered a line with Ward and Hossa on the wings that shut down the Bolts top line of Lecavalier and St. Louis.
The win was impressive. Tampa Bay came in on a 5-1-1 roll, winning 4 out of the last 5 and were 5-0 against the Atlantic Division. The Rangers completely dominated Tampa Bay. They out shot the Lightning 34-28 and out hit them 21-17. In the all important face off category it was the Rangers 59-41%. Jagr easily could have had three or four more points setting up Straka and a gimmee to Malik but they couldn't cash in.
Ah yes, Malik. He took a penalty at 15:27 of the third period which eventually led to the shutout breaking goal by Eric Perrin. When he returned to the ice he was booed by the faithful every time he touched the puck. Pray tell me, what kind of shape must Kasparaitis be in to replace Malik in the lineup? Or Rachunek? Or Ozolinsh, who had another no contact game? No shots and no hits. But Kaspy sits and Renney philosophizes.
Lundqvist was the Prince again. Very slowly he has brought his GAA down to 3.11 and his save % up to .893. He should have had a shutout and the crowd knew it and gave him a standing ovation after the goal was scored. They took their frustration out by booing Malik for the rest of the game. Watching the replay at home there was Joe Micheletti bashing the defense, Rachunek and Ozolinsh, for playing very soft and allowing the breakaway for the goal. Hey Joe, be careful, JD would never have said that. Homers don't bash the home team. Joe, keep it up and tell it like it is.
So who are these Rangers? Right now they are a .500 team. They lose to an underwhelming team like Pittsburgh (twice) but beat teams like Anaheim, San Jose and Atlanta on the road. Last night they beat a red hot tough team like Tampa Bay, who had a hex on the Atlantic Division until the Rangers came along. Until Sather and Renney surround Jagr, Shanahan, Hollweg and Lundqvist with the supporting cast they deserve the Rangers will flounder through a .500 season and miss the playoffs. You still think Brian Leetch is too old to play for this team?
ICINGS: With rumors swirling that Hitchcock may resurface in St. Louis isn't it a good time to try and pry Tkachuk from the Blues. Is Keenan ready to pounce back?
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