Henrik Lundqvist and his loyal courtier a Little Luck carried the Rangers to a shutout, shootout, 1-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres. His royal eminence, King Hanke, called a halt to all scoring and for three periods the Rangers' defenders battled, blocked and batted away a multitude of Sabres' scoring chances. Captain Callahan finally scored the game winner in the fifth round of the shootout to hand the King his 22nd win of the season, and put the Rangers in first place atop the entire NHL.
The Sabres and their goalie Ryan Miller were equally up for the grindhouse party the Rangers were throwing. They even came away with more scoring changes, 34 shots to 29 for the Rangers. Miller looked like he's back in top form. Both goalies were superb in banishing all pucks from their respective domains through three periods, plus a five minute overtime. Both were credited with a shutout. The NBC announcers were pointing out that the stingy defenses were just leaving "no room" for the attackers. There was also not much room for excitement, until the end. The Buffalo crowd was in a stupor until the 3rd period when the Rangers had lost momentum and were just hanging on for the point.
Indeed, the third period was pure Rangers hang time. Hanging on through a couple of penalties, including a bone-headed delay of game/puck over glass penalty by Michael Del Zotto with 1:38 remaining. The ice looked drastically tilted in Buffalo's favor. Both teams had played the night before, but the Rangers were clearly the lazy laggard in the third.
Tortorella is riding his A-team until they drop. That could explain the lack of 3rd period gas. For example, Rupp saw only one shift for 32 seconds in the third period, no ice in the OT, for a total of 6:03 of ice time. Dubinsky has fallen off the map. Duby had only 3 shifts for 1:18 of ice time in the 3rd period, no OT time, and a measly total of 8:37 TOI. Stu Bickel was in the doghouse after two periods and saw no time in the 3rd or OT. Bickel ended with only 6:31 TOI. John Mitchell was also riding pine. He took only two shifts in the 3rd (1:30), and had a total of 7:35 TOI. So these Rangers backups were all virtually on the shelf. Also, someone please remind me why Brian Boyle (19:36 TOI) is an A-teamer?
Watching Brad Richards take his shootout attempt was painful. It looks like Richards is now over thinking things and is clueless after suffering through a long shootout slump.
If the Rangers are now engineered by Torts to play low scoring grind feasts it begs the question why isn't a shootout specialist like Erik Christensen or Zuccarello on the bench for the inevitable shootouts? The Tortorella strategy of putting little used John Mitchell in the 3rd round of the shootout was bewildering. Why Mitchell?
Tortorella is guessing on shootouts now, just like he's still guessing on what to do with the power play. The Rangers' power play went 0-3, and especially frustrating was the blown 4-on-3 chance in OT. Special teams will be the Achilles' heel that brings down our mighty Blueshirt heroes.
Shootout Order / Result