Fri 16 Oct 2009
Even with the Rangers flying high with a six game winning streak, there has to be some concern with Saturday night’s game at the Air Canada Centre against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Saturday night’s game has all the makings of the ultimate trap game for the Rangers.
The Blueshirts are coming off a 4-2 victory over Los Angeles in a game where the Kings outplayed them for the final 40 minutes and are facing a Maple Leafs team that is only one of two NHL teams that had not posted a victory as of Friday morning (our “beloved” New York Islanders are the other team).
Despite Toronto’s dismal start, they are going to be looking for revenge after the Rangers 7-2 win on Monday night that was powered by a four-goal blitzkrieg in the third period. New York’s win ended Toronto’s three game winning streak against the Rangers.
Looking ahead, the Rangers have two tough games in front of them next week. On Monday they return to the Garden to face the San Jose Sharks – a team many writers have picked to be a Stanley Cup contender. They follow that game with a visit to New Jersey on Thursday night to do battle with the Devils.
If the Rangers are going to look ahead to next week, they only need only to look back to their two visits to TO last year to view how much a trap the Air Canada Centre can be. The Rangers lost both of their games in Toronto last season in two very opposite results.
In their first visit to Toronto on November 1, 2008, the Rangers held a comfortable 2-0 lead 12 minutes into the third period. However, that 2-0 lead turned into a 5-2 defeat as the Maple Leafs bombed Stephen Valiquette for five goals in 5:21.
That game could be considered a trap game as the Rangers might have been looking ahead to their November 4, 2008 game against the Islanders at the Garden – a game the Rangers lost 2-1 as they yielded two shorthanded goals in the third period.
The Rangers second and last visit to Toronto coincided with John Tortorella’s return behind the bench on February 25, 2009. The Blueshirts were on the wrong end of a 2-1 shootout decision in that game – which was the front end of a back-to-back scenario. The Rangers played the next night in Torts’s return to the Garden. The Rangers lost that game to Florida in a 2-1 decision.
On the plus side, you can bet that Tortorella will drive home the point of the Rangers two losses in Toronto – especially the November game where the Blueshirts rolled over on their backs in the face of the Toronto onslaught. He also has the opportunity to remind his team that while they did defeat the Kings, the Rangers were outplayed.
â€œWe were a step behind in every facet of the game but we still found a way to win,â€ Tortorella told Andrew Gross of “The Record”. â€œAs a coach, you feel good about winning a game that way. Good teams win those types of games and we did. That is a good sign.â€
Coaches tend to “like” these types of games at times because it offers them the best of both worlds. Their team picks up two points by playing just good enough to win, while giving the coach the opportunity to “lean” on them and impress the need to follow the coach’s system.
Tortorella hinted at this idea in his pre-game conversation with Rick Carpiniello of the “Journal News” prior to the Rangers-Maple Leafs game.
The Rangers need to make sure they find ways beat teams that are going to fore-check them the way the Kings did. The Rangers again had problems producing in the second period and those problems carried over into the third period as the Los Angeles fore-check bottled the Blueshirts up.
As the Kings took away plays along the boards, the Rangers were content to “fly the zone” and look to break the fore-check with long passes – as opposed to having their forwards come back to the puck and look to break out with a couple of short passes instead of one long pass.
The best example of what to do can be taken from football. When a quarterback is scrambling, his receivers are taught to come back to the ball rather than go deep on the play. The same idea can be applied to hockey. Look for the crisp one-touch pass rather than attempt one long breakaway pass.
ON THE FLY
â€¢ If Reggie Jackson is “Mr. October”, then I guess can we start calling Marian Gaborik “Mr. Third Period”. All six of Gaborik’s goals have come in the third period. I guess he might be ready to give Chris Drury a run for the “Captain Clutch” moniker?
â€¢ According to the “Sporting News”, the Rangers are now 32-16-8 against Original Six NHL teams since the 2005-06 season, including 9-6-2 vs. Toronto.
â€¢ The Rangers might want to consider offering defenseman Denis Gauthier whatever he wants after watching the Maple leafs and Kings declare open season on Henrik Lundqvist. The Blueshirts need the option of a loose-cannon like Gauthier on the blue line to give opponents a reason not to charge the net.
â€¢ Give The King credit. Unlike other certain goaltenders who flop to the ice at the first hint of a stiff breeze (yes, Marty Brodeur, I am talking about you), Lundqvist plays it straight. However, he might want to consider holding the blade of his stick up a bit – that should help keep away some of the crease crashers.
â€¢ One more Lundqvist item. I guess Henrik paid the team back for their effort in bailing him out at Washington against the Capitals.
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