Blueshirts look for another scoring outburst vs. Habs
• Game Notes
Broadcast Note: Tonight's game will air on PIX 11. Turn to MSG following the PIX 11 coverage for MSG's "Hockey Night Live".
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Tonight in Montreal, the Rangers attempt to get back on the right side of the seesaw they have been on for the past couple of weeks when they skate against the Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
A three-game winless streak that saw the Blueshirts score one goal while also going 144 minutes without scoring at all recently gave way to two straight wins in which the they erupted for 14 goals in total. Then the Rangers traveled to Philadelphia on Thursday night and were shut out by the Flyers 2-0.
|Rookie defenseman Michael Del Zotto and the Rangers look to continue their physical style of play up at Bell Centre, which could make it a long Saturday night for Travis Moen and the Canadiens.
“We are seeking consistency,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “We have to be more consistent in our game.”
After dictating play with an aggressive physical style in a 6-2 win last Sunday over the Canadiens and an 8-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Rangers were completely shut down by the Flyers on Thursday. More physical right from the first shift of the game and extremely determined and effective on the defensive side of the puck, the Flyers managed to limit the Rangers to very few prime scoring chances, a complete contrast to New York’s success the prior two matches.
“I think (the Flyers) did a really good job in the neutral zone,” said Tortorella. “They played a lock-style and defended the red line well. You have to give them a little credit for that, but I just don’t think we did enough getting through it.”
Surprisingly, the Rangers have been shut out in three of their last six games, and four times since Dec. 30. The main reason why their record is still good, 6-3-3, since that date is that, though the offense has been inconsistent, the defensive play and the goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist
has been rock solid.
Lundqvist has surrendered two or fewer goals in 11 consecutive starts dating back to a 2-1 win in Carolina on New Year’s Eve. His play has been magnificent no matter the offensive output from his teammates.
Lundqvist now sports an impressive .925 save percentage, sixth best in the NHL, and an ever-decreasing 2.25 goals against average, which is eighth best in the league.
“I can’t get too caught up in what the other players do or don’t do,” said Lundqvist. “I have to focus on my own game and make sure that I am the best I can be.”
One aspect of their game that has really picked up over the last three matches is how physical the Rangers have been playing. The club has had a sharp increase in the number of fights with Aaron Voros and Sean Avery
leading that charge. Even non-pugilists like Marian Gaborik
and Wade Redden
have dropped the gloves recently, although certainly the Rangers are not looking for players like that to be regular combatants.
“I think you can sense it a little bit that it is becoming a team,” Tortorella said of his players sticking up for one another. “We’ve won our share of games here and I think that helps with the confidence and growing as a team. There was a lot of turnover from last year, a lot of new bodies here, and it takes some time.”
Perhaps the sight of the Canadiens will inspire the Rangers to greater offensive heights again. The Rangers have played two games against the Canadiens this season and have totaled 10 goals. Brandon Dubinsky
, Ryan Callahan
, and Gaborik all have notched two goals against Montreal so far this year.
Back on Oct. 24, the Rangers scored four times up at the Bell Centre, but dropped a 5-4 decision when Mike Cammalleri finished off his hat trick by scoring in overtime. The Blueshirts countered that with a resounding 6-2 victory at Madison Square Garden this past Sunday, a game that saw Callahan equal a career-high with four points.
“I think we hit ‘em hard the first few shifts and it made them think,” Marc Staal
said of the Rangers’ most recent contest against the Canadiens. “That’s when turnovers happen, and then they get tired and worn down, and what happened happened.”
The Rangers come into Montreal with 55 points, good for sixth place in the Eastern Conference, though only a point ahead of both Boston and the Islanders. The Canadiens, who beat the Devils in New Jersey on Friday night, are tied for ninth place with 53 points.
“You could play anyone in the East and say that it is an important game,” said Tortorella. “They're all important games. We just want to concentrate on our game and try to find ways to continue to get points.”
After this evening’s battle, the Rangers return home for a big match-up with Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins at The Garden on Monday evening.