Who does Marc-André Fleury, the latest mediocre French-Canadian iteration of the “Next Patrick Roy” think he is? He’s so shaky in last season’s playoffs, that he forces the Pittsburgh Penguins to trade for Tomas Vokoun to back him up. For the position he was drafted, he’s a bust. He’s not a great goalie, he’s just good enough. Ladies and Gentlemen, he’s your 21st century Chris Osgood! Tonight, he decided to be the best goalie in the world. Could he do this against other teams and help the Rangers? He better.
As for the game, the first two periods can really be meshed into one. There wasn’t much to pick out of the first period. But then I realized something, the fact that the Rangers weren’t looking out of place was encouraging. It wasn’t Evgeni Malkin feeding Jarome Iginla and Henrik Lundqvist making the sort of saves that make Ranger fans clench up enough to turn coal into diamonds. One thing that was nice to see was a Ranger fight. Nobody is going to mistake Ryane Clowe for Colton Orr, but at least he’s willing to drop the gloves, and the team skated a lot harder after the fight. I noticed that Derick Brassard really adds talent, he’s a great third line center. You can see the talent that made him the number six pick of the draft. He doesn’t need to produce on the level of what we expect Brad Richards to produce, but he can give some production out of the third line, and that depth makes the Rangers a much better team.
In the second period, it was more of the same “no news is good news” situation. The Rangers had an opportunity with a power play. However it ended with Michael Del Zotto stickhandling himself out of the zone. A truly impressive blunder. When aimlessly throwing the puck forward is the substantially better option, it lets you know just how bad of a play it was. Later on in the period, it was encouraging to see Richards getting pucks to the net. The Clowe-Richards-Mats Zuccarello is starting gel really well after only two games. The Rangers were whistled for a penalty when Darroll Powe was called for a delay of game when he lifted the puck over the glass form his own zone. It’s a really terrible rule when it goes against the Rangers, terrible.
The third period is where the game went from a stare-down to a brawl. The Penguins came out strong and were rewarded with a goal thirty seconds into the third. The first push back came back from the Richards line. What felt better about this comeback attempt was that it wasn’t the team clawing back after showing up fashionably late to the game, it was the team playing the same strong game it had played since the puck dropped when the clock read “Period:1 20:00.” It was encouraging when Zuccarello was getting his stick into passing lanes and causing turnovers. It’s good when the team realizes that defense is only partially instinct and smarts, that hustle makes up for the other two at times. At one point, with the Rangers pressing in the Pittsburgh zone, Steve Eminger got the puck a few times. Not once did he shoot from the point. He’s not the biggest part of this team, but he needs to do more than not mess up. The Rangers got a little chippy, whether deliberate, or accidentally on purpose. However, my theory is that this helped. Despite the penalty on Boyle, the Rangers then got the power play because of Pascal Dupuis having to be tough and take a run at Del Zotto (Del Zotto got away with an elbow in the face to James Neal, which doesn’t come close to making up for the calls the refs missed against the Rangers). The real big highlight of the period was the save of the game. Marc-André Fleury, despite being not being as aerodynamic as possible because of his stupid soulpatch, made an amazing diving save on Derek Stepan. It’s a save that he doesn’t make three times out of ten. Luckily for the Rangers, Rick Nash tied the game with his fourteenth goal of the season. Stepan won the draw to Nash and Nash wristed the puck right past Fleury. It was a big face off win for Stepan, who had struggled at the dot for much of the night. It’s something he will struggle with now and then, but should he get it down, it’s one step closer to being a true number one center.
Of course a game this tight went into overtime. Overtime was fairly even, with maybe Pittsburgh getting a stronger push. Back and forth, two teams with plenty of great skaters and some good chances battled. And while Pittsburgh pushed, a couple of bounces and the ice could have tilted in the Rangers favor. It came down to the shootout. And in the shootout, Pittsburghs’ shootout ace, Jussi Jokinen, scored. The Rangers shootout ace, Mats Zuccarello, did not.
The good thing to take away from this game was that on any other night, the Rangers win this game. And on most other nights, Fleury is much more mortal than he was tonight. Hopefully a fading Carolina Hurricanes team doesn’t pose much of a threat to the Blueshirts tomorrow night.