My apologies for the lateness of this writeup. After last night’s game, I had work related stuff to do which pretty much carried me till an ungodly hour, so I didn’t get time to do this then.
Last night the Rangers continued their perfect start to their season with a far from perfect display out there. It was a scene we have witnessed many times as Ranger fans (or hockey fans in general), where your team comes out like gangbusters (or vice versa) makes the opposing team look like a bunch of thumb sucking 2 year olds, only to take the foot off the pedal in the last 2 periods and barely hold on to a win that should not have been so difficult. This was the first regular season game where you can say for the majority of the game, the Flyers actually outplayed us. We had the best of them, by far, in the first period, but after that it was all Philly, and if not for a stellar performance by Vally in net, the Rangers may have gone through another humiliating Canadiens type choke job. Luckily though, they didn’t. They certainly played well enough to win, which is why I think they deserve the 2 points here. But they did not play this new style of Rangers hockey in the final 40 minutes of this game. Rather than being aggressive on the puck, they seemed far more passive. They allowed the Flyers to cross into the neutral zone without any pressure whatsoever. This is not how we have been so successful to start the season. We start by pressuring them the second they touch the puck, force them to make good play after good play after good play. If they can make it up the ice with short passes with out guys all over them, then you tip your hat and move on. We let it be far too easy for them to bring the puck up the ice, and that is where the snowball started to fall downhill. Once they gained the neutral zone, they would dump, chase, and cycle us to death. They did it almost the entire second period, with some very long sustained pressure put on some very small forwards who depend on speed and a swarm mentality to defend, but which can be very tiring for sustained shifts.
But the real story about last night was about the goaltending. Big Vally was absolutely superb. He gave up 3 goals, but he stopped at least a half dozen gimme goals with some very good positional goaltending. Vally is a rather slow and clunky goalie, but he is a huge and sound positionally. You need to get him moving side to side to get goals on him (or rip a really nasty shot right off the faceoff win, man that was pretty), and the Flyers didn’t do enough of that, instead they got in tight and crashed the net and tried to bang home rebounds. It definitely works in theory, but for a goalie as large as Vally, you’re almost playing to his strengths, because in tight he gives you less to shoot at because of his size, and it’s tough to power pucks through him like that. I never question a crash the net philosophy, but I still think the key to beating Vally is moving him side to side with cross passes, even if they are up high. So just do a cross ice pass, have your point man shoot it off the pass, and then crash the net. Instead they brought the puck down low, and shot it in a methodical manner, rather than while he was on the move. Regardless, the point of this blog isn’t to give the opposing team tips, it’s to talk about what I saw. The Flyers however got horrendous goaltending by Biron, who looked absolutely lost on Sjostroms wrap around goal (that was pathetic), and simply wasn’t sharp from the onset.
In the end though, I will take the 2 points. Generally speaking when you look at a game and see the Rangers taking the foot off the pedal the way they did, you would probably expect a scathing review over here. But I’m not going to go overboard. They are still 4-0, they are still playing quite well, and they still have all the ingredients to be successful. Take the W and move along.