It seems strange to say that a team is
searching for something to build on at this early juncture of the season,
but that is exactly where the Rangers find themselves heading into
Montreal for Monday's match against the red-hot Canadiens. The Rangers
hope to have found exactly what they were looking for during Saturday
night's rousing come from behind 2-2 OT tie in Ottawa against the
Senators. After starting the week on a down note at home in an uninspiring
Garden loss to Jaromir Jagr and the Washington Capitals on Wednesday
night, the Rangers took their show on the road on Saturday and came away
with a hard earned point that could easily have been two. But even such
small accomplishments qualify as big news in Rangerland these days.
The Rangers arrived in Ottawa with a
proverbial bad taste in their mouths, fresh off an embarrassing defeat
filled with undisciplined penalties that drew the ire of not only head
coach RON LOW and GM GLEN SATHER, but that of NHL disciplinary czar Colin
Campbell. In the aftermath of Wednesday's Garden debacle, Campbell put a
crimp in the wallets of Rangers defensemen DALE PURINTON and IGOR ULANOV.
Both players were suspended for 7 games and slapped with hefty fines
totaling over $200K when all was said and done. No appeals were planned as
both players served the first games of their suspensions against Ottawa on
Saturday. Campbell did the Rangers a favor in suspending Ulanov, who has
looked absolutely lost at times, making even the simplest of plays seem
complicated. Hitting the side of the net with wrap around clearing
attempts and falling into pre-occupied Ranger netminders has become
commonplace for the 31 year-old off-season free agent acquisition.
Rookie goaltender DAN BLACKBURN was left to
clean up the mess created by the Blueshirts low energy, uninspired effort
Wednesday night against Washington. Making his NHL debut, Blackburn was
called upon to make several outstanding saves as pugilist Dale Purinton's
overzealous "Swing first ask questions later" approach put the
Rangers in an early hole. After being outshot 13-1 over the first 15
minutes, many of them spent shorthanded, the Rangers found themselves
behind 3-0 after one period. Finally getting into a rhythm and being able
to play some 5 on 5 hockey, left winger ZDENO CIGER opened the scoring for
the Blueshirts, tallying his first NHL goal since March 30th 1996, off a
beautiful feed from BRYAN BERARD to make it 3-1. Then, eight minutes
later, RADEK DVORAK scored to cut the deficit to one, but that was as
close as the Rangers would get as Slava Kozlov scored the back breaker
early in the third to ice the game for the Caps.
Determined to snap out of Wednesday's
Garden malaise, the Rangers put forth a much more spirited effort on
Saturday. They overcame a two goal deficit, created in large part due to a
lazy, half hearted backhand pass by bumbling defensemen VLADIMIR MALAKHOV.
The gaffe which took place just inside the Rangers blueline, occurred when
the puck was thrown softly through the middle of the ice, right onto the
stick of Daniel Alfredsson who skated in alone and beat a helpless MIKE
RICHTER for a 2-0 Senator lead. The loss of Captain MARK MESSIER, who left
mid-way through the second period appearing to have sustained an injury to
the rib cage area, caused head coach Ron Low to further juggle his lines.
Low's juggling paid off as he reunited Czech-mates Dvorak, Ciger and PETER
NEDVED, a move that jumpstarted a dormant Rangers offense.
After MIKE YORK pulled the Blueshirts to
within one with just under nine minutes to play, Ciger won a battle for a
loose puck just to the side of Senator's netminder Patrick Lalime and fed
Nedved who one-timed it into the open side knotting the score at two with
just over four minutes to play. The overtime featured several scoring
opportunities for each team, the best of which was a breakaway by THEO
FLEURY who seemed to have Lalime beaten only to lose control of the puck
just outside of the crease. Here's a look at some individual performances
over the past week: WEEKLY REPORT CARD: ERIC LINDROS: Beginning to back
off defender's with outstanding speed through the neutral zone. After
quiet game against Caps he and Fleury seem to be starting to build some
much needed chemistry.
PETER NEDVED: Scored game tying goal
against Ottawa after sleepwalking through Washington game. Low must find a
way to get Peter more involved in penalty kill situations.
MIKE YORK: Defensively sound, offensively
challenged centerman may find home on Lindros' wing. Needs to find scoring
touch around the net to insure icetime.
MICHAL GROSEK: Strapping winger must be
consistent with his physical game. Has had trouble getting the puck out of
the defensive zone, but has forechecked well thus far.
ZDENO CIGER: Set up Nedved's game tying
goal with nice work down low, otherwise has been average at best.
THEO FLEURY: Continues to take ill-advised
penalties but is definitely getting involved every shift, needs to break
mini goal drought before it begins to wear on the diminutive winger.
BARRETT HEISTEN: Spunky high energy shifts
shouldn't be so few and far between, gets involved physically and speed
makes him very effective on the forecheck.
MANNY MALHOTRA: Was inexplicably benched on
Saturday, needs to play to be effective. When icetime gets cut he tries to
do too much in his limited role.
SANDY MCCARTHY: Hulking winger always seems
to create havoc, either a scoring chance or drawing a penalty. Also needs
to get more icetime to be effective.
ANDREAS JOHANSSON: Speedy Swede was moved
back to center and did quite well on draws against Ottawa. An excellent
penalty killer that can create offense when shorthanded.
RADEK DVORAK: Had a good week recording a
point in each game, outstanding speed backs off opposing defensemen, also
needs to get more work on the PK.
MARK MESSIER: Had an extremely quiet couple
of games before getting injured on Saturday, Hate to say it but the
Captain has looked his age thus far.
BRIAN LEETCH: Has looked awful defensively,
fighting the puck every step of the way. Needs to make simple play more
BRYAN BERARD: See Leetch, seems tentative
keeping pucks in at the opposing blueline, has started to jump into the
play with a little more confidence.
DAVE KARPA: Probably the Rangers most solid
defensemen over first four games. Excellent shot blocker, makes the simple
IGOR ULANOV: Struggled mightily against the
Caps, playing woefully with no confidence what so ever. Thankfully was
suspended for seven games, hope he uses time to get his game together.
VLADIMIR MALAKHOV: Had quiet beginning to
season prior to inexplicable gaffe against Sens on Saturday, can't believe
Low didn't sit him down for a few shifts after that one.
PETER SMREK: Had solid game after sitting
out previous two, always calm with the puck. Needs to play with more
confidence which will come with more icetime.
DALE PURINTON: Meant well in needlessly
coming to teammates aid Wednesday against Caps, put Rangers in hole they
never got out of. Willing fighter, just needs to pick his spots a little
DARREN VAN IMPE: Stepped in and played very
controlled game against Sens, is definitely NHL caliber defensemen and
will likely stick with the big club. Relatively large contract only thing
that got him through waivers.
COMING UP: Rangers could only muster one of
a possible four points against two eastern conference foe's during the
past week. They'll need to play much better this week in games against the
Canadiens in Montreal on Monday and at home against the Devils on
Wednesday. Blueshirts conclude the week with back to back games, starting
with the Atlanta Thrashers visiting the Garden on Friday followed with a
visit to Tampa Bay on Saturday. See you next week.
Additional stories from this Author: