Rangers Dump Another One

“I’ll never play another game for this team,” said Patrick Roy as he exited the Montreal ice after his coach left him in for nine goals against the Detroit Red Wings. And he didn’t. The team traded him to Colorado a few days later, putting a positive spin on things but in fact, taking a shellacking on the deal.

I wasn’t the only one thinking about that watching Henrik Lundqvist get pasted for six goals on thirty shots before two periods had expired in Anaheim Thursday night. But he stayed in, the backup netminder apparently having forgotten his mask in San Jose, where the team, the night before, had lost 9-2. Lundqvist had played almost precisely half that game, at 29 minutes, letting in four goals and facing 26 shots. His backup, Biron, played the remaining 31 minutes and saw five pucks go by him on 31 shots. (So no, the mask was not misplaced.)

The curious thing on Thursday was that the Rangers did not pull Lundqvist as a mercy thing somewhere near midway. He was responsible, arguably, for both the Ducks’ third goal and their fourth. The third went in over the far shoulder (his right) off a long shot by Daniel Winnick. It was questionable.

The fourth was also chargeable to him, though his defense also took some responsibility. Two of them overskated the puck at their blueline, leading the netminder to decide to charge out to gather it in. He was nearly at the blueline when Selanne stole it and took a long shot at the open net. It hit the post and bounced out to Jakob Silfverberg, who took a long shot of his own and put the puck in.

So why not give him a rest at that point? But in he stayed, perhaps looking toward the bench and John Tortorella for relief, or punishment. Ah, but there’s the thing. It wasn’t Torts who stood there, but Vigneault, and he wasn’t budging. Was he thinking something along the lines of “I thought I got away from that Luongo controversy by moving coasts to coach”? No official comment on that score was available.

Vignault did say this: “Tonight we tried until the end. Obviously we are not playing very well now and there are probably a lot of theories as to why we are not playing the way we should be playing, but our reality is really quite simple. We are going to get up tomorrow morning and go back to work.” He said that he thinks the team can be “a smart, hardworking hockey team that can make plays.”

About the only thing he didn’t say that coaches often do when they’re losing is “we want to be tough to play against.” When you hear that, you know your team sucks.

That tally, by the way, puts 2009 draftee Silfverberg in an odd mix of company. How about this lineup: Selanne, Winnick, Silfverberg. What could they have in common? They each scored at least four goals in their first four games as Ducks. Winnick, who actually scored five in that span, after starting out with a charge last year, ended the season with six in 48 games. Perhaps Selanne is more the role model the Swedish youngster will look to. In fact, Silfverberg had amassed 22 points in 51 career games coming into Thursday night, adding to goals to the total after also scoring Anaheim’s second on the night. That gives him five points on the year, 2-3-5, in four games.

After the game, the youngster had this to say: “For me so far, I’ve had the chance to play with two great players [Selanne and Perreault] and they’ve been finding me so far. It’s just a matter of keep shooting the puck, be around the net, and keep doing the things we’re doing.” He also said, “Once you feel comfortable, you always play better hockey,” and complemented the guys on his team for “taking very well care of me.”

Interestingly, his coach focused on his defense first, before turning to his scoring: “He’s in the right place, defensively. He knows when to go and when to attack. He’s a smart player. . . . He’s an opportunist. When the puck hits his stick, it’s off. He knows what to do with it.”

Perhaps unnoticed on the night but crucial, at least symbolically, was a save that Silfverberg made late in the game. With the Rangers coming at the Ducks and crashing their crease, the right winger came back to the crease and swept a puck away that a Rangers’ player was about to whip into an unguarded net, goalie Hiller being out of position from a prior save. The goal would have done nothing except ruin the shutout, but that’s not unimportant on a night when the team is so much better than their opponent.

IH asked the Swiss netminder about the play, and he indicated that he wasn’t sure whether it was Silfverberg or Koivu who actually made it, but he said that “everybody is doing their jobs at both ends, and that’s what we need. You can’t just rely on forwards just playing offense. They have to work defense. Everybody’s working hard right now, and that’s why we have success.”

Hiller also commented about the Rangers, “We were expecting a little more from them, but at the same time, the way we played, it was tough for them. The way we played, we scored early, and we gained confidence.”

Aside from the two bad goals mentioned, the Rangers played a not-half-bad game at times. Tightening up after they were way out of it, they started to get shots. Witness this: through the early going, the Ducks had 22 shots to New York’s 3. Halfway through the game, they had 11 to Anaheim’s 25. By the end of things, with the score still standing at six-nil, the Rangers had pulled to 34 shots with the Ducks at 37. Hiller said that early on, “I had a pretty good seat for a very good game,” but he said that it’s tough to play in a game where there’s not a lot of work. Obviously, he managed to make it work out OK.

This game marked Jonas Hiller’s 17th career shutout. When asked after the game about that, and also about how he dealt with the early lack of activity, he said after the game, “It’s kind of tough when you’re up 6-0, but it’s nice not to get scored on. But I always say I’d rather win 6-5 than lose 1-0. You’ve got to work to the end; the game goes 60 minutes.”

This game also marked the most goals scored plus the largest margin of victory in a Ducks home opener, though most fans probably didn’t care. They were just happy with the win and seeing some newly renovated and improved areas at their arena. These, to end quickly on a non-hockey note, included a $20-million-dollar expansion which features something called “The Grand Terrace,” which is the largest upgrade done since the Honda Center was built two decades ago. Call it a gift from the team to fans, a thank you for supporting the team over the years.

Ducks Notes
The team is holding a throwback night on Sunday. No, it’s not specifically in support of Bobby Ryan’s return in an Ottawa uniform. More like a nostalgia fest for old Ducks and those who remember them. There will be fifteen former players in attendance. Gametime is just after 5pm.

For those who liked them, the team will be wearing the purple sweaters of yore on Sunday, a day marking the 20th anniversary of their first win.

This is the first game of a five-game homestand. The team had a standing-room only sellout, with 17, 179 the official attendance.

Twitter: @growinguphockey

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