The Rangers missed another golden opportunity to gain ground on the eighth place Boston Bruins as they lost a heartbreaker to the visiting St. Louis Blues 4-3 at the Garden. St. Louis’ Paul Kariya scored his 400th career goal to give the Blues the victory in a contest where the Rangers just couldn’t find a way to take control of the game failing on a 5-on-3 advantage early in the third period. The Blueshirts are not out of the playoff picture yet, as the injury ravaged Bruins lost again, but now with the loss to St. Louis, Sunday’s game with Boston has become the most important game of the season for the Rangers.
Thumbs Up- Brandon Prust continues to take on all comers and gave his team a spark after an early goal could have deflated the momentum. Erik Christensen had another solid performance and is making a strong push for a return next season. Wade Redden scored his second goal of the season ($3 million per goal..that sounds about right?) and Brandon Dubinsky was once again in the center of the action throughout.
Thumbs Down- Henrik Lundqvist, who has carried this team for the last two months, had a terrible night. Ryan Callahan, who played a physical game, lost the backcheck on the winning goal, allowing Kariya to tap the puck past Henrik. Jody Shelley, in a very physical contest with numerous post whistle scrums, was once again a non factor. I really hope Glen Sather is watching closely as Olii Jokinen is a shell of himself and should not be brought back over the summer. Dan Girardi was average at best and Marc Staal had a non descript performance.
Three Stars-3- Brian Boyle- The thing about Boyle, much like his predecessor Blair Betts, is that he’s not going to end up on the scoresheet most nights but he finds a way to make his presence felt on the ice on a nightly basis. He played a very strong game at both ends tonight and even had a few scoring chances, including one in the third that was thisclose to tying up the game. Sather gets a lot of (much deserved) grief for his offseason moves, but taking a chance on Boyle is one move that has definitely worked out.
2-Sean Avery- Avery once again was “engaged” tonight as he played his third straight very strong game since his benching by Torts. Avery was a ball of energy early, drawing penalties and taking the body, and was the team’s most consistent forward throughout the game. If only the Rangers could find a way to capitalize on more of the power plays he has drawn, maybe Sunday wouldn’t be such a must win game.
1- Marian Gaborik- Welcome Back Marian Gaborik, We Missed Ya!. After gliding through the slate of post-Olympic games following his return from injury, Gaborik finally showed up tonight ready to skate and it showed with a 3 point performance. Gabs has had trouble finding space on the ice over the last few games but tonight (after being reunited with Erik Christensen and Brandon Dubinsky), he was able to use his speed to find some open ice and get some very good scoring chances. The Rangers are still going to need more out of the man who carried this team in the first half of the season (especially on the power play) but tonight was a good sign that finally he may be healthy enough to take over some games like he did so many times early on.