Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rangers Beat Sabres 1-0 In Shootout; Wolski, Woywitka Sent To AHL

The Rangers defeated the Buffalo Sabres in a 1-0 shootout victory last night that was an absolute thriller and a showcase of two of the best goaltenders in the league at the top of their games. Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced, while Ryan Miller stopped all 29 that he faced. Lundqvist stopped four of five shots he faced in the shootout, with the only Buffalo goal coming from Jason Pominville in Round 3, and the Rangers got shootout goals from Marian Gaborik and Ryan Callahn en route to their win in Buffalo.

This was one of those games that just had you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Some 1-0 games can be a bit boring with not a lot of action throughout the game, but this certainly wasn't the case. Each team traded good scoring chances and both Miller and Lundqvist stood on their heads all night long. After the first period this game just sort of had that feeling that one goal could be enough to win it.

Here are some of my thoughts from the game:

- I may just be saying this since I'm obviously biased towards the Rangers, but I thought Henrik Lundqvist faced far more difficult scoring chances than Ryan Miller did over the course of the game. In fact, Miller was leaving some juicy rebounds in the first period that the Rangers weren't able to capitalize on. After not playing in a real game in about a week, King Henrik was just as sharp as he's ever been and was on top of his game.

- Lundqvist now has back-to-back shutouts and is tied for the league lead with six shutouts on the season. He's also moved into first place in save percentage (.939%) and second place in goals against average (1.82). Hank is having maybe the best season of his career, which is truly incredible considering how it doesn't seem to be possible for him to get any better. I know Tim Thomas is the favorite to win the Vezina this year, but to me Henrik Lundqvist deserves it more when you think about the value he has to his team and how the Rangers aren't as offensively stacked as the Bruins are. Lundqvist is far and away the most valuable player to his team than anyone else in the league in my opinion.

- Brandon Dubinsky finished the game with just 8:02 TOI, including just 35 seconds on the penalty kill and no power play time at all. John Tortorella quickly replaced Dubi with Artem Anisimov on a line with Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan, and Dubinsky was moved to centering the fourth line with John Mitchell and Mike Rupp. This was Dubinsky's lowest amount of ice time in any game this season, and he's gone seven games without a point since he recorded a goal and an assist in a 3-1 Rangers win over Pittsburgh on Jan. 6. To think that Brandon Dubinsky has skated in 46 games and has just five goals on the season is unbelievable to me. I'm sure no matter what happens the rest of the way this season Dubinsky will try and wipe this whole season from his memory and start brand new in camp next season with a clean slate.

- Derek Stepan has not scored a goal in his last seven games and has only two assists during that span. Overall, he has just four points in his last 10 games (1 goal, 3 assists). I've been calling for it for a while now, but it truly might be time for John Tortorella to do some line juggling and try moving Stepan off Marian Gaborik's line. Gaborik has just two goals in his last 11 games and three goals in his last 15 games, so the Rangers' once dynamic line of Artem Anisimov, Derek Stepan, and Marian Gaborik has - pardon the pun - run out of gas.  Combine that with Brad Richards' struggles, and it's worth looking into switching things up to get guys going.

You can read the full boxscore to the game here.

Also, the Rangers announced today that they have assigned both Wojtek Wolski and Jeff Woywitka to the Connecticut Whale on conditioning stints. Both players can be there for up to two weeks before they must be returned to the NHL, although it's possible both guys could just be waived if the Rangers need to clear cap space for any trades in the future. Either way, I wouldn't count on seeing either Wolski or Woywitka in a Rangers sweater anytime soon.

The Rangers are off until Super Bowl Sunday, when they play the Flyers at 1 pm. Also, this Sunday is the fourth annual Hockey Day In America, a day in which people all over America are encouraged to celebrate the game of hockey. OK, then.


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