Saturday, April 14th 2007
Hollweg - Healthy
Isbister - Healthy
Ozolinsh - Injured (IR)
Rachunek - Injured (IR)
Strudwick - Ineligible for playoffs
Weekes - Injured
It appeared in Game One of the Eastern Conference
quarterfinals between the Rangers and Thrashers, that Sean Avery intentionally
toned down his first game in his first playoff appearance. Perhaps it was
because the Rangers established themselves early, and seldom looked in jeopardy
of losing the game and had no need for the type of agitation that a player like
Whatever the reason, it was
clear that the team did need his ability to get under the opposition's skin in
Game Two, and Avery was only too willing to oblige. A target for hits
through out the night, the 26 year old forward not only took the punishment but
scored the first goal and set up the game winner with 4:01 left in regulation,
feeding a wide open Brendan Shanahan for his first playoff goal as a Ranger.
Avery completed the night by drawing Ilya
Kovalchuk into an ill-disciplined hit with just seconds remaining in the game,
cancelling out the Thrashers power play and their last hopes of securing the
tying goal. The fact that coach Tom Renney even elected to put the fiery
Avery out for the last seconds of the game, was testament to his contributions
on the day.
The game overall was much tighter than Game One,
with both netminders making some spectacular saves to keep the scoring down.
Henrik Lundqvist threw up his leg to deny Keith Tkachuk after the veteran broke
in alone and appeared to have outwaited the Ranger netminder, while a kick save
by Johan Hedberg at the other end denied a seemingly certain Shanahan total.
Hedberg was a dramatic improvement over Kari
Lehtonen's play in Game One, but turned out to be the victim of an irregular
bounce on the first goal of the game. Avery having crossed the center red
line, elected to dump the puck in off the boards only to receive the kindest of
bounces off a support that caught the Thrashers' goaltender behind the net
watching helplessly as the puck went into the net.
While the Rangers were being constantly denies on
chances, including two breakaways by Avery and Jed Ortmeyer respectively, Henrik
Lundqvist was giving the Thrashers troubles at the other end. The young
Swede only allowing a pin-point accurate shot by Ilya Kovalchuk through a screen
in the third that tied the game at 1-1.
The Rangers were a disappointing 0 for 6 on the
power play (realistically 0 for 5 thanks to a power play with four seconds to go
in regulation), but were 6 for 6 on the penalty kill. The increase in
penalties had to be a concern for coach Renney, after the Rangers took just two
penalties in the whole of Game One. The second straight game with a
penalty in the final two minutes also has to be of concern.
For the second straight game the Thrashers also
outhit the Rangers, and one wonders how long that continue without injuries
starting to occur. Perhaps the inclusion of Ryan Hollweg on home ice might
help off-set what has been an aggressive Atlanta team.
Fedor Tyutin picked up secondary assists on both goals and now leads the Rangers
in points with a total of four. He also leads all players over the past
two playoff seasons with a total of five points, all assists. Sean Avery
picked up his first NHL Playoff goal, and assist in just his second NHL Playoff
game. The game winner by Brendan Shanahan was his 54th NHL playoff goal,
and first as a Ranger.
Henrik Lundqvist helped his statistics with the
win yesterday. He finally raised his career post-season save percentage
above .900 (now at .919) and backstopped his first game in which he allowed
fewer than three goals.
Ryan Hollweg was scratched for the second
straight game, as was Brad Isbister. Karel Rachunek continues to rehab
from a knee injury and may be available as soon as Game 3.
After the Thrashers had tied the game 1-1 in the third, the Rangers didn't panic
and kept the pressure on. Sean Avery's recovered a deflected Fedor Tyutin
shot and instead of shooting fed a wide open Brendan Shanahan in the slot for
the game winner.
WHO STOOD OUT:
There's no doubt that Sean Avery was the stand-out for the Rangers, and really
deserved the #1 star of the game with his goal, assist and play away from the
puck. Henrik Lundqvist bounced back from a nervous first game with a
quality effort and was beaten only on a screened shot that somehow found the top
corner with barely anything visible to shoot at.
Dan Girardi responded to a first game defensive gaff with a steady effort, and
Thomas Pock settled down after a nervous first playoff outing. Still one
would expect Pock to take a seat when Karel Rachunek returns.
Marek Malik and Michal Rozsival backed up a solid performance in game one, with
another steady outing.
Paul Mara was relatively quiet in the game, as was the fourth line for the
Rangers. With the Thrashers initiating plenty of hitting, the Rangers
appeared to not have much to offer in the way of a response.