Blue Notes

Steve Zipay takes you inside the locker room, home and on the road, with the New York Rangers, and also writes about the NHL, off and on the ice.

Lundqvist's SO, Callahan's shootout gamer reign in Buffalo

 
               DL 2916 departs 10:29
               JFK GO GIANTS!
 
               That's what's on the board ay Gate 25 here at the airport in Buffalo, as Super Bowl mania abounds here in the land of chicken wings.
 
               Certainly understandable, given the state of the Bills and Sabres. Sure, the Sabres grabbed three of four points coming out of the break, including one against the Rangers last night on Ryan Miller's shutout/shootout loss. But I just don't see them having enough firepower to climb the long ladder into the playoffs.
 
                The East-leading Blueshirts meanwhile, are relying on remarkable No. 30, who has tossed shutouts in three of his last five starts and four of his last 18.  Hart Trophy? Either he or Evgeni Malkin at this point, no? Top of my ballot? Lundqvist.
 
                Again, imagine if the Rangers, who weren't really very consistent at all for more than 40 minutes last night, had even an average power play. Anton Stralman didn't do much to help his cause on the point. And Brad Richards, who is now 0-7 in shootouts this season, needs to recover his confidence during the nightly 60 minutes as well.
 
                We may know something today or tomorrow on the status of Erik Christensen and/or Wojtek Wolski. Perhaps the Rangers should simply waive Christensen in the hope that a team will give him a chance to play. Guy's just wasting away here.  
 
                As for the defense,  (Dan Girardi was given the Broadway fedora last night) no progress report on concussed Mike Sauer, and I'm beginning to wonder whether he will recover in time to be a contributor this season. Steve Eminger is getting closer to returning, and when that happens, he's in the Top Six.  I just don't envision Stu Bickel here for the playoffs, when Torts will prefer an experienced 7th D. Is that Stralman? Woywitka? Or a player to be named later...
 
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               Had some system/internet gremlins post-game at the rink last night, so here's the delayed game story.
 
               Couple reminders first: 
 
               1. We resume our live chats next week, probably Wednesday, after the Super dust settles. Stay tuned for details.
               2. If you haven't been reading, please check out my weekly Sunday Insider page, which has received some good responses.
               3. Rangers off today, will practice tomorrow.               
 
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                 Henrik Lundqvist recorded consecutive shutouts for the first time in his career and did it with a special flourish: The Rangers All-Star goalie stopped 34 Sabres shots through overtime and four of five in the shootout last night for a 1-0 victory that ended with Ryan Callahan’s game-winner against Ryan Miller in the fifth round.
                  “I scored, thank God,” said Callahan. “The last couple shootouts I deked and Miller’s really quick and really good down low, so I’m going in thinking shooting. I was looking glove then going blocker.”
                    After losing 4-3 to the Devils in a shootout on Tuesday with Martin Biron in net and scoring no goals in three tries against Martin Brodeur, Callahan and Marian Gaborik scored on Miller, who had made 29 saves through overtime. Jason Pominville was the only Sabre to beat Lundqvist all night.
                    Lundqvist, playing his first regular-season game since shutting out Winnipeg 3-0 last Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, was spectacular. He has allowed one goal or less in 10 of his last 17 games, and has held opponents to two or fewer goals in 25 games this season. Six of those games have been shutouts.
                    “I mentioned it to someone the other day that I never had back-to-back shutouts,” Lundqvist said. “You need some luck and also the team needs to play really well in front of you.”  The Sabres came very close to winning in overtime, when Derek Roy’s backhander hit the goalpost with Lundqvist down and 12 seconds left.
                     The Rangers penalty-killers also kept them in the game. The league’s third-best unit was 4 for 4. The Sabres’ best opportunity came at 12:57 of the first period when they had a 5 on 3 for 42 seconds when Dan Girardi was called for tripping with Mike Rupp already in the box for hooking. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff called a time out, but Brian Boyle, Callahan and Ryan McDonagh, killed that two-man advantage, and the Sabres failed to connect on the rest of the 5 on 4.
                      After a sluggish first 40 minutes, with each team managing just 19 shots, the pace picked up in the third period, with the Sabres more energetic, winning battles in the offensive zone. Lundqvist had to be sharp. Brad Boyes hit the iron from the right side about three minutes into the third period, and the Rangers had their first power play of the night when Ennis high-sticked McDonagh with 13:58 left. But the Rangers got only one shot, from the point, with 14 seconds left, exactly what one might expect from a power play ranked 28th on the road.
                    With the two points, the Rangers have compiled 69 to maintain their first-place standing in the Eastern Conference. They have recorded at least one point in seven of their last eight road games (6-1-1), and are 12-3-1 in their last 16 games away from the Garden, where they will open a three-game homestand on Super Bowl Sunday with the first rematch with the Flyers since the Winter Classic.
                 “I wanted to come back and get on track right away,” said Lundqvist. “They played well, Miller played well, they have a lot of quick players. As a goalie, you take a lot of pride in that.”

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