The Rangers managed to win game 4 against the Devils last night. There's a lot to talk about regarding the game and the series in general. Here goes:
1. Shades of Buffalo v. NYR ('07): In last season's playoff loss to Buffalo, the Rangers had to play their A++ game in order to beat the Sabres. Buffalo, on the other hand, managed to win while playing an A-/B+ game. Simply stated, Buffalo was the superior team and the Rangers could not match Buffalo's depth. I get the same sense this year versus Jersey. The Devils have to give a 200% effort to compete with the Rangers. The Rangers, however, have a commanding lead in this series despite not being able to play their "A" game for a full 60 minutes in any of the first four matches. It's far from over, however, the Rangers are clearly the better and deeper team. Most importantly, the Rangers have to bring their "A" game for a full 60 minutes if they want to compete for the Big Prize, otherwise the Rangers may advance another round but they're likely to meet the same fate as they '07 Sabres did after defeating the Rangers with their B+ work.
2. Brandon Dubinsky: As well as all of the Rangers' "kids" have played thus far, Dubinsky has been the best of them. The kid just keeps getting better. He manages to create space for himself with the puck in the offensive zone and he's brilliant at establishing an offensive cycle. This kid will be a special player in this league. He may never put up huge offensive numbers, but he may very well continue to develop into a very solid all around big game performer.
3. Class is already out in Jersey: It's not June yet, but apparently class is already out in Jersey! Jersey's coach spent half his post game press conference talking about how his team handed the Rangers all five of their goals last night. I guess Sutter never got the message that you make your own breaks in life. Juxtapose Sutter's comments to those of Rangers' coach Tom Renney after game 3 where Renney said that (although the OT winning goal was clearly a fluke) the Devils made their breaks by keeping it simple and throwing the puck at the net.
The other half of Sutter's press conference last night was spent making stupid (and desperate) threats of taking runs at Henrik Lundqvist in the next game. And what's with Sutter complaining after virtually every call that goes against his team? Four and a half words for the Devils coach: take it like a man! The bottom line is that the Devils have not shown any respect for the Rangers off the ice. They're either very foolish or very insecure.
4. The Officiating: This should actually be item number 1 on the list. The refs are horrible, plain and simple. Bettman and Campbell had their panties caught in a bunch over the Sean Avery thing. Maybe they need to spend more time fixing a real problem affecting the league. When horrendous officiating is a major topic of discussion after a huge Rangers-Devils playoff game, something is seriously wrong. We're not just talking about missed calls that may have prevented scoring chances (like last nights unpenalized trip against Scott Gomez that prevented an apparent breakaway, or the "phantom" hooking call against the Devils late in game 1) we're talking about a blatant non-call that directly lead to a goal relatively late in regulation which could have changed the nature of game 4 and of the entire series (i.e. goal 3 for the Devils scored last night despite the fact that Zach Parise clearly and intentionally interfered with Lundqvist on that play by knocking Lundqvist's stick out of his hand.)
5. Maybe Sather Could Speak Up A Bit: Renney has the Rangers in a strict "business as usual" mindset. That's great and that's the way it should be. In order to keep his players totally focused, the coach should not lose his cool over bad calls because it could distract his players. Taking the high road makes sense for Rennney (although an occasional controlled outburst would be nice. However, since it's just not his style, and there's nothing more destructive than trying to be someone that you're not, I'll give Renney a pass on this one).
BUT, maybe just maybe, Glenn Sather can put down his cigar long enough to complain a little bit out loud or even call the league a la Cap'n Lou after game 1. It seems to have worked for the Devils as the refs seem intimidated by the Devils' vociferous objections to the quality of the officiating. Heck, even the league seems intimidated judging by their immediate and over blown reaction to Sean Avery's "screen" on Marty Brodeur. I'm not suggesting that Sather make a mockery of himself or the league. Sather has been around long enough to know how to get a message across in the appropriate manner. Now let's see him do it.
6. Marty, Marty, Marty: I've said it once and I'll say it again, Marty is NOT the greatest goalie of all time. Marty was extremely fortunate to play for the team that reintroduced the trap to the NHL. Had Marty played for a more offensively oriented team his stats would have been much different. He would have certainly been one of the best in recent history and one of the all time greats, but no one would be making any arguments about his status as the best ever.
As far as stopping the puck goes, I'd take Richter over Brodeur any day. What separates Marty from Richter (and many of the other top goalies in recent years) is (1) Marty's phenomenal puck handling ability (in that respect he may very well be the greates ever and (2) Marty's longevity (the guy's been playing 70+ games per year forever). Those factors make him a great goalie, but not the greatest goalie. And the proof is in the pudding: once again Marty has let in "soft" goals in every game of this series.
7. Jagr: They guy has been awesome. His point totals don't tell the whole story. They guy does his thing on virtually every shift and there's nothing Jersey has done or can do to stop him. The most telling signs regarding Jagr are that (1) he's driving to the net with the puck; he's going to the front of the net without the puck and he's shooting the puck (TEN shots last night alone!). The guy is doing what needs to be done for the team to have success. I don't hear anyone calling Jagr a selfish prioblem child, do you?
8. Hank: He's been great at times, not so great at other times. The verdict: he's been better than Brodeur thus far.
9. Drury: He's been relatively quiet thus far. But was anyone surprised to see his name on the score sheet in last night's pivotal game 4? How does the guy do it?
10. Give The Devils Their Due: As much as I think the Devils are a classless and whining organ-eye-zation, you've got to give them a lot of respect for one thing: their players just do not quit. Every time the Rangers scored a goal last night the Devils came back hard. Their players have definitely earned my respect. The Rangers better learn from their rivals: first, this series is NOT over and second the Ranger need to learn how to mimic the Devils work ethic and "never say die" attitude.