As the Rangers prepare for what could be a fatal Game 5 in Los Angeles, there are those in the crowd who believe that the Blueshirts are fortunate to be on the West Coast and alive.
The 2-1 victory Wednesday night at The Garden — the critics argue — was as much a product of Henrik Lundqvist’s snow pile as it was a credit to his goaltending. But even the most fanatic of Rangers followers understand that the combination of slush in the crease, Lundqvist’s clutch goaltending and Lady Luck can only go so far.
“Luckily, I stay deep in the net,” the King chuckles, “so there’s a lot of snow there.”
Actually, the snow double-dip was distributed among the first and third periods, with the latter being the most frightening to the capacity crowd.
It happened this way: With just over a minute remaining in the game, the Kings, playing with an extra man, piled shots on the net. Alec Martinez threw a shot from the point at the King, who carefully handled the puck and was then forced to thwart the charging Jeff Carter, and Anze Kopitar.
With sticks and bodies – both in blue and black – near the crease, the puck trickled across the blue paint, only to be halted by a small patch of snow serendipitously assembled at the goal line.
For a brief, yet critical moment, Derek Stepan replaced Lundqvist as the game-saver, swiping the puck out of harm’s way with his glove and into the sprawling goaltender.
Lundqvist, thinking the puck was beneath him, anxiously awaited the referee’s whistle, but neither official blew the play down, rightfully waiting for Stepan’s action in the crease. After the game, Lundqvist said that he loudly complained to the nearest official for his reluctance to reach for the whistle.
“I apologized to the ref after,” said Lundqvist.
But even Jack Frost will tell you that snow can only take a goalie so far.
In other words, Alain Vigneault’s skaters need bigger games from the following, who have demonstrated they are capable of bigger games:
- CHRIS KREIDER - His size, speed and shot have to be more productive than a hit goal post or an errant breakaway. Chris’ breakout time has come.
- RICK NASH - As has been said to the point of ultimate-redundancy, Rick’s energy, hitting and defense work, especially on the penalty kill, all have been commendable. But where are the goals; as in the missed empty net in Game 4?
- MARC STAAL - Maybe it’s a good thing that the redhead has been inconspicuous. But it’s time for Marc to make his mark and take some of the load off the likes of Ryan McDonagh, and suddenly-noticeable Anton Stralman.
- MATS ZUCCARELLO - It’s one thing for Zuccy to flit around the ice like a water bug on a pond. We know that water bugs can’t score, but Zuccy has to do what Marty St. Louis did Wednesday — score a big one, or two or three; I’m not particular.
It’s a given that the Kings have all the goods. From the goal on up to Willie [Velvellah] Mitchell and his blazing shot from the point. But if the Rangers can play the Kings even as they did in Games 1 and 2 at Staples Center, requesting an encore will not be asking too much.
THE MAVEN REMEMBERS
When the Rangers won their second Stanley Cup in 1933, they did so with a rookie between the pipes.
Andrew [call me Andy] Aitkenhead was born is Glasgow, Scotland, but learned his hockey in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
The blonde, blue-eyed goaltender was hired by Rangers manager-coach Lester Patrick in the 1932-33 season as a replacement for John Ross Roach. Aitkenhead’s addition to the New York sextet was a pivotal one at the time, particularly since Roach had played mediocre goal for the Rangers during the previous season.
That, however, was the acme of Andy’s success. He played one more full season and only ten games of the 1934-35 campaign before making his exit from the major leagues.
How quickly he turned from Aitkenhead to Rangers Aitken-headache!