Things I Learnt From Watching The Sabres Beat The RangersPosted: March 25, 2012
I watched the Buffalo Sabres beat the New York Rangers 4-1 this morning (Australian time) and I took a few things from it.
1. I watched the MSG feed and they have a super slow-mo camera. I’ve seen these cameras used in cricket and it never occurred to me how perfect they would be for hockey. The super slow-mo shots of Lundqvist’s and Miller’s saves were awesome. Seriously Sportsnet or Canucks or whoever controls the cameras, get a couple of these for Rogers Arena in time for the playoffs.
2. Lindy Ruff is using Cody Hodgson in all situations and the kid looks good. Ruff had him out on the powerplay, on the penalty kill (where he was great) and, shock horror, taking defensive zone face-offs and he didn’t miss a beat. For the record, Hodgson finished 11-21 at the dot, including a 5-7 performance in the closely fought 3rd period.
3. If I was to write a game review of this game it would go something like this: Rangers block lots of shots. Rangers get hurt. Rangers lose game.
John Tortorella obviously wants all of his players to step in front of shots. It seems to work for them given the strong season they’ve had so far. Thing is, despite the recent lull, the Canucks have had a strong season too and blocking shots is something the Canucks aren’t particularly good at. Alex Edler leads the Canucks with 120 blocked shots, good for 45th in the NHL. The Rangers have 2 players in the top 10 (McDonagh with 169 and Girardi with 165).
It seems NHL players listen to their coaches (unless they play for the Capitals). If they get told to go and block shots, they don’t think about it, they just do it (as described by Dan Girardi in the 1st intermission on MSG yesterday). If Alain Vigneault wanted his Canucks to block more shots they would. He hasn’t.
Here’s why: it’s dangerous. It’s a long regular season and if you get hit with a puck in the wrong place you could be out for a while. Just ask Mats Zuccarello. Last night he skated across almost the entire rink to get in front of a shot. It hit him in the wrist, fractured it and now he’s out indefinitely. I don’t understand that play. It was gutsy, yes, and showed lots of heart. But it was a shot from the point with a clear line to the net, which was completely covered by one of the best goaltenders in the world. Henrik Lundqvist had that shot covered, just like he did the other gazillion times the Rangers blocked a shot. Now the Rangers are down a player for no good reason. Why do it so much when you have Henrik freaking Lundqvist in net? If Dan Hamhuis or Alex Burrows had their wrist broken making that play I would be furious.
I’m not saying don’t block shots at all. What I am saying is that I understand that if the Canucks reluctance to block shots this regular season is a directive from the coaching staff. It’s all about the playoffs for Vancouver and after injuries and fatigue slowed them down last year I think it’s a great idea to save the big blocked shots and relentless physical play for when it matters – the playoffs.