What a game last night. The best ever and a top-five goalie showing why they have earned those titles. There were a total of 96 shots during regulation and the five minute overtime session, and Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Brodeur stopped them all. There were another 8 shots in the shootout, and only one of those went in. In all, there were 104 shots on goal, and 103 of them were stopped. Unfortunately for the Rangers, that one that went in was a Patrick Elias shootout goal, the game winner.
The story of the game will be the goalies, but what should not be overlooked is the TOI for the Rangers, as it tells the true story of who coach John Tortorella’s workhorses are. Ten players played over twenty minutes last night; four defensemen and six forwards. Those four defensemen (Michael Del Zotto, Michal Rozsival, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal) are the clear cut top-four on the team. Matt Gilroy played 16 minutes, while Wade Redden appears to be on the verge of being Prucha’d again, playing just 14 minutes in a 65 minute game. I have been extremely critical of Michal Rozsival all season, but he really has picked up his game. He is taking shots, blocking shots, playing solid defense, and making some great plays that are unfortunately being overlooked by many fans.
As for the forwards, the twenty-minute gang is fairly obvious (Marian Gaborik, Vinny Prospal, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Erik Christensen, Chris Drury). These are your top-six forwards for now, so they should be playing the majority of the game. Yes, even Chris Drury. He may not be putting up 70 points, but he is doing a lot of the little things to win games, including getting back on a 3-on-2 break in OT to intercept a drop pass and take it the other way. What surprised even me was that Ales Kotalik played exactly 7:50. Brian Boyle got more ice time than Ales Kotalik. Re-read that sentence again. I’ll wait.
What good is he if he isn’t scoring on the powerplay or in the shootout? Correct answer: nothing.
The top-six and top-four have been clearly identified on this team, and all have earned that right to be the key contributors on the ice. Are they an ideal top-ten? No, personally I would prefer someone other than Erik Christensen on the top line, but it’s not about putting the best players on a line together, it’s about putting the complimentary players who work well with the best together.