Sunday, September 11, 2011

St. Louis vs. New York: Day 1 at the 2011 NHL Prospects Tournament


Special teams are crucial to every hockey team’s success, and can help make a good team great. Yesterday’s tilt between the New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues at the 2011 NHL Prospects Tournament was a great example of how one team took advantage of the penalty troubles of their opponent.

The Rangers controlled the tempo of the game from the start, pushing the puck up the ice quickly. New York got on the board first when Tim Erixon’s blast from on point found the back of the net on the Rangers’ first power play attempt - they would 11 PP chances overall in the game - just over 5:11 in. Randy McNaught made the lead 2-0 in New York’s favor just over a minute later on a shot that found its way through plenty of traffic and past Blues’ netminder Jake Allen. Allen was peppered with shots from the get-go, facing 20 shots on net in the opening frame alone.

St. Louis kept pressing, and took advantage of a 3-on-1 breakaway when Phil McRae tucked the rubber under New York’s Jason Missiaen (a mountain of a goaltender at 6’8”) at the 6:56 mark in the first, cutting the New York edge to 2-1. Stefan Della Rovere proved to be on his game as a pest, landing some big hits on the Rangers, constantly chirping all the while. The Blues got a massive lift when Anthony Nigro scored a shorthanded goal – with Cody Beach in the box on a charging call) – on a criss-cross pass from Tyler Shattock to finish a speedy end-to-end rush with just over 11 minutes to play. St. Louis was down 20-9 in the shots department, but was tied at 2 with the Rangers after 20 minutes.

But the Blues good fortune would not last, as they began a seemingly endless parade to the sin bin with their careless play in the second stanza. Skate blowouts in nearly the same spot on the blueline by Della Rovere and McRae – on what could’ve amounted to quality offensive chances – didn’t help matters either for St. Louis. Ty Rattie also had some quality rushes all game long for the Blues, trying to create some daylight without much waffle room between New York defenders. The Rangers took advantage of their third power play of the period when Carl Hagelin’s laser from inside the faceoff dot beat Allen with 10:26 remaining in the period, giving New York a 3-2 lead.

Shortly after Hagelin’s goal, the Blues looked to answer on a power play of their own, as Dylan McIlrath took a call for interference with 10:01 left. But just 45 seconds after the whistle, the speedy Ryan Bourque notched a shorthanded goal, giving the Rangers a 4-2 edge and deflating the spirits of St. Louis.

The Blues’ frustrations continued to mount in the third, as several shots on Missiaen found iron rather than twine. The penalty problems continued, as Jonathan Audy-Marchessault scored the Rangers’ third PP goal of the game on a pretty tic-tac-toe display of passing from Erixon and Blake Parlett just 3 ½ minutes into the third, boosting the lead to 5-2. Right off the faceoff, Beach and McNaught dropped the gloves (they’d been talking it over through most of the game). The chippiness continued late in the third when McIlrath and Brett Ponich mixed it up following a slash by Ponich (each player got minors for roughing along with the slash to Ponich).

FINAL SCORE: New York 5, St. Louis 2

In the second evening clash, the Columbus Blue Jackets ripped the host Detroit Red Wings by a score of 7-3. I didn’t get to see much of this game during the intermissions of the Rangers-Blues, as the pace of that game was slowed a bit thanks to timeouts for television (MSG Network is televising all of the Rangers’ games live here in Traverse City, which will also be simulcast and replayed on NHL Network).

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