The good was another strong performance by Jason Wilson (NYR 2010 5th) as his Niagara IceDogs as they took on Ethan Werek (NYR 2009 2nd) and his Kingston Frontenacs. Wilson has been coming on strong during the second half of the OHL season by doing a little of everything from scoring to defense or has he did tonight going right to the defense of a teammate.
It is always a sore subject when someone runs at a Ranger player and nobody does anything about it. Seeing Wilson not even blink when he went right after Kingston's Jeff Braithwaite when Braithwaite appeared to have stuck out his knee to take out Ryan Strome (2nd overall in OHL in scoring).
Here is the video (courtesy of MisterDB)
This happened at 8:22 of the third period with the score tied at 1-1, Wilson received the instigator as well as the fighting major (his 6th one second among Ranger prospects) and misconduct which ended his night. To see a Ranger prospect protecting his teammate is always going to be applauded by us.
The IceDogs went on to win the game 3-1 to extend their regulation unbeaten streak to 6 games and to make the night complete for them clinching a spot in the OHL playoffs. The IceDogs trail the division leading the Mississauga St. Michaels Majors by 6 points and are currently in 3rd place in the OHL's Eastern Conference.
As for Werek and his Frontenacs, Werek was held scoreless as the Frontenacs dropped their 2nd straight game and are struggling going 3-6-1-0 in their last 10 games. The Frontenacs are currently holding the 5th seed in the OHL's Eastern Conference 11 points behind 4th seeded Oshawa.
If you are going to ask if this is a major concern at this point then the answer is no. We believe if this was a playoff game that McIlrath would have been out there playing.
His Warriors could have used his presence on the blueline against the Saskatoon Blades as the Warriors lost a heart breaker 6-5 in overtime for their 4th loss in a row. They gave the Blades everything they had despite being shorthanded and it took a power play goal in the overtime period to win it.
Niedereiter had an assist on Portland's second goal of the game to give him his 42nd point of the season (24-18-42) and a 3 game scoring streak. Do not let the score of this game fool you as this one was ugly as after Spokane scored 2 goals in the second period to pull within 5-2; Portland then scored 4 unanswered goals to lead 9-2 after two periods.
Portland wins their 4th straight game (9-1 in last 10 games) and opened up a 7 point lead on second place Spokane in the race for the top spot in both the WHL's US Division and the Western Conference. Portland's magic number to clinch a playoff spot is 4 points and that is expected to happen by the end of this weekend.
So while I am reading Andrew Gross's post over at Ranger Rants when this part just made my jaw drop. During the Ranger's practice, they used Derek Stepan on the point with the 2nd power play unit:
Again, Tortorella and the coaching staff asked Stepan if he had ever played there, to which Stepan said yes, though, obviously not at the NHL level.
Actually Stepan was used on the left side boards quarterbacking the Wisconsin power play from that spot.
So here is my question; why was this information not given to Tortorella back in training camp?
Last season Sather, Messier, Clark and the scouts were in attendance at not just one but several of Stepan's games at Wisconsin. That given the Ranger struggles on the power play nobody thinks to go "You know John Stepan ran the Wisconsin power play from the point and was pretty good at it."
None of this is on Tortorella but rather the rest of the Ranger staff as that is why you scout players to get this kind of information. All this time I was thinking Tortorella was to blame for not using Stepan right when it was his own people who let him down.
The other thing that gets me is seeing people actually suggest that Chris Drury is faking his knee injury in order to avoid the embarrassment of being a healthy scratch. If anyone is actually giving that idea any kind of thought then you have a serious problem.
Trash Chris Drury's performance all you wish and you will never get an argument out of me. But to even suggest that Drury is faking his injury is totally classless and a bunch of garbage.
Speaking from experience of all the parts in the body to have to rehab, the knee is the worst to have to go through. Rehabbing my knee was more painful than the original injury itself but if you doubt me then please go tear just an MCL and experience it for yourself.
Then come back and tell us that Drury is faking it.
(Wilson/Niagara, McIlrath/Moose Jaw, Niederreiter/Portland)