Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Good Day To Be A Ranger

Saturday night was not a bad night for the New York Ranger prospects (and the 3 Islander prospects in action) but it was hard to ignore the efforts of one Ranger prospect.

For Scott Stajcer (2009 5th), Saturday night was a long time coming for him. In his first start since November Stajcer earned the win in goal as his Owen Sound Attack came back from down 2-0 to score earn a 3-2 win over the Plymouth Whalers and take a 2-0 series lead.

Stajcer the only goalie prospect the Rangers have made a case as to why he deserves his starting job back as he did exactly what you ask of a goalie; keep us in the game long enough for us to get untracked.

On the road in Plymouth, Stajcer stopped 29 out of 31 shots for the win. He could hardly be faulted on either of the goals as the first one was off a well set screen and the second was on a rebound his defense did not clear.

Once Stajcer was given his lead he protected it shutting out Plymouth when they tried to tie the game. Stajcer has now earned 2 wins in the series after coming in Game 1 when starter Michael Zador could not continue due to illness.

To be Attack coach Mark Reeds, what a nice problem he has now as he has the 2 top goalies in the playoffs on his roster. Zador who is 2-0 1.10 GAA and 0.958 save percentage and Stajcer also 2-0 with a 1.16 GAA and a 0.957 save percentage.

Maybe the experts need to hold off handing the OHL Championship to an Eastern Conference team as this Attack team is now 6-2 in the playoffs.

May we offer some friendly advice to the Niagara IceDogs in their series against the Oshawa Generals? Do not try to get into an offensive shootout with them cause they have way too many weapons.

Getting points from 7 different players with 3 players earning 3 points is good enough. This game really was about power plays, Oshawa cashed in on 3 of theirs while Niagara went 1 for 7.

In game 2 of this series, it was the Ranger prospect Thomas (2010 2nd) and Islander prospect Calvin de Haan (2009 1st) teaming up to do most of the damage. Both Generals had 3 point efforts with Thomas (2-1-3) and de Haan (0-3-3) keying a lethal power play.

No lead is safe from the Generals as they came from behind with 3 third period goals in a span of 5:45 to rally for the win. Really in this series it is going to come down to which team controls special teams as if the IceDogs give up 3 power plays while short circuiting on their own; they will not win.

In the first period it was Thomas and de Haan teaming up to set up Alain Berger at 5:36 for a power play goal and 1-1 tie.

4:02 later at 9:38 it was Thomas benefiting from a de Haan assist for his 6th goal of the playoffs and a 2-1 Oshawa lead that did not last long as Niagara tied the score just 1:20 later. In the second period de Haan got his 3rd assist of the game when he set up Niklas Jensen at 11:00 for Oshawa's 3rd power play goal and a 3-2 lead also did not last long.

In the third period the Generals staged their rally which was capped off by Thomas's 2nd goal of the game and 7th of the playoffs when Islander prospect Tony DeHart set him up for Oshawa's 6th goal of the game a 2 goal lead that held for the 6-4 win and 1-1 tie in the series.

The game's "first star" Thomas is leading the OHL in playoff scoring with a 7-9-16 in 7 games. DeHart is leading OHL defensemen in scoring with 2-9-11 and de Haan is 5th at 1-8-9. Ranger prospect Dan Maggio (2009 6th) was scoreless for the Generals while on the Niagara side Ranger prospect Jason Wilson (2010 5th) was also scoreless but took a penalty that led to Thomas's 1st goal.

This series we would be shocked if it did not go 7 games.

Remember what we said about the Lewiston Maineaic's playoff chances if they got scoring from Islander prospect Kirill Kabanov (2010 3rd)? Well the game's 3rd star Kabanov had 2 assists as his MAINEaics stole home ice advantage from the Montreal Junior with a 6-2 win.

Kabanov played strong at both ends and we can not help but wonder what will happen when he does start living up to his billing? Don't look now but guess who has a 4 game scoring streak going?

Kabanov is now 2-5-7 and while not earth shattering but if we were Montreal a 6'3 offensive machine would be very hard to stop. The series is heading back to Lewiston all tied up something nobody expected but kind of scary what an experienced Lewiston team is going to be like next season?

Maybe they will become like Ryan Bourque's (2009 3rd)  Quebec Remparts as the Remparts behind a hot goalie in Louis Domingue and shut down the Shawinigan Cataractes 5-1 to take a 2-0 series lead.

Bourque earned the game's 2nd star for a 1-1-2 performance as the Remparts won their 6th straight playoff game and look like they are going to be hard to beat.

Bourque with his 3rd goal of the playoffs got the Remparts going in the first period. In a rare occurrence Bourque took 2 different penalties in the same period but the Remparts scored a shorthanded goal on it (just his 2nd and 3rd penalties in 6 games).

In the 3rd Bourque earned a secondary assist on Quebec's 4th goal to bring his numbers to 3-6-9 for the playoffs.

Over 4 years ago, the Rangers selected a skinny drink of water from Sweden. Very few knew a thing about him but that he was headed to one of college hockey's traditional powers Michigan.

It only took a couple of games for me to become a fan of his play but it took just 1 play to convince me that this was a player who would one day play in the NHL as a Ranger.

It is a play I will never forget, it was the 2008 Frozen Four semifinals Michigan vs Notre Dame. Michigan was trailing by a goal late in the third period and Hagelin made a play that became a Sportscenter moment.

That was when I knew that Carl Hagelin would one day be an NHL player so while it is a bittersweet moment to see him lose in his final game as a Michigan Wolverine; now I will be able to see him in Broadway Blue.

Something about Hagelin and entertaining games just went together as despite losing in overtime 3-2 to Minnesota-Duluth there are no complaints about an exciting to watch. Even better is the knowledge that this game ended "clean" with no questions about the game winning goal.

As a hockey fan you had to love how Minnesota-Duluth won as they used basically the Tortorella "safe is death" to picture perfect perfection. A relentless forecheck that kept Michigan trapped in their defensive zone.

Forcing a turnover at center ice as Michigan was desperately trying to make a line change and get fresh players out there. They were only able to do a partial change as the Bulldogs took it right at them and scored for a 3-2 overtime win.

In 170 games in the Maize and Blue, Hagelin was 61-91-152 but as I said it was bittersweet for me as I truly enjoyed watching Hagelin grow as a player over the years. The only way Hagelin does not become a Ranger is because he wants to play for another team.

Glen Sather has wanted to sign him for 2 seasons so if Hagelin does not join the Rangers it will not be the Ranger's fault.

(Images: Stajcer, Thomas, de Haan and DeHart/OHL Images: Aaron Bell and Terry Wilson, Kabanov/Ron Morin/Lewiston Maineaics, Bourque/Katherine Ep, Hagelin/Michigan Wolverines)

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