Given the NHL’s crackdown on head shots, Marc Staal’s trucking of Matt Stajan had the media buzzing after the game.
“He had the puck, I saw him with his head down, I cut across and finished my check," Staal explained in the locker room.
“I bent my knees, my elbows didn’t come up, I stayed low. I caught most of it on my side more than anything else.”
"Clean" certainly seemed to be the consensus after the game. Despite the blow to the head, Staal came from in front of Stajan, so he should not face disciplinary action for the NHL’s ban on blindside blows to the dome.
“You don’t want to see anybody hurt, and I hope he’s alright, but that’s a clean hit,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said.
The hit was certainly the crescendo of a tense affair that kicked off with Michael Sauer’s boarding penalty in the first period.
For his part, Tortorella wasn’t surprised by the intense nature of the game. “We talked about that. That’s a hard working hockey team. They’re going to come right after us. I don’t mind what they did after their player was hit, that’s part of the game. You can expect them coming back at you.”
While it fit with the Flames’ preferred style of play, the blue-collar Blueshirts seemed more than happy to oblige.
“That’s part of our game to finish checks and play hard and they do the same thing,” Staal said. “It built up throughout the game. I thought it was a good battle tonight.”
“It’s pretty to fun to watch, right?” said Brian Boyle. “It’s pretty exciting to play in too. Can you imagine? Everybody’s jacked up. Those are fun games to play in, especially if you win.”
Boy, Oh, Boyle
Boyle directly figured into the W with the first goal of the night, his ninth of the season, which bounced off a sprawling defenseman’s stick and into the Calgary net. Those are the kinds of good bounces Boyle’s gotten this season, but a bigger part of his surprising scoring has been his tendency to be strong on the puck and take it to the net.
“I try to keep the same mentality every game. Get the puck on my stick, bring it to the net and shoot pucks. I’ve got some good linemates, you know? It’s been going pretty well.”
Just to re-emphasize a note from the Rapid Reactions post, Boyle has the same number of goals as Jarome Iginla. Who’d have thunk it?
A Stepan the Right Direction
Derek Stepan has been surging lately as his transition to the NHL seems to have turned a corner. He’s earned more time on the top line and tonight a clean win in the faceoff circle led to Daniel Girardi’s game-winning slapper. He finished at an even 8 and 8 on his draws for the night, but I believe (don’t quote me) that’s his best faceoff performance of the season.
“That’s great,” Tortorella said regarding the clean draw win/assist. “But I look at his play in the last minute. He did some really good things: protecting the puck, making a simple chip out when he’s on the ice protecting the lead. That’s a building block situation for him, just doing simple things.”
“It’s coming,” Stepan said. “In my game you can see it, my lifestyle, everything’s coming around. It’s a big change and it’s a process. You just gotta continue to stay confident and keep your ball rolling.”
Stepan, who has been shuttled between the first and fourth lines recently, added that he feels good chemistry with all the linemates and doesn’t mind the fluctuation. “I’m comfortable with everybody. Torts likes to shuffle them up and I think that’s good. We have 12 forwards that can play with everybody. If you can have that as a team it shows your depth and it shows your power.”
Sauer also earned some praise from Tortorella after the game. “He grows on you. Doesn’t he? He really grows on you,” the coach said when asked it he was impressed by Sauer dropping the gloves and standing up for himself. “You hear him talking on the ice, talking on the bench. There are things we need to work with him to get him to improve, but he certainly grows on you.”
Tortorella emphasized after the game that his backup keeper’s ability to take a start wasn’t nearly as important as his ability to earn the Rangers a win, something he certainly did tonight.
“We’re going to be fighting all year long to get in [the playoffs],” Tortorella said. “And as far as Hank is concerned, it gives him a few days here to be on the ice and try to straighten himself out.”
“It’s just the circumstances right now,” Biron said of the consecutive starts. “We all know Hank’s going to play a lot and when he gets going it’s tough to stop him, so I’m taking my opportunity now. But we need everybody, Hank and everybody else in the locker room.”
Biron admitted that he feels like he’s on a little bit of a roll himself, but credited his teammates for the success.
“The guys in front of me have played really well too and bailed me out at times.”
Certainly seemed like Biron was the one doing the bailing tonight, making some sensational saves, particularly in the third period.