Friday, January 11, 2008

20-19-5: The Broken Record That Is The NYR

Well, I think the title says it all. Everything that has been wrong of late continued to be wrong on Thursday night as the Rangers fell to the Flyers 6-2. The coaching didn't properly prepare the team, the goaltending was soft, the defense mistake prone and the offense disjointed. But other than that, everything was great!

*Well, first off, if you can't motivate your team to break out of a losing streak while playing one of your biggest rivals in your own building, then there is something wrong. Yeah, I am looking at you Tom Renney and Jaromir Jagr.

*Renney continued his dartboard line assignments, trying to get anything going with the injuries to Avery and Straka. It didn't work. At all. Ryan Hollweg was going to the net, skating hard and actually scoring, and yet didn't get on the power play. Renney can't say that Hollweg would have broken up the unit, because neither power play unit played with any kind of familiarity. Hollweg was the best player on the ice for the Rangers and played 10 minutes, 8:36 less than Jagr.

*And Jagr, well ... geez ... he sucked. Again. The "captain" took two insanely stupid penalties that cost the team. The first negated a power play where the team could have blown open the game and gone 3-0 and the second came with the team down 5-2 with more than six minutes to go. He also played at half speed and didn't get off a single good shot that tested Niittymaki. He is your superstar folks and it looks like we are stuck with him as Alex Ovechkin signed a 13 year, $124 million deal to stay in Washington. Greeeeeeeeeat.

*Renney's mistake in playing Shanny on Tuesday despite him being far below full strength came back to bite them a second game as the veteran sniper played a second barely-there pedestrian game.

*Malik sat again, but really, who cares? Mara and Rozy were still in the lineup and still played miserably in the Rangers' zone. The sad thing is that Marc Staal is starting to look like the rookie he is and Rozy - the supposed top defenseman on the team - isn't there to help him out. In fact, Rozy was horrifyingly bad and just watched as Stefan Ruzicka (who is not Rosy Ruzicka's kid) scored.

*Hank needs to find the bench, and pronto. He was absolutely horrid and if any single person was to be blamed for the loss, it was him. He gave up yet another ridiculously soft goal from below the goal line to Scott Hartnell, and gave up a breakaway goal by, who else, but Hartnell. This is the goaltender who had been the best in the league over the first 26 games and was probably the best goaltender in shootouts since they were instated after the lockout. The solution? Well, we can either pray that the All Star break will give him the time to rest and reflect he needs or the Rangers can call up Al Montoya and give the Cuban a shot. Valley won't do it, the team needs to tighten up and having a rookie in net may prove to be the impetus for that.

*I've dogged Chris Drury quite a bit but I have to give some credit to him - he is actually starting to work the front of the crease on the power play. Granted, he isn't big enough to screen the goaltender, and hasn't deflected much of anything lately, it is just refreshing to see a Ranger planted down low. As for his "broken stick" penalty, he didn't know the rule and neither did anyone else is the building aside from the refs. (For those that didn't see, Dan Girardi broke his stick and Drury threw his over to him. The stupid NHL rule states you can hand a stick to another player, you can't throw it.)

*Its amazing how the puck bounces: With the game 4-2, Prucha hit the post on a beautiful play, then a few moments later Simon Gagne scored so the Rangers went from being down by just one to down three and out of the game.

*Something sad is that with all of the talent on the Rangers roster, the only players that were comfortable carrying the puck are Gomez and Dubi. Unfortunately neither channeled Mario Lemieux and instead passed the puck away to incapable/incompetent wingers.

*It was a rivalry game and the Rangers went down by three, four goals and Colton Orr doesn't try to fight anyone. Way to send a message boys.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Steve Downie - two assists.
2-Niitty - 39 saves.
1-Hartnell - hat trick.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Downie - he was a pest, set up two goals and didn't do anything too stupid. More power to him.
2-HBO Line - best line on the ice for the Rangers, working hard every second they were on the ice. No one else on either team can make the same claim.
1-Mike Richards - I really don't like him but he had poise, moved the puck well (as shown by three assists) and was responsible at both ends of the ice.


Brother P said...

ROCK BOTTOM! That is where the blueshirts find themselves. Everything you said Scotty I agree with. Henrik has been far from the King and more like Mister Softy! Jagr won't shoot the puck and when he does he misses the net or it's a lazy and easy save. After the 3 game winning streak the Rangers follow that up by not yet winning a game in 2008! When will the madness stop! I pray it is Saturday.

Peter said...

You can usually tell during warm-ups when Hank is going to be big in net. Colton Orr scored on him TWICE pre game, and that's when I knew he was going to continue to be bad. I was actually surprised in the first period. If you watch the replays of the game, take a look at his lateral movement in the first period. He showed no signs of trouble moving east to west while on his knees. He even prompted a few "Henrik-Henrik" chants in the first. Fast forward to the 2nd and 3rd periods. Lateral movement, pssssh...right. Instead of being fluid motion, every change of direction required him to get out of the butterfly position, up on his skates, and then reposition himself. It's like watching some twisted jack-in-the-box.

I was saying last week that I am now comfortable enough in Valiquette's skills to not be concerned with his role as the back-up goalie. He's proven himself, in my estimation. But it is in this type of situation, where the prominent goalie needs to ride the pine, that a potential first-string goalie is needed, not just a back-up goalie. Montoya should have gotten the call up this season. At this point, I don't even know if you could bring Montoya up to play, because then you're stepping over your back-up goalie, who has played admirably, and then you run the chance of ruining his confidence.

If the coaching staff had any brains, they would attack it from the other angle; figure out what is wrong with Hank and fix it. Pronto. For Christ's sake, the guy had migrains near the end of last season, caused by grinding of his teeth, and no one knew about it/addressed it until the post season. Given Hank's decline in performance near the end of that season, I'm willing to put money on the line that either A) he has a nagging injury or a health problem that he's keeping from the staff or B) his off ice antics are interfering with his play.

Either way, Benoit and Renney better figure it out, and make it go away.

As an aside, if you're a superstituos type of person, and if you want to talk about curses and jinxes, think about Rangers goaltending since the year Richter suffered his concussion (his 666th game by the way). Dan Blackburn could have been the real-deal had he not been forced into retirement by a mysterious pinched nerve. Dunham didn't pan out nearly as well as Sather would have liked. LaBarbera didn't mature into a starter (of course, some could argue if he was ever given a chance/ever had the potential). Throw in a few names like McLennan and Holt as honorable mentions, and then consider that Holmqvist was the only goaltender to pass through our franchise that has become a viable goaltender. Then look at Kevin Weekes, who is just that, weak, in net, and that leaves you with one name. Henrik Lundqvist has been our best shot at securing a franchise goaltender since Richter's retirement.

1 star goaltender in 6 years.

It's apparent that this team isn't going to win games on its scoring potential. They better fix the goaltending situation, or this team will be right back where we were before the lockout;