I bet Gary Bettman and NBC sure were glad that they made the Rangers/Bruins their national game to kick off their regular season coverage - after all, it matched up the biggest underachievers in the league with the team that plays the most boring hockey. Wow, I can't wait for the ratings! I didn't watch the game on NBC, I was in my usual seat in the Garden and from there witnessed yet another embarrassing lack of effort from the home side. Time to rant:
*After praising Hank for a masterful performance on Saturday, the first goal he allowed was one of the softest this season - a slap shot from Chuck Kobasew that just slowly sailed past the stunned goaltender. It must have surprised him, as it was just the fourth shot on him in the game. The other two goals weren't his fault. A breakdown by all five of the players in front of him allowed Glen Metropolit to show off stickhandling skills he hasn't used since he played for the Long Island Jawz of the RHI.
*And the third goal ... well that was the backbreaker. Moments earlier Scott Gomez missed a wide open net and then the puck was cleared by the B's. Paul Mara got it, and clearly thought he was still on the Boston squad because he passed it to Marc Savard, who sent it to Phil Kessel to send the game out of reach.
*The long Rangers goal came from Dubi in the last minute, which was nice. First off it broke Tim Thomas' shutout, and secondly it was a just reward for the one Ranger line that actually pressed the action every shift.
*The other lines were horrendous. Aside from a few big checks at the start of the game, the Shanny, Avery and Drury trio played disjointed hockey. They couldn't pass, they couldn't shoot, and they were bad defensively - on the ice for two of the goals against. At one point Renney put Jagr in Shanny's spot to no effect.
*Jagr, one day removed from his sweetest goal in 15 years, was pretty useless. He spent most of the game lurking on the boards, passing up scoring chances. He had just two shots, matching his two penalty minutes for another lazy hook. Straka and Gomez try to push every play to the reclusive Czech and missed several chances each.
*I have stood up for the HBO line time and time again but even I am starting to have enough. Hollweg's bad reputation with officials has taken his edge away, Bettsy has absolutely zero offensive skill and Colton Orr ... well he contributes very little. His positioning has improved, but as an enforcer he doesn't dissuade opposing teams from hitting the Rangers talent. He has just one fight in the last six games, even though the Blueshirts could have used the spark on several occasions, today being one of them. When Mitch Fritz comes back from his injury next month, the Rangers should consider him for Orr's slot. I would prefer Frankie Lessard but I've heard that his injuries will keep him out for the season. The Rangers are in desperate need of a big man who will work the crease, check when needed and fight when needed.
*As for the defense, well, at least Malik was scratched. Unfortunately, the rest of the corps played down to the missing link's level. They couldn't carry the puck, they chased Bruins to get useless hits, and they missed coverage assignments. Rozy has lost any ability that he once had in the Rangers end, Mara can't remember which team he plays for and Strudwick is just too slow. Its time to call up Andrew Hutchinson, who had a goal and two assists Saturday for Hartford, and look at trade options.
*And the Bruins, well, like they have done all season long, they played classic Devils hockey to perfection. Claude Julien is a helluva coach and, just like Ted Nolan, has taken a terrible team into contention. It helps that he has Thomas in net, who really does his acrobatic best to keep pucks out.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Metropolit - goal.
2-Thomas - 30 saves.
1-Kobasew - goal and an assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Thomas - the Rangers believe in quantity rather than quality when it comes to shots nowadays but he was sharp and made all but one of the save.
2-Marc Savard - had two assists and was a consistent threat throughout the game.
1-Julien - I thought I was watching the 2000 Devils out there.