Wednesday, March 26, 2008
39-26-11: Treading Water
It really is quite amazing that I have found a sense of serenity in this calamity that is the rush for the playoffs. Tonight was a prime example; I didn't get upset, I didn't throw anything, curse anyone, fall into a moody depression ... nothing. I walked out of the Garden with a smile.
How could I, you may ask? Because I already accepted the one key to the game: the Rangers aren't playing to win, they are playing not to lose. And without offensive linchpins Scott Gomez and Mike Roszival, that was even more the case than it has been in recent games against Philly, Jersey and Pittsburgh. To play to win would leave open the possibility that we would skate away with no points, to play not to lose would get at least one. And at the end of tonight's 2-1 overtime loss, we got one. The Blueshirts stay afloat in playoff position despite playing a dreadfully boring, sloppy game against a weak Flyer squad.
That isn't to say I feel all warm and rosy inside. There is certainly reason for concern:
*Jagr's recent goals have come from picking up the garbage or lucky bounces, he still hasn't been scoring like he could/should.
*Sean Avery wasn't as involved as he could/should have been and his ill-advised back pass in overtime was right to Jason Smith, who fed Mike Richards for the game-winner. Sloppy garbage for a guy looking for a big contract.
*The power play remains a disgrace (it went 0-4 tonight). They don't cycle, their pass patterns are predictable and the resulting shots are immensely stoppable.
*Backman and Malik still log considerable minutes despite being defensive liabilities. Backman made one really good defensive play and followed it up with a bad penalty. Malik was actually pretty steady in the game, but was caught standing still on both Philly goals and took a bad penalty, so boooo Malik.
*Colton Orr took a stupid penalty and did nothing, absolutely nothing to justify a place on the roster. Hank was ran and Petr Prucha came to his aid. Orr didn't take on Riley Cote, who took some liberties, nor did he make any big hits, aside from the illegal one that got the aforementioned penalty. If Renney insists on skating a goon, he has to intimidate the other team somehow and stand up for his teammates. He did not.
*Hank let in two saveable goals on 25 shots. I won't say that they were soft, but they certainly weren't on good scoring chances. He has to be better than that. I know he is the starter and all that, but it wouldn't have been a bad move to start Valley, given his success against the Broad Street boys this season.
Now there were also reasons to smile in this one:
*Jagr scored. Doesn't matter how he did it, he scored. Sadly, at this point, we will take whatever contribution we can get from the captain. He even jumped into a tussle along the boards at one point, showing he cares (more than we can say for two, three months of this season).
*Prucha stepped back into the lineup and played pretty well. He played a Prucha game - a million miles an hour at the puck, damn the consequences. It was good to see he rebounded from the injury. And the same goes for Paul Mara, who didn't look tentative or lost despite wearing a cage.
*Dubi and Callahan both played physical games and stayed involved. I thought Dawsie was a little lost out there but all in all the kids did well.
*The penalty kill went 3-3, holding the second-best power play team in the league at bay.
*Sjostrom continued to do well with the little ice time he had - 6:26 (three minutes more than the underutilized Hollweg). He has clearly earned himself more minutes and it would be nice to see them come on special teams as he won't fit on the second or third lines the way they are configured. We know he can accelerate and score shorthanded, and his willingness to get involved could translate into success if he gets planted in the paint on the power play.
*And onto the evening's stars:
PHW Three Stars
3-Danny Briere - one goal.
2-Martin Biron - 31 saves.
1-Mike Richards - game winning goal.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Dan Girardi - he played his best game in a while. He was solid in the Rangers end and came through when Tyutin took a few ill-advised liberties.
2-Biron - I am really not sure how the Rangers got that many shots without having many legitimate scoring chances, but Biron stopped all but one so kudos to him.
1-Vinny Prospal - he was a constant offensive threat and got an assist on Briere's goal. He also won a remarkable seven of the 10 faceoffs he took ...