The Rangers ended their regular season home schedule in atrocious style with an utterly disgusting half-hearted 'effort' against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. I know some of you love to come and check out the three stars but I am going to ruin the suspense and tell you that Tom Renney gets first star ... for the Isles.
Renney insisted the game was an important one even with a playoff spot in hand, but didn't/couldn't/wouldn't motivate his team whatsoever. The Rangers played a strong five minutes or so before being outworked and outhustled by the Baby Isles the rest of the way out. The Blueshirts were slow, predictable, soft, and defensively awful as the Isles - the same ones who were shut out 3-0 one night before - went on to win 4-3 in a shootout. The Rangers threw more than 50 pucks at the net but maybe, maybe 10 of them were legitimate chances to score.
There were a ton of problematic issues that will haunt my dreams tonight, let's take a look at a few:
*The Rangers power play reverted to the same joke of a special unit it was two weeks ago. They were horrible all around. Jagr scored two power play goals on one-timers from the circles on Thursday and yet didn't get off a single good one in the eight Ranger chances. Renney tried to go big and put five forwards out on the two minute 5-on-3 and were burned by Richard Park.
*The problem with the power play carried over to the rest of the game with the Rangers too often looking for the perfect play, rather than just throwing the puck on net. Dan Girardi just shot it when he had a clear lane, and got a goal for his effort. Talent will only take you so far, hard work and honest hockey will get you the Cup.
*Aside from Ryan Callahan, the fourth liners were the only ones really providing that kind of lunchpail attitude. Both Freddie Sjostrom and Ryan Hollweg had great games. They battled, they checked, they got chances and stood up for each other. Petr Prucha clearly didn't compliment them, but that is a different story.
*That story should be how Shanny should have been scratched. That way Prucha would have been moved up to a scoring line and Mitch Fritz could have been brought up from Hartford for protection. Even if you give the monster two, three minutes of ice time, goons like Kip Brennan and Blake Comeau wouldn't have taken liberties. For Sean Avery to have to defend himself is shameful. There is no reason for the piston who drives the Rangers engine to be taking on minor league thugs so close to the playoffs.
*Where was Scott Gomez, aside from the penalty box? His considerable skills have been almost nonexistent the last few games and that has to change. End the punch-less Marty Straka first-line experiment (which has failed every time this season) and give Gomez back the speedy Straka - the two compliment each other.
*Jagr's 2-on-1 goal was a pretty one, but it came not as a result of stellar play, but the defensive ineptness of Drew Fata, who gave up on guarding the pass too early.
*But all-in-all Jagr was alright - not a superstar, but not the lazy, glassy-eyed shadow of himself that showed up often this season. He did have several strikes against; Chris Drury played a harder, stronger, more dedicated game to show that he will deserve the C when Jagr goes back to Siberia; it was Shanny who addressed the fans after the game to thank them and give a little pep talk for the playoffs; and yet again he bailed on the shootout. One of the most fearsome offensive forces of the 90's has no confidence in himself to score on a breakaway with the pressure firmly on his shoulders. For shame.
*Hank reverted back to the pauper version of himself - going to his knees to early and missing easily savable shots, especially in the shootout. The game second half of a back-to-back against a weak team just days before the playoffs with little consequences in the grand picture: the prime time for a backup to see some action. Valley should have started, if only to get him in a game in the unfortunately case of Hank going down with injury. Valley's last game came March 21st and he could have used the refresher (just in case).
*Denis Potvin hasn't seen action since 1988 yet Ranger fans insist on doing the chant ad nauseum. Now against the Islanders in general is appropriate, but not 20+ times, and certainly not with 30 seconds left and the team tied at three. Just stop it already and pay attention to the game. How everyone could applaud the game going to overtime is beyond me. The Rangers couldn't beat an AHL team and the Garden gave them a standing ovation.
*Congratulations to Brandon Dubinsky on winning the Extra Effort award. He has worked really hard to be a better player all year long so it was nice to see him rewarded. Let's hope he keeps it up and avoids a sophomore slump next season.
*Congrats also to the fans who got the dirty, smelly Blueshirts off the Rangers backs after the game. I'm admittedly incredibly envious. It was also a nice touch for some of the Rangers to throw shirts and pucks to the few fans down low who stuck around for the ceremony. Nicky Fotiu needs to teach them how to reach the upper limits of the Garden so fans with lesser incomes can get nice souvenirs too.
*Forgive me if I missed anything, MSG had Knicks in 60 on at 1:30a rather than Rangers in 60 so I couldn't catch up and see it from the biased annoying point of view of Joe Micheletti. Luckily, Encore was airing Slap Shot so I figure I came out ahead. Feel free to use the comments to fill in any blanks.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Marty Straka - two assists.
2-Jaromir Jagr - goal and an assist.
1-Richard Park - goal, assist and shootout game-winner.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Kyle Okposo - still an overrated punk, but the kid did score a goal in regulation and one in the shootout to ensure Islander fans will worship him in the fall.
2-Wade Dubielewicz - he read the textbook Ranger plays well and got himself into the right spots to make the saves. Without really being challenged, he still gave up three goals, but he skates into the offseason with a 48 save win. Good for him.
1-Tom Renney - his inability to motivate the players, to create different offensive looks and to make smart personnel moves gave the Sound Tigers an NHL win, sending them back to the AHL on a high note while inspiring nothing but dread for the Blueshirts with one game left of the regular season.