The 2007-2008 regular season ended for the Rangers with a shootout loss to the Devils, the same team they will face in the first round of the postseason. The Blueshirts didn't earn home ice in the playoffs, but frankly, who cares? Unless it comes down to a seventh game - and it shouldn't - the Rock isn't a particularly intimidating place to play (classy fans). The Rangers won there three times this season and half of the crowd is made up of Ranger fans anyway, so it isn't exactly intimidating. And their team, outside of Maaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrttttyyyy, aren't particularly playoff-tough. Not to mention that this was the first loss of the season for the Rangers in eight games to them, so we still have their number.
But before we get to the playoffs, let me wrap up the last regular season game:
*I guess that to us fans Rangers/Isles is the biggest rivalry, but the players themselves must believe that Rangers/Devils is the premier match up. If the Blueshirts skated as hard as they did in this one when they played the Isles on Friday, they would have blown out that pathetic excuse for a hockey team and wouldn't have needed this one as badly.
*Ok, time to complain about Garden music again: the guys at the Rock rocked Pantera. They play aggressive music for an aggressive game, not generic dance music to just fill the empty air, music to get the fans pumped up. This isn't rocket science people. And what good is that dance music if they aren't going to let Larry dance to it? We miss you Larry, homo or not ...
*Welcome back Marek Malik. We missed you ... no, not really. Not at all. Not in the least. Five minutes in Lurch was victimized covering John Madden from three feet away and it cost the Rangers the first goal of the game. Thirteen minutes in he nearly killed Hank: as Rupp scored to make it 2-0, Malik was actually covering his man well but seemingly had no idea where he was on the ice because he didn't even try not to hit his own goaltender.
*The Ranger lines were ... interesting. Prucha got his shot at a scoring line while Shanny was moved to the fourth line with Sjostrom and Bettsy. I'll be honest: I think it was a brilliant move by Tom Renney. Shanny gets less even strength ice time to conserve himself while still getting special teams time. This shoulda happened games ago. But at the same time, to play devil's advocate, at this point in the season they really shouldn't have to be juggling the lines to figure out what works and what doesn't ...
*Have I mentioned lately that I feel Joe Micheletti is awful? Well, I do. Horrible. And he makes Sam sound worse too. When the Rangers finally raise ticket prices out of my range, I really do not know what I will do because there is no way I can listen to these two for 82+ games. I had to skip the intermissions so I couldn't tell how horrible Butch was with Al and Stan in the studio, please use the comments to let me know!
*A few weeks back on Hockey Night In Canada, Don Cherry showed how the Anaheim Ducks have gotten so successful by pressuring the puck. As soon as an opposing player got the puck, a Duck was there to check him. It was a thing of beauty to watch and something I really would never have expected to see from the Rangers. Well, thanks to the kids - Dawes and Callahan, I did. They went hard at the Devils, forcing turnovers and got the puck out to Captain America for the goal. Let's hope it was the start of a nice trend.
*Drury's soon-to-be-predecessor as captain of the Rangers Jaromir Jagr played one of his strongest games. Jagr used his strength to get into scoring positions and wasn't afraid to shoot. He even threw some punches in a late scrum! All too often this season he played like he didn't care. In this game he certainly did; let's hope that this is a sign of things to come rather than a fluke.
*His third period goal was a thing of beauty thanks to the hard work of Scott Gomez and Sean Avery. Avery deserves all of the credit for that one - his abrasive style has drawn all of the attention to him every time he is on the ice and this time he took advantage, finding the un-covered Jagr cutting through the slot for a pretty one-timer goal to tie the game.
*Sam and Joe had a good laugh that another journalist in press row was playing Solitaire during the game action in the second period. Ha ha ha, not funny. If the beat writers don't care, they should get out of the press box and allow the bloggers in. At least we would pay attention and care about what is going on. What a joke.
*I was going to type on how the two goaltenders were good, but not really big factors in the game. Of course, that was moments before Hank made an astounding glove save on Zach Parise while the Devils were on a power play (thank you Marek Malik). The Devils aren't a good team offensively, so he didn't have to play spectacularly (and he didn't, giving up two goals on 27 shots - good but not great). And let's face it, all of the magic he once had in shootouts is utterly gone. he has been atrocious as of late and giving up two high goals in this one was just unacceptable. But, as Joe mentioned, at least this was the last shootout we will see this season. So, it shouldn't matter.
*I guess I should talk a little more on the overtime and the shootout. I think the best part was hearing Sam try to pronounce "psychological" in reference to its importance. Aside from that, Shanny has to bust out another move because that late wrister hasn't worked in weeks. He gets himself breakaways while playing shorthanded so he does need to pull out another trick.
*PHW Three Stars
3-John Madden - one goal.
2-Jaromir Jagr - one goal.
1-Mike Rupp - one goal.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Mike Mottau - the Devil defenseman had a pretty quiet but really solid game. He was on the ice for over 28 minutes, blocked a few shots and had a good hit or two.
2-Drury/Callahan/Dawes - they set a physical tempo that paid off. It will be huge for them to do the same when the games actually start counting.
1-Jaromir Jagr - as I said, he played like he cared. For all I have ridden him this season, that is all that I asked. Now he just needs to keep that passion in the playoffs.