As you can imagine, I have seen a lot of hockey games in my life. A lot. I have a problem; I fully admit it. Tonight's 3-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres ranks among the worse that I have seen. It was boring, it was passionless and it had no flow. I would gladly give Buffalo some credit if they outplayed the Rangers and broke the undefeated streak with a hard-fought win, but they didn't. The Sabres played well enough not to lose, and they didn't. Last season, when the Ranger blew that 5-0 lead to lose to Montreal, you just had to respect the Habs for the amazing comeback. I don't have any respect for the Sabres for this one. What drek. While I don't want to dwell on the abomination, here are a few things I saw:
*Everything that looked bad for the Rangers in the first five games all showed up in this one. Their passing, which was terrible in Prague, was terrible here. Their puckhandling, which was bad against Chicago, was bad here. They sat back with the lead against the Flyers and they sat back with the lead here. The first line was invisible against the Devils and it was invisible here. And the Rangers have had trouble clearing the crease in every game and couldn't do it here.
*That comes down to the coaching and Tom Renney is a teacher, not a motivator. His idea of putting a jump into the team is breaking down the lines and pulling names out of a hat to try new ones. It just doesn't work. And his decision to throw random people out on the four minute power play in the third sealed the loss. There was no reason to give Korpikoski, Orr and Prucha power play time when the team's fate was pretty much on the line - even with the first line having trouble.
*The final shot total had the Rangers outshooting the Sabres 20-18 but the Blueshirts number was vastly inflated. They had at least four of those shots come in the third period when someone crossed the blueline and just threw the puck towards Miller, who caught it and stopped play. Did they think that Miller was going to pull a Brodeur and screw up on a long range try? He isn't that bad of a goaltender ...
*A lot of the blame for this Ranger loss is going to Paul Mara, who started throwing punches at Pat Kaleta after Kaleta went after Mara's head. The horrendous officiating awarded a five minute major for fighting and a game misconduct while allowing Kaleta to skate off scot-free. It was utterly unconscionable that Mara got tossed for something that deserved a double minor to him and a major to Kaleta. But since Mara isn't a posterboy for the NHL, people are allowed to take shots at him. Imagine if that was Sidney Crosby? Ha! Kaleta would have gotten tossed and would likely be suspended.
*With Mara out, the rest of the defense was overworked and overtired.
*Prucha played his first game since Prague and it looks like it should be his last. He was pretty useless. They wanted offense out of that spot and Prucha missed three chances on the doorstep in front of Miller. The team will be better served having Dan Fritsche's energy, even if they would have to play him out of position.
*The Rangers did nothing for Alexei Cherepanov, who was buried today. No video tribute, stickers on the helmets, patches on the jerseys, logos on the ice, nothing. For shame.
*Colton Orr fought Andrew Peters early in the game, but really, who cares? It was yet another pointless bout to justify the heavyweights' paychecks. You would think that Orr would have put himself above that thing once he learned to skate over the summer but he proved that he is nothing more than another stupid goon.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Ales Kotalik - one goal.
2-Ryan Miller - 19 saves.
1-Thomas Vanek - two goals.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Vanek - Two easy tallies by taking advantage of the Rangers' stupidity.
2-Clarke MacArthur - Really solid game by the kid. He played a lot of minutes of sound hockey and has a good future ahead of him.
1-Kaleta - If can get away with a cheap shot like his and get a five minute power play for it, you deserve a star. As my buddy Pockets said, I loved it when Esa Tikkanen used to do it, how can I hate now?