The standings show the New York Rangers in first place of the Eastern Conference. While I have pointed out the deficiencies of this team, people keep throwing that fact right back at me - first place, first place, first place. They neglect to point out that the Rangers have played at least two, if not three games more than anyone else. They neglect to point out that most of those points have come from beating bad teams.
Tonight the Rangers played a good team. Not a great team. A good team. And they were blown out of the water 6-3 in a game that wasn't even that close. Vancouver even had a clear goal waved off by the officials due to a bad call by the ref and a replay that didn't prove beyond a shadow of the doubt that the puck went across the goal line. But they didn't need it. The Canucks put the Rangers on their heels early and dictated the play for much of the night on their way to a solid win to bounce back from their defeat at the hands of the Islanders. That's right, the Islanders beat the Canucks and the Canucks hammered the Rangers. Not good. So, so very not good.
*The crutch was kicked out from under the Rangers as Henrik Lundqvist played a pedestrian game. Hank gave up five goals before giving himself the hook and heading to the bench. It is hard to blame him for at least three of those five but with a incompetent defensive corps and a offense that has trouble scoring, Hank has to be great - and he wasn't. It is a shame that he will shoulder so much of the blame for this loss but the Rangers need perfection from him to succeed and they didn't get it.
*Apologists for the offense will point out that the power play went 2-6 in this one but the turning point came in the first period. Shane O'Brien took the first of his many penalties in the game and the Ranger power play couldn't put the puck in despite getting acres of landscape to shoot at. Instead, Alex Burrows scored a shorthanded goal and the snowball started rolling down the mountain.
*Chris Drury did what he could to stop the avalanche but even his pretty goal wasn't enough. What gets me is that he was signed for his leadership, not because of his scoring ability - where are the guys who were signed for those skills??
*Willie Mitchell had a helluva game - six blocked shots, four hits, and +1 in 25:23 of ice time. He makes $3.5 million a year. Think they will trade him? We could use an actual defensman ...
*That is because the Rangers waste salary cap space and roster spots on Michal Rozsival and Wade Redden - the two biggest wastes of money in the NHL. Neither one proved to be capable of anything in this game, failing on both sides of the ice. When you invest $10.5 million in two players, you expect some things in return and three shorthanded goals against on their turnovers certainly isn't one of those things. They are horrid and yet Tom Renney does nothing to motivate them. I was asked if it was too early to buy out their contracts and I tendered the idea that they should be lent to the Russian League, just to get them out of the Garden. Neither one is a realistic option and we will just have to sit and hope that they remember how to be top flight defensemen - even if neither one ever achieved that level of skill.
*Nik Zherdev's level of skill is scary. Z made some stellar moves, as per usual, but either he deked around two guys just to lose the puck to a third or he couldn't get off a shot after making a stunning move.
*The heavyweight battle between Darcy Hordichuk and Colton Orr never materialized. The two chatted over the red line during warmups but Orr took a bad penalty with the team down 4-1 in the second period and never saw the ice again. Why carry an enforcer if you aren't going to use him to spark your team when needed?
*Why haven't the Canucks retired Pavel Bure's number? Even without it being in the rafters, I was surprised to see No. 10 out on the ice (Ryan Johnson? who?).
*The game started at 7:30 to accommodate Canadian broadcaster TSN and that led to the sign of the night. There was a woman holding an oaktag that said:
So very much
There was a surprising number of Vancouver fans and they all seemed to be cheering for their former captain in addition to their own team. Seeing that kind of love and respect makes you appreciate having him more. I just hope he shows us the kind of effort that he gave to them; he hasn't come close yet. He had a few good moments, skating nearly 23 minutes, but doesn't have the jump or strength that he once did and had trouble getting into good scoring positions.
*What also was odd was the complete inability of the Rangers connect on their passes and get out of their zone in the first period. It looked like the Canucks were playing the little Rangers, completely dominating the Rangers. Maybe it was that 7:30 start: the Rangers just thought it was the second period so they didn't really try.
*Is Dmitri Kalinin the best Ranger defenseman right now? Rozy and Redden are awful, Mara is playing frustrated, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are trying to do too much ... while Kalinin has been almost solid. I'm scared!!
*There was a new logo on the ice - that of Vitamin Water. They have tried to do more subtle advertising before by getting Hank to wear their hat during interviews but now there is a bottle painted on the ice. It looked quite weird and, unfortunately, didn't make me want to drink their product seeing as the Rangers soiled the ice it was advertised on with this stinker of a game.
*Why would Tom Renney call a timeout with two minutes left in the game trailing 5-3? Wouldn't it have made more sense earlier, when the Rangers actually had a realistic chance of catching up?
*The kids - Lauri Korpikoski, Dan Fritsche, Nigel Dawes and Brandon Dubinsky - all put together mediocre, inconsistent efforts and the door is now open for Petr Prucha to return to the ice.
*Speaking of returns, when Scott Gomez "returns from his vacation" (as my buddy Jay phrased it), here is a thought: play him on defense. Gomez knows how to play in his own zone - thank you Lou - and he can skate the puck across the neutral zone to jumpstart the rush. He can't be any worse then Redden or Rozy in the Ranger zone and his passing and skating skills are miles above both ...
*PHW Three Stars
3-Jannik Hansen - two assists.
2-Kyle Wellwood - one goal.
1-Alex Burrows - two goals.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Stephen Valiquette - Valley came in and stopped all 15 shots he faced to give the Rangers a chance to battle back. They didn't, but it wasn't his fault.
2-Burrows - Burrows is a role player but man can his wheels roll. He showed off lightning fast speed that allowed him to blow by the slow, soft, out of position defenders.
1-Hansen - The Dane, a 2004 9th round draft pick, continued his stellar start to the season with a few points but the reason he gets the top star is because he also went down to block a big shot in the late second period and got nailed up high. But, like Braydon Coburn in that Versus commercial, he came back.