Hockey players have very precise routines. Most, if not all of them, take a nap prior to the game. As games are often in the evening, the players work out in the morning, eat lunch, take a nap and then head to the arena. It is a solid schedule and does well to keep the guys fresh and physically prepared for their games. Unfortunately, the Ranger game against the Panthers today was at 1 p.m. and no one set off an alarm to wake the boys to remind them they were supposed to play.
On Kid's Day (sic, thanks Gregger), the Rangers set a terrible example for future Blue by "playing" with no heart, no motivation and no skill. The shockingly untalented Panthers team did work hard and pounced on the Blueshirt blemishes to win at MSG 4-0 (look at the picture, even they are surprised that they scored). Not only did the Rangers set a bad example, but if this was some of those kids' first game ever, they will likely never come back. Heck, I am an insane, obsessive fan and I hardly want to return to the Garden ever again.
So what did it? Was it the timing? They are professional athletes so all joking aside, I don't think so. I think it was complacency, laziness and bad coaching - with the first two being results of the third. Tom Renney is a great teacher, there is absolutely no denying that. But the man is not a motivator and when you have a payroll like the Rangers, you need someone to use the stick every now and again because the players all have a ton of carrots with those contracts.
Onto some notes:
*After just badmouthing Renney, I do have to give him credit for pulling Henrik after the third goal. There is no reason to keep your top goaltender in the net when the team isn't playing in front of him. I heard that they showed a very angry Lundqvist on the bench after that and that is great. He has every right to be pissed and at least someone in a Ranger jersey showed a little emotion.
*Speaking of that, why did it take a high elbow late in the third period to get someone to fight? And, for that matter, you can hardly call that a fight as Aaron Voros grapples, he doesn't punch. These hugfests bother me; be a man and throw down.
*Chris Drury needs to spend time every practice with a 2X4 or two across the bottom of the goal and shoot puck after puck after puck over it. His buddy Gomez just needs to learn how to shoot at all because the other teams know at this point that he is just going to pass it off. The predictability killed the team last year with Jagr, and it is killing them this year with him.
*The other man to wear a letter on his jersey, Markus Naslund, certainly did not play up to it. He was invisible on the Florida side of the ice except when he was taking bad offsides or a dumb penalty.
*Nik Zherdev was also elusive on the ice tonight but he came from Columbus with this M.O. - sometimes he dominates, sometimes he hibernates. You just have to be ready for it.
*The Rangers got off some good shots in the first five, 10 minutes of the game but they weren't following them up and crashing the crease. Craig Anderson allowed some ridiculous rebounds but there was no one there to capitalize.
*Perhaps there is something to the 'fragile male ego' theory because Michal Rozsival played slightly better than he had been while the team was in Tampa but once he got booed during the announcement of the starting lineup, he was terrible here. Then again, it is hard to call him out when Redden, Staal and Mara were just as bad. I hardly noticed Dan Girardi out there and Dmitri Kalinin played his usual poor game but ended up being the best of the blueliners. What a nightmare.
*Someone a few sections from me pointed out that there must be a sniper in the 400s because the Rangers kept falling. That gunman must have been just aiming for the home team because it seemed to me that the Panthers were skating on the same ice and had little trouble keeping their edges ...
*Some credit to the management for how they handled Kid's Day (sic). Having a kid announce the team at the start, a young girl sing the anthem and kids guest in the organ booth (no matter how bad they were) were nice touches. I am not giving a lot of credit because there was not a giveaway of any kind - which goes so far when you are that young - and the Knicks city kids dancing during the second intermission was pointless.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Radek Dvorak - two assists.
2-Craig Anderson - 37 saves.
1-Stephen Weiss - one goal and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Henrik Lundqvist - He came to play, his teammates didn't. There was little he could do on the three he let in.
2-Karlis Skrastins - The defenseman didn't have to do much to keep the Rangers out on the perimeter but he still racked up four blocked shots to go with two assists.
1-All of the dads who managed to keep their kids from crying or sleeping during this one. I know I wanted to cry ...