After the loss in San Jose, I explained that there were acceptable losses and there were unacceptable losses. Tonight's 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals falls into the former category. The Rangers went down swinging against a good team that was flying all over the ice. While there were disappointing performances from several Blueshirts - and I will get into them, rest assured - overall the team kept pace with a younger, hungrier squad that has been virtually unbeatable on their own ice. Oh yeah, and they have that Ovechkin guy.
*You really do have to hand it to Washington, they are the most exciting team to watch in the NHL. I would love to root for them when they aren't playing the Rangers but they still pay Tom Poti so that is out of the question. But man, do they play fun, passionate, relentless, end-to-end hockey ...
*Doesn't that sound a lot like a young Czech who has starred since being reinserted into the Ranger lineup lately??
*Here is the question of the night - did Marc Staal know that Alexander Semin not have his jersey tied down? When the two tussled Staal just pulled at Semin's sweater rather than throw punches. He could have hammered the soft Semin and instead kept yanking and yanking. No points to Semin for drumming on Staal's back after the Ranger lost balance and it was nice to see him get ejected.
*Outside of taking the tumble with nary a punch, Staal was utterly fantastic the rest of the game. His battles with Ovechkin in this were epic - you could have ignored the puck and just watched the two of them and been fiercely entertained. While Ovie has already started packing his trophy case, Staal showed that there is Norris in his future. My biggest issue with his game tonight was that there was no reason for him to be on the bench during the power play that allowed Ovechkin to score the game-winning shortie. He is stronger with the puck than any other defenseman and Renney yet again failed the Rangers by allowing Ovechkin to step on the ice when Staal was on the bench. The same thing happened during the 5-4 debacle and you would have thought that Renney would have learned. Ok, maybe not.
*The player everyone had hoped would be the Ranger Norris candidate, Michal Rozsival, actually had one of his strongest games defensively to date. Rozy seemed bouyed by Staal's strength and was in good positions most of the night. He also blocked five shots, which I think is a career record (can any stat heads confirm?).
*Speaking of defensemen, did anyone else watch Mike Green and start praying that Bobby Sanguinetti turns out like that?
*Scott Gomez is such a tough guy, punching Michael Nylander in the second period. Wow. There is a joke in the Mexican't jumping someone who won't fight back, but I won't go there. Gomez wasn't particularly good yet again in all aspects of the game (understatement). His team was down 2-1 in the third period and he took a stupid penalty - what a leader! Love the A on his chest - I think it stands for something but you can't say that on tv (unless you are South Park) and I won't lower myself to say it here. And offensively Gomez was his usual terrible self with the puck: his passes were far off the mark or they put his teammates in bad situations. Is this overpriced bust capable of playing with anyone? He failed with Jagr, he failed with Shanahan, he failed with Zherdev, he is failing with Naslund ... do you think the Devils would be willing to give us Elias?
*Since this is turning into 21 questions, here is a semi-serious one: were you as shocked as I was that Wade Redden showed some emotion?? The other big money bust actually got into a fight in this game! He went back and forth with Washington captain Chris Clark and then the two dropped the gloves. Redden caught Clark's glass jaw to get the decision and I sat there with my mouth agape. Wade Redden? Playing like he cared?? Will wonders never cease??????? He still sucked in the Ranger zone, but we expect that at this point.
*Of course, then Redden broke one of the cardinal rules of defending by just sticking out his stick at Ovechkin's shot inside the blueline to deflect it past Valiquette for yet another shorthanded goal against the Rangers. Kids: either get your body in front of the shot or just let it go; you do a disservice to the goaltender by stick checking and tipping the puck. After being physical against Clark earlier on, Redden gave Ovie too much room and had to put his stick in a bad spot, costing the Rangers.
*That tally was the 12th shorthanded goal allowed by the Blueshirts. Tom Renney's loyalty should only go so far - it is long past time Perry Pearn gets fired. It is one thing for your power play to be impotent, it is another to be incompetent. Renney wants to blame the players for not shooting, and that's fine (if stupid) but how can he defend Pearn's poor schemes?? As for Renney himself, a highlight tonight was the team losing by a goal during a stoppage with just over a minute left in the game. The MSG crew kept the camera on him for 15, 20 seconds in which he didn't say a single word to his players. That's coaching right there folks.
*And to think that Renney nearly got bailed out from his buffoonery thanks to a stellar effort from Stephen Valiquette. Called upon last second because of Hank's
*Have I mentioned that I hate Joe Micheletti lately? Simple said, I find him horrible. It is a crime against hockey fans and my ears that this clown is allowed to keep calling Ranger games. His shrill voice, his miscalls, his lack of chemistry with Sam ... I can't find a single redeeming quality in his work.
*I can find one in Chris Drury, however. Tonight Drury was stronger defensively than he had been in recent games. Sure, he was invisible offensively but so was Gomez, Naslund, Zherdev and Sjostrom.
*I will give Micheletti a little bit of credit in this one - I know, I was shocked too - as he properly pointed out how huge Nigel Dawes was in the defensive zone. Dawsie seems to have come to the realization that he needs to contribute every game and if the puck isn't going in, he had better be back behind the blueline to help out. Cally has already learned that lesson and it has done him well, especially since he has gotten no help offensively from his rotating linemates.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Marc Staal - no points.
2-Dave Steckel - one assist.
1-Alexander Ovechkin - shorthanded goal.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Petr Prucha - Pru had another stellar game where he shamed the veterans by battling hard every shift. He got tripped by Mike Green and still got up to get a shot early in the second period, before breaking the scoreless draw eight minutes later.
2-Staal - Aside from his beautiful battles with Ovechkin, Staal was a beast with the puck. His confidence is growing and it shows.
1-Ovie - Dude, seriously? Wow.