Thursday, January 8, 2009
24-15-3: Collapsing Before The Canadiens
The first two periods of hockey at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night weren't particularly pretty. In fact, there were stretches of outright boredom. But those doldrums came due to two pretty evenly matched teams keeping their cards close to their chests. When the third period started the Rangers started showing off their hand and fell apart, leaving Robert Lang and the Canadiens to pick up the pieces and put together a 6-3 victory.
I am just going to get right into it:
*You have to start in net, where Henrik Lundqvist was a sieve. I overheard someone float the idea that the Rangers should platoon Hank with Valley the way they did with Beezer and Richter and I can't say it is a bad idea. Hank is not playing all-world hockey right now, that simple. His first period gaffe behind the net that gave the Habs their first goal said it all. His confidence isn't where it should be right now and he hasn't shown the ability to play out of it. At least three of the five goals scored on him were stoppable.
*And he has no one to blame but himself. For the first two periods, the Ranger defense played the best they have as a unit all season long. They moved the puck well, they were in good positions and - while not a physical lot - they didn't allow the Habs to crash the crease. Of course, in the third period that changed. Marc Staal decided to remind everyone that he is a second-season player and allowed Robert Lang to walk around him for the nail in the coffin. Bad, bad, bad timing. But the good stuff is that Dmitri Kalinin's great play in the second period set up the equalizer by Callahan and Rozy's third period tally came as a result of good work. I am loathe to give Wade Redden credit, but if he hadn't cheated and cross checked a player into the Montreal crease in the first period, the Rangers wouldn't have scored to tie the game at one. A real referee woulda called it back, but whatever.
*The officiating was a little iffy, making five straight calls on the Blueshirts but what can you do? The zebras have been inconsistent to the point of idiocy since the lockout.
*Some of those calls were quite justified. There was no grey area with Callahan's high stick and none with Scott Gomez's holding. Cally's infraction came on the follow-through of a play, Gomez's was just laziness and stupidity. Just when you thought the Mexican't couldn't soil that A on his chest any more ...
*Can we end the Aaron Voros experiment now and bring back someone who will actually try? I don't necessarily think that the hooking call on Voros was a clear-cut call, but that was the only time he was visible the entire night. You couldn't help but notice Lauri Korpikoski every time that kid was on the ice prior to this benching. How the oversized Voros could play so small is startling and unnerving.
*But if you are to bench Voros, then it is also time to give Markus Naslund and Nik Zherdev a taste of the pine. Nazzy made a few plays but his scoring touch, what little there is left of it, has disappeared. And we knew Z was enigmatic, but he hasn't shown up in a few weeks. Perhaps he can find himself up in the press box while PA Parenteau finally gets a shot at the NHL.
*Of course, a decision like that would fall to Tom Renney and he is proving more and more incapable of making this team win. Of all of the dubious moves - and there are so many every single minute of the game - I wonder what took him so long to pull Hank tonight. Down two goals with a power play, he waited until Roman Hamrlik's penalty was more than half over to call time out and remove his netminder. Last night the Devile scored two goals with their goaltender on the bench - the first coming on a power play with almost eight minutes left. That takes cajones and our fair leader doesn't have any. He won't bench players who play poorly, he juggles the lines incessantly and he can't make tactic changes on the fly.
*The Canadiens seemed primed to be intimidated and Renney had Colton Orr on the ice for all of 5:39. And it isn't like Orr was a step behind or was useless out there. He had a few good hits and nearly scored. His linemate Blair Betts, the best centerman on the team, played six minutes at even strength. Two words: bad coaching.
*Perhaps a better coach would be able to find the switch on Brandon Dubinsky and turn it back on. Dubi is skating hard but things just aren't clicking. A friend suggested that putting him on the shelf for Artem Anisimov, who is looking good in Hartford and I can't disagree. But at this point, with this team playing the way it is, I have no problem with most any personnel move if it gets a hungry young player into the roster.
*Just look at Nigel Dawes and Petr Prucha. For the third straight game they were by far the best Rangers on the ice. And the reason? They played like they cared, they played like they wanted to play in the NHL. It is amazing how that works.
*It was amazing to see the sheer number of Montreal fans in the Garden. An interesting moment came when the in-house camera found Ranger great Brad Park in the crowd. Most of the Montreal fans I saw clapped for him while a large number of Ranger fans didn't. For shame. And the fact that the idiots were back doing the "Potvin Sucks" whistle every five minutes was just as disgraceful. Stuff like that makes me sad to call myself a Ranger fan. And on that depressing note (only appropriate after this game):
*PHW Three Stars
3-Jaroslav Halak - 36 saves.
2-Andrei Markov - one goal and one assist.
1-Robert Lang - hat trick.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Prucha/Dawes - They get a co-star because it is almost impossible to distinguish between them. Both hustled, both threw what little body weight they have around and both initiated action.
2-Roman Hamrlik - Sure he took a bad penalty late that could have cost the Habs but with the Ranger power play being what it is, it really wasn't that egregious of an error. The rest of the night Hamrlik was all over the ice and he collected three assists for his effort.
1-Lang - It is always great to see a hat trick, even if it is against you. Sure some cred is lost with one of the tallies being an empty netter, but it was shorthanded so more power to him. And, while I took Staal to task before, Lang's goal around him was quite purty. Not only did he take the kid's jock strap away, he stashed it in the upper corner of the Ranger net, along with the puck.