Wednesday, February 4, 2009
29-18-5: Special Night Ruined By Hockey Game
It looked like there were a thousand or so people who filed out of the Garden after the Adam Graves number retirement. They left the building on a high note having witnessed a heartwarming dedication to one of the best human beings to pull on a hockey jersey.
I was not one of those people.
I wish I was.
The Rangers put together a pathetic effort against the second worse team in the NHL and, if not for Ilya Kovalchuk's idiocy, they would have lost. As my friend Pat mentioned again and again, 'hey, at least we got a point.' Getting a point helps the team tread water before Philly catches up in games played and passes the Blueshirts in the standings. Getting a point will not bring forth change. Getting a point will not make a statement - hey, this team is deeply flawed, DO SOMETHING. But it is all too likely that nothing will be done and we will be forced to sit back and watch a team that spends millions upon millions of dollars and can't score a goal against the squad that has allowed the second-most in the NHL. Terrific. Before I break down in tears, some observations on the evening:
*Adam Graves finally breaking down as his banner went up was the most moving moment of all of the '94 Ranger number retirements. I've been lucky to go to all four and it was by far the best moment of all of them. The toughest Ranger, the guy who put himself through hell to score most of his 367 NHL goals, couldn't bare to watch as the building roared around him and his name and number rose into immortality. Incredible.
*On the other hand, what the hell was that garbage with the cast of the Sopranos? A bunch of loser actors on a show that is already off the air got to march across the ice like they were anyone of importance? The flow of the ceremony came to a screeching halt as those clowns walked out to awkwardly give Graves some gifts. And if that Van Zant guy could make it up from the Super Bowl in Tampa to take part in this, why couldn't Bruce Springsteen show up to hand Graves his guitar personally??
*How sad is it that, in all likelihood, there isn't a single Ranger on the current roster who will get their number retired?
*Steven McDonald showed up to honour Graves and got his usual warm reception from the Garden crowd. But the best part, to me, was after the game started. During a break, they showed McDonald iceside and not only did the fans cheer again, but Kari Lehtonen also banged his stick on the ice and waved. That is class.
*Lehtonen had a pretty good game but he had it pretty easy. On a night where the focus was on a player who battled for every inch of ice and crashed the crease, the Rangers allowed the awful Atlanta defense to keep them out of good scoring areas and away from rebounds. Most of the best Ranger shots just missed the far post wide and ended up out of the zone.
*Nik Zherdev actually skated hard but it came to no avail. He seems to have completely lost his scoring touch. Aside from his multitude of aborted rushes and off-the-mark passes, it was astonishing how a player with his arsenal of moves could just say screw it and crank a 60 mile an hour shot right at the goaltender during the shootout. What a cop out.
*The "size" reasoning that Tom Renney uses to justify putting Aaron Voros in the lineup is not just wearing thin, it has worn out and the roadburn is killing us. How a team that can't score is keeping a scorer like Petr Prucha on the shelf for this oversized idiot is inexcusable. Voros did nothing all night outside of taking a bad penalty. For all of his size, he gets pushed around and gets knocked out of scoring positions. Not like he could score once in them, what with those cement hands.
*They say that Artem Anisimov has good hands, but we sure as hell didn't see them. My buddy the Sarge pointed it out early that Anisimov was a stiff and I would have to agree. Perhaps it was nerves but the kid never seemed comfortable and the only noticeable thing he did was get crushed on the boards.
*As for the other addition to the Ranger roster, Erik Reitz, I guess he had a decent debut. He didn't play terribly and was not noticed for most of the night (a good thing for a defenseman). The one time he did get attention, Reitz had put himself out of position to lay down a big hit and got into a losing fight against Nathan Oystrick. There is room for improvement.
*Rozy ... seriously, WTF? Even Wade Redden made some nice defensive plays. What the hell happened to the Czech? Did his game go to Siberia with Jagr?
*Plenty of people complained when the fourth line was out on the ice but, as always, I have to defend them. Blair Betts and Freddie Sjostrom consistently used their speed to put the Thrashers on their heels and Colton Orr was the only Ranger forward to use his body. Granted, the likelihood of them scoring is slim, but at this point you can say the same thing for the money pits that are Chris Drury and Mexican't Scott Gomez.
*I would have included Markus Naslund in there but he did score the equalizer. Of course, the Atlanta defense just decided to step aside and watch the last play of regulation but a goal is a goal.
*I seem to have used "but" a lot in this and I think it is because for every good thing with this team, there is something equally bad or worse that goes with it. There are few things that stand alone in the black.
*One of them is the bottom line for the Rangers. They had to make a ton of money as the merchandise flew off the shelves. When I finally went to try to get a program, shirt and hat during the second intermission, all three were sold out. Another late shopper phrased it best - "Recession? What recession?"
*As Graves mentioned, John Davidson was in the building. I saw him downstairs after the game and he was graciously posing for pictures with Ranger fans. He laughed as someone begged him to trade us Barret Jackman, and he gave me a 'oooo' look and a smile when I sarcastically said thanks for trading us Christian Backman.
*Now have to admit that it was fantastic for the fans to do a "Potvin Sucks" chant during the ceremony - it was perfect timing and even Gravey had to laugh. But to do it 10 more times during the game against Atlanta was just idiotic.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Henrik Lundqvist - 21 saves.
2-Slava Kozlov - shootout goal.
1-Kari Lehtonen - 39 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Matt Schneider - Probably the best of the blueliners from Blueland.
2-Lehtonen - Solid effort and a showing of class. Nice work.
1-Adam Graves - No explanation needed.