Thursday, March 26, 2009

39-27-9: True Colours Shine Through

No photos for now. Apparently none of the Getty/AP guys travelled with the team so nothing from any stringers has crossed the wire by now (10:30p). I will add some tomorrow if they pop up ...

This afternoon I watched Game 7 of the '94 series against the Devils on the NHL Network. Then tonight I tuned in to the Rangers' must-win match against the Thrashers down in Atlanta. What a contrast. The current team showed their true colours, folding like a cheap suit. I am usually loathe to use the '94 team as a point of comparison but do you think that Keenan or Messier would have let the team relent against a bottom-feeding team of AHL talent?

No, I didn't think so.

A lot of fingers can be pointed in this one, from the pedestrian performance by Marc Staal and Dan Girardi to Brandon Dubinsky not covering Todd White on the game-tying goal to Valley not even flinching as White scored in the shootout. The biggest finger is aimed at John Tortorella as the coach failed for the first time in his tenure. Sure, there have been losses, but Torts let the Rangers take their foot off the gas after going up 4-1 and left the door open for the Thrashers to battle back.

The Rangers had everything to play for but they lost to a team with nothing to lose. That's why they call them spoilers and that's why the Rangers - if they even make the playoffs (which is not looking so good at the moment) - will fail in the first round. Change the coach, change some of the spare parts and the team picks itself up but it is the same team of underachieving slackers who got Tom Renney fired.

Is this an over-reaction? The team did hold on to get a point in the standings and still is in playoff position with seven games left. But what we saw tonight from the Rangers was supposed to have been eradicated with the changes that were made so it is utterly infuriating to see the same ole story again is simply infuriating and utterly unacceptable.

*I do my best to ignore Joe Micheletti as he is a complete and utter incompetent excuse for a colour guy but my buddy Pat reminded me - Joe said that the three-goal lead the Rangers gained was "safe." The so-called professional broadcaster, who called the 6-5 loss in Montreal, should know better.

*Nice goal by Nik Zherdev to officially start the game's scoring, wristing the puck inside the post on a rebound from the high slot. It was a nice shot but did anyone else notice that all five Thrashers were standing around, watching him skate? They were like that for most of the first two periods and the Rangers didn't take full advantage of it. Instead of pouring it on and putting pucks in, they took dumb penalties.

*I said Z officially started the scoring because there was a goal appropriately waved off earlier in the period. While it would have been for Dru to score, he did hit it with a high stick. It was close, but appeared to be the right call.

*It was a questionable call to not use Z in the shootout. How a skill player like that can be left on the bench is stupefying to me.

*Dru didn't let himself get down by the no-goal call and just kept firing. He got himself an assist in the second period when his shot from the left wing that was going wide deflected off of Borat's skate and went in for a power play goal to make it 2-1. Then, just moments later, Dru's open slap shot from the right wing minutes later flew past Hedberg to give the Rangers a two goal lead.

*However, it is hard to give Dru a lot of credit as he is supposed to lead the team and he clearly is not a leader. I just caught a second of his post-game interview and he had the same demeanor as he did during his second intermission interview. I've said it any number of times, the Rangers need a cult of personality to lead them and they don't have one. Is Dru a good hockey player and proven winner? Certainly. But he isn't a leader.

*Valley's red power drink + white away jersey = headache for the equipment manager.

*Speaking of Valley, why the hell did he start? Is there any way the Devils would bench Brodeur around now? How about the Sharks putting Nabokov on the shelf? Luongo? Mason? Backstrom? Theodore? When every win is needed, you need to ride your starter.

*Sean Avery = headache for everyone. And, seemingly, the referees don't want to deal with him. His rep is gone and anything close to a call will be called, like that ridiculous first period interference penalty. Avery came back to draw Kovy into a penalty in the third, but had it been someone else, there would have been more than two minutes called on Kovy. Not only did Kovalchuk crosscheck Avery, but he then chopped at Avery's face as he was down on the ice. That's obscene and suspension-worthy but won't have any repercussions - after all, Avery is fair game in Bettman's NHL. There is nothing more than the league wants than for Avery to go away.

*Kari Lehtonen did get hurt on that first period "interference" play, after being hit by his own teammate. But Lehtonen is made out of glass, he gets hurt by everything.

*This is the problem with the NHL now that there are too many teams - when one of the lesser lights gets eliminated, they populate their roster with half-wit no talent clowns who can hardly play. Sure, there are some stars, but the majority of Atlanta's team does not belong in the NHL and they proved it by hacking, slashing, high sticking and injuring the Rangers. I have no problem with a team playing hard, I have a problem with a team playing recklessly.

*Slightly OT: You know that annoying Optimum Online commercial where the guy has the hockey jerseys of the three local teams talking about their games being available in HD? The Ranger jersey is a Lundqvist, the Islanders is a DiPietro and the Devils jersey? Blank. Hmmm ...

*When Renney ran out of ideas to make the power play successful, he finally grasped at the straw we had all been calling for - putting a forward on the point. Torts is still in the early stages of his tenure but he had Z play the point on the top unit, but that was doomed to fail as the lone defenseman was Wade "Out and Drown" Redden. The special team did score two goals in the second period but the second unit accounted for both. The first unit couldn't do anything right.

*Scott Gomez skated for nearly nine minutes of power play time and didn't do a damned thing. He was on the ice for 26:37, more than any forward in the game and couldn't get past players who couldn't carry his jock in terms of skill or resume.

*One of the good things to come out of this was that Mike Sauer had another fine game. The lone mistake I saw was a giveaway across the Ranger blueline with a few minutes left in the second period. To the kid's credit, he stayed with his man the rest of the play and the Rangers were able to get the puck out with no problems.

*Credit to his partner, Paul Mara, for his fortitude. Mara took a high stick to the face, underwent repairs and returned. He is a real hockey player, unlike Lehtonen.

*Derek Morris played his best game as a Ranger.

*Atlanta had to be pissed as they had a goal waved off in the first period. Valley stopped the initial shot and a Thrasher banged in the rebound - but the ref had blown the whistle early. No whistle rang out in second when Hedberg made the first save and Naslund jammed the puck home. One was a good move by the ref, the other is not. I am a Ranger fan so I won't distinguish which ...

*Given how good the Ranger penalty kill is and how well Colton Orr fights, why wasn't Orr sent out to pick a fight and/or hammer Kovalchuk? Perhaps a physical presence would have helped stop the Atlanta momentum. Just a thought.

*Stat of the game: Atlanta's Rich Peverly won one faceoff. He took 19.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Chris Drury - one goal and two assists.
2-Ilya Kovalchuk - one goal and two assists.
1-Todd White - one goal, one assist and the shootout game-winner.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Zach Bogosian - The 18 year old played with more poise than any of the other defensemen in the game. He played a ton of minutes and never got flustered.
2-White - He is a shifty center with good speed and hockey sense. White put himself into good positions to make or finish plays and let Kovy do the rest.
1-Kovy - He is a game-breaker with All-World talent. Too bad the only player on the Rangers with those qualifications was left on the bench for this game. Perhaps the team will play better against the Pens on Saturday when Hank is put back in the crease.


Anonymous said...

i have to disagree with a lot of that. I would definitely not point the finger at tort, except for playing vally, everything else was vally, or the defense fault. I literally watched staal do nothing as kov swung around and scored and vally but sit and look goofy. A huge star to drury, i dont care if hes not enough of a leader, he played some damn good hockey and almost had two goals, he forchecked, was good on the powerplay and scored, star to him.

I think the rangers can still get in the playoffs with the looks of whose below them, but it might mean playing boston or NJ first round. That crosscheck to avery was worthy of a suspension, and should have been called. I think that the rangers were not sharp, were not focused and vally's last game should have been with buffalo. oh and i also have to disagree with renny getting fired because of his players, because in these past 12 games, we have seen what the rangers are capable of without a coach who doesnt sit on his ass and chew gum; quick note: in the month of february, the rangers won 2 games.

Anonymous said...

Valley really established himself as a backup goalie. Probably should have been pulled on the third goal. Get the strong impression that Torts just doesn't like Z that much and only uses b/c he has to. Same could be said for Avery. What is it with these Ranger coaches and their imfatuations with Dru, Gomez and Naslund.

Duniyadnd said...

I'll disagree with Anonymous #2. Avery got pushed to the first line pretty quickly, considering this is the same coach who said that Avery should not be playing in the NHL period.

As for the game, I had to miss the first two periods (I guess I'm the bad luck charm), but, in a way, I'm glad a game like this came up against the Thrashers (both team and timing). For one, "if" the Rangers make the playoffs and have to face the same opponents, they don't have to get the losing streak out of their system, it's easier playing against a team they beat on a regular basis (case in point, Devils last year).

Also, Tort got quite a few games to fix this issue of letting late goals kill the Rangers morale. He probably learned from this game and knows that come playoff time, he can't implement the stop the puck rule. He has 8 (or is it 9) games to fix all of this, which is actually quite a bit of time, and the team is on an uphill, considering we had a horrendous Jan-Feb 2009 campaign and he's done what I consider a miracle job so far with the players he got.

It's also good that the Thrashers are out of the playoff race, so we didn't really help a team get back in.

On the plus side, 2 power play goals, and Zherdev has scored 3 goals in a row, and Drury actually played really well against a non-Islander team. I think Vally can kiss goodbye to playing time for the rest of this season.

Jessie said...

Yeah, I am sure Torts 'let' them take their foot off the gas *rolls eyes*. It is called turnovers and poor coverage. I am sure that wasn't in Torts' vision.

It is comments like that where you lose credibility as a savvy hockey guy.

The 2 Man Advantage said...

Rangers didn't look like a team that wanted to put Atlanta away last night. The 5 on 3 in the 3rd was pretty pedestrian.

David said...

I don't know why Torts gets the credit he does. Yes, he's more proactive than Renney, but unlike Keenan or Hitchcock, he established this "no nonsense" image with a Tampa team without the egos that the Rangers have. He benched Z for half a game once. What about Gomez for his half-hearted play. What about Redden. Is anyone missing Rozy? Sure, he's injured now, but why not get him off for a couple games before this?

The 5-3 in the first period where the Rangers took a too many men penalty. All Torts. It's out of control, these guys need to be put in line. I think Scotty's right, look at the ice time. Gomez, Naslund, Drury... these are the leaders night after night? Tortorella uses a lot of the same formula as Renney, just in a different package. I think the Rangers will make the playoffs (just because Florida, Buffalo, and Montreal are too inept to make a real playoff push), but will get whooped in the first round.

Scotty Hockey said...

Jesse - as Two Man pointed out, the Rangers never looked like they wanted to put the Thrashers away. Instead of sending out the energy line to cause havoc, Torts kept putting Gomez and company over the boards and watching as they skated into trap after trap. They didn't break through and Atlanta turned the tables with the talent of Kovalchuk. That simple.

Graying Mantis said...

I think the operative word for last night was "infuriating". You used it twice and it came to me as soon as the game ended.

The team will travel as far as the defense and goaltending take it. Last night, both stumbled.

I don't have an issue with Valiquette starting because it's possible Henrik could play the next 30 games in net if the Rangers do have a big playoff run in them. For whatever reason, the team will score early for him but never extend the lead in the 3rd period -- leading to loss after loss with him in net.

I think Roszival's absence was felt because although Sauer was good, his time was limited in the 3rd period and overtime. It seemed to me every time I looked up I saw Girardi against the boards knocking someone over. So he and Staal seemed to be on the ice alot.

Everyone on defense was guilty of misplays and the back checking by the forwards in the 2nd half of the game was not diligent enough.

Let's move on to Saturday. The playoffs officially begin at 1 pm tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

i have read a lot about criticizing tort, how he is not as good as keenan, we have not seen tort in a full season and nobody was expecting for the rangers to win the cup, i think next year, if tort plays his cards right, he is capable of turning this team around

Patrick said...

WOO HOO, I got my reference in about asshole Joe. The moment I heard him mention a 3 goal lead was safe, which was right after he was unsure about a 2 goal lead (the game became 4-1 seconds later), I was about to throw a hockey puck at my tv.
It absolutely amazes me that on the one end, this team is still fighting for their lives and may not make it, and will probably die quickly if they do get in. However, if they would not blow games like this, and the Canadiens 5 goal lead, and try a little harder in OT's, as scary as this sounds, they could be challenging for home ice (#4 seed), and even dare I say the Atlantic. I know it's a stretch, but think of how many other games like this they blew that those missed out extra points could be the difference.
Another great submission Scotty!!!

Anonymous said...

why the hell was valiquette played??? less than 10 games left in the season and hes coming off of a 10 o 2 loss????? and they played him????? really???

Anonymous said...

You play Valley now so you can rest Hank for the Pens, Bruins, and Flyers. You know, really good teams. He played something like 17 in a row. One game of rest against a throwaway opponent makes sense, as the Rangers should have taken this easily (especially with the goalie switch for ATL).

Jessie said...

Yes, simple as that, right.

Most of the goals against were, because of what I already stated--lazy play and poor coverage by the d men.

You need to stop making preposterous claims regarding topics you clearly know very little about (ie. actually running and coaching a hockey team)--your 'the coach has no clue', or 'why isn't the whole core benched' stuff is of middle school proportions