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.