Friday, April 3, 2009
40-29-9: Yet Another Letdown
For every thrilling game the Rangers played this season, they followed it up with an utterly disappointing loss: a 3-2 shootout win over the Pens, then a 6-2 trouncing by the Canadiens (Dec. 3 and 4); a 5-4 battle over the Isles, then a 2-1 loss to the Caps (Dec. 29, Jan. 3); a 3-2 overtime win against the Hawks, a 3-0 loss to the Pens (Jan. 16 and 18); a 5-3 stabbing of the Sabres, a 2-1 loss to the Sens (Mar. 21 and 22).
And now a 3-0 shutout of the Devils that is bookended by a 4-2 loss to the Canes. As regular readers know, I believe that it comes down to the leadership and personality makeup of the team. These guys, with Drury as their captain, simply don't have the killer instinct. When the game was tied 2-2 I was just waiting for the breakdown to happen and - surprise, surprise - it did.
First a simple crossing play on the right wing boards gets Chad LaRose a step ahead of Borat and then Markus Naslund thought he was killing a penalty and waved his stick at Rod Brind'Amour. Two times the Rangers don't play the body and stick with their men, two times the puck ended up behind Hank.
There were plenty of opportunities for the Rangers to get the edge before the hurricane struck - a puck goes through Gomez's legs in the slot, Avery misses a one-timer from the doorstep - but the Blueshirts never had the momentum, never maintained any pressure and never truly gave themselves a chance to win.
*Granted, the lack of momentum and pressure had a lot to do with the parade to the penalty box that set the mood for the night. The officiating decided to share the limelight with the players and called everything they saw for the first period. It is not a terrible thing that Dunkin' Donut Koharski is retiring, one can only hope that Steve Kozari follows.
*On that note, how do they not call something during the second period tussle between Antropov and Tim Gleason? Gleason threw down his gloves to start a fight. Sean Avery dropped a glove when he was being tossed around by David Clarkson last game without showing any hostility and got a roughing call while Gleason drops both of his mitts and throws a punch but escapes unscathed.
*Tuomo Ruutu deserved a dive on the Girardi penalty that set up the first goal of that game. He sold a soft hit and the refs bought it. That simple. Horribly sad, but true. Even with four officials clogging up the ice, they still miss much. And, by the way, Ruutu is as much of a dirtbag as his idiot brother. They are cases number one and two why the instigator penalty should go away.
*The Ranger penalty kill was fantastic as per usual. The Carolina power play goal came on a screen where Paul Mara picked up the far man while Marc Staal stood watching his brother - just like he did on the Canes second goal - and allowed Chad LaRose to get loose to tip in a tally. Freddie Sjostrom and Bettsy were both stellar and neither one has a contract for next season. Just something to point out.
*Stat of the night: Colton Orr - five shifts, 3:10 of ice time. Yes, he took an iffy penalty (his stick snapped on a hit and Jussi Jokinen tripped over a broken piece of it) but Orr has gone from a solid contributor to a virtual nonentity. For a team that has trouble playing the body and playing physical hockey, this is clearly a mistake. Carolina was never scared to go to the net, to battle in the tough areas and it showed as they were free to move the puck around the Ranger zone much of the night.
*Hank, who took that scary as hell hit by Ruutu early on, rarely came to the top of his crease and it cost him on those long distance shots. I mean, he usually plays deep but he seemed too scared to challenge the shooters - he just sat back and waited for the defense to fall apart in front of him.
*Wade Redden. Wade "Out and Drown" Redden. Played just a hair over 20 minutes, six of which on the power play. The special unit has been awful all season long. Redden has seen a ton of time on the special unit all season long. Coincidence? I think NOT!
*Congrats to Corey Potter on his first NHL goal - it was a beautiful shot through traffic. He didn't panic when he got the puck, he saw where he was, took a step and let loose a heavy shot that went past Ward. Nice work kiddo.
*The other Ranger goal was scored by Dan Girardi which begs the question, where was Zherdev, Antropov and Drury? Avery, Callahan and Gomez kept creating chances, Naslund is nothing more than a body in a jersey at this point and Dubi was inexplicably limited in ice time (even though he nearly scored twice that I counted). So again I ask, where was Zherdev, Antropov and Drury? Around 56 minutes played and 0 quality scoring chances from them.
*OT - The Bronx Is Burning was a terrible show on ESPN that no one watched. Why is MSG promoting it so hard? Is it a pathetic attempt to deflect the fact that they will have no programming between May and September?
*Anyone else find it funny that Sam and Joe managed to catch the lone shift played by Dwight Helminen? That may have been the only amusement I got out of this game and it may only get worse heading into Boston on Saturday. For all of the terrible play, you have to admit that this final stretch has made for some edge-of-your-seat hockey ...
*PHW Three Stars
3-Ray Whitney - two assists.
2-Eric Staal - one goal and one assist.
1-Chad LaRose - two goals.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Dennis Seidenberg - Joe Corvo played 27 minutes but I think Seidenberg was just a hair better in the Carolina zone. Sure Cam Ward had 36 saves, but he really didn't have to work all that hard as Seidenberg helped steer the rebounds away.
2-Staal - Eric wins this round of the battle of the brothers.
1-LaRose - It seems like LaRose does something right during every Hurricane game I watch. Tonight he did a lot of things right - he hit, he killed penalties and he went to the net.