Saturday, April 25, 2009
R1, G5: Coach's Ego Costs Rangers
Siegfried & Roy knew that when they could no longer work with the tiger, it was time to call it quits. No one wants to pay to watch two dorks not be funny. John Tortorella put his head in the tiger's mouth, got bitten and got rid of the tiger. Big mistake, and there was nothing funny about ensuing show, a 4-0 loss to the Caps.
Benching Sean Avery for Game 5 lost the game for the Rangers before the puck was even dropped. Tortorella wanted to send a message and he did - his ego is bigger than his desire to win. Everyone has seen the Rangers record with and without Avery in the lineup; you don't have to be Stephen Hawking (get well soon) to figure out that when the team really needs to win a game, Avery should be in the lineup. He wasn't, and they didn't.
Say what you want about Avery's reoccurring antics: they are reckless, they sometimes injure other players and they put the Rangers at a disadvantage. Quick quiz - how many times has Avery taken a penalty as a Ranger and had it directly cost the team a game? The answer? Zero. In the eight games that the Blueshirts lost since getting Avery back, he took penalties in six of them. And not once did the opposing teams score on the ensuing power play. There were two occasions when the game was tied (one was when he fought Tyler Kennedy) and just once were the Rangers clinging to a lead (against Atlanta on March 26th). In the other losses he may have not helped get the team back in the game but it is undeniable that Avery's indiscretions have yet to directly cost the team a victory.
Sadly the same can't be said for Captain Queeg Tortorella.
Tortorella wants to preach accountability and yet Markus Naslund didn't sit in the skybox for a second after his parade to the penalty box in Game 1. Chris Drury took a bad penalty in Game 3 and the Caps scored on the ensuing power play to essentially kill the Ranger chances and he wasn't benched. Both Scott Gomez and Tortorella himself took penalties to put the Rangers on their heels in the opening minutes and you can be sure both will be back for Game 6. (That is, unless Torts gets suspended for winging a waterbottle into the crowd, but I still haven't seen a good angle of that incident.)
The man preaches discipline, discipline, discipline but I'm not really sure if he knows what it means. It isn't the ability to restrain oneself from taking penalties. In hockey it is the combination of hockey smarts, talent and effort to not place oneself in the position where the referee can call an infraction. Beat the guy to the puck, you don't need to hook or grab him as he goes by. Be responsible with your stick, you won't slash, high stick or trip the guy. Position yourself better, you don't have to crosscheck him. Angle your checks properly and you won't board him.
Sadly on Friday the Rangers showed little of the hockey smarts, talent and effort needed to win and they didn't.
*Even when the Rangers were given a gift, they blew it. How Ryan Callahan didn't get a matching penalty with Erskine at the end of the second period is beyond me. But the Rangers got a power play and did ... absolutely nothing. So typical.
*All season long all I have asked from the maligned unit is to not give up a short handed goal. To the best of my memory, since Avery returned they hadn't. No Avery and Matt freakin' Bradley scores. Coincidence? Perhaps. But it's terrible any way you cut it.
*And the worst part of that goal was not that Rozy fell or shootout specialist Hank gave up a breakaway goal but that Drury game up on the puck, allowing Bradley to blow past him. He made a half-heated chop at it instead of skating through and taking possession or, frankly, hitting it with any kind of oomph. And watching him miss the check on Ovechkin's goal was pathetic. You can only hope that he really is indeed playing severely hurt because otherwise there is no excuse for the captain to be so clumsy.
*Everyone is drooling over that Ovechkin goal and it was kinda pretty but c'mon, how do you celebrate that? As I said over at Japer's Rink, look at who he beat on the way: Zherdev, Morris and Voros. When you think about how good Ovechkin is, that is like you or me skating though a bunch of handicapped children. Would you jump around? Wooo!!! In your face!!! Yippeeeeee! I didn't think so.
*Speaking of the challenged, Joe Micheletti made his best observation to date - pointing out where Alex Semin was positioned on the face off that he scored off of. Of course, Joe neglected to point out that Hank's angle was off and he was already on his knees as the puck hit the top of the post but let's face it, it was a helluva shot.
*Hank allowed his first soft goal of the series, the bad-angle shot that made it 2-0. Like I said before, you can also hang him a little for the first goal but there was no way he was stopping either of the goals by the Alexes.
*He wouldn't of had to try on the Ovechkin goal if the officiating blew the whistle when they should have. You can clearly see Sergei Fedorov kick out Zherdev's leg on the replay. Z tumbled and Fedorov kicked the puck to OV. I mean, it isn't like Zherdev wasn't going to actually do anything with the puck, but a penalty is a penalty and the slew foot clearly was a penalty.
*As MSG showed, Blair Betts did kick the puck back to Semin on the third goal but that was just bad luck. All Bettsy did with Dubi, Sjoey and Cally was get the Washington power play to go 0-7. And a ton of credit has to go to Staalsie and Girardi, were on for around seven minutes of kill time. That is insane. And in a game where the opponent scored four goals, they were the only defensive pairing not to have a goal scored against while on the ice.
*Interesting timing for Colton Orr to finally get angry - 14:14 of the third period. It was just outside of that dreaded last-five-minute-sending-a-message time. It was also way too little, way too late but that likely goes back to the incompetent coaching.
*At this point all you can hope for is that Torts hasn't blown the series. He surely sent the wrong message to Sean - he benched him and the team lost. Sam Rosen even said at the 13 minute mark of the second period that 'the Rangers sure need a spark' or something to that effect. But perhaps Avery will show he is the better man and come out like gangbusters on Sunday. If not, the Rangers are finished.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Simeon Varlamov - 20 saves.
2-Alexander Ovechkin - one goal.
1-Matt Bradley - two goals.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Girardi/Staal - These kids are getting better and better. Too bad the coach won't give them a chance on the power play because they surely can excel there as well.
2-Bradley - Even as an opposing fan, you have to love when guys like this score. hard work pays off kids.
1-Tortorella - His personnel selection, both in his roster and on his power play - gave Washington the win as much as anything the Caps actually did themselves.