Sunday, November 29, 2009
13-12-1: The Inevitable Failure
My buddy Eric, a season ticket holder himself, made the statement tonight that "the Rangers take the fun out of hockey. It's not fun, it is not enjoyable watching this team. They make me hate hockey." Strong words from a diehard fan but you know what? I can't fault him for it. Glen Sather used our hard-earned money to build a fundamentally un-sound squad full of mercenaries who have no chemistry and seemingly no pride. How it took until the end of the game and the near-decapitation of Arty Anisimov for these guys to show a spark is inexplicable and inexcusable. Sure they drew back to within one twice but the final result was never in doubt.
We knew that Steve Valiquette was prone to mental slips - as the horror shows against Toronto and Dallas year proved - but to see it against a divisional rival is just disgusting. Three goals in four minutes to completely turn a 1-0 lead on the road into a 3-1 hole and whatever you call the third period debacle is simply unacceptable. Valley may be a helluva guy, as the Ice Hockey in Harlem folks said when they honoured him, but he is not a good goaltender. His save percentage is well, well below .900 and the players don't step up their play in front of him, as most teams do for their backup.
He certainly shouldn't have started but that wasn't his call to make, that was Tortorella's. This marks the second time this season that the coach started Hank in a game he shouldn't have, overlooking the looming, tougher opponent. First we were torn apart by the Sharks, now we let the Pens march right over us. This team should get used to be walking on because it won't be long before we are the doormat of the East. At least we will get a lottery pick ...
You can only partially blame Valley for the mental mistake that was the Mark Eaton goal. After Hobey scored to bring the Blueshirts back within one at 3-2, Eaton killed the Ranger rally with a goal with 0.4 seconds left in the second period while the Rangers stood around waiting for the buzzer to sound. But then Vally went out and fell apart in terrible fashion after the Rangers opened the third with a goal. First there was the ridiculous flopping on the second Cindy goal, then he simply missed Pascal Dupuis' shot with his glove and didn't even flinch when Crosby's third goal of the game and Kris Letang's tally sailed past him.
There are four young goaltenders in the organization - perhaps it is time one of them is given a shot to show what they've got in the NHL. And if not, why not a free agent? Kevin Weekes surely still has the itch. Hell, Curtis Joseph never officially retired, why not? He couldn't possibly be worse than Valley (shhh Leaf fans, shhhh. I'm making a point).
*You knew that this was going to be a night of asinine mind games from Tortorella when he put Drury/Brashear/Voros out for the back end of the power play in the opening minutes of the game. Pittsburgh opens the door to let the Rangers score and Tortorella puts out three guys who stare at the house. From there on out, Torts jumbled the lines - to hell with chemistry, it's overrated - and kept Enver Lisin on the bench. It was like Gene Hackman in Hoosiers, "My team is on the floor." Better to lose the game to send the message. But Gene Hackman won in the end. Torts has been around for 54 games and hasn't won a thing. Thus far his big message seems to be that he demands respect he doesn't deserve, the captain of a sinking ship.
*The on-ice captain, Chris Drury, is utterly useless and unless something miraculous happens, will go down as the worst player to wear the C in Ranger history. Look at the list of captains, it's not even close. Brian Leetch was a terrible captain but was great Ranger before he donned the letter. Even Kelly Kisio came close to averaging a point per game.
*After the NFL Network flap during the Broncos game, will MSG offer a public apology for keeping the on-ice microphones up, allowing everyone hear Bill Guerin yell "fuck off" twice loudly when he was called for hooking in the early minutes of the second period?
*I was also watching Hockey Night In Canada (Caps/Habs) and during the Hotstove segment Mike Milbury mentioned that he once had made a deal with the Rangers to trade Ziggy Palffy for five million dollars. Palffy was an Islander from '93-'99 and Milbury likely wasn't to trade him in his first two seasons and the Isles finished in last the next three so that means that Ziggy could have come to the Garden to skate alongside Gretzky. Could you imagine?!?
*Also in the 'only in our dreams' section, the Pens gave away hats to their fans! Remember when the Rangers used to do that? But that was before the lockout made hockey more fan-friendly. Of course, the Pens fans gave them all back when Cindy got his third, but still, I would love the chance for a new hat. You know none of these Rangers will post a hat trick, so we will get to keep our treats.
*Anyone else notice Ryan Callahan in the first period when Avery was called for goalie interference? Avery was on the boards with several Pens closing in on him and Cally had his arms out keeping them away. Cally must have been auditioning for bouncer for Warren 77 since this hockey thing isn't the most appealing profession right about now. And, to his credit, he tangled with the Cookie Monster later and landed a few punches before Cooke did him a favour by grabbing him in a bear hug to end the hostilities before Cally got hurt.
*MSG's headhunter camera caught a battle between Gabby and Brooks Orpik early on that was a thing of beauty. Orpik stood up the Ranger sniper and didn't give him more than a few feet of room from the time he crossed the Penguins blueline until the puck was cleared. That is what a defenseman is supposed to do and the Rangers don't have a single defender capable of doing that. Staal was like that for a few minutes last season against Ovie but that was a wonderful exception to the post-lockout rule that the Ranger defense has to be soft and lazy in their own end.
*Speaking of soft and lazy, when MSG showed Brashear in the penalty box after he went after (and barely got) Cooke himself, there was a Ranger fan sitting nearby wearing a No. 6 jersey. Wade Redden, we don't miss you. At all.
*Gina Malkin tied the game at one after the Rangers iced the puck and were forced to keep Aaron Voros on the ice. With Voros scrambling around chasing Crosby, Chris Higgins watching the play from the hash marks, Brashear wondering why the ground was so cold and the light so bright without fire and MDZ and Gilroy trapped behind the goal line, Malkin was able to dunk the puck past Valley. The first of many failures by the Blueshirts on this night.
*Even worse was Crosby's goal but I have come to realize since the lockout that the Rangers feel no need to actually cover one of the best players in the NHL so seeing Cindy skate past Chris Drury was not surprising. Dru gave Sid all the time in the world on the very next play, allowing him to find Max Talbot alone for another easy goal past Valley to make it a 3-1 game.
*You can blame the Talbot goal a little bit on Avery for letting his man go, but if you do that then you have to give Avery credit for causing chaos in front of Fleury to allow Hobey Gilroy to score to make it a 3-2 game. Who would have thought that having a Ranger working the paint would be a good thing?!?
*Avery also had a helluva pass to Rozy for the defenseman to score the third Ranger goal of the game. Granted, Valley gave that goal right back with the aforementioned awful fish-out-of-water flopping but hey, Rozy scored.
*Marc Staal scored a gorgeous goal to open the night's scoring. Who in the world, outside of the Staal family, thought he was capable of scoring like that? We had always hoped, prayed, dreamed, imagined that there was an offensive dimension to his game but to carry a man on his back and shoot the puck in on his backhand like that was pretty damned impressive. So we have that going for us, right?
*PHW Three Stars
3-Brooks Orpik - two assists.
2-Evgeni Malkin - one goal and one assist.
1-Sidney Crosby - three goals and two assists.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Avery - He scored, he set up a goal, he hit people and he jumped Ruslan Fedotenko. Sure there was no reason that we saw for him to do it, but that's Sean Avery. Welcome back dude.
2-Crosby - You know how painful it is for me to put Cindy here? But five points can't be denied.
1-Valley - Another goaltender might have made it difficult for the Pens to score eight goals.