In the seminal movie Animal House, John Belushi turns to Flounder after Flounder's uncle's car has been wrecked beyong belief and utters perhaps the soundest words that every Ranger fan should abide by: "My advice to you is to start drinking heavily."
Because alcohol is about all that can make watching hockey at MSG tolerable right about now. The team is a rudderless ship stuck in the doldrums of mid-winter hockey. How a squad that can put up 14 goals in two games a week ago can lose all that momentum and collapse so completely is the fault of the so-called leadership. From the Stealth GM (thanks Ranger Pundit) to the Screamer coach to the Little Leaguer captain, this team doesn't have anyone who can pick the team up, say 'let's go' and carry them to victory.
Sather is an unfriendly ghost who appears in public about as often as Haley's Comet. Tortorella would rather tangle with beat writers than tangle with the issues plaguing his team. Marian Gaborik has the skills but not the means to carry the team on the ice. Ryan Callahan has the means but not the reputation. Chris Drury has the reputation but not the skills nor the means. This team, as it's built, is better off being razed than being patched before the deadline. There are no players available that can completely change the losing identity of the team. The change needs to start at the top and it needs to happen soon.
Without the leadership pointing the team in the right direction, they have become awash in lackluster play. Their leaders aren't leading, their stars aren't starring, and their role players are being stuck in roles beyond their means. That Enver Lisin and Arty Anisimov are playing on a plane high above that of Vinny Prospal and Marian Gaborik is just horrifying.
I don't want to belittle the Canes because they did what they had to to win; all credit given to them for the victory for the simple reason that they didn't shoot themselves in the foot. They gave the Rangers some chances but they allowed their goaltender to see the puck and the goaltender stopped the puck. 37 times. Admittedly Cam Ward made maybe a half dozen saves that were really quite impressive - side to side slides, quick gloves or that stick sweep that had half the arena crying for replays. Six, out of 38 shots against. His counterpart wasn't as lucky. Henrik hardly saw the shots that went past him and when he did, it appeared that he couldn't be bothered to stop them - that second goal? Ugh! Even a hungry donkey will stop going after the carrot if the load he is pulling is too great.
Very quick notes:
*Tom Renney and John Tortorella couldn't be more different in terms of temperament and primary coaching philosophy. So why do both juggle as much as clowns in the circus? Torts follows Renney in arbitrarily changing the lines multiple times over the course of a game? If he can't figure out what works through the first, sayyyyy 50 games of the season, what makes him think that putting different people over the boards now is going to strike gold?
*The old hockey adage is that your team is most vulnerable in the five minutes after they score a goal. When it comes to the Rangers, it has been the next minute (singular) in the last two games. Again, it comes back to leadership as these guys are complacent even for a second and the opponent jumps all over it.
*Ales Kotalik, welcome back to the lineup. Games may change but the story remains the same - loved the turnover that led to a shorthanded Carolina breakaway. Clown.
*Why did Hank start? If the franchise really thought he deserved to get some rest this season, starting Chad Johnson would have been a much wiser move for a home game against the Canes. And, frankly, NueveSies would have been much better. There are no excuses for three of the five goals Hank allowed.
*How does Wade Redden spend time stuck on the bench while Drury keeps getting regular shifts? MDZ was atrocious but at least he has the excuse of youth and overuse - the veterans have been horrid all their Ranger careers.
*Anyone else get some perverse satisfaction in seeing reverse carpetbagger Aaron Ward writhing on the ice in pain?
*Far less than a full Garden tonight but luckily not many Carolina fans. A smattering of Hartford jerseys and you can't begrudge them their fandom. Hartford? The Whale? That is hardcore.
*How do the refs call playing with a broken stick on a Cane when a Ranger blatantly did it a period earlier and skated off scot free?
*How pathetic is it that people still clap when the Rangers get power plays? When I see an opposing player skate into the penalty box, all I can think is 'no shorties, no shorties, please no shorties...'
*I said it in Peepin' Foes and stick to it - Eric Staal is playing up to the responsibility that the captaincy brings him. Making the switch from Rod Brind'Amour to Staal was a great move by Carolina management; too bad it happened two months too late to make a difference.
*I sit next to a season ticket holder of 20 years who happens to hate the Rangers; he is a Flyer fan who just happens to live in NY. But even he said that he was sick of seeing the Rangers skate into the zone with one hand on their stick, only to lose the puck.
*The Garden ice has a terrible reputation, one that is quite deserved, but it must be pointed out that both teams have to skate on it. So how is it that the Rangers are the ones that seem incapable of connecting on the majority of their passes?
*Free tee shirts for those who attended the game! Nice to see a real giveaway at the Garden. Sad to see a less than real NHL hockey team.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Sergei Samsonov - two goals.
2-Eric Staal - two goals.
1-Cam Ward - 37 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Tom Kostopolis - The Carolina tough guy collected two assists and killed penalties. Not that that is a big achievement against the Ranger power play, but to see a fighter capable and trusted to do that is impressive.
2-Ward - That reach-back sweep was pretty awesome.
1-Eric Staal - If giving him the captaincy is all it took to get him to step up his game, perhaps the Ranger C should go to his little brother? Actually, I want it to go to Cally but Marc wouldn't be a bad alternative. Any of the real Rangers would be better than Drury or the other old, overpaid mercenaries.