Saturday, October 16, 2010
1-1-1: That Looked Familiar
The Rangers encapsulated their entire 2009-10 season in one game tonight when they lost in overtime to Toronto, 4-3. They got off to a great start, thudded through a horrible middle, battled like hell at the end before blowing it. Their best players were invisible outside of Hank and they were saved by their grinders before everyone fell just a little short. That being said, there were some differences. The defense in the second period was the worst I have ever witnessed by the Rangers ever. Ulanov, Quintal, Pilon, Poti, Malik, Redden ... the six Blueshirt blueliners as a corps were a disaster. Injuries didn't really effect the Rangers last year and this night saw both Gabby and Dru go down. Let's just jump into it:
*Every "entertainment" decision made by the Garden brass was wrong. They did individual player intros, but ignored all of the scratches until the end as an afterthought. They dug up Ace Freeley to poorly sing a old song no one wanted to hear. On the heels of that, with everyone just wanting the puck drop, they took 10 minutes trying to describe the life and times of Lester Patrick. Lester's importance can't be summed up that quickly and it just sounded like droning in the wake of the warbling Freeley. Having two of his grandkids - both of whom work for other NHL teams - drop the puck was nice, if only to see Drury win a faceoff - but really, Craig Patrick helped build the Cup-winning Penguins, I don't care about his bloodline. The so-called celebrity sightings were droll - Ronny Turiaf, Pat Ewing Jr., Liam Neeson? Really? A bunch of gymnasts jumping around on a trampoline? What does that have to do with hockey? Where are the little kids? And what the hell was the guy playing an off-tune electric violin to Led Zeppelin? Tied 3-3 with seven minutes left, let's watch Dancin' Larry! Ugh! Not to mention that the music during warmups was atrocious. Dance remixes of Metallica? What the f...???? The Rangers ignored the most obvious thing - the fans were there to watch hockey, not for any kind of other entertainment.
*From a Garden regular and an admitted curmudgeon, I thought the fans were horrible - a lot of people with no clue at their one game of the year filling the concourses and getting in the way. And Potvin Sucks, we know. Woo hoo, you all know a chant. Congrats. As the team is trying to claw their way back from a 3-1 deficit against Toronto? Completely unnecessary.
*I will give them some credit as I wasn't the only one to applaud when the Rangers finally reached double digits in shots. Toronto, the second worst team in the league last year, completely dominated the Blueshirts in the second period. That marks two games in a row where the Rangers were outworked by a younger, hungrier, less skilled team. Unacceptable.
*It is easier to pick out the players who deserve accolades than the ones who deserve lashings. Brian Boyle came up with a pair of seeing-eye shots that went in for goals - just like the one he scored during preseason. Amazing how the grinder knows just to throw the puck on the net and see what happens while so many of the skill guys are blind to it. Brandon Prust saw only nine minutes of ice time and was arguably the best Ranger on the ice outside of Hank - and I called that he would fight Brown btw. Lundqvist was the only reason the game wasn't 7-1 by the third period. Ruslan Fedotenko had another quietly solid game while his linemate Sean Avery was, well, Sean Avery. He busted his ass, missed wide open chances, set up other scoring chances, let his emotions get to him, got screwed by the refs, made terrible turnovers, made nice checks ... he was involved.
*Speaking of the refs, as was pointed out to me the other day, a team shouldn't put themselves in a position where the officiating can play a role. And I have to agree. The Rangers should have been smarter and better - that goes without saying - but the refs were pretty bad. Missing obvious calls, calling borderline infractions, stopping fights, and I particularly enjoyed the linesman not bothering to move before kicking the puck to the Leafs to set up their second goal.
*I admittedly have yet to see Avery hacking Mike Komisarek's ankle on replay. But how does a guy go from shuffling along the ice looking like he would never walk again to skating off smiling and skating the next shift?
*Now that Dru and Gabby are out, how do you replace them? You move Gilroy to the wing - he simply can not play defense - and you hope Erik Christiansen is good to go. To my knowledge Kennedy can't come back without waivers, Zuccarello just scored his first North American goal so he isn't ready, Grachev isn't ready. Byers is the Hartford captain, Weise is not a scorer, Kelsey Tessier is tearing things up for the Whale but he is not a NHL player ... my buddy Eric floated the idea of BIll Guerin but I just don't see it. I think they make due with Christy and White for now.
*The Rangers were desperate for a change of fortune in the second period and yet 1- Torts never called timeout and 2- Derek Boogaard did nothing. Says a lot about both.
*I could go on about the top lines and how disappointing they all were too but it just isn't worth it. The only thing I will point out is that you could nearly see Stepan shaking in his first Garden game. Let's hope that those jitters worked themselves out tonight and he will be good to go Monday, because if tonight's Devil game is any indication, Colorado will be one tough opponent.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Sean Avery - two assists.
2-Brian Boyle - two goals.
1-Phil Kessel - two goals and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - The King made 34 saves and was under siege most of the night. He probably could have stopped one or two of the ones that went in but he gave the Rangers a chance to win when they clearly did not deserve it.
2-Tyler Bozak - Bozak dominated in the faceoff circle and collected a pair of assists. He is still goalless on the season but he is contributing to Toronto nonetheless.
1-Kessel - The man is a sniper, what can you say? Too bad he didn't come through when Team USA needed him in Vancouver.