Thursday, November 18, 2010
10-8-1: Bruins BeDevil Rangers
The Rangers attempted to celebrate their so-called 85th anniversary - 84 years and a day after their first-ever game - against the Boston Bruins and failed, losing 3-2. When the Rangers debuted they played a rough-and-tumble 1-0 affair against the Montreal Maroons. On this night the Rangers weren't rough, and they tumbled at the feet of a Claude Julien classic.
Tim Thomas was the first star and is sure to draw many accolades but the truth is he had very little to do with Boston's victory. Thomas made one tough save out of his 34, and it came off of a bad bounce that somehow got behind him. The Rangers got off shots in low percentage areas and couldn't/were unable to follow them in. There were virtually no second chances, and every time a puck was thrown through the slot it was either easily cleared or just cruised through to the other side because no Ranger was there. Julien's team clogged the middle of the ice and the Blueshirts weren't talented enough to or couldn't/wouldn't battle through them.
The officiating wasn't kind to the Rangers - Gaborik was molested several times - but it wouldn't have mattered if the calls had been made as the power play was atrocious. The Rangers had a double minor and didn't get a single shot off over the first three minutes. The first shot taken, by Brandon Dubinsky, went in. With the game on the line late in the third period they had an extended five-on-three and were grossly incompetent, killing off the time better than Boston could have themselves.
The question is why? Why are the Rangers so horrible with the man advantage? Five on threes, five minute majors ... they stink. Perry Pearn is long gone so what is it? Personnel: their talent, confidence and bravery - namely, the lack of all three. The primary culprit is clearly Michael Del Zotto. John Tortorella, when talking about playing the kids, has said that the team will have to ride the highs and lows that come with playing kids. And that is understandable. But the question is, at what point do you realize that just throwing them over the boards again and again is not doing anything? MDZ is too gunshy to shoot, his passing is predictable and interceptable, he can't carry the puck over the blueline and he can't hold the line once they are inside it. Marc Staal scored a remarkable shorthanded goal last game and was willing to lug the puck on several occasions in this game, and yet he saw one minute with the man advantage while MDZ saw five. It is bad enough that everyone knows the team is trying to set up Marian Gaborik but to telegraph it every single time is just stupid and ineffective - we saw that in the Jagr years. Them aside, no one is willing to Adam Graves/Tomas Holmstrom the crease. In a 'new NHL' that hampers the physicality defensemen are able to use, no Ranger is willing to set up camp at the top of the paint. They stop by for a second but quickly skate out if only to play a part in the passing party. Sidenote: I often yell "Pass it to Hank! He is open!!" and tonight he picked up the assist on the power play goal (a play that did not go through the defenders). Hilarious.
*The heritage sweater is nothing less than beautiful in action. Too bad the team didn't keep the theme going with more old-timey stuff. The music played on this night (especially during warmups) was - by far - the worst of the season. If you are honouring 85 years, why not throw in some fun flapper tunes? The team decided to host a Q&A during the first intermission with some Ranger greats and yet you could hardly hear them as fans milled about. And on the 75th anniversary the Rangers gave away a Canon-sponsored hat with the anniversary logo. On this night the giveaway was a piece of paper - a flimsy, poorly-designed poster with NHLUniforms-esque drawings of the Ranger sweaters in front of a plain, white background. Could the Rangers have tried any less? (The 85th anniversary hats, minus sponsor, was being sold for $30 in the team store.)
*While Thomas was hardly responsible for Boston's win, Henrik's softies helped sink the Rangers. The King gave up a pair of horrible goals and the Ranger offense couldn't bail him out. It was like last season all over again. We are spoiled seeing games like Monday where the King is the best player on the ice; he is human and his teammates should be able to bail out his occasional mistakes. But on this night, just like last season, they couldn't do it.
*Arty Anisimov couldn't have been any less effective if his name was Alex Frolov. Where Dubi and Cally have raised their games to the next level, Arty continues to play on the periphery. He can't win faceoffs, he won't pay the price to score, he just occasionally gets into good spots when the opposition forgets about him. Arty has to be better.
*Frolov is a disgrace. It is easy to see why L.A. dropped him down their lineup. The guy has good size that he doesn't use, he supposedly has good hands but it seems they turn to cement within a few feet of the net and he can't pass worth a damn.
*Erik Christensen has to do some soul searching. Mr. Softie couldn't get anything going offensively with the bigger, physical Bruins filling the ice and lost his job to Derek Stepan to the third period. If Benedict Arnold isn't willing to get his nose dirty and he can't play well enough to hold off a rookie, what good is he?
*Where MDZ showed no signs that he can be better than what he is at the moment, Stepan did. The Badger was woeful in the faceoff circle but his rush with Gabby was a thing of beauty. A few times in the third period Torts had Gabby-Stepan-Avery out as a line and he probably should unite them again in the future. Avery, for his theatrics, is a capable hockey player who can cycle the puck well and is willing to battle on the boards. Sure the line is a bit undersized but if the Rangers aren't facing a Philadelphia, it shouldn't matter.
*Mike Sauer simply can not get the ice time he needs to prove his worth when he is saddled with Matt Gilroy. Hobey was horrid yet again, blah blah same old story. At this point a move to wing surely will be beneficial for his career as the stint in Hartford last season didn't teach the college kid anything.
*Love Brandon Prust and his energy but he struggled. Prust couldn't accept a pass cleanly for the life of him on this night and sooner or later he will have to score. The other Ranger tough guy, Derek Boogaard, was useless and made to look like a clown on several occasions. Zdeno Chara proves that big men are capable of being mobile but Boogey is a clumsy oaf who can hardly skate. Hank was ran (twice) and Gaborik was hooked to death but the Boogeyman was in the lineup and he was intimidating!
*It seemed like the Rangers intentionally avoided getting into it with Fortunate Son Gregory Campbell. Colin's kid was given a lot of space but luckily he isn't very good and couldn't do any damage.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Marian Gaborik - one goal.
2-Tyler Seguin - one goal and millions of remorseful Leafs fans.
1-Tim Thomas - 34 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Andrew Ference - This star could also go to Mark Stuart or Zdeno Chara as all three kept the Rangers away from the good scoring areas and deftly cleared rebounds.
2-Milan Lucic - Missing Link Milan is not the same player he was last year. Lootch certainly appeared to have the game back that made him a Bruin legend in the first place and that will help Boston go far this season.
1-Seguin - The Boston lineup didn't have a hell of a lot of offensive talent but this kid had a lot of it. He sliced through the Rangers with ease and will only get better.