Thursday, November 25, 2010
12-10-1: Torture In Tampa
Judging by the comments for the last game post, I was supposed to be happy with a 2-1 home win over a mediocre team. So should I be despondent - even suicidal - after watching the Rangers lose 5-3 in a game that wasn't nearly that close against a good team?
As the players say, you can't get too high after a win, you can't get too low after a loss. It is a long season (and there are going to be a lotta losses). You just have to hope you can learn game-to-game and build for the future because the Cup is out of the question.
So far, lessons haven't sunk in as team remains maddeningly inconsistent and often infuriating to watch. That being said, there was something heartening in this debacle - when Tampa took their feet off the gas, some of the Rangers took advantage of the slack (Boyle, Stepan, Dubi) and created some offense. Usually it is the Rangers blowing a lead and making things interesting, instead of vice versa. It is just too bad that all of that effort came too late tonight.
*Had the opportunity to view both teams' broadcasts of this game. The Tampa crew - not counting Dave Andreychuk who kept saying "we" when referring to the Bolts - is far less of a homer crew than the Rangers. Micheletti crying how Malone ran over Hank in the second period was asinine when the replay showed Bugsy was shoved into the crease and actually tried to jump over the goaltender. The Tampa guys called the game evenly, and Bobby Taylor's breakdown of how the Ranger defense kept breaking down (body position) was spot on. Loved seeing Micheletti telestrate the back of Brandon Prust's sweater...
*It was amusing to see Hank stay in the crease late in the second period when there was a delayed call on Tampa. Hank waited and waited until MDZ had the puck past the hash marks - it was as if he didn't trust the kid not to score in the Ranger net.
*And who could blame him? Hank watched the defense fail time and time again before that. As mentioned, Taylor pointed out how the Blueshirt blueline let the Bolts get behind them. It happened during the power plays when Tampa was set up in the Ranger zone and it happened off the rush. There were at least four instances off the rush when the Lightning got the edge and the trailing Ranger defenseman shoved them either directly into Hank or into the net behind him. Hank needs to worry about stopping pucks, not players. He isn't Billy Smith, he isn't going to hack and slash to get himself space. The defense has to do it and they continue to fail at it.
*Dan Girardi was on the ice for four of the five goals against, while Staal was for three (Eminger was for two and MDZ one). Not good, not good at all. But, with them failing early and often, it allowed Mike Sauer to get a season-high 18:21 of ice time and he was solid.
*As for the questions about Hank ... well there are questions but not because of his own play. The biggest question is why do the Rangers play better team defense with Biron than they do Lundqvist? They blocked just 11 shots and, as mentioned, let the Bolts buy the good areas of the ice. Just one of the five goals could have been considered a softie (Brett Clark's) and even then it would have been tough to stop as it was tipped in the low slot. The first three goals were all defensive breakdowns and the fifth was a beautiful seeing-eye shot through traffic.
*Mr. Softie the Backstabber - aka Erik Christensen - is not one of the players mentioned earlier that took advantage of Tampa's late lapses. He had the puck on his stick down low twice with chances to score but was easily pushed away. Softie didn't battle and jam away at the puck, he stumbled and let himself get knocked out of position. Pathetic.
*Anyone else catch the irony in Christy getting his clocked cleaned on a (legal) hit and Sean Avery being the one to step up? While it is awful that these guys fight after fair hits, when your team is losing 5-1 and a skill guy gets hammered, it was good to see someone stand up.
*Arty needs to regain that confidence he had earlier this year because he is back to playing on the perimeter. For a kid his size and for a kid with his hands, he can't do that.
*Do you think MDZ made his dinner plans with Stamkos through Mike Smith during that scrum at the final buzzer?
*So what was the point of playing Derek Boogaard in this one? Was it to ensure the Ranger fans would get to see what a good power play looked like? The Bolts don't dress an enforcer and certainly were not discouraged from going hard to the Ranger net by his presence.
*Too bad Chris Drury wasn't playing in this one; he could have repeated his Christmas line from a few years back about how he won't let the loss ruin his holiday. Isn't it nice that the already spoiled Rangers get to spend Thanksgiving in Florida?
*PHW Three Stars
3-Steve Downie - two assists.
2-Ryan Malone - two goals.
1-Steven Stamkos - one goal and two assists.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Malone - Wouldn't it be great if the Rangers had a big body that would be willing to fight for space in front of the net, stay there and have the hands to capitalize on the scoring opportunities that come from that effort?
2-Marty St. Louis - Wouldn't it be great if the Rangers had a agile playmaker who could see the ice so well, carry the puck and set up the sniper?
1-Stamkos - Wouldn't it be great if all of those years of losing had given the Rangers a first overall draft pick with game-breaking skill?