Wednesday, November 10, 2010
7-7-1: Sad Kitty
I don't know about you but I love the Big Bang Theory. Utter hilarity. I bring that up because in it, Penny (the hot chick) sings to Sheldon (the lunatic genius) when he is sick a song called Soft Kitty. The start of it is 'soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur ...' Well, change that to 'happy kitty, shocked kitty, little ball of rage' and you have my emotions after the three periods of the Rangers 5-3 loss to Washington on Tuesday night.
The happiness in the first period came not necessarily from the 2-1 lead but the fact that the Rangers finally, finally stood up for each other. Three times. Brian Boyle went after Jason Chimera after a hit on MDZ, Mike Sauer went after Matt Hendricks after a hit on Steve Eminger and several Rangers jumped on a Cap after he got too friendly with Henrik Lundqvist. It was all that I wanted to see, all that this Ranger team had to do to re-new my faith.
The shock came in the second period when Derek Boogaard scored on a Mighty Ducks-esque knuckle puck. He ran out of gas at the blueline, wound up and fired a slow shot that seemed to dip, throwing off Neuvirth. Even with the puck's movement, how a goaltender who has won the last two Calder Cups and accumulated a 8-3 record entering the night allowed that shot to go in was stupefying. Also stupefying? While his teammates were standing up for each other he was nowhere to be found and didn't even both to tangle with DJ King, one of the only other goons in the league willing to take him on.
And the rage, well that came when the Rangers didn't bother to come out for the third period. All of the fire from the first period was gone and it was blatantly apparent that they were just waiting for the Caps to take the lead. And once they did, the Blueshirts called it a night. They had five shots after Hendricks gave Washington the lead, just one of which came in the final five-and-a-half minutes. Teams are supposed to 'defend the house' and play with an extra level of ferocity on their home ice. The Rangers simply don't do that and, as a fan and season ticket holder, it is utterly infuriating.
Now I didn't get a chance to watch a re-air on tv and am writing this at 6am after a night out but these are my notes - feel free to comment if TV showed/explained something better:
*The Rangers scored three goals, two of which were pretty much flukes - a lucky turnover and quick shot was Boyle's second goal and the atrocity that was Boogaard's shot was, well, highly unlikely. A lot is to be said about the lack of Gaborik but there should be a few other guys on the roster capable of scoring a skill goal. Dubi, Fedotenko, Christy, Frolov ...
*Dubi is a clown, having a meaningless tussle against that faux-hawked clown Mike Green - a meaningless tussle he lost too. As my buddy Eric said, the Rangers missed Dubi far more than the Caps missed Green during the ensuing five minutes and, frankly, the rest of the game. The Pack Line's inability to get a puck in the net sank the Rangers. Arty Anisimov, who seemed to lose the puck the second a brisk breeze hit him, can't win a faceoff if his life depended on it. There were several shifts where they were outworked by Washington's fourth line - which is utterly unacceptable.
*As good as Henrik Lundqvist is - and he was stellar outside of the Erskine goal - he can't win games on his own when he has a bunch of idiots in front of him. John Tortorella, in his infinite wisdom, put MDZ on the ice with Rozsival. His lack of faith in Sauer and Eminger caused the combination as Torts was forced to put Girardi with Staal to handle Ovie's line. So that left the two worst defensemen on the team playing together and it didn't work out. Rozy, perhaps channeling his departed teammate Tom Poti, had his worst game of the season, going -3 while gifting the Caps the go-ahead goal.
*Sadly little can be done about the Czech vet but MDZ needs to be banished to the bus league, and fast. The kid is atrocious in his own zone, his passes are off the mark, he panics with the puck and is often too afraid to shoot the damn thing. This marked the second straight game where the opponent shined a mirror on the Rangers, showing the mistake they made with bringing MDZ into the NHL too soon. Alex Pietrangelo on Sunday and John Carlson tonight were both more rounded, smarter, steadier kids who were drafted in the same class but had an extra season of development. As mentioned here before, if Phoenix's Dave Tippet can send Kyle Turris to the AHL, the Rangers can do it with MDZ.
*Poti, by the way, was nowhere to be found. I had a friend look for my 'old friend' by the press box to try to finally get my "Dear Scotty, I hate you too, love/hugz/xoxo, Tom" autograph, but to no avail. Damn.
*Back to Hank for a second. He gave up the Erskine goal because he was already down in the butterfly when the Washington defenseman took the shot. When Hank loses track of the puck, he tends to drop down to take away the bottom of the net, leaving the top wide open. I mean, it isn't as if Erskine realized that or that he actually tried to go top shelf but that is why he scored.
*If someone find's Sean Avery's jock, please return it to him; Ovie made him look stupid on the Knuble goal. The fact that Avery was out there at all when Ovie was out shows one of the underlining problems with the Rangers now: they don't have a shutdown line. Long gone are the days when Betts, Sjostrom and Orr could be counted to get out there and quiet Ovie or Cindy while the top line took a rest. Perhaps that will change when Drury comes back and Torts jumbles the roster.
*What is it about Washington that makes Torts lose his cool? First the debacle during the playoffs and tonight a senseless 'abuse of officials' penalty? Yes, the referees made questionable calls on Christy and later Girardi but the coach has to cope with it. Acting like a jackass won't get him anywhere (or at least it hasn't since 2004). Luckily he doesn't buy his own talk about accountability so he will be right back at his antics next game.
*It was nice to see Derek Stepan finally get some more ice time, and even a few moments of extra man action. He wasn't perfect (far from it) but he played good minutes and gave it a good effort. We can live with his ups and downs as he grows into a NHL player.
*At this point we can only pray that Marian Gaborik's return will spark Alex Frolov, because the Russian is awful. Some folks, especially after preseason, saw Frolov returning to his 30 goal form. Well, as things are now, we will be extremely lucky if he gets half that.
*I enjoy watching Mike Sauer work and he is only getting stronger as his comfort level raises.
*Caps fans, if you aren't going to have the good sense and decency not to get hammered and act like a jackass in an away arena, at least don't do it while wearing a Semin jersey ... the jokes wrote themselves for one particular double-fisting jerk in my section, who luckily (for him) calmed down before I beat him senseless, threw him down the stairs and had him removed from the arena. Likely in that order.
*There is no shame in losing to Washington - they are a far, far better team - but when you have the lead and can put them on the ropes, well, it's just maddening to see the Rangers piss the opportunity away (night after night after night after night after night after night after night after night after night after night after night).
*PHW Three Stars
3-Alex Ovechkin - two assists.
2-Brian Boyle - two goals.
1-Matt Hendricks - one goal and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Jason Chimera/Matt Bradley - Not a whole lot of skill between the two of them but they are relentless and they make things happen.
2-Boyle - Before anyone goes wild over Susan's seven goals, remember that two seasons ago Aaron Voros had nine points in the eight games starting the season. But, that being said, Boyle's skating has improved and so has his confidence, allowing him to use his body better, to be in better positions and to have no qualms with simply shooting the damned puck.
1-Brooks Laich - Laich is what secondary scoring looks like. Fedotenko has a lot of the same qualities but he just can't get the puck in right now. Hopefully that will change, and soon.