Friday, December 24, 2010
20-14-2: Not Such A Happy Holiday
The Rangers lost to the Lightning last night 4-3 after a 11 round shootout. It was a disappointing, sloppy loss that was perfect for the audience. Much of the Garden faithful had sold off their season tickets for the night, leaving a 'just happy to be here' holiday crowd.
There was none of the bitterness, none of the waiting for the next shoe to drop, none of the inherent disappointment that is usually present. Perhaps that is because there was little of the usual level of puck knowledge. The building cheered for the most minor of achievements (look at Arty rolling around the ice! Look at Frolov blow a chance on the doorstep! Woo!) and it was utterly delighted to watch the stupid skills competition determine the outcome. And it chanted Potvin Sucks well over a dozen times and delighted in Dancing Larry's tired, annoying antics.
Admittedly it was an interesting change from the norm but, honestly, thank goodness Christmas comes but once a year.
*The Rangers pulled out a classic from their playbook: they made a bad goaltender look good. Joey McDonald, Rick DiPietro, Scott Clemmensen, Dan Ellis. It was the second time the Blueshirts turned Ellis into Vezina - the first being a 37 save performance when he was with Nashville. They took too many shots from the perimeter and were in ill position to take advantage of the rebounds.
*Why we can't have a capable, or at least competent, defensive corps is beyond me. People love to say that we Ranger fans love to have a goat on defense but that is entirely not the case; we are just consistently saddled with at least one utterly incapable, pillow soft sieve. Michal Rozsival put the team behind the eight ball with his early feed to Marty St. Louis and Tortorella inexplicably rewarded him with a team high 25:33 of ice time and an attempt in the shootout. Are you freaking kidding me? Rozsival had a strong start to the season - no denying that - but he then got hurt (again) and has since returned to his atrocious self. It is even more painful as Steve Eminger had stepped up his game while Rozy was out and, now that the Czech is back, has returned to the sub-par level that he started at. So instead of having at least one of them being capable NHL defensemen, we are stuck with a pair of underachievers.
*Why Brandon Prust didn't get an attempt in the shootout was beyond me. A friend pointed it out - the guy has five goals this season, three shorthanded. And he was left on the bench in lieu of Rozsival (two goals, none in his last 20 games) and Chris Drury (none in his five games this year).
*Well, I sure hope that this loss doesn't ruin Dru's Christmas. That would just be sad, a captain who would be upset that his own personal failure screwed his team out of a much-needed point against a conference rival.
*The NHL needs to do something, anything, to try to get teams to play to win in overtime. Because when Tortorella is putting Fedotenko and Drury out on the ice on a four-on-four, you know he isn't trying to win the game. Dru was out there for 1:34 of the five minutes despite having three game winning goals in his last 163 games (just one of which came in OT, vs. Chicago on Jan. 16, 2009).
*People have been harping on Sean Avery not being Sean Avery but he continues to work hard. At this point he has pretty much played alongside the entire roster, getting little stability in his linemates or his role. How is he expected to achieve when saddled with Todd White and Erik Christensen? Mr. Softie is at least proving to be a shootout specialist but White is a waste of space. Perhaps Sather is afraid of Dolan's wrath should he bury another big contract in the minors. At least Prospal will take his spot soon, but who knows how that veteran will play seeing as he sucked the second half of last season himself.
*Mats Zuccarello Aasen made his debut and fared quite well, but he also showed he is a not-ready-for-primetime player just yet. MZA, who scored in the shootout, showed great hands, good instincts and a good drive - battling through checks and laying a few hits himself. But his play away from the puck was quite lacking, something that more time in Hartford should improve. MZA actually looked good on the point on the power play for the few seconds he was out there but, at even strength he needs to realize that he simply can't stand around waiting for the puck.
*Matt Gilroy earned himself another game or two with an adequate performance. He definitely seemed more comfortable than he had been, perhaps because he was paired with the rock-solid Mike Sauer.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Ryan Malone - shootout-winning goal.
2-Alex Frolov - one goal.
1-Martin St. Louis - one goal and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Derek Stepan - His third period equalizer was a thing of beauty.
2-Pavel Kubina - A Czech defenseman who doesn't pass to the other team? Who is remotely capable in his own zone? Who actually contributes to his team's offense? Whatwhatwhat? After years and years of Malik and Rozsival, just kinda figured that all Czech defensemen were incompetent.
1-St. Louis - The mighty midget is super fast, super skilled and super smart. We can only pray that at least one of our undersized young stars (MZA, Ryan Bourque, Christian Thomas) turns into a player nearly as good as him.