Wednesday, January 26, 2011
29-20-3: Inevitable Letdown
It is astounding how a team can look so tough on some nights and so limp others. After surviving the deluge in DC on Monday the Rangers put together a pathetic effort at home against the Panthers tonight, losing 4-3.
It was the same old story, a weak start and a strong finish - one that just wasn't strong enough. Those extra strength finishes are seemingly reserved for road games, because why play desperate when you know you can go drinking after the game? As MZA said on tv on Monday, they couldn't wait to go to Warren 77. The boys must have mentally headed downtown before this one even started as they made the clawless Panthers look like a legitimate squad. Florida had just one regulation win in their last 11 games and had scored more than three goals just once in that same span. Plenty of folks chalked the bad bounces up to the hockey gods but you make your own luck and the Rangers didn't battle hard enough over the first 40 minutes to earn any of their own.
Tomas Vokoun is a good goaltender and for two periods the Rangers let him see every shot he faced. Florida conceded the blue line and the Rangers couldn't mount a cohesive attack. But how can you blame the boys? They are young, they are learning and, for the most part, they are trying hard ... that leaves Tortorella to shoulder much of the responsibility for this one. He didn't instill the hunger for victory at the outset, he couldn't keep them from making the mental mistake of allowing a goal moments after scoring (even if it was offsides) and he made several questionable calls. The man talks so much about consistency but the only consistent thing has been that he can't get his team to play three periods.
*Why in the world would Chris Drury not only get power play time but also see the ice in the waning minutes with the team down a goal? He has no goals and four assists this season and just two power play goals in his last 109 games. Geno Grachev came to the Rangers with six goals in the three games before his recall and he didn't see the ice on the man advantage or in the final 10 minutes of the third period. Well, that makes sense, right?
*What exactly was Arty doing chasing a Panther across the ice -skating directly into Hank's line of sight - during the go-ahead goal? Sure it was unfortunate that the puck was headed well wide before it hit his back and fluttered in, but why was he there in the first place? He wasn't watching the play, he was just chasing a random Panther right through the slot. And his half-hearted attempt at blocking a shot in the first period provided the deflection to beat Hank. If I didn't like him before ...
*And if you disagree with me on that, you are going to hate this: if Michael Del Zotto never wears a Ranger jersey again, I won't be sad. Over a year and a half he has not gotten any better; at his age you should be able to see some gains and, if anything, he has gotten worse. He used to be able to carry the puck a little bit but now he gets rid of it at first check. He did have one good defensive play - credit given - but he still chases guys around looking for a hit. He doesn't seem to grasp that hitting should be used to separate the man from the puck. The blueline was just fine without him and next season there will be one, maybe two spots opening (Eminger and Gilroy) and MDZ hasn't shown anything this year to prove he deserves one of them. Maybe another summer with Gary Roberts can change that but Roberts can put him in good physical form but can't give him the mental discipline and confidence he needs.
*On the other side of the coin is Mats Zuccarello. MZA is looking more and more like a younger Marty St. Louis with his low center of gravity and willingness to work along the boards. Once he builds regular chemistry with regular linemates, he is going to be so incredibly dangerous. It might be interesting to see him with Christensen and Wolski ...
*Derek Stepan is another keeper. Step just keeps getting more and more comfortable and it shows. He has yet to hit the college wall and hopefully this All Star break will put it off for a while (till June perhaps? hopefully? maybe? please?).
*For all of the flak that I give the Garden staff for their idiocy, the decision to cut a highlight montage to Skid Row's "Youth Gone Wild" was inspired awesomeness.
*The NHL really should revisit their rules for reviewing goals, it should be able to encompass the entire play. A little ridiculous perhaps but c'mon, an extra minute to get things right wouldn't slow things down too much. The Panthers were clearly offsides on their second goal; it is just frustrating that a guy gets paid to watch the damned line and he blows it.
*Love the effort from Avery - as always - but our guy has to start contributing on the scoreboard. Next week against Pittsburgh and Jersey would be a really good time ...
*After viewing about a dozen Panther games this year it still astounds me how the Rangers made the Panthers look so tough. Vokoun is good, Weiss has his moments and Santorelli has been a revelation - because most teams don't bother to cover him - but the rest of their roster is incredibly unimpressive, a bunch of borderline prospects and castoffs from other teams. It is like they are still an expansion team 17 years later. And the Rangers just lost to them. Ugh.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Mats Zuccarello - three assists.
2-Mike Santorelli - one goal and one assist.
1-Rostislav Olesz - one goal and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Keaton Ellerby - Selected two spots before McDonagh and seven ahead of Alexei Cherepanov (RIP) in 2007, this youngster is still struggling to become a NHL regular but he had an inspired first period that was just eye opening.
2-Zook - Is he exciting to watch or what?
1-Santorelli - Who is this guy? The former Predator won faceoffs, killed penalties, forechecked, backchecked and scored.