Wednesday, February 2, 2011
29-20-4: Disappointing But Acceptable
The Rangers returned from the All Star break last night and blew a shootout against the Pittsburgh Penguins, falling 1-0 in the skills competition and 4-3 overall. As the title says, it was disappointing but acceptable.
Sure the Penguins were without Crosby, Malkin and Letestu. They did what the Rangers did all season: overachieved without their best players. The Rangers were incorporating several guys back into their lineup and, as per always, their coach wouldn't allow any chemistry to form. It will happen again and again over the next two weeks, give or take, so don't be surprised. This team is right on track to battle for the eighth spot, just as most Ranger-related folks expected before the season.
*It is odd to say this but Steve Eminger has been a staple of the defense all season long so he was unceremoniously dumped for Michael Del Zotto. It makes no sense whatsoever as MDZ showed no signs of any improvement down on the farm or in his return before the break. Yes, it was his shot that Cally deflected in for the game-tying goal but that doesn't excuse the other six-and-a-half minutes of wasted power play time. Is MDZ the lone reason for the atrocious man advantage? Certainly not, but last night he was a big part of it's ineptitude. MDZ can't play defense and isn't capable of playing quarterback on the power play - he has made that clear. Now he may be able to do it somewhere down the line but for the moment he - and the Rangers - are best served with him off-Broadway.
*Cally's power play goal was the lone tally or even scoring chance on the five minute power play resulting from Jordan Staal's cheap shot. I'm hearing Penguin fans are calling dive but that is a load of garbage. For one, Brandon Prust is not Sidney Crosby. Two, you get popped in the chin unawares from someone bigger than you and see how you take it. Three, just because he was hit in the chin and not full in the face doesn't mean it wasn't attempt to injure. The only difference between that shot and Domi-Samuelsson was Staal kept his glove on. An it isn't like the Penguins don't have a history full of cheap shots, full of slew foots, headhunting and punches to the nuts. Fair call.
*Why did Prust fight Deryk Engelland? Just because he had a few days to rest doesn't mean that he should take on the other team's heavyweight when it wasn't necessary. Prust has grown beyond your average goon and he needs to stop thinking like one. The Pens weren't taking many liberties, the Rangers had the 2-0 lead ... why let their idiot goad you into a fight to swing the momentum towards his team?
*Cally missing that open net earlier in the game was par for the course guys, not rust from the injury. Our love for the future captain aside, Cally has always earned chance after chance with his hard work - it is why we love him - but he doesn't always capitalize on them.
*Once you accept that Chris Drury is no more than a middling fourth liner, you can find that it is easy to accept his performance. He is not going to score, he is not going to contribute anything other than a breather for the top lines. It is not his fault he has a contract and a captaincy that he doesn't deserve, he didn't ask for either.
*How can Sean Avery be expected to score or make a difference when he is skating alongside Drury and Kris Newbury? Of course he is going to end up offsides as he takes two strides and he is a mile ahead of his linemates. When he did get shifts with players with NHL futures, he was able to make things happen. He just needs to make those things happen for himself.
*Marian Gaborik had five shot attempts in the game - one went on net, three were blocked and one was his botched shootout 'effort.' It is maddening to watch an AHLer like Dustin Jeffrey (even one with a solid NHL future ahead of him) score when one of the most talented players in the world can't even make the goaltender strain himself. As some big trade for a superstar center who will magically give Gaborik confidence and a scoring touch isn't about to happen, we can only hope that the comfort of old friend Vinny Prospal will do the trick. But I wouldn't bet on it.
*Mike f-ing Rupp. C'mon. Dammit Rangers, that the hell? Again and again and again. Mike f-ing Rupp.
*Poor Hank, three goals against in regulation and not one was his fault. Even when the guy doesn't give up a soft goal the team can't put together a win for him, ugh. Despite barely breaking sweat making four stops over the final 25 minutes Hank stopped six of the seven shooters in the skill competition. He has to be sitting back there wondering why his teammates can't keep the same mental focus.
*Now I've seen a good number of Penguin games over the last few seasons and I am completely baffled why the Rangers kept trying to go five hole on Fleury. Fleury is prone to over-committing and yet the Blueshirts went for the wickets again and again and again. I was waiting for Fleury to start doing jumping jacks or pushups just to taunt the incompetent Ranger shooters.
*Matt Cooke is such a scumbag.
*Highlight of the night? Mats Zuccarello giving Brooks Orpik free candy. The little man crushed the Penguins' hit machine in the first period along the endboards. Now that is entertainment folks.
*Mike Sauer quietly had himself a great game. Sauer has been an unheralded hero of this season and he deserves some accolades.
*Dubi won 15 of 19 faceoffs, what a nice change. Arty won six of eight but one of his two losses went right into the back of the Ranger net. It was a draw he shouldn't have even taken but was forced to as it came off of a sloppy icing the play before.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Chris Kunitz - one goal and one assist.
2-Ryan Callahan - one goal.
1-Dustin Jeffrey - one power play goal and one shootout goal.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Cally - Welcome back Cap.
2-Engelland - One fight changed the game - that is what fighting is for. It is no wonder the Penguin bench all got up to bang on the boards when he got out of the penalty box.
1-Jeffrey - A young, hungry up-and-coming scorer contributed exactly what an older, complacent star scorer on the Rangers couldn't.