Friday, March 4, 2011
Sweet Dreadful Home
Home ice proved to be no advantage for the Rangers yet again as they lost to the Minnesota Wild at the Garden 3-1. Even when the team went up 1-0 in the first period there was a sense of dread in the air in the Garden and it proved justifiable as the Blueshirts proceeded to fall apart.
Where the loss to Tampa was acceptable because the boys clearly played hard but lost to a better team, this one was not. The Rangers not just played down to Minnesota's level but they played below it and they barely seemed to care. There was zero physical play - when the team was winning games and skating hard, they finished their checks and did what they had to to get to good areas of the ice. There was none of that this evening. This was a team that was happy to finally get a goal and sat on that, hoping it would hold up. When it didn't, they threw their hands up and went through the motions until the final buzzer.
It was a failure in leadership and a failure in coaching, yet again. Saying "well, we didn't score - we need to score goals" is a cop out when the team isn't doing the good things to earn those goals. Jose Theodore made 40 saves, maybe a half dozen were difficult and just one was even the least bit impressive. Sure you need to shoot a lot to get out of a slump but you need to follow those shots, get in that paint and make life difficult for the other team. The Rangers didn't.
Said it before the season and will hold onto the assertion now: the Rangers just aren't that good of a team and they will battle for a low playoff spot right to the very end. Like a mean girl, they tease you and tempt you and leave you standing there holding wilted flowers while some other guys have all the fun.
*The Rangers being so bad at home is really starting to hurt the fans. There were wide swaths of open seats and several people who were there showed up only because they couldn't get anyone to take their tickets.
*The one thing I personally was looking forward to was seeing Jed Ortmeyer but the Wild decided to send him down for Casey Wellman - a move that worked out as Wellman scored. It also probably worked for us because seeing Jed play as he always has would just have shown the contrast to the Rangers weak-willed effort.
*Wellman's goal was pathetic as all five Ranger skaters were inside the circles, between the dots. The Blueshirts simply collapsed down low and it gave Brent Burns all the time in the world to find Wellman for the goal.
*Brent Burns physically abused someone behind the Wild net in the second period and the Rangers never responded. It was awful.
*Brandon Dubinsky has been on the slow slide back to the lost little boy that he was after Jagr left for Siberia. He couldn't win faceoffs, he couldn't win physical battles and he tried to get rid of the puck every time it came to him. How he goes on a shorthanded two-on-one with Callahan and only manage a weak wrister wide shortside is utterly dumbfounding. No surprise that moments after he blew that opportunity Minnesota tied the game.
*Brian Boyle appeared to have taken some lessons on how to be soft from Arty Anisimov. The big man could barely hold on to the puck and was pushed around several times. Boyle botched the play that led to Pierre-Marc Bouchard's goal, slowly skating into the corner to double team Brodziak, leaving Bouchard and Havlat open to make the play. Horrific.
*The lack of success on the power play is unacceptable. 0-4? Seriously? Yet again everyone tried to set up McCabe for the shot and it didn't take rocket science for the Wild to figure out where the puck was going and how to stop it.
*Yay Sean Avery scored! It's about time! Too bad that was one of just two times you could tell he was on the ice all game - the other being his late attempt to catch up to Bouchard after Boyle left him open.
*Derek Stepan has now played 25 more games than he did last year and you have to wonder if the extra games are finally getting to him. Now it could just be that the team relied upon him more when everyone was out with injury and he answered the bell but who knows? All that is apparent is that he isn't getting it done lately - much like many of his teammates.
*Paging Misters Zuccarello, Christensen, Wolski and Prospal. Wolski had 18 points in the 18 games after his trade from Colorado to Phoenix last season. He has 13 in 23 since the Rangers grabbed him from the desert. Zuke, who was manhandled by Burns late in the third and just went looking for the ref instead of standing up for himself, has an 18 game goal drought.
*Nice to see Marc Staal back but he clearly wasn't at 100%, just like Prust and Fedotenko.
*The MSG transformation is deeply underway and the lower concourse is all but closed off. All of the regular concessions have been closed but - not so shockingly - they managed to keep the sushi stand open. There is also one of the food courts but it was a madhouse even 45 minutes before puck drop. We are all being inconvenienced by the change and what will we get out of it? The honour of not being able to afford to come back anymore. Then again, if these aren't just growing pains that the Rangers are going through this season, plenty of tickets will be available for below face for years to come.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Pierre-Marc Bouchard - one goal and one assist.
2-Jose Theodore - 41 saves.
1-Kyle Brodziak - one goal and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-John Madden - It was like old times watching the former Devil have little problem shutting the Rangers down.
2-Brent Burns - The big Burns was good on both sides of the ice. He manhandled the Rangers and swiftly moved the puck around with smart passes.
1-Brodziak - Ryan Callahan, but with a goal.