Thursday, March 10, 2011
An earlier draft of this blog was all about the blame game: who to pin this latest lost on. Anisimov, Dubinsky, Tortorella and Gaborik were my leading candidates. Arty was directly responsible for the first three goals against. Dubi had three great chances to score and blew them all. Torts didn't have an answer to Anaheim's attack and never did anything to kick his team in the ass. Gabby didn't show up until it was too late. Hey, Ron Duguay pinned it on warm weather and palm trees so at least all of these are at least tangible and defensible.
It was a game that both teams desperately needed and only one team played like that for 60 minutes ... and it wasn't the Rangers. In an important matchup like that you need your best players to step up and the Ducks' did. Anaheim has an exceptional first line and all three of those guys stepped up their play to power the team to a 5-2 victory. The Rangers, well, they don't have any first line players. Gaborik has been so utterly underwhelming this season that he can hardly be considered top flight any longer and he was invisible for far too long before scoring in the third period.
If anything, Gabby's goal caused more problems than it solved. It brought the Rangers back within two and the team didn't bother to stand up for Hank as he was hit twice. No physical message was sent. No fight happened to warn teams away from hitting Hank or to turn the tide. The Rangers tried to claw back with mediocre chance after mediocre chance and mediocre goaltender Dan Ellis looked great stopping them. Typical Rangers. Riding a roller coaster down to the wire for a playoff spot is also typical, and the Ranger ride will continue on Saturday in San Jose.
Notes on this one:
*A tale of two top units. Getzlaf-Perry-Ryan-Lydman-Visnovsky = five goals, seven assists, +19. Dubi-Cally-Arty-Staal-Girardi = one goal, two assists, -16.
*Brandon Prust, Ruslan Fedotenko and Brian Boyle all seemed to be playing hurt. When your energy guys have no energy you are in serious trouble.
*Catalyst Sean Avery had three shifts in the first period, four in the second, three in the third on his way to 8:28 in ice time. This is getting ridiculous. The only good thing is that Jarkko Ruutu was just as underused.
*Steve Eminger played with the Ducks, he knows their tendencies and he has been solid when inserted into the Ranger lineup. He was scratched for this one and the two guys who did play over him - McCabe and Gilroy - were little more than jersey fillers.
*Mats Zuccarello played over 15 and I'm pretty sure I only heard his name called once. He and Wolski were completely overwhelmed by the Duck defense, which is sad since that D is a shadow of the unit that won the Cup a few years back.
*The players who should be able to look in the mirror were Derek Stepan, Mike Sauer and Ryan McDonagh - the kids did their damnedest but it wasn't enough. Even though they accounted for the first goal of the game and had several other chances, Cally and Dubi just didn't have it like they did against the easier opponent that was the Flyers.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Corey Perry - two goals and one assist.
2-Bobby Ryan - one goal and three assists.
1-Lubomir Visnovsky - two goals and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Toni Lydman - Lydman was the picture of calm, collected consistency while he swiftly took care of business around the ice. Sharp, smart passing and good positioning ... as I tweeted, his signing last summer was probably the most underrated of them all. His partner Visnovsky racked up the points but they were just bad lucky by the Blueshirts.
2-Perry - Brandon Prust's old teammate on the London Knights spent four seasons under Dale Hunter's tutelage and look at him now: one of the best all-around players in the league. Too bad the Rangers ripped MDZ from Dale's clutches all too early.
1-Ryan - Silver was golden in this one. He used his size and skill to attack the Rangers, getting them to run around in their own end and leave openings to take advantage of.