Thursday, March 31, 2011
41-31-5: Cut Down By The Sabres
An optimist will look back at Wednesday night's 1-0 Ranger loss to the Sabres and say it was just so close. That person could say that the Rangers had goals stolen from them by the officials, the iron and Buffalo's double backup goaltender while just one puck got past Henrik Lundqvist.
Optimism rarely flies here. You can't use that larceny as an excuse for the piss-poor performance by the Blueshirts. You just can't. Perhaps they spent Tuesday night on Chippewa so they spent the first two periods working through a hangover. Perhaps they just didn't think the game was as important as they claimed it was in the build up to the battle. Either way, they didn't come ready to play and allowed the Sabres to suffocate them.
Lindy Ruff has been around forever because he knows how to coach. He made Chris Drury look like a NHL star so the coach clearly has significant skills. On this night he made his undertalented team out-work, out-hustle and out-think their opponents. They scored a big power play goal and then trapped the life out of the Rangers. Tortorella's team picked up their play but couldn't find a way to break through the boring Buffalo defense.
Yes the Rangers only dropped to drop to 8-2-1 in their past 11 and they still are in postseason position but, come playoff time, teams have to be able to take advantage of their few chances and then grind out a win. Buffalo did that. The Rangers did not.
Shudder to think that they play this poorly against the Islanders tomorrow because you know that they will be spoiling to play spoilers, especially in their own building.
*Very little credit should go to Jhonas Enroth as he made one good save in the game. Enroth stopped Derek Stepan's one-timer from Marian Gaborik with a spectacular stop in the first minute of the third period. The young Swede made 22 other saves but he did not have to work for them.
*Gaborik took five shots, seemingly aiming for Enroth's pads. You would think the Slovakian Slacker would have seen Enroth's tendency to go down early and shoot high but each one went right at the young netminder. This was one of the 20 or so games this season where the Rangers desperately needed a goal from Gaborik and he couldn't come through.
*Brian Boyle has come through several times this season by just putting his head down and shooting. Boyle has 21 goals to just 12 assists. So what could have possibly possessed him to attempt to thread a pass to Cally on their shorthanded two-on-one? The pass was blocked, Buffalo went back the other way and Hank let Tim Connolly score short side.
*Whatever happened to Hank's knee was not the problem on that as the 'injury' happened at the end of the frame. No matter how many times Joe Micheletti said that Hank was hit by a stick, the replay clearly showed that - as is his tendency - the goaltender went down early, opened his pads up and the shot hit his unprotected knee. Bad luck.
*By the way, Buffalo showed that you can put someone in other than your starter and still win an important game if you play good team defense. The Rangers have played good team defense of late so why is Torts to reluctant to allow Chad Johnson to get a chance?
*The Blueshirts had trouble with their dump-and-chase breakouts so why did they keep their best stickhandler Erik Christensen on the bench? And, as they kept dumping and chasing, why did they limit the ice time of one of their best forecheckers Brandon Prust?
*On one hand Sean Avery seeing just over 10 minutes of ice time was quite the improvement from the last five games when he didn't crack 8:30. On the other hand, Avery was the best Ranger forward on the ice so he probably deserved more. Sean stayed onsides, drew the defense when he had the puck, battled for it when he didn't and set up his teammates several times only to see them blow chances. Imagine what he could do with regular, capable linemates. Woe-tek Wolski has not been capable for a while (13 game goal drought).
*Dan Girardi has been great of late so it is hard to get upset over one mistake but he simply allowed Connolly to walk into the zone and never closed with him. Sure the Rangers were shorthanded but he had McDonagh with him so he should have stepped up instead of trying a meager stick check.
*The Blueshirts won 33 of 55 faceoffs. Someone who has some time needs to crunch the numbers but don't be surprised if the Rangers come out with a better record when they don't dominate the draws.
*The good, the bad and the awfulness of MSG was on display. The good was showing Cally and Prust on camera when promoting the Steve McDonald Extra Effort Award. The bad was MSG2 not being available in HD. The awfulness, well, of course that was Joe Micheletti. His banshee calls foretell the death of my hearing because I want to take an icepick to my eardrum while listening to him. Horrific.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Tim Connolly - one goal.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 34 saves.
1-Jhonas Enroth - 23 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Thomas Vanek - The Austrian was dominant early, forcing Hank into making big saves. Gaborik barely made Enroth sweat.
2-Connolly - What the hell, that was a nice shot. It should have been stopped but it was pretty. He didn't try to send a feed across the ice, he just shot the puck. And it went in. What a concept.
1-Lindy Ruff - Buffalo is missing Derek Roy (and several other starters) and yet the team is still in playoff position. Ruff has the Sabres buying in to his system and playing his game. It is boring, it is ugly, but it has been working because he gets them to play 60 minutes a night, every night.