Friday, April 8, 2011
43-33-5: Motivation & The Lack Thereof
There are few things more dangerous than a hockey team that feels that their backs are against the wall.
Unfortunately for Ranger fans on Thursday night, their team was not the one feeling that way. Not even the hugely inspiring one-two punch of Ryan Callahan on crutches and Officer Steven McDonald could overcome the desperation that was guys playing for their very livelihoods.
All three goal scorers (and five of the eight guys who earned points) for the Atlanta Thrashers are free agents this summer and they were making their final pitch for a gig next season. The Rangers, for all of their pregame rhetoric, were well aware of their lead over Carolina in the standings and the possibility of a postseason berth coming up. Sure the Rangers have plenty of guys nearing the end of their deals but, this being the Rangers, most know that they already have spots pencilled in for this fall. The Blueshirts had the hype from a few weeks back reinforced by the big win against Boston and they made the unforgivable mistake of looking ahead instead of dealing with the task ahead.
Playoff spot or not, this team has faced several big tests this season and come up lacking in many of them. Whether they will be able to learn from their failures in the future, well, that is the big question for the summer ahead. Let's just hope that that summer doesn't start Saturday afternoon.
*The Rangers certainly had a few great moments that left you wondering what if these guys could finish? The pressure for the first few minutes was astounding. Boyle rang a shot off the iron just minutes before Atlanta opened the scoring. The puck sailing past Dubinsky in the slot (I believe) early in the third as the kid had his stick in the air rather than on the ice. Marian Gaborik being ... well, Marian Gaborik.
*Was there anyone else who believed that they were giving Cally the McDonald award because of the way they introduced him? All credit to Brandon Prust for winning it, so deserving; he had me "it's only pain."
*So if it is only pain, why was Prust not sent out to pick a fight with Eric Boulton? Not at the start of the game (reminder: Rangers are 4-0 when he fights in the first two minutes) and not when the team was bitch-smacked by the back-to-back second period goals.
*The Rangers won more faceoffs than they lost and lost the game. After this season is over I will go through all 82 games and tally it up but at least over the last month or so the Rangers win draws and lose games.
*Wonder what Vinny Prospal thought when he was booed for boarding while the Rangers were on the power play.
*While I disagree that the fans aren't allowed to be negative, the crowd was not particularly impressive. In past years the roar for Steven McDonald or the chants for Cally would have been long and deafening. They were not. Sad.
*Over half of Sean Avery's ice time came in the third period. Tortorella gets desperate and suddenly he is willing to put his sparkplug on the ice. And Avery got the puck deep and set up some scoring chances. Imagine what it would be like if he saw a regular shift.
*Wolski played 20 minutes, had no shots on net and is goalless in his last 16 games. Sure he got a pair of helpers against Boston but he was atrocious in this one.
*While talking ice time, Gaborik played four of his just 14 minutes of ice time on the power play. Seriously why? Was Torts trying to send him a message, in game no. 81? Great work coach. Love that well-used time out ... oh wait, he didn't use his time out. Atlanta scored two goals in 15 seconds and the bench boss decided to just keep driving his mules forward blindly instead of figuring out a way to point them in the right direction.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Andrew Ladd - one goal.
2-Rob Schremp - one goal and one assist.
1-Ondrej Pavelec - 29 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Johnny Oduya - The former Devil helped Pavelec hold off the Rangers, not that that was a tough task for most of the night. Astounding how Hank had to make so many good saves and so many awkward saves while Pavelec barely had to strain to stop a single puck.
2-Schremp - The former Islander potted a goal and an assist to screw his former rival.
1-Rick Dudley/Craig Ramsay - Nothing like management that is able to motivate their players, is there? Too bad they couldn't do it in February, when it was desperately needed (as they went 2-7-2).