Sunday, April 24, 2011
R1, Game 5: Not With A Bang But A Whimper
Hours of separation has lessened the murderous rage that imbued my spirit after the Rangers ended their season with a 3-1 loss to Washington. In its place is only confusion.
How could the team - led by their coach - talk about being ready for the most important game of their campaign and then produce ... that? The Rangers had a chance to win the first four games of this series; they had no chance this afternoon. Many have raved about the team's resilience and never-say-die attitude over the course of this season and yet the team simply folded after falling in double overtime in Game 4. All the rhetoric in the world couldn't bring back a team that left their hearts on the Garden ice.
The Rangers team that showed up in the Phone Booth played scared of making mistakes, scared of taking penalties and - with a few exceptions - scared of laying it all on the line for what they clearly believed to be a lost cause.
There is much left to be written about this team in this space but that will come in the days and months henceforth; this will stick to the loss. And on that, notes:
*Losing this game was acceptable in the grand scale of things - the team is young and had no real place in the playoffs to begin with, so the experience for the core was gravy. But in the moment, all it brings is sadness and disgust. Seeing Henrik Lundqvist sitting on the bench in the final minutes - very clearly wearing his emotions on his sleeve - was heartbreaking.
*Chris Drury's main reasons to be in the lineup over a Whale were his faceoffs and penalty killing ability. He went 6-6 at the dot and stumbled around the Ranger end while Mike Green scored the first goal of the game. He actually fell in front of Staal, allowing Green to get his second swing at the puck. And, to boot, Drury was completely and utterly outplayed by Boyd Gordon. Let that sink in; Boyd Gordon. Said it many times before, Chris Drury is the worst captain in the NHL and the worst in Rangers franchise history.
*No Ranger will make it into the three stars below but several deserve recognition. Mike Sauer was stellar, Dan Girardi did all that he could do, Hank was Hank and Sean Avery was the best Ranger on the ice. Say what you like about Avery's penchant for going offsides, the occasional bad penalty or the lack of goals but Avery has been at his best in the biggest games. If he had any kind of chemistry with any of his teammates perhaps the production would be there too.
*Unless NBC/Versus mixed their audio differently than they did in MSG, no Caps fans, you weren't louder. Sorry. But that was fun.
*Marcus Johansson > Artem Anisimov. That being said, Arty had a rush in the third period that was his best play in the last month. It was a flash of the ability he showed earlier this season; it is shame that Cally's injury cost us Callahan, Anisimov and Dubinsky.
*Dubi was a complete nonfactor.
*Semin's goal was the kind of thing Marian Gaborik was supposed to be able to do. And nice of Mr. Softie to get caught flatfooted at the Caps blueline, allowing Semin to take off like a bat out of hell down the ice alone.
*Hobey saved his hardest slap shot for Mike Green's face, which worked out as it knocked Green out of the game. It was too bad the Blueshirts couldn't take advantage of his absence.
*Marc Staal has done yeoman's work this year as the top defenseman but what the hell was he doing with Ovechkin on the second goal? He laid a weak stick check and stopped moving his feet, allowing Ovie to blast by and score. There are good penalties and there are bad penalties and that was a time for a good penalty.
*Bryan McCabe ended up with 14 PIM thanks to the scrum with 32 seconds left. It was the most life that he showed since his goal against Philly.
*It's not how you start but how you finish: Brian Boyle closed with just one goal in his last 24 games on 74 shots, five of them in this game. And he had all of three assists during that span.
*How does the Professional Hockey Writers make Michal Neuvirth the top star of the game when he didn't even have to break a sweat? The Rangers stopped crashing his crease and allowed him to see every shot.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Brooks Laich - two assists.
2-Alex Ovechkin - one goal and one assist.
1-Michal Neuvirth - 26 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-John Carlson - The rookie swatted the Rangers away like they were flies. Screw you Del Zotto.
2-Brooksie - It will be very interesting to see what kind of contract Laich lands this summer. He has been solid secondary scoring and a stable footsoldier when needed.
1-Ovie - He's good.