Tuesday night's terrible display by the Rangers showed, in a nutshell, why we have every reason to worry about the team as it heads towards the playoffs. They came out utterly flat against a major rival. They struggled to adapt their game to their opponent. They lost puck battles all over the ice. They made a mockery of the power play.
After the initial ridiculousness that was the opening faceoff fisticuffs, the Rangers ghost-skated through the remainder of the frame. Dump and chase doesn't work against a goaltender who comes out of the net, so of course the Rangers relied upon that for more than two periods of play. The Devils supported their puck carriers so even then the puck was knocked away, the team was able to retain possession. And the Blueshirt power play, well, it keeps finding new ways to fail. They finally realized that shooting the puck was a good thing but somehow missed a target that is four feet high and six feet wide time after time after time.
There are 31 games left, plenty of time to fix these problems. Seeing as the team has a nice cushion of points at this point, they can experiment with various solutions. They have to, or else all of this season's success will be washed away all-too-quickly in the playoffs.
*This game was a clear example of why the hype around Mmmaaarrtttyyy's numbers is just that. Fatso made one good save all night. One. And it was on a clean shot from Gabby that he saw the entire way. The rest of the inflated shot total for the Rangers were right into his inflated torso. The one rebound the Rangers got to ended up in the net, but had to be waved off.
*Yes, I believe that the call was necessary. While Gabby was indeed slowing, he made no attempt to dodge around Uncle Daddy. The NHL as it is now protects goaltenders the way the NFL does quarterbacks so you had to know they were going to make the call. A recent play to hold up for comparison happened in Toronto on Monday. Ryan Smyth was on the edge of the crease and was shoved into Devan Dubnyk by a pair of Leafs as he scored what would have been Edmonton's go-ahead goal. The referee didn't see it that way and called him for goaltender interference. It was a bad call; the contact had little relevance to the puck going in, while Gaby's contact with Tubby allowed the puck to get in the goal.
*Stick with an undisciplined player and you get burned. Stu Bickel took a series of bad penalties against the Flyers and he took one tonight. And, of course, the Devils scored on the ensuing power play.
*David Clarkson's goal came because both Ranger defensemen (Dan-O and McD) abandoned the front of the crease, leaving Step to chase the 'minor leaguer.' Love Step but the kid is outmatched there and Elias made a great feed to get the puck in the right spot for Clarkson to score.
*Saw Arty set up in the slot a few times, which was nice. Too bad he had no idea what to do once he got there. He did get the Gabby rebound late but there were several opportunities sitting around for him far earlier than that.
*So Eric Boulton slashed Mike Rupp, right? So why did Prust fight him while Rupp battled Cam Janssen? The swap created a pair of mismatches that did not benefit the Blueshirts. It would have been nice if it jumpstarted the Ranger attack, but as mentioned up top, that was DOA for the first two frames.
*Brad Richard$ is looking more and more like MexiCan't Scott Gomez, floating around the ice not getting his nose dirty - all he needs to do is start smirking through interviews and the resemblance will be uncanny. Remember when us Ranger fans were salivating at the thought of Richard$ setting up Gaborik for 60+ goals? Seems so long ago. Last night he was skating alongside Mike Rupp for a while. Ugh.
*Did Kovalchuk even play? Great work by Girardi and McD.
*Bork bork bork! Carl Hagelin came to play. And he looked even better when he was reunited with John Mitchell. As predicted. Red Berenson taught him well - Hags handed his stick off to Stralman to save a goal in the second period. Sure Stralman then got called for a penalty seconds later, but at least the PK had the chance to work their magic.
*Oh Dubi, so close and yet so far, far away.
*PHW Three Stars
3-David Clarkson - one goal.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 21 saves.
1-Martin Brodeur - 30 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Mmmmaaarrrttyyy - Rangers dump it in, Fatso dumps it out. All too easy.
2-Hank - The King kept the Rangers in the game when they came out oh-so-flat. He had no chance to stop Clarkson's goal.
1-Clarkson - It would have been nice if a certain Ranger sparkplug had been around to distract this guy ...