Saturday, March 10, 2012
42-18-7: Grit Can Only Go So Far
The Rangers were on the road during the recent raise in temperatures around New York and thus remained mired in their mid-winter doldrums. On Friday they completed their three-game road trip with a 4-3 failure to the Blackhawks.
The recent skid has exposed the Rangers as the one-trick pony that they are. Their skill guys rarely come to play, their power play is atrocious, and their grit - their wonderful, endearing and enduring grit - only goes so far. Harsh? Absolutely. But seemingly true.
Gaborik breaks down the wing and gives up an open shot to try to pass it though a defender towards Richard$. Two futile power plays. Six forwards on the ice at the end of the game - inexplicably including John Mitchell - and they dump and chase, with just one forward doing the chasing ...
The team has to do some soul searching and they have to do it fast with the evil Islanders in the Garden on Sunday. Despite being a bad joke of a franchise, the Isles always step up their game against the Rangers and an embarrassment at their hands would be ... well, I don't even want to consider it.
*Yet again the Rangers came out flat and Marian Hossa very nearly made them pay. Luckily he faced Henrik Lundqvist instead of Marty Biron and the Rangers didn't immediately fall behind. But Hank wasn't infallible. After the game Cally said his stick didn't deflect Johnny Oduya's shot, meaning that the Rangers starting goaltender gave up a goal just as bad as his backup did a day before. A sad truth is that Hank has to be as close to perfect as possible for his team to have a shot to win - as it has been for far too long.
*Been advocating Hank For Hart for a while but perhaps Dan Girardi is the Rangers most valuable player. All of the minutes earlier in the season - and that slap shot to the arm a few games ago - are finally getting to Logan's dad. Torts finally noticed the wear and tear and played Girardi less than 25 minutes in each of the last seven games ... and the Rangers went 3-3-1 during that span.
*It was unfortunate the Rangers waited to finally find their forecheck after Patrick Kane kicked in the game-sealing empty netter. The Blueshirts were voracious off of the ensuing faceoff and it resulted in Richard$' goal. Where was that effort the previous 59:07?
*Arty's goal was dirrrty. He is finally gaining the confidence he needed, now he needs the strength to help use it with regularity. If Vassili Zaitsev (get it? the Russian sniper from Enemy at the Gates?) ever bulks up to add power to that skill, man could he be a helluva player.
*While piling upon the Rangers, credit must be given to the 2010 Stanley Cup winners. Chicago played a complete game from Emery on out. Emery improved to 7-1 lifetime against the Blueshirts (thanks @KevinComplains) by being solid during the rare times that the defense in front of him faltered (which wasn't often). And the Blackhawk offense was working on all levels with their first three lines all accounting for goals.
*While his goal was a gift from Hank, Oduya had himself one solid game. Damned former Devil. Had Sather not been sucked in to the Nash derby, perhaps he could have picked up Oduya from Winnipeg. A solid citizen who is well aware of Atlantic Division hockey, he surely would have been an upgrade over Eminger and Stralman (and a certain someone else).
*Can you imagine what this one would have been like had Chicago had their best player, one of the top five all-around talents in the NHL?
*Also missing was my favourite punching bag, so there was no blaming Del Zaster on this one as he was a late scratch. But he wasn't missed, as the power play was as ineffective without him as it has been with him.
*Bryan Bickell edged out Stu Bickel in this one. Each accounted for three hits but Bickell had an assist on the Shaw goal that saw Bickel stumbling around the crease.
*Love Pruster. Good things happen when you go to the net kids.
*Proof plus/minus is nonsense? Cally was -3. Boyle was +2.
*Another stat anomaly? Anton Stralman was credited with a game-high seven hits. What?
*Rangers survive the early onslaught, escape the first period with the lead and what happens? Mike Rupp decides to defend his own selfish honour against an undrafted minor league goon. Rupp was supposed to be a multi-dimensional veteran who would give more to the team then a thug and yet - Winter Classic luck aside - has done nothing to help his team or his teammates on the ice this season.
*Those Blackhawks sweaters are beautiful.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Patrick Kane - one goal and one assist.
2-Brandon Prust - one goal.
1-Johnny Oduya - one goal and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Mackey D - Thought he was the best of the Blueshirts.
2-Hossa - Unlike Gaborik, Chicago's Slovak sniper was a constant threat every time he stepped on the ice.
1-Oduya - A defenseman with a heavy shot who is not afraid to use it? What a concept!