Friday, March 16, 2012
44-19-7: Reality Check
Hey Rangers, this is Earth - welcome back to it. The Rangers deceptive run to the top of the Eastern Conference belied many of the teams flaws, not the least of which was the team's lack of depth and it's inconsistency. Both hurt the Blueshirts as Pittsburgh came to town On Thursday and proceeded to go to town on them. This one wasn't even close. Despite being within one goal at the end of the second period, the result was never in question and the Pens cruised to a 5-2 victory.
The Rangers were outclassed from the start by the team destined to take their top seed away. Even before Crosby and Letang returned Pittsburgh was dangerous - now the Pens are outright lethal. They have primary scoring, they have secondary scoring, they have tertiary scoring, they have a decent defense in front of a showboating-but-solid goaltender. The Rangers have one line, three defensemen and a goalie with a bad immune system.
There is some consolation for this loss - Hank and Cally were both out, this was in March and not April and the Rangers didn't play the game that has earned them first place. There was no crash-bang hockey, little pressure, little heart ... And the wear and tear of playing every other day took the rest of the life out of the team and they stood around and watched the Penguins dominate.
Had this been unexpected, had this been in the playoffs, had this been with Hank in the net it would have been unacceptable. Now it is just unfortunate. Hopefully the guys will learn from this experience and realize that they - all of them - have to work hard every night, all night. This is a lesson that should have been learned months ago but the combination of bad opponents and great Lundqvist has held it until now. Hopefully it is not too late.
*Not a single guy went after Crosby. The kid came back from his overhyped headache and wasn't challenged physically in the least. They gave him time, they gave him space and they watched him work. An utter failure by the Blueshirts.
*Marty Biron is a sieve. He didn't give the Rangers a chance to win, allowing five stoppable goals. His angles were off, he ranged too far from the goal mouth, he went down too fast, he lost track of the play. Simply said, he was horrid - yet again. You can take the guy off the Islanders but you can't take the Islanders out of the guy. He may be a helluva guy in the room but he is atrocious in the net. Get well soon Hank.
*It has to be said that the Blueshirt blueliners certainly didn't help much. Torts inexplicably broke up McDonagh and Girardi in the second period, because that pairing has only worked well all season long. Girardi was reunited with the shadow of the player Marc Staal once was and McD played alongside Stu Bickel. Poor Stu played far, far too much - nearly 22 minutes. Have to dig all that he has brought but he is not good enough to handle that much time against an opponent that skates as well as Pittsburgh. And Stralman and Eminger continued to show how they are AAAA players, too good for AAA but not good enough for the big leagues.
*Also seeing too much ice time was Boyle, Prust and Fedotenko. The Rangers have grinded so long that their primary grinders have been grinded down to nothing. Except for Rupp, who was nothing long before the Rangers ever got him.
*Nothing was what the power play contributed. The Rangers had two man advantage chances, both of which would have been huge if the team had been able to come through and score. A quick explanation? Boyle saw 1:32 of pp ice time, while the red hot Hagelin had :44 and Zuke had :48.
*Bork, bork, bork! Best Ranger out there - the only one skating at the same speed as Pittsburgh. Gabby and Richard$ had their moments as well but Hagelin was the only one busting his ass from buzzer to buzzer.
*Did Dubi play? Couldn't tell.
*Had a very excitable crowd early that calmed down after the back-to-back goals in the early minutes of the second period. There were farrrrrrr too many opposition fans scattered throughout the building, something that we have to get used to as the ever-rising prices force more Ranger fans out.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Kris Letang - one assist and +5.
2-Evgeni Malkin - one goal.
1-Matt Cooke - two goals.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Crosby - Just by showing up he gave Pittsburgh the mental edge and the Rangers never stepped up.
2-Letang - Calm, cool, collected quarterback.
1-Cooke - No one wanted to get around Pig-Pen (get it? because he is so dirty?), and he handily collected a pair of goals.