On Friday night the Rangers appeared to have bought into their own hype, thinking that they are something special. Reality hits hard, and it slapped the Blueshirts across their faces to the tune of a 4-1 loss against a team 19 points below them in the standings.
Silly drop passes, passes behind their backs, blind passes ... not bothering to close gaps, not bothering to follow up their shots, not bothering to cover the short side ... freewheeling and not paying attention to details. Completely disappointing and infuriating that it is happening this late in the campaign. The one thing about the Blueshirts battling for eighth place the last few seasons was that they came to play more often than not - although the nots were far, far more painful. But this time around the many reoccurring issues that weren't addressed are coming back to bite the boys at a bad time, not the worst but far from the best.
Seeing as the Rangers return to action in about 14 hours, this will be brief, Late Hits:
*Those reoccurring issues? John Mitchell has been lost without Carl Hagelin. Hagelin has been wildly erratic as he tries to do too much. Del Zaster is grossly incompetent. Staal is not himself. Gaborik is hit or miss. Richard$ disappears on a semi-regular basis. Rupp is useless. Stepan is struggling with added responsibility. And Cally often seems like he is skating alone and is the only guy out there who cares.
*Del Zaster was just as, if not even more, of a detriment to the team than Mitchell was. Sure Mitch kicked a puck in and lost another in his skates but those at least happened while he was trying to do his job. DZ forgets that he is a defenseman. During Stafford's first goal he was deeper than all three of the Ranger forwards and during his second he tried to split the defense and when that failed he stood around and watched as Buffalo counter-attacked. Not to mention his pathetic flop to the ice during the two-on-one that Ennis capitalized on. Clueless.
*Hank is ultimately responsible for the goals that went in and all four were stoppable. As mentioned in several recent posts, he is steadily playing himself out of the Vezina. While initially I believed that the news of an incoming offspring was to blame, perhaps it is his backup's struggles that have struck him. With Biron being outright bad, Hank has to be that much better and the extra pressure is perhaps getting to him. How else to explain the mental lapses? Certainly don't want to blame the grind of the season, as he upped his game in springs past.
*Pretty dangle McD, but all the fancy moves are for naught when your backhand from five feet away misses the net by a wide margin.
*Too many shots missed the net, most from the stick of Marian Gaborik. It is understandable that the Slovak sniper wants to pick the corners but sometimes just putting the puck on net is a good thing.
*Without seeing a good replay it is impossible to judge the goal that wasn't. In typical fashion the in-arena crew dropped the ball on the replays and explanations.
*Actually caught a replay of the Ehrhoff stops on Gabby. That's some good defense right there, and it was all caused by his own terrible turnover - a pass through the slot from the corner of his own zone.
*Did Thomas Vanek even play?
*Tim Erixon is getting more and more comfortable out there, and some of that is certainly due to his partner Stu Bickel. Remember when Staal came back at the Classic he credited Stu for being talkative and that is surely helping
*Can't put it off any longer, have to mention Zuccarello ... this sucks. Zuke showed improvement in all aspects of the game from where he had been and now all that progress is gone. In its place is a cast on his fractured wrist and hopefully the promise of future success. And hopefully that future success will be on Broadway. At least he went down doing his job, unlike the last fan favourite who was forced out by a domineering, short-sighted egomaniac.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Tyler Ennis - one goal and two assists.
2-Ryan Miller - 26 saves.
1-Drew Stafford - two goals and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Cally - You could tell the captain didn't want to lose to his hometown team.
2-Ennis - He's so little, how can you hate him? As Brian Gionta proved, easily.
1-Stafford - Drew is getting hot at the right time, that is for sure - 12 points in his last six games; Gabby has none in four.