Sunday, March 25, 2012
47-21-7: Well, We're Better Than Toronto
The Ranger team that was blown out by Buffalo 4-1 on Friday was the same one that defeated Toronto 4-3 in overtime on Saturday. The only difference was the ability of their opponent. All the mistakes, all of the errors in judgement, all of the lapses were still there - the Leafs simply weren't capable of taking advantage of all of them. And their goaltending is terrrrrrrible.
Heard the term "gut check" used a few times in the wake of this one - and, honestly, in the wake of more than a few games this season. That is inaccurate. The Rangers didn't dig deep and find something there to persevere against all odds, they put together another sub-par performance. They played down to the level of their opponent and, on this night, got a couple of good bounces to keep pace before winning the breakaway contest.
As ranted again and again in this space, there are major flaws in this franchise and they have to be addressed before there is to be any real success. Power play, depth, consistency ... and now, shockingly/disappointingly/tragically, goaltending. Time is running short, things are about to get real and the Rangers had better come up with some solutions soon. They've won three out of four now but certainly won't be able to take four out of seven when it counts unless they step things up.
*Not a great night for Swedish goaltenders as both Hank and Gustavsson gave up awful goals. The difference there is that Hank is actually quite good, or was. It is uncharacteristic of him to see mental lapses night after night like this - overcommitting to Kessel, horrid rebound control to Connolly ... hopefully the shootout stops will be a starting point for the King to get his game back together. Seeing as the next Ranger opponent is Minnesota, and the Wild are anything but, Biron should get the start and Hank can have three full days to rest, relax and practice.
*Earlier this year Ryan McDonagh had a few bad games but the Rangers were able to rely on his rock of a partner Dan Girardi. Now Girardi has hit a rough patch and McD is the reliable one. Given the absence of Sauer and the troubles Staal is suffering through, the Rangers will need both of their top blueliners going if they are to withstand the playoff pressure.
*Is there any more under-covered concussion than that of Mike Sauer? The only updates we get are when the beat guys deign to reply to fan queries, and then they only seem to have some form of 'nothing new.' With McIlrath and Ceresnak still at least a year or three away, Pashnin likely to be with the rebuilt Lokomotiv next season and Valentenko not developing as hoped, the Rangers may need to seriously address the position this summer.
*Del Zaster didn't help Toronto score a single goal. He also didn't help the Rangers score a single goal. Call it a push.
*Richard$ made up for the turnover he had (the one that led to the Crabb goal) with his sexy assist on the Gabby goal. He then made up for his missed coverage of Tim Connolly with his first shootout goal of the year. Another push.
*TIm Erixon - two games, two assists. DZ one assist in his last seven. Just sayin' ...
*It has often seemed this season like Callahan was the only Ranger on the ice - often skating into the opposition end one-on-four and playing a far more motivated game than his teammates. So it is a bit amusing that his success came when he literally was the one Ranger on the ice. Well, I thought it was amusing. And outstanding.
*Did you notice Rupp hit Dubinsky an instant before Dubi scored? He collided with the kid from behind, shoving Dubi forward. Maybe the contact altered the angle of the shot and helped it go in, who knows? But it was certainly the closest thing Rupp has come to an assist in over a month. Nineteen games, no points. One assist in 33 games. I thought the point of having him as team goon was that he could contribute in other ways than using his fists?
*What game was the official scorer watching? He/she/it somehow counted 100 (!!!) hits in this game - one of the least physical exhibitions that the Rangers have skated in all season. Derek Stepan, who was all but invisible when not losing faceoffs, somehow accounted for a team high six hits (a total matched by Cally, although he has hit that number before). Ridiculous.
*Joey Crabb? Really?
*Sam and Joe are completely unlistenable. Sam doesn't know anyone's names anymore and Joe has amped up the obnoxiousness more than ever - something thought to be impossible. Said it before, I will say it again - I weep for the kids who are learning the game from these two. I was lucky to have had the best - JD and a young Sam - so I truly feel for those who get their info and insight from the current pairing.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Joey Crabb - one goal and one assist.
2-Marian Gaborik - two goals.
1-Ryan Callahan - game-winning shootout goal.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Gabby - The Slovak was just as involved as he was in Buffalo, but he faced a far weaker team and found far better results.
2-Connolly - Sexy snipe in the shootout plus the game-tying goal - just seconds after Gabby's go-ahead goal - gives him the nod over Joey Crabb.
1-Cally - The captain comes through yet again; where would the Rangers be without him?