Sunday, April 15, 2012
R1, G2: So Much For Home Ice
Several hours of retrospection have helped to find one single common thread among the many failures by the Blueshirts in Game 2 against Ottawa:
The Ranger bench boss made a plethora of mistakes in judgement and they cost his team a playoff game. Forgive me if that sounds familiar - as his errors cost the Blueshirts the Washington series in 2009 too - but his team tonight deserved a better fate.
Torts let his charges sit back on both leads they earned, apparently thinking that a one-goal advantage was enough in a playoff game ... a game against a team that scored 23 more goals than his own during the regular season. Instead they allowed the game-tying tally with less than five minutes to go and lost 3-2 early in overtime. Awful.
Torts saw the success the Rangers had in hitting Karlsson in Game 1 but did not demand they punish him again in Game 2 - Karlsson was hit twice. Twice. The guy was physically intimidated by all of the contact in the opener and played 30 minutes in this one. And he was hit twice. Inexcusable.
Torts kept Mitchell and Rupp off the ice entirely after the second period. Rupp may be largely useless, but Mitchell was actually having a solid outing before being stapled to the bench. By over-using the top lines in a defensive role, the skill guys had little energy to make honest attacks on a goaltender that they utterly owned in Game 1. And what makes it even worse is that Rupp's and Mitchell's counterparts - Chris Neil and Zenon Konopka - played a huge part for Ottawa.
The other Ranger with an edge, Stu Bickel, was limited to all of six shifts - two in the second period and one in the third. The remaining Blueshirt blueliners were physically worn down by overtime and were scrambling in their own end, leading to Neil's goal.
The head coach will have to get his head about him if the Rangers are to regain the momentum in this series. Luckily the Blueshirts had a 27-12-2 home record this year and a nearly identical away record of 24-12-5. But to replicate that regular season success the Rangers will have to replicate the physical play that brought them a win in the playoff opener: Karlsson needs to be abused, lines need to be better managed, bodies need to pile up around Anderson and goals need to pile up behind him.
This series depends on it.
*Matt Carkner was the hero of the game for Ottawa because he did his job, above and beyond. He got revenge for Boyle's nuggies on Karlsson in Game 1 and intimidated the Rangers away from doing anything to the kid in Game 1. And he took a hard-working Ranger with him while doing it. That is a helluva performance by the no-talent neanderthal.
*Good job turtling Boyle, surely Claude Lemieux and Sean Avery are proud wherever they may be. It was Willie Huber channelling Jeff Bloemberg. You have to respect Dubi for doing the right thing but for him to even have to defend a 6-foot-7, 245 pound behemoth is ridiculous. Boyle tried to save face by taking on Neil but, of course, the Senator won that debate. And that final shift in overtime was full of fail for the big softie Boyle as he lost a defensive zone faceoff and lost his coverage, allowing Neil to win again. It is delightful that the BC alum has been able to provide some secondary scoring - someone, anyone needed to step up - but he still needs to be solid in his own end, that's his job.
*Callahan showed that, unlike the soft septuagenerian captain of Ottawa, he actually has some integrity and toughness. He ducked his head and took an elbow from Chris Phillips in the first period. Alfredsson ducked his head and took an elbow from Hagelin in the second and went down like a ton of bricks to draw a major penalty. Maybe if Cally collapsed and called it a night the Rangers would have received another five minute power play. Not that they would have scored on it but still ...
*A knuckle puck from Anton Stralman ensured that the Rangers escaped with one goal in their 10 minutes and 39 seconds of power play time. They had a man advantage for more than one-sixth of regulation and scored once - on a lucky shot at that. The power play has been a sore spot for much of this season but Tortorella keeps throwing the same personnel out there hoping for a different result. I do believe that that is the definition of insanity.
*Del Zaster had 6:17 of power play time and did not score or set up or even witness a single goal during that span. But he had 3:14 of shorthanded time and deftly redirected a shot in for Ottawa with his skate; perhaps the Red Bulls could use his services. Sure he picked off the pass to feed Fedotenko (who looked offsides) on the Boyle goal but that doesn't level the ledger. DZ's defensive play has been disgraceful from Day 1 and has not gotten any better. Did he have a good moment in the second period where he forced two turnovers? Yes. Was he constantly outmatched the rest of the time? Yes.
*Walcom and Walsh have shown their incompetence time and time again and yet are still given regular assignments for the NHL. Their work on this evening was atrocious. They battled to ensure that all of the calls evened out and "missed" blatantly obvious infractions inches away from them - for both teams. Just piss poor officiating.
*Brandon Prust = heart. Balls to the wall, every second of every shift. And he had one of the two hits on Karlsson!
*Cally, dude ... one on one with Craig Anderson, how do you blow that? Anderson's five hole opened up bigger than the Lincoln Tunnel - exactly as it did for Gabby in Game 1. And Cally chipped the puck into the goaltender's waiting glove. Heartbreaker. But it must be said that that late first period gaffe was the only egregious error in his evening as the captain put together another outstanding game. If this team goes down, it won't be from lack of effort by its leader.
*Speaking of Gabby, did the Slovakian Sniper dress for this game? Didn't notice him. Well, outside of the Foligno goal - what a terrible shift by the Ranger top line on that one.
*Nick Foligno had exactly the kind of performance Dubi should have been able to have if not for Boyle, full of gritty work around the opponent's net.
*What was the deal with the second-rate cover band playing every other break? Eesh. The music director finally got things right by playing some edgier music to match the mood but the hackney covers were just unnecessary.
*Absolutely love, love, love that the Minnesota guys who get the call to start the game wait to leave the blue line after the national anthem until the American flag is taken off the ice. Noticed it a few games ago with McD and Step and, on this night, Stuuuuu. Class. USA! USA!
*As mentioned after Game 1, those USA chants are ridiculous The Sens have seven Americans on their roster, the Rangers have seven Americans on their roster. And to chant that after the Swedish goaltender makes a save is just stupid.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Daniel Alfredsson - A convincing dive to draw a five minute power play.
2-Brian Boyle - one goal.
1-Chris Neil - one goal.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - The King made 29 saves and could hardly be faulted on the three shots he missed.
2-Karlsson - The Swede controlled play singlehandedly for long stretches of the night.
1-Carkner - Mission accomplished.