Sunday, April 22, 2012
R1, G5: Gutless At The Garden
It is an odd thing that the 2011-12 New York Rangers, a team that clawed its way to the top not on skill but on hard work, would piss away their season so softly.
On Saturday night the Rangers were outworked for the fourth straight game of their playoff series against the Senators and lost 2-0. They moved one game away from elimination, trailing Ottawa 3-2 in the best of seven. I've overused T. S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men" in this blog but rarely has it been more true than now. The Blueshirts are ending their season "not with a bang but a whimper."
The team that led the NHL with 65 fights this season (0.79 per game) has just one bout in the series. And that is not for lack of provocation from the Senators, to be sure. That is because John Tortorella has tied the hands (or gloves to the hands) of the Ranger tough guys. Torts has taken the team away from a crash-bang, hard hitting, hard punching, forechecking team to one that sits back and reacts to their opponent. And Ottawa has used their team speed to take advantage of the time and space to dominate play. It's pathetic.
And, almost thankfully, it's almost over. All we have left to hope for is Carl Hagelin's youthful reckless abandon ignites the offence when he returns to action on Monday. That's right, a team with Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Marian Gaborik and Brad Richard$ (among others) needs a rookie to return its identity. Pathetic.
*As the Rangers have done all too often since the lockout, they inflated the opposing goaltender's numbers. Craig Anderson skated away with a 41 save shutout, but if he had to take a shower afterwards I'd be shocked. The Rangers shooters just fired the puck on net and rarely followed it. They didn't get into the slot, they didn't get into the crease. They aimed for the logo on Anderson's chest and skated away at the whistle.
*If Tortorella was indeed upset over the Neil hit on Boyle, why didn't he have anyone do anything about it? At this point he appears to be dressing Stu Bickel and Mike Rupp for no reason other than to meet the roster minimum, which is unfortunate.
*That hit, by the way, was totally clean. It was a great hit on a player not paying attention. So quit your crying. This is hockey.
*Neil has been one of the most valuable players in the series, to be sure. He has been throwing his body around, he has been contributing to the offense and has been capable backchecking. Doing exactly what Dubi should be doing for the Rangers.
*Yet another game where Erik Karlsson skated free. The Swede was hit once. Once. That makes for a total of five over the last four games. The linchpin to the Senator offense. Not that Del Zaster is in the same stratosphere of Karlsson (NOT EVEN CLOSE), but the Sens made sure to hit the Rangers lone "offensive defenseman" three times.
*Eight minutes of power play time, seven shots, no goals. Del Zastrous. New York typical.
*The one real goal against was abominable. John Mitchell abandoned his man Jason Spezza for a foolhardy poke check on Mark Stone and Stone smartly took advantage of it with a perfect pass. How Spezza's shot beat Hank five hole, well, that is beyond me. A terrible mistake by Hank. But you would think a goaltender should be allowed to survive one mistake while playing behind a first place team, wouldn't you?
*Chris Kreider just one shot in seven and a half minutes of play. If he was any more invisible his name would be Artem Anisimov.
*Perhaps Anisimov will show up in Game 6 if Torts deigns to pair him with Prust - the tough guy sparked Arty before (along with Jody Shelley), perhaps having the bruiser's heart will get him going again.
*Zenon Konopka played nearly 11 minutes (four of which were shorthanded), had an assist and won 10 of 12 faceoffs. Rupp played for five and a half and took a minor for charging. Ugh.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Jason Spezza - two goals.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 28 saves.
1-Craig Anderson - 41 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Anderson - Allowed one less softie than Hank.
2-Hank - One terrible goal aside, this game could easily have been four or five to zip.
1-Spezza - Spezza's first two goals of the series were more than enough to win on this night.