Thursday, May 17, 2012
R3, G2: Terrible Twos
I'm not a parent or anything, but I believe that the Terrible Twos are when screaming, squirming toddlers learn to use the potty. Well, the Rangers certainly soiled the bed on Wednesday night, their third straight unpleasant Game 2 performance.
As with the previous two series, the Blueshirts followed up a stellar opener with a stinker. They came out flat, they were not physical, they were not willing to pay the price to win. And they didn't. And it was thanks to John Tortorella, again. For all of his hollering on the bench (and obnoxiousness off it), the clueless head coach couldn't motivate his players to play the right way and his idiotic intimidation tactics backfired.
While letting Stepan and Del Zaster (among others) skate despite severe, unacceptable defensive gaffes, Torts decided to pick out another player - he benched Marian Gaborik, while his team was desperate for a goal. The head coach's ideas of accountability have been screwed up from the start of his tenure on Broadway (Sean Avery, need I say more?) but that he feels the need to push buttons and give lessons with his team in Game 2 of the conference finals is just asinine. Or perhaps that is just another instance when his ego takes center stage - he feels like his team can piss away a home win because they can prevail in the end.
Personally, I feel that belief is idiotic because the team that Torts insisted was not tired is clearly skating at a quarter of the speed that they were and they are playing a different style than the one that made them first in the East this season. They are far, far, far less physical and far more willing to sit back and block shots than to challenge the shooters.
But, hey, the Rangers prevailed in the last two series despite the different philosophy and obnoxious head coach so perhaps the trend will continue and the Blueshirts will survive. Perhaps.
*After Game 2 of the Washington series I wrote, "the Blueshirts made little effort to get rebounds and barely had any bodies around the net ... the one time someone actually set up in front they scored." Same thing this time around. Instead of doing a flyby like Richard$ or Cally or Boyle or any of the other guys, Kreider actually set up and tipped in Anton Stralman's shot. The kid is continually proving that the Nash non-trade was the right move - Nash wilted in his first trip to the playoffs while Kreider is coming of age.
*For the second straight game, serious credit to Mmmaaaarrrtttyyy - this time for an amazing kick save while lying on his prodigious gut. Perhaps, like some kind of sick cannibalistic Highlander sequel, he ate Dominick Hasek and gained the Czech's power to make these sprawling, last second saves. Whatever it was, these saves were outstanding.
*Mmmaaaarrrtttyyy did his best beached whale impression multiple times and yet the Rangers were only able to take advantage once, with the ricochet off the end boards. The distended Devil is opening the door but the Blueshirts weren't bothering to walk through it. They were outhustled and outmuscled and they made Fayne, Greene and Salvador look like Robinson, Savard and Lapointe. That trio is not Robinson, Savard or Lapointe. Not even close.
*Now, on to someone who could have entered that pantheon of Habs blueliners: Ryan McDonagh. My exhausted memory recalls McDonagh having himself one heroic shift in the second period. First he hurt his hand blocking a shot with his glove, then he went to hit someone along the boards, then he took the puck off his skate and was still in the play basically on one foot. He soldiered through until the whistle, went to the bench and didn't miss a shift. Just outstanding to see.
*A note on Torts' idea of accountability: Mike Rupp played like he was petrified to take a penalty. Saw him skating behind a Devil at one point with his hands raised, to ensure that the refs saw that he wasn't hooking or holding or doing anything. But that is exactly it, he wasn't doing anything. Rupp couldn't goad Clarkson into a fight jawing across the red line and then did little to get the Devil or, frankly, any of the Devils off of their game. Having him slowly lumber around like a dinosaur isn't doing anyone any good. And Torts continually putting him on the ice immediately after a Ranger goal is utterly baffling.
*Brandon Prust was probably the best Ranger in the first period. Sadly he then saw just four shifts in the second period and couldn't keep momentum going.
*Saw Hagelin lose his lid, letting those magnificent locks flow free. And what a sight to see. Ron Duguay who? That interference penalty that was called on him in the first period was a farce. But the officiating in general was amusingly bad so whatever.
*As my buddy Lazz said, they ought to buy Stephane Matteau a seat on either side of the rink so he can sit right behind Mmmmaaaarrttttyyy all game. That ought to get into the goaltender's head a bit.
*Another friend of the blog, Joakim, was remarking to me on the weird career Stralman has had - from Sweden to failing on three poor NHL teams to rumours of a return to Sweden to decent minutes on the top seed in the Eastern Conference. He now has three goals and three assists in these playoffs - twice as many points as Feds and Hagelin, five more then Prust, Mitch and McD and six more than Rupp.
*Utterly Del Zastrous night. The team got stuck in their own zone during many of his 30 shifts, he was largely useless on the power play, he was on the ice for the last two goals against and he shoved a Devil directly into Hank. Taking out your own goaltender is a bad thing kiddo. As near as I can tell, when chasing for a puck, he would rather be beaten there, ignore the thing and make contact - so he doesn't get hit himself. Sometimes you have to pay the price to make the play and he should realize that. Also counted twice that he was farther in the opposition zone than the Ranger forwards, both of which plays ended up coming back the other way.
*Is Fedotenko snakebitten or what?
*The penalty box door getting stuck was outstanding. Talk about a player having to feel shame, Travis Zajac had to stand around the entire time. It was laugh out loud funny watching him as the staff tried everything to open the door.
*Kovalchuk's game-opening power play goal was bad. Real bad. Hank's angle was off, opening up the far side and the Russian sniper, of course, sent the puck right in there. Not the world class goaltending we've come to expect from the King.
*When they showed that hot chick Kate Upton on the big board, did I see it right? Did she have the rally towel upside-down?
*Clarkson scoring ... ugh. Need Dubi or Avery to come back and kick his ass (won't happen, but a nice thought).
*PHW Three Stars
3-Bryce Salvador - two assists.
2-Chris Kreider - one goal.
1-David Clarkson - one goal.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Marek Zidlicky - The former Ranger draft pick was everything that Del Zaster wasn't: calm, poised and capable carrying the puck.
2-Adam Henrique - Solid two-way play and success inside the circle gives him the edge over fellow rookie Kreider, who was perhaps the best Ranger forward in the losing effort.
1-Marc Staal - The Blueshirt blueliner played a game-high 27:26, wasn't on the ice for a single goal against, attempted six shots - more than any other Ranger - and scored.