Thursday, April 11, 2013

20-16-4: Taking Two From Toronto

The Rangers completed their home-and-home with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night and came through with a pair of points, prevailing 3-2 in a shootout. It was a poor performance by the Blueshirts but they got the result they desperately needed.

Toronto, a team that the Rangers were battling with for Eastern Conference position, collected three out of four points from the two games against New York. The battle between the Original Six rivals is all but over, as the Leafs are sitting in fifth place - five points clear of the logjam that is 6-7-8-9. To think, the Maple Leafs have all but sealed a playoff spot while the Rangers are jockeying with the Islanders and the Jets (and the Sens).

This asterisked season really is an aberration. But, as the Devils proved in '95, even bad teams can take the Cup if they get hot at the right time so there is hope for the Rangers yet. They'll just have to work harder - far harder than they did against Toronto - to turn that hope into results.

Late Hits:

*To think that individual skill competitions will continue to have a heavy hand in determining postseason eligibility in this team sport is stupefying. Really wish the NHL would do away with shootouts or at least make it a 3-2-1 point system.

*Three wasted Ranger power plays. Ho hum. Par for the course, as was the third expiring and Toronto scoring soonafter. The opportunities that have come and past this season are legion, and infuriating.

*Poor Brad Richard$. All that money and he can't buy a goal.

*Nice of Ryane Clowe to come through with a fight to swing the pendulum. Really, what is Arron Asham getting paid for?

*Torts' mismanagement of the Blueshirt blueline is killing this team. Dan Girardi is playing far too many minutes, John Moore far too few. Moore has shown he can skate and make plays, and yet he had just two shifts in the third period and none in overtime - a four on four OT with a ton of space for a kid who can skate and make plays. And yet Steve Eminger was out there for over 30 seconds. Senseless.

*Girardi ... an All Star last season, G is a shadow of that player and his Del Zastrous fumble of an ill-advised Asham pass led to the game-tying goal. He's making mistakes more than ever and yet Torts had him out there for a half hour.

*Neither he nor anyone else on the Rangers were able to contain Toronto's top trio - Kessel, JvR and Bozak. Their speed, hustle and chemistry just killed. Imagine that, a line that has chemistry. What a concept.

*Great shot by McDonagh to give the Blueshirts the lead. Amazing what happens when players screen the goalie and the shooter avoids putting the puck into the legs of the guy right in front of him.

*Bork! Finally, Hagelin's hard work paid off in a goal. Hopefully it will open the floodgates ...

*Really seems like a long time since Taylor Pyatt was a contributing member of this team. Maybe facing his former franchise on Saturday will get him back in the game. His big body could be a big help down the stretch and in the playoffs (if the Rangers make it).

*Speaking of big bodies, why/how in the world did Boyle get a star? He was abominable, as per usual. He had nothing to do with either of the Ranger goals, he missed passes and gift-wrapped chances, his penalty killing consisted of standing around watching the Leafs pass the puck ... Which of the writers did he pay off?

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Brian Boyle - no points.
2-Phil Kessel - two goals.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 23 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Clowe - Sure he didn't win the fight against Fraser but the Rangers were in desperate need of life and he sparked it.
2-Kessel - By far the best skater on the ice; wonder why he wasn't in the shootout. Can't wait to see him in Sochi. (USA! USA! USA!)
1-Hank - Even with the 20+ minute gap between shots, the King collected a multitude of game-saving stops. With a common goaltender, this game was over in regulation with the Leafs winning handily. Good thing we have royalty amongst us. 

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