Wednesday, April 30, 2008

R2, G3: There Is Always Tomorrow, Right??????

That is pretty much what the Rangers are trying to fool themselves into believing after they played lousy hockey for 50 minutes of the game against the Penguins on Tuesday night. Just two Rangers can look at themselves in the mirror and honestly say they left everything on the ice in this one: Jaromir Jagr and Ryan Callahan. And the thing that bothers me is that I wrote the same thing after Game 2 as well. Nothing changed in this 5-3 loss; the Pens took control early and had it the whole game.

People want to pin Ryan Hollweg up as the reason that the Rangers lost, but it wasn't entirely his fault. The Ranger goaltending was awful, the defense porous, the fitness lacking, the coaching poor, the shot selection dubious, the passing was off the mark, the power play ... ugh. They put up nearly 40 shots on net but more than 20 went right into the logo on Fleury's chest. The Pens defense forced the issue and shut the Blueshirts down. What can you say? They were awful, even when they had climbed back to tie the game. You could feel it was a matter of time before Pittsburgh would score again.

*If this truly is the last series of Jaromir Jagr's career, then at least he is going out strong. I rode this guy for months for playing disinterested, halfhearted hockey and I was asked why I was so upset, because he was still picking up some points. Well, this is why - he can play at this level but chose not to for so very long. Jagr showed the passion and skill that earned him the reputation of best European to every play in the NHL. He skates, he shot, he stood up for his teammates, he made good passes, he cared.

*We have said that Tom Renney's loyalty has been his downfall and tonight it was. He promised Christian Backman a shot and has stayed with him, and Backman hasn't repaid his faith. He was his usual bad self and one has to wonder how the steady, veteran, calm, strong presence of Jason Strudwick would have effected the other defenders. Renney might have worried about the speed of the Pens and how slow Studs is, but it doesn't matter how fast the blueline is when they are making mistakes, turning over the puck and letting forwards set up camp in front of the goaltender.

*Renney's loyalty extends, of course, to his coaching staff and the continued employment of Perry Pearn is baffling. Pearn is in charge of the power play and - just like during the regular season - it was predictable, inefficient and cost the Rangers the game.

*How can these guys be professional athletes if they can't play for two straight minutes? Watching the penalty kill literally stand still and watch the Penguins set up what would be the game winning goal was horrifying.

*We can't complain about the officiating in this one. It was pretty fair, with calls both good and bad going both ways. The only exception is seeing all of the roughing calls given for the scrum after the Rangers first goal - Kris Letang outright throws punches and slams Dubinsky to the ice and gets a roughing call, along with everyone else.

*Of course, it also was infuriating to see Cindy Crosby not get an unsportsmanlike for running right after the refs time after time and complaining for minutes on end, but that is to be expected. Gretzky did the same thing so the superstar rule gets called there.

*Did Sean Avery play? I couldn't tell.

*Rozy say nearly 27 minutes of ice time and really wasn't all that good. When he asks for a raise in the offseason, it wouldn't be bad decision to let him walk. He has incredible gaps in his defensive play and all of that offense he showed in the regular season seems to have disappeared now that the other team steps up its pressure.

*Even though Drury came back from his second period injury, if its the least bit serious it might not be a bad idea to shut him down for Thursday. I don't think he would allow it, being the warrior that he is, but if there is any kind of risk then the Rangers need to keep the next six years of his contract in mind.

*Speaking of the future: Callahan had a really good game aside from his high sticking penalty, Dubinsky had some good moments and Dawes did alright with his increased ice time. Toots and Girardi weren't very good, but they weren't very bad either.

*Seeing Scott Gomez grin while being interviewed in the post game interviews is making me sick. I know its his nature but seriously man, I know you have a long contract here but this will very likely be your best chance to win (at least for three, four years) so watching it get flushed down the toilet has to effect you. Oh look, MSG, NY just switched to an interview with Slash from Guns N Roses. So, I feel better; let's talk to an old rock star instead dwelling on the demise of the cornerstone of your network. Oy.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Jaromir Jagr - goal and an assist.
2-Marc-Andre Fleury - 36 saves.
1-Evgeni Malkin - two goals and one assist.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Rob Scuderi/Brooks Orpik - These two were great keeping the Rangers to the outside, blocking shots, banging bodies ... they made the Blueshirts blueliners look terrible by comparison.
2-Malkin - What a combination of size and skill. For a while people were saying he was Messier to Cindy's Gretzky, but he might be the Mario, just with a willingness to hit.
1-Jagr - He was the best player on the ice, what can you say? Too bad his intensity wasn't infectious.


Graying Mantis said...

Although you mentioned some changes for next year's team, I won't start thinking about that because this season is not finished.

Last night, when I walked into the Garden, I told my fellow fans that all I wanted was a game 6. That's still how I feel and I won't abandon the ship until it is docked.

I think the defensemen are tired from the long season -- they had to carry the burden (along with Lunqvist) of a pop-gun offense. Remember how they were the only ones scoring for several games in a row in November/December? The margin of error is too small for them (together with their overall size).

Also, the d-men (or actually, the coaches) have not adjusted to the fact that they are not covering the Devils' offense in this series. They simply have not stepped it up for whatever reason.

The Penguins are good and their first line is fantastic. No denying that. They won games 1 and 3 when they were being outplayed thanks to the Rangers' porous defense and shoddy goal-tending.

The Rangers have not played in a disciplined manner for the entire series and the flaws we have known about -- lack of physical defensemen, not finishing plays (how many more open nets will Straka miss), awful powerplays and Lunqvist's propensity to allow soft goals -- have been exposed. When all 4 combine, they are beatable by anyone. The Penguins, with their talent, can exploit the Rangers flaws.

I want Jagr back. I will be there on Thursday and will make sure that he knows I have appreciated what he has done to help make this franchise relevant again.

Unknown said...

Were the Devils just a bad team or have the Rangers forgotten how to play?

Truth is the Rangers have not played well, the Penguins are a great team on the offensive side of the ice, and the Devils were that bad. Not only do the Penguins score when they have the puck but they've been able to out-hustle and spook the Rangers into making countless turnovers. It seems like the Rangers can't make a pass in their zone without it being out of the reach of their player, skipping/bouncing over our sticks, or going to the penguins.

Scotty, you are doing a great job, keep it up.

Scotty Hockey said...

Graying - I admire your optimism, but as they are saying ad nauseam, 3-0 comebacks are near impossible, and now we will be playing without at least two, if not three starters. I agree on the tired defense - the kid pair of Toots and Girardi have been horrid, they are just out of gas after the team relied on them so heavily for so long. I am not so sure I want Jagr back, but he deserves to be applauded for his time in New York if Thursday is indeed the last time he graces the Garden ice.

RVC8 - Thanks for the kind words. And unfortunately I think its the Devils were just that bad. Marty didn't play well and the team in front of him had little firepower ...