Thursday, January 8, 2009

24-15-3: Collapsing Before The Canadiens

The first two periods of hockey at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night weren't particularly pretty. In fact, there were stretches of outright boredom. But those doldrums came due to two pretty evenly matched teams keeping their cards close to their chests. When the third period started the Rangers started showing off their hand and fell apart, leaving Robert Lang and the Canadiens to pick up the pieces and put together a 6-3 victory.

I am just going to get right into it:

*You have to start in net, where Henrik Lundqvist was a sieve. I overheard someone float the idea that the Rangers should platoon Hank with Valley the way they did with Beezer and Richter and I can't say it is a bad idea. Hank is not playing all-world hockey right now, that simple. His first period gaffe behind the net that gave the Habs their first goal said it all. His confidence isn't where it should be right now and he hasn't shown the ability to play out of it. At least three of the five goals scored on him were stoppable.

*And he has no one to blame but himself. For the first two periods, the Ranger defense played the best they have as a unit all season long. They moved the puck well, they were in good positions and - while not a physical lot - they didn't allow the Habs to crash the crease. Of course, in the third period that changed. Marc Staal decided to remind everyone that he is a second-season player and allowed Robert Lang to walk around him for the nail in the coffin. Bad, bad, bad timing. But the good stuff is that Dmitri Kalinin's great play in the second period set up the equalizer by Callahan and Rozy's third period tally came as a result of good work. I am loathe to give Wade Redden credit, but if he hadn't cheated and cross checked a player into the Montreal crease in the first period, the Rangers wouldn't have scored to tie the game at one. A real referee woulda called it back, but whatever.

*The officiating was a little iffy, making five straight calls on the Blueshirts but what can you do? The zebras have been inconsistent to the point of idiocy since the lockout.

*Some of those calls were quite justified. There was no grey area with Callahan's high stick and none with Scott Gomez's holding. Cally's infraction came on the follow-through of a play, Gomez's was just laziness and stupidity. Just when you thought the Mexican't couldn't soil that A on his chest any more ...

*Can we end the Aaron Voros experiment now and bring back someone who will actually try? I don't necessarily think that the hooking call on Voros was a clear-cut call, but that was the only time he was visible the entire night. You couldn't help but notice Lauri Korpikoski every time that kid was on the ice prior to this benching. How the oversized Voros could play so small is startling and unnerving.

*But if you are to bench Voros, then it is also time to give Markus Naslund and Nik Zherdev a taste of the pine. Nazzy made a few plays but his scoring touch, what little there is left of it, has disappeared. And we knew Z was enigmatic, but he hasn't shown up in a few weeks. Perhaps he can find himself up in the press box while PA Parenteau finally gets a shot at the NHL.

*Of course, a decision like that would fall to Tom Renney and he is proving more and more incapable of making this team win. Of all of the dubious moves - and there are so many every single minute of the game - I wonder what took him so long to pull Hank tonight. Down two goals with a power play, he waited until Roman Hamrlik's penalty was more than half over to call time out and remove his netminder. Last night the Devile scored two goals with their goaltender on the bench - the first coming on a power play with almost eight minutes left. That takes cajones and our fair leader doesn't have any. He won't bench players who play poorly, he juggles the lines incessantly and he can't make tactic changes on the fly.

*The Canadiens seemed primed to be intimidated and Renney had Colton Orr on the ice for all of 5:39. And it isn't like Orr was a step behind or was useless out there. He had a few good hits and nearly scored. His linemate Blair Betts, the best centerman on the team, played six minutes at even strength. Two words: bad coaching.

*Perhaps a better coach would be able to find the switch on Brandon Dubinsky and turn it back on. Dubi is skating hard but things just aren't clicking. A friend suggested that putting him on the shelf for Artem Anisimov, who is looking good in Hartford and I can't disagree. But at this point, with this team playing the way it is, I have no problem with most any personnel move if it gets a hungry young player into the roster.

*Just look at Nigel Dawes and Petr Prucha. For the third straight game they were by far the best Rangers on the ice. And the reason? They played like they cared, they played like they wanted to play in the NHL. It is amazing how that works.

*It was amazing to see the sheer number of Montreal fans in the Garden. An interesting moment came when the in-house camera found Ranger great Brad Park in the crowd. Most of the Montreal fans I saw clapped for him while a large number of Ranger fans didn't. For shame. And the fact that the idiots were back doing the "Potvin Sucks" whistle every five minutes was just as disgraceful. Stuff like that makes me sad to call myself a Ranger fan. And on that depressing note (only appropriate after this game):

*PHW Three Stars
3-Jaroslav Halak - 36 saves.
2-Andrei Markov - one goal and one assist.
1-Robert Lang - hat trick.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Prucha/Dawes - They get a co-star because it is almost impossible to distinguish between them. Both hustled, both threw what little body weight they have around and both initiated action.
2-Roman Hamrlik - Sure he took a bad penalty late that could have cost the Habs but with the Ranger power play being what it is, it really wasn't that egregious of an error. The rest of the night Hamrlik was all over the ice and he collected three assists for his effort.
1-Lang - It is always great to see a hat trick, even if it is against you. Sure some cred is lost with one of the tallies being an empty netter, but it was shorthanded so more power to him. And, while I took Staal to task before, Lang's goal around him was quite purty. Not only did he take the kid's jock strap away, he stashed it in the upper corner of the Ranger net, along with the puck.


the Rocket said...

Good game review! Interesting to see that you aren't happy with Renney. Want to trade for Carbo? I always thought Renney was a good coach. Tonight he did a good job with the last change keeping Gomez away for Lapierre.


Anonymous said...

Didn't think that Voros was that terrible last night but he has 0 chemistry with Z and Dube. This is an arguable W with Vally.

Brother P said...

this lost rests directly on the shoulders of Henrik. He was awful last night.

Rob Celletti said...

What game were you watching? I didn't see any boring hockey last night. Also, the Rangers carried the play for a majority of the game and were unlucky that they had some dubious calls go against them and that Lundqvist had an off night. It happens. It's hockey.

Also, for a Ranger fan, it's amazing, you rarely credit the Rangers. Do you even enjoy watching them? If not, why even put yourself through the torture?

I know part of the fun of having a blog is to analyze and criticize (especially after a loss), but I mean really, do you ever get sick of bashing everyone except for Orr and Betts? Oh wait, how many goals do Orr and Betts have this season...FIVE COMBINED (And I know their purpose is not to score, but still).

Listen, I'm not happy with the mediocre play over the last two one should be. I wholeheartedly agree that Voros needs to go (I hated this signing when it happened in July, he's a talentless clown) and that Lundqvist needs to be much better. But the team did not play a bad game last night...they just happens.

Anonymous said...

To an extent, I agree with Xavier. Granted, I only discovered this blog about a month or two ago, but in that time I haven't seen much celebratory or positive comments come from Scotty. While it's often hilarious and incisive to read, it's also quite a downer.

On the other hand, I do think Orr and Betts deserve more credit/ice time since they clearly WANT to play and if the Voros line isn't showing chemistry, then their ice time should be given to a line that does have chemistry. Fuck the stat about their 5 combined goals - how many have they prevented?

Also, this wasn't just a loss. This was a bad loss because of how the Rangers collapsed in the third period and how mediocre Lundqvist looked and has looked the whole season.

nyrmike21 said...

Hank's fault 100%. He could've easily stopped most of those shots. Also I don't think you're being critical enough on Staal. You comment on the other D-Men not taking the body, but when it happens to Staaly you make an excuse. I just think you should stay fair when criticizing the players, because had that been Kalinin you would've said trade him now that was a horrible play.

Scotty Hockey said...

Rocket - I am not sure Carbo is the right fit for us. I think we need Pat Quinn.

Xavier - There was very little intensity for long stretches in the middle of the first and in the second period. Boring to the point that the Habs fan sitting next to me nearly dozed off.

And Xavier and Anon 2 - I give credit where due and celebrate at the appropriate times. When most of your roster is underperforming, when your GM spent like a sailor on shore leave to stock said roster, when your coach makes dubious decision after dubious decision and you are paying more money than ever to watch it ... that isn't the appropriate time to be cheering. Now that the Rangers are tumbling down the standings, people are finally seeing what I have been saying all along: their record fooled a lot of people into believing glory was coming but at the end of the season, they will be fighting for a final playoff spot. I love giving credit where it is due - I admitted that Kalinin had a good game in this one - but I won't give accolades when they are undue, just because I am a fan.

Scotty Hockey said...

Mike - I make an excuse for Staal because it is the first time in months that he made a mistake like that. Kalinin, on the other hand, has made infraction after infraction this season. If Staal continues to play like a pylon, you had better believe I will call him out on it.

nyrmike21 said...

I understand what you're saying, I really like Staaly and the defense that he plays, but I just feel like you cushioned him too much. I know you want him playing on the PP, but honestly I think he'd be better fit as a defensive defenseman because he's great at that, whereas he doesn't like to shoot the puck(much like the rest of the defense).

Rob Celletti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Celletti said...

Sorry for the typing mistake...

As a season ticket holder, I fully understand the prices, as I pay them also. But I also realize how special it is to be able to watch live NHL hockey so often...a lot of people aren't afforded that opportunity...but that's a different debate for a different day.

In any case, my opinion is that Sather deserves a lion's share of the blame, and not Renney. I think Renney is astute, and the players seem to like him. I do agree he could hold certain players more accountable, but I don't think firing Renney would solve this team's problems. The real problem is that there just aren't any gamebreakers on this roster. Last season, we had 3...Jagr, Shanahan, and Avery. They all did it in different ways, but losing those players has made the Rangers a much less dangerous team, and a team MUCH easier to play against. Failure to re-sign or adequately replace those players falls directly on the shoulders of Mr. Sather.

Anyway, I agree with you that the record was inflated at the beginning of the season, but truth be told, a lot of fans WEREN'T sipping the Kool-Aid anyway. However, I do have faith that this team, if it adds the appropriate piece or two at the deadline, can finish in the top 4 of the conference and make a run at a Cup. As it is currently comprised though, I agree, this team isn't good enough.

Anyway, I'll continue to read your blog, if only to disagree with you! Keep it up...and maybe I'll catch you at The Garden.