Monday, April 18, 2011

R1, Game 3: No Sweep

As per always, this is not the place for sunshine, glitter and unicorns. The Rangers pulling out a 3-2 victory over Washington on Sunday in Game 3 is worth a quick smile but little else. They did not play particularly well and their opponents played far worse than they had in the previous two games.

Are you mad yet? You should be, but it shouldn't be at me for not tasting the rainbow. Be mad that John Tortorella still has no idea how to build cohesive lines. Be mad that John Tortorella still has no idea how to build a capable power play. Be mad that John Tortorella still has no idea how to motivate his team for 60 minutes.

Washington loosened up the fortress of shot-blocking and the tough checking that battered the Blueshirts over the first two games and yet this was the best the Rangers could do. It was enough on this afternoon to get the win and we should be pleased about that. Pleased? Yes. Happy? Eh. Satisfied? Absolutely not. It was incredibly saddening considering the glimpses of greatness we've seen earlier this season and it doesn't give any indication that they can pull out this series, much less go beyond it.


*10:33 of power play time - including a long five-on-three - and just one goal. One soft, soft goal. Utterly unacceptable. Bryan McCabe, the so-called power play savior when he was acquired, was atrocious. His thought process is as slow as his skating and he has proven that he is not the man-advantage answer. I understand that they haven't been prolific scorers this season but how has Torts completely ignored Prust and Avery when up a man? Both cause chaos when on the ice - something much needed when the power play is anything but. It is uncreative and lifeless, either setting up McCabe for his big shot (which has worked all of once) or Gaborik for ... well, I have no idea for what at this point.

*On the matter of power plays, the officiating crew for this game were utter failures. The level of "discipline" harkened back to the first season out of the lockout when most physical contact was discouraged. Not to mention their tendency to be in the way, the long review on a simple call and the waste of time that was finding a replacement official when one went down. Apparently 80 years of a single referee wasn't enough proof that they could go on minus the extra stripes.

*Of course, one of the highlights of the game was when a linesman decided to posture and toss Brian Boyle from the dot. Sean Avery stepped in, won the draw and drew a huge ovation.

*Did Boyle really have nine shots on goal? Really?

*Nice of Chris Drury to go for a line change while Washington was on the offensive with a minute left in the second period. His ill-timed abandonment of the Ranger end cost the team a goal - for the second game in a row. And he is the captain.

*Anyone else think that Derek Stepan may have hit the wall? The kid has been stellar at times this season but he just doesn't seem to have that extra gear left.

*Any idea of why Unkie Bruce limited the ice time of Matt Hendricks, Matt Bradley and Jason Chimera? Their most effective unit - especially in a cluttered mess like this match - saw less than 10 minutes.

*Watching Brandon Dubinsky's goal again and again makes it less and less impressive. First Nicklas Backstrom simply gives up the battle on the boards. Gives up and skates away. Then no Capital bothers to play the body, giving him a free lane to the net. And finally, he never really shot the puck. His momentum, combined with Alzner's stick check, popped the puck in the air and luck bounced it off of Alzner's shoulder and in. Dubi's ability went on the IR when Cally did so let's hope that this bit of good fortune can bring it back to good health.

*Ovechkin nearly managed to sweep the puck out on the play but his most impressive shift came after he came out of the penalty box in the second period. The Caps were still shorthanded and Ovie picked off a pass from a blind Mr. Softie. He then headed up ice to get the Rangers to chase, curled back into the Caps end and fired the puck down towards Hank. A perfect penalty killing play, by one of the best offensive players in the world.

*We (rightfully) have railed on Gaborik for not scoring but credit must be given when due. Gabby was planted in front of Neuvirth, drawing Alzner to him. Seeing as Carlson chased Dubi out of position, Gabby's move allowed Prospal to sit in the corner wide open to bang home Staal's rebound.

*Still unsure how Hank was named the top star of a game where he gave up two goals on 25 shots. Neither one was his fault but he hardly had to be as heroic of he often has been. Neuvirth made more saves but lost his consideration by allowing Softie's softie.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Vinny Prospal - one goal.
2-Brandon Dubinsky - one goal and one assist.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 23 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Dubi - Hey, a little luck goes a long way.
2-Marc Staal - Solid play on both sides of the ice, with his big shot to set up Prospal's goal and his regular hard work in front of Hank.
1-Ovechkin - We can boo Ovie all we like, shift after shift, but that doesn't stop him from being one incredible hockey player.


Joakim said...

Amazing to see how often, a so called sniper as, Gaborik misses the net when he shoots. Him and McB on the point on the PP is way too predictible...

Anonymous said...

Man, I know that Dubi got a little luck from his mustache to get the goal to go in, but how many times has that happened to the Rangers? How many goals have we scored on Hank? You make your own luck. Not Dubi's fault that the Caps D wet the bed on that last play. He took it strong to the net like a power forward is supposed to do.

Take this for what it is. A mess of a game where we were fortunate to come out on top. File it away and try to build on it.

Anonymous said...

In golf you always want to play with lower handicaps than you so you can elevate your game. Watching the Rangers play I can't help but think their opponents are doing the opposite....playing down to the Ranger's atrocious level. Who knows, maybe it will work for the Rangers, the whole rope-a-dope thing, but it is crap crap hockey and so very un-fun to watch.

The Ranger Pundit said...

So I am not the only one who thinks that "coach disgreeable" is a stiff. Thanks for the vindication.

MikeL-Caps said...

Great analysis as always. Dubinski got some luck when he went in on that goal, but he's the kind of player that tends to make his own luck. The Caps should have been better there, no doubt, and after the game, Ovechkin took the blame for that goal himself.

Lundqvist was very good, as always, but I see why you thought he shouldn't have been the first star. For my money, the top star in the game was Prospal. He was all over the place and was effective in getting the Rangers on the board and into the lead.

I know I'm a Caps fan, and I wanted the win as much as they did, but the Rangers played a little better in game 3 and earned the win.

As for Gordon/Hendricks/Bradley not getting a lot of ice, most of that was due to the Caps being behind 1-0 and 2-1 a lot of the game. When they fall behind, those guys spend a lot of time on the bench. When it was 2-2, they probably would have gotten a shift, but when it went to 4-on-4, Bruce went for the kill-shot and sent out Ovechkin-Backstrom-Carlson-Alzner after sending out Semin-Laich-Green-Schultz in an attempt to take advantage of the open ice with his more skilled players. It works if the puck is in the Rangers end, not so much in the Caps end. Alzner was the only guy doing his job there and he got hung with a minus due to the others being lazy...

drew said...

rangers don't lack effort, just talent...

*some of that talent might develop with stepan, anisimov, hell even gilroy and this playoffs is good experience for them. zucarello has some too but he's more effective for the rangers on the bench

*avery/boyle/prust was our best line out there but just doesn't have the skill the finish. but i'll take their energy and forechecking all day.

Opipio said...

Some comments about your post and the game…

“Be mad that John Tortorella still has no idea how to motivate his team for 60 minutes.” Not sure which part of the game the Rangers sagged in. They played hard the whole game, never let the Caps take control, and answered the bell every time they faced adversity. There have been many times this year where they did not play 60 minutes, but I don’t think yesterday was one of them.

“It was incredibly saddening considering the glimpses of greatness we've seen earlier this season and it doesn't give any indication that they can pull out this series, much less go beyond it.” While we’d all like to see the Rangers regain their cup glory, the reality is that this team is nowhere near ready to challenge for the cup. That in itself is no different than what we could have said about the previous 16 editions of this team. However, what is different now is that they are starting to assemble a good core of youth and management appears willing to give the team a chance to grow and gain experience even if there will be challenges along the way. I don’t disagree with having high expectations, but sometimes they need to be viewed for what they are – which is a hard working, mostly inexperienced team that has very little established high end talent. Being involved in the fight to make the playoffs was great experience, playing in the playoffs is tremendous experience, and actually winning some games is even better. All these things will make us much better moving forward, but unfortunately expecting this team to win now is just setting yourself up for disappointment. Enjoy what you can from this, and keep in mind that this is more about the future than the present, which is something we haven’t been able to say in a long time.

“Power play…utterly unacceptable”. I totally agree. While they managed to gain the zone and actually establish possession reasonably well, their decision making and execution was horrid. This is an area where I suspect the coaching is an issue. The reason I say this is because you see them constantly trying to set up the same plays regardless of whether they are available or not. It’s not only today either. It’s like they have been drilled on certain set plays which have worked a few times before, and now, rather than adapting to what the defense is giving them, they appear hell bent on forcing the same play even if it stands very little chance of working. It’s like all their offensive instincts are stripped from them when they get out on the PP. You’re right that McCabe looks lost out there – not sure why Gabby rarely looked to set him up for the 1-timer on the 5 on 3, since he actually does that well.

To be continued owing to space limits...

Opipio said...

Part 2...

“Nice of Chris Drury to go for a line change while Washington was on the offensive with a minute left in the second period.” A couple things here…blaming Drury for this goal is a joke. I love Prust, but he blew the coverage on Ovechkin on this play and its pretty black and white. The other thing to consider, and I have not gone back to watch the play, is the changes during the 2nd period are hard to make given that the d-zone is at the opposite end of the rink from the benches. As a result, guys can often get caught out for long shifts in the 2nd period and need to be careful about not getting caught out too long. Drury may (I say may because I don’t know, just speculating) have been making a smart play by getting off before becoming a liability by being gassed. There were 3 Rangers behind him and Prust was on the puck carried, so it wasn’t like he was leaving the team in a spot where they were facing a 2 on 1. When the goal was scored it everyone was accounted for and Prust just let Ovchkin go. On the subject of Drury, if Larry Brooks’ number can be trusted he was 15-3 on defensive zone face-offs, which is huge as other than Dubinsky he’s about the only one who can take a draw. I realize I sound like a Drury apologist (which I’m not – he’s been a total bust), but you’re not giving him a fair shake here.

“Anyone else think that Derek Stepan may have hit the wall?” Not necessarily. He’s skating hard and playing decent 2-way hockey, but there is just a lot less room out there and I think he’s struggling to find that extra space for himself. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does some good things later in the series.

“Any idea of why Unkie Bruce limited the ice time of Matt Hendricks, Matt Bradley and Jason Chimera”. Well, 14 minutes of PK and 6 minutes of PP has a tendency to limit the minutes of guys like this. Plus I think he probably wanted more of the top two lines given they were down in both the 2nd and 3rd periods. Not sure if Hendrick’s penalty in the 1st pissed off Bruce or not, but that could have contributed a little too. Dunno.

“Watching Brandon Dubinsky's goal again and again makes it less and less impressive.” C’mon, we ask the guys to get to the net, put pucks near the net and create mayhem in front. Dubinsky does just that, outworking Backstrom and getting to the net. Should he apologize for not scoring a prettier goal? Nobody is calling it a work of art. He worked hard, controlled the puck, got to the net in traffic, and lo and behold the puck went in the net. Good for him. I’d rather have a few of those than the powerplay searching for the perfect shot and doing nothing. That said, not sure why Backstrom backed off. It was a 2 on 3 in the corner and somehow Dubinsky emerged with the puck. Sometimes the other guys make mistakes too, and hard work helps create and exploit those mistakes.

“Still unsure how Hank was named the top star of a game where he gave up two goals on 25 shots.” Agreed, but not really sure who else to give it to. Probably Dubinsky (1G, 1A 25 minutes). Hank was solid and it seemed natural to give it to him, but honestly it could have been several players. Ovechkin had a goal and assist as well, so could have easily had one too.

KellyR24 said...

Well apparently the NHL liked Dubi's goal...they made a History Will Be Made commercial out of it. Already.

Anonymous said...

Perry Pearn is in charge of a team that is in the Top 10 for Powerplay and Penalty killing.
Is it because he is a wizard of special teams?

No. It is because, and all you have to do is watch the Canadiens to see it, they are really talented guys who play a bit of pond hockey when the rules change during a PP.
Prospal and once in a blue moon Dubinsky.

I do fault Tortorella for endless self-defeating line tweakings, but I cannot really fault him for the PowerPlay.
That is on the PowerLess Players.

Go Rangers!!

Anonymous said...

Can I get some cliff notes for Opipio's post?

Scotty Hockey said...

Only thing I want to chip in on Opipio is that I did not mention the Cup and certainly do not compare this team to them. I was comparing this team to this team - the performance on Sunday paled to that earlier this in several games - vs Pittsburgh (twice), vs Vancouver, vs NJ to name three. The Game against Vancouver being tops in my book. Sixty minute, balls to the wall efforts.