Friday, March 9, 2012

42-17-7: Overlooking Ottawa

Perhaps John Tortorella had his sights set on Chicago. After all, Friday's match will be against a recent Stanley Cup winner and an Original Six foe. But before the Blackhawks came the Ottawa Senators and Torts' oversight doomed his team to a 4-1 loss.

The Rangers are smack dab in the middle of their annual winter doldrums. They have put forth far from acceptable efforts over their last dozen or so games. Thanks to a little bit of luck and some regal performances by the King, the Blueshirts have escaped with a few wins over that span but don't let that fool you - this team is struggling.

Tonight's loss started with the decision to start Marty Biron. Facing an Eastern Conference foe - one with a 8-3-1 record in their previous 12 games - Torts went with his backup and the decision backfired. Biron has been outright bad of late and he did nothing to turn around his fortunes. The netminder allowed two goals on the first four shots he faced - the first of which was outright amateurish, a wide open shot from the top of the circle. Given how the Rangers have been stumbling out of the gates, to lose an early lead one minute after going ahead was huge.

From there on out it was a battle for the Blueshirts to get their game together and they were unable to do it. There was little intensity and little effort. Big Ben Bishop had a harder time during the AHL All Star Game last month than he was in this one.

Given the trajectory that the Penguins are on and the imminent return of Sidney Crosby, the Rangers' time atop the Eastern Conference may well be coming to a close. They certainly aren't doing much to stay there. A win against Chicago will help, but a win over Ottawa would have been more important.

Late Hits:

*No one kills a Ranger power play like the Rangers. They had four power plays in this one, for a total of 7:27 of ice time. They managed all of six shots, not one of which really tested Ottawa's giant goaltender. It is hard to rip on Richard$ given his exceptional feed to Cally for the first goal, but he certainly didn't do much with the man advantage.

*And neither did Del Zaster, who was his usual DelZastrous self. Sloppy in the offensive end, awful on defense. For all of those who defend DZ because of his age, Erik Karlsson - Norris candidate Erik Karlsson - is less than a month older.

*What I would have given to see DZ fight against Sergei Gonchar. I imagine it would have been a bit like this. Del Zaster, by the way, has yet to have a NHL fight and I am pretty sure he never tossed the gloves in junior either.

*Love Pruster, but why fight late in the third period? The game was well out of hand. He should have tossed the gloves to go after Chris Neil when that goon was cheap shotting the Rangers earlier on. But at least he escaped the fight with Smith without injury.

*Speaking of goons ... Mike Rupp. I say a lot of bad things about him but on this evening he deserves my thanks. His missed hit in the third period was hilarious. After watching the team struggle all night, I needed that laugh. And, thanks to a reader - click on the pic for endless fun!

*Almost as amusing was John Scott's breakaway. The big guy had no idea what he was doing and by the time he decided it was too late. Had he scored, the Rangers would have went up 2-1 and who knows what would have happened (pigs may have taken flight, dogs and cats may have started living together, mass hysteria may have ensued ... ).

*Rangers deserving of accolades were Cap'n Cally, Feds, Mitch and Arty. All four hustled all night long (all night) and were rewarded with chances. Sadly they couldn't convert but they get an A for effort.

*Paul MacLean's mustache is magnificent.

*I admit to being a long-time fan of Jason Spezza. Saw him fight Jason Botterill in Binghamton back in 2003 after Botterill went knee-on-knee with Spezza's teammate Christoph Schubert. He may not be the do-all power pivot folks in Ottawa hoped for but he has a heap of talent.

*Sam and Joe were horrible, one of their worst broadcasts of the season. They got names wrong, facts wrong, analysis wrong ... how does the colour man of the Rangers not know the franchise's ECHL affiliate? And geez Joe, stop with the hair dye - you look as ridiculous as you sound.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Rob Klinkhammer - one assist.
2-Jared Cowen - no idea. Five hits?
1-Ben Bishop - 25 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Chris Neil - Cheap-shotting shift disturber did his job. Makes you miss a certain former Ranger ...
2-Chris Phillips - Several times the Rangers got themselves into good scoring positions only to have the Sens' vet smoothly diffuse the situations.
1-Zack Smith - Sure his goal should have been an easy stop but it came at the tail end of a relentless shift. And he came just short of a Gordie Howe hattie when he beat up Pruster at the end of the third.

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