Saturday, April 6, 2013

18-15-4: Three Out Of Four Ain't Bad ...

It ain't bad but, of course, the Rangers probably could have taken four out of four from the home-and-home with the Penguins. Then again, let's face it, that wasn't going to happen - not with this head coach, not with this team. Still, the Blueshirts played a capable road game at Consol before falling in a skill competition.

Kind of appropriate, isn't it? The Rangers not having - or more appropriately, displaying - the skills to win?

The carefree, fun Rangers that annihilated the Pens Wednesday were replaced by a typical Tortorella troupe that mucked and grinded their way though the final buzzer and beyond. And that was good enough to earn a much-needed point against the top team from the LEast. Torts' counterpart Dan Bylsma acknowledged the absence of his top player and top two defensemen, and had his team play a tighter game. But, even so, that depleted squad still managed to get great chances seemingly at will and controlled the tempo.

That is the problem. Tortorella's personal aggression doesn't translate to his game plan - his philosophy has been to respond to the opposition rather than to impose his will upon it. Block shots, try not to take penalties, take what the other guys give you, limit forechecking to maintain optimum positioning, bequeath the blue line but hold the hash marks, minimize mistakes. That's not the way to win in the post-'04 lockout NHL. When Torts' team went out and just played on Wednesday they forechecked, they pressed, they threw caution to the wind and let Hank hold down the fort. Now the King is back behind his walls, walls that are as much a hindrance as a help. Sad.

Just a few Late Hits:

*Torts was back to himself, going heavy on his usual horses. Step skated for 24 minutes and took 28 faceoffs (he won seven). Brassard, who so impressed in his debute, played 14 minutes and took eight draws (winning six). Del Zaster 26 minutes, John Moore 10. The fourth line saw around seven.

*Should the Rangers squeak into the postseason and face Pittsburgh, the series could be quite the bloodbath with the Pens seeking Del Zaster's head. But would Torts and the Blueshirts battle - and eventually prevail - the way Philly did last year?

*Step was miserable at faceoffs for most of the match but man, did he win one at the right time. And that was one lightning-fast release by Nash ... Gabby likely would have set himself and waited too long.

*Do we give Boyle credit for continually trying or do we slam him for blowing big chances? Yeah, we slam him. Too slow, cement hands, cement head. Especially since every little kid is taught that the numbers on the back of the jersey are a stop sign, you don't aim for them when laying a body check (at least with the ref watching).

*Really wish Douglas Murray had become a Ranger.

*Hope this second honeymoon with Zuke never ends. He's so much fun to watch play.

*Engelland was 19-4-1 over his 25 previous fights, including a decision over Clowe in a wild bout last season. The rematch was a good one, with the big guys trading some big punches. It's nice that Clowe accounted himself well but that fight was for Engy. The wise defenseman knew he needed that early bout for his team, to show they weren't going to be smacked down for a second straight game. Seeing as the Rangers didn't exactly set the world on fire in the first 10, it's understandable that Clowe entertained the dance invitation.

*PHW Three Stars:
3-Henrik Lundqvist - 26 saves.
2-Jussi Jokinen - one regulation goal, one shootout goal.
1-Marc-Andre Fleury - 34 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Fleury - Not the same sieve that let six past him on Wednesday.
2-Hank - Some quality stops by the King.
1-Jokinen - New team syndrome struck for everyone else who was dealt at the deadline, so it was inevitable. 

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