If you thought the last loss to Florida was bad, boy were you in for something tonight. At least they had a two-goal lead after two periods in that one before falling apart. In the final game before the two day Christmas break, the Rangers managed to outdo themselves by blowing a 3-0 two period cushion at Tampa in utterly amazing fashion.
After a finally healthy Henrik Lundqvist opened the door by giving up a weak sharp angle power play goal to Dan Boyle to cut it to 3-1 1:02 in, the self destruction was underway when Boyle rebounded home a Nikita Alexeev shot 1:27 later to suddenly cut it to one thanks to an awful Thomas Pock turnover. Just what was Pock doing on this play? He looked every bit like a weak extra defenseman who was repeatedly healthy scratched by the coaching staff because they were afraid to play him. Maybe they knew. But since he's returned in place of Marek Malik (groin), Pock has looked dreadful. Is this because they destroyed his confidence or because he just really is this bad in his end? I'm a little too alarmed to find out.
Once Boyle's second goal was scored so quickly, I just knew there was no way the Rangers were going to win. They are so fragile and predictable it's actually sad. Once the first sign of trouble starts, this team morphs into the seven Ranger teams from 1997-04 which you knew had no chance of making the playoffs. So embarrassing are they that if they had a three-goal lead with 10:00 left, it wouldn't be safe. They cough up the puck routinely and turn into the NHL version of the Tinman. For those wondering who that is in football terms, it's Peyton Manning every January. Until further notice, Alex Rodriguez has that dubious distinction in baseball.
Back to this sadsack bunch and the latest third period collapse. So how quickly was that 3-0 lead gone you wonder? It took Tampa Bay just 5:56 to tie it after Vincent Lecavalier used the miniscule Martin St. Louis (screen) to blast a slapper by Lundqvist for the Lightning's second PPG in 4:54. Now I want you depressed and probably intoxicated Ranger fans to consider something about this. In the first period, the Rangers headed to the penalty box three consecutive times but weren't scored upon. So what happened two periods later to change the outcome? The fact that this team is so schizo they might just be suffering from Multiple Personality Syndrome. Everything can be perfect for two periods just like the last two games. But then it all pinballs downward and spirals out of control.
It's not like clueless Coach Tom Renney didn't try to stop the Lightning momentum. He burned his timeout after Boyle's second goal. But in what's now becoming a trend uncommon with last year's grittier bunch, this soft team which skates on eggshells didn't respond. Once it was knotted, you knew it wouldn't be going to a shootout like a similar game in St. Pete last year. That team had heart and tried. This one doesn't and looks lost once things turn on them. So was it any shock when a Ranger turnover at the Tampa blueline resulted in Boyle turning on the jets and then surprising Lundqvist by ripping one from inside the blueline past him for his first career hat trick? Now I'm going to say this. Boyle is a skilled defenseman. But there's no way he should be able to score on that shot which was equally as brutal as that softie Kevin Weekes allowed to the Isles' Jason Blake last Tuesday to kill the team's momentum. Weekes has repeatedly gotten killed by many fans for uneven goalkeeping. And sometimes, it's true like the Isle debacle. But the Florida game wasn't the case.
Lundqvist for every good game he's had in his second year has had his share of bad ones. Tonight was another mindboggling performance from the 24 year-old Swedish gold medallist which begs the question if his mind really is on hockey or on banging as many puck bunnies as possible and living off that unreal rookie season. In one breath, King Henrik can make every big save and be splendid as he was at Dallas a couple of weeks ago or even in the first two periods against Tampa before the walls caved in. In the next breath, he leaves a lot to be desired. What's his story? And I don't want to hear about the flu that kept him out. He looked so zoned in the first two periods that this should've been a cakewalk. A year ago it was. Nothing is certain anymore. Is the D bad? Naturally it is and puts a lot of stress on either netminder. But Lundqvist clearly has the talent and is a superior goalie to Weekes. That's what makes it exasperating.
Aside from whatever's going on there, has anyone seen Jaromir Jagr lately? He might be out on the ice and tries at times. But there are also shifts which makes you wonder where the team captain's head is at. His body language was so awful on one shift with the game tied that it gave me the impression he's had it with this team. And if that's the case, then the Blueshirts are doomed. Jagr just isn't dominating the way he should. I saw a heck of a lot more effort from Martin Straka (PPG, assist) and the returning Michael Nylander (assist). Ironically, Jagr had no points and only two shots on goal. That's usually an indicator that he's not there.
So, what else is wrong with this club? Jarkko Immonen went from playing 11-12 minutes to centering a fourth line and hardly seeing the ice. What did he do to deserve this? Nothing. Darius Kasparaitis was so slow that Renney barely played him if the ice-time is correct on the usually unreliable yahoo site. Can someone explain to me what Ryan Hollweg was doing playing with Matt Cullen and Brendan Shanahan? I'm all for giving Hollweg a chance but why over Immonen, who showed good chemistry with those two? It makes no sense. Does anything Renney does make sense this year? Don't answer it. You might get sick and puke your eggnog all over the place.
Does anyone realize that if Lou Lamoriello was this team's GM, Renney would have been axed after tonight? That's what stinks about being a Ranger fan. Other teams are more serious and don't tolerate such mediocrity and inexplicable play. So how long will this joke of an organization give Renney's staff to turn this sinking ship around? If they don't win any of their remaining games in this calendar year, the coach has to go. This team is showing no signs of snapping out of it and it's looking eerily similar to last Spring's epic collapse which culminated with blowing the Atlantic and being swept out by the Devils in embarrassing fashion.
So, what should be done? I have no idea anymore. But I am going to leave you with this. When the team was up three, I didn't get excited. Maybe because I knew what could still happen against the explosive Lightning. This team is a classic tease. They get your hopes up and then drag you right through the mud.
Does anyone know what this pathetic team deserves for Christmas outside of a lot of coal in their stockings? Exactly.
Enjoy the next two days off because they're bound to be a lot better than tonight. Merry Christmas!!!!!