Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Islandered Again

How bad was tonight's latest loss to the Islanders? Aside from being totally predictable, it was dreadful. And the worst part is I knew it would happen. Why? Cause the Islanders know how to play this soft Ranger team. Sure, they snapped a six-game losing skid and broke the Ranger four-game winning streak. But let's be brutally honest. If the Islanders lost 80 straight, they'd still beat the Rangers. And the reasons are simple:

They're grittier, hungrier and more physical. Everytime they play the Blueshirts, they expose every weakness. You think the Devils are a tough opponent? They might be boring but they are not the Rangers kryptonite. The Islanders are the team that will most likely cost the Rangers their second consecutive postseason appearance. Does anyone really believe this soft as molasses team has what it takes to get the required two points in any of the remaining four games against the Fishsticks? Why should they? The Isles can be without their best defenseman (Radek Martinek) and an underrated grinder (Shawn Bates) and still win.

And it's really a simple formula. One which an irate Tom Renney ripped into his disorganized team on. They win all the loose puck battles and play intelligent hockey. How did Renney sum up his team's lackluster performance? He said they have no concept against the Isles and were awful. When the usually calm likeable coach admits to Larry Brooks that he's pissed and repeats it, you know it's bad.

Even on a night when Jagr and Shanahan finally snapped their eight-game goal droughts since you guessed it (a Garden loss to those Islanders), it didn't matter. Even when Alexei Yashin and Jason Blake are barely visible, it didn't mean anything. Instead, it was guys like Mike Sillinger (2 goals), 4-goal man Viktor Kozlov (GWG, assist), Trent Hunter (assist) and Randy Robitaille (2 helpers) showing up on the gamesheet. Even Brendan freaking Witt tallied his first Islander goal on a delayed penalty! Can it get any worse? Predictably also, Miroslav Satan snapped out of his slump as I called in the car on the way to the game. Why you ask? Cause this is what happens.

So some idiotic drunken fans still chanted, "Di-Pi sucks" when Shanny tied it up in the first minute of the third. When are these morons going to learn? It's our mindless goalie that never seems to come up with the big save against these guys in this up and down season. What was the great Lundqvist doing on that Kozlov one-timer from way out? Go ahead and blame a lazy Jagr for not doing a better job on the backcheck. Or blame Marek Malik for getting caught playing Satan in the neutral zone. But they did have guys back. So how does he get beat on that? Go ahead. Make a convenient excuse for such an untimely goal which proved to be a backbreaker. With no screen no less. I forget the idiotic defenseman who tried a 70-foot pass only to see Sillinger pick it off and put in his own rebound to make it two Isles goals in 27 seconds. Watching the replay, it was the regressing Fedor Tyutin. Even worse. What's up with his D partner Aaron Ward? But boy was that typical of tonight. It typified a frustrating night.

Once that was scored, I had seen enough. I knew better. A smart move as I didn't miss anything. Only a little history made by the Islanders, who won for the third time on Garden ice. The first time in the bitter series that they have done that. Oh btw...dating back to last season, the Isles have now won the last four at MSG and have taken the last five overall in the series. Sad state of affairs.

So what can be said on another soft night about this team? Jagr was pitiful. I don't care if he got a star and played hurt. He was awful defensively. He's a shell of himself and is the product of the hard work of Martin Straka. Straka is the only forward on that line worth a damn right now. He scored another goal and setup Jagr's gimme. He is the best skater by a mile on that line and works hard every shift. More than you can say for JJ or Nylander. If I have to see Nylander skate in and back up a D and then pass on a wide open shot from 10 feet out, I'm going to tee off. Is that really worth re-signing when it's probably going to cost at least 2 years at $5 million per? I'm having doubts. He's too soft and older than potential free agents Scott Gomez, Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, Pavel Datsyuk and Patrick Marleau. Those are real No.1 pivots who have more left and are better fits for the future of this club. And do you actually believe they'll do the right thing and go after someone like that? I have serious doubts.

When your second line is invisible at even strength and your most effective forwards are Marcel Hossa, Jed Ortmeyer and Blair Betts, you got issues. Even more so is that the coach didn't notice how hard Hossa was working in drawing one penalty and almost another. He didn't play enough (9:15).

Final thought: Maybe it really is the Curse of...

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