"In most cases, your record is who you are."-Dave Maloney 11:26 ET on FAN 3/16/10 with a furious Steve Somers
Sometimes, you are who you are. Or in the Rangers' case, they are what their 31-30-9 record says they are. As MSG Radio color analyst Dave Maloney diplomatically put it to WFAN's Steve Somers, that's how to describe our mediocre team following two straight wins, including one of the best of the season couldn't be bothered to show in another must win against Les Habitants.
For everything they did well Sunday versus Philly is how much at the opposite end of the spectrum they were last night. Bipolar is a good way to describe this mismatched roster, poorly constructed by The Savior. This is what you get. When the much reserved captain Chris Drury calls them out as he did to NYSD's Joe McDonald following the 3-1 embarrassment that wasn't even close, it speaks volumes. Granted. He's not the player he once was and didn't even register a shot but neither did Ryan Callahan, who had perhaps his worst game. No Happy St. Paddy's for him. Marian Gaborik had one shot while linemates Vinny Prospal and Olli Joke-inen were invisible.
As Dad remarked, 'You could see why Jokinen's been on four teams in over a year.' The Jokester's play on the point that saw our power play produce exactly two shots in five chances, was putrid. We'd say more but what for? Everything we already knew about a talented player who teases fans is true. If he's back, fans should boycott. Probably the only way to get through to Jazzy Jim.
There were plenty of Habs fans at The Garden who had a lot more to be proud of. Their team won its sixth straight, improving to 21-9-3 with top defenseman Andrei Markov in the lineup. He missed the last two before the break (both losses). Coincidence? Markov's one of the best blueliners in the game and is playing like it. He set up teammate Glen Metropolit's early power play goal following an undisciplined Brandon Prust holding minor which set the tone. The assist extended his point streak to seven straight (2-8-10). Exactly what you'd expect from a real No.1 D. Imagine if we had one? As Aerosmith's Steven Tyler would say, "Dream On."
It wasn't even a contest. Sure. Sean Avery tied it up on a gritty redirect of a Matt Gilroy right point blast 2:02 into the second. Unfortunately, that was it. Avery, who was benched by John Tortorella- has scored three times since. Or as Somers referenced during a classic monologue, he led the team with four shots while Drury had none and Gaborik one. Nobody else was engaged. You could easily cite the players that showed on one hand. Erik Christensen certainly did. When the waiver wire pickup is one of your best in a game you're supposed to be "desperate" for, something's wrong. Knowing the way this team operates, Christy won't be back, replaced by some overpaid stiff.
Henrik Lundqvist did everything he could to prevent a dominant Canadien club that outshot the Rangers 18-5 in the middle stanza, from surging ahead. Montreal trapped them to death, forcing a bakery of turnovers. Sloppy is how to describe their play. Two days removed from looking well organized, it was like they never practiced before. While Henrik made save after save including highway robbery following a dreadful Marc Staal pass right to a Hab in the slot, the Blueshirts barely tested Jaroslav Halak, who entered with a 1-3-0 sub-4.00 GAA at MSG. Instead, they passed, passed and passed driving fans batty.When they should've shot, they didn't making it a routine night for Halak (19 saves). What does it say when Lundqvist saw two shots fewer in 20 minutes?
Nobody disputes that Montreal's better. Just look what they've done minus offensive leader Mike Cammalleri. Guys like Metropolit, Travis Moen (assist) and deadline acquisition Dominic Moore step up. Fitting that the former Ranger would comeback to haunt them on the awful winner. One in which our defense fumbled the puck until Sergei Kostitsyn's shot was put in by Artem Anisimov, sucking the life out of the building. Not there was any to begin with. Through two periods, they'd been outshot 27-11 and outplayed severely. Up in our customary 411 seats, I actually thought they'd come out with something in the third. Especially with Boston prevailing over Carolina 5-2 to increase their cushion to three points. Was there any discussion in the locker room? Simply amazing.
So what if they got two more shots (9-7) or almost as many as the first 40? None even threatened Halak, whose team played the kind of hard nosed hockey you see in the playoffs. Playoffs?!?!?!?!?! Somehow, this team has 71 points with a dozen left and are still alive. Even the Thrashers, who finally won last night over Buffalo, are afloat with two less. Tampa Bay has 68 and the Islanders off John Tavares' five-point game, are hanging around. Parity.
To borrow a Maloney/Renney phrase, quite honestly when Brandon Dubinsky had the puck slip off his stick on a shorthanded bid late in the second, that was the Rangers' only chance. It just wasn't their night. As I headed back to the car in time to see Tomas Plekanec clinch it with his team two short by outworking our guys, it was emblematic of the whole contest. One in which the scoreboard didn't lie. Montreal 3. New York 1. 34-20 in shots. If not for Lundqvist, who finished with 32 saves, it probably reads 8-1.
They are who they are.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Sean Avery, NYR (11th of season-3rd in 2 games, 3 hits in 16:09)
2nd Star-Andrei Markov, Mtl (assist, 4 SOG, hit, blocked shot in 19:56)
1st Star-Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (32 saves incl.18/18 in 2nd)