Thursday, March 18, 2010

The MSG Blues

Another opportunity wasted. Yet again, the Rangers couldn't take advantage of good fortune. With the hapless Bruins losing in the Matt Cooke Revenge game, our heroes failed by falling to the Blues 4-3 at MSG. Their home record is now 15-23. I don't count OT or gimmick losses. Besides, our team's stunk it up in those instances anyway, further damaging their chances of a fifth consecutive postseason.

How does a team contending for the playoffs have a losing record on home ice? Absolutely brutal. If you check history, the post-lockout Rangers always were reliable at The Garden. Now, we're back to the Dark Ages and it shows. If you can't win at one of the better venues with great support, what does it say about your franchise? There are an awful lot of adjectives I can't use to express my bitter disappointment. Thank God we sold this game and weren't there for another classic tease. A game in which the weakest link Wade Redden actually contributed by tying it. And then in the next breath, one of our better players Ryan Callahan lost his check on Paul Kariya, allowing the vet to score his 400th- further crushing Ranger hopes.

Home Ice Disadvantage: A Closer Look At NYR Post-Lockout

Year         Record at MSG    Without OT/SO Losses
'05-06      25-10-6                25-16
'06-07      21-15-5                21-20
'07-08      25-13-3                25-16

'08-09      26-11-4                26-15 
'09-10      15-17-6                15-23

The last time the Blueshirts were this inept at home, they were finishing up a 69-point season in '03-04. In fact, they won only 13 times back when ties still existed along with the dreaded four column Bettman Era Error. That team went 13-21-3-4 or in more conventional terms, 13-25-3. Coincidence?

In many ways, the way this season's winding up, it eerily reminds us of '02-03 when the Islanders gave the Rangers plenty of chances to comeback and steal the eighth spot. Instead, our hapless team 'led' by Bobby Holik finished five points behind the Isles, whose 83 were enough to lose in the first round to Ottawa. Fast forward seven years later and history is repeating itself with Boston clinging onto the final spot with 74 points. Three better than both the Blueshirts and Thrashers, who doubled up slumping Ottawa to pull into a tie for ninth. Both Beantown and Hotlanta have 12 left to our 11, underlying just how important Sunday's NBC tilt is at TD Northbank.

If only it were that simple. Tampa, who lost tonight is 11th with 68 while the Islanders, who've reeled off three in a row are tied for 12th with the Panthers just six out. Even the Hurricanes, who pulled out an overtime home win over conference leader Washington are at 66 still hanging around. Given how poorly the injury riddled Bruins and Rangers are playing, anything's possible.

That brings us to the latest bad loss for the club that resides on 33rd and 7th. They wasted an inspired effort from Marian Gaborik, who snapped out of it with his club-leading 37th goal while setting up the other two Ranger tallies. Talking head John Tortorella came to his senses and put Erik Christensen back with the Great Gabby while finally demoting lifeless Olli Jokinen to the third line. While the change netted positive results, the team still found a way to lose despite out-shooting St. Louis 29-16.

Unfortunately, Henrik Lundqvist wasn't at the top of his game, permitting a couple he'd like back, including the mystifying unscreened Erik Johnson shot from the right point that left the normally affable 28 year-old Swede waving his arms in disgust. Even if you want to get on Chris Drury for not clearing the puck, it was still inexplicable. Four goals on 16 shots is inexcusable for one of the game's better netminders. He struggled in spurts, letting out bad rebounds off routine shots. This is one of my pet peeves. I can't classify Henrik as elite because he still has areas which need fixing, starting with positioning. He plays too far back. A more aggressive goalie cuts off the angles. Aside from that, the conservative approach makes him vulnerable on breakaways. Something we've seen this season. Everyone knows you can pick high glove. It's the other areas he should focus on with Benoit Allaire during the offseason.

It's not Lundqvist's fault the team is so poorly constructed. Speaking of which, did Matt Gilroy (8:52 TOI) see the ice in the third period? Here we are in Game 70 and the coach doesn't even have enough confidence to play the Hobey winner. What's that thing again about Hobey jinxes? Never mind. Where they lost this one was during the first three critical minutes, failing miserably on an extended five-on-three. So out of sync were they that even blatant homer Joe Micheletti critiqued it by basically saying, 'This is the worst 5-on-3 I've seen.' You know it's bad when such a rare moment happens on Jazzy Jim's Don't Worry Be Happy Network.

Despite not converting with neither point men Gaborik or the Jokester even considering a shot, the Rangers managed to get it tied when an even rarer sight took place in the form of a Redden goal. The play was made possible by Gaborik and Brandon Dubinsky, who Tort stuck out. In this stretch, Dubi's played the best hockey of his career. He won the board battle, freeing the puck to Gabby with the puck eventually coming back to an open Redden, who blasted home his second of the season to loud cheers- snapping a 57-game drought. Hell. He even helped set up Gaborik's 37th back in the first. So, on a night they got three points from their superstar and two from the worst player, they still invented a new way to lose.

One thing we've seen too much of is that this team can't sustain it. How many times have they tied a game just to see an opponent come right back, breaking our hearts? Same losing characteristics the pre-lockout teams had. And coached by the self-proclaimed genius who walks on water and never is accountable. At least Tom Renney always took the blame. The Blues' winner came 73 seconds later with Kariya finishing off a nice play that David Backes and T.J. Oshie combined on. With Jody Shelley making a poor change, Kariya took him off the puck and then made a bee line for the net escaping Callahan while Oshie set him up for the milestone. Congrats to a classy player who would've been a Hall Of Fame lock if not for injuries.

Can anyone please explain to me how it's possible that Shelley overstayed his shift? What was he even doing out there?!?!?!?!?! Hey. This is the same coach who had the audacity to stick out two-thirds of the fourth line in the final shift after Dubinsky tied the Buffalo game, which they predictably lost in overtime 2-1 on 3/7. You gotta be kidding me.

To their credit, the Blueshirts tried everything to get this one tied but couldn't beat backup Ty Conklin. Ser---ious--ly. They couldn't beat the freaking second string goalie, who made 26 saves. In a heated playoff race that's there for the taking, swept by the Blues. There are no words.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Paul Kariya, Stl (game-winner with 11:36 left-400th career goal)
2nd Star-Erik Johnson, Stl (PPG, 4 PIM, SOG, 2 hits in 17:35)
1st Star-Marian Gaborik, NYR (club-leading 37th plus 2 assists, 3 SOG, +1 in 24:09)

1 comment:

Hasan said...

Simple but effective title, it is appropriate all things considered

The Puck Stops Here


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