Monday, October 18, 2010

Help Wanted: Hockey Team already in trouble

They've only played four games but already it's getting late early for a Broadway team that just won't hit back. It's bad enough that they now have a built in excuse with no Marian Gaborik. However, to come out so flat at home after having the weekend to prepare for a good Colorado team is quite disturbing. Has Halloween come a bit early for the Rangers or are they planning to morph into ghosts with a more promising year for Dolan's basketball club around the corner?

It was no great shock that they fell to the Avalanche by a count of 3-1. It was still depressing how they did it, allowing the more skilled Avs to score consecutive goals 26 seconds apart in the third- demoralizing an already dead crowd that were on hands and knees praying. Okay. That last part was excessive but you catch my drift. This was actually a winnable game thanks to a strong second which was at least encouraging following such a poor start that John Tortorella burned his timeout 14 minutes in following one of two Chris Stewart power play goals. Plus a just dreadful shift in which our guys may as well have seen dead people.

After Tort laid into his guys doing plenty of arm waving, they showed a pulse finally getting some rubber on Craig Anderson. At that point, shots were like 14-3 and the power play wasn't helping. They flat out sucked blowing half a dozen chances with too much overpassing, predictable shots which got blocked and a few giveaways for easy Colorado clears. Brutal and disgusting. When you're reduced to using Michal Rozsival on the top unit and Dan Girardi on the other, the hands are basically being thrown in the air to the immortal GM, 'Please help us.' Too bad there won't be any answer. Hockey sure is different here.

Well, there was a positive with Alex Frolov finally scoring his first as a Ranger when off a Derek Stepan feed, the enigmatic Russian snuck a wrister through Anderson which tied it with 1:51 remaining in the first. The goal was somewhat miraculous because it came during a four-on-four. Of course, it was dubious with Mike Del Zotto actually having the audacity to stand up for a fallen teammate after T.J. Galiardi was nabbed for boarding. God forbid in this pansy league if a player shows a little balls. Simply amazing. We usually can't score to save our life at four-on-four but Stepan and Frolov made it work when the rookie pivot started a two-on-one resulting in the former King's first. The shot must've just crossed the goal line because Marc Staal followed it up just in case.

Despite being outplayed most of the period and outshot 17-12, the Blueshirts were tied thanks to some splendid netminding from Henrik Lundqvist, who gave the best account of himself in his fourth straight start. After fighting the puck a little in the first, he got stronger en route to 31 saves, including a couple of point blank denials to the familiar "Hen---rik, Hen---rik" chants. He was also bowled over again by an attacking Av with not one Ranger defending his honor. It's so sad that our guys let this happen. And of course, Derek Boogaard (three shifts-2:04) barely played. What's the point of even dressing him if our coach refuses to use him? Besides that, it's high time the almighty King stood up for himself. I know it's not in his character due to his precious image but for the love of sanity, show a little fire. Go Marty and push back. He's the unquestioned leader on this team and must send a message that reads:

'Stay the **** out of my crease!'
Lundqvist's teammates played much better in front of him during the middle portion, outshooting Colorado 10-8 and outchancing them. There was Michal Rozsival springing Ryan Callahan for a clean break-in but he missed wide. If only he had hands. Then, Stepan had Frolov all set up in the slot but he somehow missed everything. There also was an actual Girardi one-timer that rang off the post. Even when Anderson mistakingly made a blind giveaway early in the third, he slid across to thwart the golden Ranger opportunity to steer ahead. If only our man-advantage didn't feel like even strength. The Avs were begging them to take the game but boy did they come up small. Nothing worked.

Predictably, a questionable Del Zotto trip led to the Avalanche winner. In the first, they capitalized on a Rozsival trip with nobody taking Stewart, who was allowed to stand in the blue paint. This time, he scored from 12 feet out when NHL reject Steve Eminger failed to take him. Making matters worse, the Rangers fell asleep on the next shift allowing the immortal Daniel Winnik to sneak behind everyone and bang one home off Frolov for the crusher 26 ticks later. Nice to know Fro's earning that paycheck. :P I wasn't even paying attention while discussing the ineptitude of our boys with a nice fan named Christina, who was about as enthusiastic as we were about our heroes. It was then that she remarked:

"The season's already over."

I wish I could say she was joking. But given how bad the Rangers have looked since their less than impressive season opening win against what's now a stumbling Sabre club, could Christina really be that far off? Our lines are a mess. Lundqvist's net may as well read, 'All opponents welcome.' It's just increasingly difficult to get excited right now. Where's the help? Wow. They played Boogaard all of three shifts with pricey vet Todd White getting nine (7:46) and Erik Christensen seeing a dozen (9:43).

To quote Anthony from our awesome Section 411, "When [Brandon] Prust's one of your best forwards, that's scary." Brian Boyle was the only one throwing his weight around. At least there was no need for Dancin' Larry to get out of his seat and make a fool of himself. In fact, the highlight of the night were the kids during second intermission competing in one-on-one shootout style at opposite ends. Yep. This was a real barn burner.

It's more discouraging when Tortorella clearly doesn't have faith in Matt Gilroy- only giving him 1:21 of PP time in 16 shifts (12:09). And coach's pet Eminger (15 shifts- 11:25) is a daily adventure. For as much ink as Staal gets, he's still getting less time than Rozsival, who's probably our best penalty killer. What exactly does that say?

Maybe Anthony's right. The coach might not survive the season. What good would it do?

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-John-Michael Liles, Col (assist, 3 SOG, 3 blocked shots in 22 shifts-16:56)
2nd Star-Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (31 saves incl.16/17 in 1st)
1st Star-Chris Stewart, Col (2 PPG incl. GW w/12:40 left, 2 SOG in 22 shifts-15:40)

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