Thursday, November 25, 2010

Rangers hit by Lightning Bolt

How fast is Steven Stamkos? Well, perhaps in hockey terms, he's the NHL's equivalent to Usain Bolt. The league's best offensive player continued to dominate, scoring and setting up two others in a 5-3 Lightning win over the Rangers which wasn't that close.

Just how bad were the Blueshirts? In keeping with the Thanksgiving tradition which most families will be celebrating, they were turkeys, getting completely outplayed by a much quicker Tampa club that dismantled the PK which came in having killed 24 straight. If there's such a thing as automatic, it's the Bolts' power play which boasts top scorer Stamkos and one of the game's best quarterbacks, Martin St. Louis. Naturally, our flat team took penalties and watched like Tinmen as they showed them how it's done. Moving the puck like a magnet, they connected three times, including an identical pair off Stamkos rebounds by Ryan Malone, who proved to be a headache.

The Rangers never established anything, falling behind quickly when Malone was allowed to bang into an irate Henrik Lundqvist and stuff home a rebound. Aside from forgetting to show the first 40 minutes, the road club was treated like garbage by the blind mice in stripes. Fairly appropriate considering how many times our goalie was mugged. Since when is it okay to skate into the crease and bang into the netminder without even attempting to get out of the way? This occurred at least four times and not a darn thing was done. Hell. They even nabbed Henrik for unsportsmanlike conduct (diving). They already stunk, getting only seven shots on Mike Smith the first two stanzas including a measly one the first 13-plus of the second.

Aside from our top line (Frolov-Anisimov-Gaborik) taking the night off, the Lightning had the puck most of the game due to total faceoff domination. I forget the numbers but I think we won like 22 and they had more than double. Do the math. It just doesn't compute. Our faceoffs have been an issue all year but they've escaped due to a great work ethic. Something that wasn't there.

From the goal out, it was a nightmare. To be fair, Lundqvist was left to fend for himself. He did let up a bad rebound on Malone's second PPG and should've had Steve Downie's one-timer from 40 out which ended all doubt, putting Tampa up 4-zip. It would late be credited to Brett Clark, who was to Lundqvist's side. Maybe he snuck a stick in but eh. It wasn't a good goal. Perhaps John Tortorella's decision to rest our franchise backstop backfired. He had a five day layoff. Whatever the reason, Lundqvist again wasn't what he needs to be allowing three-or-more for like the ninth 10th time. Disturbing.
I didn't even see the fifth goal but I'm assuming there wasn't much he could do. He is a stand up guy and admitted there were at least two he felt he made the wrong plays on but otherwise felt good and liked the way he responded in the third, including denying Malone's bid for a hat trick. Too bad nobody kicked the stuffing out of him.

With the Islanders and Devils more interesting, we kinda went away from this one. I also picked up a futuristic honoring my friend Lyndzay who's no longer with us eight months now. His family came in from Atlanta for Turkey Day. Getting back to the game, before I left Steve Eminger out of all people scored snapping the shutout off a nice setup from Derek Stepan. One of the few Rangers who competed. You can figure out the others. Tort threw his top line under the bus. Particularly Gaborik, who must be better. Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky always show as do Eminger, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, who deserves to be an All-Star. Too bad he won't get a sniff while Sean Avery racks up votes in the meaningless exhibition. If only Avery contributed on the score sheet. When the hell is the last time he drew a penalty? I know Tort doesn't use him properly but come on. He's underachieved. Besides, he's got a target on his back which apparently hit again because he had the audacity to stand up for a fallen teammate. So, the dopes tossed him (17 PIM). Probably was phoned in by the NHL Police.

At least they made it interesting late thanks to a Brian Boyle shorthander while I was out, texted by my Dad. That's TEN!!!!! TEN GOALS for Brian Boyle while a dog like Frolov is stuck on five. Congrats to the Boston kid. All the hard work has paid off. What a year. One other point which I mentioned in pre-game tweets. I wouldn't have matched the Arty line against Stamkos. Tortorella screwed up using them against the best line in hockey. Not shockingly, they got exposed. Why not try Boyle's energy do everything unit with Ruslan Fedotenko and Brandon Prust? God forbid we match our scoring lines against lesser lites giving ourselves a chance. The strategy made zero sense.

I know our D didn't play great but this was more a product of too many guys up front mailing it in. Sloppy turnovers and lazy penalties doesn't add up. Combine a lethal PP and it can get bad in a hurry. I know he hasn't gotten much of a shake from the coach but Matt Gilroy has played well. I'd really like to see him stay in the lineup when Michal Rozsival potentially returns in Friday's match at Florida. He probably won't because they refuse to sit Mike Del Zotto, who if he's not contributing is still a project in his end. I wish Joe Micheletti would just shut up already!

One miracle did take place in this travesty in the form of a five-on-three goal. Yes, this happened when Gabby setup Stepan, who ripped his fifth cutting it to 5-3 with like a minute and change left. D-Step now has eight points over seven games and got rewarded with 21+ minutes while Anisimov (9+) and Frolov (12+) rode the pine. That's what I admire about Tort. He will make examples of guys. Arty hasn't been good lately. They need better. And Fro has been a mystery all season. At least in Jersey, it's understood why his Russian comrade Ilya Kovalchuk can't score.

Trailing by two with under 60 seconds remaining, Tort pulled Lundqvist for a six-on-four. Gabby nearly cut it to one but his shot was blocked, allowing the Bolts to finally escape.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Derek Stepan, NYR (PPG plus assist)
2nd Star-Ryan Malone, TB (2 power play goals)
1st Star-Steven Stamkos, TB (league leading 20th of season, 2 helpers)

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