Friday, March 4, 2011

Forget latest home loss

They again saw their shadow last night on home ice, disappointing Garden Faithful, whose faith is being severely tested. Simply put, these Rangers can't win at MSG. Losers of all three games on what was supposed to be a homestand, the now freefalling club that puts out effort daily but lacks finish is on life support in eighth a point behind the Hurricanes and two up on Buffalo with Toronto lurking right behind. The Devils sit 10 back, believing they can win every game and could get even closer if the Blueshirts don't get a win in Ottawa tonight.

The Rangers have been a better club away from Broadway. Perhaps this is what they need. There's no time to think about the latest loss- 3-1 at the hands of Minnesota despite outshooting them 41-19. But instead of building on Sean Avery's first goal in a lifetime three minutes in, the Rangers made life harder on themselves by repeatedly misfiring on power plays. Yes, Jose Theodore made like Dominik Hasek, sprawling across to rob Ryan Callahan of a would be power play goal on the doorstep for a potential two-goal lead. By that point, it should've been obvious what would happen next.

Missed chances on one end usually come back to haunt you. Especially when you're not scoring and finding new ways to lose. Sure. The effort was there as it always is with this younger rebuilding team chalk full of home grown kids trying to get what last year's team couldn't. A berth into the playoffs. It's slipping away from their grips with other teams around them playing better hockey. Unless they find it tonight in Kanata, Ontario, the odds aren't good. Not with the Flyers next and then San Jose and Anaheim in the Pacific before coming home for the Islanders and Canadiens, who would like nothing better than to further damage their chances.

Erik Christensen, who helped set up Avery's goal for points in three straight, took a lazy offensive zone high-sticking minor that led to the tying goal. That's all it took to stem the tide. In a game Minnesota had no life in following a dreadful performance on Long Island the previous night, suddenly they were tied up with Kyle Brodziak tipping one home. It was enough to cast doubt. The Rangers didn't reply with a goal on Theodore, who looked more like the former Hart/Vezina winner from yesteryear with Montreal pre-lockout. And so instead, here came another first goal for someone with rookie Casey Wellman lighting the lamp with a neat deflection of a Brent Burns point blast. I'll bet that more players get their first against us than any other team in the league. Like clockwork.

Only down one, the Blueshirts got plenty of Bronx jeers after a disappointing second. They weren't coming back. Oh. They tried. Gave every ounce to find the equalizer before a putrid Dan Girardi turnover allowed Martin Havlat to find a wide open Pierre-Marc Bouchard in the slot for a gimme. Just like that, the Wild led 3-1 with 11:45 left. It didn't matter that there was still time as we've heard annoying shill Joe Micheletti do time and time again like a parrot. The game was over. Unless Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan score, there's just not enough. Especially with Marian Gaborik having a setback following a practice with headaches.

On a night Marc Staal returned looking fine, rookie Ryan McDonagh hit a rut in the ice and twisted his ankle. He's day-to-day. Just great with Mike Del Zotto out four to six weeks in what's amounted to a rotten sophomore year from Hell. That's how it's gone for these Blueshirts, who will die trying until there's no more time left in their season.

They must do it again tonight against the rebuilding Senators, who have nothing to gain other than team pride. They just beat the Flyers and won again over Atlanta. It won't be easy. The rest just aren't because that's how this league is. Let's see if the Rangers still remember how to win where they're more comfortable.

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