Friday, March 9, 2012

Powerless in Ottawa

The Rangers struggles on the power play have been well documented. They signed Brad Richards with the notion he could fix an area that's been powerless since No.68 dominated in '05-06. Sixty six games later, it's the same old song that's driven our fanbase batty. The ineptitude of a first place team with a five-on-four, four-on-three, etc. is mind boggling. So too is the disappearance of Brandon Dubinsky, who sat out with a "sinus issue." Right.

For as good as this season's been, the Blueshirts are on the verge of one bad losing streak from losing the top seed and falling right back into the pack. You know. The Pens are six out and also play tonight like our team who visits the Windy City. The Flyers suddenly are getting solid netminding from our favorite philosopher Ilya Bryzgalov and the Devils are playing well. In other words, the teams behind us are coming. It's the wrong time for this team to go through a slump. But that's exactly the case after last night's 4-1 loss to the Senators. Ottawa took the season series 3-1, getting it done with Ben Bishop.

Sadly, Bishop was hardly challenged despite four power plays. Even worse, the Rangers only allowed seven shots through two periods but still trailed 2-1 thanks to more futile play. The evening started out okay with Richards actually finding Ryan Callahan for his 26th that gave us the lead. From there, it went downhill as the Kanata hosts scored four unanswered on Marty Biron. Biron hasn't been getting it done, allowing too many back breaking goals that put us behind. This time, Callahan gave him a lead and before you knew it, Zach Smith took advantage of both Marc Staal and Stu Bickel to tie it on an unscreened shot from inside the blueline. Rocket or not, Biron needed to have that.

With Sam and Joe going ga ga over our defensive improvement, John Mitchell's failure to clear the zone resulted in the Sens' second goal on just their fourth shot. This time, Biron leaked a rebound which Nick Foligno deposited after beating Staal to the spot. Yes. Staal had a tough night. It happens. For all the good our team did limiting Ottawa's shots, they made the most of their opportunities. Imagine if our team could do that. The gang that can't shoot straight. All those power plays went to waste as they took too long to get set up. Sure. Richards shot more and even got a couple through which forced Bishop to make stops but there was no traffic nor enough desperation. If you don't make the goalie move, the power play is useless. No wonder it's at basement level.

Oh. The Senators gave us chances in the second, almost as if they were saying, 'Here. Take it.' But our team never gets anything accomplished, making you long for the days of Leetch and Zubov with Graves in front. Maybe we can unretire them in time for next month. It's hard to see this team going far without a power play. The way they have to grind to win games is starting to wear down. More glaring mistakes are noticeable with even guys like Dan Girardi having off nights like at Jersey. Despite a strong middle stanza, the Rangers still trailed by one. The shots were 17-7 and we weren't even.

Did they expect the Sens to mail in the third? Instead, it was a repeat of the other night with a more determined Ottawa coming with better urgency. The Sens wanted to keep pace with the Devils, who on the strength of an Ilya Kovalchuk hat trick, destroyed the Islanders 5-1. So, Ottawa wanted to stay a point behind for sixth and did with a great period, outscoring the Rangers 2-zip. They more than doubled their two period shot total with 15 to our nine. Again, defensive deficiency allowed the Senators to increase their lead. This time, Daniel Alfredsson abused Anton Stralman, taking the puck to the net while our players watched him easily find Kyle Turris on the doorstep with Michael Del Zotto out of position. It was a two-on-three. Embarrassing.

Why John Tortorella had those two together I'll never comprehend. They're our worst two defenders on the rush. Sure. Del Zotto's progressed but that's when he's set. He still has a ways to go when it comes to preventing players from going around him. So, perhaps the end result was predictable. Stralman's lack of effort was far worse. He's a better option than tortoise Steve Eminger or Jeff Woywitka but the matador D he displayed can't sit well with the coaching staff. If they're going to make it work without Mike Sauer (missed more by the day) Tort has to break up Girardi and Ryan McDonagh and stick Staal back on the top pair. Put McDonagh with Del Zotto. That way you have a healthy balance. That leaves Stralman and Bickel. Problem is they'll never be partnered. I like Bickel's physicality. He plays with edge. That's what Tort's trying with Staal. But long-term, it won't work. The hope is that Tim Erixon comes up and helps solves this weakness. For now, the ice-time will continue to go to the top four.

Jason Spezza added an empty netter late to seal it. Oddly enough, they video reviewed the previous sequence with the Rangers thinking they'd scored. However, the puck never crossed the line. Bishop really wasn't tested despite facing 26 shots. If there was a semblance of a power play, who knows. Utterly powerless.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Rob Klinkhammer, Ott (1st NHL point-assist, 2 takeaways in 12:31)
2nd Star-Kyle Turris, Ott (8th of season, 7-for-12 on draws, +1 in 16:41)
1st Star-Zach Smith, Ott (goal, 6 hits, decision over Prust late)


Hasan said...

The Rangers are finding out something the Devils had to deal with for years (and to some extent this year even when they got to 15 over) do you get through the dog days of March when the playoffs are assured and you're playing teams below you that are more desperate?

Derek Felix said...

It's a lot harder when you have a target on your back. Our guys are bit worn down. The most important thing is to hang in there mentally and get healthier.

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