Yesterday night was not the best of games at Madison Square Garden.
It actually had the makings to be. Another Hank versus a good goalie from a Western-Canadian hockey team duel. Another chance for the Rangers to prove they can actually beat a Canadian team. The team came out fast (well fast-ish), and they were hitting, skating, and then....
That was the text I received from my father at the game around the beginning of the 2nd period.
To which I wrote back something along the lines of, "yes, but they are leading 22 to 9 in shots!"
Which, in essence meant very little, if you didn't watch. The Flames failed to register a shot until with about five minutes to go in the 2nd period. Then on their second shot of the period, they scored their first goal. On one of their next two shots, they scored their second goal.
The Garden went flat. The energy was lost. The team that was skating for a few minutes, well, they didn't really do that anymore.
I talked to my grandmother after I got back from the game last night and she said to me:
"You know what the Rangers skaters look like. They look like the people who skate at Rockefeller Center. Just slowly skating about. Not really caring what's going on."
To which I said after catching my breath, "You know, Grandma, that's actually a really good analogy."
Credit Calgary. That's for one. They came to play, obviously.
The Rangers, however. Well watching the Rangers play has now become a game of trying to guess which team will show up on any given night.
The Rangers team that played the Pittsburgh Penguins last Wednesday night. The team that hit and skated and made two of the best players in the league (Malkin and Crosby) both ineffective and frustrated. The team that got the clutch tying goal. The game that dominated in the shootout.
Or the Rangers team that didn't hit. Didn't skate. Didn't look like they want to be there. Didn't commit to the fore-check. Didn't play with any sense of urgency. Didn't score any pretty goals, or any goals period!
Unfortunately, it was the latter that showed up last night.
I listened to Ice Cap on XM204 last night on the way home and those guys really nailed a few things. Hank Lundqvist has been good, but there is something wrong with the system they are playing under (or the lack thereof) when at this point last year, Hank had four shutouts - on way to a league leading 10. This year he has zero. He gets little help on most nights.
And what I didn't get to above, was that after the two goals at even strength, the Rangers let up another short handed goal. Yet another short handed goal!! That's 8 so far. And that was as of the 7th of December!!!! And there are four months left to the season! I cannot express enough how fundamentally inexcusable that is. That's something that you'd expect from a bad team. A very bad team. And the Rangers cannot be THAT bad. Or can they?
I'll tell you what - - If they aren't scoring on it and they are giving up that many shorthanded goals then. . . .their powerplay is!!Embarrassing. And it cost them any chance of gaining momentum and trying to come back to tie. Awful. I'm sorry. It's true. It's absolutely and utterly true.
And yet - yet - I still so often see the game irresponsible culprits climbing over the boards to start another powerplay. Pretty much every night. Why? If they were that good at it, I could say, sure, fine, keep it going. But they are horrible at it!! Or the system is so horrible it makes otherwise decent hockey players look like morons!
Seriously where's Prucha on the powerplay to pot the goals? I mean he has to have more powerplay goals in the last three years than anyone else out there. And as for the rest of them, where's the best defensemen on our team (I know, I know, a very difficult question right there) who can stand at the point. and NOT pinch at the wrong moments, and hopefully prevent some 2-0 rushes for the other team? Where's that guy?
What can be done? I honestly have no idea.
But to do nothing and to fail to admit there is a serious problem, is horrible.
I don't really know what else there is to say. I could get on some rant about how the line changes were flawed too (like how Prucha and Drury do not play well together. It's been tried. Unless there is some magical third piece that will make the above untrue, please stop putting them together!!!). Or how the only time in recent memory that I've actually seen Drury and Gomez play well together was on the penalty kill last night, or how even Ryan Callahan has looked so tired and ineffective lately, but I won't. I won't say anything else about it.
Important to note, that on a night where not much else went right, however, there was a bright spot. Corey Potter, making his NHL debut, looked very solid. A little hesitant at first, he actually grew as the game went on and made some nice think-first passes. And he was not a liability. I thought he did all he could in his position. And did you see him skate into the offensive zone, and towards the net at that one point. At it, applying pressure from the D. I quite honestly didn't know it was possible.
What Rangers team will show up in Atlanta on Wednesday night, I'm quite honestly scared to find out.
Larry Brook's in today's NY Post. Oh so they don't think there is a problem? Ut-oh!