Sunday, December 21, 2008

So They CAN Play Like That. . . !

Just a few quick post-game thoughts on last night's Rangers/Sharks game.

This was the first of the three on the west coast trip I actually fully watched, and I'm glad I did.

When the Rangers went down early on 2 power play goals within the first five minutes (and within 25 seconds of each other), I said, well, see, that's a power play. That's a team.

The rest of the game actually showed a lot of resolve from the Rangers, coming back each time San Jose scored.

Now on a regular basis, night in, night out, San Jose is a pleasure to watch. They play a great puck-possession game, with a lot of passion. I'm sure I'm borrowing this from some movie somewhere, but they look like a team, they act like a team, they play like a team. The way they skate proves it. Their stellar record is a testament to it.

On most night's the Rangers are not a pleasure to watch. They consistently dump, chase, and then subsequently lose the puck. They are not present on defensive assignments and opposing players constantly get great looks in front and multiple chances to score on, which they most of the time manage to do - when Hank or Vali do not stand on their heads. They do not make crisp passes. Their powerplay does not cycle in a manner that would be effective, or press in a manner that would be effective. The way they skate proves it. Their record is. . .in direct contradition to it.

But for the last 10 minutes of the third period last night, the Rangers played with passion. They had consistent pressure in the Sharks zone, were hungry, fast, and smart, in their attempts to tie the game. They looked passionate, and for those 10 minutes, they were a great pleasure to watch.

I'm glad I stayed up because I'm glad I saw it. Those were arguably the 10 best minutes of hockey I've seen them play (in a row) all year long.

However, as happy as I was to see it, it surely makes me even more angry that what this team is obviously capable of, - - they do not exhibit on a nightly basis. Or ever it seems.

If they can play - and boy, last night it looked like they could indeed even outskate the best team in the entire league - then why do they not do it every night?

Why must we, as fans, endure on a nightly basis the boredom and monotony of the quite possibly the most lackluster hockey played by some of the most seemingly unenergenic and unmotivated players in the league, when those same players and that same team can very well be more entertaining. And dare I say productive. If only they committed themselves to it.

Or were allowed to commit themselves to it.

Evgeni Nabokov made 17 saves in the 3rd period, a period owned by the road team. If he were any less the perennial Vezina candidate that he is, maybe a shot would have gone in. It's possible. It's possible the Rangers could have beat, or at least tied up, the best team in the league in their own rink last night.

But you know, last night's game does not bother me. To see them play with that type of heart, it doesn't matter if they didn't get the equalizer in the end.

What matters is, as a fan, I don't know when, or even if, I'll ever see them play with that passion again this season.

If they can do it, if they can actually be more entertaining and productive than the sum of their boring and at times self-destructive parts, then why don't they?

Ask yourselves - why was this the first time we've seen that type of play since the Rangers opened the season in Europe?

I may be alone in this, but I'm kinda thinking I'm not. I'll take competitive and passionate play that comes up short every once in a while, rather than stale and boring play that may win on a semi-regular basis, but accomplishes nothing in the end.

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