Last night's Rangers game was about as middle of the road as they come for me. Perhaps a little more on the positive side - perhaps - but overall nothing horrific, nothing spectacular. Which for the Rangers coming off an All-Star break, I will gladly take.
First of all, however, Valiquette deserves props for a very solid game played. I've stated before, I always want that guy to get wins, because he deserves the time he earns and he is a very important component of this team. I personally wish he'd play more so that all the pressure of playing a defensive team game does not fall soley on Hank. Regardless, as soon as I saw Vali in net, I was again reminded how I wanted the team to have a good game behind him.
And they did. Make no mistake. You'd think I'd be more, umm, positive in my reponse here, but I'll be honest. I'm still a little annoyed/confused over the lineup decisions. I'm still very concerned about this team's lack of goal scoring. And I'm definitely not ready to say that this team is beyond the "smoke and mirrors" show I know they have been pulling the majority of the year. That's the truth. I care too much about this team to lie about it.
However. . .
Besides Vali, a few other players had very good games. Gomez, I must say, seemed to have returned back refreshed from the break. I don't even think he was physically refreshed as much as mentally refreshed. And that can make a big difference. It was a relief to see him, and Naslund - another player with a good game - skate in synch. Finally.
Yes, time is needed for these things. Surely, I understand that. Gomez was quoted as saying it took him half a year to get on track with Gionta and Elias when he was in New Jersey.
That's, umm, . . .good. It's just not good if you are THE guy expected to generate the bulk of the offense for this team. I mean better late than never, but I'm going to continue being honest.
I love Callahan. I am just not sure he is that missing piece on the Naslund/Gomez combo that Renney so desperately wants to have together. (And again, I'll pause to say, if the two of them play like they did the last two games, for the next twenty, I'll be both surprised and thrilled. And I'll shut up about Gomez not being able to play with anyone). Of course, perhaps Callahan will be the role player he's always been and chip in on offense when he can.
I just still get the feeling the whole team is a bunch of guys "chipping in on offense" when they can.
Besides that, the team was pretty defensively responsible last night which is always a breathe of fresh air. Although, admittedly, I think they seem to like showcasing their #1 league ranked PK. Rangers took four, and Carolina took two minors.
It's not even bad so much as it's beginning to become a pattern. Not a half minute after the Rangers scored a BIG goal to go up 3-1, the Rangers gave up a goal to Carolina to bring the score back up to 3-2. It's happened a lot. Just like those minor-league-inspired too many men penalties the Rangers always seem keen on taking. Those are all mental things. I'm sure it's possible the Hurricanes came out angry and wanting to score after the Rangers goal...but...don't you really think it was a little more the Rangers still caught up in their own victory song?
I don't know. I really don't. I mean if months from now after a successful playoff run (the word "successful" is up for interpretation), the Rangers have not changed these things and they didn't seem to matter in the long run, then fine. I mean when I read the record for shorthanded goals in a season was last accomplished by the Colorado team that WON the Cup, I said, okay, well maybe too much is made of details.
But you'd have to be an idiot to ignore those details. You certainly don't have to fixate on them (although the coaches damn well should), but I wouldn't ignore them.
Look at this:
"There was a stretch where our third forward was leaving the zone early, looking for the breakout. That's not us. I think we went through a period where we thought we were a little bit too good for our own good, but now we've gotten our game back." - Steve Valiquette
"A little bit too good for our own good."
That's a very telling quote. Very. As much as we rip Renney for his desire to and pushing of winning games 2-1 - and trust me I do! - it's amazing how this entire team has bought into the feeling they have to be THAT team. That low scoring, win by total team defense team.
And maybe, given the group the Rangers have, that is absolutely spot on.
BUT when I see them not utilizing the offense I know they do have - or have had -that drives me crazy.
When I read things like that, it makes me nauseated, I won't lie.
Because when I think of how their 2-1 mentality is going to fly against 80% of the teams in the playoffs, I laugh to myself. (Or outloud. Depends on who is listening).
Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, Montreal, New Jersey - those five teams alone who I expect to be in the playoffs and at the top in the Eastern conference in a few months from now. You think the Rangers and their 2-1 mindset will ever work in a seven game series with one of these teams?
Maybe with Buffalo or Carolina if they sneak in, but I don't think that's who the Rangers will face in the first round.
Honestly look at the Rangers team as is. Then look at the teams I listed above. The Rangers scored three goals to beat Carolina in a regular season game and that was an offensive game for them.
You think they are scoring three, four, or five goals to beat Washington when it counts?