Saturday, March 28, 2009

Many Questions With Fewer Answers. . .

I am actually a little bit at a loss for words on this one. Usually, at least in the majority of the short John Tortorella era here in New York, the Rangers bounce back after a bad showing and have a much better game with a better result the next time around.

Well perhaps the game was a bit better than the game of disgust in Atlanta on Thursday, in that they were able to keep coming back to tie a better team rather than give up three goals to a worse team, but the result was no better. Worse, in fact, in that the Rangers did not gain even a point.

The common trend: getting into serious penalty trouble. I used to joke for years, even before this blog existed, that if the Rangers were going to take so many penalties, they should learn to be the best penalty killing team in the league. The whole practice makes perfect mentality.


This never meant that they should aim to achieve or fail to correct being a team that is penalized so much. Having a top two penalty kill in the league is nice, but that doesn't mean that the Rangers should parade to the penalty box every single game. And yet, most nights, that's exactly what they do.

Disheartening. That's what this game was.

I was skimming some clips from Bathgate/Howell night - who knows why because goodness knows that was an uninspired game to say the least - and Al Trautwig was on with Dave Maloney between periods saying that he couldn't understand the Rangers lack of urgency. He said, after the previous night's game in Buffalo, he'd think the Rangers would look at the standings and realize this is getting close, we better feel some desperation and play like it.

Well it didn't happen that night.

And it didn't happen today.

I always get tired of the post game interviews where players are talking about looking ahead and making changes for the better, but at this time of year, it's rather infuriating. There are only so many games in a season. And this team has had the same problems throughout, especially in getting energized for important games.

Sure, there may be some players playing with more a sense of urgency than others, but overall this team should be playing their hearts out to gain every point possible. They need to be.

And yet, I don't see it. I just don't. Which probably has lead me to the conclusion - again - that they are not capable of it. That no matter whether it was Renney or Tortorella trying to get this team to play, that they, they themselves, just do not have that killer instinct necessary to compete with the other teams in this conference right now.

That may sound pessimistic - and it is - and it may seem unneccessarily harsh - but it has to be. This team - and anyone who doesn't realize this is probably lying to themselves; players very much included - is simply running out of time to gain points. The time for having pass-me-by games like this one should have ended a long time ago.

That's my honest assessment.

You can think whatever you want regarding the officials and what affect they may or may not have had on the game, but the fact remains, in Pittsburgh, against Pittburgh, away against Atlanta, at home versus Ottawa - wherever - this team has taken enough penalties on its own - no help from the officials needed.

But if we are going to talk about today's referring, and it does seem necessary to do so to a certain extent, it has been disappointing me for almost as long as I have been a fan.

I will forever remember in the mid-to-late 90s going to a game versus Detroit at the Garden where the puck was floating somewhere around the blue line in Detroit's zone. Nedved went to get it at the same time Hasek left his net to do the same. So at the blueline Hasek slammed into Nedved and they called a penalty on Nedved for interference. I looked and my father, not understanding. But I quickly got it, if not that day, then in the years to come.

A team like Detroit was going to get calls versus a bad team in New York. When the Rangers finally got good again in the mid-2000s, I saw the Rangers get similar bounces against bad teams. And now, since the dawning of Sidney Crosby's NHL, the Rangers have been on many short side of calls both in Pittsburgh and at the Garden versus the Pens. It is disgusting and it just speaks to the horrific state of NHL officiating. Which makes me sad because it's a sport that we all love and respect and when faced with that reality, it is hard to respect all that goes on.

In regards to the Colton Orr penalty, I was shocked, but not surprised. A five minute major for interference and a game misconduct. The call was absurd. The fact that they'd choose to call it was not. A bloody Eaton, and Orr was the guy that hit him. That's all you really have to know.

If anyone confirm this for me, I'd appreciate it. Did Colton Orr not receive a five minute major and a game misconduct when he put his arms up in accidentally colliding with Matt Cullen in the middle of last season. Originally no call was made but they conferred and made the call. A good guy in Cullen - and he is - broke his nose and that's all they needed to see. I was there and to me it was a perfectly accidental open ice incident that ended badly. Carolina has never forgotten it though.

Interesting that I found out, in the post game today, that it was a linesman - a linesman - that made the call against Orr in today's game in Pittsburgh.

But I have another one for you. Can someone refresh my aging memory at who in a Rangers game within the last two weeks at the Garden took a five minute major for high-sticking? There's another call you'll never see. A two minute minor, a four minute double minor - sure. But a five minute major for high sticking?

What the refs pull out of their helmets will continue to astound. What is unacceptable is that nothing is done by the league to prevent it from happening again.

Did the Orr penalty change the outcome of the game today? In my opinion, the Rangers were undisciplined enough on their own and Paul Mara, with his eye swollen shut, should have been back home in New York icing it rather than playing in this game, but really, who am I to judge?

Tortorella, post game, said he hoped for nothing else except that the referees let the teams decide the outcome of the games, and that, in regard to Avery, that the calls on him be fair.

We can, all of us, only ask that much.

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