Thursday, April 2, 2009

Four Games (or More) in Rangerland. . .

I am not really sure what to say about tonight's game. I think the game kind of speaks to the season on a whole, no? Lack of powerplay production and brief lapses in judgement come back to cost the team.

The powerplay has been absymal for an entire season, or two, or three. (But who's counting.) It had a short revival under Tortorella but has since slipped back into its Renney-like ways. I don't even know what to do to correct it,'s been a problem for too long. And if the Rangers fail to make the second season, it will be a BIG reason why they do not.

I was listening to a Coyotes broadcast (what, who, me?) and they discussed special teams index. How you add a team's PP and PK numbers to get their STI#. The Rangers - last I checked - were 1st on the penalty kill, and 29th on the powerplay. That makes their STI# a 30 and puts them right smack in the middle of the league. The worst score would be 60. And the best would be 2.

Now, I don't know about you, but I think I'd gladly give up the #1 penalty kill unit for some powerplay production and average out around #10 for each, making a STI# of 20. Anything has got to be better than this.

I talked to my father and said the Rangers have the worst schedule to end the season of anyone in the league. He asked who scheduled the games that way. A fair question, but in this case, a mute point. (Come on, who didn't think the home and home against Philly to close the season was a brilliant idea in October? I thought it would be exciting. I now think I'll be physically ill come April 12th.) However brilliant it once seemed, it does not look so nice, however, when this team, I would guess, needs to win 3 out of its four remaining games, and every game looks like the hardest of the year.

Disaster. They are primed for potential disaster.

What's worse - they put themselves there. With a two month mental break in the middle of the season and one too many la-de-da games against teams they could have and should have beaten cleanly.

I'm not going to say this team is done. They probably played the hottest team in the league right now tonight and they remained close to them until the end. They may have lost this game anyway just because Carolina, is indeed, better.

Perhaps they'll get lucky and win big on Saturday. They may yet surprise us all. Or maybe, instead, only 2 wins will be needed to secure a playoff berth.

But, the point remains, that for a team that started as well as they did, they probably never thought this was going to happen. It shouldn't have happened.

Not blowing that 3 goal lead in Atlanta last week would have been good about now, no?

Not blowing that 4-0 lead against Washington before Christmas would have been good now too!

The points all matter!!

But we can't go back. Well, scratch that, we can and certainly will disect this team's many missteps when the season does end, but they can't. They have to look forward, to four of the toughest games of the year. All must wins for them.

Four games (or more) in Rangerland. . .

Around the League/Yotes:

So last night former Rangers first round draft pick, Al Montoya, did something that is rarely done in the NHL. He not only got the win for Phoenix in his first ever NHL start, but he posted his 1st NHL shutout in the process.

Last person to do so - Mike Smith in 2006 when he was with Dallas, against the Coyotes ironically.

But just how rare are shutouts for some? Apparently Coyotes color analyst Darren Pang never had one in his entire career.

It took Al Montoya only 60 minutes.

Congratulations to him. When the players gathered to congratulate him, he got healthy hugs and taps from everyone, but bigger ones from Yandel, Boedker, Bryzgalov, Dawes, and captain Shane Doan.

I paid particular attention to Dawes's reaction because they must have seen a lot of each other in Hartford. Dawes, it looked like, had a lot of things to say to him.

But my favorite was from captain Shane Doan.

Now I have admired that guy for a while, probably since the whole unjustified French-Canadian backlash he saw back in 2007 at the World Championships. The guy is first class - a great hockey player, leader, and captain. I think he's a perfect guy for the young guys on this team to look up to.

His reaction was his typical - good humored laughter and smiles. Montoya must have been tense; he said he didn't relax until 3 seconds to go and the empty net goal that Phoenix was able to secure. But here you have one of the most highly respected captains in the game, giving you hugs and laughing with you like he's your best friend in the world. It was a great thing to see and put a smile on my face too.

Now for those of you that would say, oh well, it's against Colorado and they aren't a good team. Fine. Yes. But they all count and he looked very poised in making his 23 stops. Goalies can get shutouts when teams only get 11 shots on. They all count, folks.

And for those who are like, flash in the pan, he never worked in New York, or whatever else there is to say. Look. There are all types of fans. I choose to be happy for former Rangers who find good elsewhere - unless I never liked them anyway, or they are in direct competition with the Rangers now. Al Montoya ended up behind Hank on the depth chart here. I'd rather have Hank, make that very clear. So why not be happy that a guy that we touted is doing well somewhere else, if he wasn't going to get the chance to play here.

Same reason I am happy to see Jamie Lundmark do well in Calgary. Not everyone progresses at the same pace. Not everyone sees perfect opportunities right away. I'm glad to see them both where they are this year.

Once again. Kudos Al!


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Anonymous said...

Agreed about Shane Doan. I hate saying the word 'underrated' because it passes way too much judgement on everybody, but Doan is definitely one heck of a guy and a player, and since he plays for a team like the 'Yotes, not many people realize it.

He pretty much just makes me happy. :D

HUGE congrats to Montoya on the win and shutout! SO cool!