I’m not sure what I expected when I showed up at the practice rink this morning, but I figured there would be some overt residual effects from “last night’s dispiriting loss”:http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061204/SPORTS01/612040343/1046/SPORTS to the Islanders. Players dressed in black. Half the roster shipped to Hartford. Some sort of cruel and unusual punishment involving skating drills while listening to ABBA.
How disappointing, then. It wasn’t that last night wasn’t a topic of conversation, because it certainly was. But given the Rangers fairly cavalier attitudes today, maybe they were taking it for what it was: a discouraging showing against an important rival, but still just one game in the early part of the year. Is that palatable to fans? I don’t know. But to rely on the most maddening phrase of the 21st century, “It is what it is.”
With that in mind, a few thoughts:
Martin Straka missed practice again today to rest his hamstring. Jaromir Jagr was there, but I never saw him in the locker room afterward. That’s two consecutive days when the Rangers captain hasn’t made himself readily available to the media, and I give him two minutes for not owning up to an important part of his job. To be fair, I never asked to talk to Jagr, and whenever I have in the past, he’s always appeared out one of the back rooms at the Training Center that are off-limits to the media. But compare that to Henrik Lundqvist, who lingered at his locker well after getting shelled last night; and who stayed around again today to answer more questions.
Speaking of which, what to make of Lundqvist’s odd request to be taken out of the game last night (this after both Straka and Jagr also begged out of portions of the shootout loss to Buffalo)? To clarify from earlier, the goaltender said it wasn’t an issue of feeling off his game, but of sensing any change might be the kick in the pants the Rangers needed. To an extent, of course, he was right. But there is also the view — however misguided — that in hockey, you want to be in the game no matter what. Then again, goaltenders are a different species. And that’s especially true of European goaltenders. “I’ve seen it happen a lot with European goaltenders,” Tom Renney said. “I’ve seen it very frequently. I’m not saying its right or wrong. I’m just saying its not unusual. I really thought twice about it. I really thought, ‘Let’s battle through. It’s an opportunity, there’s no question about it.” Obviously, Lundqvist changed the coach’s mind, and whether there’s a hangover effect remains to be seen. For what it’s worth, the Rangers “mental skills” coach, John Phelan, re-appeared on the ice today. I wonder if he gets paid overtime.
Good news for Rangers fans: Tom Renney believes in his team. Bad news for Rangers fans: Tom Renney believes in his team. Getting back to what I said earlier, if you’re looking for sweeping changes in the lineup, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen (although the coach did allow that Sandis Ozolinsh might be in need of a break). In fact, here’s what Renney said about the team going forward. Cue the inspirational music.
“I have total faith in this team to get over what happened last night. I have total faith in this team to make the playoffs. I really believe in these guys. I hope I don’t have my head too far up where the sun doesn’t shine. I honestly believe in them, and the reason I can say that is because of the synergy on and off the ice,” Renney said. “I believe that the most important thing going for us is our character and desire to win and do things right. It doesn’t always manifest itself night in and night out, and you guys (the media) do what you have to do to chronicle that. But I believe we’ll right this thing and be a consistent team.”
So there you have it. See? There’s nothing to worry about….