Too bad. Harry Howell and Andy Bathgate deserve for this to be a great night at the Garden. First of all, it’s well overdue, having their numbers go to the ceiling. Second, most fans at the game probably never saw these guys play. They aren’t the darlings of ‘94, so this will be a comparatively low-key night.
But they also deserve a place that’s not angry with its team, and I imagine MSG will be somewhat angry tonight.
Why? How about Buffalo 4, Rangers 2. How about a 2-9 record in the last 11 games (we’re not giving credence to those two skills-competition points; if we’re counting the shootout win as a win, then we’re counting the shootout losses as losses). Or we could say it this way: The Rangers have one regulation win in their last 11 games, and that was over the Islanders, at home, in a 2-1 game with an empty-netter.
Not to mention that they have scored 11 goals—total!—in the nine non-wins.
1) Did anybody else notice that just about everybody behind the Rangers in the standings won yesterday, which means they fell from fifth to eighth and in danger of falling further. In other words, it now looks as if the Rangers will have to play over-.500 hockey the rest of the way to get into the playoffs, and that may not even be good enough. And we don’t know if they can do that.
2) Scott Gomez ran into Buffalo’s goalie and it was a borderline cheap shot. But this is what Gomez used to do in New Jersey. That’s probably another good sign that he’s morphing, at least to a degree, back into the Good Gomer. We’ll withhold judgment.
3) The rest of the top-money guys—and you know their names without me mentioning them—continue to sleepwalk through a season. Makes you wonder if anybody would want any of them if/when the Rangers put out the “For Sale” sign before the trade deadline. I mean, could they beg a team to take one or more, pay half their salary, take the cap hit, in exchange for young players or draft picks? Probably not.
4) Jim Schoenfeld (former Buffalo legend) was at the game last night. I don’t know how much he usually travels with the team, but it strikes me that he’s been at a few games lately. Hmm.
5) The MSG Network guys stole the nickname “Korpedo” which I am quite sure was first coined on this blog (and before I got here). They not only used it, but they claimed credit for it. That ain’t right.
6) Joe Michelleti scolded the Rangers for their soft forecheck, for making life easy on the Buffalo defensemen, and for making it easier on the two Buffalo goalies. Good for you, Joe.
7) Marc Staal really did get unlucky on the first goal, when he stepped up to anticipate a pass—correctly—only to have it deflected out of mid-air (mind you) by Nigel Dawes, and past Staal for a 2-on-1 for the Sabres. That’s a huge goal against a team so fragile. And a team so incapable of scoring goals.
8) If Slats is going to make a move … and I mean a coaching move … as they say at weddings, speak now or forever hold your peace. It’s now or never. But it’s also a good time to decide exactly how important it is to just make the playoffs and then go out quickly. Because I don’t think any move (coach firing, big trade, Sean Avery) should just be made for a short-term prayer of making the playoffs. Although Jim Dolan surely wants the extra home gates, future be damned.
9) Oh, add Buffalo to that growing number of teams who have more skill up front than the Rangers.
10) Now the Rangers’ team defense and goaltending are failing too. Can you spell D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R?