Awful. Just awful. Maybe you could have seen this coming. Maybe. But, really, the Rangers have given us reason to think they won’t succumb to the set-up, to playing down to the opponent. They did, although I’m giving Ottawa a little bit of credit for lulling them to sleep, and for not playing like a team going nowhere, not mailing it in.
1) Marian Gaborik screwed up on the 1-0 goal. He did. No argument. But that didn’t cost the Rangers the game. That one play didn’t do it. That one goal didn’t do it. There were lots of guys late to their man throughout the night, or losing battles throughout the night, or going scrimmage speed through the neutral zone throughout the night. I also didn’t think Gaborik was as brilliant in the third period as he was made out to be, but I do like that most nights he’s really moving in the offensive zone. He’s a threat again.
2) I’m pretty sure his center and other winger, Erik Christensen and Vinny Prospal, lost some battles on that goal. Christensen? I just don’t know. IMO, you’re not winning a Cup with him as your first-line center. I’d like to see Derek Stepan back on that line for a while. I thought he was really good there in camp, and in the early part of the season, and I understand that’s a lot of responsibility for a kid, but he sure as hell would be more consistent than No. 26 there.
3) That skills competition? Three guys who didn’t play in the third period. Nice. And I thought all but one of the shootout shooters moved in with too much speed, which cuts down on your ability to make multiple moves, to keep the puck out in front of you where you can get some air under your shot. I think the faster you move in, the better for the goalie. The one guy who didn’t go too fast was Wojtek Wolski, and I have no idea what in holy hell he was doing with his little weave. But the goalie would have to be an idiot to go for any of those first few lateral moves, and Anderson isn’t an idiot.
4) I also question the choice of Ryan Callahan (and his breakable stick, photo above) over Artem Anisimov in the skills competition … and for the 10th time or so this season, I suggest they use Marc Staal, who has good hands in tight and a long stick, and could be dangerous.
6) That said, on that power-play 2-on-1 after Dan Girardi was beaten late in the third period, Staal went down, didn’t block the pass and Lundqvist made an amazing save. That save got the Rangers a point. A regulation loss would have been a disaster. And I maintain that for Staal to really make the jump to the elite defensemen—and he can—he needs to learn to play more on his skates and less on his knees … be less like his partner in that regard.
7) I’m starting to think Calgary got the short end of the stick on that Brandon Prust trade. A lot of stuff happened on the tying goal, including Girardi’s outlet missing Fedotenko and deflecting to Staal, and Phillips falling down and taking out Staal’s legs, and Staal making the pass from his belly. But that was some kind of shot by Prust.
8) The best news of all for the Rangers is that Henrik Lundqvist continues to play playoff hockey down the stretch. He’s been absolutely fabulous. And how about that play he made in the skills competition where he tripped up the shooter with his glove. Is there a rule against that?
9) The skills competition, part II. Imagine where ya boys would be minus the eight skills competition points they’ve had?
10) Does Chris Neil remind you of anybody, you know, an agitating guy who takes bad penalties at bad times? If he was on the Rangers and did that, he’d be prucha’d next game. By the way, sometimes that 4-on-3 PP in OT can be a negative thing compared to a 5-on-4 in regulation, especially when you lose a draw, because there’s so much ice that you can’t outnumber the PK guys to regain pucks.
11) To compare the last two games: I thought the Florida game was dreadful to watch, but that the Rangers played hard and smart and with patience, and were the better team. I thought the Ottawa game was dreadfully played, without much smarts or nearly enough grit, and that the Rangers were not the better team. But it was a lot more fun to watch, or at least the third period and the OT were.
12) Montreal’s just sitting there if the Rangers want sixth place.
13) On those third-period scrums around the Ottawa net: It’s not a penalty if the defensemen join the fracas, but the faceoff goes outside the blue line … and thus it’s not worth them getting involved at that stage unless a teammate is really in danger.