The Rangers didn’t lose because they’ve had all this time off. They didn’t lose because it’s Hockey Night in Canada in Montreal. They didn’t lose because of the ridiculous pansification rules and penalty calls. They didn’t lose because of a bad goal given up by Martin Biron. They didn’t lose because that sometimes happens when a grinding team runs into a skating team.
They lost because they stunk. I don’t have an explanation for it, but they stunk. They didn’t have the puck at all, they didn’t grind. Cas Marques worked harder on Biron’s broken buckle than Carey Price worked all night long.
1) So I had a football game in upstate Connecticut Saturday afternoon, and I’m on my ride home during the early part of the game, listening to Don LaGreca and Dave Maloney through all the scratchy static that comes with ESPN radio. And as Maloney’s talking about Scott Gomez and how he and his $14 million might be buried in Hamilton, I was actually driving through Trumbull, Conn. I thought some of you might appreciate that.
2) That was an awful goal allowed by Biron. That happens. This is what I meant when I said a few weeks ago that there’s tremendous pressure on a backup to be perfect. If Lundqvist gives up one of those, it’s a softie and it’s aggravating to him and to you guys, but if Biron lets one in, it’s “Why did they decide to let him play tonight?” And “what happens next time they give him a start?” It’s totally unfair. And this game was not on him.
3) The Rangers can learn a lot by watching video of how the Habs forwards rotate down low in the offensive zone without the puck on the power play. I don’t think they will, but they can.
4) The GAS line was good again early, but came up empty and mostly without chances. The Dubinsky-Richards-Callahan line, same thing; even getting a rare forecheck going and drawing a penalty in the second. But, geez, there were sure long, long stretches, including the entire third period, when the Rangers couldn’t even gain control of the puck, much less do anything with it.
5) There are times when you can’t miss the net. During a 5-on-3. Or on an odd-man rush. Richards has missed quite a few in both situations, including one on a 3-on-2 in the second period.
6) Ryan Callahan has really taken some unnecessary penalties lately.
7) I don’t know if it was effort, and I’m inclined to think it wasn’t; or if incompetence against a clogging team like that makes it look like effort. But it looked bad. And I did see a fair amount of gliding by a lot of players. More than usual.
8) If we’d done a predict-the-score contest on this game, I wonder how many would have picked the Habs. By a lot.
9) That penalty on Stepan in the first? Pansification. The call on Brandon Prust in the third—well, he kind of pawed at Price, might have made glove-to-mask contact. But, geez, roughing? Really? Is this really, really, really what the NHL wants?
10) Brian Leetch is getting very good in the studio. Not that anybody should have expected anything less.
11) The call against Michael Sauer, for not playing the puck on what would have been icing, no doubt in my mind, stems from the Philadelphia-Tampa 1-3-1 debacle last week. Refs are sensitive to not playing the puck. But Sauer was doing something very smart, using what should have been an advantage to the Rangers’ penalty kill. If anything the officials could have blown it dead and enforced the icing. But to punish Sauer, and not the team that iced the puck, is idiotic.
12) Look at the bright side, after three more days off, there’s another game.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1) Brandon Prust.
2) Ryan McDonagh.
3) Ruslan Fedotenko.
AP photos, above.