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Benched or not, Rangers need more from Gaborik, others

Posted By Carp On May 18, 2012 @ 3:05 am In Hockey,New York Rangers,NHL,Stanley Cup playoffs | 162 Comments

Going to practice this morning. Will have audio and whatever news from there later.

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Here’s my unedited column from The Journal News and LoHud.com today. Apologies for typos, etc.:

By Rick Carpiniello [1]

On the day after, John Tortorella spoke. Not in mono-syllabic answers, either.
Here’s the gist: The Rangers weren’t very good in Wednesday night’s Game 2 of their playoff series with the Devils, a 3-2 loss in which they led 2-1 late in the second period and were tied 2-2 in the third.
And: Marian Gaborik might not have been benched.
Um, OK, that’s semantics. The coach doesn’t like the word “benched,” apparently, and prefers to say he’s “trying to find a way to win a hockey game, and we make decisions accordingly.”
Gaborik failed to clear a puck, then didn’t give himself up to block a shot, as his teammates always do, and the Devils scored a huge goal. The coach made the decision, accordingly, that Gaborik wouldn’t play the rest of the second period, or the first eight-plus minutes of the third, which included a power play with the Rangers down by a goal, or the last couple of minutes of the third with goalie Henrik Lundqvist pulled for an extra attacker.
That sounds, looks, smells, like a benching to me. Whatever.
Tortorella has said that you don’t send messages in the playoffs, but Gaborik obviously thought there was a message being sent, and that he was benched. Again, it doesn’t matter why, but might it not have been a good idea to have your best goal-scorer on the ice while trying to tie the game and maybe make it a 2-0 series instead of 1-1? Wouldn’t some harsh words between periods have sufficed?
Again, the coach knows better than I and we.
That all said, Gaborik didn’t do nearly enough in Game 2. He was robbed by Martin Brodeur on a couple of early chances, one on a break-in, one on a rebound, but he wasn’t sturdy enough near the net or along the walls — and, an aside, don’t be surprised if he has a big Game 3 Saturday afternoon in Newark.
Gaborik wasn’t alone, though. The Rangers, almost 1-through-18, weren’t good enough in the dirty areas. Part of that is that the Devils, as they did late in the season against the Rangers, and as a few other opponents did against the Rangers, took away the walls as an outlet for the Rangers’ bang-it-out style.
You know, there’s an opponent here that’s pretty good at that game, too.
“It’s a challenge against the Rangers,” said Devils captain Zach Parise, “because that’s what they’ve been know for this year — outworking their opponents and kind of owning pucks down low and along the boards. I think we have to do a really good job of doing that if we want to beat these guys this series.”
Then he added, “At the same time, when we’re playing well, that’s what we’re doing really well.”
Tortorella was asked if, a day later, after viewing film, he found any positives from Game 2.
“To be honest with you, not many,” he said. “I thought we played some minutes in the second period, found a way to score some power-play goals. But other than that, we didn’t play enough minutes.”
The Rangers’ won the Eastern Conference’s regular-season title, nearly won the Presidents’ Trophy, and gained the No. 1 seed in the East with their consistency.
Though the opponents certainly are due some credit, the Rangers’ consistency has waned. It has seemed the case during these playoffs that they play their best after poor performances — as they did during the season — but unlike the season, they have more luke-warm to poor outings after wins. When their opponent has been more desperate for a win, the Rangers haven’t, for the most part, matched that desire in a particular game.
They’ve lost two in a row just once in 16 playoff games, but they’ve followed wins with losses six times.
For that reason, in Game 3 we should probably expect that Gaborik and the Rangers’ forwards get back to what got them here. But one of these days, if the Rangers continue to tempt fate, a loss is going to turn into another, and they might run out of second chances.

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AP photo, above.


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[1] Image: http://rangers.lohudblogs.com/files/2012/05/Gaborik-vs.-brodeur1.jpg