Bonus review …
1) That elimination goal really shouldn’t have happened. Just so many breakdowns by so many people, starting with the Brad Richards turnover at center ice—the cardinal sin vs. the Devils—then complicated by the right defenseman (Dan Girardi) over-pursuing to the left boards and getting trapped there, then choosing behind-the-net as his path back. Then Ryan McDonagh going down to the ice, Marian Gaborik kicking the puck twice but not getting it out of trouble, then Carl Hagelin and Brad Richards both ignoring Adam Henrique in the crease behind Henrik Lundqvist … when a little shove, or any sort of stick or physical challenge probably prevents Henrique from that tap-in. Looked like previous years’ Rangers defense. This year they stayed on their feet more, and took the man more … and they stopped doing that on the final play of the year.
2) Gotta tell you a story. With the mass of media at the Rock, and at the mercy of two unpredictable elevators to get from the pressbox to the lockerrooms, I (and others) decided to go down before the OT began, figuring I could watch the end on TV (in HD). write the top to my story, and be sure I could get to the lockerrooms quickly once it ended. Except NBC had this seven-second delay going on. So I’m watching the OT, and play was at center ice, and I heard the place erupt and the horn going off, and had to wait, wait, wait … and wait … to see the goal. But long before I saw the goal, I knew the Devils won. Very weird.
3) It’s going to be much harder just to get back to the playoffs, never mind as a top seed, then to win a round, then two … then three. Much harder. That was kind of my column today. I’ll post it later on.
4) Let’s not forget, though it appears to have been shelved for the coming (lockout) season, the NHL board of governoes wants to do its ridiculous realignment in which there will be fewer regular-season games with playoff implications, followed by playoffs that will pit the Patrick Division teams against one another in Rounds 1 and 2. That will make it even more difficult to ever get to the third round. Only four division teams will make the playoffs (for some reason, they’re going to call them four conferences, not divisions) and they will play off. What a lousy, backward plan.
5) I got to thinking, too, about how when the Rangers were at their best this season, Brian Boyle’s line played major minutes, often against top opponents. That was usually Boyle and Brandon Prust, with Ruslan Fedotenko among others. And I got to thinking that that line didn’t get, probably didn’t deserve, the major minutes in the postseason, though they were still good killing penalties. And when the Rangers were at their best, early, it was the GAS line (Gaborik, Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan), then Richards and Ryan Callahan (and either Brandon Dubinsky or Hagelin or somebody else), and the Rangers seemed more balanced back then. But that’s when all three lines were productive offensively. Then came the Hagelin-Richards-Gaborik line, which was on fire for a while, and completely doused in the ECF.
6) Too bad the Rangers couldn’t go out at home, and get to do the stick salute.
7) I’m pleasantly surprised at how many of you reacted the way you should—hurt beyond words, but mostly positive about the year the team just gave you.
8) These stories about Mats Zuccarello agreeing to a KHL contract, I don’t blame him. He reportedly wants an NHL contract, but I don’t know if that’s coming. I mean, if he stays here, there can’t be any guarantee he will be an NHL player, or prove to be an NHL player. And I’m sure he doesn’t want to go back and forth to the AHL again. I don’t know about him as a legit NHLer, because I like his skill and his compete, but is he a top-six? And if not, can he and his team make it work on a third or fourth line? I think it probably can … the Devils probably would make it work. We’ll see.
9) Yesterday I thanked Josh, 26, for his help, and thanked all of youse guys. I also wanted to thank Sean Mayer, our sports editor (and dieheard) without whom I don’t get to go to all the games I did this season, and I definitely don’t go on the road in the playoffs. I haven’t spoken to him since Friday night. Hope he’s off the ledge.
10) Don’t forget, Josh, 26, and I will have all sorts of audio from Breakup Day Monday. Then later in the week we’ll do a Live Chat.
11) I’m guessing we’ll find out how bad Ryan Callahan’s hand/wrist were, and Brandon Dubinsky’s foot/ankle, and other things, on Monday.