1) Even when you’ve been doing this as long as I have, and you’re sitting there writing about what an awful game you’re watching, sometimes you hesitate. I ask myself, is it just because the crowd is dead that it seems awful? Is it just because one team is playing really well defensively? Is it because of bad ice (it was dreadfully bad, but more on that later)? Is it because I’m tired or in a bad mood or because I have a headache or have to go to the bathroom, or because with Montreal in town the pressbox is really crowded? Am I letting any of those things cloud my opinion of this game as I write how bad it is?
2) Then I talked to some out-of-town scouts between periods, and they couldn’t believe it how bad it was. Then I heard John Tortorella’s comments, which were classic (though I’m not sure he should have insulted Montreal with a rematch only a few days away). And that confirmed that, no, I wasn’t wrong. This was a bad, bad hockey game. I remember watching a game in the late 1990s in Pittsburgh, when the Rangers and Penguins both stunk, and Toronto scout Floyd Smith sat next to me, every 20 seconds going, “Jesus Christ,” and shaking his head in disgust. This game reminded me of that game. Was like watching a Mets-Royals split-squad spring training game. From now on, the Montreal coach will be known here as Michel “Chloraform” Therrien. No wonder they ran him out of Pittsburgh.
3) Or, as I wrote last night, quoting the infamous ex-Devils coach Tom McVie about games like this: “They should let everybody in for free and make them pay to get out.”
4) Did you know that was the third game in a row Montreal allowed five shots in the first period. My God.
5) So I can’t wait for that rematch on Saturday. At least I can watch that one on TV instead of suffering in person.
6) I can’t even begin to critique players in this game, because top to bottom they were pretty lousy. Put it this way, Brandon Prust and Max Pacioretty were way, way better than any Ranger (I would have bet my paycheck that Prust would have a fight). The 3-on-1 goal was all-around mayhem after Marc Staal’s cough-up and Anton Stralman slip-sliding out of the play. So was the non-icing goal that should have been icing, with Brian Boyle letting his man wide open. I can’t even say anything good about the kids, J.T. Miller, Chris Kreider or Brandon Mashinter, because they weren’t good either.
7) That said, where is the Rangers’ No. 1 center? I know one of the first-line wingers is out injured. And I know that the other one at least drew some penalties, one of which led to the delayed call that allowed Anton Stralman to go in deep and score the only goal. But these guys have to do more, a lot more, than they’ve been doing. The bottom six or nine forwards weren’t so great either, but it can’t be on them in a game like this where it’s going to be slog-city through the neutral zone.
8) And it sure didn’t help that the ice was miserable. I didn’t know this until Chico Resch said it Monday. The NHL added a minute to the intermissions for the purpose of having better ice. The point being that if the ice is allowed to set after the Zamboni finishes, it is better than if the players get on it immediately. I found out last night that the on-ice presentations, such as the little kids hockey games or human puck races, can’t take more than four minutes or something like that, then have to be off the ice. For the sake of the ice and for the quality of the game.
9) Then why, why in holy hell, do they allow on-ice stuff at all during intermission? Why not get the Zambonis out there immediately and really allow the ice to set for five or six minutes before the players return. The answer, of course, is that those idiotic presentations are all sponsored, so that means revenue for the home club, and in the National Lockout League, we all know, revenue is far more important than the quality of the game, even at a place that prints money like MSG. Anyway, it’s not an excuse, because the puck was bouncing off of sticks on both sides (Staal), but bad ice in a game like that only about triples or quadruples the ugly quotient and favors the trappers more than the trapees.
10) I’m still not sure Carl Hagelin should have gotten an assist on the Stralman goal (unless I missed something, I thought it went from Gaborik to Stepan to Stralman, but whatever). NHL.com’s Dave Lozo, king of Twitter and former Journal Newser, tweeted “Another point for Hagelin, who continues to show why his number hangs from the rafters at MSG.” The punchline is that “62” hangs from the rafters for the number of concerts sold out by Elton John. Or at least I think it’s Elton John.
11) I wonder when it’s time for you guys to really start worrying about whether Nash has a concussion, or whether he re-injured the shoulder he hurt playing in Europe? Maybe he just has the flu. I doubt it. I think they’d say he’s out with the flu if he had the flu. The top-secrecy of the whole thing kinda makes it sound worse.
12) At several points, the Habs had had five skaters on the ice with the lowest sweater number being 51 (David Desharnais). I wonder if Lars Eller wears No. 81 for Carl Eller? Or if he knows who Carl Eller was? I do know this. If the Habs ever have another dynasty and have to retire more numbers, they’re going to have to start using letters on the backs of their sweaters.
13) Congratulations to Pelham coach Joe Ruggiero, who was named the winner of the Emile Francis Award for service to youth hockey. We will have more on that later today.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Derek Stepan.
2. Ryan Callahan.
3. Carl Hagelin.
RangerJHW’s Three Rangers Stars:
(I should get a star for having to watch this game…)
1. Derek Stepan.
2. Carl Hagelin.
3. Brian Boyle.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Carl Hagelin (18.1 %).
2. Anton Stralman (16.19 %).
3, tie: Derek Stepan, Henrik Lundqvist, Martin Biron (11.43 % each).
Photos by Getty Images.