1) I spent the night talking to a bunch of youse and trying to talk some sense about what we’re seeing with this Rangers team, and I just want to be clear. I am not defending what they’re doing on the ice, or their makeup. I wondered all along whether they lost too much of their identity, guys who would make it a difficult night for the opponent game after game. This team doesn’t. Again, I make the Nash deal 100 times out of 100. But they took five forwards off their team and didn’t sufficiently replace them. Now you throw in that the top three or four guys haven’t done much at all, one of them looks like he’s headed for a compliance buyout, one of them hurt (and if it’s a concussion, who knows when or if he comes back) and one of them was benched in the third period of a game that wasn’t lopsided (pretty much waving the white flag, IMO). Do that math.
2) That all said, I am going to hedge a bet here. I thought, for absolutely certain, that this Rangers team would still make the playoffs, and I still do … unless the injuries to Rick Nash, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh are long term. If so, they’re toast. If not, they will make the playoffs. I would have even ventured that the Rangers would eventually overtake Montreal before it’s all said and done. Again, the injuries and the fact that we’re more than a third of the way through the Bettmaned season, make me now doubt they will do that. But look at where they are, despite the way their key guys have played, and look at some of the teams ahead of them: Toronto, Ottawa, Carolina. I don’t expect any of those to be in the top eight at the end of April.
3) The thing about the guys they lost … that team last year would never have had a game like this, where they didn’t at least push back, pay back, stir the pot, give the opponent something to think about. That team would never have gone so peacefully and lamely. These Rangers haven’t been nasty at all. There is no reaction when a teammate gets drilled. They’ve had, what, two legit fights that weren’t those stupid staged fiascos? They are easy to play against. That has to change.
4) Let’s see how Brendan Shanahan and the Department of Jumping Through Hoops to Not Suspend Players handle this Max Pacioretty leaping, driving of McDonagh’s head into the glass, from behind. Because I’m guessing that after Evgeni Malkin chopped Marc Staal on top of the helmet with his stick, and after Milan Lucic drove Nash’s head into the glass, that Pacioretty will have a phone-call hearing and be fined. How about doing another video about how the NHL is going to cut down on dangerous head-shot injuries … blah, blah, blah.
5) Make the playoffs or not, and I think they will (again, depending on the health of those three injured players), here’s the scary part for the Rangers, who have plenty of young players with high ceilings currently on the roster: Brad Richards might be at the end here. He will probably be the next buyout. Marian Gaborik, benched again last night and not scoring, not skating, is headed for another contract (elsewhere) in a couple of years. This is a team that never had legit first-line players for the longest time. Now it has three, and two of them might be going out the door, and how in holy hell do you replace them with the cap going down next year? Especially after emptying some of the cupboard for Nash? There’s not another No. 1 NHL center in the organization.
6) Hate to say this, but I thought Richards and Gaborik looked pretty decent in the first period. Then, poof, they were gone.
8) And more than one of us here, self included, started thinking this week, could this be 1992-93? The year after a great year when Brian Leetch kept getting hurt and the No. 1 center played awfully? Because if it is, I don’t see 1993-94 following this time.
9) That was such a good play by Derek Stepan early, when he caught goalie Carey Price cheating, faked the dump-in and shot the puck. You used to see it all the time, but now it is almost never attempted. Even if it doesn’t work, it will also keep the goalie in the net for a while longer next time. Wonder if the game would have been any different if Stepan scored there.
10) That first penalty on Marc Staal=Pansification. Originally, I didn’t think Pacioretty’s hit on McDonagh was so bad, but I thought, well, they call that boarding every night in the National Lockout League. But McDonagh was bloodied, so it has to be four minutes minimum. And, again, after seeing the replays, it should have been five, and probably a suspension. Again, I doubt Shanahan has the guts to do the right thing..
11) That first goal, after the Montreal power play ended, was partly due to the fact that, with Staal coming out of the box, the Rangers had three D-men on the ice, and thus got scrambly.
13) It will probably take me seeing it 100 more times before i get sick of that Honda Presidents’ Day Sale commercial. I hope the sale goes on for a while more.
14) Seems like most of the fans in Montreal pay attention to the game and cheer. That’s an interesting phenomenon.
15) House of Horrors, never mind the injuries: In six straight losses at Molson, er, whatever it’s called this month, Centre, the Habs have outscored the Rangers 22-3 with four shutouts. These are the Canadiens who have pretty much stunk for all of those seasons.
16) It really is time to figure out the power play, which has been somewhat better lately, but has cost so many games this year already. Maybe bring in Leetch? Or somebody? A basketball coach? Seriously. Something.
17) This talk about Girardi shouldn’t have still been in the game? Nonsense. So it might have been Staal? Or somebody else. You don’t have a second-string in hockey. You need to play the guys in the lineup. You can’t decide which one might get hurt. Granted, Girardi might have been better off doing a flamingo there, but that’s not in his DNA. And if he hadn’t turned, maybe he doesn’t even get hurt. It’s just bad luck.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Carl Hagelin.
2. Derek Stepan.
3. Ryan Callahan.
Kenny Albert Rules!’ Three Rangers Stars:
1. Carl Hagelin.
2. Ryan Callahan.
3. Matt Gilroy.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Henrik Lundqvist (19.54 %).
2. Carl Hagelin (13.79 %).
3. Derek Stepan (10.34 %).
Photos by Getty Images.