1) Haven’t said this much this year, but I don’t even know where to begin. It was going to take a monumental effort to beat Pittsburgh, a much better team, in this series. The way the Rangers played in Game 4, they wouldn’t have beaten anybody. I thought a number of guys really tried their tails off and played poorly. I thought a few didn’t try nearly hard enough. Click here for my column on the performance that brought about the deserved result.
2) Daily Nash-O-Meter. Does the needle even move anymore? Nash was booed whenever he touched the puck late in the game, and he is surely going to be the goat-est of the scapegoats for this team’s failures. Click here for Josh Thomson, 26’s story about Nash being booed at MSG. Looked at the start that he was fired up, back on the right side, back with Chris Kreider. Drove to the net for a rebound with Kreider early. Then he ad a glorious chance to shoot and made a pass that failed. Had the 3-on-1 and just whiffle-balled a soft shot wide. Holy shishkebob. One goal in 23 playoff games as a Rangers. In Glen Sather’s worst dreams …
3) Don’t know if you saw THN’s Ken Campbell’s column on the plight of the Rangers (entitled “Season’s over for Rangers …” click here to read it) but one of the money shots was: “Since the 2006 Olympics, Nash has played a combined 45 Olympic and NHL playoff games and has four goals.” I don’t agree with the entire premise of the column, but there are some very strong points in it.
4) Nash wasn’t the worst player in the game because the other “star scorer” was. Martin St. Louis looked despondent after the game, repreatedly saying it was the worst playoff game he’d ever played. Ever. And that he “couldn’t do anything.” Offside over and over again. Turnovers. Then the matador swipe at Evgeni Malkin when he should have been covering Chris Kunitz, who scored the 4-2 goal just 57 seconds after Mats Zuccarello gave the Rangers a chance. St. Louis came to New York and lost it, except for a few games in the Philadelphia series, in which he scored twice. He has three goals in 31 games as a Ranger.
5) There was Marc Staal, who again hit Sidney Crosby in the head from behind, who was just in bad spots at bad times … the first goal a Crosby pass that hit his skate and went to Evgeni Malkin, deflecting in the third goal off an angle shot by Jussi Jokinen (after Staal had his ill-advised shot blocked by James Neal to start the rush). Ryan McDonagh had yet another wobbly playoff game all around, including a weak backcheck on Brandon Sutter’s short-hander. Anton Stralman coughed up the puck to start the first goal. Derek Stepan and Brad Richards were better than St. Louis and Nash, but not by a lot.
6) And then there’s Henrik Lundqvist. I understand that in-close back-handers are tough for a goalie, because you don’t know where it’s going. But he’s got to have his pads down and together on the Malkin goal. He had some good games in this series, but he hasn’t been the Lundqvist the Rangers need in a series like this. And he said it: “I can’t expect us to win and give up four goals.” Or three. Or sometimes two.
7) Chris Kreider. I thought it was a good gamble to bring him back, considering he’d be replacing Jesper Fast or J.T. Miller That even though he hadn’t practiced at all with the team, and that he hadn’t really shot a puck for 19 games, that he still might add some muscle, some net presence, some speed. And he did. He also brought his old habit, taking a careless penalty, and still had some cluelessness without the puck. Worse, the first time he took a pass from Nash, his left hand came right off his stick. So, no, not ready.
8) The power play. No more words left. 0 for 36. And on the 36th, it gave up a dagger of a short-hander. This after Game 3, when immediately after three power plays the Rangers allowed clean breakaways, two of them resulting in goals. You can’t even argue this point. It has lost them plenty of games in these playoffs. In fact, with a PPG here or there, maybe they knock off Philly in six, don’t have to play five in seven, six in nine, and therefore don’t absorb the Game 3 loss, in which they really had no shot. But go back to the usual suspects on the PP, too. Same guys. Though the Derick Brassard-Benoit Pouliot-Mats Zuccarello has been better than decent at even strength, they too have stunk it up on the power play.
9) The Penguins have, much better than Philadelphia — no surprise — handled the Rangers’ speed, other than Hagelin’s breakaway, though it appeared they were going to give Brooks Orpik some problems until he went out with an injury in the first. And the Rangers haven’t handled Pittsburgh’s speed at all. Then when Dan Bylsma went with Crosby between Malkin and Kunitz, the Rangers were just overwhelmed. Malkin=Monster. The thing about the Penguins in this game, too, was that when the Rangers did score, Pittsburgh just became energized, played even better. Mark of a very strong-willed team. That will only be more evident in Pittsburgh, where the kinda go all feeding-frenzy at times.
10) Pouliot’s been the best Rangers forward through 11 playoff games, despite his penchant for penalties … and that just can’t happen. Brassard and Zuccarello are right there, too. But they sure haven’t been perfect in this series, either.
11) So, not to be revisionist on the Marian Gaborik (six goals) trade, or to suggest he’d be doing the same thing here. But two of the three players the Rangers got for him were healthy scratches for the last two playoff games. Just sayin’.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Benoit Pouliot.
2. Carl Hagelin.
3. Mats Zuccarello.
Josh Thomson, 26’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. Carl Hagelin.
2. Mats Zuccarello.
3. Derick Brassard.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Carl Hagelin.
2. Benoit Pouliot.
3. Henrik Lundqvist.
Photos by Getty Images.