Monday, February 21, 2011
N.Y. RANGERS ~ Stabilize Now Or Spiral Out Of Control
I. - NEW YORK RANGERS: Blueshirts must come together before their season falls apart.
II. - New Jersey Devils: Playing like a Bat out of Hell!
Out of our minds and spinning in circles; that's what Blueshirt Fans are, and that's what the Rangers are doing. They have three games coming up against the 'Canes; Capitals; and Lightning. They need to salvage this next week before their season spirals dangerously out of control and the centrifugal force flings them out of playoff contention.
Friday night against the Devils, Ranger Fans got a quick re-education in the dangers of defensemen Pinching the Offensive Blue-line. Marc Staal got his ankles busted and drilled into the ice like a screw at the blue line while trying to handle a bouncing puck (that he didn't put his body in front of) as New Jersey's Ilya Kovalchuk recovered said puck and sped by Staal on his way towards a break-away goal against Henrik Lundqvist. That's it. That's all there was. Because that's all you get with the Rangers lately; great efforts, one mistake, and little in the way of positive results to show for it. I'd like to stress - Lately.
In that game, the Rangers were 0-2 on the Power Play; no surprise there. They managed no shots on goal in either man-advantage and only 14 shots on goal for the game. The Rangers lost to the Devils 1-0 giving Johan Hedberg the shut-out who was playing in injured Martin Brodeur's place again. The Rangers have lost their last two games played against the Devils and are now 3-2 against them this season.
Friday night, the Carolina Hurricanes retired Rod Brind'Amour's jersey reminding me they won a Stanley Cup more recently than the Rangers have. They also won their ceremonious game that night to cap-off a stellar night of Ranger Hockey and keep things worrisome for everyone on Broadway.
Down goes Gaborik! Down Goes Gaborik! DOWN GOES GABORIK!
The Rangers followed up the Devils game with yet another Sunday matinee game versus the Flyers that yielded yet another Rangers loss on home ice to the Division leaders. They lost more than just the game; they lost Marian Gaborik due to concussion symptoms...and the Rangers aren't entirely sure when the symptoms started and it's unknown when he'll return.
No Ranger injury has come at a good time, but this injury to Gaborik comes at a horrible time just before the trade deadline making Glen Sather's decisions that much more complex. Or should I say exposing him yet again as being terribly inept? The Bruins; Avalanche; Maple Leafs; Sharks; Blues; Lightning... have ALL already made trades involving Defensemen. Pittsburgh, in giving up defenseman Alex Goligoski to the Dallas Stars upgraded their Wing by acquiring James Neal in the absence of Sidney Crosby and Malkin. Tomas Kaberle of Toronto has been available for some time now. He finally ended up in Boston in return for a fine hulking specimen named Joe Colborne. Mr. Sather...is there a plan here?
Back on Saturday, the Devils completed the sandwiching of their Ranger victory, with two wins against the Carolina Hurricanes. New Jersey beat them on Feb. 16 then repeated the feat Saturday Feb. 19th. The Devils beat the Hurricanes a third time in February back on Feb. 3rd. And so the Devils continue to chip away at the teams above them in the playoff standings while playing and winning at an outrageous pace.
Spinning a tangled web....
The Rangers next opponent on Tuesday? - Yep; The Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes represent the last barrier before the Sabres and Atlanta can gain a clear focus on our Blueshirts. The Carolina protective barrier is now only 2 points deep. To say a win against Carolina Tuesday night is of paramount importance to the Rangers is a gross understatement. The Rangers are 2-8 in their last 10 games; 2-7 in February. They are showing no signs they can do anything to improve their Power Play and over-all lack of scoring. No amount of line-up shaking seems to be working for Coach Torts. Additionally, there is no denying, we all feel the flames in Newark getting hotter. The Devils lost their first four games of January to usher in the New Year on a rotten note which was really a continuation of the rotten 2010 portion of their season. But since a January 9th win over Tampa Bay, the Devils have gone 15-1-2. In February they are 9-0-1. Those two over-time losses both came against Florida. But they are starting to haunt everyone.
As of today; February 21, 2011....the standings are as follows:
7th ~ New York Rangers ~ 66 points.
8th ~ Carolina Hurricanes ~ 64 points
9th ~ Buffalo Sabres ~ 60 points.
10th ~ Atlanta Thrashers ~ 60 points.
13th ~ New Jersey Devils ~ 54 points ...and counting!
*The Rangers have the least amount of games remaining of the teams listed above.
The Devils are now just a mere 10 points out of the eighth place spot with only 23 games remaining. Jacques LeMaire has this team of Devils playing like Demons once again. After achieving the 600th win in his coaching career, he's still proving he has a few more tricks up the ol' sleeve.
Rangers Fans, we aren't falling out of the sky like a piano just yet. But the rope holding us up might be getting ready to snap. Look out below! Because this is not just about the Sabres; Thrashers; or the Devils. This has more to do with what we're doing (or not doing) than about what those teams are.
King Henrik hasn't been so royal to his subjects, not just lately, but all season. There's been a-lot of inconsistency in his play. And our scoring? Well, it's just anemic. There is no amount of line-changing Coach Torts can try that will change much about the Rangers' over-all inability to score. He's just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic at this point. These forwards have had their chances. Many times they are in the process of out-shooting their opponents. But I'm seeing Goalies play up to their grinding tempo and stymie the Rangers. Call it dumb-luck or whatever you will. Everything else about the Rangers is there. Their attitude and work ethic is right where a Coach and Fan Base want it to be. They play a tough, gritty, game and are very good on defense and the PK. It's a shame the ultimate demise of this very likable bunch might be their inability to score goals and having no room for even a single mistake.
More frustrating about their inability to score goals is many times it takes on the appearance of being down-right feeble on special teams. How many times have we gone without shots, or just attempting one shot on goal during a PP? How many of you have had your faces contorted with disgust while watching them attempt to gain the zone, much less maintain a possession...like I have?
A loss against the Hurricanes will expose our back-side to the on-rushing teams who will no doubt want to do unthinkable things with their sticks to it should they get a view. It's imperative we beat Cam Ward and the Hurricanes tomorrow. Yes, I said Cam Ward. He's been killing us! I told you once before - the Carolina Hurricanes we coming to claim their playoff spot and that once they did, they wouldn't leave. Well, they did; and now they're not.
So that just leaves US.
We can either keep the "Canes between us and the teams headed our way with ramming speed, or, get exposed as the last in line. This team needs to stabilize right now. They don't need to do anything extraordinary; just stabilize themselves with a win against Carolina. If they don't, and compound the bad month they've been having already with more losses this week, things can spiral out of control before March even begins.
Should that happen, the rope holding up our Blueshirt Piano will surly snap and our season will fall out of the sky and crash horribly upon the sidewalk of Seventh Avenue with a resounding......Pfft.
...but accompanied with a hardy "Fire Sather" !!!
C'mon Boys! Let's Go Rangers!