I apologize for the delay on this recap, but last night was all about family, beer, and Giants Football. Plus a dismal performance from our “beloved” hockey team makes writing about their play unexciting, but I will try to keep the recap interesting.
First period was pretty evenly played, but the Rangers failed to capitalize on a few chances. If you remember in my last recap against Boston I explained the importance of getting an early lead and sitting on it. Unfortunately not only did the Rangers fail to gain a lead, but they let Boston score on a very preventable shorthanded goal. The two players directly responsible for the goal against were Tyutin and Lundqvist. Tyutin failed to keep the puck in Boston’s zone during the power play, and also failed to get into a defensive position to prevent an odd man rush. In doing so Chuck Kobasew, and Savard enjoyed a shorthanded 2 on 1 rush into the Rangers zone. Now it is hard to fault a goalie for allowing a odd man rush goal, but if you review the play Kobasew’s shot was to the short side of the net; an angle Lundqvist should have been protecting. Instead Henrik was caught slightly out of position causing the goal. It was not a super soft goal, but an elite goaltender makes the save. Lundqvist cheated most likely because he was expecting a pass. In that situation it is the defenders job to take out the passing play. In giving up the goal the Rangers allowed Boston to play their defensive minded game. If you notice after the goal was scored the game became slow paced and a coaching match between Claude Julien and Tom Renney. Renney failed to equal Julien strategic prowess.
The second period was kept at a pace slower than the first. Jagr’s hurt foot seemed to really slow him down in the game as he took yet another hooking penalty. Many fans have been on his case for being lazy, but by the look of his play it seems he’s worn down by minor injuries. The 3rd line was yet again the best line of the night, and they did an excellent job of forechecking on two instances in the second. The problem the line faced although was an inability to shoot the puck. Boston’s defense kept them to the outside. Renney also failed to put Jagr on the ice after a Bruin iced the puck. The reason this is important is because Chara was in charge of shadowing Jagr and was doing a very good job. The icing forced the Bruins to keep their tired line out which also was without Chara. This gave Renney a good chance to get his elite player a chance to score along with Straka, and Gomez. Instead we saw our low scoring 4th line take the draw. Boston was able to sit on their 1-0 lead through the period.
The third frame showed deficiencies in the Rangers defense as two goals were allowed that were a product of not sticking with their man and taking the body. Metropolit, and Kessel were allowed full access to the Rangers crease as they put rebounds home to put the Bruins out of reach with a 3-0 lead. The Rangers failed to keep any sustained pressure on Tim Thomas, and his Boston Bruins. Thomas’s shutout was finally broken by a late tally by Dubinsky off a feed by Jagr. Dubinsky continues to impress me as he gains more confidence through each game. He has become much more aggressive and has the ability like Gomez to skate the puck through the neutral zone without interruption. He is also showing an ability to finish. Shanahan was benched in the third period because of soreness in his legs and back that were affecting his play.
The Garden Faithful were dead in the stands as there was not much to cheer for. At no point in the game did the Rangers seem like the team who would win, and although they out shot their opponent 31-20, there were very few good scoring opportunities. Boston’s defense kept the Rangers shooting chances to the outside and left Thomas with pretty manageable work.
Many fans are calling for changes, and some even for Renney’s head. As a Ranger fan I understand the frustration, and agree that the team needs a spark. With that said there are a few problems I have with recent fan gripes.
Tom Renney is not going anywhere, and nor should he. I understand that he is in charge of this “team,” but he can not be held directly responsible. The Rangers lack chemistry, identity, and character. The lack of chemistry is not a fault of Renney as he has tried to roll new lines throughout the season, but each to little or no avail. Understand that the signings of Drury, and Gomez were not just for a cup run this year. With the signing there was always a risk that chemistry would be an issue, but there was the upside that they could help make a serious cup run for this season. Unfortunately the cup run is looking less likely with every game played, but these players were signed to long year deals for a reason. This most likely will be the last season Jagr, Shanahan, Straka, Malik, and possibly Rozsival wear a Rangers jersey. With those departures Drury and Gomez will become the face of the team and you can expect the team to be built around them. Next season will bring an influx of youth, and most likely a few free agency signings. The chemistry between Jagr and Gomez, or Shanahan and Drury will become a moot point. Youth will be brought in, and the newbies will learn to play with Drury and Gomez at a younger age. It is much easier to mold a young player, and Tom Renney is known for his ability to develop youth. He will be a perfect coach for next years transition year, and beyond.
The lack of identity can be blamed somewhat on Renney, but you also have to realize that this team’s inability to find themselves come from; one the lack of chemistry on offense, and two the mediocre defense. November we gained an identity as a defensive team winning 1-0 and 2-1 games. Since then the defense has tanked and Lundqvist has not been able to keep his “stand on head” type play as a result of it. Lundqvist can battle hard to stop pucks through traffic, and keep the puck out when players are down low. Lundqvist can not make miraculous saves however when opposing players are given numerous opportunities at swiping pucks home in the crease, or given clean shots right in the slot. The defensive identity has fallen and with it our place in the standings.
Finally the character has not been there for the Rangers. This is probably the biggest concern for Rangers fans as it keeps them wanting more energy and heart from their team. The Rangers do seem disinterested at points in games and it usually means a loss is in the near future. Renney can be held responsible here as it is his job to keep his team’s morale up. You also have to realize however that some veterans on the team need to lead by example. Jagr is given much criticism for not being able to do so, but he is not that type of player. He was not that type of player in Pittsburgh, Washington, or his tenure with the Rangers. The Rangers need a player (like Avery) who can energize this team, and that is why I believe the Rangers need to seek out a player at the deadline who can bring that swagger. Renney can not energize this team by himself and should not be expected to. Nor should Jagr be expected to become a player he never was. Jagr is an elite NHL player whether this years stats say so or not, but he is not one who will lead a team like Messier. This trade deadline the Rangers need a charismatic leader; not a new coach, or veteran superstar. _X_