Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rangers vs Blues Recap 11/7/2010: Ranger Play Not Calls Loses Game

Al Bello/Getty Images
The New York Rangers took the ice in the Garden looking to get back to even on the season at home, but you wouldn’t know it from the effort they put forth in the game.  I said after the New Jersey game and in previewing this one that the effort the Rangers had against New Jersey would not get it done against St. Louis and tonight’s effort might have actually been worse.  The Blues victory marked their 7th straight and moved their record to a very impressive 9-1-2 while the loss dropped the Rangers to 7-6-1 as the rollercoaster of ups and downs continues.

Before I go into what happened in the game by the periods let me state in advance because I am sure there will be lots of excuses and talk about the refs that while the refs were awful tonight that is not at all what cost the Rangers this game.  I have said it before and will again, the good teams overcome bad officiating and still get results because being a good team means overcoming the obstacles in front of you even if they happen to wear stripes as well.  Onto the details of how things developed during the game.

The Blues had more energy to start the game and throughout the first period and if not for Martin Biron the Rangers would have been in a deep hole early in the game.  Ruslan Fedotenko took two awful penalties early, one a trip, while the other was for hitting Pietrangelo on an icing just after coming out of the box from his first penalty.  One might not like the rule and it certainly wasn’t a hard hit by any stretch of the imagination but it was the right call and a bonehead play which I am surprised didn’t result in some sort of punishment from Tortorella to Fedotenko.  The Rangers managed to kill off both of the penalties lead by some good saves from Biron, but they never really got their offense going and by my count had maybe two really good shifts the first 15 minutes of the game.  Even when Brandon Prust dropped the gloves with Tyson Stratchan you saw it was not going to be the Rangers night as the energy wasn’t there and while Stratchan ended up on the ice it was not a punch that put him there. 

Late in the first is where all the controversy occurred as after a great flip ahead by Anisimov, Frolov chased down the puck and after the whistle blew Frolov put the puck in the net.  The call on the ice was that on the flip out the St. Louis defended touched the puck with a high stick, which he never did make contact with, and that when Conklin touched the puck in the defensive zone it constituted possession to stop play.  I believe McCreary missed both ends of the call and probably cost the Rangers a goal, but without the whistle blowing there is no guarantee that Frolov with how he is going would have put it in.  In fact with how Fro is going it probably only went in because it wasn’t going to count.

Fans will say the Rangers should have had the lead, but at the same time in watching the flow of the game I would argue that the Rangers were lucky not to be trailing at the end of one as there was no intensity, no hard work, no fore-check, no cycle at all in the first period only compounded by stupid penalties.  The Blues are a similar team to the Rangers in that they are at their best when they play a physical game and the Rangers didn’t always match that tonight.

In the second Biron’s luck finally ran out on a goal that was not at all his fault.  In the offensive zone for no good reason Boogaard instead of maintaining proper balance decided to go for a meaningless hit leading to a 3 on 2 breakout for St. Louis in which it ended with Alex Steen converting on a perfect shot high stick side with 14:44 left in the 2nd to give the Blues a 1-0 lead.    Right after the goal the Rangers get a power play after Backes takes a slashing penalty and the Rangers do what they do when the power play struggles in playing patty-cake with the puck and not shooting the puck.  They come away empty.

Later in the second a very nice play by Grachev at the defensive blue-line seems to lead him with a possible chance but the bouncing puck stops his chance at a breakaway letting the Blues D catch him.  Rangers still not creating any tough chances as there is no cycle and no net presence on any of the shots.  The Rangers are forced to kill off another penalty as Boogaard takes a stupid penalty after a good hit by punching the guy in the face for no reason.  They successfully kill the opportunity and the period ends with Dubinsky getting clipped dangerously close to the eye with Erik Johnson’s stick, causing blood but no call on what was an easy double minor.  At the end of two all you can call the period was uninspired as there honestly seemed to be no desire or urgency to get into the game and they were not doing any of the things that make them successful, specifically puck possession, though you cannot possess the puck if you never win a faceoff.

In the 3rd the Rangers got an early power play chance as Anisimov drew a trip from McDonald after an effective shift for Stepan who set up Frolov in the slot to no avail.  The power play netted nothing and the game sort of trickled along until at 7:25 of the 3rd BJ Crombeen boarded Derek Stepan head first into the boards behind the Blues goal line leading to a 5 minute major.  It looked bad and reminded me somewhat of Stepan crashing into the boards during the national title game and leaving with a concussion.  Stepan stayed in the game and was out on the power play which was awful in that in 5 minute advantage you only generate 4 shots.  The best chance was a great one where Artem Anisimov missed a wide open net while Conklin was clueless as to where the puck was.  After that the Rangers never fully threatened and the final minute was awful in the fact that they had no threat to score and finally give up a meaningless empty netter to Steen and lose 2-0

  • Once again the Rangers are a one line offensive club just with a different set of guys
  • Effort along the boards, individual battles was not good enough
  • No fore-check or cycle to create consistent chances
  • They still are not good enough to beat anyone frankly if they don’t work hard
  • This team is freaking in love with the wrap around, specifically Frolov and Avery
  • They still take too many stupid penalties
  • Biron was more than good enough tonight to get a W
Couple of side notes for me besides those specific game notes would be I hope there is not a sense of panic that the Rangers now rush Gaborik back before he is ready and frankly if he hasn’t taken any contact yet he probably shouldn’t play before at least Sunday.

Mats Zuccarello as I wrote about during the Ranger game had a hat-trick in Hartford and maybe this week is a good time to call him up and play him on the 3rd line a few games while sending Grachev back down.

Lastly Ranger fans saw the difference tonight in philosophy in how player’s should be developed in terms of defenseman in Alex Pietrangelo vs Michael Del Zotto.  The Blues very easily could have kept Pietrangelo in the NHL last year as the Rangers did with Del Zotto but they sent him back to develop his overall game and now because they wanted a complete player and not rushing someone to fill a need he at 20 is capable of playing in all situations, responsible in his own end, thus able to play 25 minutes a night as he has the last 5 games.