Monday, February 7, 2011

Rangers Cannot End The Skid in Detroit

In private conversations over the last couple of days the discussion has been about how important tonight’s two points were to the New York Rangers at a critical juncture of the season and the different ramifications that could result.  The team had the chance to go into Detroit with only two possible outcomes to be had.  They would either secure a huge win against a great team to snap a skid, or they would walk out having gone winless in five straight.  Despite a very good effort, the Rangers would fall short in yet another 3-2 loss in which the ineptitude of the power play would play a critical part.  Now the team is left without a game until Friday against the also struggling Thrashers, having not won a game since January 24th.
While the Thrashers continuing to lose is a slight saving grace for the Blueshirts, they cannot take those kind of moral victories as Carolina is on their heels and suddenly Buffalo, while nine points back, has five games in hand on New York.  Friday will obviously be a crucial game, but it will also be very interesting to see what the team does over these three intervening days.
In terms of the game, the Rangers came out of the gates playing their style of hockey.  The pressure was creating turnovers, they were forechecking and cycling the puck and had plenty of chances to get the early goal on Jimmy Howard, who came in struggling.  Unfortunately, as has been the case a lot of times of late, the Rangers were unable to get one in and make all their work pay dividends on the scoreboard.  Detroit started to play their game in the latter half of the period, but at the end of one the score was tied and the Rangers had a penalty that was going to carry over.
After failing to convert on the carry over penalty, Detroit had some momentum and Pavel Datsyuk would make that momentum grow with a beautiful individual effort.  Datsyuk would use the physics of the game instead of the force of the game to work the puck free from Brian Boyle and then work a give and go from the corner in which zero Rangers picked him up.  Biron would stop the initial shot, but after Boyle did not follow him out of the corner, Avery failed to pick up the stick in front and McDonagh was caught high guarding another player, Pavel would put home the rebound.
The Rangers would have some beautiful chances to score, including one for Sean Avery that was created by a beautiful stretch pass from Martin Biron to Mats Zuccarello who played a perfect saucer pass to Avery, who was in alone on Howard, but could not finish. 
The Rangers would once again head to the third down a goal.  It marked the 15th time in the 18 games the Rangers failed to have a lead after two periods.  They would get on the board early in the third, Matt Gilroy played a saucer pass to Derek Stepan for the finish which tied the game at 1-1.
Less than two minutes later the Red Wings would score a highlight reel goal on a tic-tack-toe passing play where Hudler would start the play at the point, the puck would work to the far side of the ice and the winger on that side never followed Hudler as he broke to the net and he would end up with the easy finish.  Detroit had the lead back at 2-1, just over five minutes into the final period.
After that goal the Rangers would get a power play on a delay of game call, generate little and fail to score.  I actually joked when they took the penalty with 13:30 remaining in the game that it would be the first of seven consecutive penalties they would take to ice the game.  Little did I know how prophetic that would become.
Late in the third, Drew Miller would make it 3-1 and almost every Rangers’ fan I know thought that was surely the end of the game.  Brandon Dubinsky and Sean Avery would combine to bring back hope or prolong the agony, depending on how you look at it, when Avery fed Dubinsky for a goal to cut it to 3-2 with just over four minutes to play.  Even though Dubinsky scored, I thought Avery should have taken the shot on the two-on-one, but Dubinsky would convert from the tough angle.
With 3:40 to go in the game, Sean Avery was hit with a high stick giving the Rangers a 5-on-4 power play.  When the clock read 2:24 the Rangers would get a 5-on-3 advantage for 44 seconds as once again it was Avery who was high sticked.  This time Avery was cut (ended up with four stitches) so it was a double-minor which meant the Rangers would either score or end the game still on the power play. 
If there was anything that typifies the Rangers struggles beyond the power play itself it was the fact that they have a 5-on-3 for 44 seconds and they lose the faceoff, then three players get outhustled by Henrik Zetterberg and basically kills of 30 seconds of the two man advantage.  The Rangers would fail to convert and the game ended.
The most interesting things of note about the power play were that both Marian Gaborik and Michael Del Zotto were mainly glued to the bench during them.  Gaborik had plenty of time on the power play, but not much of it during the late opportunities.  I thought the main purpose for Del Zotto being here was to help the power play, but he only played 51 seconds with the man advantage.
  • Sean Avery was the Rangers best player
  • Gaborik once again had an excellent first period and then basically disappeared.