Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rangers Watching Playoff Hopes Sliding Away As Lose Third Straight, 3-1vs Wild

Someone wake me up when Groundhog’s Day is over.  Three games at home and three straight times you saw the same basic storyline play out.  Tonight was slightly different because the first period was the one they decided to play instead of waiting until the third, but once again the utter lack of finish is beyond comprehension at this point.  You have to score more goals by accident then this team is on purpose right now.  Defensively every goal against is either a deflection or a lost man in front and Henrik Lundqvist is not doing what this team needs right now and stealing a game. 
For a change the Rangers played a dominant first period in which they controlled the play the entire period.  The team had the fast start they keep talking about when Sean Avery gave them the lead just 3:13 into the game.  The play was made behind the net with Christensen who showed excellent patience waiting for Avery to hit the slot and fed him a beautiful pass which Avery roofed over Theodore.  It was only Avery’s third of the season and first since January 8th.  I guess Sean did not appreciate me talking about his 1.6% shooting percentage this morning.
The strong play continued throughout the period and they should have been up multiple goals, but as is usually the case they could not find a way to get the second goal.  They had two power plays, one was abysmal and the other had chances including a golden one for Ryan Callahan, but he did not lift the puck into the open net, rather shooting it into the paddle of Theodore’s stick.  When you hold a team to 3 shots in a period and 17 minutes without a single on you have to have a bigger lead than 1-0.
As well as the team played in the first period, they played equally as bad in the second.  Once again the Rangers took an offensive zone penalty and it came back to bite them.  With Erik Christensen in the box for high sticking, Kyle Brodziak would deflect the puck home to tie the game at one 4:36 into the second.  Before this goal happened the Rangers had a prime chance 2-on-1 with Callahan and Dubinsky and they didn’t even get a shot.  Dubinsky was clearly looking pass the whole way and when that was taken away the puck harmlessly slid off his stick and behind the net. 
Unlike the Rangers the Wild would keep coming and add to their goal total when Casey Wellman burned Matt Gilroy and was all alone in front to deflect a Brett Burns shot in to make it 2-1 Wild.  Bouchard would salt this one away 8:15 into the third and end the game 3-1 Wild.
In terms of the playoff race this was also a bad night for the Rangers. Carolina and Buffalo went to OT with Carolina winning which moved the Hurricanes into 7th with 71 points and Buffalo within two, while having three games in hand.  The red hot Leafs also beat Philly to get within three points of the Rangers.  We keep saying this every night, but the pressure only builds on how important tomorrow’s two points against Ottawa are.

Avery only getting 7:54 of ice tonight was awful coaching by Torts as he was going more than any other forward.
Ryan McDonagh left the game with what is being called a wrenched knee and is listed as day-to-day
The loss drops the team to 14-16-3 at home.

Anyway, the problem defensively is that the Rangers are allowing the opposition to get behind them. Miscoverages on the rush are resulting in players being left wide open around the crease, which leaves goaltender Henrik Lundqvist out on his own to try and make a desperation save. This is something that must change if the offense only plans on scoring one or two goals a night.

These three straight loses could not have come at a worse time. With Carolina and Buffalo tied 2-2 in their game at the moment, at least one of those teams, maybe both, will be getting points out of that one. This is the closest the Rangers have come to falling out of the playoff race this season, and they better hope that changes tomorrow against Ottawa, because we know they aren’t beating the Flyers on Sunday.