Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rangers Lack Both Elite Talent And Finishing Quality

Last night’s game showed two huge flaws with this team, ones which are huge reasons why I do not believe the New York Rangers can legitimately threaten to win a Stanley Cup this year.  Of those two flaws, at least one cannot be solved in the final 13 games of this season.  The one that is fixable or at least able to be improved is our level of finishing quality.  The other, which is somewhat related, which cannot be fixed this season is the Rangers lack of elite talent on the offensive end.

Regardless of the talent level of any of the individual players this team is abysmal at finishing the chances they create.  There were three missed open nets, a couple of posts and countless other opportunities that we did not cash in against a replacement level goaltender last night.  We are capable of the 7 goal outbursts because one they get rolling the confidence side takes over and everyone stops thinking about finishing and just shoots, but the Rangers consistent inability to hit the right side of an open net or lift the puck over prone goaltenders is ridiculous.
Most of these guys are not natural goal scorers or at least not of the sniper variety, but you can teach or at least improve technique in finishing around the net.  I am not asking them to learn how to read the play better or beat guys on dazzling moves, just finish when the puck is on your stick within five feet of the net. 
Our coaching staff talks all the time about building with this group, them learning at this level, then how about they start teaching them some basic fundamentals on the offensive end too.  Run it like a free throw drill in basketball for all I care, but do not let them off the ice until they have successfully scored on X many chances from different spots in front.  I would love to see them use that little blocker they had during the skill competition which covers the bottom few inches of the net and forces players to lift the puck off the ice.
Part of what makes for the awful finishing is the lack of elite talent on the roster.  You watch the Ducks and while their lineup certainly lacks the depth and balance that the Rangers have they have three true top line players in Ryan, Getzlaf, and Perry, while the Rangers even at their best have one in Marian Gaborik.  To make matters worse Gaborik has not played at that top level with any consistency this season, partially due to injury, partially from his lack of consistent and/or high end partners, but if the Rangers are going to develop any kind of consistent offense and hold on down the stretch he is going to have to step his game up.  Yes, he did score a goal last night. No, it does not mean anything. 

It is always nice for a player to see the puck go in and you hope they can build on it mentally to avoid pressing, but as we saw just a few shifts later having that goal go in did nothing to help him finish on the open net, which would have cut the game to one at 4-3.  Last year Gaborik buries that goal without question and he also abuses Cam Fowler on that one-on-one play instead of having the puck roll harmlessly to Dan Ellis.  He is just not there this season and while the talk was about the other struggling stars throughout the league just about all of them have found their form again while Gaborik is still searching.
Beyond Gaborik this team is a bunch of hard workers and second line players that lack the natural talent to be game changers.  This is why the Rangers play the grinding style that they do in order to manufacture goals and try to win games.  I see all this talk about why don’t the Rangers open it up more and play with more skill in the safe is death mode and the simple answer is we do not have that kind of personnel. 
The lack of top line, game breaking players is what has many eager to jump into the Brad Richards sweepstakes, but I look at the Ducks and most of the other top lines/players in the league and I cannot think of one that was “bought.”  Nearly all of the best lines in the league were built through the draft and while Brad Richards will certainly add talent to Marian Gaborik how long does he remain at that level so that the Rangers as an organization can sustain their ability to contend.

Rangers Unacceptable Performance Has Tortorella Admit "We Sucked" (W/ Video)

New York Rangers coach John Tortorella is not typically one to mince his words and he certainly did not last night when he opened his post-game remarks with two simple words, “We sucked.”
Recently in each loss the Rangers have suffered Tortorella has taken the upbeat approach choosing to focus more on the things that the team did well and how they were close, but just not getting there.  On this night there was nothing to cling to.  Sure the Rangers gave up some fluke goals off deflections and bad bounces, but that was not the difference in the game. The effort, if you can call it that, was one of the worst of the season for a club that has prided itself on playing hard every night regardless of the results.  Losing is one thing and while disappointing it can be stomached if the effort is there.  Last night was something completely different and with only 13 games remaining on the schedule it must be corrected immediately.  It was not just one player, it was an epidemic problem last night.
"We had some passengers and some guys testing the water,” Tortorella said. “We haven't played that way too often and we'll bounce back, but it's a tough way to play at this time of year."
This team simply is not talented enough to put in the effort they did against Anaheim and beat anyone in this league.  They have a style they must play and with a level of energy and effort they must play at to beat people and when it does not produce they will get blown out by anyone.  

Here is my full recap of last night's action. 

Full Video of Tortorella following the game:

Video: Martin St. Louis Spin-o-rama Clips Hawks, But Was It Legal?

If the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks meet again this season there will be no shootout to decide the outcome, but there was tonight and there was some controversy to it.  Spin-o-rama goals have become a popular way to attempt to score in shootouts and it was the preferred method of Tampa's Martin St. Louis as he came down on Chicago's Corey Crawford.  The move itself and the finish were absolutely beautiful.

Here's the video of the move and the goal:

Where the controversy comes in is at the end of the spin and whether or not St. Louis comes to a stop.  

Here is the rule: 

Rule 25.2: The spin-o-rama type move where the player completes a 360° turn as he approaches the goal, shall be permitted as this involves continuous motion.

After review it was ruled that the motion was continuous and the goal was allowed to stand, though to my eyes it certainly looks like he stops momentarily.

Was it the right call?

Rangers Lay An Egg vs Ducks in 5-2 Loss

Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images
The Rangers are who we thought they were.  They are a team that can put up huge goal totals in one game and fail to finish in the next.  They are a team that does not handle momentum type wins very well as they destroyed a nemesis on Sunday and came out tonight and put in an awful effort in a 5-2 loss to the Ducks.  They were outhustled and out skilled all night by Anaheim in one the worst performances this team has put on all season.  Tonight you really saw the difference between the Rangers as a team that tries to grind out everything and rely on committee offense versus a team that truly has elite skill.  The line of Ryan, Getzlaf, and Perry dominated the Rangers all night long combining for three goals, five assists and a plus 10, while the Rangers line of Dubinsky, Anisimov, Callahan had one goal and were a minus 10.
The first period started very well with an excellent opening five minutes.  The Rangers struck first with Brandon Dubinsky netting his 20th goal on the season just 3:30 into the game.  The play was a beautiful setup by Ryan Callahan that saw Dubinsky walk in all alone on a busted defensive play by Cam Fowler and he finished it off.  Things went straight downhill from there.
The Ducks tallied three goals before the end of the first and each one was off a Rangers player.  Corey Perry would get the first 7:34 in when he threw the puck toward the crease and it banked off the skate of Dan Girardi.  Next up was Lubomir Visnovsky firing one from the point off Marc Staal’s arm and in to give the Ducks the lead.  Visnovsky was not done as he got another deflected goal late in the first.  This time off Artem Anisimov’s stick turning it into a knuckle puck that bounced off the ice and over Lundqvist’s shoulder.
The Rangers were dominated again in the second period, but there were no goals.  The third period was a combination of Rangers failures and Anaheim showing how finishing is done by top players in this league.  Brandon Dubinsky had a wide open net to shoot at early in the third but instead of burying the chance he shot it back across the net into Dan Ellis paddle.  Of course the Ducks would take the puck the other way on a two-on-one and show the Rangers how it is done with Bobby Ryan burying the chance to turn what could have been a 3-2 deficit immediately into a 4-1 hole.  On the play Girardi did not take away the shot or the pass and Perry found Ryan for the finish.
Marian Gaborik scored a meaningless power play goal 5:31 into the third after being invisible for the first two plus periods of action.  With the score still 4-2 Gaborik would have a similar chance with at least three feet of the net to work with and he too shot it back across into Ellis instead of burying it and making it a game.
Anaheim would cap it with just over five minutes remaining when Bobby Ryan walked around Dan Girardi, who once again dove on the ice and got nothing, and fed the puck across to Corey Perry who made it 5-2.
  • Marian Gaborik getting a meaningless goal for me was nothing more than stat padding and I don’t take it as any sort of sign that he is headed in the right direction.  His invisibility when the game was even in question was ridiculous.
  • Dan Girardi was abysmal tonight