Thursday, April 7, 2011
Posted by Michael Gleich at 11:26 PM
The storyline for the Rangers going into tonight’s game against Atlanta was simple. Find a way to win and get the two critical points to push closer to locking up a playoff spot or lose control of your own fate and have Carolina in control of what happens. Things are never that easy for the Rangers or their fans as by the time the final buzzer went the Garden was mainly emptied out and the result was a disgraceful 3-0 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers. Now the Rangers are left to scoreboard watch and hope that in game 82 they have a shot to get back some semblance of control with a win against the Devils.
The night started with tremendous emotion with the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award being awarded to Brandon Prust for his tremendous battle this year. During the award ceremony Steven McDonald fired up the crowd telling the Thrashers, “We win, you lose.” Regarding the playoffs McDonald added, “We may be one of the last ones in, but we will not be the first one out.” Too bad the Rangers did not play that way on the ice tonight.
After a very good first five minutes of the game the Rangers were badly outplayed by an Atlanta team that had absolutely nothing to play for which is absolutely unacceptable consider what was on the line for New York. Both teams had chances in the first but the goaltending stood the tests.
At 7:42 of the second period Atlanta would get on the board with a goal from Rob Schremp after Henrik Lundqvist made multiple stops during the sequence. Schremp collected the loose puck in the slot and unlike the Rangers he finished his chance. Just 15 seconds later the Thrashers would twist the knife a little deeper when Andrew Ladd broke down the left side and beat Lundqvist with a backhand shot.
The talk heading into the third was about the comeback against Boston on Monday, but that was more wishful thinking that anything based on this game. Eric Boulton would finish off the hopes of that miracle comeback 4:19 into the third when he beat Marian Gaborik to the front of the net and tipped the puck up and over Lundqvist to make it 3-0.
The team made that miraculous comeback basically moot by handing over control of their destiny to Carolina who now with two wins and Buffalo with just one point can lock the Rangers out of the playoffs.
The only player that seemed to give a damn tonight was Henrik Lundqvist and for a tea that has prided themselves on effort all season that is embarrassing given the circumstances surrounding this game.
Posted by Michael Gleich at 10:17 PM
Tonight is a huge game for the New York Rangers in terms of their NHL playoff chances this season, but they will also have a prospect playing a massive game this evening when Carl Hagelin, 2007 6th-round pick, will lead his Michigan Wolverines in the Frozen Four against North Dakota. The game will be shown on ESPN 2 at 8:30 so be sure to check in on it during breaks and following the Rangers-Thrashers game tonight.
Posted by Michael Gleich at 4:49 PM
|Bruce Bennett/Getty Images|
To say that the impact of Marian Gaborik for the New York Rangers during the 2010-11 season has been mixed would be an understatement. Gaborik has fought through multiple injuries during the course of the year and whether they were the cause or not he has suffered from inconsistency both in impact and pure numbers. On the year Gaborik has accounted for 22 goals and 25 assists in 60 games, which are respectable totals but not close to what was expected coming off last season. Gaborik can erase all thoughts of his struggles this season by playing to his status as the offensive superstar of this team for these next two games and helping to will them with his skill into the playoffs.
His game has picked up lately and his threat level is more noticeable, but at the same time he is not paid 7.5 million dollars a season to just be a threat. He is paid to score goals and while his game has picked up he is not finishing as he has gone seven straight games without a goal to show for his efforts. That will not cut it in these final two games. The stakes are too high. The race is too tight. The team cannot afford to come up just short two seasons in a row and the onus offensively comes back to the guy who is supposed to be the star.
With Callahan out of the lineup the offensive burden falls even more to the shoulders of Marian Gaborik than it had before. Gaborik was brought in here to be the primary scoring the Rangers were looking for and hopefully they could surround him with secondary guys to balance the lineup. What has resulted instead is a lot of secondary scorers are having career years and the primary scorer forgot how to consistently finish and lead his team in the only way he really can. He is now playing with Dubinsky and Anisimov in Callahan’s spot on what has arguably been the best line for the Rangers this season. If this team is going to hold off the charging Hurricanes the Rangers will need for Marian Gaborik to be able to shoulder the load of standing tall like superstars are supposed to when the season is on the line. It might be unfair to put that burden on one player, especially with how the team has had the collective identity all season long, but playoff time is when stars have to step to the forefront and this team will either be lifted by the goal scoring of their best offensive player or they will likely be home watching the other stars play in the extra season.
Posted by Michael Gleich at 12:43 PM
Nothing comes easy for the New York Rangers and while it would be fun to have it all locked up nice and tight with two games to go it just is not the way this franchise works. It seems each year there is the late season dash for the playoffs and they either just get in or just miss and this season is no different. With Carolina getting a huge two points off the Detroit Red Wings last night the Rangers backs are against the wall again as while they control their own destiny at this moment anything short of points tonight will change that fact. The combination of the Steven McDonald award before the game and the first game following the loss of their leader and the desire to rally for Ryan Callahan will being a level of emotion to the building that will be palpable. Throw in the playoff situation and Madison Square Garden will be alive tonight I expect the Rangers to come out fighting.
With that as the backdrop for tonight’s game who better to look to for the spark the Rangers need than the likely winner of the Steven McDonald award, Brandon Prust. For me Prust is the most qualified player to step into the roles Ryan Callahan plays on this team in terms of the energy and tenacity of play. It is why he will be the one that unseats Callahan as the McDonald winner. Expect Prust to come out and make sure the team is ready early on, as he did against Montreal when he fought Travis Moen one second into the game. The response from the crowd and the team that night makes it likely that he puts in that extra effort again tonight, as he has all year, to add to the juice that should already be flowing through the building. It is what warriors do.
I highlight Prust and his ability to fight to spark the team, but his contributions go far beyond just that aspect of the game. His ability to forecheck and cycle plays right into the system that the Rangers seek to play and he combines that with defensively responsible hockey, a willingness to hit, block shots and tremendous penalty killing. Those are things the team will be looking to maintain in their identity and Prust will not let them forget it.
Early in the year the role for Prust was mainly as the protector for all of his teammates when the opposition stepped out of line, but that role has evolved into so much more on the ice. Tonight it will take all the roles Prust can play in order to help the Rangers protect the playoff spot they have worked the last 80 games to give themselves the chance to control. There has not been a challenge Prust has backed down from all year, so expect tonight to be no different.
Posted by Michael Gleich at 10:15 AM