Thursday, January 28, 2010

Relentless Hurricanes Force Fans to Evacuate Garden | CAR 5 NYR 1

So there we were last night in our quiet little section in the 340s – four of us who have been section mates since the lockout. We had just weathered a surprise Hurricane that had blown through the Garden from the Eastern Conference's nether region without advance warning.

Nearly everyone had evacuated the premises when the storm hit “Goal 4” force including two of our diehard friends who advised that they had to do “some serious drinking” to relax from the onslaught. But we persevered -- sitting pretty much alone – to the bitter end.

Finally, the horn blew letting us know it was safe to depart, the Hurricane had left the building and the wreckage of the 2009-2010 Rangers team had been hauled off the ice. It was safe to leave. As we walked down the stairs, I observed “I don’t hate this team; I’m not even angry. It’s not like the way I feel about the Mets the past few seasons. I like a lot of the Ranger players, but let’s face it, they really are terrible.” People in the hallway started to chuckle. I whispered as we headed outside, “I can’t believe I have to write about this game.” My friend laughed – that’s your tagline.
With 12:09 to go in the 3rd period, rescuers
led Ranger fans out of the arena to safety
from another dismal, lackluster performance.

Last night, I sat in my seat and caught up with my friends about life outside the Garden. We barely paid attention to the game except for the Carolina goals, the 2nd period when the Rangers scored their only goal on 22 shots, and the ludicrous late-game Ranger penalties including confronting two 5 on 3s for the Canes in the final 7 minutes. I even took a cell phone call during play and conducted a routine conversation without disruption. The caller could not believe I was at the Garden because it was so quiet. Indeed, it was.

Earlier, as I made my way to my seats, I encountered some visitors from Dallas on one of the escalators. We exchanged some pleasantries and chatted about our respective underperforming hockey teams. One of them asked me about Avery telling me how much he missed him because he had grit and liked to fight.

As we went our separate ways, I meant to tell him that Avery may be the only honest player wearing blue because he candidly admits that the team, except for a handful of players, do not play to their potential. He knows it and based on the turnout for this game, the fans know it.

Since becoming captain last week, Eric Staal has LED his team and rejuvenated Jussi Jokinen. Carolina also has gained 6 points on the Rangers over the past 10 games.

Too bad most of his teammates (other than Henrik) won’t admit what Avery plainly sees. Management is belatedly catching on now because Glen Sather visited the team after last night’s latest lackluster performance. He left them with the kiss of death – “I still believe in you” as they readied themselves for their western trip. Right now, all I believe in is their ability to cash their paychecks. The Rangers were outclassed 5-1 by the improving Hurricanes. The sorrowful recap is here (by the way, could the Rangers management make their website any more obnoxious with their lingering ad for Casino Night?). The Rangers completed their season series with Carolina with a 2-1-1 record.

Come back, Dancing Granny, all is forgiven.
At least one grandmother could enjoy the game.

To the Hurricanes’ credit, after a pitiful start that buried them in the league's basement, including an 0-10-3 road record, they have crept out of the NHL cellar. Last week, the team named Eric Staal as captain. Injured players have come back although they are still missing some key players. The union of Staal and Jussy Jokkinen has rejuvenated the latter. Cam Ward, recovered from his thigh surgery, was in goal for his 20th consecutive start. Coming into last night’s game, the Canes were 5-5 over the last ten but had inflicted some 5 goal dominations on the Bruins and Thrashers during the past week. They got their trifecta with their 5 goal outburst against the Rangers.

The game is easy for a goalie when he has 4 defenders against 1.
I cannot think of one player on the Rangers, other than perhaps Ryan Callahan, that distinguished himself on the ice. Sure the Rangers outshot the Canes by 38-24. That includes 22 shots in the 2nd period when the Rangers got their only tally. They came out flat once again, bottled up by the Canes in the first as they managed a paltry 4 shots. Meanwhile, the defense and goaltending also were flat (I am being kind) at the Canes scored 2 quick goals in the game’s first 3 1/2 minutes, 25 seconds apart. This was consistent with the Rangers' recent play of giving up goals in bunches -- (3 by Montreal in 2 minutes in the 2nd period on Saturday; 2 by Pitt in one minute in the 3rd period on Monday, 2 by Carolina in 25 seconds). During their current 4 game losing streak, the Rangers have led for 31 seconds out of a possible 240 minutes (against Pittsburgh).

As with Pittsburgh, after the Rangers pulled to 2-1 against Carolina,
they immediately gave up a goal within 41 seconds by Sergei Samsonov.
That was the backbreaker. From the look on Henrik's face and the sound
of the crowd, everyone knew the game was over with only 22 minutes gone.

Even though the Rangers had 22 shots during the period, Cam Ward stopped nearly all of them including some outstanding saves on Chris Drury's point blank shots. The Rangers offense showed flashes of competence. They actually CREATED numerous opportunities and their power play provided some point blank shots that Ward deftly deflected numerous rebounds away from Ranger attackers when they actually approached the net and foiled several close-in attempts including several stuff-in tries by Sean Avery and Gaborik at the left goalpost.

Gaborik was denied several times by Cam Ward who displayed a quick glove hand but Marian certainly does not look like he is skating at full speed. The special teams did better than recent games but they had nowhere to go but up. PP futility continued as the team's potency has plummeted to middle of the league. Boyle threw his body around a bit. But really, Callahan was the only player who could skate end to end. Kotalik, back from his 6 game exile, came out looking lazy and did a Randy Moss imitation on a couple of plays in the offensive zone where he came to a complete stop to watch a Hurricane break out. Wade Redden was benched after the 3rd goal – I am not sure what message Tortorella thinks he is sending. I am not sure if anyone other than the NY Post plagiarizer is even paying attention.

Casualties minimized. A photo from the 270s
showing the stubborn masochistically loyal fans
that stayed during the final stage of the
Hurricane (or as the NHL called it, the "3rd period").
You won't see this picture on the Rangers website.

The Blueshirts now have lost 4 games in a row and had another lackluster effort at home. Their home record now stands at a lousy 12-13-4.

Fans have noticed to an extent -- "Fire Sather" chants started late in the game in the 340s but they were weak. More entertaining and more spirited were the "Weeeee Suck” chants coming from the other end of the arena in the 320s during most of the 3rd period. But most fans are voicing their displeasure by not even booing any more, and the Potvin Sucks chants have thankfully disappeared as well. There were no Let's Go Ranger chants even when the Blueshirts were pressuring the Canes during the 2nd period.

Instead, fans are selling their tickets at severe discounts everywhere, or if not finding any takers, simply not coming to games. They may be "sold out" but the seats are not being filled even for Monday's game against Pittsburgh. The Rangers are not fun or compelling to watch as they struggle with the basics – offense, special teams, defense, goaltending. It’s been a total breakdown during this 2-6 stretch.

The Rangers now head west for a week to visit Phoenix, Denver and L.A. The Olympic break is coming and I am looking forward to it so I don't have to pay attention to this team for a while.

Perhaps if Glen Sather wears a disguise,
he may be able to unload some of
the deadwood on this team.

Also, the trade deadline is looming - a little more than one month away. Although the standings say the Rangers could be buyers, they really ought to be sellers. Fans won't be fooled by some quick fix to simply sneak into the playoffs so they can be swept away by another surge from a more talented team.

---The Graying Mantis


  1. Hey Tony,

    Yes! Off to Phoenix.. Finally, a team we can bea...Nevermind. Great post. I don't think it could have been said any better. It becomes real telling when noone shows up, ticket holders are stuck with tickets and kids like Dubinksy take a limo to and from the Garden. Then again, aside from Avery, Lundqvist (sans the softies last night) and Gabby, I'd be afraid of getting recognized on public transportation by the fans, too.
    Speaking of not being recognized, it would be interesting to scan the crowd at the Rally for Rangers Alumni in disguises.

  2. Holy hell, that was a good post Graying One. You had me in stitches with the Carolina Grandma. just when there was nothing else to complain about or write about you write this piece and make some of the hurt go away. Thanks.

  3. As far a purse strings go, with the Rangers going to Phoenix you have:

    a wealthy, but deflated squad
    a bankrupt, but 'something to prove' squad.

    Who wins? Hang tight. Great pix and post as always, Tony.


  4. The rangers are the best but i live in cali and cant ever watch them but now i Watch Hockey Live Online Free its the best ever love it no mor missing games.


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