FOR TWO PERIODS ANYWAY...
I tried to be the good soldier when it comes to being a fan. A few wins and I treaded softly as to not kill everyone's buzz. After the loss against the Debbis last night, all bets are off.
For the first half of the game, we hung with those bums from Jersey. Goal for Goal. They got one, we answered... and it was beautiful. The game has a real run and rung feel to it. Trading opportunities and saves. Then the reality set in.
Read the official recap here.
While the finger could be pointed at a number of factors for the loss; from our part time defense to bad calls by the ref to our inconsistent scoring... it's nothing we haven't been over a million times...and ... As much as it doesn't seem so, these are not issues other teams don't have to deal with.
Despite us scoring 2 goals on our own goalie *face palm* -- that alone sealed our fate. Its not a bad thing whenever your players get their sticks on a puck that's on the way in. Lets face it.. the difference between a block and a deflection can be a few centimeters. Anyway.. despite that ... sigh... the difference in last nights game was the effort and discipline. It needs to be said that both teams have been through their ups and downs and dropped 3 places in the standings from the last game played against one another. The obvious difference on the ice is when our Blueshirts started looking for an out... with their sideways, keep away passes... the Debbis were looking for an Up... A way to advance the puck up ice, a teammate in prime real estate and push harder for results. There was no dependence on Kovulchuk for scoring... nor a wait for their turn at offense. (those b@st@rds...)
It's no secret that we have trouble scoring consistently. While the goals aren't consistent, the effort should be. Having a team with half the talent of the premiere teams in the league means trying twice as hard to keep it together. What each player lacks individually, they find a way to compensate for collectively. Last nights game is a prime example of what happens when you keep effort on the shelf and think you can summon it whenever you feel like it. We got outplayed down the stretch by a team that's used to trying harder because they're forced to. The shelf was bare in the third period and instead of effort, there was only confusion. I don't think I have ever seen Henrik as frustrated. There was no consoling the goalie who had been pulled (probably for his own protection) because he failed to stop pucks from the opposition AND HIS OWN TEAMMATES.
Again, this is about more than one game. This is about who has the heart to the wear the sweater and the discipline to play and standout every night.. regardless of how anemic the rest of the team looks. A group of hard chargers that are willing to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty, can be guided to a Stanley cup. That being said, who's actually earning their keep so far? While its subjective to opinion, lets look at last nights game for and idea of who could stay on this team and actually keep it going as our hatchlings earn their wings through a development phase. (We'll forgo the obvious keepers- Lundqvist, Callahan, Gaborik-- and the albatrosses, we'll never get rid of barring a lucky bolt of lightning ... the Reddens, the Drurys, the Rosivals... and focus on the borderline guys)
Alex Auld - I'd keep this guy. As much as I liked Chad Johnson, lets face it. the only thing chad was developing was a case of hemorrhoids from driving back and forth between here and the sticks. Auld is pretty decent backup that can sustain us in case of an injury.
Brandon Prust- Can be a high energy guy without all the penalty liability of a Hollweg level player. He can win fights too. Not a scorer, but made a sound play last night in getting to a rebound and putting it in.
Erik Christensen- I'd hang on to this guy too. Good hands and if their was hockey equivalent of a best supporting actor, this guy could be a nominee one day. Players like Christensen are best when the spotlights not on them and they are allowed to do their work and the step up occasionally.
Olli Jokinen- I'd let him walk. He's a good player and seems to have more of a desire to play hockey that many of the players we have. His experience is also valuable with a lot of young players around. The problem? The money. The money this guy would get for his play would be criminal. It's not his fault. He could only do so much without the elite kind of players he needs to elevate his game. The experience factor could be negated with a resigning of Prospal.
Vinny Prospal-. I'm waiting on this one...Turned out to be the bargain of the off-season for this team. He came here with something to prove to all those people that thought he was over the hill. Aside from the injury and seeming a little flat here and there;he proved his point. Its too bad that people will dilute that by using the context of a team that couldn't score to deflate his numbers. The question remains how much would he has to prove next year if he's picked up?
Jody Shelley- Where's he been? This guys been like Brashear part too. Now to be honest, he did seem to take some responsibility as far as after whistle pileups near the goalie. However, hes not on the ice very often and when he has been, he appears bound by the same gag orders as Avery, Brashear and Prust seem to be on. With the boogieman's contract ending in Minnesota, I would look for him or try to deal for John Scott (not a premiere d-man but chucks bombs like a beast)
Voros & Lisin- I think the fact that they were put on waivers (Voros for 2 seasons in a row) and passed through says about all that needs to be said.
That being said I don't think we should start cleaning out our lockers for the season yet, but I would look forward to getting some of the above mentioned guys some playing time.
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