Sunday, February 13, 2011

Splat!lanta Provides No Solace for Rangers | ATL 3 NYR 2

Another dispiriting loss. Another one goal loss. One point taken out of the past 6 games. This loss may have signified the Rangers finally hitting bottom during this 0-5-1 streak -- yielding 2 goals to Evander Kane in a 3:31 stretch late in the 3rd period to turn a 2-1 lead into a 3-2 loss. The official recap is here.

The Atlanta Thrashers, in the midst of their own losing streak, gratefully accepted their guest's gift that keeps them in the playoff race.

The Rangers actually had a lead within the first 2 minutes of the 3rd period when Brandon Dubinsky one-timed a pass from Marian Gaborik early in the 3rd period. It was the Rangers' first lead since scoring the 2 goals against Pittsburgh on February 1 -- a stretch of nearly 13 periods of hockey (255 minutes). Too bad the lead taken with 18 minutes to go in the 3rd period did not even last 13 minutes.

There are good things to mention about the game -- Henrik Lundqvist was active in net and sharp making 32 saves. Marian Gaborik, Brandon Dubinsky and Sean Avery had very good games overall. The Rangers even scored a power play goal.

That's about it. . . .

The Rangers defense was slow all night long and scrambled way too many times in the defensive zone to keep up with the Thrashers.

The Rangers flowed back and forth often leaving Lundqvist abandoned and shifting wildly to snare pucks the defensemen failed to clear or possess. This led to Atlanta scoring both of its goals late in the 3rd period on rebounds after Lundqvist made terrific saves.

We should not overlook the horrid giveaway at the blue line led to a 2-on-1 that gave Atlanta a gift goal in the first period. To his credit, Henrik was very diplomatic: “It seems like [the Thrashers] always got to the rebound. They were hungry around the net." Indeed.

What is up with that headdress?
Even Tortorella seems shocked.

Gaborik made a strong play during an Atlanta powerplay in the 3rd period to draw a penalty shot opportunity. His 2 for 6 success rate went even further south when he came up with an incredibly unimaginative attempt that was easily stopped. Punching in a short-handed penalty shot goal there would have extended the Rangers' lead to 3-1 but Gaborik failed yet again.

Other offensive players failed as well -- it is becoming apparent why Wolski was traded (3 goals in 14 games). He has moments of splash but his ability to finish and score appears to be nonexistent. The rest of the team looks tired -- those who have played the entire season like Brandon Prust and Brian Boyle.

A statistical note -- Steve Eminger missed several games as a healthy scratch -- the Rangers did not win without him in the lineup. His replacement, Michael Del Zotto, has taken ill-timed penalties (like the one late in the 3rd that led to Atlanta's powerplay winning goal) has not scored a point and is a -8 over his last 9 starts.

He is not totally to blame. If you are going to put a 20 year old defenseman on the ice, you need to pair him with an experienced veteran that will settle him down. The Rangers do not have one -- Michal Roszival is in Phoenix and was the best candidate. The Achilles heel that is Del Zotto has been exposed time and time again.

Alone Again. Not a Ranger defenseman in sight as Evander Kane scores the tying goal (top) and the winning goal (bottom) within 3 minutes of the 3rd period.

I keep reminding myself that this is a rebuilding year. Youth is being introduced into the mix and older players are being eliminated. It's not as if anyone is expecting the Stanley Cup to return to NY this season. But it is too bad to watch this recent swoon as the team had overachieved for so long.

But then I remind myself that even great teams have losing streaks and the Rangers still are in playoff position and can get it turned around, especially as the newly returned healthy players get back into shape.

Beating Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon -- a thoroughly depleted team wracked by injuries and suspensions -- would be a good step forward.

---The Graying Mantis

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