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A punch to the stomach

This one stings. It’s going to sting for a while. The Rangers were the best team in the Eastern Conference, but the best team does not always win. Even the best teams struggle with matchups, the best teams have clunkers, the best teams hit skids. The Rangers were barely playing above .500 hockey heading into the playoffs (11-9-1 in March/April), and played .500 hockey in the playoffs. That doesn’t get it done in May.

The Rangers were victimized by matchups in the playoffs. Ottawa and Washington were the toughest draws the Rangers could get in the first round, and they wound up facing both of them. Ottawa victimized the Rangers with skill and speed, and the Rangers escaped because they were the better team. Washington, a team like the Rangers, made life difficult with great goaltending and team defense. A Joel Ward double minor helped the Rangers escape that series.

But perhaps the team that the Rangers didn’t match up against at all were the Devils. It was something no one could see coming. It’s simple really. The Devils during the regular season generally played a 1-2-2 hybrid trap. They forechecked when needed, but generally just clogged the neutral zone. They changed their style in April. As Suit mentioned in the series preview, the Devils started employing the tactic the Rangers use: the 2-1-2 aggressive forecheck. The switch worked.

The Devils beat the Rangers at their own game. They did it because they have more skill than the Rangers. While the Rangers were struggling to shut down the Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, Adam Henrique, and Travis Zajac, the fourth line speed and skill of Ryan Carter, Steve Bernier, and Stephen Gionta killed the Rangers.

The depth of the Devils beat the Rangers. Not once did Eric Boulton, Tim Sestito or Cam Janssen dress in this series like they did in the regular season. The Devils adjusted to their opponent, and dressed speed and skill to counter the Rangers toughness. That fourth line depth is what beat the Rangers. That lack of skill is what doomed the Rangers. It shows they are still an incomplete team.

This season was a magical ride. If you told me in September that this team would lose in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals, I would have been thrilled. Perhaps we were spoiled by being on top of the Eastern Conference all season. Perhaps we expected more in the playoffs. But if this season taught us anything, it’s that this team is on the rise. The New York Rangers are here to stay.

43 Responses to “A punch to the stomach”

  1. Rob sahm says:

    I have to agree with torts you cant be just happy with just winning a couple of rounds when your this close there is no such thing as running out of gas thats a cop out we lost because are best player was a no show all series and we need to look to trade him because for the salary he is getting the lslanders of the 80.s and oilers teams got over the hump when they got players like goring and kent nilsson the rangers should look at iginla he can bring alot of playoff experience to this young team I would trust iginla over gaborik

    • Spozo says:

      Wow. I don’t have any other words

    • Zen says:

      Iginla isn’t the worst target, but depends on the price.

    • scrangersfan says:

      I agree with most of your comments but I have to tell you that Iginla is not the answer.He is too old and his best years are beyond him.What the Rangers should do is shop Gaborik for a guy like Nash or Bobby Ryan, players that can score in big games and not shrivel up like Gabby and Richards. Those are the two players that disappointed me the most. Richards was brought here to make a differance in games like the last series and he failed miserably.According to Wikkapedia,he’s 2012 salary is 12 million bucks.I hate to say that but I was against that signing from the very beggining and my opinion of him was correct.He’s got 9 years left on his contract that will cripple the ability of the team to acquire new and productive players for years to come. What a waste.
      As for Gaborik, he was my most favorite player on the team but as we all saw, he let us down big time. The sooner they move his butt out of town the better for the whole team.
      Having said that,there is a lot to be excited about this team, the young players got great experience in the playoffs and will benefit from it in the future. Kreider will be an unbelievable player,Stepan,Haglin, McDonna AND Delzado will be stellar in years to come and the farm system is full of potential NHL’ers.
      All in all it was a great season.
      Too bad the two guys with 19 million per season chocked and showed a great deal of lack mental toughness.

      • Spozo says:

        i have to disagree with your assessment of gaborik and Richards. Every year there is only one team that can definitively say that their star players ended up playoff heroes. Take any of the 31 other team every year and insert their star players names into your argument instead of Gabby and Richards. Only one team can win the cup and this year the rangers made to the final 4.

      • Blueshirt in Paris says:

        Sometime I really wonder if I am watching the same game and other people.

        BR failed miserably? We are not in the 6th game of the SCF without him.

        Devlis shut down EVERY 1st line they faced this post season. Look it up. Gullati just tweeted this “Giroux had no even-strength pts, Hartnell 1A, Jagr A; Gaborik 1G,. Richards 2 A. Versteeg 1G/1A, Weiss 1A”

        It was out lack of depth and secondary scoring that was the main issue.

        I agree I would like to have seen more out of Gabby but to rip BR when there were many times this post season he delivered.

      • rob sahm says:

        glad you agree with me some players have that jam in the postseason and some dont and gabby dont good regular season player lousy playoff performer

      • Scully says:

        You know, I was going to write a long-winded reply to the Gaborik and Richards statement, but it doesn’t deserve it. Gaborik can easily be a playoff performer. It’s hard to be though when you’re double teamed as soon as you touch the puck and without anyone else scoring there was no open ice for him.

    • wwpd says:

      you must be thinking of a different jarome iginla. the flames have gotten past the first round of playoffs only once in past 20+ years

    • HARLEMBLUES says:

      Here we go again. Bring in the old, past his prime,overpaid star.Richards was a mistake and Iginla would be to.We have one cup in 60+ yrs, Give the team to the kids and lets see how we go.

  2. Zen says:

    Well said, Dave. I was thinking the same thing… that the Dev’s depth was just too good to overcome. This team needs to trim the fat (players that have ran their course like Feds), make sure they aren’t paying their own too much money just for the sake of it (like they did Dubi and possibly MDZ soon), and sign some key players. Sather needs to give Torts a bottom pair D that hey can rely on. He has yet to have it here. This team can be good for a long time if they use there cap room wisely and bring in the right players. You can bet that Sather will try like hell to get Parise or Suter. Whether they want to play there is a different story. I don’t think they will give up what it takes to get Nash. Other teams will bid higher. The Devs are in the position they are now, because instead of making the big splash, they signed/claimed the right players. Sather is often not very good at that, but needs to figure it out.

    • scrangersfan says:

      I disagree with you on the Devils. They made a big splash when they got Kovulchuk and he was a difference maker. That was a much better deal then the Rangers made with Richards and Gaborik.
      Here is a wild thaught, Richards and Gaborik for Stemkos. I bet he would be a difference maker.( I know that Tampa would not part with Stemkos though.)

    • Walt says:

      Zen
      Hay did you forget that we lost Staal, Sauer, Emminger, for long periods of time, and the team went out and got JW, AS,and then Stu to play defense for us. Man alive, how many teams were hurt that deep, and often, and still played great defense? Not many, and the reason we were out played was size, speed, and lack of experience. Look, both Gabby, and BR let us down, Dubi had a bad play-off year, as well as regular season, yet came back and didn’t do too bad. We have some flaws, but these can be corrected, and we are plenty young, and will be much better for a long time.

  3. Comnsnse says:

    Dave,matchups is exactly what I’ve been referring to. The Rangers can and will be worn down and in the long run be beaten because they are undersized. They also lack natural scorers,but the biggest problem I see is the size and strength of at least 1 clear out guy on the D, and a couple of big bodies on the wings. These needs do not appear to be in the system at forward,and McIllrath has to make this roster to provide the muscle on D. I believe fans are unduly optimistic that the organization is close to being a cup contender. I base this on having seen at least 80% games this season,which I have dubbed the “fairy dust” season. And still maintain that without Lundqvist they’re a lottery team!

    • Dave says:

      I don’t think size was the issue in this series. The Devils’ undersized fourth line is what eventually beat the Rangers.

      Yes, they needed a body to clear out the defenders in front, but as I posted yesterday, that guy was Sauer, who is currently hurt.

      Also, as I said, this team is flawed. There is a bright future here, even if you can’t see it yet.

      • Leatherneckinlv says:

        we also need a centerman to win draws, Antoine Vermette would be nice and move Boyle to the wing. Depth at center and a power forward is our glaring weaknesses…Defense and Goal are outstanding however I would make a strong bid to sign Dustin Schultz

        • scrangersfan says:

          IMO. Kreider will be an unbeliavable power forward within two years.

        • Walt says:

          Your right, the depth at center is glaring, especially AA. The kid needs some 20 pounds on his tall frame, he needs to get into the gym big time, he is too slim in the legs, and hips. A strong gust of wind knocks him on his ass, that should not be.

    • scrangersfan says:

      Agreed!

  4. Walt says:

    This is an open note to the writers of this blog, and it’s many readers.

    Wonderful work all season from the staff, with great insight, and articles!

    To the readers of this blog, you have provided us all with some wonderful analysis, humor, thoughts, and good spirit. We all posted, and for the most part, we all respected each other, and for that we should all be proud of our selves. We collectively bleed blue, and wish our team nothing but the best. Let’s all have a healthy, happy, summer, and come back when the next season starts!

    • Dave says:

      Thanks Walt. Much appreciated. We won’t be going away either. There will be a lot of offseason coverage.

      Offseason and the cap are my specialty. Stay tuned.

  5. Matthew says:

    Would it be wron to categorize the Devils’ forechecking system as more of a left-wing lock than a 2-1-2? Seemed like early in the series when it was mos successful for them, they had us against their left/our right half board. Plus they seemed to always slow us down in transition by having as many as three guys on the blue line.

    • Dave says:

      That is a question for Suit. I’ll direct him to this.

      • The Suit says:

        The Devils played a 2-1-2 forecheck for much of even strength, but you are correct in that they also showed an occasional 2-3 (aka the LW lock) at times.

        For example, typically when teams don’t get the puck in deep enough, they’ll only send 1 or 2 forecheckers in just to disrupt the breakout or steer them towards the boards, but they’re not really looking for the hit/pick. That’s when you’ll see more aggressive teams drop back and run a 1-2-2 or 2-3.

  6. Rickyrants13 says:

    Major thing is this team was two years away from being a serious cup contender at the begining of the season. And that didnt change during the playoffs.

    We rode the shot blocking and a goalie. For a long time. That also took its toll on this team. And then the goalie that we rode all year broke in the end. It happens.

    We had the depth but all year long they failed us. Players such as Dubi, Boyle, Stepan and Haglin didnt produce the points we needed. And in the playoffs that only got worse.

    Gabbs was a major no show thru the playoffs. He simply isnt built for it. And Richards was playing with who on the wing? Cally scored alot of goals in the regular season but isnt a pure goal scorer.

    Next year you put Richards with Krieder and watch out.

    Next year you go after a 6th D man one who is mostly there to clear the creas and put a hurting on other teams players. You go out and get a guy who is not affraid to go to the net on the PP and you also go out and get a coach who knows how to work the powerplay.

    They are young and learned alot this year. They will be back

  7. Zev says:

    As painful as it was, I forced myself to watch the post game coverage last night to come to peace with the season. It sucked, but it helped me remember all the things I loved about this team and this season.

    24/7, the Winter Classic, all of the games vs. Philly (5-0! youcantbeatus!), the Richards buzzer beater against Phoenix, and the whole playoff run. It definitely felt like the Rangers had something special going and that’s why it’s stings so much that the season is over.

    Like Torts said some things will change in the offseason because they always do, but I am so excited to watch the young core of this team develop into the force they can be. The Rangers will be back next season and they’ll still be a bitch to play against. A little more skill and depth and they are right on the cusp.

    I don’t know if I can stomach watching the finals, but hope LA lays some wood on the Debbies.

    • RagsGolfin says:

      The “Debbies?” You mean the Devils, the team that just b-slapped the raggers in 6 games? Too bad half of your team is comprised of goons that Ratface has going after Hall of Famers.

      1994 No More! Henrique! Henrique! Henrique!

  8. Mike says:

    Rangers went very far in this postseason. Could they beat Devils? Yes, but they didn’t because of Torts system. I personally think that he’s not the right coach for this team even though I give him a lot of credit for youth development, other than that he’s complete failure. He’s a clown with the media & his own players, if he’s real man he must step down as a head coach & give this position to someone else. He’s pure failure & by having him coaching this team Stanley Cup won’t come to NY

    • Scully says:

      It’s true he’s never and will never win a cup…….

    • The Suit says:

      I guess that Jack Adams nomination means little to you. See you next season Torts! Can’t wait!

      • Scully says:

        Suit I’ll be watching this video (which I somehow remember from being a kid) all summer:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anIxQbYGoAk

        • Mike says:

          Torts sucks

          • Scully says:

            I’ve got an idea… why don’t you coach the team since he’s doing such a shoddy job leading us to within 2 wins of a stanley cup final and all.

          • Vince R says:

            No Mike, your posts suck. Just once name who you want to replace, why exactly he sucks in a way that pertains to his job (why do you care how he deals with the media and btw his players LOVE him), why his system sucks, and what would you do instead.

            You’ve been asked multiple times, but all you want to do is post random pot shots. BTW, I begrudgingly congratulate you on the series win by your beloved Devils.

            • Mike says:

              To make it clear to you once & forever I’m a Ranger fan & hate Devils more than you do. Now regarding you moronic people who idol Torts. There are multiple reasons why he’s a crappy coach with crappy system:
              1) Shot blocking. No team in the league is pushed by their coach to do that. You can do it occasionally but being pushed to do so & being punished by not doing so is moronic, the coach just exposes his guys to a lot of unnecessary injuries.
              2) Offense. Dumbest offense strategy I’ve ever seen. Dump the puck, chase it, bring it to the boards, win very physical battle on the boards to get the puck out & then find an open player to pass it to because by the time the battle is won you have 2 players of opposing team on you, so basically you get 1 more man to work the goal out.
              It’s much easier to penetrate the zone with the puck, shoot as much as possible & just look for rebounds or deflections to bury the puck in the net.
              3) Attitude towards players. Putting pressure on your boys or benching them for making mistakes puts more minutes for the rest of the team. Punishment also results in fear of making mistakes that’s why not many players were willing to take game in their own hands. Yes Gabby could’ve done it, but for the player of his caliber and status to be benched for 15 mins is a diss, so why should he try to do something about the coarse of the game if he already feels like crap & God forbid another mistake & Gab the all star will be in a doghouse again?
              I have no clue where you got this bullcrap that players LOVE him, nobody loves this piece of shit, obviously no player will tell you they have a problem with him. Just Avery was the one with
              the balls & what happened?
              I just gave you only 3 reasons out of at least 10 to prove my point.
              Rangers is a team on the rise, they have very good future. Regarding this season playoffs performance they did great, they could’ve beat Devils, but the main guy Hank got tired. Before these playoffs started my friend asked me what I think about how deep Rangers will advance. My answer was simple: “As far as Hank will take them”.
              Tortorella should retire or the only way to get rid of him if Hank asks for a trade. I think Dale Hunter can do a great job with this team

    • RagsGolfin says:

      Could the Rangers have beaten the Devils? Yes?! Yeah, and if my aunt had balls she’d be my uncle. The rags lost to a better team and you nimrods just can’t face that fact.

      HENRIQUE! HENRIQUE! HENRIQUE!

  9. Scully says:

    Hey the other good thing about being knocked out this late is that there’s only a month until free agency! :)