Not like this. Not like this.
That’s the way many felt when the Rangers collapsed in Game Four, losing 5-0 and draining all remaining hope that was left in this fan base. The team was too slow. Too rigid. Too stuck in old fashioned hockey truisms that simply are not true anymore. A glimmer of hope after Rick Nash scored in Game Five, then crushing defeat.
This loss wasn’t as bad as 2014, when a bounce here or there in the Stanley Cup Final means more hardware in New York. That was the worst. The loss in 2015 stung, but deep down, we knew Tampa Bay was better and healthier. But at least those series were competitive.
The Rangers stunk up the joint in their demolition, possibly the last hoorah for some beloved fan favorites. These same fan favorites who, like their coach and their president –but perhaps not the GM, we don’t know yet– are relics of these truisms that have been disproven by a game that now features speed and creativity.
It was a disappointing end to the season to say the least, with the shock of Rangers’ blowout loss to Pittsburgh away matched only by their previous two efforts at home. The game was microcosmic of the season – flashes of pomising play at the beginning, with defensive breakdowns and endemic failure getting worse over time. This loss was the kind of game where you wished for a mercy rule, not only for our sake, but for Henrik Lundqvist’s, who despite being the best Ranger of the past decade is sure to receive some of the blame for the Rangers’ early playoff exit this year.
This playoff series against the Penguins was troubling but unsurprising for many fans who had seen underlying issues with the team papered over by stellar goaltending all season. It was the kind of series that makes you worry that the window is just about closed, and it makes this offseason that much more critical for Jeff Gorton.
Could this be the final game of the season for the Rangers? Logic and past performance in these situations says no, but recent performance in this series says yes. If this is the final game of the series, then let’s hope it is one we can be proud of, as the Rangers have stunk the past two games. At the very least, make it a nice send off for Dan Boyle.
But then there’s the part of me that remembers what they’ve done the past two years. This is the third straight year they’ve been down 3-1 in a series. The core from both those comebacks is still here. But do they have the mindset required to make another comeback? They can, we know it. Let’s hope they figure it out. No one wants this season to end in April.
When the Rangers exit the playoffs (and it may be tonight but it will certainly be before June) they will have a lot of issues to confront. The lack of accountability, the holes on the roster, the coaching staff’s inability to address the obvious issues plaguing the team all season… the list is pretty extensive. Yet despite all of this it’s easy to forget the core of the roster is legitimately solid. Changes are needed, but not on a ‘let’s blow it all up’ level. The biggest danger to the Rangers however may be the number of teams in similar positions who may be vying for the same talent this summer.
Whether you believe the Detroit Red Wings should entice Pavel Datsyuk to stay or not (they shouldn’t) the Wings have managed to stay competitive and like the Rangers have a core of prospects now in place that should allow the club to return to contender status if Detroit have a good summer. The Wings can accelerate a return to contention if they are able to steal Steven Stamkos in the summer. The Wings coped with losing Mike Babcock pretty well as well as dealing with the steady decline of important veterans.
By now, anyone reading this site is painfully aware that the Rangers were embarrassed at the Garden last night, 5-0 by the Penguins and now stand on the brink of elimination. Combing various recaps, Twitter, the comments section, etc., has given me a (somewhat frightening) glimpse into the current psyche of the Ranger fan community.
In seeking out a topic for this post, once the dust settled, I found myself coming up empty. I really enjoy writing “thoughts” posts, but I don’t think I could really organize my thoughts in a way that would make for worthwhile reading. I feel like it would just read like a laundry list of complaints.
Instead, I think I’m just going to write, and see what comes out of my brain that is Ranger-related and see how that goes. Work for everybody? Good.
Per Brett Cyrgalis, it looks like Eric Staal might be a healthy scratch tomorrow. Staal is not rotating with the top-six, and the bottom-six does not have him in the rotation. This could just be a coy maneuver by Alain Vigneault, however. The top-six are the same, and the bottom-six look like this:
If Eric Staal is sitting for Tanner Glass, I have no idea what to say.
The Penguins destroyed the Rangers last night before the first period was over. It was 1-0 a minute into the game. Then before we blinked it was 3-0. They added another in the second. But the game was over before all this. It was over before the Rangers even took the ice.
The Rangers just didn’t show up. They lost every puck battle. They lost every race for the puck. They gave the Pens room. They didn’t bother to try and generate offense. They just didn’t bother trying.
This game hurts as a fan. The players shrug it off as a job, because that’s what last night looked like. A job. Fans, on the other hand, this isn’t a job. For some, this is an escape. This is hope for joy. And the Rangers let everyone down. There is no excuse for this kind of effort.
Well the Penguins completely shut down the Rangers in Game Three, allowing just a shorthanded goal to Rick Nash. Tonight the Rangers will look to avoid falling down 3-1 in a series for the third straight year. To do so, they will need to adjust their offensive strategies to account for the Penguins clogging the neutral zone and slot area.
More specifically, the Rangers are going to have to get a few dirty goals. They are a skilled team, but with the Penguins taking away their space to skate, they will need to just throw pucks at the net, hope for bounces, or bang home rebounds. This is how they’ve won in the playoffs in the past, and this year is no different.
Per Brett Cyrgalis, defenseman Dan Girardi will not play in Game Four. Girardi has been listed as day-to-day with an “everything” injury. Cyrgalis also quoted Alain Vigneault stating that Girardi may be out for the duration of the series.
Yesterday the NHL suspended Andrew Shaw one game, fined him $5,000, and mandated sensitivity training for his use of a homophobic slur during Game 4 of the Chicago Blackhawks/St. Louis Blues first round playoff matchup. With regards to the suspension, NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell said, “While Mr. Shaw was apologetic and remorseful for both the offensive comments and the inappropriate gesture directed at the on-ice officials, he must be held accountable for his actions. The emotion of the moment cannot and will not be a mitigating factor for the conduct that is expected of an NHL player.”
I wanted to address this incident because I did not want to remain silent and have that silence misconstrued as any kind of ambivalence or apathy. What Shaw said was unacceptable on a basic societal level, and more specifically within the context of our beloved game. Shaw’s transgression concerns all of us because the hockey community is something shared that we are all stewards of, and if anyone in our community is made to feel unsafe or unwelcome we are all in some way responsible. I’ve always found joy, meaning, and at times refuge in the great game of hockey, and it pains me to think that a love of hockey might be foreclosed for some because of the words or actions of another.