Hockey Headlines

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Nothing But Smoke

It's hard to fathom that the New York Rangers will be playing in Game Seven against the Washington Capitals after leading this series by 2-0 and 3-1 margins. Full credit has to go to the Washington Capitals for not giving up and playing hard to even the series at 3-3, but there is a distinct difference between these two teams - both on and off the ice. The Rangers look gassed out there, a team that has no legs, no heart, and no idea how to slow down the Capitals. There are a few standout players who are doing all they can, but anyone not named Lundqvist, Staal, Callahan, or Dubinsky should take a long look in the mirror over the next two days if the Rangers want to advance. Otherwise, it's time to break out the voodoo, prayers, and whatever other trinkets the Rangers can find to pull out one more miracle.

Look, I'm just as surprised as anyone that the Rangers have made it this far when looking at the two teams. Washington features a ridiculous number of superstars, and the role players are doing everything humanly possible to help the stars. Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom, Green, and Fedorov have led the team on the scoresheet while guys like David Steckel, Boyd Gordon, Eric Fehr, John Erksine, and Simeon Varlamov have come on and really made a difference for the Capitals.

However, if I'm Rangers head coach John Tortorella, I'd be cursing the management style of Glen Sather at this point. Chris Drury, he of the $7.05 million cap hit, has a mere one goal and is a pathetic -4 in five games thus far. Nikolai Zherdev, he of the $2.5 million cap hit, has no points in six games while playing -2 hockey. And he missed two glorious opportunities today as well.

Look, there is a lot of blame to go around, but the guys earning top dollar had better produce in the playoffs. Combined, the Rangers are paying Drury, Zherdev, Scott Gomez, and Markus Naslund $20.907 million this season. In the playoffs, where the stakes are much higher, those four have combined for four goals, nine points, and a -9 rating. That, quite frankly, is brutal.

The only players who I have been impressed with in this series on the Rangers' side are Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, and Marc Staal. Combined, those four make $8.91 million with the majority of that number being made up by Lundqvist's $6.875 million cap hit. Combined, those four have four goals, six points, and are playing even hockey on the plus/minus. That says a lot when compared to the previous four players who are swimming in greenbacks.

Lundqvist literally stole two games in this series already, and has shown that he is worth every cent the Rangers have invested in him. He is a world-class goaltender, and has given the Rangers the chance to be in every game in this series. Callahan has played effectively in a checking role, contributing two goals while being assigned to cover the Capitals' superstars. Along with Callahan, Dubinsky's role on that checking line has produced one goal and two assists, and he's playing +2 hockey. For a checking role, that's exactly what you want to see. Staal has one goal, but has looked very much like the blue-chipper that the Rangers thought they were getting. He has played well in his own end, and works hard to limit chances and block shots.

As stated over and over on the NBC broadcast today, the Rangers' powerplay is horrible. In fact, there are a number of words that I could use, but some are less than professional. The five-on-three opportunity in the third period where the Rangers had no chances should be an indicator that there are serious personnel problems on the powerplay as well as a complete lack of direction on the bench. If I'm John Tortorella, I'd be declining the powerplay option and just asking the referee to knock two minutes off the clock. The Capitals get better chances shorthanded than the Rangers do on the powerplay.

With the game coming up on Tuesday in Washington, the Rangers have one day to figure out how to pull off the biggest magic trick since David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear. The fact that they won three games should give them hope, but the last two games have been abysmal in terms of any team play.

How they won three games against the Capitals is beyond me. The Rangers are nothing more than smoke and mirrors in this writer's eyes. And, with the salary structure of the Rangers, this smoke and mirrors show will continue for the next three-to-five years as well.

Nice work, Mr. Sather. Thanks for nothing.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

david said...

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