First things first, the video replay officials blew it again.  It was a goal.  You can talk all you want about not seeing white between the puck and the goal line but the bottom line is if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, and it isn’t in Anaheim, it is a goal.  With that said the Eastern Conference Semifinals stands at Rangers 2, Buffalo 2 and NHL Video Replay Officials 2.

The NHL really needs to sit down and review their video review procedures during the summer.  How they could reverse the Karel Rachunek goal and then find the Daniel Briere shot inconclusive is beyond me.  If anything, it should have been the other way around.  Goal or not, the best-of-seven series shuffles back to Buffalo and is now the best-of-three series.

Give Versus studio analyst Brian Engblom some credit.  Prior to the game he referred to Sean Avery and Brendan Shanahan as the Rangers’ “transmission” and Jaromir Jagr as the “engine”.  Engblom was on target with Shanny and the captain, but Avery nearly wore goat horns for his ill-advised attempt at the empty net that was the precursor to the heart-stopping final minute of play.  At least Brad Isbister was trying to feather the puck out but ended up with a little too much oomph in the dump out.

For the sake of brevity, here are some quick observations.

  • Could the NHL please beg ESPN to take them back?  Could Versus be any more annoying with all of their intrusive graphics and promos?
  • Speaking of annoying: note to Ranger fans and Garden personnel – enough with the balloons already.  Between the balloons, the annoying graphics and the score/clock at the top of the screen there is hardly any room for the game.
  • The Rangers have to pay more attention to those give-back goals.  It cost them in Game 2 and nearly cost them last night.  All of the energy and momentum the Rangers had following Shanahan’s goal left the building when the Sabres scored.  The final 10 minutes of the game went the way most thought the series would go with the Rangers hanging on for dear life.  For the first time since the ill-fated four minute span of Game 1, the Rangers did not play defense as a five-man unit.  They were left running around reacting to Buffalo.
  • The cure to the above problem is for the Rangers to remember about the need to forecheck.  For the first time in the series the Rangers sat back and let the Sabres dictate the tempo.
  • Memo to the offense: see what happens when you put the puck on net and get shots from inside the triangle.  Both goals were the result of getting the puck on or near the net and having bodies in front.
  • I have kept quiet far too long on the whole Marek Malik booing story.  Could we at least wait until Malik screws up before we start booing him?  Here is the best way to sum up Malik – he is not as bad as the fans are making him out and he is not as good as most of the writers say he is.  His positive plus/minus rating shows why plus/minus is a poor stat to use when measuring a player’s effectiveness.  Four players can play stellar defense but if one player turns the puck over or leaves his check uncovered everyone gets a minus.  Malik is an average to a little above average blueliner in the Rangers system.  The problem is that whenever he makes a mistake it is usually a costly one.
  • The Rangers must convert on their transition chances – especially when they get odd-man rushes.  I have been noticing that the Rangers are too quick to fade to the boards with the puck or curl just inside the blue line, looking to make a pass.  The Rangers need to drive to the net and try to draw more penalties against the Sabres – much like Brad Isbister in drawing the penalty that set up Shanahan’s power play tally.  The biggest culprit is Jagr who often pulls up at the top of the circle or at the half-boards rather than using his size and strength.
  • The Rangers better beware Maxim Afinogenov if Lindy Ruff inserts the speedy forward back into the lineup.  He has the speed and offensive ability to cause problems and he has to be motivated after being benched in favor of Daniel Paille.
  • One final note.  Someone please chain Henrik Lundqvist to the cross bar so he can’t get caught out of position again.  His mishandling of the puck nearly cost the Rangers a win and I know it shaved a few years off my life!
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