Thu 10 Jan 2008
Perhaps TuesdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s question should have been, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Can a hockey team win any game, never mind a big game, by playing only 25 minutes of hockey?Ã¢â‚¬Â
Of course, the answer was a resounding Ã¢â‚¬Å“No!Ã¢â‚¬Â given the Rangers 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. How bad was that game? It has taken me two days just gather my thoughts and write them up.
A spin across the Internet shows that calls for Tom RenneyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s job have been kicked up a couple of notches Ã¢â‚¬â€œ as to be expected. It seems like any time the Rangers lose a game, there are calls for RenneyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s head. With that said, Renney did not have a good game against Tampa Bay.
It was unsettling to see him stand by his plan to match the fourth line against the LightningÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s top line Ã¢â‚¬â€œ something that Renney does not always do. While he does try to get favorable matchups (just like any other coach), he does not normally adhere to such a rigid flow of line matching. One could understand and explain this decision if the Rangers were winning or even tied. But as the rangers fell behind and their lackluster play continued, Renney continued his line matching.
The one thing that needs to be separated from this discussion is all of the criticism the fourth line has gotten. Yes, I know the HBO line of Ryan Hollweg, Blair Betts and Colton Orr do not inspire stories of offensive grandeur and that the line is a minus-25; however, they have also bee the only line to play at a consistent level all season long. It is funny how critics will trot out their poor plus/.minus numbers to condemn them, but conveniently ignore plus/minus in any discussion of Marek Malik. Sorry fans, but you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have it both ways.
Yes, Renney deserves blame for the loss to the Lightning Ã¢â‚¬â€œ but so does the rest of the team. There is enough accountability, or lack thereof, to go around. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t care if Isiah Thomas or the worst coach you could conjure up was behind the bench Tuesday night; there was no excuse for the Rangers to lose that game.
Tampa Bay was a team begging to be beaten. They were 0-5-2 in their last seven games and were just finishing up a four game road trip to start the New Year. In addition, they were playing a rookie netminder making only his eight NHL appearance Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and given his shaky start Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Karri Ramo was not going to last the full 60 minutes.
Following that goal, the Rangers did not pick up their play until the closing minutes of the second period when Scott GomezÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s power play goal cut the deficit to 4-2. This is where the blame has to be shared between Renney/coaching staff and the players. At a time when they had a struggling team and a rookie goalie ripe to be taken, the Blueshirts not only eased off the throttle, but they coasted for almost two periods.
The Rangers need to focus on the closing minutes of the second period and the entire third period for the type of intensity they need to bring night-in and night-out and period-in and period-out.
On The Fly 1: Congratulations to Nigel Dawes for being named to the Canadian Team and Greg Moore for being named to the PlanetUSA Team for the AHLÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s All-Star game to be held in Binghamton on January 28. DawesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and Moore’s participation is up in the air depending on where they will be playing in a couple of weeks. Given the I-95/i-91 shuttle, it is very possible Dawes and/or Moore will be reassigned to the Wolf Pack by that time.
On the Fly 2: With the Philadelphia Flyers invading Madison Square Garden tonight, it will be Ranger fans first look at the most infamous rookie in hockey this side of Ogie Oglethorpe. Steve Downie is expected to be in the lineup after dodging a suspension bullet in only his fourth NHL game. Downie was called in on the carpet by Colin Campbell following the rookieÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s cheap shot punch thrown at TorontoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Jason Blake during an altercation. Downie landed punched Blake in his left eye as the Maple Leaf was being held back by an official. While Campbell did issue a warning, he did not hit the rookie with his second suspension of the season. As we all remember, Downie received a 20-game suspension for his hit on OttawaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Dean McAmmond during a pre-season game.
On the Fly 3: You have to wonder if The Clueless One (aka Colin Campbell) would have been as lenient with a Sean Avery or Ryan Hollweg if they had punched Jason Blake. Do you get the feeling that the Rangers might need an old fashioned Broadway Blues-Broad Street Bullies barnburner to cure what ails them?
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