Mon 28 Apr 2008
The naysayers are out in droves as the Rangers find themselves in the exact same position they were in one year ago Ã¢â‚¬â€œ down two games to none in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. You can excuse Ranger fans for feeling down and Penguins fans for feeling giddy, but the media Ã¢â‚¬â€œ that is another question.
Shelly Anderson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette offered the following analysis.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“By failing to at least split the first two games of their second-round series against the Penguins, the Rangers put themselves in a position of having to win at least one game at Mellon Arena if they are to advance to the Eastern Conference final.Ã¢â‚¬Â
I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to hurt AndersonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s feelings, but the Rangers were going to have win at least one game in Pittsburgh no matter what. While it would have been nicer to win the first game at the Igloo, if they win the last one at the Mellon that works just fine. The bottom line is that the Rangers are not in trouble until they lose a game at home.
It was only one year ago, that the Rangers were seconds away from bring a three games to two lead back to the Garden against the Buffalo Sabres.
The Rangers have to hope that this seasonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s streaks continue. The Penguins have now won their last 12 home games and the Rangers have to hope that their four game home winning streak this year against the Penguins gets extended by three.
Of course, the Rangers need to start finding way to win in this series Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and in a hurry. The Blueshirts played with a curious lack of intensity and desperation during Game 2, especially in the third period. I am not sure if they were a tired team, a beaten team, or an overconfident team. Whatever the case, they need to play with what NBCÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Mike Milbury called a Ã¢â‚¬Å“desperate controlÃ¢â‚¬Â.
A perfect example of the Rangers lack or urgency stems from their Ã¢â‚¬Å“one and downÃ¢â‚¬Â style of attack. They seemed content to get one shot on Marc-Andre Fleury and not work as hard against him as they did Martin Brodeur to get to rebounds and cause traffic in front of the Pens net.
While his players may or may not realize this problem, Tom Renney is well aware of what the Blueshirts need to do on offense.
“We need to make sure he has some screens to have to find the puck through,” Renney offered to Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’m not going to suggest that it was easy for him, but it certainly could have been tougher.”
The easiest way to sum up the Rangers playoff experience so far is to take the tact that they played just good enough to beat the Devils and are playing just bad enough to be trailing the Penguins. The Blueshirts just seemed to beat a step off during the entire game. To use a baseball analogy, it just seemed like their curveball was hanging all game long.
Game 2 is the perfect illustration. Despite FleuryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s shutout, Henrik Lundqvist outplayed his Pittsburgh counterpart. The King was called on to make the bigger game saving stops. Even FleuryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s best stop was more a case of the Rangers not being willing, or able, to take that final shot.
A few minutes before Jordan Staal capitalized on poor Ranger defense, Jaromir Jagr cruised down the slot. Rather than take the shot in the slot, the Rangers captain tried to skate it down low and get Fleury to commit. In the old days, Jagr would have rifled the puck from the slot rather than try to deke the goaltender.
Of course, the Rangers again found themselves one break away from heading into overtime. In Game 1, it was JagrÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s shot that clanged off the post. Yesterday, it was Dan OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢HalloranÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s quick whistle that nullified martin StrakaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tying goal.
Rather than resort to the gamesmanship that Penguins coach Michel Therrien accused Renney of in respect to Sidney Crosby and his diving fetish, the Rangers bench boss agreed with the call.
“I thought it was an accurate call,Ã¢â‚¬Â Renney told Larry Brooks of the NY Post. “Either the whistle had blown or the intent was there. It was a good call.”
I have to agree with RenneyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s assessment with this one caveat Ã¢â‚¬â€œ OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Halloran needed to put himself in better position to follow the puck. The referee was to side of the net rather than getting behind the net to follow the puck. The referees did not lose site of the puck on a Rangers second period power play despite a maze of Rangers and Penguins surrounding Fleury.
The Rangers process of fighting their way back into this series has to start with forgetting about Crosby and his Greg Louganis-like dives because it is doing the team no good. Everyone knows that Crosby dives. That is why all of the media, both print and television have harped on this subject. You donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see anyone saying that Evgeni Malkin dives because he doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t.
If what Brooks wrote in SundayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Post is true, then the league knows it as well. Brooks said that the NHL called Sidney the Swan in on the carpet because of his propensity to dive.
This situation is very similar to the one the New York Mets face in the 1986 National League Championship Series against the Houston Astros. Everyone knew that Mike Scott was scuffing the baseballs. Much like the NHL turns a blind eye to Crosby, National League President Chub Fenney looked the other way when the Mets presented him a with a bucket full of Scott baseballs that were scuffed in the exact same place with the exact same pattern.
The Mets went out and beat the other Astros pitchers and won that series in six games and did not have face Scott in a seventh and deciding game.
The Rangers need to go out and play their game and not worry about what Crosby may or may not do. If the Rangers end up putting themselves in a position where Crosby can draw a penalty for diving, then the blame is on the Rangers. If the Rangers are going to take a penalty against Crosby, make sure it is as earned penalty because they put a body on Crosby and not a careless hook or debatable hand on the shoulder.
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