As it turned out, the San Jose Sharks game ended up being the trap game for the New York Rangers. I am not sure if the Rangers were “trapped” looking ahead to their matchup with the New Jersey Devils or if they were caught reading their press clippings. What I do know is that, outside of the first 10 minutes or so, the Rangers played some of their worst hockey of the season – and there is only one reason for it.

I place all of the blame for the Rangers loss on Versus. If there is a network that does less with more when it comes to sports, then I haven’t seen it. I am not sure if Ranger fans are spoiled because of the way the MSG Network broadcasts a game, or if Versus is truly that bad. Given the chatter on the Internet from fans across the NHL, it is definitely a case of Versus being truly that bad.

It is one thing to have to put up with all of the inane graphics and ads for television shows that no one is ever going to watch, but the network’s choice of announcers further ruins the game.

I know that Mike Emrick is an acquired taste that some Ranger fans don’t like, I am quick to admit that I am a mark for Doc Emrick – especially when I am faced with the prospect of having to be tortured by Joe Beninati.

The funny thing is that I used to get a big kick out of hearing Beninati’s calls on the old AHL weekly series “Rinkside”. However, times have changed, and his voice conjures images and sounds of fingernails scratching across a blackboard.

Seriously, the Rangers uneven play of the last few games finally caught up with them as they allowed more than three goals for the first time this season. The Blueshirts were able twice to take advantage of a winless Toronto Maple Leafs and a still learning Los Angeles Kings team.

While some fans have questioned coach John Tortorella’s decision to start Stephen Valiquette, I don’t have a problem with that decision. If Torts has to hold Valiquette out for the weak sisters of the NHL, then the Rangers need to go and find themselves a new backup goaltender. It goes to show that fans have a short memory given Valley’s shutout of the Anaheim Ducks.

You have to wonder if the coach’s decision had anything to do with Henrik being less than 100% because of all the crease shenanigans that Lundqvist has faced the last couple of games.

The bottom line is that Tortorella is going to have use Valiquette more this year because of the King’s Winter Olympics workload. If the Rangers don’t manage Lundqvist’s workload, then they are going to have the same problem the Devils have had with overplaying Martin Brodeur.

While the Rangers have struggled to maintain their level play from the first to the second period, it was no coincidence that the Rangers second loss of the season coincided with the second time they were outscored in the middle stanza. The Pittsburgh Penguins outscored the Rangers 2-0 on Opening Night.

Tortorella’s post-game comments have me wondering if he was watching the game through Versus-colored glasses.

“We have some things to work on,” Tortorella said to Ira Podell of the AP. “The first two periods, we weren’t as bad as what the score was at that point. I don’t think we were terrible.”
I wonder if Torts had a television behind the bench that was tuned to the Yankees-Angels game because that is the only explanation for his statement.

No one expected the Rangers to go the entire season with only one loss, but the score was indicative of the effort the Rangers put forth. Taken by itself, the 7-3 loss is not a big deal. However, when you add it to the last couple of games where the Rangers eked out wins – then it does cause one to pause and reflect on last season.

The Rangers used their trip to Europe at the start of the 2008-2009 season to skate out to a 10-2-1 start. However, the Rangers then hit the skids with as they went 0-4-1 in their next five games and 3-6-1 in their next 10. Of those three wins, two of them were Shootout victories.

This is not a case of Chicken Little crying that the sky is falling. Rather, it has to serve as an early wakeup call for the Rangers to realize that they cannot get by on talent alone. They still have to remember that they are a blue-collar team that needs to do the little things to win.

ON THE FLY

• The last time the Rangers won eight games in a row was in the 1974-75 season (Dec. 27, 1974-Jan. 11, 1975).
• Jeff Z. Klein had an interesting look at that streak on his NY Times web blog . Of those eight wins, three came against teams that no longer exist – two wins against the Kansas City Scouts and one against the Minnesota North Stars.
• The Rangers 7-1 start was their best since the 1983-84 season.
• “Stat of the Game” from MSG.com  The Sharks doled out 33 hits, compared to 22 by the Rangers, and this stat, along with San Jose’s lopsided edge in faceoff percentage, had an impact on the score. In many of their earlier wins this season, the Rangers dominated these statistics.
• According to Steve Zipay in his “Newsday” online blog, the Rangers have inched closer to solving their seventh defenseman problem. Mathieu Dandenault will join the Hartford Wolf Pack on a tryout basis. The 33-year-old is a veteran of 13 seasons in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens. The 6-1/210 blueliner started his career as a RW before Detroit coach Scotty Bowman moved him to defense during the 2001-02 season. Dandenault was with the San Jose sharks during training camp, but was one of their final cuts along with veteran forward Dan Hinote.

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