(If you want some Dave Pucks lovin and his optimistic views, check below my long rambling borderline tirade. I love the Rangers, but I am less comforting right now. Dave is more like a mom giving us Rangers fans a hug after we struck out in little league. I'm like the drunk father that told you "stop sucking!" and then spent the rest of the game staring at the girls in your grade in attendance) Crushing defeat for the Rangers. Absolutely brutal, as most Game 7's usually are. A season that started 10-1-2 led to a number one ranking in the eastern conference in early December, then a mid-season slump that derailed any hopes of a top seed an home ice in the first round, followed by a late push to reach the playoffs for the 4th straight season, finished with a crushing defeat on the road at the hands of the heavily favored Washington Capitals.
Speaking as a yankee fan, this one is different. With my baseball team, we expect to win. We are better at almost every position on the field, we usually had the best record or the better record then our opponent, and when we lose, it's an empty, how did we let that happen sort of feeling. A feeling like we were supposed to be great, and gave it away.
This is different, in some ways worse, in some ways better, but in no way fun to take. By all rights, the Rangers had no right to be in a Game 7. The Caps were the quicker, more talented team, but one that had two potentially fatal flaws: 1) Their goaltending, 2) Their defense was suspect (only ranked 17th in NHL, and if I can compare them to the Patriots of the NFL when they lost to the Giants, they were also considered a middle of the pack defense, but in reality, they were far worse. Their offense was so dominant, it controlled the ball, took the running game away from other teams, and forced them into predictable passing situations. The Caps defense is similar, they have holes, they only have one real strong defensive defenseman (Poti), but they benefit from the puck always being in the other zone.
Well Boudereau took care of the goaltending with what turned out to be the most important move of the series. He was open to a lot of criticism removing the veteran Theodore for the rookie Varlamov, but it paid off. Had theodore not giving up such soft goals, it is probably a tougher call, but the move paid off. Varlamov's numbers ended up being strong, but I can't ever remember any sustained pressure from the Rangers. The closest they came was the first period tonight where they had four scoring chances in a 5 minute span, scoring a goal and hitting a cross bar. What I will give the rookie is he never showed any signs of panic. He for the most part controlled the rebounds, and he never gave up a soft goal. Can't ask for much more from a rookie.
The Rangers were never able to take care of the Caps defense, and I wonder how many other blueshirt faithful are out there thinking what I am thinking, no offense to Markus Naslund, but how different is this series if you replace Naslund with Jagr? Naslund was miscast. He was asked to come in for half of Jagr's salary in the twilight of his career and take the place of what was, on any given night, still one of the most dangerous scorers in the NHL. (What jagr also commanded, much like Ovechkin, the constant double team, creating much more space in front of the Net for the other forwards. All series, the Rangers had nowhere to go, there was no space in front of the net, the Capitals were very comfortable with one on one matchups on all the Rangers forwards)
There are a lot of ugly thoughts that creep into your head after a game like that.
Is the game different if the refs decide to actually call the game like they did Games 1-6, and don't change their style just because it is a Game 7 (I will never understand in hockey why penalties suddenly are no longer penalties in a Game 7, when they were in a Game 3. Is Game 7 more important? Really? That's like the April games don't count for as much in baseball as the september ones. Well, if the Rangers win Game 3, game 7 never happens, so pretty sure Game 3 is important too)
- Are the Rangers in for a LONG period of "almost there" teams? Was this the last best hope at making a run? It seems sort of fatalistic, but worth discussing. If the Rangers beat the Caps, they have the momentum of the huge upset, and get to play the underdog role again against a rather inexperienced playoff team in Boston. Unlike the Caps who were constantly pressuring the Rangers and presented awful matchups, the Bruins played almost the exact same style as the Rangers (just more talented). The Rangers would have presented a very tough matchup for the Bruins, despite the pundits that claimed the Bruins caught a bad break with the Rangers blowing this lead.
A bruins upset could put the Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals, and who knows....but not worth getting into. Might be too early too look at next season, but you can't like the way this team is constructed. A lot of money tied up in Drury, Gomez, Rozsival, Redden. Those 4, make up about half the team payroll, and all are on the books for at least the next FOUR YEARS. I like Drury, I consider him like the Jeter on the Rangers for Yankee fans who are into cross sport analogies, but for Jeter to matter, you have to have an Arod, or an O'neill. You need the guy who hits the 3 run homer in the 5th inning, that makes what was a 4 run game, a one run game. So when Drury scores that late goal, or Jeter gets that late rbi single, it actually matters. They aren't going to do the heavy lifting, and the rangers don't have a player right now that can do that.
Gomez is only as good as the scorers he plays with. At times last season he looked brilliant when he played with Jagr and had him drawing double teams, and finishing his passes. But when gomez doesn't have a finisher, and a large checking forward on his line, he becomes an irrelevant player making far too much money to be irrelevant.
Gomez and Drury are complimentary players, and can be GREAT complimentary players, but they are being paid like "THE MAN", and when you have two complimentary guys, both being paid like "THE MAN", you are in trouble on offense and with your cap.
The redden and rozsival contracts have been covered to death on this site. In fairness to both, I thought redden had a "solid" series. Defensively he did not give up much (although the series winning goal off the stick of Federov I still think Redden got back in from ten feet in front of his own blue line to ten feet in front of Hank. Why wasn't he up on Federov? Why was he back pedaling and treating him like Ovechkin?), otherwise, Redden was probably the Rangers best defenseman, defensively, during the series. And Roszival did the best he could on a bum leg and showed a lot of heart tonight. Their performances get viewed a lot differently if the Rangers win this game, but they didn't. Where was the offense from this defense pair making 11 million dollars combined? In Game 6 the Caps got their first THREE goals from defenseman, and had one defenseman in tom Poti get four points. Only green stands out as a great offensive player on the caps defense, but they were still able to get an offensive game from that unit, the likes of which I'm not sure we saw ALL SEASON from the Rangers blue liners.
Going into this off season, the Rangers have some big questions. Do they bring back antropov? The skill and size are there, but is the heart? Aside from two shifts in game one, he was a complete no show until the first period of Game 7. If they bring him back, how big a contract do they give him, and does it shut down their chances of signing any elite offensive players?
Doobie's play will be lost with this loss. The guy earned a lot of respect from me. I thought he was a complete no show for almost the entire regular season this year, but he really stepped up this series. He didn't exactly light the lamp that much, but did any Rangers? But he scored a game winning goal in Game One, and was maybe the Rangers best centerman all series. Taking very important faceoffs in Game 7 for the injured drury and ineffective gomez. He was constant energy. With Callahan, the Rangers have two nice young players, but NEITHER of them is going to develop into "THE MAN". Their games don't dictate it, at least not now. They are complimentary players, but once again, strong ones. But if the Rangers lock them up to long term deals, where is the money going to come from for the big time scorer this team desperately needs?
The rangers are forcing themself to get a big time scorer from their youth, hoping it will become Zherdev? Well, he looked like Kovalev all season. At times brilliant, at times taking nights off, but what Kovalev did was step up in big games in the playoffs.....where was zherdev? He really never did anything all series, and we desperately needed offense from him.
Maybe Anus will be the next big thing for the Rangers? Who knows, I don't want to think about it anymore tonight. The dream matchup I wanted so badly with Boston is gone, the season is over, and now the Rangers are potentially at their weakest, with Glen Sather calling the shots.
Guess it's time for baseball......F*CKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK. (Still thinking about that Game 5 loss in Buffalo two years ago, taking a step back since then, gotta have a strong off season)
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