Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hank Yanked as Rangers Tank

We knew we'd have to be on top of our game to beat Buffalo.

We weren't. The result was a 5-2 loss that pushed the Rangers to the brink of playoff elimination.

With three games left in this difficult season - the Rangers are still in 9th place in the NHL East. They trail the Boston Bruins by 3 points. And they trail 7th place Philadelphia by 4 points - but the Flyer have just two games left - both against the Rangers.

And - as crazy as it seems - the Rangers still control their own destiny.

If the Rangers can get one point tonight against the last place Maple Leafs - and then can sweep the Flyers - we're in. There are other possible scenarios - but one point tonight and a sweep of Philly - in regulation outcomes - would do it.

The other way in is past Boston. The Bruins, like us, have 3 games remaining – with Buffalo tonight – with Carolina Friday and with Washington at noon on Sunday. If we can tie them in points - we will have more wins than them and would make the playoffs on that basis. That may be the easier route - but neither route is an easy one.

10th place Atlanta – and all teams below them – are officially eliminated. The Rangers are the last team below 8th place in the NHL that still has a shot at sneaking in. So, if nothing else - we outlasted the Islanders.

The point is we have to win now. Win or lose our season.

I'm not sure if you want to dwell on last night's loss - but here's a little bit of it:

Our powerplay was 1 for 3, but our Penalty Kill let up a goal in 4 attempts. So - about even.

We outshot the Sabres 32 to 30. Hank made just 13 saves on the first 16 shots - and Tortorella pulled Hank to give Alex Auld a chance. Auld was brought in to the Rangers as an experienced backup to give Lundqvist the opportunity to rest - something that John Tortorella never was able to make happen for some reason. Auld made 12 saves on 14 shots. Ryan Miller - the Olympic MVP - was better than both of them - stopping 30 of the 32 Ranger shots against him.

You're not going to get a lot more than 2 goals on Miller - the object is to stop the Sabres from getting more than 2 against you. The Rangers failed to do that. Hank didn't play badly, exactly, but Miller was clearly the better goalie last night - and if the Rangers are outplayed in the net - we have zero chance of winning.

Our offense was in the first period. Brandon Prust continues to show heart, grit, and a motor. The rookie stole the puck - pounced on it - and whacked it past Miller. Later on another rookie - P.A. Paranteau - scored a goal that got the Rangers back to a 2-2 tie. But we got no closer. There was one horrendous sequence by Mikal Rozsival where he failed to clear the puck and then took a bad penalty leading to a Buffalo goal.

Callahan returned and appeared to be he old hustling self. Gaborik and Jokinen were again held scoreless - but Gabs was robbed on a great save by Miller. Still - we've had the lower lines scoring - but where are our top lines when we need them most?

So it all comes down to tonight. The Rangers must beat last place Toronto - a team that overcame a 2-0 deficit to beat us in overtime last week. Lose in regulation and we lose contact with the Flyers - we'll have no way to pass them.

All season long the Rangers have been at their best with their backs to the wall. It doesn't get any more back-to-the-wall than we have right now.

So - for all of us BlueShirt Brothers - let's go Rangers.

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