Sunday, April 11, 2010

They Gave It Everything They Had

What a tough way to lose a hockey game.

What a heartbreaking way to end a season.

The Rangers gave it everything they had today. They left it all on the ice - every ounce of strength and effort they could muster against the Flyers. They played hard and smart - without the injured Callahan and Avery - and kept battling to the very finish. You can't get any closer to the playoffs than the Rangers did without actually getting in.

60 minutes into game 82 we were still in the playoff race. And after 5 minutes of overtime we were still beathing. And with one shot left in the shootout we still had a puncher's chance.

But when Olli Jokinen's final shoot out attempt failed – the Rangers season – their heroic rush to the finish - and all the hopes and dreams of the Blueshirt Brothers and all our friends – came crashing down to the Flyers ice surface.

We held a fragile lead for more than 40 minutes, but in the end we lost that lead, the shoot out and the game, 2-1. And so in losing the game we lost the playoffs as well. The funny thing is – it feels like we were in the playoffs. It feels like we just lost a playoff game seven. I was half expecting the Rangers to line up and shake hands at the end.

I don't really want to right now – but let's analyze the game – for one last time this year:

The Goalies: Hank - what can I say? Henrik was every bit The King today – and I can't even imagine what he must be feeling right now.

47 saves. 47. A .979 save percentage. You can't really expect much more from your goaltender. He saved enough shots for a shutout and then some. He shut the Flyers out for more than a hockey game between late second period Friday and the third period today.

But who would have thought that Brian Boucher would save 24 of 25 shots? His save percentage was under 90% for the season. So if life were fair, 25 shots would have gotten us 2.5 goals in regulation – which should have been enough. One more Ranger goal and … and... Well, you know.

And it was Boucher who stopped 2 of 3 shots in the shootout. Hank could only stop one of the 3. What a way to lose a hockey game – and a season.

Special Teams: Killed us. We were 0-2 and the Flyers 1-4. One more PK and ….

New Veteran Rangers: Marian Gaborik had 2 shots, and, surprisingly, 3 hits. And it retrospect I'd love to see what he might have done as the 3rd man in on the shootout. I'd feel better losing with him than with Joki. No goals and no assists for Prospal, Jokinen, Boyle (2 hits). And of course – next year all these guys become returning Rangers and, knowing Sather, we'll have a new crop of new Vets to take their places in this section.

Our Returning Rangers: The Captain? 19:24 of ice time. No goals. No assists. No shots. No blocked shots. He did win 14 of 24 face offs and registered one hit. Dubinsky, Boyle, and Voros – all shut out and shut down.

But God Bless Jody Shelley. He once again found a way – scoring in the game's 4th minute. And in a game where we never let up an even strength goal – it nearly stood up as the game winner. Shelley had 4 hits and his line was the only line to get anything done all night.

The Kid Rangers? Prust and Anisimov made that 4th line into something very special. It was those two (with Shelley) – not Gabs – not Joki – not Dubi – who were +1 on the night. One more goal from anyone else and ….. (don't get me started). And you know – next year all of these guys – Delzy and Anis and Prust and even Gilroy will no longer be rookies. They'll join the others a bit higher on the page as Returning veterans.

Offense on Defense: Not tonight. Check back again in the fall.

In Conclusion: What a crushing loss. What a sad way to end a hockey season. To claw back into the race – to come so close – and then just barely miss – it's almost too much to handle. My 11 year old – Pucks Junior – was inconsolable for a few minutes. We played a little rod hockey – I let him win – his players have Ranger uniforms – and he feels a little better now. At least one of us does.

To all of you Blueshirt Brothers readers – thank you.

Thank you for your visits – for your support – and for your comments all year. It's been a rough year of sorts at Blueshirt Brothers – I really do miss Nugman – the mad blogger who just up and left in mid season. But I'm glad and grateful you all stayed with me and Pucks Junior here over this long season.

I may not be here every single day of the off season – but I will be here and I hope you'll keep stopping by.

At least we got 82 games of meaningful hockey – and the Rangers were in it until the very last shot fell short. They may not have made it – but they gave us every ounce of effort they had inside them. That's why we love this team – and that's why we are forever Ranger Fans.
Next Up: Uh – a mid September preseason game, I guess. It's only 5 months away.
Where We Stand: 9th place. A single point out of the playoffs. And we'll get no closer as we have completely run out of season. On the other hand – we're in a decent position to get a good draft pick – so there's some consolation in that.
One Last Thought of the Season:
A heartfelt Thank You to the New York Rangers. You guys really showed us something down the stretch and it means a lot to us.

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