Anyone see the fallout among Ranger fans after the Game Five loss to Ottawa Saturday? If you’re active on social media or Ranger forums you know what I mean. It’s tough to be a Ranger fan because you either feel like it’s the end of the world when the team loses (about 50% of the Ranger fan base) or you can’t understand the mindset of those negative Ranger fans. I tend to fall into the latter category.
All of the negative reaction to the Blue Shirts has prompted this edition of Ranger Randomness. I’ve enlisted the help of my alter ego to formulate a list of true and false questions for me to answer. I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind about anything but I need to do it just to vent and get some things off my chest.
Enough, let’s get right to the questions:
True or false, the Rangers suck.
False. The Rangers all season have had a small margin for error. They aren’t as skilled as teams like Pittsburgh (look where that skill got them this year) or Philadelphia. They play tough defense, block a lot of shots, score opportunistic goals and get great goaltending. It’s a delicate balance and if the Rangers don’t walk that fine line they struggle to win games. That’s precisely what is happening in this series. They aren’t getting those timely or opportunistic goals and they have lost the last two games because of it. That by no means is the same as the team sucking. It’s still the same club that finished the regular season first in the East; it was tough to win games then and it’s not going to suddenly get easier to win games in the playoffs.
True or false, the Rangers are toast in their series with Ottawa.
False. The Rangers 13 times won at least two consecutive games during the regular season. They also lost three games in a row (no more) in regulation or OT just three times. They have lost two in a row already. Given that the percentages seem to indicate the Rangers are more likely to win games six and seven than they are to lose Game Six thus completing their trifecta of losing.
True or false, Erik Karlsson is a pretty good hockey player.
True. He has the skating and stick-handling ability to single-handedly carry the puck out of the defensive zone and into the offensive zone preventing the Rangers from creating turnovers in neutral ice or getting their forecheck going. He also gets a lot of shots through traffic from the point and on net. To me he is the most dynamic (not all-around) defenseman in the league today.
True or false, Craig Anderson has been pretty good this series.
True. Anderson has a reputation for sometimes allowing bad goals. He has yet to do that this series. Although maybe that’s something to offer Ranger fans some hope as perhaps he’s due. He’s made some big saves and has been good enough clearly to help the Sens to their three-to-two series lead.
True or false, the NHL (players, owners and everyone associated with the game) needs to take a hard look at itself as it pertains to head-shots and player discipline.
Unequivocally true. Every fan, no matter who their favorite team is, has a reason to gripe about what has happened in the playoffs with regards to hits-to-the-head and supplementary discipline. Whether you think Carl Hagelin’s suspension was deserved or not, or if you think Evgeni Malkin should have been suspended for concussing Nicklas Grossman, it’s clear some things need to change. Look at the laundry list of players knocked out of the playoffs as the result of concussions suffered because of hard hits: Brian Boyle, Daniel Alfredsson, Nicklas Grossman, Marian Hossa and Daniel Sedin have all missed or will miss time because of a concussion.
Now the Boyle and Grossman plays didn’t result in suspensions from the league but the others did.
I don’t pretend to know the answer. I don’t think there is even just one problem confronting the league. I do know that the parties involved need to work together to make the game safer while keeping the excitement level up.
True or false, Hank is to blame for the Game Five loss.
False. I didn’t see any comment that specifically stated the Rangers loss was solely on Hank but many think the goal scored by Jason Spezza was a softie. I don’t necessarily think that is the case either. It was a great pass and a quick snap shot by Spezza. Hank may not have been quite ready for it. Regardless, Hank has been terrific this playoff season. He has a 0.945 S% and a GAA of just 1.78 in five outings. He is not the reason for the Rangers deficit.
True or false, the Rangers PP still sucks.
True. Yeah, they actually came through with two PP goals in game four but have failed to convert in big moments when a PP goal could prove to be the difference between winning and losing. Take that five minute PP they had early in game two after Boyle was jumped by Matt Carkner. If the Rangers had scored a goal there it might have mitigated some of the momentum the Senators feel they got from Carkner’s actions. Perhaps instead of dropping that one in OT they come out on top. Obviously a PP goal Saturday night might have pushed the game into extra time and given the Rangers a chance to win. The PP needs to step up when the chips are down.
True or false, the Rangers played their best game since the series opener on Saturday night.
True. They possessed the puck. They got their forecheck going. They put 41 pucks on goal. Where they came up short was in getting traffic in front of Anderson making life difficult for the Sens goalie as Ottawa did to Hank in games two through four. If they can do a better job of that and still get 41 shots on goal I would expect a four or five goal explosion for New York.
True or false, the Rangers big guns have come up short so far.
True. Brian Boyle leads the Rangers with three postseason goals. Ryan Callahan and Anton Stralman each have two. Gaborik and Richards only have one and both came in game one. Both players do have three points in the series but the Rangers need them to score goals, plain and simple.
True or false, the Rangers miss Carl Hagelin more than most thought.
True. The Richards-Gabby combo finally took off this season when Torts plugged Hagelin in on the LW. Hagelin has big time speed and hounds the puck. He helps open up space for Gabby and is a good enough passer to set up his linemates. His return to the lineup could bode well for the Rangers offense.
True or false, the Rangers will return to MSG with the series tied.
What, do you think Mark Messier is writing this? I’m not The Captain but I’ll try my hand at this prediction thing anyway. Of course I expect the Rangers to win Monday. I am a Rangers fan, what else am I supposed to say?
In all seriousness, the Rangers have defied expectations all season long. Not many picked them to win the Atlantic Division but they did. With the Pens hot on their tail late, many expected the Rangers to lose the division to Pittsburgh but they didn’t. I don’t know that anyone rationally had the Rangers finishing with the best record in the East but they did that. I expect the Rangers to play a strong game, to build upon the things they did well in game five and to make life more difficult on Anderson. Hagelin will make a difference with his speed and hopefully he’ll help Gabby get some good looks.
Let’s go Rangers!!!
Oh, remember to join Jonathan, Chris, Shelley, Adam, me and hopefully the two newest members of Ranger Nation, Michael Hurwitz and Jen Connic on the Nation sponsored game chat on Fan Junkies tomorrow starting at 6:30 EST. Let’s do this and do this the Right Way!!!!
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