Man, oh man, does "Lightning 5, Rangers 3" not begin to do this game justice. It wasn't just the lack of goals, shots, or offense at all - we didn't even have any puck possession through two periods of this game. I apologize for ever, in the past, using phrases like "the opponents beat us to every puck and won every battle." Because it's always been something of an exaggeration - there has surely been some puck the Rangers found their way to. In two periods last night, the Rangers could not retain the puck. If it weren't so painful, part of me would want to watch these two periods over and over again, just because it's such a spectacular schooling. It's rare to see such complete denial of even puck possession for so long.
With that said, I again have to wonder about the penalty calling. Let's be clear: completely independently of the officiating, the Rangers still blow this game in a very big way. But I have to wonder if referees Rob Martell and Dean Morton didn't hear Lundqvist's complaints after the Pittsburgh game and maybe want to stick it to him a little bit. Lundqvist got run over all game, and the only time they bothered to call goalie interference, they also called a thoroughly disoriented diving penalty on Hank to cancel it out. I can justify the other bad calls last night by the usual NHL bullshit: if you only have one hand on your stick, and you make contact with any other player, it's "hooking," and so on. But there was no good goddamn reason for that diving call.
But, of course, the worst part was not the officiating, it was the Rangers not coming up big in front of the King. Lundqvist gave up 5 goals on 25 shots across two periods during which Mike Smith, across the ice, was perfect by making 7 saves. Hank needed a big game back, after resting a while as Biron looked good, especially given that Biron might be back in one of the next two. Instead, Lundqvist was protected neither by penalty-calls nor by offensive play from his team, who hung him out to dry for 40 minutes before finally skating around with the puck a little bit in the third.
Torts reacted appropriately, chewing out various Rangers during the game for letting Bolts make residence in the King's crease, and calling out Gaborik after the game, saying, "He's supposed to be our best player. I looked at their best players, and they were pretty good tonight. I didn't see our best players." Also, props to Torts for not pulling Lundqvist, even though he almost did. The right thing to do was to let Hank battle on - it's not like any of the goals were his fault.
But, of course, I have some questions for John Tortorella also. Mostly, they center around Sean Avery. For a guy with a reputation for changing lines around all the time, Torts reacted to last night's disaster by swapping Callahan for Gaborik on the first and second lines, and double-shifting Gaborik in place of Boogaard on the fourth line (before, of course, benching Anisimov for some reason). Besides Anisimov and Boogaard, Avery was the Ranger with the least ice time.
But you know how I hate to make a big deal of outliers. Let's go back and look at some more numbers. Monday's tight 2-1 victory over the Flames: Boogaard 7:15; Avery 8:34; Next Ranger (Christensen) 10:13. Saturday's big 5-2 win over the Wild: Boogaard 5:28; Avery 8:12; Next Ranger (Anisimov) 12:29. The previous night's 5-1 loss to the Avs was much more balanced, but it featured Todd White (Boogaard being absent with a punching-too-much injury). Interesting.
Over the 4 games previous to these (before which we didn't really use the lineup we've had lately), 2 featured White instead of Boogaard, and the other two look the same as above. To sum up the numbers, over the last 8 games, the 5 that had Boogaard in them totaled some disappointing numbers: Boogaard with 29:38 of ice time, Avery with 43:13, and the next sparsest Ranger (who spanned across 4 different Rangers in these 5 games) with 52:21.
So, clearly, Boogaard gets the least ice time, Avery gets the next least, and then everyone else gets a mix. Can someone explain that to me? Win or lose, Avery consistently makes things happen on every shift. It's one thing when we're winning - "don't change a recipe for success" or whatever. But for it to not even occur to Torts to give Avery a little more time in last night's debacle concerns me. That shows me there's no confidence there. And the way Avery still plays night after night, even on a line with Christensen and Boogaard, that's just not right.
Anyway, last night sucked. The third period served only to make it look like a game: in final score, shots on goal, and penalty calls. It was never actually a game, and the third period didn't really change that. The only interesting thing to happen was when Avery went after Mattias Ohlund for a big hit on Erik Christensen. I turned to my father and asked if he thought Christensen would also consider that move a "cheap shot" (it looked remarkably similar to the Ladislav Smid incident). Ah, well. Good for Avery, and fuck Christensen. Let's shake last night off; Happy Thanksgiving; see you Friday.