The Rangers Game Log

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Rangers Lacking HMO Coverage

- Ryan Hollweg's reckless and dangerous (not to mention dumb) hit from behind on RJ Umberger, coming at a time when the Rangers had regained the lead on Jagr's second goal and with #68 looking as if he was ready to put up Kobe-type numbers for the night, was the obvious turning point of the Blueshirts’ 6-3 loss to the Flyers. However, it also cast a shadowy spotlight on Tom Renney's roster decisions for the game.

When NHL play resumed after the Olympic break with the Rangers visiting the Orange Crud, Renney went with a finesse lineup despite the fact that Darius Kasparaitis would be an obvious target after injuring Simon Gagne in Turin. The Blueshirts made Donald Brashear and company look foolish that night in a 6-1 win. However, last night, with Kaspar out of the lineup and the Flyers needing the game urgently and sure to try and avoid having to face a revived Rangers power play, Renney dressed Colton Orr instead of Jed Ortmeyer.

In his post-game news conference, Renney said that his penalty-killers, who surrendered two goals on the Hollweg major and three overall, seemed out of synch. Perhaps the coach needs to look in the mirror here; Ortmeyer has been the team’s most consistent player on the PK all year and his shot-blocking presence was sorely missed. And while you can't definitively state that the Flyers wouldn’t have scored as many goals as they did if Ortmeyer was on the ice, it’s fairly certain that he would have served the team better than the useless 4:03 of ice time that Orr had.

The game also highlighted the importance of the HMO line – the REAL HMO line – to the team’s success. Trailing by a goal in the third thanks to Ozolinsh’s ridiculous gift to Simon Gagne for Philly’s 4th goal, with the Flyers clogging the middle, the home team refusing to adjust, and the crowd strangely sluggish throughout the night, the absence of the energy line was all too apparent despite Jason Ward’s seemingly single-handed efforts to get things going. Perhaps they could have provided the spark that the team needed and didn’t even come close to getting.

- Let’s hope that not too many teams noticed the way the Flyers solved Lundqvist by placing big bodies in front of the net. He’s going to need some more help from his D there. Based on this game, who do you think is the team’s MVP?

- Even with Jagr going crazy, the team needs production from that second line which looked so good against Boston. Rucchin-Straka-Sykora were a combined minus 7, with five shots on goal total. Marek Malik had a shaky night on D. Strudwick did what he could with three blocked shots, but Kaspar’s hitting, which has been mostly absent since the Olympic break, is sorely missed. And am I the only person who actually missed Marcel Hossa?

I’m willing to put this one into the “not the end of the world” category. It’s been a strange season series between the two clubs, with each failing to win at home in three tries; and the Rangers retain the game in hand and actually still lead the division on the tiebreaker. But the Blueshirts now face a treacherous five games in seven nights stretch, with four of those on the road including the last one in Ottawa, yikes. And on Friday, they visit the red-hot Florida Panthers, back in the playoff race after winning seven of eight, including a win over Ottawa and a home-and-home sweep of Carolina. Look for Kevin Weekes to get the start there.


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