The Rangers Game Log

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Fuhgettabootit

- Just forget, if you can, last night’s debacle at the Garden. The Atlantic Division title is still in the bag. A win over Pittsburgh tomorrow night puts the Blueshirts in a position to clinch the division on NBC on Saturday afternoon in Philly against the shaky Flyers no matter what the out-of-town scoreboard reads between now and then; and the Rangers have won three of three there this year. Isn't that the way it should be anyway?

So forget about the loss to an inspired, but incompetent Icelander squad on home ice. Forget about the saves that DiPietro made in the opening minute, including one with his back turned, an occurrence that portended the misery to come. Forget about the awful power play, particularly in the first period, when 2 1/2 pp attempts led to zero shots. Forget about being out hit 19-13 by a team on the road to nowhere. Forget about the inexplicably missed call on Shawn Bates’ high stick of Jagr that should have given the home team another 5 on 3 and four more minutes of power play – and about the offensive zone hook on Nylander with less than two minutes left that, of course, wasn't missed...are those ever? Forget about the missed opportunities with the score 3-2 late in the third – Prucha all alone in the slot rushing his shot right into DiPietro, when he had the time to read a Harry Potter novel, and Sykora flubbing from the same spot shortly thereafter. Forget about the futile 24 third period shot effort. Forget about the Flyers beating the Pens after blowing a 3-0 lead at home. Forget about the Devils, five points behind but with only three to play. None of that matters. It’s two wins and they’re in.

But what certainly does matter, more so than the team taking the game too lightly – I mean, what did you expect less than a week after they defeated the same team, which they’ve basically toyed with all year, with a similarly half-hearted effort – and more so than the tough loss despite a good effort in New Jersey on Sunday night – is the physical state of the team. Malik has joined the list of injured starters, and half of the top six defensemen are out. Most concerning of course, is Henryk Lundqvist, who told the Post that he had "regressed a little." I was hoping that maybe Lundqvist, who speaks English well enough, nonetheless thought that “regressed” meant that it got better! But he went on to say that he "felt a little twinge skating in Boston on Saturday" AND that his “groin is a little bit sore."

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think my groin is on my hip. What exactly is this injury anyway? At first, it was portrayed as virtually nothing, something he could have played with if the game was “really important,” as if these aren't. Now, five games later, and not even well enough to practice yesterday, Renney says he wants him to play the last two games. But Dellapina in the Daily News reports that although Rucchin, Malek, and Poti (dare I say he was missed last night?) are expected to return for Saturday’s showdown, Lundqvist and Darius Kasparaitis are not as close to returning.

Huh? What does that mean? On one hand, do we really want the King to go into the Flyers game cold like that? But on the other, doesn’t he need to get some work before next Friday? What’s going on here; the players are dropping like flies. Malik reportedly reinjured the shoulder that kept him out for five games last month simply by reaching for the puck in practice. We have no idea what’s wrong with Poti, who seemed fine the last time we saw him, setting up the winning goal on Saturday. There’s no sign of Kasparaitis at all. Why is this happening now?

On the good side, Weekes continues to perform well, Thomas Pock looks like he could be another Tom Poti (the good parts), Ryan Hollweg is becoming more and more annoying to opponents, we’re in the playoffs, and the post-season ticket package plays the stupid goal song when you open it up (how cool is that?). They’ll apparently have to win in Pittsburgh with the same lineup as last night, but the team assures us that everyone, except perhaps Rucinsky, will be ready to play the post-season opener. No doubt they’ll all be out there on the ice no matter what their real condition is…..but hopefully it will be on the ice at Madison Square Garden. Win Thursday and Saturday, and it will be.

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