That's what the Devils delivered to the Rangers last night, a shot across the bow. If this is the way the Rangers want to play the game they will go nowhere in the playoffs. The Rangers didn't get aggressive on offense until the third period. They didn't crash the net. Jagr got only three shots. While the team hits were close, 17-16 Devils, they were deceiving. The Devils got the jarring hits. Playing a little over four minutes Cam Jannsen of the Devils got four hits. One of them knocked Marek Malik out of the game.
Playing a little over nine minutes Marcel Hossa of the Rangers got one hit. At least that is what the scorer called it. Hossa is not a checker you say, well he isn't a scorer either. There is some belief on the part of Renney that Marcel will soon morph into his brother Marion. In forty nine games he has 8 goals and six assists. The point of all this? Simple. Why the hell isn't Ryan Hollweg playing, especially against a tight checking hard hitting team? The HMO line does not exist without Ryan Hollweg. It is out of sync without the hit man. There was no Ranger pressure on the Devils D, while the Ranger defensemen had to dodge and swerve out of the way of hits. Rozsival was sandwiched between Jannsen and Erik Rasmussen and left the ice bleeding.
Darius Kasparaitis was again the target but he gave as good as he got. He almost tied the game with a Brian Leetch type move, splitting the defense and putting a backhander on goal that clanged off the post. Aren't those the kind of moves we are waiting for Tom Poti to perform? Speaking of which, where was Tom last night? When JD announced that the Rangers were going to play with five defensemen I thought he meant without Poti, not realizing that Malik was hurt. And there was Grant Marshall going after Kaspy all game and trying to goad him into a fight with the old chicken flap. I thought that went out with Sandy McCarthy. Kudos to Kaspy for blowing him a kiss.
You say I am over reacting to a loss after a seven game winning streak. After all we were 11-1-1 in the last 13 games. All great, but now we are down to the nitty gritty. The last 24 games, now 22, are playoff type games against teams fighting for positions and their playoff lives. Are the Rangers equipped for this ordeal? Offensively the Rangers look like they are there. The Petr Sykora pickup was huge. He almost tied the game but his shot went off the crossbar. Petr Prucha will be back in about a week or so and that should bolster the offense as Petr will probably go on the third line with Betts and Ward. Then the fourth line should see the reuniting of the HMO boys, Hollweg, Moore and Ortmeyer. The Kamikaze Kids will return with a flourish. The offense is set.
The defense is another story. While the team has compiled an excellent GAA, second in the NHL, Ottawa is first, the defense lacks toughness. Malik, Rozsival and Poti are finesse players. Kasparaitis does a majority of the dirty work with occasional help from Strudwick and Tyutin. Thomas Pock is an excellent puck moving defenseman and could help the power play but he is not a bruiser.
The Rangers need a tough, stay at home, clear the goalmouth type of defensemen. There are many defensemen out there that will be available and we should not have to give up much to get a good one. I would not trade away any of the current roster and use draft picks. The way Hartford is stocked with good young players we can afford to trade away draft picks. But we do need a tough guy who can also come to the defense of his teammate. Colton Orr seemed to do that against the Islanders but doesn't get enough ice time and I don't believe Renney trusts him enough to play him regularly. But he is not a defenseman and the four lines are fairly solid. The trading deadline is Thursday March 9th. Stay tuned.
ICINGS: Weekes played another strong game stopping 18 of 20 shots. Brodeur was very good and very lucky. He stopped 26 of 27 and the pipes were 2 for 2. Coming up three big games. Carolina at home Monday and Atlanta and Montreal on the road Wednesday and Saturday. Montreal is hot and have a four point lead over Atlanta for the last playoff spot. For the final 24 after the break the Rangers are 1-1-0-0. We will tally that up to the end.
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