So what can you say about a season that was supposed to be a bummer, experts picked us for 30th, and you wind up with 100 points and make the playoffs, finishing sixth? How do you blast a team for losing the last five games of a season and falling out of the Division lead on the last game of the season? You can't blast them and you wish them the best of luck in the playoffs. They are going to need all the luck to purge the ghosts of past Rangers failures and frustrations.
Renney made all the right moves last night. He reunited the Jagr, Nylander, Straka line. He reunited the HMO line and made them open the game which they did with a flourish. He benched Sandis Ozolinsh but unfortunately other Rangers defensemen played as careless as he has played. Plus the Prince was back and all would go right. Wrong.
Despite the giveaways and many odd man rushes the Rangers were only trailing 2-1 after two periods. But the house of cards collapsed as the giveaways continued as did the odd man rushes and Lundqvist seemed to tire. Had the Rangers put together this performance against either the Islanders or the Penguins they would be the Division Champs. Ottawa is too good a team to beat with less than a sixty minute effort.
Jagr tried and tried mightily. The one Ranger goal was through his effort chasing a puck, negating an icing and feeding a beautiful pass to Straka for the only goal for the Rangers. He finished with 123 points, two behind Joe Thornton, and with 54 goals, two behind Jonathan Cheechoo, also of San Jose. Unless all the Canadien sportswriters decide to unite behind Joe Thornton, Jaromir Jagr should be the MVP of the NHL.
It now remains to be seen what kind of effort the Rangers can mount against the Devils. The Devils are flying right now and Martin Brodeur besides having his game back also has his arrogance back. His hatred of the Rangers is well known and I'm sure the feeling is mutual. Of course the Rangers have had the last laugh on Brodeur, he has never beaten them in a playoff series. In three playoff series, 1991-92, 1993-94 and 1996-97 the Rangers have eliminated Martin Brodeur and his Devils from the playoffs. Will that streak continue?
The Rangers must pick up their game. The defense has to tighten and the offense has to come from others, not just Jagr. Petr Sykora seems to have disappeared these last few games and Petr Prucha since his return from an injury has not returned to the form that made him one of the leagues top rookies. Stay tuned for an interesting playoff war.
ICINGS: The Pundit received a pleasant surprise last night being one of the few fans chosen to go down to the ice at the end of the game and receiving one of the Rangers autographed jerseys. I got Michael Nylander's.
I congratulated him on a good year, 23-56-79, and wished him success in the playoffs. The 56 assists and 79 total points are career highs. He signed the jersey to my seven-year-old grandson, Nicholas, who after he finishes his NHL career will take over the writing of this blog.
The Rangers final post Olympic record is 9-11-1-3, not good. We may well look back at the Olympics as our downfall as we were 10-1-1-0 going into the Olympics.
Update: One more reason to love Michael Nylander. Gabriel at Behindthenet.ca just posted the 2005-06 Final NHL Shootout Leaders-
Michael Nylander is number 13th overall, contributing 0.75 wins above average to the Rangers total.
Martin Straka on the other hand is in the bottom 25.
Stats explained here.