Ranger Management held a tribute to Jaromir Jagr and his record breaking year last night and the Rangers ruined it. They were so in awe of seeing past 50 goal scorers Vic Hatfield and Adam Graves and all time leading scorer Jean Ratelle that they forget to play hockey. On a night that they should have risen to the stars they plummeted to the depths of mediocrity. Instead of playing at the level that has brought them to the top echelons of the NHL they played down at the level of the Islanders. Instead of getting excited by the third period outburst of 24 shots, two goals, be concerned about their play in the last four games since beating the Flyers in a shootout on April 4th.
Since that win over the Flyers, the Rangers pulled out a stinker against the Islanders, had to come from behind twice against the Bruins to win in OT, and blew a third period lead against the Devils. They now face the prospect that they must beat the Flyers in Philadelphia on Saturday to clinch first place in the Atlantic. If that doesn't happen then the hope would be that the Devils knock off the Flyers twice in their last two meetings. Then they would have to worry about the Devils, assuming we don't win one in our last three.
So what happened? How does a team come out flat in such an important game so late in the season? You could live with a bad first period, provided you rebound in the second period. The second period was even worse than the first. Where was Tom Renney and the coaching staff? Shouldn't they bear the brunt of the responsibility for this fiasco?
The Rangers managed to wake up in the third period, but it was the classic too little, too late. They put 24 shots on goal and only managed two goals DiPietro made 36 saves, twenty two in the third, to back up his boast of kicking the Rangers butts. Remember, the Rangers were 12-1-1-1 in their previous outings against the Islanders.
Jaromir Jagr with two assists, now has 119 points which gives him six more than Joe Thornton. He is on target to win three awards this year. The Art Ross Trophy, top scorer in the NHL, The Maurice Richard Trophy, most goals, and of course the Hart Trophy for the MVP of the NHL. The Hart Trophy seems to be a certainty regardless of the Rangers final finish.
Petr Prucha scored his 30th goal and his 16th power play goal. The power play breaks Camille Henry's record for power play goals for rookies set in 1953-54. The Ranger rookie goals record is 36 by Tony Granato in 1988-89.
And what would a big game like this be without mentioning the refs. They called sixteen penalties, of which eight were for hooking. They missed a beauty in the third period when Shawn Bates cut Jagr's lip and nothing was called. Referee Paul Devorski said he didn't see it. How about the other ref, the junior guy, Chris Rooney. He didn't see it either but he does see hooks.
Maybe that's the new referee system for the new NHL. Senior refs call the big penalties and the junior guys call the hookings. A soft hooking call on Nylander with 1:37 left killed all hopes of a miracle comeback. The sticking of Jagr would have been a four minute call and could have changed the outcome of the game. Would you believe the two linesman, who can call these penalties, didn't see them either. You think the suits in Toronto saw it?
The Rangers have six regulars injured but the Islanders played with eight rookies so that was not a factor. A big concern for the Rangers have to be the injuries to Lundqvist and Kasparaitis. How badly hurt are these two? If Lundqvist is seriously injured stop all talk of making a serious run at the Cup. Kevin Weekes cannot do it. A sore groin to a goalie can be a killer. Can the Rangers afford not to play the Prince with a shot at winning the Atlantic Division, injury or not? We shall see against Pittsburgh on Thursday, a definite must win.
ICINGS: Post Olympic record is now 9-8-1-3 with three to go. Rangers are first NHL team in history to have a rookie goaltender (Lundqvist) with 30 wins and a rookie goal scorer (Prucha) with 30 goals. Rod Gilbert was also in attendance. His record for most goals scored by a right winger was also broken by Jagr (43).
Update: James Mirtle thinks Joe Thornton is the frontrunner for the Hart Trophy-
a few weeks ago, I had said Miikka Kiprusoff or Jaromir Jagr would and should be the frontrunners for the Hart Trophy...
unlike Jagr, Thornton is an excellent defensive player, a physical force and great on faceoffs (51.5%). He plays the second-most time shorthanded among San Jose forwards (2:03), behind only Alyn McCauley, and wouldn't be out of place among this year's nominees for the Selke. (New York Rangers coach Tom Renny, on the other hand, wouldn't be caught dead with Jagr on the penalty kill.)