Last Thursday night after the Pittsburgh debacle Tom Renney came out of the dressing room and declared that the Rangers were ready to play the Flyers then. Maybe we should have played them then because we sure didn't play them today - suffering a 4-1 defeat which leaves the Rangers one point ahead of the Flyers and three points ahead of the Devils for first place in the Atlantic Division. Both the Flyers and the Devils have two games each, one against each other, we have one game left. We need the Devils to beat the Flyers tomorrow and we must win our last game against Ottawa at the Garden Tuesday night.
However, this defeat should not be blamed on the team but on Tom Renney. Renney forgot everything that got the Rangers to 100 points. He benched Ortmeyer, dressed seven defensemen, using one, Strudwick as a sometimes forward and changed the four lines completely. Jagr who has played almost all year with Michael Nylander as center along with either Straka or Prucha on the wing suddenly had Straka at center with Sykora on the wing. Nylander centered Prucha and Hossa, who scored the only Ranger goal. Betts centered Hollweg and Ward and Moore centered Orr and Strudwick. There were changes during the game with the end result being a disoriented type of game with very little offense until it was too late.
Renney has to go back to the basics. The strength of this Ranger team has been: (1) Jagr (2) Lundqvist (3) the HMO line (4) stay at home defense and (5) strong fore and back checking. With the pressure on Jagr and the injury to Lundqvist it is imperative the other three components work. Unfortunately they are dependent on number 3. Why break up that line? How can you bench Jed Ortmeyer the heart and soul of this team? He is second in hits and blocked shots. Kasparaitis is first.
Why play Colton Orr if he is not willing to mix it up with El Goono, Donald Brashear? Why was he in there? He should have been in retaliating against the Flyers for the way they were going after Hollweg. Was it his fault or Renney's for not being more aggressive? If Orr doesn't feel like he could give a good account of himself against El Goono, then why was he in there? For his scoring? For his passing? And when does the NHL crack down on El Goono and Ken Hitchcock for this blatant attempt to intimidate and injure someone.
I also think the Rangers owe Peter Forsberg a few licks for his head hunting attempt on Ryan Hollweg. I guess Philly objects to their star being legally checked but it was okay to go after Jagr with cross checks, holdings, late hits after whistle's and hooks. The Rangers should be on alert for this motley crew if we meet them in the playoffs.
Renney has to get this team back to ground zero. Hopefully the return of the Prince will help, but Renney has to get the teams confidence back. Hey, it's the Holy Season full of redemption and hope. Happy Easter and a belated Happy Passover to all.
ICINGS: The post Olympic record is now 9-10-1-3, officially under .500. Jagr has now lost his scoring lead to Joe Thornton and seems destined to finish second in the race. Everything is going down.
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