The score of tonight’s game is deceiving, because it seems to indicate that the Rangers put up a good fight throughout the game. In fact, the Rangers were pummeled 5-0 by the unrelenting Lightning until the third period, when the Rangers managed to squeak a few goals past Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith, accomplishing little more than striking Smith’s hopes of a shutout.
In the postgame press conference, Coach Tortorella succinctly and accurately summed up the Rangers’ collective effort tonight by calling them all “brain dead.” The Blueshirts certainly were not at their best tonight, and Steven Stamkos and co. took full advantage of the listless Rangers. A few specific notes:
· Scary stat of the night: The Lightning scored 4 goals by the time the Rangers mustered their 5th shot on goal. Mike Smith must have been positively bored during the first two periods
· I mentioned in my pregame post that shutting down the Lightning’s #4 ranked power play would be essential for coming out with a win. Well, the Lightning scored three power play goals in tonight’s game, ensuring that the momentum was moving in one direction only. When the Rangers finally got a power play, the difference between the Rangers’ puck movement and that of the Lightning was especially striking. Crisp, quick, tight passing and impeccable positioning earned Tampa Bay three easy PPGs.
· On that note, many of the Lightning goals came from crashing the net. It is precisely a game like this one that makes you realize how much the New York Rangers could use a legitimate crease-clearing defenseman.
· Steven Stamkos drilled right by the Rangers’ defense with one goal and two assists, extending his league high count to 21 goals and 38 points. Also noticeable was Stamkos’ wingman, Marty St. Louis. Stamkos and St. Louis have really developed strong chemistry on a line together, and they complement each other perfectly. They also backchecked extremely well, putting pressure on the New York Rangers at all times. Ron Duguay labeled St. Louis as one of the best power play point-men in the league, and I’d be hard pressed to disagree with him.
· Tortorella called out Marian Gaborik for his lack of an impact on the outcome of tonight’s game. The Rangers’ best player did not come skating to the rescue when the Rangers needed him most. Out of his eleven games this season, Gaborik has only scored in two—one of them being a blowout game against the Oilers. Considering this exposes another contrast between the Rangers and the Lightning: Stamkos’ skyrocketing goal count and St. Louis’ equally high number of assists proves the importance of having a linemate that can get the puck to your superstar. Gaborik has not clicked with any of his linemates yet this season, and the difference between Gaborik’s production and Stamkos’ production is distinctly noted. In an effort to get Gaborik going, Tortorella channeled Tom Renney with his abundance of line juggling towards the second half of the game, but this attempt accomplished nothing.
· This was definitely not the way Henrik Lundqvist wanted to start his comeback. The Rangers’ goaltender got virtually no support from his teammates during this game, but the team was quick to jump to his defense after the game. Even so, a five-goal beating is bound to take its toll on someone as fiercely competitive as Lundqvist. Lundqvist was also whistled for diving in the middle of the second period, and, feeling very much wronged, he definitely lost his cool a bit after that.
· For the Rangers, at least, the game was well over when Sean Avery retaliated for a hit on Erik Christensen, earning seventeen penalty minutes and a one-way trip to the locker room. It was nice to see some life from the Rangers, although it was definitely too little, too late. Even nicer was seeing Avery stand up for this specific teammate, who made some controversial remarks about Avery following the brawl in the game against the Oilers a week and a half ago. Clearly, there is no bad blood between these two. Most disturbing, however, was the Rangers’ distinct inability to defend Lundqvist every time a Lightning player ran him over in the crease.
· So, how long before Brian Boyle leads the team in goals?