Henrik Lundqvist should walk into the New York Rangers’ locker room and quit. For the second game in a row, he stood on his head and gave his team every chance to win, and for the second game in a row, he got absolutely no offensive help. For the first two periods tonight, the Rangers did not play bad hockey, they played stupid, undisciplined hockey. There was no sense of urgency, no drive to the net, no teamwork and aggressive forecheck, the M.O that got them to the postseason in the first place. What the Rangers left out on the ice tonight, with the exception of a ten minute surge in the third people, was a steaming pile of refuse, one where they cannot look for excuses anywhere else but their inability to get simple shots on goal.
Do not buy into the reasoning that the Washington Capitals are immensely superior. They are good, yes; good enough to be the best team in the Eastern Conference, but they are beatable. The Rangers have scored one goal in two games, while mustering up only 46 shots. If the Rangers were getting quality chances and sustained pressure, one could argue that they are just not good enough. But they cannot even get the puck deep into Washington’s zone. This becomes even more frustrating when you look at the fact that the Capitals have not really played too amazing themselves. The high-powered offense has scored four goals, while putting only 52 shots on net—not much of a difference.
The Capitals did not beat the Rangers in these two games, the Rangers beat themselves. Not to take anything away from Washington, who did deserve to win tonight, but the Rangers have to seriously consider something drastic. Would benching Marian Gaborik in game three wake everybody up? What has he done in these two games to deserve playing time? Big game in the playoffs be damned—Gaborik has been invisible all season and can no longer carry this team, therefore, he should not suit up.
The insertion of Sean Avery into tonight’s lineup thankfully did not backfire in the Rangers’ faces. He played decent hockey in the ten minutes of ice time he was given. He was able to get into a couple of scrums and cause some havoc, so I would definitely think he stays in the lineup for at least the next game.
On to Sunday, the Rangers have to pray that they have a reversal of fortune on home ice at Madison Square Garden, a place they did not play overly well in. The crowd is going to be rocking, so hopefully, the jitters from the seven rookies in the lineup will stay away. In game one, they did look nervous, but tonight, nerves is not what did them in. These losses cannot be placed on the kids, which is a good thing for the future. They are gaining experience, and win or lose, it will only serve to help them down the road.
The Rangers are now desperately in search of a hero, someone to put this team on his back (aside from Lundqvist) and win a game single-handedly. The Rangers lived and died as a team all season, but the team’s chemistry is off-balance right now, and they are in need of an individual to come through in the clutch. The Brandon Dubinsky factor is overrated, and I still do not know why he was given 21 minutes of playing time, looking absolutely lost while skating around, when Chris Drury, a player who despite what you may think about him, actually does well in the postseason, was only given seven minutes. If I had to guess who it might be, to drive this team to a higher level, it would be Vinny Prospal. Two games in a row, the camera has zoomed in on him after the whistle, to see him yapping away at opponents and shoving people around. He is coming across as a grouchy old man, and that could be an asset if the Rangers continue to play this way. He is not going to go down without a fight, and the Rangers should follow him in that regard.