There is an old saying that comes to mind with this Rangers team so far this year. Good teams find a way to win, bad teams find a way to lose. The Rangers have been finding ways to lose, and they are doing it in rather impressive fashion.
For the third straight game at MSG, the Rangers let the visiting club come in and set the tone. For the third straight game at MSG the Rangers were never able to get their game in a sustained mode. And for as long as we have been counting (probably longer) it was the eighty-ninth game in a row, where the Rangers were unable to play anything close to sixty minutes of hockey.
After Mark Messier gave Keith Primeau the puck on a pretty drop pass to send him in alone on a stunned Kirk Mclean, it became a foregone conclusion that things were not about to go well. The Rangers faltered again, and again, until the Flyers were out to a 3-0 lead. The same old things were to blame that have been to blame for the past two season, but still have seemingly not been addressed. No passion, no pride, and no product.
Watching Keith Primeau make Messier look bad, was strangely reminiscent to watching Eric Lindros do the same thing just a few seasons ago. It is painfully obvious to those who wish to see, that Messier is no longer a "go to guy": out on the ice. He may be king of the locker room, master of diplomatic structuring, and a strong leader, but he can seemingly no longer lead by example. So who do the players look towards to lead on the ice?
Well after the debacle of a first period, and a 3-0 deficit, it was clear that man was Brian Leetch. Leetch put on a display during the second period that was quite impressive, if not down right similar to his two time Norris Trophy form. Leetch netted a power-play goal off a feed from Jan Hlavac, after Hlavac spanked one home from the slot to bring the Rangers to within 3-2. That was as close as they would get. Eighteen year old Justin Williams, cashed in on some poor defensive zone coverage (what else is new?) by the Rangers, to kill the momentum with that every deadly goal in the last minute of the period.
Facing a 4-2 Flyers lead to start the third, the Rangers unbelievably still found a way to lose their focus. Hlavac was called for interference early, and at the 1:54 mark of the period the Flyers scored to make it a seemingly insurmountable 5-2 lead.
Basically what happened after that was the Flyers did just enough to hold on. The Rangers got a lucky break on a phantom call by the officials, and Adam Graves was able to get one past Brian Boucher to make it 5-3, and even later, Valeri Kamensky scored with just a few seconds left in the game with Mclean on the bench. So the 5-4 final was really quite padded, much like some other scores this year. Essentially it says that the Rangers are not playing with any passion, until the games is out of reach, in other words, too little, too late!
Ron Low has to find a way to wake this team up. Or maybe Glen Sather should be the one who does the waking. Either way, the lack of passion on the ice will kill this team. Hockey is a fast and furious sport, and you have to be able to step up and take the game. If you wait around for the game, it will hit you like Mack truck, and you will find yourself at the end of a 3-0 lead, at home, in the first period.
The line change combinations did not work last night, and didn't even show a spark that they might. The defense is as stale as a six month old loaf of Wonder Bread, and even the goaltending is still not exactly bringing peace of mind. So what to do?
Well, getting Dale Purinton in the lineup for one thing, and sitting Rich Pilon would be a start. Purinton needs to play, and if not now, when? Pilon has been marginal at best, and he looked very tired last night. Some young blood might do this line up a world of good. There are several players who are playing well in Hartford, who could bring some enthusiasm. Manny Malhotra, Mike Mottau, and Johan Witehall have played well and could bring some fire to the lineup.
Regardless of what gets done, the issue remains that something needs to get done. We spent an entire year last year with the same problems, waiting for that team to gel, or get over the hump, or find it's identity. It never did any of those things, and there are no signs that this team will either.
.Power-play Conversions: Phi - 2 of 3, ny - 2 of 4. Goalies: Philadelphia, Boucher (25 shots, 21 saves; record: 2-3-1). NY , K Mclean (19, 14; record: 3-3-0).