With the Rangers coming off a disappointing performance Wednesday on the Island many Blueshirt fans were looking for a more complete, sixty-minute performance. The Rangers were in the game for the entire sixty, that is for sure, but the full performance was once again not evident for John Tortorella's club.
The game started out similar to Wednesday's as the Rangers failed to assert any sort of plan or pressure on the Wild for the most part. It was back and forth for a while, but in the second half of the period the Wild fell into a groove. A poor breakout (a typical sign of a struggling team) led to an alone Andrew Brunette picking up the puck down low. Mikko Koivu broke down the right wing and one-touched a pass across an open slot to Peter Sykora for a 1-0 Wild lead with about a minute and thirty seconds to go.
Almost following script, the Rangers came out in the second period at a much better and sharper pace just like their recent game against the Islanders. Applying the forecheck well, Artem Anisimov and Dane Byers forced an errant pass from a Wild defender which was read and intercepted greatly by Wade Redden. Redden then put a quick slap-shot on net that resulted in a rebound for Byers who had now circled the net and was alone out front. Byers battled the Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom for a second but eventually slotted his first NHL goal home through the five-hole to tie the game at 1. The fun ended there, for the most part, as the Wild would slowly gain the momentum back along with the lead. Eric Bellanger and Antti Miettinen would strike for the Wild to make the game 3-1 at the end of the second. Bellanger's goal was a classic case of the team falling asleep at the wheel. Two Ranger forwards (Dubinsky and Prospal) were attempting to cover the netural zone but failed to notice where any of the Wild forwards were behind you. Michal Rozival failed to notice the streaking Peter Sykora as well, leaving the middle open for Sykora to find Martin Havlat who then dished backdoor to Bellanger for the games third goal. P.A. Parenteau attempted to cover Bellanger but failed to actually get stick to man, which allowed Bellanger a tap in of a goal on Henrik Lundqvist. Antti Miettinen, who I had never heard of before tonight, took a pass from Mikko Koivu and finished with a great shot over Henrik's right shoulder. It was more of a good play than a Ranger mistake, so we will leave it at that.
The third, which was inconclusive at best, provided us with a nice Ranger goal followed by fifteen minutes of sloppy offensive efforts and overall solid defense by the Wild. Artem Anisimov, who I thought has been one of the better players in this slump, drove down the right wing followed by Vinny Prospal. Anisimov lost the puck in the corner but Vinny Prospal saved the play by picking up the loose puck and dishing to a fresh Marc Staal at the opposite point. Staal let go a quick wrister which found the top right corner of the net to cut the lead to one. Unfortunately, like I said, nothing much would come of the final period in tonight's loss. The Rangers failed to take advantage of the momentum shift with the goal, and at the same time the Wild bunkered down and did what they had to do to get their two points.
With all that said, and with most of us wanting to forget the last two games, here are my thoughts from the evening in Minny:
- Many commenters' (and myself) were upset about the Rangers being blacked out tonight. I had to watch the game over the internet, but what I'm more upset about is how MSG gives little warning about the blackout situation. It's on the MSG website, as I have checked before, but we all forget and few of us actually remember the blackout dates.
- Marc Staal and Henrik Lundqvist once again shine through in a performance that obviously could have been better. Not much to say other than that.
- Was this performance on the level of Wednesday's? In some ways, yes. If the Rangers are supposed to be a playoff and cup contending team, then they need to find ways to win against teams that they should beat (record-wise). Tonight's performance wasn't as noticeably bad as the Islander effort, but much of the same issues we're evident again to me tonight (most notably the poor breakout and trying to do too much with the puck).
- Congratulations to Dane Byers on his first NHL goal. A scrappy goal it was, but it really brought the Rangers into the game for the first time of the night.
- Being NY sports fans (most of us), our expectations mostly sway with the teams winning and losing streaks. I do like how John Tortorella is trying to send messages to regular players by giving the kids a chance, but at the same time it isn't allowing for all of the players time to gel with their new teammates. It's really an issue no one person has the answer to, but I think it affects the expectations of the fans immensely. The Rangers as an organization seem to be one step forward from being serious cup contenders but at the same time one step back to a total re-building process. I wrote about the issue last spring, and you might hear more from me in the near future (ironically there was only one response as everyone must have been pissed that we lost in Game 7; as I was).
To be honest, I can't give much more of an honest assessment than that because of my situation watching the game on the internet (feed was in and out and overall poor). The Blueshirts return to the action Sunday at 1 PM on MSG against the Bruins at home. The good about this matchup? I think most Rangers will try to keep the game more simple and concentrate on doing their individual jobs on the ice (Not to mention a potential Marion Gaborik return). The bad? Boston overall is still a good team even with the absence of Marc Savard. A win Sunday would be nice seeing as the Rangers head west to face the Canucks, Oilers, and Flames in what will be a good early-season road-trip test. That's all for tonight, sound off in the comments.