Indifference is the Rangers’ strongest quality. They can’t score. They can’t defend. They don’t hit anybody. They rarely outwork their opponent. They don’t control the puck. So that leaves indifference. How else do we explain last night’s effort against the Islanders? It was a rivalry game. The two teams hate each other. Both teams are desperate for points. Both teams were tied in the standings. The game was played on the Rangers’ home ice. The Islanders showed up, but the Blueshirts mailed it in.
The only explanations I could conjure up for their uninspired play were the following:
1. They all drank too much cough medicine before the game.
2. Their minds were occupied with what to buy John Tortorella for Christmas.
3. They were all distracted by the Tiger Woods scandal.
4. They’re all Islanders fans.
5. They just can’t stop thinking about that guy in the news this week with the bionic hand, and how cool it would be to have one of those.
6. They’re all wondering if one of the networks will start showing reruns of Family Ties in light of Meredith Baxter’s lesbian confession, which puts the show in a whole new context.
7. They just don’t care.
All of those are reasonable conclusions that any right-thinking person would come to. But it’s the last one that makes the most sense. Sure, it was all hands on deck in the last desperate minute, but where was that the first 59 minutes? The Rangers have already established that they can barely score two goals a game, so if they don’t put in the effort, or jam as Tortorella likes to say, they don’t have a chance. And if they continue to leave opponents wide open in front of the net without bothering to hit anybody in their own end, last place is a foregone conclusion. Henrik Lundqvist knows that if he doesn’t shut out the opposition, the Rangers will most likely lose. He must be a nervous wreck right now.
How much is Tortorella accountable? He only holds a random selection of players accountable for their play (Matt Gilroy, Enver Lisin, Ales Kotalik) but not others (Michal Rozsival, Wade Redden, Chris Drury). He doesn’t get the team to play hard on a nightly basis, and his ice-time choices are often questionable. The big picture problem is, of course, Glen Sather. He constructed this poorly constucted team, which he continues to do year after year. The outrageously big contracts signed by over-the-hill deadbeats has tied the Rangers hands, and they can’t make any significant moves because of the unmovable dead weight.
With all their flaws and lack of top-level talent, the Rangers should, at a minimum, work hard and hit opposing players once in a while (do they think they play in a no-checking league?). Is that really an unreasonable request? Is that really asking too much from professionals who are getting paid millions of dollars? Maybe I’m the crazy one, but I think the answer is no.