Henrik Lunqvist sat all alone in the goal,
While 46 shots eventually took their toll,
All Sather’s horses, and Tortorella’s men,
Left poor King Henry, out to dry again
That’s the story of the Rangers’ season folks. After a 7-1 start to the season, and a 7-1-2 run to end it, the Rangers found themselves on the outside looking in as they lost to the Philadelphia Flyers, 2-1, in a shootout yesterday afternoon at the Wachovia Center.
Henrik Lunqvist stood on his head, did cartwheels and landed back flips in making 46 saves, but it was all for nothing. As is always the case, he is their best player in their biggest games and it’s a shame that the guys in front of him played the way they did. Were the Rangers waiting for him to score goals too? The guy can’t do everything and by the time the game went to a shootout, he admitted he was “beat-up.” As he has done all season long, Lundqvist bailed out his teammates who turned over way too many pucks and couldn’t control their opponents through the neutral zone, as the Flyers out shot the Rangers 47 to 25. He basically gift-wrapped the game for them, but just like how the guy on the chess team can’t score with prom queen, the Rangers failed to close.
"We played well over the last 10 games and gave ourselves a chance, but it should never have come to this," a somber Brandon Dubinsky said in the Rangers' locker room after the loss. "The way we started the year [was good]; the start and the finish. What really hurt us was everything that happened in between [24-31-9 record]. It's tough to put it down to one goal and a shootout. We had our opportunities all year, and we just couldn't get it done."
Marion Gaborik, by far their best offensive player this season, did a pre-2009 A-Rod impersonation and was no where to be found yesterday. Granted he was left out of the shootout and thus didn’t have a chance to redeem himself, but a career 2-18 record in shootouts was probably why. Instead that honor was bestowed upon Olli Jokinen (you must be Joke-inen, right?), as coach John Tortorella tabbed him to go third in the skills competition.
After P.A. Parenteau tied the Flyers in the shootout, Claude Giroux put Philly back on top after a blistering wrist shot found its way to the back of Henrik’s net. Jokinen’s back-handed attempt was then pushed aside by the Flyers’ third-string goalie, Brian Boucher, to seal the deal for Philadelphia. It’s safe to say that Jokinen pretty much played his way out of the Big Apple. Jody Shelley, a 35-year old journeyman, was their best forward on the ice, scoring the Rangers’ lone goal just 3:27 into the game, his second in two games.
“We did what we could the past few weeks to get back in the race," said Lundqvist. "They were better than us tonight. It's tough to win two games against Philly when the fourth line is your best line. It's tough."
Maybe something good will come out of yesterday’s heartbreaking loss. Let’s face it; the Rangers have been on a steady decline since they swept the Atlanta Thrashers in the first round of the 2006-07 playoffs. With the Knicks wrapping up their miserable season this week, Madison Square Garden will now be collecting dust for the next few months, save for a few concerts and wrestling matches. This is best way to get through to James Dolan; hit him where it hurts. No, not a kick to the Dolan family jewels, but rather, in his wallet.
According to Ian Begley on ESPNNewYork.com, Dolan wore a look of disgust as he sauntered out of the bowels of the Wachovia Center after the game. History has shown that when Dolan is angry, the heads of his Garden employees tend to roll. Maybe this is the wake-up call to let go of Glen Sather?
If I’m Henrik Lundqvist this morning, I’m walking into Dolan and Sather’s office demanding that changes be made or I’m taking my services elsewhere. Like my friend Adam Bernard suggested one night, Lundqvist is too good of a goalie to waste away his talent with a team that plays the way the Rangers do. By the time Rangers are a true Cup contender, Lundqvist will be past his prime. And if Sather is still calling the shots, Lunqvist’s number will be hanging from the Garden rafters before the Rangers are in serious contention for any type of run at Lord Stanley’s Cup. Save for a few players, he really has no supporting cast and a lot of needs must be addressed this off-season. Maybe Rex Ryan can lend a hand as a special consultant for next season.
RANGERS' STEADY DECLINE
2005-06- Swept in the first round of the playoffs by the New Jersey Devils after being picked to finish last in the Eastern Conference.
2006-07- Swept the Atlanta Thrashers in the first round of the playoffs, then lost in six games to the Buffalo Sabres in heart-breaking fashion, after originally falling down 2-0 and rallying to tie the series 2-2.
2007-08- Beat the Devils in five games in the first round of the playoffs and crapped the bed against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round after taking a 3-0 lead in game one.
2008-09- Lost in the first round of the playoffs to Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals after taking a 3-1 series lead on them.
2009-10- Lost to the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in a shootout in Game 82 in which the winner is assured of a playoff berth.