Sidney Crosby Is No Longer Playing Like “The Kid”

Sidney Crosby used to be called “Sid the Kid” when he came into the NHL, now it’s time to find him a new moniker.  Whether it’s “Sid the Adult” or “Sid the Grown-up” I’m not sure.  Neither one sound as good nor do they rhyme, but they both fit the transformation that the Pittsburgh Penguins captain has undergone since he entered the league in 2005.

He’s changed his game on the ice with his scoring touch, his ability to see teammates and read the game.  Unlike some players, as he has aged his mentality has too.  Never has this been more evident than in Game Two of the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals against the San Jose Sharks.

As we all know, Crosby has a history of concussions (2) and Joe Thornton obviously is aware of this and was trying to get after him.  Late in the second period of Game Two with the Sharks already down 1-0, Thornton was pinned against the boards by Crosby and passed the puck out.  After the puck leaves, Crosby kept Thornton next to the glass for a couple of extra seconds just as a “hey how ya doin’?”  Thornton took exception/tried to egg on Crosby.  With a quick left uppercut, off came Crosby’s helmet as the Penguins captain skated away only to be cross-checked in the back.  As soon as the whistle blew a few seconds later, Crosby asked the ref, who was only a few feet away, if he saw the jumbo Sharks player give the Pens center the business.  Crosby, as you can imagine, did not retaliate.

Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan has come into this Penguins team and preached turning the other cheek. When things haven’t gone their way in the past they have acted out.  We saw Kris Letang lose his cool in the Washington Capitals series and take it out on Caps forward Marcus Johansson after Capitals’ head coach Barry Trotz had called on the refs to watch out for the Pens because he felt they were getting away with everything.  As you may recall, that earned Letang a one game suspension and could have flipped the series in the Caps’ favor.  If Letang didn’t learn his lesson there, he could have learned it in Game 4 of the Tampa Bay series when he shot the puck after the whistle and it hit Jonathan Drouin.  Tampa Bay’s Brad Boyle tried to come in and re-arrange Letang’s face before the linesmen and refs stepped in.

However in the Finals it seems that either Sullivan and/or Crosby have changed the mentality of the team.  You can try to get after this team but they aren’t taking the bait.  In fact part of the problem is that San Jose is having a hard time catching this team.  It’s enough for San Jose to keep the puck out of their own zone and keep possession much less control it in the offensive end of the zone.  Watching Crosby keep his cool as Thornton beat on his head showed the determination and grit that this team has had since Sullivan took over.  Yes, they are undersized and they may be young but what they lack in some areas they are making up for in heart, speed and the all out will to win.  Whether you think that Crosby is over-rated or not, it doesn’t matter, he’s playing the best hockey of his career and if he continues he’s going to lead a group of rookies and speedy talented players with a take-no-prisoners coach to hockey’s ultimate prize.  All because he figured out that he can’t play a kid’s game anymore, it’s time to play like an adult.

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So Long Coach Brophy,You’ll Be Missed

Former Toronto Maple Leafs coach John Brophy passed away on Monday, May 23, 2016 in his native province of Nova Scotia.  He had been living for some time in a retirement community in North Grant, Nova Scotia just outside of Antigonish where he was born on January 20, 1933.  The former coach had spoken with a Canadian newspaper in January of 2015 about his experiences in coaching with the emphasis on his 1,000+ victories and even though some of the details were fuzzy he still had his with about him.  He won his 1000th victory with the Wheeling Nailers of the East Coast Hockey League.  Coach Brophy has more wins in professional hockey than record holder Scotty Bowman.

He still talked about the fights.  Those fights made him famous, not only as a coach but legend has it as Reggie Dunlop the movie character in Slap Shot.  Brophy was a hard-nosed hockey player who spent 20 years playing in the minor leagues of hockey spending most of his time engaging in brawls that sometimes entered the stands.  According to one site, Brophy even entered the stands to hit one fan who spit on Brophy, took the butt end of the stick to the fan’s teeth and instructed him to “now spit motherfucker!”

My memories of Brophy come from his experience at Toronto and of course the Hampton Roads Admirals, who made fighting an art form.  During Brophy’s tenure with the Admirals as head coach, 11 years, they won 3 East Coast Hockey League Championships.  The amazing thing is that they did it with toughness, grit and by beating the crap out of anyone who got in their way.  The Admirals won fans in the Hampton Roads area by bringing the type of game that was purely out of Slap Shot.  The Hanson brothers would have been proud.  I’m convinced that is why I love Slap Shot as much as I do, other than the fact it’s absolutely hilarious.

In the second year of the Admirals back-to-back championships they featured goalies Byron Dafoe and Olaf Kolzig, both of whom would go on to fight as members of the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals respectively.  During the game they fought in, everyone on the ice was involved in a brawl. One of the most captivating line brawls that I’ve ever seen. One can only imagine they learned how to drop the gloves from Brophy himself.

Brophy was a proud man who wanted his team to be strong and be capable of standing up for themselves and their teammates.  He wanted them not to take any crap from anyone, show up for work every day and play hard.  He made tough guys like Val James and Zenon Konopka tougher.  He was extremely proud of what he did and all the wins notched.

I’ll never forget sitting in the Norfolk Scope behind the glass watching the Admirals.  I’m pretty that little short guy who was sandwiched between two large Admiral players getting his ass beat will never forget it either, although he probably won’t forget the kid staring wide-eyed at him from the first row.  Welcome to hockey kid.  Welcome to hockey indeed.  Thanks Coach Brophy for introducing me to the game, I’ll never forget all the lessons you’ve taught me.

 

Looking Forward To The NHL’s Awards

I know it’s early and we are still 12 days away from the end of the regular season but it’s just about the time to look at who should win the NHL’s regular season awards.  There are a few we may not truly be able to know until the end but that’s part of the fun!  We will start with one of the ones I think is pretty much wrapped up.

*stats as of 3/29/16

Vezina Trophy

Braden Holtby      (2.17 Goals Against Average, .923 Save %, 46 wins)
Henrik Lundqvist (2.41 GAA, .922 SV %, 33 wins)
Ben Bishop             (2.02 GAA, .928 SV%, 33 wins)
Honorable mention: Corey Crawford, Cory Schneider

For me, no one has been more impressive between the pipes than Holtby because he has backstopped a team that has ratcheted up the pressure on the rest of the NHL to the tune of an NHL leading 54 wins and a guaranteed President’s Trophy.  Holtby has won 46 of those 54 games and proven to be a workhorse for the Capitals on their run to what they hope is a Cup winning season.  While they are a well built team, I think they are built from the goalie position on.  Last year’s playoff performance by Holtby was his coming out party and I think he is showing what he is made of.  He played in 13 games last year posting a 1.71 GAA and .944 SV%, winning 6 of the 13 games before the Caps bowed out to the New York Rangers in the 7th game.

As for the Rangers, Lundqvist has held them in the playoff race on his back alone. Once again they’ve built a team designed to win around Hank.  The Rangers leading scorer Derek Brassard has 57 points (27 goals -30 assists) and isn’t even in the 20 in points or the top 20 in goals (26).  If the Rangers expect to beat the Capitals in the Eastern Conference they’ll have to rely on defense and Lundqvist.
Quietly Ben Bishop has powered the Tampa Bay Lightning to 93 points and a tie with Florida atop the Atlantic division.  While we’ve heard about Florida’s resurgence, the Lightning have quietly come on thanks in large part to Bishop’s play in net.  As long as he continues to play strong he’ll have a chance to take that top spot in the Atlantic.

The Corey-Cory tandem both have played well and it was hard to keep them off the board but the top three candidates couldn’t be overlooked.  Crawford has kept the Hawks in many games but the offense in front of him has overshadowed his work many times.  I don’t believe he’s the top tier goal like the other three.  Schneider is a top tier goaltender but he’s been hurt by New Jersey’s lack of depth.  Once the Devils get the pieces in place, they have a great goalkeeper in place to get them where they want to be.

Calder Trophy

Artemi Panarin
Jack Eichel
Shayne Gostisbehere
Honorable mention: Max Domi

Some may question the fact that Panarin is 24 and played for 6 years in the Russian KHL before coming over to the NHL.  By the NHL standards however, Panarin is a rookie and stands to win the Calder hands down with 64 points, which is good for 17th in the league, the best by a rookie.  

Eichel is at 50 and Gostisbehere, the Flyers’ D-man, has 42 points for a team that is gunning for the playoffs as best they can.  Eichel has looked good for the Sabres, a good runner-up prize for the team that missed out on “can’t miss” prospect Connor McDavid that Edmonton took with the first overall pick.

Meanwhile Max Domi has shown flashes of brilliance in his time in a Coyotes sweater, even scoring on his father, Tie’s old team Toronto this year as he has amassed 48 points.

Norris Trophy

Erik Karlsson
Erik Karlsson
Erik Karlsson….

no seriously…..

Erik Karlsson
Drew Doughty
Brent Burns
Honorable mention: P.K. Subban

Erik Karlsson has been a revelation once again in Ottawa.  A defenseman leading the league in assists?  Yup that’s him.  The gold standard of offensive defenseman.  But he’s always on the ice for his team, 30 minutes plus 30 or more times this year.  Karlsson has 62 assists and it is the most by a defenseman since Nicklas Lidstrom in the 2007-2008 season when he had 60.  He won the Norris that year.

Doughty has played well on the blueline for the Kings.  He’s been one of the reasons that the Kings have performed so well and are contenders for the Cup.  Burns has been a point producer as well.  But both can’t really come close to what is Karlsson’s best and arguably magical season even though the Sens won’t make the playoffs it is an individual award and he has played the best season for a D-man.

P.K. has had some missed games due to injuries although he has brought his offensive game to the Canadiens this year.  When he’s come to the rink he’s been explosive.  He’s been physical and solid.  The team has struggled because of lack of depth and that has affected his numbers but I still see that Norris trophy D-man on the ice.  Not as good as the other three but he’s up there.

Hart Trophy

Patrick Kane
Sidney Crosby
Johnny Gaudreau
Honorable mention: Erik Karlsson, Henrik Lundqvist

Patrick Kane is the guy that checks all the boxes here, leader in points, second in goals, second in assists and plays on one of the NHL’s best teams.  But I’m struggling with this decision.  This is the one that I have a hard time with.  Do I think the Blackhawks would win without him?  No.  But do I think the Penguins win without Crosby?  No way.

In fact the Penguins have been a way different team in 2016 then in 2015.  On January 2, 2016 before facing the New York Islanders, the Penguins sat on 40 points – good for 10th in the Eastern Conference and 5th in the Metropolitan Division.  Now they are at 92 points, 3rd in the Metropolitan and 5th in the Conference, a hell of a swing in three months.

As for Gaudreau, the Flames would have struggled without his 28 goals and 45 assists. Johnny Hockey put the Calgary team on his back this year and even though they won’t make the playoffs, there is no doubt in my mind, this young lad is going to make this team a contender as long they continue to put complementary pieces around him.

As for my honorable mentions, I believe Karlsson will win the Norris and that speaks for itself, as well as Lundqvist’s play in net for the Rangers.

Selke Trophy

Patrice Bergeron

I can’t really throw anyone else in the mix because as long as he’s playing this is pretty much Bergeron’s trophy to lose.  Bergeron does everything you want a forward to do.  He wins faceoffs, kills penalties, back checks and is one of the best all around forwards.  His play is so good he makes everyone around him look good.

But if you are inclined, I’ll give you two names that could be included in the runner up spot:

Anze Kopitar
Sidney Crosby

You happy?  It still should be renamed the Bergeron trophy.  For as long as he’s playing, it will be his.

Adams Trophy

Mike Sullivan
Mike Babcock
Barry Trotz

This one should be a lot easier than it was.  But Mike Sullivan was gifted a talented team, the same that former Penguins coach Mike Johnston couldn’t get to produce.  On December 12, 2015 the Penguins introduced Mike Sullivan as coach and begin to see results.  As I stated above they are now knocking on the upper echelons of the Eastern Conference and this is thanks to Mike Sullivan who produced in Wilkes-Barre Scranton with the “Baby Pens.”  Many of his players there were brought up and have continued to produce in his system.  It’s worked well for him and I think it’s shown what a good coach can do with hard work and players that believe in a system.  You don’t always have to have the Kanes and the Karlssons to win.

Speaking of not having talent, Mike Babcock has done wonders with a Toronto Maple Leafs team that has stripped down the organization’s foundation to the core.  Babcock has worked well with the younger players brought up from the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and the Leafs have seen a resurgence not only on the ice but with the fan base as well.  It has given a once proud team reason to look to the future again.

Barry Trotz was given the keys to a Ferrari this year.  He was expected to drive the Ferrari as fast and as far as he could.  He has done that.  But he has also exceeded expectations.  Trotz has been able to guide the team through the ups and downs of the regular season without too much drama and changed the culture of the organization in two seasons.  He should have been nominated for this award last season.  Unfortunately I don’t see him winning it this year either.

Who do you think will win?

 

 

 

So You Think You Have The Confidence of Carey Price?

It’s ironic that Montreal Canadiens’ goalie Carey Price made me reflect on hockey.  An injury to the franchise player on November 25, 2016 was initially thought to be just a “week or two” thing.  Price hasn’t seen a game since that day and isn’t sure he will before the end of the season or the playoffs, if the Canadiens make it – things aren’t looking good for him or the team.

Skate backwards twenty-plus-years to when I played roller hockey in the sunny Southern states with a group of loyal compatriots and thought that I was pretty good at what I was doing.  I could go side-to-side, change direction in a flash, skate backwards, I could go pretty fast and I damn sure wasn’t afraid to stop on a dime.  There was also the roller hockey side – I could dish, I could put the puck where I had to (ok, the roller hockey ball). I was also “that kid” out there with the ice hockey gloves, yeah I know, but I went to Pennsylvania for a wedding and made my dad go to a hockey store. Hell I even played goalie pretty damn well – my one memory is stopping a penalty shot by using my forehead to block the ball.

We weren’t organized and didn’t put money into much, just sticks and the ball when we could.  We didn’t care about wearing masks and this was before Bryan Berard  and Marc Staal had eye injuries (sorry guys!).  We didn’t know any better either, we just did it for the typical “love of the game.”

We didn’t have any ice either – the NHL was just realizing that Northern “snowbirds” were screaming for hockey in Florida so they were installing two franchises in Tampa Bay and Miami.  A kid we went to school with, thought he was going pro (we might have been a little jealous), toted around a hockey stick and ice skates because he went to a rink that was an hour and a half away to play ice hockey. None of us could afford to either drive that far away or buy all that ice hockey equipment, nor would our parents take us.  Okay we were a lot jealous.

We did have a local hockey team in the East Coast Hockey League, the Hampton Roads Admirals, that our pro ice hockey kid learned from.  That’s where I learned my love of ice hockey, that and our local cable channel Home Team Sports that showed almost every Washington Capitals game.  Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin taught me a lot about the game because they were the only ones I had to learn from.

Locally the Admirals were coached by John Brophy, the same John Brophy who melted down on the bench of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 80’s.  Good times.  He did his fair share of melting down in the ECHL.  It was quite comical.

But we played probably ten games max of roller hockey at a tennis court on the edge of town.  A nice barely used tennis court, well-lit and out of the way but the Southern sun made it ridiculous to use during the day, so we played at night.

Until one summer night when some guys came out of nowhere with trouble on their mind.  I’ll tell you, there wasn’t much to me – 5-foot-10, 150 pounds max with skates on.  It was probably 9 or 9:30 at night and we had the lights on skating and I notice them, that’s always been something that I was good at was noticing my surroundings, and I noticed these guys coming up that obviously did not have skates.  One goes up to the breaker box for the lights and I’m planning my exit the whole time.  No one else had any clue what was about to go on.  Lights go out and I’m gone like the Russian Rocket.  I don’t know if I’ve ever skated or ran faster in my life.  Ten minutes later it was over and we hauled ass out of there never to return.

We still wanted to play and we tried to play at the tennis courts at the high school in town but the one night we tried someone called the cops on us – citing the trespassing sign.  I got tossed in the back of a cop car with skates still on my feet along with my fellow hockey players.  Imagine that, instead of bringing drugs or weapons to school we were playing hockey on the tennis courts!  Priorities.

After that, the most roller hockey I played was in my driveway with a goal I built from two-by -fours and a net I bought at a sporting goods store.  I skated so many times in the same circle that I wore the wheels down on an angle and I worked on a slap shot that broke the window of my parent’s garage door at least twice.  But I had nowhere else to go “for the love of the game.”

Finnish flash twenty-plus-years to Carey Price, “I want to be out there playing the game I love.”  Price continued, “that’s been the goal this entire time, to be able to come back with 100 per cent confidence, I didn’t want to come back at 90 per cent and still have that mentally kind of shadow overcast. We wanted to come back and make sure that I can compete at 100 per cent and lay it all out there because if you still have that mental block, you can’t play at your best.”

I followed hockey for those 20 plus years, even though I was introduced to hockey by the Admirals and Capitals (and early 80’s with Macgyver’s Calgary Flames hat) I was always a Toronto Maple Leafs fan.  Being a Buffalo Bills fan I guess it’s something about the area – or maybe it’s something about lovable losers, I can say it I’m a fan.  I wrote Doug Gilmour when he was at the Leafs and was sent back an autographed picture.  I still have it to this day.  I always admired the goalies, don’t ask me why but Jocelyn Thibault has always been my favorite player (I’m ducking – I know I know but Felix Potvin was never far behind).  These days Henrik Lundqvist gets the nod, and I support Jayson Megna since I’ve seen him skate at Wilkes-Barre Scranton.  Which brings me full circle.

So after seeing hockey live, I decided maybe it was time to get back on ice skates and roller blades and see what I could do.  Looking up ice rinks it turned out that the one near Wilkes-Barre Scranton was the closest one.  My daughter wanted to skate too, at 10 years old she decided it was time for her to learn to play hockey.  Ice hockey.  So now, we’re both learning.  We both have to learn to skate – I have to “re-learn” and she has to start the process.  For me, it’s getting back and believing in myself, that I can do it.  For her, it’s believing that her skates won’t fail her, that she can stay balanced. Carey Price talked about it, the confidence – you have to have it.

There’s something about that rink, along with the smell of the ice – you know?  You look at it and first maybe you are thinking “ok it’s not so bad, all these guys and girls are doing it.”  But then you step on it and you fall.  Then you fall again.  When you are a kid it’s not a big deal you have all these years ahead to learn.  But as an adult you are thinking “I should know how to do this,” especially if when you are younger you knew how to roller blade like a champ.  But this is so different.  The ice will eat you up.  There’s nothing like getting on that ice.  It’s so intimidating.  Especially if you see other people out there skating with sticks and pucks and they make it look so damn easy.

Guys or girls your age or younger.  I skated from one side to the other and considered it an achievement until I saw a young lady skate backwards faster than I skated forward.  How the hell do you do that?  And don’t get me started on bending my knees.  How do I stay so bent?  And puck handling?  Try to shoot the puck and fall on your face.  It’s ridiculous.  I just feel like a failure.  Then I watch someone else zing them in.  Then I try to pick myself up the ice and slip again.  It’s a natural thing isn’t it?

Or go watch the NHL and they make it look so easy and get paid half as much as baseball players.  Hell, that’s not right.  I’ll never complain about a hockey player being terrible.  I’m terrible.  Don’t pay me.  Pay me to stay off the ice.  I’m awful.  They say you just have to keep going back and training and training.  I get how people with so much talent wash out now.  I understand.  If you lose confidence it’s going to eat you up.  It’s tough.  I gotta get back on the skates – I think?

*Results May Vary

*Results May Vary

I wonder after Game 7 between the Rangers and the Caps, when Ovechkin guaranteed that Washington would “come back and win the series,” if he was trying to motivate his team or he really felt like they were going to win.  Game 7 was set to be his prophetic stage to show the world that “Hey look I’m right!”  Game 7 was set to be his leadership moment, the time when he finally breaks out and steps up to the plate and leads his team out of the second round of the playoffs.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned to appreciate Ovi and respect his talents this year.  Seeing him in the Islander series I thought he finally found his way and came around to being a better team player.  It felt like he was finally living up to the “C” that is stitched into his jersey.  When he first came into the league, I struggled to see his leadership qualities because it always seemed like he was a “me first” player whether that was unfair justification or not I’m not sure.

Unfortunately for Ovi and the Caps it wasn’t meant to be, however for the Rangers and Ranger fans, Lundqvist continues to own Game 7s in the Garden and he continues to play well between the pipes.  That’s not to say that Ovi didn’t play well, plus Braden Holtby played a whale of a game and Barry Trotz coached a hell of a game, but the Rangers weathered everything that the Caps threw at them and took every punch until they caught the Caps sleeping in overtime.

I have a hard time with some sports breaking down plays.  Normally in football I can watch it and see where someone is running and understand where the coverage went and I can break it down pretty quickly as it is going on even as it is live.  You kinda see it unfold.  You kinda get it.  Maybe it’s just me from watching it so quickly as a kid.  Maybe it’s from growing up watching it.  I ate, slept and pretty much did everything football as a kid, so it’s in my blood.  But when it comes to hockey and I watch it, I don’t see the plays.  I heard the announcers last night talk about the Rangers having plays off the face-off and kinda scratched my head, and in full disclosure here, I missed quite a few of them.  But that’s what makes them pros and me a dumb writer on a blog.

Watching the faceoff to the scoring of Derek Stepan’s goal in the OT of Game 7, I slowed it down and broke it down in my head trying to put it together to figure out how difficult it must be to script these things.  But you know it’s probably just like football when you never really know if the play is gonna work until you try it.  Seeing Jasper Fast pass the puck back to Yandle who throws it to Girardi with a quick shot on Holtby and the rebounds comes out to Stepan and in watching the replay it seems like he’s so wide open but yet he has so much time on his own to find the open net.  I can’t imagine being in that situation, a wide open net like that with so much time, the nerves going in Game 7.  It feels like I’d probably shoot it at Holtby.  But Stepan didn’t and the Rangers made the Caps pay.

That’s what this game is about, making the other team pay when they make a mistake.  The Caps didn’t cover Stepan on the rebound and he made them pay.  The Rangers made some mistakes, they let Ovi skate with the puck across the zone in the first period to beat Lundqvist on his glove side, they committed some bad penalties and turned the puck over too many times, but Washington couldn’t make them pay enough times.  The good teams will time in and time out make you pay.  Washington couldn’t finish out the series because they just couldn’t make the Rangers pay enough times.  The last three games the Rangers kept hammering away at Holtby and they kept making the Caps at crucial times.  This Rangers team still has that core that went to the Stanley Cup Finals last year and you can see that in the way that they play.

The one thing I think that Ovi is going to learn from all this is that guarantees are great, but it takes the whole team to buy in.  Sports is such a hit and miss thing.  You can have a great team and that team can be felled at any time.  The puck can bounce the wrong way or someone can do something dumb and the whole thing can fall apart.  It’s great to be confident, but it’s another thing to be over confident and when you become over confident you can run your mouth and inspire the other team.  Maybe if he gets into this situation next year he can keep his guarantees to himself.

Guarantees*

Side effects may include: Over confidence, inflated ego, self-importance, lack of focus.

Use as directed.

*Results may vary.

Capital Punishment

I seriously am getting tired of being the one to say it but Alex Ovechkin is turning into that guy that can lead his team to a Stanley Cup.  I’m certain that you know he’s won a multitude of personal awards when it comes to scoring and points but it’s that giant silver Cup that has always eluded him.  After watching him and the Washington Caps in Game Three of their series against the NY Rangers I have to believe that they have a chance to make some major advances toward that chalice.  

To be completely fair I am a Rangers fan, so I’m a bit biased but it’s hard not to give credit to Washington after their 1-0 win.  They pounded the Rangers on the boards.  Yes the Rangers are a faster team but if you can’t use your speed and are forced to play someone else’s game you will struggle, and struggle the Rangers did.

It’s said that to win in the playoffs you need to score goals, have good goaltending and get the lucky bounce, right now the Rangers are only getting one of three.  Lundqvist is giving them a chance and bailing them out of as many situations as he can but they got to stop making terrible turnovers.  Keith Yandle was supposed to help the power play, it doesn’t seem like he’s done that in the playoffs, this power play was terrible tonight.  In fact Yandle made a terrible turnover behind the Rangers’ net that almost led to a Caps goal if not for the work of Lundqvist to keep out the shot.

Dan Boyle has played well this year but in Game One of the series he gave the puck away in the dying moments of the game that led to Joel Ward’s game winning goal to suck the air out of the Garden.  He has been less than stellar for sure in this series.  Rick Nash’s magnificent season seems to be overshadowed by the fact that I can’t find him on the ice.  Inconsistency is killing this team, turnovers are killing this team, being unable to convert on the power play is killing the team, hell its so bad that Jasper Fast started on the wing in Game Three.  What is a coach to do?  

My guess is to shake things up as best as you can.  Push things back somewhat to basics however the Rangers are kinda against it right now because Ovechkin has his team flying and they’ve bought in to what Barry Trotz is selling.  Not only that but Holtby is keeping his net clean along with the fact that the Rangers aren’t making him work.  They are doing it to themselves.  For a team that is a season removed from the Stanley Cup finals it’s time to wake up and smell the Sabrett water.  I can’t stress it enough, overlook Ovechkin now at your peril, he’s bought in, he’s bringing capital punishment.

The Garden Of Nightmares?

On a night when questions about the futures of some of the best athletes in college football were answer in the NFL first round draft, the Rangers opened the door to some questions of their own.

Did the layoff hurt them?  Did it help the Caps?  Is Lundqvist struggling to regain his focus?  Where is the offense?  What happened to the Rangers who won the President’s trophy?

It could be possible that the time off hurt the Rangers coming into this game.  Maybe because they had more time to relax they lost an edge compared to Washington who is still in the game rhythm.  Sometimes that time off tends to back fire because you get out of that typical pattern and there is an adjustment phase.  Plus the Caps are coming off an extremely emotional win in D.C. over the Islanders in a Game Seven that they played extremely well in.  Ovechkin seems to have found himself in the latter stages of that series and Holtby came on after starting slowly.

After Lundqvist spent most of the past couple of months getting back on the ice you have to wonder if he’s still trying to find that playoff form.  Granted he’s rested but that sharpness may not be there at times, although the Rangers seemed to have left him out to dry a couple of times and he bailed them out.  The game winning goal at the end of the third period though probably should have been stopped and you have to wonder if it was a matter of focus?  

Speaking of focus, the focus should be on the power play, a power play that was supposed to have improved at the trade deadline with the addition of Keith Yandle but has yet to really make anyone pay the price here in the playoffs.  Even Rick Nash seems to be missing the net, setting that seemed difficult for him to do during the regular season.  With Zucc out now it’s going to be even more important for the power play and the top line to come through, someone is going to have to step up and make a huge contribution.  Holtby is beatable, in the Game Seven he let through a crappy shot that should have never scored, there’s no reason the Rangers should not be driving the net and putting pucks on net and scoring.  This isn’t the team that won the President’s trophy, we all saw that in the Penguins series.  I know playoff hockey gets tight but these aren’t the same Rangers, they look like they are the Jr Rangers.  Maybe Coach can shake them after the loss, someone has to because if Washington gets on a roll they are going to be tough to stop.  

I know it’s only Game One but there are some alarms going off and they need to be going off.  Issues need to be addressed and the Rangers better get to them now or else they are going to find themselves 2-0 headed to Washington in a hurry.