Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Rangers Fall To Devils 4-3 In Shootout Thanks To Unlucky Bounce

The Rangers lost to the Devils 4-3 in a shootout tonight after David Clarkson tied the game with under a minute left in the third period off of a fortuitous bounce of the puck off the end boards that gave him the puck alone in front of Marty Biron. For whatever reason, the boards were lively all night long and pucks were taking bizarre bounces left and right, but it's this one that will gain the most attention.

The Devils shot the puck in the Rangers zone from the neutral zone while going for a line change and instead of the puck going around the boards like it does 99.9999% of the time, it somehow hit part of the door where the zamboni comes out of and went straight across to the front of the Rangers net where David Clarkson was waiting alone. Give Clarkson credit for going hard to the net and being ready for anything - it's just a tough way to lose since the Rangers had the lead on three different occasions in this game.

Make no mistake about it, though - bad bounce or no bad bounce, this wasn't Marty Biron's best night in goal by a long shot. The first goal he gave up to Zach Parise was a bad angle shot that went top shelf on Biron. Give all the credit in the world to Parise for getting off a perfect shot, but it's still a save Marty Biron would say he has to make. The second goal of the game (more on that in a second) was a shot that went glove high from Ilya Kovalchuk that, again, was a perfect shot but was a shot I thought Biron could've stopped if he was at his sharpest. The third goal you can't fault on Biron at all, obviously, since he thinks the puck is going around the boards and a tenth of a second later he's facing David Clarkson one-on-one in the front of his net and gets caught totally off guard. But Kovalchuk's game winning shootout goal was what I thought was the worst. Yes, the Rangers didn't score in the shootout anyway, so it's all for naught, but the goal he gave up to Kovalchuk was just awful. Biron got beat five-hole and barely moved, almost waiting out Kovalchuk for a move that never came.

This loss doesn't fault solely on Marty - in fact, he came up with several big saves in the game that could've easily been goals - but I can't help but think this game would've had a different outcome if Henrik Lundqvist was in goal for the Rangers. It doesn't matter now, but I personally would've started Lundqvist today and Biron tomorrow night if I was John Tortorella. But that's why he's the head coach and I'm just a blogger.

Back to the second goal. If you have a chance to watch it it's probably the laziest and the worst play you've ever seen (and hopefully ever will) see Ryan Callahan make in his entire career. After giving the puck away in the neutral zone while trying to drive to the net with the puck short-handed rather than just dumping it in deep, it created an odd man rush for the Devils that went the other way. Callahan made very little effort to get back and if he was backchecking full-speed like he normally does, chances are good that Ilya Kovalchuk doesn't score that goal. It was just an ugly play from Callahan and I really couldn't believe what I was seeing considering Cally is the complete polar opposite of lazy.

Some other thoughts of mine from the game:

- I thought Marian Gaborik was flying all night long (what else is new) and made several great plays on the night that created offensive chances. He only had two shots on goal, but Anton Stralman's goal came off a juicy rebound off of one of Gaby's shots and Michael Del Zotto's goal came off a cross ice pass that I still have no idea how Gaborik got through. It was really just a sick pass that's worth checking out.

- I didn't think Martin Brodeur was very good in net at all. He looked very shaky in goal and was flopping all over the place, which actually came back to bite him on Brian Boyle's goal, when a Rangers player finally (!!!) lifted the puck over Brodeur rather than shooting it directly into him while he was laying flat on the ice. Brodeur is obviously not the same goalie he was even five years ago, and he's not nearly as agile as he used to be when he was able to stand on his head during those rock-solid defensive Devils teams during their Cup runs. It's like the Devils now need to find ways to win in spite of Brodeur's play rather than because of it.

- Derek Stepan almost had an unbelievably beautiful goal in overtime that he just wasn't able to finish on. After deeking his way through Devils players, Stepan went wide of Brodeur to almost behind the net, brought the puck back to the front of the net, and just missed tucking it in for the game-winner. The puck instead sailed across the goal-line and the rest is history. As Sam Rosen said during the broadcast, if the blade on Derek Stepan's stick was curved just a little bit more the game would've been over.

- The Brandon Dubinsky-Brad Richards-Ryan Callahan line was also noticeable and worked hard all night long, but man, oh man these guys just can't buy a goal. They've done everything they possibly can while playing together except score consistently. It seems like Dubinsky's offensive woes have caught onto Richards since they've been playing on a line together. You'd think they would have more goals with how well this line consistently plays game in and game out, but they just haven't. It may be time for Torts to shake things up by breaking this line up just for the sake of change if nothing else.

You can read the boxscore from the game here.

The Rangers are back in action tomorrow night against the Sabres in Buffalo, where Henrik Lundqvist, presumably, will get the start in goal.

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