So let us get to the good highlights of the evening; The Thrashers lost so the magic number has been lowered to 3. Gee that one was real quick to write up. We will be back on Saturday with the prospect report.
OK so I was kidding about not wanting to write about this 4-1 loss to the Sens. It is bad enough fighting the flu but boy matters can get worse when you spend time watching a Ranger team get taken to school in every area of hockey BUT goaltending.
Prior to the start of the game one had to think that the Rangers actually had a chance on the road against a Senator team missing 3 of their best defensemen and no Hasek in goal. Talk about being really wrong.
From the drop of the first puck the Senators were a step quicker, a tad smarter with their play but really even missing those players could not put the Rangers away mainly because of the efforts by HenriK Lundqvist.
It was a frustrating game to watch as we got to see the Rangers dig their own grave for this game by taking some very dumb penalties (although a case can also be made that the refs did help by callings some suspect ones as well).
I could spend time rehashing all the calls but why bother? The Rangers hurt themselves the most tonight giving the 3rd best PP (1st at home) in the NHL not one but two 5 on 3s in the first period. There is a reason why the Sens are the best in the Eastern Conference as they took full advantage of both 5 on 3s, first Chris Neal scoring when both Rozsival and Tjutin were in the box and then Patrick Eaves scored while the Rangers were technically 3 men down as Sykora, Rozsival (AGAIN) and Poti were in the box.
On the second goal Danny Heatley did the Rangers a huge favor by taking a penalty after the goal was scored sparing the Rangers any further damage on those 5 on 3s. In fact it turned what should have been a Sen PP into a 4 on 4 and that led to Fedor Tjutin's 6Th goal. Tjutin's goal was a beauty a strong backhand that was lifted over Sen goalie Ray Emery but also give credit to Jagr for making the play happen with a smart pass of his own.
The Tjutin goal cut the Sen lead to 2-1 and it allowed the Rangers to escape a badly played period only down 2-1. The Sens (thanks to all those PPs) outshot the Rangers 20-8 in the first. In the second period the Rangers looked better but really never were a challenge to the Sens despite outshooting them 10-4.
The Senator's defense kept the Rangers for the most part to the outside rarely did the Rangers get in close to challenge Emery as they settled for perimeter shots. Credit the Sens as well for keeping Andrej Meszaros on Jagr just about every time Jagr stepped out on the ice. It was frustrating to watch the Rangers continuing to try to finesse their way into the offensive zone while the Senators were responding by punishing the Rangers with bodychecks.
One night after being perhaps the Rangers hardest working line on the ice, the Betts/Ward/Orr line became the least used. I will not buy the "Orr took a dumb penalty" nonsense as why because then it opens the door to the question: Why wasn't Rozsival sitting for his bad penalties?
Really Orr took one dumb one while Rosy took 2 for sure with his 3rd one perhaps a suspect call. Either way it became clear that even Sam and JD knew the game was over when Danny Heatley scored his 43rd goal on the power play (Ozolinsh was in the box at the time) to make it 3-1.
Once the score became 3-1 then the mantra became "Rangers played 12 games in 20 days" and it seemed as if that every play the Sens made was the mantra used to explain why the Rangers made a bad play.
The only problem with the "12 in 20" is that Renney gave Jagr more ice time than everyone but Ozolinsh. If the Rangers were so tired then why wasn't the ice time more evenly spread out to keep fresh legs on the ice?
The Sens then added a 4Th goal in the 3rd by Peter Schaefer and for a change it happened when both teams were at even strength. The 3rd period appeared to be played at a "time to get out of here" pace and for the Rangers it was a disappointing night following such a strong win against the Islanders.
IF the Rangers want to be taken seriously as a legit playoff contender then they are going to have show the rest of the NHL that they can follow up a good win with a second good win in the very next game. They still after 74 games have not learned that lesson.
More so is that now instead of being in the driver's seat for first place they have opened a door for the Flyers to take charge and in turn force the Rangers into the hunter role instead of the hunted. The Flyers will have 2 games to catch the Rangers before the teams meet on April 4Th. IF the Flyer's do in fact win both of their games then they will pass the Rangers by virtual of having one more win.
The Rangers will make the playoffs but they might regret losses like tonights when they see how they are seeded.
There was some prospect news and games tonight as well. Lauri Korpikoski (1st 04) and Dane Byers (2ND 04) are expected to joined Hartford for their playoff push. Both players are expected to sign what is called PTO contracts (Professional Tryout). In all honesty neither player had what one could call strong seasons.
Korpikoski scored all of 3 goals for TPS Turku in 51 games. I saw him in the WJCs and he struggled there as well. I have some serious questions as to whether he is ready for North America at this time.
Dane Byers on the other hand had decent numbers but flags were raised about him when his Prince Albert team fell out of playoff contention very early in 06. To be fair to the prospect I had not seen him in person since Dec and MY look at him was very positive.
The Byers I know from firsthand looks is mainly a defensive specialist. He plays a physical game and will not back down from anyone at all. He is smart hard working player who was stuck on a very poorly built Prince Albert team. I don't however see him as anything more than a checking forward or 4Th liner in terms of potential.
As for those prospects still playing
In the QJMHL, Jonathan Paiement had an assist and teammate Marc-Andre Cliche was scoreless as their Lewiston MAINEiaces fell to Halifax 5-3 and a 2-2 tie in their series.
In the OHL, Tom Pyatt scored his 1st goal of the playoffs and added an assist but it was too little too late as his Saginaw Spirit still were swept out by Ryan Callahan's Guelph Storm 4-3. Callahan the Storm Captain missed the game and we will bring you word as to why when we find out.
In the WHL, Brodie Dupont had a goal as his Calgary Hitmen held off the Lethbridge Hurricanes 2-1 to tie their series at 2 games apiece.