AFTER LOSS TO CAPS, RANGERS ON BRINK OF ELIMINATION THANKS TO SEAN AVERY, JOHN TORTORELLA AND, BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THE KING

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

      

The Rangers would have had trouble beating the Caps, even with a 3-1 lead in games, before Sean Avery lost his mind and then, John Tortorella lost his mind.  But once these two things happened (the former no surprise, the latter mind-boggling), the Rangers put themselves in a big hole.  It’s not the Knicks of the late ‘90s, who stupidly threw away a series to the Miami Heat by having half the team suspended over a look-at-me fight.  But, if they lose Game 7 in Washington (a more probable occurrence than not), that might be the comparison (right or wrong) that you will read about on Wednesday.

    

SEAN AVERY LOSES HIS MIND

     

You can’t be surprised that Sean Avery lost his mind at the end of the Rangers’ Game 4 victory which gave them a 3-1 lead.  Avery certainly has helped the Rangers in his second go-round in New York.  But he’s often a stupid penalty waiting to happen and he did it not once but twice while the Rangers desperately tried to hold on to a one-goal lead.  They succeeded despite two idiotic penalties by Avery.

    

So the Rangers got away with one and certainly, on balance, no matter what you think of Avery, he’s generally been a plus. 

      

JOHN TORTORELLA LOSES HIS MIND, PART I

     

So what would head coach John Tortorella do in the wake of Sean Avery’s lunacy?  He’d yell at him, right?  He’d fine him, right?  He’d say something like you have to take the bad with the good when it comes to Sean Avery, right?  Maybe he’d even take a little playing time away from him, you know, to make a point, right?

    

Well, not exactly.  Tortorella decided to make an example of Avery or show him who the boss is or treat him like he was a bad kid in high school and benched him for Game 5.  The Rangers, of course, came out flatter than a pancake and were non-competitive in a bad Game 5 loss.  Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

        

JOHN TORTORELLA LOSES HIS MIND, PART II

     

During the Game 5 road loss, which virtually nobody thought the Rangers could win (despite the fact that they had won Games 1 and 2 in Washington), Tortorella lost his mind again.  Apparently bothered by a fan, he squirted water on a fan and threw a water bottle into the crowd, allegedly hitting an innocent party.  He also picked up a stick and brandished it but did no further damage.  Unbeknownst to him, he had already done more than enough damage – to his own team.

    

Suspended for Game 6 by the NHL, Tortorella did put Avery back in the line-up.  But it was a different Sean Avery – a tentative one, a Sean Avery who clearly wanted to stay out of trouble.  He didn’t play as poorly as virtually all the NBC announcers said he did (for example, he made an excellent play to get the puck deep in Caps territory and made a great pass to Wayne Redden to set up the Rangers first (and only meaningful goal of the game, now tied at 1)), but he certainly didn’t play his “normal” game.

       

THE CIRCUS ATMOSPHERE

     

Those are Mike Milbury’s words over the way it’s been with the Rangers the last few days.  And, unfortunately, he’s right.  Tortorella didn’t know this would send his team for a loop?  Unbelievable.

    

Now, you can make the case that Toe Blake could have coached the Rangers the last two games and it wouldn’t have changed the outcomes.  And you would be right.  But to hurt your team two ways, as Tortorella did, is beyond the pale.

    

The reality is that, even up 2-0 with two road wins and 3-1, with three chances to win a fourth game, many people thought the Caps would win the series.  In fact, I’ve never seen a series (in any major sport) when the team down 3-1 was viewed as still having such a good chance to win the series.  Which leads us to …

       

HAS ANYBODY SEEN THE KING?

     

What’s happened to Henrik Lundqvist?  The only chance the Rangers had (and still have) of winning the Series was (is) for Henrik Lundqvist to play out of his mind.  It’s an Elias Sports Bureau question: When, if ever, has a goalie been pulled from consecutive playoff games?  Or, even better, when, if ever, has a great goalie been pulled from consecutive playoff games?

    

The Gold Glove that Lundqvist used the first four games of the Series has definitely left the building.  It was clear in the Game 6 debacle, which was really over at 3-1, not 5-1 (the Rangers scored two in the third to make it 5-3).  Clearly, after making some stunning glove saves (including two against superstar Alex Ovechkin) earlier in the series, the Caps didn’t give up and, in Game 6, they found a hole at Lundqvist’s glove side, high to the net.  Their first two goals were to that spot and, to add insult to injury, former Ranger Tom Poti (and whatever you think of him, he could always play good offense) started and finished a classic three-on-one to give the Caps a 3-1 lead and end the game.

    

The Rangers have only one chance to win Game 7.  And that’s for Henrik Lundqvist to play like HENRIK LUNDQVIST.  You know, THE KING.  

    

The Rangers have no chance in Game 7 if Lundqvist plays like he played in Games 5 and 6.  Frankly, even if he plays great, it will still be very hard for the Rangers to win.

    

We’ll see what happens.

          

P.S.  DON’T BLAME THE REFS

     

Yes, it was stupid of Paul Mara to knock Donald Brashear into the bench after Brashear nailed Blair Betts (the Rangers should have bided their time for a clean hit or hits later in the game).  Yes, the refs clearly should have given Brashear two plus two so the Rangers would have had a power play with the game tied at 1.  Brashear, a dirty player forever, should be suspended for the next game as he clearly had an intent to injure and he did injure Betts, who didn’t return.

    

You could argue that the phantom hook called on Brashear in the next period was a “give-back,” but by then the score was 3-1 Caps (not 1-1) and the game was, arguably, over.  Of course, the Rangers didn’t score and later, Brandon Dubinsky got two plus two (boarding and roughing) plus a 10-minute misconduct.  Preposterous given what Brashear had done in the first period, only to receive two minutes .  The Caps, of course, did score on their power play and then the game was really over.

    

But the refs’ inconsistencies didn’t beat the Rangers.  So don’t blame them.

       

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

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