‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
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You might despise John Tortorella for his curt interactions with the media or disagree with his coaching philosophies. Even if you’re the staunchest Tortorella hater, you have to give him credit for one thing: he’s always brutally honest, especially after a souring overtime defeat in the playoffs.
“I thought it was pretty even going into the overtime, but we get spanked in the overtime,” Tortorella said after Thursday’s loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 1.
Tortorella is never going to give you a bull-flop description of his team’s play. If the Rangers sucked, he’ll tell you they sucked. And Torts will probably give it to you in those exact words. He’s a straight shooter.
The Bruins attacked Henrik Lundqvist’s net, wave after wave of pressure in overtime, while the shuffling Rangers couldn’t even get out of their own way. Eventually, the dam was going to break as Boston out-shot New York 16-5 in overtime.
It was a costly mistake pass by Derick Brassard that was the final blow in Game 1, though any one of the 17 turnovers made by the “Walking-Dead Rangers” could have resulted in Bruins goals.
“It was a surge, we couldn’t stop it,” Tortorella said.
LUNDQVIST’S FRUSTRATION GROWING
After the Rangers dropped Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in overtime, Lundqvist shouldered the blame for what he described as a “technical thing.”
“I gotta see the guy in the middle. I was too focused on the puck,” Lundqvist said of Brad Marchand’s game-winning goal.
Endearing accountability is what you get from the highly self-critical Lundqvist on any given night. He willingly accepts blame and carries it on his back as extra motivation. That’s just the kind of guy he is -– but really, Lundqvist doesn’t deserve any blame for the loss.
Yet, there was a unusual hint of frustration at his teammates when Lundqvist was asked about his history of losing playoff games in overtime. Lundqvist is a career 3-11 in those situations.
“Have I played bad in overtime? No. Can I score? No. Is it frustrating? Yes. My record is terrible in overtime, but I’ve got to stick with it, play my game and hopefully it will turn around,” Lundqvist said.
RANGERS OUT OF SYNC IN GAME 1
Lundqvist was forced into making 45 saves, largely due to the 17 giveaways committed by his teammates in Game 1.
The Rangers were scatterbrained in their execution all night. They failed to string together simple passes and played like an out-of-sync orchestra.
They found new depths of despair in a lifeless power play that sunk to 2-for-31 in the 2013 playoffs. If you didn’t think the Rangers could possibly get worse on the power play, they discovered new levels of inadequacy Thursday.
“I don’t think we played up to our standards,” admitted winger Mats Zuccarello.
It was Brassard’s inexcusable cross-ice pass that doomed the Rangers to an overtime defeat. Ryan McDonagh was caught up ice and Brassard unleashed a brainless pass in the offensive zone that allowed the Bruins to rush on a three-on-two break. Brad Marchand out-muscled the tiny Zuccarello and cut into the low-slot.
Patrice Bergeron placed a inch-perfect pass on the tape of Marchand’s stick. Marchand, playfully known as “Nose Face Killah” coolly put the puck through Lundqvist’s five hole and sent TD Garden into a frenzy.
ZOMBIE-NATION BLUESHIRTS GUNNED DOWN BY ‘NOSE FACE KILLAH’
The Bruins’ goal song, “Kernkraft 400” by German electro group Zombie Nation, blared over the TD Garden speakers as teammates rushed a leaping Marchand.
It was fitting, as the Rangers played close to a group of brainless zombies for most of the night, only lacking a lust for flesh — or in their case a lust for goals. The obvious hustle of Boston’s Marchand and Bergeron was absent from the majority of the Rangers, who couldn’t keep their legs churning with an energy equal to the goal-thirsty Bruins.
Lundqvist contended with 15 shots in overtime. He and his trusty posts and crossbar surrounding him were the reason why the Rangers were able to limp on for 15:40 seconds before Marchand’s “Killah” blow.
On the other end of the ice, no one would blame Tuukka Rask had he taken a seat in his crease during the 9-plus minutes the Rangers went without registering a shot on goal in overtime. Rask only had to bat away six saves in overtime.
HUGE ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
If there’s something that Rangers fans can cling to, it’s that the Bruins probably played their best hockey in Game 1, the Rangers played their absolute worst – and the Blueshirts were only done in by an overtime goal.
You have to imagine the Rangers’ top guns will give them more in Game 2 should they figure out a way to break through the Bruins’ defensive wall and establish a forecheck.
An aggressive forecheck is a staple of the Rangers’ game and went largely missing throughout. It’s hard to envision the Blueshirts playing this flat again in this series.
If you’re an optimistic type, you can hang your hat on knowing that the Rangers have a lot of time between now and Sunday to correct things. Game 1 might’ve made brutal watching for Rangers fans, but it’s only one game.
And it’s hardly reason to count the Blueshirts out.
You can follow Sean on Twitter @HartnettHockey.
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