Season ending embarrassment is exactly what the doctor ordered
The Rangers were one minute away from walking into the locker room with a one goal lead after two periods in game three. Instead, Sidney Crosby deflected a puck over the outstretched leg of Henrik Lundqvist with 42 seconds remaining in the period to tie that pivotal game at one.
Pittsburgh would go on to win 3-1, take a 2-1 series lead and never looked back. Alain Vigneault called it the turning point of the series. Perhaps he’s right in some regard.
The Rangers season ended the second Crosby got a stick on that pass. Through a maze of ineffective Rangers penalty killers, Phil Kessel was easily able to make a pass to the best hockey player in the world, sitting wide open on the doorstep. It was a goal the Rangers couldn’t let up at that point in the game, series or season.
Game, set, match.
That goal represents the most glaring issue that had plagued the 2015-2016 Blueshirts all season long. The penalty killers missed an assignment right in King Henrik’s grill. Defensive zone woes, the reason those Rangers are no more.
They would go on to lose game four on home ice in embarrassing fashion, a 5-0 blowout. Game five started better, but a non-Henrik like performance and a lackluster effort from the other 18 men in white would yield the same result: embarrassment and dejection.
Perhaps it is indeed the end of the most successful era of Rangers hockey since the likes of Mark Messier and Brian Leetch graced the canyon of heroes with their presence. It’s probably too soon to tell if this is true.
In any case, the way this season ended is exactly what needed to happen for the Rangers cup window to have a glimmer of hope at remaining open. Here’s why:
Had the Rangers made this a series (or actually won), the process that has been so flawed for so long would have remained unchanged. The compete level we’ve been so used to seeing was not there. The defensive woes were never fixed. Worst of all, the Rangers big guns didn’t come to play in games four or five. All unacceptable facts that have roots of blame placed throughout the organization.
Alain Vigneault, in 87 games, inexplicably never found the right mix of 18 skaters. Vigneault continued his trend of head scratching line up decisions while finding scapegoats in young talent like Kevin Hayes. The Rangers brass– past and present– placed near-immovable anchors on the roster for the foreseeable future. The players themselves didn’t earn their paychecks in the last week of the season. There isn’t an excuse for the weak effort that was put forth.
The humiliation that comes with getting blown out two games in a row to end the season is bound to get some heads rolling from top to bottom. This is the wakeup call the Rangers needed to show that despite past success, the process is broken and needs fixing.
So here I have a plea from all of Rangers nation: fix the process, the results will follow.
Henrik Lundqvist is 34 years old, but is also coming off of another rock solid season. Hank kept this sinking ship afloat for as long as he could. He’s at least some time away from his decline. The Rangers core is long overdue for a shakeup. Dan Girardi and/or Marc Staal will have had to played their last game as a Ranger for success to continue. The kids: Brady Skjei, Dylan McIlrath and the prized Russian Pavel Buchnevich will have to assume big time roles. Keith Yandle must be in Rangers blue come October.
The Rangers window may be broken, but it is not closed. With some major tweaks in the offseason, a leadership core featuring Lundqvist, McDonagh and Derek Stepan can continue the success on the ice the Rangers have sustained for the past five or six years.
The men that will don the diagonal lettering across their torsos in October now have some time to recoup, step back and recharge their batteries for what will need to be 82-100 consistent, 60 minute efforts if they want a chance at hockey’s holy grail.
For now, though, let the salt fill the wound. Get angry. Do not accept failure.
Posted on April 25, 2016, in In the Crease, Uncategorized and tagged Alain Vigneault, Carl Hagelin, Dan Girardi, Evgeni Malkin, Fire Vigneault, Glen Sather, Henrik Lundqvist, Jeff Gorton, Madison Square Garden, Marc Staal, MSG, New York Rangers, New York Rangers blog, NHL Playoffs, NYR, Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins, Rangers, Rangers blog, Rangers core, Rangers era, Rangers vs Penguins, Sidney Crosby, Stanley Cup Playoffs. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.