Rangers Can't Overcome the Storm As Hurricanes Prevail

Sometimes being a fan sucks. Instead of just enjoying an exciting, hard-fought game I end up angry because my team lost. That's what happened last night as the Rangers dropped a 4 - 3 decision to the Carolina Hurricanes. Sometimes I think it would be easier if I didn't care so much.

The fact of the matter is the Rangers and Canes played a highly competitive, back-and-forth game that had a little of everything; bad-bounces, bunting for goals, tremendous skill, 18 year-olds making key plays and plenty of hitting.

Here are some of my impressions from last night's contest:

The first line of Cally, Dubi and AA is on fire. Through 9 games, this line has combined for 11 goals and 26 points. Coach Tortorella, a noted line tinkerer, has seen fit to leave these guys together for most of the season to date. The question when Gabby went down to injury was who would score for the Rangers and this line has answered those questions. Right now we have a legitmate top line.

Marc Staal is showing why I thought he could post double figures in goals and 40 points in a season. He already has 2 goals and clanged one off the post last night too. His first goal of the season against Boston was a thing of beauty. He flipped a back-hander over Tuuka Rask's glove on a breakaway. He looks more comfortable and isn't hesitating getting his shot off.

Jeff Skinner is the real deal. This is a kid who is still 7 months away from his 19th birthday and yet he was a big reason why the Canes won last night. He had 2 goals and assisted on the eventual game winner; a PP goal scored by Erik Cole. In fact, it was Skinner who drew the penalty. He felt the stick of Brian Boyle get in on him and he hugged into him thus fooling the referee into calling a hooking penalty.

The goaltending was unbelievable. Both netminders made numerous tough saves. Cam Ward stopped 40 shots while Lundqvist finished with 34 saves.

Faceoffs again were a problem for the Rangers. Despite winning 38 of 66 (57.6%), the Blue Shirts lost several key draws late in the game. The winning goal came right after a faceoff win by Tuomo Ruutu, who beat Brandon Dubinsky cleanly. Ruutu drew the puck back to defenseman Jamie McBain who wristed a 50 footer on net. Hank made the initial save but the puck ended up on the stick of Jeff Skinner who got the puck to the front of the net where Cole cashed in on a rebound. The Rangers have to improve that facet of their game.

The penalty late against Boyle was BS. I am tired of seeing players feel an opposing stick and then holding it to their bodies in an attempt to draw a call. Is it smart? Yes, if it gets the penalty call. To me it is cheap. There are enough penalties called as it is but to buy a call that way is not cool.

I never thought I would both say this and believe it to be true but the Rangers really, really miss Chris Drury. Right now the Blue Shirts rank 26th in the NHL on the PK with a horrible 75.6 %. The last 3 seasons the Rangers have placed 7th, 1st and 6th respectiviely on the PK and Chris Drury was a major reason why. Drury has led the Ranger forwards in PK ice time in 2 of the last 3 seasons. The Canes were successful on 2 of their 4 man-advantages last night. I have to think the PK unit misses Drury.

I am truly amazed John Tortorella has stayed so patient with this team. The club is playing several young players and we all know how prone youngsters are to mistakes. Many people expected Torts to blow a gasket but he's been calm handling this team. Some fans were critical of Torts' comments about Derek Stepan following the loss to Atlanta Thursday night. The fear was the lambasting could hurt Stepan's confidence. But let's cut Torts some slack. He knows how to coach and he knows his team. Some players respond to criticism in a positive way. What we don't know is how Torts and the other coaches handle Stepan and other young players at practice or in the dressing room. Some accounts have said that Torts spends a lot of time at practice coaching Stepan. They've also said Stepan is a very coachable player.

Well, it's time to turn the page on yesterday and think about tonight. The Blue Shirts travel to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs again. This will be the 3rd meeting between the 2 original 6 franchises already this month. Each club has won a game while the Rangers have earned 3 of a possible 4 points.

I will be on tonight's live blog hosted by Michael Aldred. Come check it out and say hi. Let's keep it from turning into all Leafs talk.