Rangers White Out Flyers
The Rangers have been abysmal at home this year. They are the only team currently in possession of a playoff spot with a sub-.500 mark in their own building. Last week, the Blue Shirts outplayed Tampa at home but lost, 2-1. They then dropped a heart-breaker to Buffalo, a team chasing NY hard in the standings, 3-2. The worst home loss last week was a 3-1 decision to Minnesota; a game in which the Rangers outshot the Wild 41-19 but couldn't take advantage of several glorious chances.
Those were hard games to watch as a fan. It was difficult to be mad at the club since they were working hard, creating offensive chances and outplaying their opponents for the most part but coming up short. It was frustrating hockey to watch to say the least.
After a big win at Ottawa Friday night, the Rangers prepared to return home for a Sunday matinee affair with the rival Flyers. Coach Tortorella, fully cognizant of the Rangers home struggles, may have had a trick up his sleeve. Instead of the home blues the team would have ordinarily donned for the game at MSG, the Rangers instead rolled out the road whites. No explanation was given that I am aware of during the NBC telecast but the move paid off for the Rangers as they smoked Philly 7 - 0.
I'd hate to think wearing the whites really played any part in today's win but it certainly didn't hurt. The Rangers and coach Tortorella needed to do something to get the club to play as well at home as they have on the road. The Rangers are tied for 3rd in the NHL with 20 road wins while owning a 15-16-3 home record after today's win.
Torts started the contest with the Pack line (AA, Dubi and Cally). They got the ball rolling early as Cally benefitted from the forechecking efforts of Dubi and notched the game's 1st goal in the 1st minute of the game. It turned out to be the 1st of 4 goals on the afternoon for Cally.
His second came on the PP when he caught Flyers goalie Brian Boucher leaning in anticipation of a pass. Instead Cally roofed the puck, short-side on Boucher. The hat trick goal came on a bad turnover by Kris Versteeg. Cally took the puck right off the careless stick of Versteeg and beat Boucher with a snap-shot to the glove side.
Mats Zuccarello scored two goals showing great hands in the process. AA tallied off a 3rd period breakaway. Callahan netted his 4th goal when a centering feed from Matt Gilroy deflected off of Cally's skate. Callahan also earned an assist on Anisimov's goal giving him 5 points for the game.
Hank stopped 22 shots and earned his league leading 9th shutout of the year.
I expected the Flyers to come out and try to take it to the Rangers. Philadelphia was in the midst of a 3 game losing streak and not playing particularly well but given it was a Flyers-Rangers game I was afraid the Flyers would wake up against us. I kept waiting for the Flyers to battle back but by the 3rd period it was almost as if they were just going through the motions. NBC analyst Pierre Maguire, who was stationed behind the glass and between the 2 benches remarked the Flyers seemed to have "1,000 yard stares." That's not what I expected from the Flyers today.
Today's victory was reminiscent of the recent 6-0 win over Washington. For a team that generally struggled to score, we've sure had a few blowout wins over quality teams this year. This got me doing some research and here are some interesting numbers for you to digest.
The Rangers currently rank 4th in the East with 193 goals scored and their +29 goal differential is the 3rd best in the conference. Those numbers don't seem to be reflective of the Blue Shirts offensive woes. However, note that the Rangers have tallied 69 of those goals, over 1/3, in just 11 games. That's an average of 6.3 goals per game. In their other 57 contests the Rangers have scored just 124 goals; good for an average of 2.2 goals per.
The Rangers have scored 4 or more goals 18 times and have won 16 of those outings. In the 11 games they've scored at least 5 goals, they have outscored the opposition 69 - 20. Remove those 11 games and their goal differential is -20. Clearly the Blue Shirts need to score goals with more consistency.
It didn't make much of a difference in the outcome and I'm not saying it was one-sided in any way but the officiating today was horrible. After a penalty to Ruslan Fedotenko, Torts complained to the officiating about the Flyers propensity to go down when they feel contact. The NBC commentators agreed that Hartnell did go down rather easily on that play.
Less than 3 minutes later, Jody Shelley caught Matt Gilroy with a clean, hard hit at the right point. Brian Boyle went to challenge Shelley and both men dropped their gloves. Shelley easily outmuscled Boyle (Boyle might be the worst "heavyweight" fighter in the league). The officials nailed Boyle with an instigator and an extra 10 minute misconduct penalty. What?!?!?!!? Boyle went to the defense of a teammate, didn't grab or punch Shelley unexpectedly, challenged the veteran scrapper and both men threw their gloves off. Where's the instigation there? Again the NBC crew agreed with the Rangers position.
During the ensuing PP, Mike Richards planted himself in front of the net. Hank, tired of being run over this year, took it upon himself to jab Richards in the back of the leg not once but twice. Richards turned and gave Hank a bit of a slash. The officials called Richards for the retaliatory penalty.
At some point in the 1st period, Ryan McDonagh obviously cleared the puck into the crowd which should have earned a 2 minute minor for delay of game. The officials completely missed that.
Later in the contest, Gaborik skated in on a rush and deked a Philly defender opening up a shooting lane. Gaborik unleashed a nice wrister that Boucher stopped. Meanwhile, Kris Versteeg skated in with a hit and clearly caught Gabby up high. He then delivered a two-handed slash. Gabby retaliated and both players were given roughing minors. I saw a clear hit-to-the-head which the NHL is trying to clean up. I also saw the slash. If you're going to penalize Gabby then in my estimation Versteeg deserved 2 penalties.
This game came on the heels of a game against Buffalo, one which we really needed to win, where a number of calls could have been made late against but weren't. The Rangers would come up just short in their effort to at least tie the game up This drew the ire of Torts who made several disparaging remarks about the officiating in his post game interview and earned a fine from the league as a consequence.
I'm not going to sit here and blame the officiating should the Rangers fall short in their quest for the postseason but I do feel it has made a difference in the outcome of games this year. Yesterday's game between Vancouver and LA also had a key non-call result in the difference in the game. Canuck forward Daniel Sedin clearly cross-checked Kings D Drew Doughty creating enough space for him to shoot the puck by Kings G Jonathan Quick. Immediately before, Quick claimed another Canuck interfered with him not allowing him to stop a shot the way he wanted to. That lead to a better chance for Sedin but only after he cleared Doughty out of his way. Impartially speaking that was an awful non-call.
Maybe it's perception but the officiating this season seems to be worse than at any other time. I can't recall ever being so frustrated by officiating. I say that as a hockey fan and not as a Rangers fan. I've seen plenty of other examples of horrible officiating in games not played by the Rangers. I truly believe the league needs to sit down and figure out a way to address this. I don't expect perfection in human referees but too many of these situations should be obvious. In some ways I think linesman have a tougher job than the refs and they do a terrific job of judging whether a play is off-sides. There have been several times I thought a mistake was made only to be proven wrong by replay. I wish I could say more of that in regards to the referees.