sábado, 26 de mayo de 2012

History doesn’t repeat for Blueshirts in loss

headshotLarry Brooks
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Blog: Slap Shots

Their best game, that’s what everyone agreed would be required of the Rangers in Newark last night against the Devils in order to avoid Game 6 elimination in the Eastern finals.

But even though that’s pretty much what the Black-and-Blueshirts delivered, it was not enough. History did not repeat 18 years later in Game 6. There will be no Game 7 at the Garden tomorrow night.

There will be no more season for the Rangers, beaten 3-2 by the Devils when Adam Henrique scored at 1:03 of overtime to snap a 2-2 tie and to leave management with a long, hot summer in which to dissect what went wrong in the playoffs during which the regular-season Eastern champions won 10 and lost 10.

DETHRONED: <a href=Henrik Lundqvist made 26 saves last night in Game 6, but it wasn’t enough to save the Rangers’ season against the Devils." title="DETHRONED: Henrik Lundqvist made 26 saves last night in Game 6, but it wasn’t enough to save the Rangers’ season against the Devils." width="300" height="300" src="/rw/nypost/2012/05/26/sports/web_photos/26.2s.058.brooks.C.TA--300x300.jpg" />

Getty Images

DETHRONED: Henrik Lundqvist made 26 saves last night in Game 6, but it wasn’t enough to save the Rangers’ season against the Devils.

N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

The Blueshirts got a huge game from Henrik Lundqvist, the best player on his team, and became better and stronger once the Devils frittered away a second-period power play that ended better than nine minutes into the second.

Just 31 seconds after the kill, Ruslan Fedotenko, one of those guys to whom big moments seem to attach themselves, scored from in front against Martin Brodeur. And just under four minutes after that, this year’s captain, Ryan Callahan got the 2-2 score the way the 1994 captain named Mark Messier got the 2-2 goal at the Meadowlands.

But this time there was no third goal from the Rangers just as in these playoffs there was no third goal from the Blueshirts in 13 of their 20 matches. Fact is, the Blueshirts scored four goals in a game only once —the first game of the first round against Ottawa.

The idea that last night’s game was somehow going to be a referendum on Lundqvist was ridiculous, even if the King stubbed his toe on the bridge leading across the moat to his castle on Wednesday in allowing goals on three consecutive shots within a span of 7:06 early in the first period.

One bad night — and in a series during which Lundqvist had recorded two shutouts in the first three games, and in a tournament in which he has carried an offensively challenged club to Game 6 of the conference finals — is not a warning sign.

But if this was a challenge, The King responded to it even after allowing two goals within the first 13:56. He was steady and cool while his teammates appeared slow and indecisive at the start and it was his performance that allowed his team to get its bearings; was the MVP he has been from the start in Stockholm.

Nothing new from Lundqvist. Because think of it. In essentially every game of the tournament, the Rangers’ best games were simply those in which Henrik Lundqvist had been at his best in nets.

Maybe a case could be made that there had been a game or two in which a defenseman had been the Rangers’ best player. Maybe a case could be made that Chris Kreider was the first star of the first game of the conference semis against Washington in which the Blueshirts and Caps combined for 21 shots over the first 40 minutes.

But then, that was the game in which Ranger forwards accounted for a total of three shots on net through the first two periods, one apiece from Derek Stepan, Artem Anisimov and Marian Gaborik.

And though the case could be made that Callahan was the Rangers’ best player in Wednesday’s Game 5 against the Devils, that was one the Blueshirts lost despite the captain’s best performance of the tournament.

Not once had Brad Richards been the team’s best player. Not once had Marian Gaborik led the way. Not once had Derek Stepan been the best Blueshirt on the ice.

Even in capturing Game 7 against the Senators 2-1 on goals from Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, the Rangers became the first team in more than six decades to win a Game 7 without getting a goal from a forward, since Detroit won Game 7 of the 1950 semifinal 1-0 against Toronto when defenseman Leo Reise scored in double overtime.

Did the Rangers display the heart of a champion? No question about it. The Rangers have come with the same huge heart that’s been as much the team’s signature all year as blocking shots.

But the degree of difficulty the Rangers had in asserting superiority against an ordinary Ottawa team that played inspirational hockey and an ordinary Washington team that was content to utilize Alexander Ovechkin as a support player was both troubling and a harbinger of trouble to come against a very good team from New Jersey.

They pretty much saved the best for last, these Blueshirts did. It wasn’t good enough. Eighteen years later, they could not get the third goal in Game 6 at New Jersey.

Eighteen years later the Devils go to the Stanley Cup Final and the Rangers go home.


Henrik Lundqvist, Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers, the Devils, the Devils, Blueshirts, Blueshirts, Derek Stepan, Charles WenzelbergThe Blueshirts, Lundqvist


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