BOSTON—Despite a much improved team effort, strong defensive play and another stellar performance by goaltender, Henrik Lundquist, the Rangers never got the bounce they needed (and deserved) while losing 1-0 in a shootout to the Boston Bruins.
Ordinarily the story of 1-0 shootout would be that neither goalie, Lundquist or Manny Fernandez, allowed a goal during regulation or overtime. Or perhaps it would be about the game-winning shootout goal scored by Bruins forward, Phil Kessel. However, this was no ordinary game—thanks to the maintenance crew at the TD Banknorth Garden.
Either the Garden maintenance crew never found out about the time change for today’s hockey game (from 7 pm to 4 pm) or they donated their services all day to the Boston Red Sox in preparation for night’s playoff game at Fenway Park.
Regardless of the reason, when the referee and players were ready for the drop of the puck at 4 pm, the Garden ice certainly was not. All game long (for both teams) the puck hopped, skipped, rolled and bounced over sticks, skates and everything else. In fact, during the waning seconds of regulation time, one bizarre ricochet off the boards went right through the Boston goal-mouth and nearly deflected off Fernandez into the net.
Icy gravel would have provided a better playing surface than that cold, chippy concoction of crap on which the Rangers and Bruins were forced to skate. The puck, which wouldn’t sit down or cooperate for anyone, acted like a stubborn, untrained dog who needed a good smack on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper.
To put this issue in its proper perspective, today’s ice in Boston was equal or worse than the most horrid ice conditions I’ve ever witnessed at Madison Square Garden. Given that I’ve been a Rangers fan since the early 1970’s, this is an indication of how outrageous and insulting it was to watch today’s game.
Adding injury to insult, Rangers forward, Martin Straka, received an unfortunate break after bravely blocking two blasts off the big stick of Bruins defenseman, Zdeno Chara. According to the Rangers team-owned (or NHL owned—depending on who wins the lawsuit) website, Straka broke a finger on his right hand.
This is especially bad news for a struggling Rangers team that is already playing without injured forwards, Sean Avery and Marcel Hossa, and who have scored a league low 13 goals.
Despite Straka’s injury, the Rangers outplayed Boston for most of the game. After holding the Bruins at bay through three first period Boston power plays, the Blueshirts outshot the Bruins 22 to 10 the rest of the way.
This game was certainly close enough that under normal ice conditions, it is very possible the Rangers might have lost anyway. On the other hand, the Rangers might have prevailed and picked up both very-needed points. It’s a shame that a fair outcome hit a bad patch of Boston ice and hopped out of everyone’s collective reach.
With the talent-laden Pittsburgh Penguins up next for the Rangers, it will take bounces and breaks of another kind to prevent the Blueshirts from falling three games under NHL .500 this early in the season.