The Zionist Conspiracy
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Disappointing But Memorable
I was hopeful but not optimistic about the Rangers' prospects last night. Sensing - correctly - that the pre-game atmosphere might be more enjoyable than the game itself, I arrived early at the Garden and was in my seat by around 6:30.
The crowd was loud when Jaromir Jagr participated in the pre-game skate and warmup. There was tension while the player scratches were announced, and the fans went wild when number 68 was not among them.
The game itself was terrible, but what I will remember about last night was the sense at Madison Square Garden that if the Rangers had any chance of winning and salvaging their until recently fantastic season, the fans would have to will them to victory.
Unlike the players, the fans did their part. We were loud and excited, and remained supportive even after the Rangers fell behind 2-0.
For the second straight game, defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh was the goat. Last night, Ozolinsh was responsible for the Devils' first goal, just 68 seconds into the game.
New York loves athletes who perform well, and rips apart those who fail. That's part of the business, but I still felt some sympathy for Ozolinsh when he was loudly booed every time he touched the puck. As the game went on, it appeared to affect his play, making him especially tentative. In this regard, I think the fans acted foolishly.
Ozolinsh is far from the only Ranger playing poorly. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist hasn't been the same since the Olympics, Petr Prucha largely disappeared as a scoring threat after his pre-Olympics knee injury, Petr Sykora has failed to convert on chance after chance, and it seems as though every rebound and loose puck near the Devils net has been retrieved by a Devil, and every Devils odd man rush results in a goal.
With Game 4 on shabbos, it's likely that I've seen the Rangers for the last time in 2005-06. It's too soon to offer a perspective on the season as a whole, but if there's one immediate disappointment I have, it's that once the season was well underway, the Rangers largely ignored their young players in the minors. Despite the team's needs at forward and defense, players like Jarkko Immonen and Thomas Pock played briefly but never really were given a chance to step in and seriously contribute, and the Rangers are now paying the price, with their offense and defense both in disarray.