Sunday, December 16, 2007

Rangers Eaten By Coyotes

Hockey games that start at 5 o'clock the week before Christmas break are usually not well attended, and this evening's game was no exception. Even though it was one of Wayne Gretzky's first trips back to the Garden as a coach, the 14-16 Coyotes were not supposed to be much of a challenge to the surging Rangers. Lundqvist, with the flu, was given the night off, and Steve Valliquette, his back up, took his place. Valliquette has been pretty good all year, so the Garden faithful at the game were not unhappy to see him. And when the game started, the Rangers looked good. Although they didn't score, they were aggressive on an early power play and it looked like only a matter of time before the puck would go in the net. And then they just fell apart.

On their first shot, the Coyotes caught a break when the puck, shot from the corner, ricocheted off of Valliquette's stick and into the goal. The replacement goaltender recovered, and the Coyotes were kept to one goal during the first period. Unfortunately, that initial burst of offensive prowess the Rangers showed fizzled, and they were held scoreless.

In the second period, the team fell apart. Besides having no offense at all, the defense collapsed, Valliquette collapsed, and the Garden grew silent, except for some cheers when Valiquette stopped a puck that rolled towards the net from the red line in slo-mo. Towards the end of the period, people started putting on their coats and headed for the exits in numbers I have not witnessed recently.

The Rangers calmed down in the third period, and even scored a goal to avoid total embarrassment. But by that time, it didn't really matter. At least they weren't chowing down on human growth hormone.

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