Originally posted on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 10/27/11
The Blueshirt faithful entered the newly transformed Madison Square Garden with heads held high this evening, proud of the  beautiful facility they were walking into for their beloved team's home opener. Three hours later, though, they left with their heads hung low realizing their club just dropped their fifth of eight games this season. The hope was that coming home after a seven-game road trip would renew the Rangers, as they would finally be in front of their home crowd. Instead, their homecoming was nothing short of a complete disaster and having their home fans there to get on them only made things worse. New York actually got off to a solid start in the first period, skating well and establishing a forecheck. Dan Girardi got the Rangers on the board with a slapshot from the point that squeaked through Gustavsson's legs. The Rangers went on to put two more pucks to the back of the net in the opening period, but both were waived off due to goaltender interference on Ryan Callahan. The first was interference and shouldn't have counted, but the second one was iffy. Ryan was given a shove from behind and head coach John Tortorella was enraged on the bench that the goal was immediately waived off.  I watched Torts on the bench as I was sitting a few rows behind him, and when he requested an explanation, the official held up a finger as if to say "one second" but then blew his whistle to resume play and never returned. Hmmmm. Things went downhill from there, with the Rangers coming out completely flat in the second period. Matthew Lombardi's tying goal just 1:20 into the period wasn't enough to awake the sluggish Blueshirts and failed powerplays didn't help with that, either.  They continue to stand around with the man advantage, therefore defeating the purpose of the "man advantage" all together. Time to change up the strategy,  Mr. Tortorella. Everything fell apart in the third period, including goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, which is when you know the Rangers are doomed for sure. The Leafs scored three consecutive goals in the third, and in my opinion, all three could have been stopped. At the same time, though, Lundqvist did stop back-to-back Phil Kessel breakaways in the prior period and still received no help from his blue-line, so it's certainly not only his fault. I expected the defense to be much better tonight with Michael Sauer returning to the lineup, but while Sauer looked fine, the D as a whole did not. There was too much running around in the defensive zone and the Rangers ended up chasing the Leafs around more than they stopped them. That's part of the reason why there was no offense going the other way. Michael Del Zotto may have scored tonight, but good Lord was he awful in this game, Another cause of the lack of offensive attack was the team's sudden strategy of passing to make the perfect play instead of getting the puck on net. This was especially true for the first line, which was pretty much non-existent tonight. Bras Richards has made some fabulous passes this season, but he also possesses a wicked shot that he doesn't use. That's up to the coaches to tell him to let it fly more often, and not always look for Gabby. Also, I don't what's been up with Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky, but they haven't been themselves the last few games. They're spending far too much time in the penalty box and not getting their well-known forecheck going. Again, I can't really put a finger on what the problem has been there, but those are two very important players the Rangers need to pick up their games. They are supposed to be the support for the Richie-Gabby combo, but right now only one player out of those four have actually performed well this season. At one point the crowd  began a booming "We Want Avery" chant, in reference to Connecticut Whale forward Sean Avery. Tortorella, meanwhile, had his head buried in his clipboard drawing up new lines. So while the arena was a sight to see, the team surely wasn't. There are no excuses for playing 40 minutes of lifeless hockey in your home opener, even more so when your home arena is Madison Square Garden. Tonight's effort was disappointing to put it lightly and it would be in their best interest to come out and actually play hockey on Saturday against the Ottawa Senators.
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