Perhaps the one downside of the NHL game speeding up is that more and more teams look the same. It gets harder to identify a specific style to a specific team as rosters are just packed with players who can move at a high pace and are directed to just get the fuck up the ice as quickly as fucking possible. And as arenas all look the same, we have less and less customs and traditions that we attach and recognize as only being part of one team’s reputation and history.
So it was heartening to see the Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin join New York’s pantheon last night, i.e. join the All-“Why the fuck did I bother?” team. Because if there’s one thing we can identify as a Rangers trait the past decade-and-a-half or so, it’s a goalie balling out while their teammates turn into those inflatable sumo suits at the other end of the ice. Henrik Lundqvist assuredly woke up in a cold sweat at some point in the middle of the night (while still looking better than the rest of us combined).
Shesterkin made 79 saves last night. 79, in five periods plus. According to the metrics, he saved the Rangers 4.5 goals less than expected in just one game based on the chances the Penguins created. He had to play three and half more periods after the Rangers gave up 25 shots in the second period alone. And for all his work, for all his heroics, he went home with a 1-0 deficit thanks to Evgeni Malkin’s winner in the third overtime to provide the Pens a 4-3 win.
Not only did the Rangers fail Shesterkin, not only were they beaten by a version of Malkin that has backhoe mobility right now and is only effective when allowed to stand still with a national park’s worth of space to make plays (which the Rangers did twice!), but they also couldn’t score against the Pens third-string goalie for nearly a full period in overtime. Casey DeSmith (who’s a real piece of shit by the way), had to leave midway through the second overtime, and in came Louis Domingue. Keep in mind that by the second overtime, Domingue had been sitting on his ass for some four hours. He also, uh, might have been freshly cleansed, let’s say:
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The only way this interview could have been better is if Domingue had the newspaper he took into the shitter with him tucked under his arm. And this was the guy the Rangers couldn’t find a way past. Sure, he might have been feeling light and limber, but still.
It’s hardly a death knell for the Rangers, but it’s just so Rangers. A goalie doing his own fire dance in the crease to keep a limited Rangers team in it (and despite their gaudy point-total in the regular season they are limited) and suddenly every skater’s hands turning to stone. And sure, maybe you could criticize coach Gerard Gallant’s insistence on throwing Mika Zibanejad’s line out against Sidney Crosby’s all night and watching his top line simply get run over shift after shift, when playing defense is not Zibanejad’s job. Or maybe how he sent out his charges to hit everything in sight and then watched the Penguins simply pass their way around it for the last four periods once they got the rhythm of it all.
But that’s missing the point. Sometimes we need to be reminded that no one can run from their true nature, at least not forever. On the Rangers’ biggest night in five years or so, they were definitely the most Rangers they could be.