Nothing Doing For the Rangers in New Jersey

They were firing blanks literally.

So this is what it’s come down to for Tom Renney’s bumbling Rangers who couldn’t even solve new Devil Kryptonite Scott Clemmensen, who repelled all 27 his way en route to his first shutout in nearly five years.

“It’s been a long time,” the likable 31 year-old miracle worker noted after picking up his 23rd win against a punchless archrival headed the wrong way following a 3-0 clunker .”Obviously I haven’t played that many games … but it was nice to get.”

That he got it against the Blueshirts improving to 3-0 against this season reversing the Hudson rivalry with three consecutive wins was all too predictable.

It’s true that I didn’t catch this one opting to take in a close gal friend whose school was in the city playing at Baruch in lower Manhattan. It turned out to be a lot more memorable and fun than staying in and watching the conservative Renney system prevent his club from giving themselves a realistic chance against a superior foe that bounced back the way good teams do.

Someone might want to get the memo to Glen Sather because a season which started so promising is slipping away. During the five-game win-less skid (0-4-1), they’ve been outscored 22-5 getting no more than two goals in any contest while now being blanked twice. The low-light of course was the 10-2 debacle in Big D where the Stars got the final seven pouring it on in an uncompetitive third in which they got half a dozen. Following last night, that’s 15-3 since the month began.

For the Renney supporters out there who feel a well respected coach who’s brought respectability back to the Ranger jersey making the postseason three years running deserves the next 28 games, how does this sound?

Off a flat performance when they honored the Heart of a Ranger Adam Graves, the even keeled fifth year coach put them through a hard 45 minute practice doing suicides in hopes of opening their eyes. The players all said the right things including disappearing captain Chris Drury and even MIA Wade Redden going into that game against Dallas.

Then they went out and got embarrassed reminding panicked fans of a 9-1 drubbing in Ottawa on what was Jaromir Jagr’s Ranger debut during a different Error. It was the worst defeat of The Renney Era. While he has done a solid job making the second round the past couple of years, the team’s play has become worse as this season has worn on.

Truthfully, they haven’t been the same since a 5-2 pasting in Toronto on Nov.1 when Steve Valiquette was victimized by five unanswered Maple Leafs goals in about a seven minute span. That the poor backup was in for all 10 against the Stars was all too ironic.

It hasn’t helped that Redden has tanked while the play of Scott Gomez and Brandon Dubinsky have severely tailed off. Renney isn’t helping the club by continually shuffling the deck sending out a mixed bag. Before the season, the Rangers’ greatest strength was their center depth. By playing Drury on wing with Gomez which failed miserably when teamed with top finisher Markus Naslund at the beginning, the coach is only hurting the team’s chances.

They already sit back too much explaining the paltry 2.4 goal-per-game average which fell even further last night at The Rock. Most disturbing is that the team from Hasan’s recap and close buddy Rob “Kraze” Davis’ summary is that they didn’t respond in the fashion needed to compete against a well oiled machine.

Sixteen shots through two periods along with a lack of discipline including Dubinsky’s mistimed minor penalty 22 seconds after Bobby Holik scored leading to Ranger tormentor Zach Parise notching the first of two on his way to 32 goals this season was far from the response needed to turn it around.

Though they came out and outshot the Devils 11-7 in the final 20, from all accounts, it was a beaten team with only Blair Betts showing. What exactly does that say? Have they quit on Renney? Judging from some recent quotes from key players, there seems to be doubt as to what exactly the strategy is.

“Right now, we’re in a tough spot,” Henrik Lundqvist indicated after turning aside 28 of 30 shots wasn’t enough to save his fading teammates. “We need everybody to step up, starting with me. I have to play the best that I can.”

It doesn’t get any easier with a challenging portion of the schedule the rest of the week bringing MVP frontrunner Alex Ovechkin and the Caps to Broadway tomorrow along with a pivotal match at Florida Friday with the surging Flyers visiting Sunday afternoon in primetime.

Add it up and it might just be make or break for this slumping team almost begging for Sean Avery to lace ’em up. Even if The Grate One returns, it won’t probably be for another couple of weeks and who knows by then where they’ll be.

Only the Canadiens (6-2 losers to Calgary) are playing poorly with the Flyers now fourth in the conference while the Habs are a point ahead of the Rangers with the Sabres, Hurricanes and Panthers coming on. The Pens are still lurking a couple of points out.

There’s no way of knowing if the Rangers can get out of this funk. What’s their identity? We know who the Devils are showing plenty of character minus Martin Brodeur. We still have no clue who Renney’s club is. If he’s staying for now, they need to respond soon.

Twenty-eight to go.

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