It was just tough to watch. As the great player had one last time to shine on the big stage, but alas the spotlight of the postseason exposed his age and shortcomings even more.
Of course, I am talking about Willie Mays in 1973. But like the “A-Mays-in’” center fielder, the Rangers have a lion in twilight this spring with Martin St. Louis and much like No. 24, No. 26 is being exposed because of his age.
Now, no one is blaming St. Louis for the Rangers 6-2 loss. It wasn’t his fault, as everything went wrong, but with the Blueshirts on a 5-on-3 just five minutes into the game, the future Hall-of-Famer whiffed on a one timer from the point, which caused a Tyler Johnson breakaway and the first Lightning goal.
“You’re looking at momentum, you are looking at you scoring a goal and they get a goal so it’s a tough way but we fought, we fought back, we answered,” St. Louis said.
It’s clear that Alain Vigneault needs to do something with his aging star. It’s not that he’s inaccurate, but St. Louis is missing shots, breaking sticks, falling down and swinging and missing.
With Mats Zuccarello out, it’s impossible to bench St. Louis, but you need to take him off the power play. The problem is when Zucc come back. Does Vigneault scratch St. Louis? You can’t put him on the fourth line and right now, he is a liability.
It’s something the team will have to answer.
But tonight’s game was not St. Louis’s fault. It was a team wide effort taking too many penalties allowing the highly talented Tampa Bay power play to flourish.
“It’s embarrassing,” said defenseman Ryan McDonagh. “There are a lot of things you want to say right now but talking doesn’t do much. Our guys better figure it out quickly here and realize that stupid, selfish penalties are going to cost us against this team. They [Tampa Bay] have too much skill. [We were] shooting ourselves in the foot from the very first few minutes there is not going to give us a chance to win.”
But you do have to wonder why this game was called the way it was. For the first two rounds, the referees kept their whistles in their pockets and both Pittsburgh and Washington played it like street match, clutching and grabbing the Rangers as they tried to get some space. Today, though, the game was called like it was September and the two teams were looking to get into an exhibition.
The calls were for both sides, but the Stanley Cup playoffs need to be consistent throughout. If they are not going to make the calls, then continue to do so. Do not change the game in the middle of the tournament.
But the Rangers will adjust. They always do. But they have to play two tough games down in Tampa, where the Lightning hardly loses.
““You just have to wipe it clean,” said Henrik Lundqvist, who was left naked out there in goal. “It’s one game. It’s a tied series; we’re going down to Tampa. There were a lot of good things tonight, we played with good speed, but a lot comes down to making good decisions with the puck on the blue lines. You could see when we lost the puck how fast they came back at us and they don’t need much, they have a couple guys that can definitely find the net.”
And maybe, like Mays, St. Louis has one more glimpse of greatness in him.