For Rangers, effort isn't enough

Mike Green. Alex Ovechkin. Alexander Semin.

The list of the Washington Capitals’ goal-scorers in Game 5 reads like one half of an all-star team. It also serves as a very stark reminder that the New York Rangers still lack what the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference has in bucket loads: top-tier, goal-scoring talent.

In their first-round series against the Caps, the Rangers relied on the same qualities that fueled their offense throughout the regular season. They got the puck deep. They outworked the opposition in the corners. They got took the puck to the front of the net and scraped, scrummed and willed just about all their goals over the red line. They were seldom works of art. They were always labor intensive. And in Game 5 against the Caps, they were all but nonexistent.

The Rangers looked energized early, generating a series of quality opportunities close the crease on the first shift of the game. But after Brian Boyle and his linemates Sean Avery and Brandon Prust jumped over the boards and back to the bench, it signaled the end of the Rangers’ advantage. The Caps controlled the remainder of the first period, and ultimately the game.

“We weren’t able to sustain it,” Boyle said. “We weren’t able to score.”

It’s a simple blunt truth that well characterizes the Rangers' relatively abbreviated stay in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The power play proved particularly inept against the Capitals, registering just one goal in 20 chances.

“We didn’t win enough battles on the power play and I think that was the difference in the series,” Brandon Dubinsky said. “Tonight I thought we got some better chances but we couldn’t change our luck.”

The lack of scoring is a problem that will no doubt plague the Rangers, and the team’s front office, into the offseason. The diminished production of sniper Marian Gaborik, the lone Ranger capable of matching skill with the Caps’ top stars, will certainly be scrutinized. The need to add another player of that caliber, will certainly be questioned. As head coach John Tortorella said after the game, the Rangers of this season are far from a finished project.

“I don’t think our team is fully built yet,” Tortorella said in his postgame remarks. “As far as talent, we have to play a certain way.”

"Grind" was a word you would always hear in the postgame press conferences following Ranger wins this season. When the Blueshirts were victorious it was often the result of winning the individual battles along the boards and in front of the net.

Facing a reinvented, rededicated and very disciplined Capitals defensive core, the Rangers’ way too often proved fruitless. And as the lights went out on the Blueshirts for the final time in 2010-11, it’s a stinging and lasting reminder that effort does not always equate to success.

“We’ve been bringing energy, we’ve been doing it all series, but the minutes we’ve played this series -- we needed to score,” Boyle said. “Playing physical, getting momentum, that’s all well and good ... Finishing a check, that’s like second nature at this point. But we needed to produce more.

“I’m angry, sad the season’s over," Boyle concluded. "We’re a close group. We played a lot of games, but it’s over and it feels like it’s too quick. It’s the worst feeling you can have as an athlete.”