I like Tom Renney. A lot. Good guy, savvy coach, hockey lifer.
With that out of the way, I feel fully within my rights as an honest observer to observe that the Rangers coach’s decision to insert Ryan Hollweg into New York’s lineup for Tuesday’s tilt against Pittsburgh may wind up costing his team their second round playoff series – and himself his job.
After dropping two straight games to open up the Eastern Conference semifinal, Renney’s Rangers were on the verge of making a remarkable comeback on home ice in Game 3, only to be done in by a downright dopey penalty from Hollweg late in the second period that led to the game-winning goal from Evgeni Malkin and an eventual 5-3 Penguins victory.
Prior to that point, the Blueshirts were providing the Pens with their first real dose of distress in this post-season when they rebounded from a 3-1 Pittsburgh lead to tie things up at three on a beautiful goal by Jaromir Jagr at the 13:11 mark of the second.
Things got so shaky for Pittsburgh, coach Michel Therrien had to call a timeout after Jagr’s seeing-eye marker. But then Renney let Hollweg – never to be confused as a candidate for a Hart or Lady Byng Trophy – back onto the ice, and the goon (whose moustache makes him look like one of Al Swearengen’s toadies from Deadwood) promptly did what he and his ilk are predisposed to do: take dumb penalties at the worst of times.
In this case, it was a brutal check from behind on an inconsequential play that landed Hollweg, who hadn’t played in Game 1 or 2 of the series, in the penalty box. And the moment the minor was called, you could practically hear the feeble farting sound that always emanates from an emptying balloon.
Without a doubt, Hollweg deserves all the raspberries and rotting fruits that will be lobbed his way for the mental error. However, the majority of the blame ought to go to Renney for letting an on-edge player near the edge in the first place.
There are two cardinal rules of the NHL’s post-season. They are:
Number One: The first rule of Post-Season Injury Club is we do not talk about Post-Season Injury Club.
And Number Two: In the playoffs, the fighters sit with the writers.
Tom Renney forgot about Rule Number Two. And because of his error in judgment, he and his team are deep in No. 2, with just a single loss separating them from another squandered season.
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Adam Proteau is The Hockey News’ online columnist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his Ask Adam feature appears Tuesdays and Fridays, and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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