Marc Staal has had an eventful playoff season for the New York Rangers.
The usually reliable defenseman has been a force at times, shutting down opponents, creating some offense and notoriously laying the lumber on Sidney Crosby.
He also experienced one of the worst shifts ever for a player of his caliber.
With just more than 13 minutes to play in the third period of Game 4 and the Rangers trailing 2-1, Staal took a shot from the point that was blocked by Pittsburgh’s James Neal. Strike one.
He then retreated to gather the puck in the defensive zone, but had has stick lifted by Neal and was stripped of the puck. Strike 2.
Then as Jussi Jokinen swung around the Rangers’ net and fired a prayer towards Henrik Lundqvist, the puck hit Staal’s right leg and redirected past his netminder. Y’er out.
It was the unfortunate trinity of plays: the block, the loss and the holy crap.
It was also a sequence which prompted suggestions of fatigue and raised the specter of the “stupid schedule”. Whether it’s a factor or not is irrelevant. Staal and the Rangers have to find a way to fight through any letdown they may be experiencing in order to reverse their fortunes tonight.
With Crosby, Neal, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury and other Pens now wearing what Alain Vigneault referred to as the “big boy pants”, excuse time, and horrible shift time, is over.