Saturday, September 20, 2008
Preseason: Penalty Party In Ottawa
Yay!!!!! Hockey's back! As you can guess, I am giddy to see the boys back on the ice. And let that serve as a warning that this game wrap runs a bit long as I took notes while I was watching this parade to the penalty box in Ottawa. The good news is that the Rangers' pk was solid, even if the team went on to lose 3-2.
But before I get to the game, I want to wish John Dellapina the best of luck. Dellapina is leaving the Daily News to join Bettman's staff at the league as the Director of Media Relations. His writing has always been exceptional and I, for one, will miss reading his work. Now onto my work:
*For all of the initial joy to see the initial opening animation to the game, seeing Joe Micheletti back when they first came on camera bummed me out. If you missed the broadcast, don't worry, Joe is still the same annoying, obnoxious dolt who has no idea on how to properly do colour commentary. And they came out of the first break with technical difficulties, what a way to start a season. They also lost a minute or two of the third period but luckily didn't miss much action.
*I find it remarkable that these professional athletes get tired after a 30 second shift. The Rangers took a bad penalty, got pinned in their own zone and stood around as the Sens scored a gimme goal by Ferrari fanatic Dany Heatley to go up 1-0. It was the same laziness that hurt the Rangers during Game 3 against the Pens last season, but at least then there was some understanding because it was late in a game in April. This is the first game after training camp. I just don't get it; these guys play scrimmages for hours and stop skating after 30 seconds in a game.
*We got out first peak at Mike "Pie F-er" Del Zotto in this one and I can't say I was impressed. He panicked and threw the puck out of the zone on his first shift, and took a silly penalty his second. He settled down later on but certainly is a year or three away from the NHL.
*Michal Roszival returned from surgery and looked to be in the same defensively-lacking form he was in before going under the knife. His ridiculous giveaway at the point on the power play gave Jason Spezza a breakaway and you just can't give Spezza a breakaway. 2-0 Sens.
*As they say, it's preseason for the officials, too. This game was a throwback to the games right after the lockout where they called most EVERYTHING. Nineteen power plays. 19! Painful!
*Something to contemplate: Was this split squad doomed from the start? Perry Pearn, the author of last year's awful power play, was the head coach ...
*Chris Drury wore the captain's C, but it was just a preseason game on a split squad so we will see who has it opening night. There will be a blog here on Monday about that matter ... oh, and speaking of blogs, you should check out Puck Daddy's Ranger preview - a fun snapshot of the team.
*Drury was forced to come down low and clear out the crease early in the second period and let's face it, that isn't his forte. 3-0 Sens.
*After getting knocked around on their first shift of the first period, Cally/Dubi/Voros looked good when they got some power play time later in the period. Voros went to the net, Cally dug the puck off the boards and Dubi worked the middle. All three stood up for each other on that shift after watching the Sens pick them off one-by-one on that opening shift.
*Dubi showed off what he learned from playing with Jaromir Jagr by powering through the Ottawa zone to score the first Ranger goal, 3-1. He did it again with a pin-point wrister to make it a 3-2 game with a shorty in the third off a great play by Cally, who had that same energetic form that he flashed last season.
*Of all of the intermission interviews I've seen, Aaron Voros' might have been the sweatiest. He was dripping between the second and third and I do not envy the audio guy who has to wipe down those headsets. After spouting some cliches he finally showed some personality in admitting that he was a 'stupid' (as in huge) fan of Mark Messier when he was a kid.
*Greg Moore had a really solid game for the Blueshirts. He seemed to hustle every second he was on the ice and made a good statement, even without getting on the scoresheet.
*Miika Wiikman looked a lot better in net for the Rangers than Valley but that is not unexpected. Valley is a career backup goaltender while Wiikman is a future NHL starter. But at the same time, it wasn't like the Rangers gave Valley much support either while they settled down as the game went on and played better in front of Wiki.
*How were there no fights in this game? The closest we came was when Danny Bois bounced back from getting hit by Dane Byers and went after Colton Orr in the third. Now Bois had turned away from the Ranger and towards the boards but Micheletti cried that it was a penalty because Bois was helpless. Luckily, the refs didn't see it that way (the wrong way) and they didn't make the call. Bois raced up-ice to go after Byers, collided with Orr and the linesmen jumped right in before punches could be thrown. That's half the fun of preseason! Hopefully Monday we will see some fisticuffs.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Martin Gerber - 23 saves
2-Brandon Dubinsky - two goals
1-Dany Heatley - one goal
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Jarkko Ruutu - I hate you Jarkko! And that is because you are so damn good at being such a pain in the ass. Ruutu was disruptive and physical early and it threw the Rangers off their game.
2-Heatley - He can't drive but he sure as hell can play hockey. Heatley skated a game-high 24:10 and worked hard on both sides of the ice while playing a physical game. There is a reason he is one of the top 10 talents in the NHL ...
1-Dubi - As I said earlier, I think he really showed off what he learned from Jagr: how to use his size to his advantage while keeping the skills and quickness of a smaller player.