Sunday, October 5, 2008

1-0-0: A Solid Start

After mistakenly ending up in Brooklyn rather than Queens this morning, I missed the beginning of the Rangers' season opener. I arrived at the beer garden just in time to catch the first goal (I am good luck) and caught the rest of the 2-1 win from there but I waited to write this until I could catch Rangers in 60 on MSG. I didn't read any game reports though so this is all me; I apologize if there is any redundancy from the other guys.

*Man, am I glad I did watch it on MSG. Otherwise I would have missed Joe Micheletti's best work on MSG. His microphone was messed up so he couldn't be heard over the air early in the first period and it was fantastic. Sam Rosen called the game Vin Scully-style (by himself) and it was a vast improvement from the norm. There was nothing lost in not hearing from the colour man and much gained. One can only wish that the brass watched and felt the same way.

*Another tv note - MSG's talent were in Prague but they picked up the signal from the European broadcaster so that is the reason why Sam would mention things that you didn't see.

*Is it me or did Henrik Lundqvist pick up Garth Snow's old shoulder pads? Those things were huge. And they seemed to help because he showed a lot more poise than he did in the Victoria Cup; he just seemed more confident.

*As good as Hank was, his counterpart was better. Even though Mike Smith was beaten for two goals and at least two posts, he stood on his head and made at least a dozen huge saves, even after his arm got hurt. Remember, he dominated the Blueshirts last year on both the Stars and the Bolts so it really was not a surprise.

*The first time Smith was beaten came on Markus Naslund snapping a wrister from the off-wing a la that Messier guy who used to play for the Rangers. Naslund had at least three other great scoring chances so that was a really pleasant sign. For the one that went in, Scott Gomez made a nifty little pass over a few sticks right to the open Naslund on the wing, something that should happen many times this season.

*Something that will unhappily happen many times this season is Dmitri Kalinin getting beaten. Malik Kalinin was roasted along the outside by the speedy Marty St. Louis - a player he should have manhandled - and the mighty midget tied the game at one. I sadly think it will be a competition between Kalinin and Wade Redden to draw the most ire from the True Blue. Although, in all fairness, Redden played better than he had in preseason so maybe it was the start of something good.

*Brandon Dubinsky = Jason Arnott crossed with Jaromir Jagr. Big, skillful centerman who is solid in his own end while using his size to get into good scoring positions on the other side of the ice before unleashing a deadly wrister.

*Dubi's game-winner came on the power play, which was impressive to watch - primarily because of the absence of the aforementioned Jagr. The players cycled, moved the puck and shot at will; hopefully they will be able to keep it up even against better teams than the Bolts. But they do need to finish better as they got just one goal on seven chances, granted that was primarily because of Smith but still ...

*The monstrous Evgeny Artyukhin (6'5, 255) was something to watch. Barry Melrose mistakenly gave Artyukin just 9:!5 of ice time and you could see him out there for every second of it. He gave the Rangers some troubles and will definitely warrant more attention as his skills continue to improve.

*Speaking of ice time, Matt Carle was on the ice for 29 minutes. 29! By contrast, Redden was out there for just over 22. Going back to the Rangers power play for a second, Redden and Rozy did not look as good as Mara and Girardi, which is worrisome, even if it was the first game. There is a lot of money tied up in the top two guys and they need to produce.

*And on the other side of the coin, Chris Drury didn't score at all but still looked good as the newly-branded captain of the New York Rangers. He played a typical Drury game by working the boards, working the crease, backchecking and hustling. He is leading by example, now we just need to hear from him as well ...

*PHW Three Stars
3-Henrik Lundqvist - 20 saves.
2-Markus Naslund - one goal.
1-Brandon Dubinsky - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Dubinsky - Dubi scored the go-ahead goal and was back on the ice moments later to kill a penalty. You can't ask for more from this kid.
2-Mike Smith - 39 saves behind a inexperienced and, frankly, lousy defense.
1-Naslund - The Swede was a scoring threat all game long and he played much, much better than he did in the preseason. Performances like this will go far to justify his contract and the 'A' they put on his chest.

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