Four games on the old continent, four wins. And two of them actually meant something! The last one came today in a tightly contested 2-1 battle where the Rangers hammered the Lightning with 39 shots and only scored on set plays. There is happiness for Ranger fans worldwide but it should be tempered as they beat on a bad Tampa team and they didn't do so all that convincingly. Hopefully the Blueshirts don't struggle with jet lag as badly as I have been and come out strong against the Hawks in their North American season opener. But before then, let's talk about this game:
*Why couldn't Joe Micheletti's mic be messed up again? Listening to him makes me angry.
*What a depressing way to end the first period for the Rangers. After Scott Gomez lost a defensive zone faceoff to Adam Hall, he let the former Blueshirt slip by and Hall tipped a Andrej Meszaros shot through Hank. It was a simply unacceptable play by the Rangers' first-line center. How soon until Dubi supplants the lackadaisical Gomez for the top spot?
*But on the other side of the ice, after getting stopped on an easy slam dunk goal early in the second period, Gomez didn't miss again when he got an opportunity later in the frame to bang the puck in and he put the Rangers up 2-1.
*The defensive duo of Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival looked much better than they did in the season opener. Redden didn't have any defensive gaffs and snuck into the slot to score the Rangers' first goal. Rozy finally seemed to lose his aversion towards shooting and fired away, something that he has needed to do for years and while he didn't score, the goals will come if he keeps it up. Of course, he took two terrible penalties so he ends up par for the course.
*While the Rangers dominated in shots, they were housed in faceoffs. I saw Dubi doing extra work in the circle during practice in Switzerland but the rest of the pivots clearly need more practice as well.
*Nik Zherdev has offensive skills that millions would kill for but why in the world would he choose to unleash a slap shot from the high slot on a breakaway? I am starting to think Rod Gilbert will be right that 20 goals would be a better expectation for the former Blue Jacket. But man, while he makes dubious decisions at times, he certainly can distribute the puck. Once Nigel Dawes finds his scoring touch, the two will make for a scary pair.
*Something that is really scary is that Steve Stamkos is actually living up to his No. 1 overall draft pick status. With the exception of his dumb penalty late, the kid has played with the poise of a veteran, nearly scored in each game and even had the NHL-style interview cliche's down pat in his second intermission interview with Al Trautwig. He was fun to watch and on Friday we will get to see last-year's top pick Pat Kane do the same thing.
*Blair Betts has looked great in both games, driving to the net and getting scoring chances while maintaining his top-flight defensive work. That being said, he will have to start converting some of those chances and soon with Fritsche and Rissmiller lurking. With Betts' speed and hockey smarts, 10 goals shouldn't be too much to ask for this season.
*There are good penalties, there are bad penalties. Dubi jumping on Artyukhin after The Russian Bear accidentally collided with Hank was a good penalty. The Rangers need to stand up for themselves and their goaltender. All too often last season they didn't. I had a debate yesterday with a friend about whether or not Colton Orr was a true NHL heavyweight and he made a great point - Colt may fight with the big boys, but his presence doesn't stop other teams from taking liberties. This season more guys have to step up and make a statement.
*That being said, seeing Aaron Voros and Ryan Malone go at it for no reason at center ice was pointless. I love fighting in hockey but not fighting for fighting's sake - neither were involved in the hitting that prefaced the bout. There has to be a direct reason for guys to drop their gloves, otherwise this sport becomes the Slapshot-esque joke that everyone sees it as.
*Is it too much to ask for Joe not to defend
*How soon until Tampa fires Barry Melrose? I have a hunch he won't last the season.
*It definitely seemed like a Ranger home game with the vocal fan support. On Friday we will have to show the Euros how the real home crowd does it.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Olaf Kolzig - 37 saves.
2-Wade Redden - one goal and one assist.
1-Scott Gomez - one goal and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3- Andrej Meszaros - Just over 30 minutes of ice time, an assist and constantly involved in the action. He may just be worth everything Tampa gave up for him. Maybe.
2-Blair Betts - Bettsy created chance after chance offensively (even though he couldn't convert) and was his usual stellar self on the penalty kill.
1-Olaf Kolzig - New jersey, same story for the