The Rangers' 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks had everything, it just didn't feel like it. There were the six goals, there were hits, there were a few big saves, there were two fights (proving me wrong) ... but very little flow, to the point of seeming lackluster at points. But it's a win and we'll certainly take it, so let's start breaking it down:
*Maybe the ice was bad, because both teams had severe troubles puckhandling and making good passes. It led to some sloppy hockey and perhaps the dry feeling that I took away from the game. The Rangers' play didn't help as they would collapse in their own zone to clog the shooting and passing lanes. It wasn't pretty hockey but it worked, so who am I to complain?
*The pregame video tribute was nicely done and hit on all of the franchise's big points and players from its 82 years of history in less than two minutes. It interestingly mixed the I Am A Ranger campaign with historical clips and not really in a bad way. My only problem was that they followed it up with another video montage thing that had a weird video effect and it just didn't seem to work. The Irish drummers on the ice also didn't work great. Perhaps because they were under utilized, perhaps because there were no bagpipers, I don't know. I was underwhelmed.
*To be honest, there were only a few underwhelming performances to be had on the Rangers roster in this game. Nigel Dawes was invisible, Dmitri
*Blair Betts has always seemed unable to score if his life depended on it but he unleashed a wonderful slap shot off the wing late in the second while killing a penalty, forcing Cristobal Huet to make a highlight-reel glove save. Betts has never had a shot like that before and it was a fantastic surprise, hopefully its something he pulls out of the arsenal more often.
*Speaking of players using other skills, Colton Orr skated like he never has before. Orr was quick to the puck, forechecked hard and had one awesome shift late where he maintained puck possession for nearly a minute by himself on the offensive boards.
*Orr didn't throw down his gloves but both Ryan Callahan and Paul Mara did. While Cally took exception to a mediocre hit, there didn't seem to be any reason for Mara to throw down. And Mara got the decision in his battle but I don't think a single punch was thrown. How boring.
*On the other side of the coin, Betts lost his stick during a second period penalty kill and skated all the way to the Ranger bench to get another ... while play was still going on deep in the Ranger zone. It seemed like quite a gamble.
*Wade Redden seems to be making smart wagers with jumping up into the play. This time his sneak into the slot resulted in the first goal of the game and his second of the season. It is a nice start to the year but he will have keep it going at the same pace over the next 79 games if he is to justify his contract.
*The other big summer signing, Markus Naslund, assisted on Redden's goal and played a really solid, veteran game. Naslund calmly moved the puck, finished all of his checks and was defensively responsible all night long.
*So long Petr Prucha. After playing the first two games, Pru was replaced by Freddie Sjostrom in the line-up and isn't likely to get back in the line-up any time soon. The Swede skated hard, complimented Orr and Betts well on the fourth line, had a nice scoring opportunity and did well on the PK - pretty much reinforcing the fact that Prucha is expendable.
*Just as I was getting mad at Nik Zherdev for passing too much, he came in as the trailer on a play and scored the Rangers fourth goal. He shot the puck over Huet, who really had a miserable game. Aside from the save on Betts' shorthanded shot, Huet couldn't make the big saves he needed to and gave up rebound after rebound after rebound.
*He was one of several Hawks to disappoint. Newly minted captain Jonathan Toews was invisible, as was a surprisingly-healthy Marty Havlat.
*None of the Hawks were paying the tolls in the trenches. The opposite can be said of the Rangers, with captain Chris Drury leading the way. Drury planted himself in the paint on the power play and went right to the crease on each offensive rush, two things no player was willing to do for the Blueshirts last season.
*Kudos go to Marc Staal, who had a steady game that was marked by one shift where he painfully blocked a shot, slowly got back to his feet and got back into the play. He stood his ground and stayed on the ice until the puck was successfully cleared out of the Rangers zone. Now that is hockey!
*PHW Three Stars, which were different in the arena then on the official box score:
3-Brandon Dubinsky - one goal and two assists.
2-Garden-Henrik Lundqvist - 30 saves.
2-Box score-Lauri Korpikoski - no points.
1-Aaron Voros - one goal and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Ryan Callahan - Cally was all over the ice pressing the action and causing havok. He is turning into a Little Ball of Hate Pat Verbeek-esque player and it is fun to watch.
2-Voros - Last season he flashed some skills when he got ice time on Minnesota's first line and here, playing with Dubi and Zherdev, those skills are coming out again.
1-Dubi - Our Jason Arnott's timing is improving to the point where he can listen to his hockey sense and get into good spots where he could use his size and speed.