Friday, October 2, 2009
0-1-0: Well, It's A Start ...
The 2009-10 NHL season started for the New York Rangers with a 3-2 loss in the Igloo to the defending Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. The final result was to be expected but the Blueshirts looked quite good against a tough opponent.
The new Rangers fared well overall:
-Gabby scored a nice goal, was a constant offensive threat, took some big hits and managed not to get injured. That's stellar in my book.
-The kids on the blueline performed well beyond their years. MDZ was a bit shakey early but he settled down while Hobey Gilroy played with poise and determination. Gilroy showed no fear jumping into the rush, even leading it at times.
-Vinny Prospal had one great chance on net - that forced a stellar save by Fleury - but that was about all I saw from him as Gabby and Dubi seemed to drive the bus on that line. He can be much better and should be.
-Chris Higgins was involved all evening and looked great alongside Dru and Cally. It is so nice to see Rangers forcing the action and working hard.
-Donald Brashear had a fight (that he lost to Godard) but the Rangers got a boost so that has to be called a successful performance. I still don't like him.
-His linemate, Brian Boyle, was bad. Boyle barely played and when he did he turned the puck over. Brash and Voros were forechecking and making things happen while Boyle was drifting around doing nothing. Combine that with the power play goal against to open the Pens scoring and I really am having a very, very hard time seeing how he was an upgrade over Blair Betts.
-Enver Lisen was a threat early before disappearing. But his disappearance I think had as much to do with Arty Anisimov and Ales Kotalik's poor performance as anything else. Torts threw him on the ice in the final seconds for a spark - which he did - but couldn't get a good chance out of it.
More notes on the night:
*Chris Drury certainly seemed infuriated by that penalty he was called for in the first period. He was jockeying back and forth with a Penguin and was the only one to go to the box and feel shame. Pittsburgh came right back to score on the power play (more on that in a sec) but after that Dru played inspired hockey the likes of which we haven't seen from him against a team other than the Islanders.
*I have to say that I loved the intermission reports with Bill Pidto and Mike Keenan. Sure Keenan didn't drop the gloves and go out on an edge with anything but he was insightful and interesting. Suddenly MSG is looking like a pro network again! As I said during the preseason, the graphics package is clean and attractive, and now the talent is there to match. Of course, Joe Micheletti is still there so that's a major strike against them but the presentation is much better than last season and Maloney and Keenan help offset his suckiness.
*All of this optimism is kinda making me queasy so to step back into my own shoes for a second I hope you saw the Cindy Crosby goal that made it 2-1, because there are going to be a lot more like that this season. The Rangers over-committed to the offense and left Hank alone. The Pens had an odd-man break and actually blew it but the Blueshirts couldn't find their coverage - they just watched the puck and paid for it when Cindy banged in a rebound standing alone in the slot.
*Other than that, Marc Staal did a great job shutting Cindy down. Staal certainly looked like he has taken the No. 1 defenseman roll. He was strong on his skates, physical, confident with the puck and good positionally (most of the time).
*Of the remaining five blueliners, as I mentioned before, you couldn't tell that two were rookies - they played that well. Redden was much better than he was last season but was the same old Redden when it counted (yeah Joe, the puck just 'jumped half a foot in the air' at the end to be cleared right past Redden, sure). Girardi was mediocre (at best) while Rozy was disappointing, again. His play has steadily deteriorated ever since Jagr left and something needs to be done soon.
*By now you surely have heard about the Alex Semenov situation - his wife wants more money from the Rangers. The guy works hard on a try out and actually earns himself a gig and she wants to hold out for more. Maybe he will get it ... back in Russia. For us that means that someone like Brad Lukowich will get a call or one of the Pack will be called up - either way, win-win.
*On the Penguins, the signing of Jay McKee wasn't really noticed after his troubles in St. Louis but McKee was a helluva defender with Buffalo and he looked like it again in this one. He led a Pens defense that clogged the passing lanes and blocked shot after shot. Always liked McKee.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Alex Goligoski - two assists.
2-Tyler Kennedy - one goal.
1-Sidney Crosby - one goal.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Gabby - I honestly do want to give some credit to Cindy, but Crosby played the game you expect from him nowadays. Gabby, however, didn't get hurt. So everything else - the goal, the shots, the smooth passing - were all icing on the cake.
2-Hank - The King made a few huge saves to keep the Rangers in the game as the Pens carried the emotion from the ceremony into the game. He could hardly be faulted for the goals against; what can you do?
1-Marc-Andre Fleury - I don't care for the Flower but the kid made some impressive saves. Even with his defense doing good work in front of him, Fleury still had to make some big stops and he made them.