Sunday, October 4, 2009
1-1-0: A Win To Tuck Away
For all of those surprised by my positive response to the Ranger effort in the season opener will be able to return to their comfort level after this one. The Blueshirts kicked off the home side of the schedule with a 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators.
Before I get to the distasteful details, I will say that the Rangers did what they had to do - they beat a team that was worse than they are. These points are the ones that add up and make up the difference between the playoffs and the golf course. But they certainly weren't pretty.
After the Rangers came out flying like they did against the Pens, they quickly tired and got lucky enough to face a terrible, disorganized team. They threw everything except the kitchen sink at the Ottawa net in the first period - with three power plays - and came away with nothing. From then on out I thought they slugged through two dull periods of hockey, got timely goaltending (those saves before and right after the Prospal goal were HUGE) and took advantage of the Sens mistakes to skate away with the victory. And, in a long season, that's what you have to do - which is great, but certainly not reassuring.
Opening night notes:
*The pregame 'festivities' were woeful. First was the weak MSG montage that is somehow supposed to get us excited for Knicks basketball or something. Then there was the Blue Man Group. Seriously? What? Why? Does the Garden have some kind of financial interest in the Group? They were off the beat, were unfunny and rather pointless. And I usually like their silly brand of musical performance art.
*Then, for the first time that I can remember (outside of 2001), they didn't introduce the players one by one. They just threw them out on the ice. Perhaps it was an attempt to avoid the boos for Redden, Rozy and Brashear but it also didn't give us a chance to individually cheer everyone else.
*John Amarante was not on his game. It was incredible hearing Oh Canada (every hockey game should start with that) but when it came to our anthem, it was far from his best performance. And he didn't pump his fist when the bombs burst in air. What the hell? He always does that.
*And was it me or was it quite warm in the Garden? The puck definitely seemed to hop a bit so maybe it wasn't just me.
Ok, so onto the actual game:
*Brandon Dubinsky's hold-out certainly seems to have paid off, and not just financially. Dubi was the freshest Ranger on the ice and it got him three points.
*The tables turned from the season opener to the home opener between Gilroy and MDZ. After Gilroy starred against the Pens he was nothing short of dreadful in this one. He made a pair of early turnovers, disappeared for a while before his laziness handed the Sens an easy goal. He cruised back to touch up an icing and Jason Spezza out-hustled him to set up Danny Alfredsson for an Ottawa goal. MDZ, meanwhile, was the best of the Ranger blueliners and his seeing-eye shot from the point at the end of the second basically killed the Sens hopes of a comeback and ultimately was the game-winner.
*Marc Staal was strong much of the game but made some mistakes. To his credit, after a bad turnover at the Ottawa blue line, he stayed with the play and forced a turnover with a hit back in the Ranger corner. Michal Rozsival was terrible, Dan Girardi was mediocre and Wade Redden wasn't much better. The Garden being the Garden, when a Ranger went down with a puck or stick in the face late in the first period, many a prayer was said that it was Redden and not Girardi. It was indeed Redden, who stayed down and let the play continue around him in a pathetic plea for sympathy and a whistle. To his credit though, he stayed in the game.
*No credit for Brashear or Voros. Brash lumbered around looking for a fight - especially when Chris Neil turned down the offer earlier - and when he finally got one he lost. Voros should be suspended for picking a fight against a smaller player after the final whistle. If he wanted revenge for the boarding he took earlier, he should have taken it then. Just mindless stupidity against a team not worth the time of day.
*Did Chris Drury play? I couldn't tell.
*The other captain, Ryan Callahan, had a pretty good game but certainly didn't have the same step he had on Friday. Their linemate, Chris Higgins, was disappointing. He had two bad turnovers in the first period and was marginalized the rest of the way.
*I'm still having a tough time seeing the upgrade from Blair Betts to Brian Boyle. Boyle actually did pretty well killing penalties but he actually lost the puck in his feet a few times. Perhaps it is because his feet are so damned far away on that massive frame of his, but still, Bettsy's speed would have been more of a bonus.
*Arty Anisimov also looked a bit uncoordinated out there. After he took that terrible penalty right after the Rangers scored the first goal, he tried to do too much and was far out of his comfort level.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Michael Del Zotto - one goal.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 32 saves.
1-Brandon Dubinsky - two goals and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Gabby - If he stays healthy, and that is a Statue of Liberty-sized IF, can we expect him to score 40, 50 goals? He certainly showed the nose for the net and opportunism that all great scorers have. Not to mention his smart passing to boot.
2-Dubi - Like I said, freshest Ranger on the ice and it showed. Granted, he didn't get the hat trick that one fan thought he did (a lone hat tumbled to the ice after his second goal) but he was pretty damn good.
1-Hank - As per usual the goaltender saved the Ranger bacon. When the second period doldrums hit and the Sens turned on the gas, he was there to make the saves. And he made one huge save in particular that basically set up the first Ranger goal. He's kinda good. Hopefully he doesn't get burned out with three games in four days ...