The Rangers kick off their 2009-10 season Friday night in Pittsburgh at 7:30 on MSG. I figured I would get a jump on things and put this out today, and the PF for the Sens on Friday.
Where We Are: Taking the first step on a quest for the Cup. We know the road is tough and fraught with danger but the prize is well worth it: a place in history.
Where They Are: Celebrating their place in history. Bastards. The Penguins will raise their Stanley Cup banner before the game - rubbing it in our faces. Seeing that smile from Cindy ... *shudder* I still fully believe that if Mike Babcock kept Justin Abdelkader in the Finals rather than putting back in a banged-up Kris Draper, the Cup would be in Detroit. The series was that close that the spark from one player could have swung it the other way. As is, Nik Lidstrom had a chance to force overtime in Game 7 but shanked the shot. The youthful legs of Afrogator were such a spark in the first two games ... but yeah, the Penguins. They will be breaking in some new players - youngster Chris Bourque (Ryan's brother and Ray's other son), geezer Jay McKee and obnoxious Mike Rupp (yep, the former Jersey thug).
Who To Watch For: Crosby, Malkin, blah blah blah. I have a hunch Kunitz can top 30 goals with a full season alongside Sid, maybe even 40. If Rob Brown can get 49 with Mario ... Looking past the stars, look at the defense and see how that unit fares without the pillars that were Long Island's own Rob Scuderi and the U.S.S. Hal Gill.
What To Watch For: What kind of start the Rangers get. After suffering through the slap in the face that is watching the banner raising, they then have a game to play. And there is a lot of other things to keep an eye on: See if they buy into Torts all-offense-all-the-time mentality. See if Michal Rozsival is as bad a player now as he was in the preseason. See if Marian Gaborik can make it through a whole game without getting hurt. See if the lack of a legit checking line will cost the Rangers badly. See how long the Rangers can hold onto the puck as Cindy and company have the speed to take advantage of any and all turnovers. See if Torts melts down and loses the game for the team, like he did the series in Washington. Bitter much? Yes I am.
What We'll (Hopefully) See: A statement from the Rangers - a lotta shots going on net while keeping the Pens penned in their own zone. Relentless forechecking. Few odd-man rushes bursting in on Hank. Oh, and Brashear to ruin Crosby's season before it really starts. That would be nice. I would cheer for that; call me a hypocrite all you like.
Also Check Out: Empty Netters, which is the Pittsburgh Post Gazette's awesome link-happy blog, the snarky photoshop-heavy awesomeness of The PensBlog and SBN's Pensburgh. The funny thing is that looking for the Pensburgh link, I stumbled across this. Hilarity.