Tuesday, March 2, 2010

29-27-7: Welcome Back!

The Rangers returned from the Olympic break the way they entered it - with a win. They beat the Ottawa Senators 4-1 to get the second season started in good fashion.

After a sluggish first period, they woke up for the second period to take the lead and cruised through the third period to take the victory. It was like a mirror image of a normal Ranger game where they take an early lead, blow it in the second and have to hustle in the third. They didn't hustle in the third and it would be easy to harp on them for taking their foot off the gas but it was clear that the Sens didn't have the fuel to mount a comeback - even with Rozy opening the door for them with a bad penalty. So it was a pretty sluggish game but we should still be happy with the result and get ready for Cindy on Thursday.

Before then, some quick notes I jotted down as I watched:

*Matt Carkner is a pleasure to watch. Carkner is a tough defenseman who isn't afraid to throw his body around and he picks his spots well. Sure he is slow but wouldn't it be nice to have a player like that in a Blueshirt? Jeff Beukeboom, we miss you so. Haha, I just typed that and Mike Keenan just compared Carkner with Beuk during the first intermission break. Priceless.

*It was a nice piece of revenge for Cally to come back from getting crunched by Carkner in the first period with a goal in the early seconds of the second. It came off a burst of speed, some nice stickhandling and a helluva wrister. He followed it with another goal when he cut down to the net and scooped a backhand off of Elliott and into the net. It would have been nice to have Cally score against Canada, but this performance certainly showed that the Olympic experience added a little jump to his step.

*Remember kids, going to the net is gooooooood. You can't play on the periphery and expect to score goals in this league - goalies and defenders are too skilled and too well padded. Keep in mind, those pads let them stop pucks but you wear pads too and they stop most of the pain that comes as a cost of skating in the trenches - "Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory... lasts forever." Yes, I just watched The Replacements the other day.

*Brian Boyle played less than 10 minutes but made the most of them - he may just yet develop into something good. Key word there? May.

*As I tweeted, Chris Drury was used as a fourth line center at the Olympics and excelled. So the Rangers put him on the first line to start the game. What a braintrust. Olli Jokinen makes a nice steal at the end of the first period and feeds it to Dru, who was facing the wrong way and nearly tripped over the netminder in the crease. His shot blocking and penalty killing was great in Vancouver and it got him a breakaway here in the third period - one that he aborted himself by passing the puck back to the Senators. Eesh.

*Ottawa opened the scoring with a one-timer by Milan Michalek. The Sens came down on a 3-on-2 break, Dan Girardi gave Spezza too much space, Wade Redden stood in the middle watching the play and the puck go right past him and Hank had no chance on the shot.

*Other than that and the seemingly mandatory shot off the iron, Hank looked pretty good. As I wrote before, Sweden getting eliminated early was huge for the Rangers as Torts will ride the birthday boy (he turned 28 today) until the end of the season. If Alex Auld starts more than two of the 20 games, I would be shocked. In fact, I can see him only starting one - in Florida at the beginning of April.

*Mentioning Florida made me think of Olli Jokinen. Olli had a strong first period and pretty much disappeared the rest of the way - much like the Sens Olympians. Let's hope he can get his wheels going full speed by Thursday and Gabby won't need a game to get back into the flow.

*Alex Kovalev showed why he wasn't a part of Team Russia. Our former phenom was either playing bad or barely there - no that I'm complaining, it is far better than what he did against us during the Montreal Massacre.

*The only time I spotted Dubi in the first period was when Wade Redden skated into him from behind while trying to get across the Ottawa blue line on the power play. Then he popped up to take a puck to the face and score a goal in the second period and then promptly disappeared again. I still believe that he can be an Arnott-esque force but he needs to put forth Arnott-esque effort first; this inconsistency is maddening.

*Can you imagine Jason Spezza skating with Marian Gaborik? That would be sick. Just sayin'.

*Corey Potter was solid, yet again. Every time he has suited up for the Rangers so far - all seven games - he has been a more than adequate defenseman. What will it take for the braintrust to see that as well? In a salary cap age, you would think they would realize that he is a far better option than Redden and/or Rozsival. When MDZ returns it should be one of those colossal contracts that gets the bus ticket to Hartford.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Milan Michalek - one goal.
2-Michal Rozsival - two PIM.
1-Ryan Callahan - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Hank - No softies allowed.
2-Sean Avery - I pissed off some people in Vancouver by wearing my Avery jersey one day. When they confronted me, I said that all he does in New York is win. And it is true; when Sean is skating, he is the sparkplug that moves the Rangers. As they slogged through the first period, Aves was the only one hustling and that effort paid off in the second.
1-Cally - Of the nine Olympians in the game, he was the only one to give an Olympian effort. Stellar effort.

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