Monday, November 7, 2011
7-3-3: Slowly Step-an Up
MSG Network does a lot of things wrong. Since the heydays of SportsDesk and JD and WWF, the network has slowly become something you only tune in to to catch the game. Programming has been filled with bad music shows promoting MSG's other properties, poorly-put-together clip shows and perhaps the most obnoxious telecast of a radio show ever. There is the rare gem of a new Vault but other than that, it has been Ranger game or nothing. Well, MSG has another hit on their hands with Beginnings and they stuck gold on Sunday by programming the Derek Stepan episode ahead of the Ranger game against the Winnipeg Jets.
Beginnings gives a personal look at the personalities that make up the Rangers and Stepan's show showed a young man with class and character. A humble kid with personality and class beyond his years, the first thought that came to my mind was that he may be a perfect heir to Adam Graves - an example of what a Ranger should be. Step has a long ways to go and a lot of years ahead of him but he is certainly headed in the right direction. After a slow start to his sophomore season, the last few games have seen his play improve exponentially and the 3-0 win over Winnipeg was one of his best performances yet.
The kid looked like a great compliment to Gaborik, the way Dubi was to Jagr a few years back. The chemistry worked to the tune of three goals and another Ranger win. Now we have to see if it was the start to a strong bond or just a flash in the pan.
*For all of the raving and all of the winning, things still aren't great in Ranger land. The team had trouble pressing the road-weary Jets back into their own zone, where is that damned forecheck?? The power play still had its troubles, wasting serious five-on-three time. Dan Girardi still had to play more than 26 minutes. Dubi's offense is still MIA. The guys are still good for a few stupid penalties. The Garden crowd - at least on tv - sounded quiet and tame.
*I had forgotten how difficult it is to watch games at MSG while not in the building. And not just because Micheletti is unlistenable - which he is, listening to him butcher games is a form of torture akin to waterboarding. But while MSG shows the game as well as any broadcaster out there, you don't really get the feeling that comes with being there. Sure you hear the ubiquitous Potvin Sucks whistles but it is far from the same. This is not to boast or brag about how I get to so many games blah blah, just a personal revelation as to how tied to the games I've become.
*Without being in the building it was hard to concentrate on Del Zaster's play but he didn't look as bad as usual. Of course, the Rangers weren't playing as good of an opponent as usual but hey, I'm trying to give him credit. His assist on the Stepan goal was a fluke as he simply made a bad pass to Gaborik that happened to hop past the Slovak to the streaking Stepan.
*The other Ranger who often gets dogged in this space - Arty Anisimov - had perhaps his best game this year. Between his goal line saves in that one goal-crease scrum and his work with Step and Gabby, Arty played with an energy and confidence that he usually lacks. Pointed it out from Day 1, he relies upon his linemates for strength and he could be a great player if he ever is able to find it in himself.
*Happy to see Biron get the shut out but let's face it, he barely had to earn it. No Tobias Enstrom, no cohesive attack by the Jets.
*Ruslan Fedotenko is the guy who carries cement bags around construction sites. He works his ass off in a thankless but very necessary position.
*Love how the haters are calling out Sean Avery for being ineffective. Avery was given just 5:21 of ice time, skating alongside Slow Deveaux and Mr. Softie Christensen. Talk about putting a player in a position to fail. Not that I am hating on Deveaux - he is actually a decent replacement for Rupp - but his lack of speed and skill set just doesn't compliment Avery's game at all.
*As I tweeted, Mark Messier was honoured during a tv timeout for running the NY marathon - something I guess it an accomplishment that's as important to the Rangers as Boogaard's death. I still can't believe the lack of class in handling the loss of that Blueshirt during the home opener.
*Another game-time tweet, do you think that Boyle is hurt or something? He looks like the pre-Barb Underhill player he was. Big, soft & virtually useless.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Marian Gaborik - two goals and one assist.
2-Marty Biron - 23 saves.
1-Derek Stepan - one goal and one assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Biron - When that first shot almost went in under his right pad, I thought for sure this was going to be like Zug. Where his luck went south in Switzerland, it was on his side on this night.
2-Gabby - As great as Step's feed was on his first goal, Gabby still had to finish. And, as empty net goals go, his was purty.
1-Step - Nice timing kid, making the MSG programmer look good.