Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pre-season Ramblings Part One. . .

I know I have been remiss in writing on this blog, so you have my utmost apologies for that. For I am, myself, very disappointed. It's been due to lack of time and situations at work that have stopped me recently, not for lack of interest. There are just some things we can't control. Again, once hockey season truly gets under way, I will make the time. You can count on it.
Anyway, as a good little hockey fan, I cleared my Saturday evening for the Rangers first pre-season game in Ottawa. I mean it might not be 2-points-or-bust-hockey, but it's hockey. And that was good enough for me. So watch I did. Through the 21 penalties. Through the choppiness. Through the speed from both sides. And through it all I took away a few key things:
- Brandon Dubinsky is a great hockey player. With Jaromir Jagr, without Jaromir Jagr. He can skate and he has a nice shot. A nice shot. He showed in the Young Stars game at All-Star in Atlanta that he could contribute. In fact he won game MVP honors. He's a special kind of player. I think playing with different players this year, his point totals will go up. I will be very surprised if this prediction does not prove to be true.
-Michael Del Zotto, the guy who I was talking about on draft day only in that he looked like former Ranger Al Montoya (a little, you know when you squint, tilt your head, and. . . never mind), played a quite solid game. Nothing super, nothing flashy. But he looked good on the power play. His passes were crisp. And he didn't stand out for the wrong reasons either which is always important when you are young, making your debut against guys like Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, and, oh yeah, all of 18-years-old.
-Aaron Voros is going to be my type of Ranger. Immediately the interviewers on TV and the beat writers made mention of his story: a kid who loved the Rangers, while crowing up in Vancouver. In 1994. Yeah, my kind of Ranger, boys, my kind of Ranger. To boot, he "stupid" liked Mark Messier back in the day. LOL! It was a great interview with him. And his game - there has been nothing not to like so far. Setting up some goals, hitting, going to the net. Being a force. If the aforementioned Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan and Voros make up a 3rd line this season, I don't think I'll be disappointed.
- Colton Orr. I like the guy. Actually really like the guy. It always struck you that there was "more" to him than there was to some other "fighters" on the team. Yes he can fight, he can play that role. I want him on the roster when we are playing the Flyers, hands down. But....he can do more. And I started liking him when he said a few years ago that he was going to work on being a more complete player. I respected him completely when he said he was working with Jagr to become a better skater (I believe it was last year). And I now am to the point where I think he's legit in that he made the committment to stay in New York all summer (and he lives in NY State folks, not NYC) to train. He looked better. His skating has, without a doubt, improved every year that I've seen him. And you know what, good for him. He can do more than just fight and he's showing that.
In other hockey news, on Sunday I drafted my fantasy hockey team. :) I love playing fantasy hockey. Now, I'm not really one to talk about who I drafted or the day in and day out of it all; but if by All-Star break, I'm blowing out the competition, I'll be sure to throw that in somewhere. Let me just say I am very satisfied with the skaters on my team. Very.
Back to the game at hand. So last night there was some action at the Garden, the second half of a home and home with Ottawa. The "other" half of the lineup saw game action, with a few exceptions. Again, some key takeaways:
- I trust that the line of Scott Gomez, Marcus Naslund, and Nikolai Zherdev will look better the more they come to play together. It's hard to judge on one night. I know they'll be fast though. And hopefully accurate. The first time Zherdev tried a little move and lost the puck, I heard more than one person say the name [Alexei] Kovalev. (oh!)
-Lauri Korpikoski might be the next player in line from Hartford (of the offensive boys) that I'd say gets a serious look for the club. He came up last year and played his one game, one goal, effort in Pittsburgh to close out the Rangers playoffs, but in all due honesty, this would be first real go around. He looked good.
- That Wade Redden got manhandled on that goal set up by Brad Isbister was only slightly ironic. I hope it doesn't become a habit, but I'm sure nerves had a lot to do with it. I hope. (also hope for the record that Isbister fits in well in Ottawa. Good guy who plays a good role).
And we'll end with . . .
- Petr Nedved being first star of the night really made me think that it was 2002 all over again. I won't go into my thoughts on Nedved. They have been made clear in the August 6th blog titled 'The Great Petr Nedved Debate.' BUT. He looked good. And better than him looking good, people responded to him. Fans, although many of them posers with short memores, were jeering him as they took the ice only to stand and cheer as he scored. And the media was all over it. Everyone got asked about Petr Nedved. Even Wade Redden. Not, oh, Wade, how was your first game as a Ranger? But, oh, Wade, whaddya think of Petr Nedved? For the record, and for the (maybe but I can't guarantee it) last time, I like Blair Betts. I like his penalty killing and his faceoffs. But.....if you want a fourth line center who is going to lead a line to score 15-25 goals (in addition to playing the role of penalty killer and providing veteran leadership), Betts is not your guy. Unless you saddle him up with other wings. But, for the sake of all the lines being already almost set or at least in serious consideration - (Drury, Prucha, Dawes/ Callahan, Dubinsky, Voros/ Zherdev, Gomez, Naslund) - you are looking at a guy that is going to center Colton Orr and TBD. I just got finished praising Colton Orr. But a dream and a commmittment does not automatically a 15 goal-scorer make. He needs time. He needs someone who can pass him the puck in order for him to score. And likewise, an aging center in Nedved, would benefit from having someone to crush a guy in the corneres to make more room for him to skate down the wing.
It's just one game. They all said it. Its just one game. But. . . if nothing else, I got a good feeling watching Petr Nedved take that skate. He's a good guy who's giving it one last try. And if he proved anything last night, both to his fans and to his naysayers, he is not washed up just yet.
More later, as this week of 5 games, and 6 games in 8 nights continues....

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