Okay, again, I'm not trying to rain on any parades. Seriously, I'm not. I'm glad - as a fan, all we can be is glad when our team does well - that the Rangers are undefeated to start the season. Or in first place. I mean, sure those things are nice. But the reality of the big picture is - some teams have only played one game! The Rangers have already played four, and will have played 8 by this time next week! Open the schedule in Europe on back to backs and add another back to back the following weekend, and it already feels like the season (for everyone) has been open a week. Not the case, though, not the case.
On the same note, I should be telling myself that predictions do not matter (which I mean honestly, they really don't) and that what looks like reality a few games in, is almost never the reality we'll see 6 months from now.
With that being said, the Rangers have looked good at points and should focus on that to a degree. The "Playstation" line of Aaron Voros, Nik Zherdev, and Brandon Dubinsky - - for non-fans, apparently Dubinsky and Voros put themselves on each other's line while playing video games and got great results, so, when it happened in a real game, . . .well you get the idea - - looked amazing Friday night at the Garden. Speed, a little toughness when needed, and chemistry, yes. I thought, please, please, coach Renney, keep them together. You don't fight with a group that looked that in-sync and that happy to be together. I'm all for young guys playing and playing well together.
Meanwhile the "$18 million" line - my nickname, not theirs - of Markus Naslund, Scott Gomez, and Chris Drury - has not impressed in my opinion. And it's early so you can slap me for that comment, but I just watch a combined $18 payroll skate together - the Rangers new captain, and two assistants, for the record - and seem to be missing a step. Gomez, who looked sharp in Europe, has been missing something since coming Stateside. Drury sure looks like he's going to score a ton of goals, but it hasn't happened yet. Naslund gets a little more of a pass because he's on a new team, with new teammates, in a new conference, and he's been shuttled around from three countries in just short of a week and a half. But I hope (hope!) this Drury/Gomez thing either is determined to work quickly, or torn apart quickly, so the team can try and establish a third line that is better than . . .
Whatever the heck was skating on Friday night. I think it was Lauri Korpikoski (who looked flat, but again, first real game at the Garden, young kid, I'll give him a break), Nigel Dawes (who has looked flat this entire 2008 pre-and actual season and if there was a way to send him to Hartford without losing him on waivers, I'd drive him up there myself) , and Ryan Callahan (who I felt bad for because it appeared quite obvious his linemates were dragging him down). It just isn't the right mix. Callahan's game suffered, and might continue to suffer if he's not given linemates he can work better with. Sure, it's only four games in, and I trust that is the point just now, but I feel for him, because he looked sharp in Europe and has been skating, sticking up for teammates, and looking in mid-season form.
Sorry to jump games on you, but the fourth line combo of Blair Betts, Colton Orr, and Fredrick Sjostrom looked good last night (in Philly), better than Betts and his linemates looked the night previous. Sjostrom has at least earned a little of his playing time. Orr has been convincing. And I'm not going to stop my "confusion" over the Blair Betts fascination, but. . .last night he was fine. And not because he got a goal and an assist, because the second he did, I shook my head and said, oh great, score one now, we'll see the next one in March. Which is a little mean. . .but. . .
Steve Valiquette looked solid in goal last night and kept the Rangers in a game they very well might have lost. They opened up a quick and impressive four goal lead, but I am not sure how much of that was easy goals - Sjostrom's open net sweep around was pretty, but it was into an empty net; Zherdev's was nice, but might very well have been stopped had Marty Biron been awake. Point is, thank goodness it was a four goal lead, because Philadelphia woke up and at least made me feel a little better about picking them to win the division. The Rangers got undisciplined, took some bad penalties, and should be happy their penalty kill is still perfect. Their PowerPlay has looked nothing but.
Off the Rangers for now. We'll see where this goes. Again, I'm happy, but for the sake of the blog, I'm trying to be realistic. It will take a while for this team and its players to come together; so we can see who is going to be every day players for this team, or instead, if this rotation of 3rd and 4th line players on a nightly basis continues. I hope the former.
Around the league: With a ton of Rangers games, it has been hard and will be harder this week to pay attention to the other games. In due time, hopefully that's not the case, but . . .
- When I saw Toronto beat Detroit to open the season, I thought . . .huh? The Maple Leafs came back to earth, however, with a 6-1 loss to rival Montreal. And Detroit won on a late goal over Ottawa. For a day, the world seemed to right itself a little.
- I didn't get to see the Calgary/Vancouver game from Vancouver, but I made a point to watch a healthy enough portion of the game last night from Calgary. Point to US teams - watch a Canadian pre-game presentation. Calgary's was incredibly nice. I mean I guess it's a newer building than some of the others in the league, but the way they display player images on the ice and names, and the whole affect of the red lights of the Sea of Red - it looked fantastic. As the Rangers very often are playing the early game, I most often get to watch the late games on HNIC, and I've never been disapointed with game presentation there, or for the most part, the games. The game itself was fiesty. Again as a person who just re-watched last year's final game between the two (essentially a throw-away game where Jarome Iginla was aiming to get his 50th goal and everyone was being overly touchy feely as Trevor Linden appeared poised for retirement). Not so last night. These teams do not like each other. Iginla, again the do-everything poster boy, pulled off his gloves (and jersey it would seem) to fight Willie Mitchell. Good fun all around, except perhaps for Miikka Kiprusoff who still looks a little unsteady in goal. And Calgary's scoring came from very unexpected players, whereas Vancouvers were from guys like the Sedins, and newly acquired Pavol Demitra. It's early boys, it's early.
-Hockey Night in Canada. . . Yeah. I wasn't impressed. I didn't love the song that won the contest. I don't know it it's impossible to watch because I still (like almost everyone I would assume) have the old song imprrinted into my brain, but it was so different. I mean, does it matter to me? Not as much as the fact that Mike Milbury has done nothing to enchant himself to me after day one. I couldn't even watch most of their panel, because he was making me ill. Did Kelly Hrudey think it was funny when he was congratulating his father-in-law on a birthday, just to have Milbury's first words be, you know he's borrowing someone elses's years!! I would have smacked him, but Kelly is too good for that. I just would pay to know what they all think of him, really. (I'm sure some people love him and love that type of stuff; but I think you can have good natured banter without seeming to come off as pompous).
-On a personal note - we need more PJ Stock (interesting hair-do or not)! You stick him in a bubble and don't let him banter with Ron for more than a second or two. Hope it falls into a better pattern at some point, but I won't know for a few weeks as I'll be out of NHL Centre Ice zone for at least the next two weekends.
- And bonus for having the CBC games on NHL Network so everyone could see them, but way to let people know! I was channel flipping and getting nervous. Finally found them. And of course, after the late game, people in Canada got to see After Hours, which is one of my favorite parts of the night, and I get the first of fourteen On the Flys. Hope it's not on there every week, for that reason alone.
Okay, with that, I'm going to join the "non-hockey" world for a bit. I'm more than a week behind in television shows. Til then. . .