Wednesday, January 21, 2009

An Optimist's Post Game Thoughts. . .

I would have combined the two, but after how cynical the last blog entry was turning, I thought it best to move on to a new and fresh space.

In terms of what went well last night, I'd like to take a minute to clarify something and perhaps apologize to Blair Betts.

Yes, I said apologize. I know.

Now, long before I started writing this blog, I really liked Blair Betts. I thought he was probably the most underappreciated and one of the most valuable players on the team.

And that was when this team HAD Jaromir Jagr, Sean Avery, Marty Straka, etc.

I appreciated him for the role he played. A penalty killer who does what is asked of him. A guy with no flash, but that gets the job done. A guy who doesn't say much, but doesn't need to. A true blue collar type player.

Blair Bett's game last night is a perfect example of why I once thought so highly of him. And perhaps why I should start to think highly of him again.

I attack the Rangers powerplay because, well, it's horrible. And it very much deserves to be attacked.

But I don't stop often enough to praise the Rangers penalty kill, which is spectacular.

When Betts blocked those shots last night, the Garden was louder than it's been in a long while for a PK. And, yes, at MSG they do cheer wildly for good penalty kills.

(Again, remember, not a lot of goals, they have to pick and choose their moments).

And now a moment to apologize. I was not kind to Betts earlier this year. And I know why. To me, and to many, it was a competition in training camp between Blair Betts and one of my all time favorites in Petr Nedved. And to see how truly well Petr played and then to watch him be dismissed because of Renney's apparent love of Betts, it didn't sit well with me.

I realize now, months later, I was taking it out on the wrong person. Betts does deserve a place on this team. And unlike about 75% of the players on it, he has very much earned it.

My anger over the Nedved situation should fall to Renney, Sather, and whomever else had an issue with a deserving Czech veteran having a limited but deserved role on this team. This team that can't score, let me remind you.

Secondly, I think my view of Betts this year was skewed, perhaps more than it should have been, because Betts is...well Betts. Again, not flashy, not high-scoring, not anything remarkable really. Except he is in the way he showed last night.

But I am now realizing that I was viewing Betts as just one more of the boring, non-scoring guys on this team. Another North American guy with no dazzle.

And that's true. Betts won't apologize for it. He doesn't need to.

BUT...unlike the other boring, non-scoring guys on this team, Betts actually does his job and is worth every cent they pay him.

I overlooked that, and I am sorry for my shortsidedness.

And in complete fairness to Betts - he scored 8 and 9 goals his first years here, before scoring 2 last year. While not spectacular, he chipped in. And he has done that again this year, and once again last night (empty net not-with-standing). With five goals, he does have a good chance of at least reaching his career high.

Perhaps he, too, like everyone on this team, is just trying to find a way - any way - to make anything from...well a bunch of pieces that might just not go together, but that's a story for the cynic's side of the blog.

I'll say this though. As much as I like 7-0, 5-2 scores, I'd hate to constantly be the team giving up 5 or 7 goals.

And thanks to guys like Betts, the Rangers are not one of those teams.

Kudos Blair Betts.

Other thoughts on the game:

-Anaheim does not appear as strong as I remember them to be. They are big and strong in stature, but they have not played that way against the Rangers this year, it seems. True there were two fights, but it wasn't a case of Anaheim playing smash and crash and the Rangers crumbling. I thought Anaheim would be a middle of the road playoff team, and perhaps they will be, but they have not looked the same as the team that won the Cup two years ago. Far from it, in fact.

-Pronger's legs are like freakin' tree trunks. (Sorry, that's all I have to say about that.)

- I thought Bobby Ryan would break out - last year. I may be a year behind, but I'm glad to see it.

-Voros did not have the best re-insertion into the lineup. Taking a trifecta of penalties will not look good to anyone. And he can't feel good about it. I feel almost bad for him in that, he really did seem to be a vibrant source of life to the team at the onset of the season, and that has disappeared. I'd really love to know whether it was just a natural fade, or whether at all induced by Renney's constant line juggling. We may never know. I still like to believe he's a good guy that wants to do well. The being out of shape thing drove me crazy though, I won't lie.

-Fritsche, I feel, cannot be judged. I still contend he's a better player than he is being allowed to show here. As is too often the case when Sather plays "ooo, ooo, free agent, me want" during the summers, there are just too many players and too few spots, as I've said over and over again. And if there were one, Fritsche is definitely the outside guy. But he comes in and does nothing spectacular but nothing wrong. What could anyone have expected from him - a bunch of goals? He's probably more suited to being a fourth line type player, but well, as you know the Rangers already have a plethora of those.

-Speaking of bunch of goals, I was surprised to see some last night. Namely from Naslund and Gomez. Naslund had a much better game than of late. Looked a lot more together. And gosh help me, if Renney stubbornly insists on playing Naslund and Gomez together with Callahan, I hope to goodness they start to score. Honestly.

-And that will bring me to my other point. Which is that Gomez, being the highest paid, should, on most levels, be the best player on the team, or make the guys he plays with the best players on the team. It's a simple thought I doubt many will argue with, but that has yet to happen. I think that's what bothers me the most. Maybe he's STILL not being put with the right guys. Maybe he's having a really, really off year (because honestly it's not as if last year was stellar either). I'm not sure. But any complaint of him, probably stems from that. I have to believe he's trying though, as I have to believe they all are.

-Lastly, since I've lauded Blair Betts and mentioned Petr Nedved, of course my mind goes back to thinking just how much I wanted Nedved on the team and how much I still, from time to time, think he could be useful to this team. So if he couldn't have replaced Betts on the 4th line, how nice would Nedved be centering our 3rd line of [insert names of random interchangeable parts here], while Dubinsky took the 2nd, and EITHER Gomez OR Drury centered the top line? How would that look. I mean, close your eyes and picture it. Seriously you should, because with Gomez AND Drury both on the team, it's all really a dream sequence anyway right.

Everyone keeps saying Prucha/Gomez/Zherdev, which, sure, I'd love to see, I really would. But tonight I'll think of Prucha/Nedved/Zherdev. What a pretty foreign line that would be.

My dream. And Tom Renney's European Nightmare.


Over All-Star break, I'll check in with a few thoughts from around the league, see where certain teams are at, some surprises so far this year. Seriously lots of interesting stuff happening. But I'll wait til the weekend for that. :)


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