Sunday, February 1, 2009

To Boston and Back. . .

I didn't post yesterday about the Boston/Rangers game because I was too tired and wanted to get back upstairs and watch the late night HNIC game. So I will now.

I actually drove to Boston yesterday for the game, a trip planned in September when tickets went on sale. After recent uninspiring games from the Rangers, I almost didn't want to go. Horrible, I know, but please remember, I sat through the 3-0 sleeper in Pittsburgh two weeks ago. But I'd never been to TDBanknorth Garden for a hockey game, so I went.

And unlike the game in Pittsburgh where alcohol was not consumed, I aimed to better prepare myself for what I thought might be an offensive onslaught by the Bruins. The plan seemed to work, I must admit.

First of all though, the arena, while not new to me, still impresses. It's clean, well set up, and everything is so bright. As a person used to the Garden, which I do love for reasons besides it's not being clean, well-set up, or bright, any of these newer arenas take on a different feeling than what I am used to.

Also, big kudos to whoever does in game presentation for the arena. I watched the pre-game video montage and clip show on their Garden screen - which might be the biggest and clearest I've ever seen - and I was so pumped up to watch the game - for the Bruins!

Which on some level, isn't surprising. They after all, have a team that is very good, and just seems to do everything right this season. Score a lot of goals, play a solid team defense, and have two - oopps sorry, three - goalies that can impress on a nightly basis. It's rare and it is exciting to see. (Hell, I'm not Montreal, I'm allowed to admit the Bruins style is highly entertaining.)

As for the game, you have to forgive me. Considering I assumed this was going to be a huge tilt in favor of the Bruins, I was happily surprised with the 1-0 score. (Without looking at anything else at all). Mind you, this was only because of the Rangers recent play. Any other year, I would have expected a 1-0 game from the Rangers/Bruins in Boston on a Saturday afternoon because that is all I remember seeing for the majority of the last few years. Which, again, as a fan that does not necessarily like low scoring games would usually disappoint, but a 0-0 game between two goaltenders that gets inevitably decided by overtime or shootout is nice once in a while.

I had assumed (forgetting about the Montreal/Boston tilt this afternoon) that Thomas would start and it would be a duel of the East All-Star matchups. Instead Tuukka Rask came in and played, like any other Boston goalie 90% of the time, well enough to win, and well enough to get the shutout. Which I found out was his first career on the way out of the arena.

Not that the Rangers truly offered very much in the way of resistance, but I thought both goalies did well. And again, I was, and I mean it, very satisfied to have walked out of that arena with the game being 1-0. Win or lose.

Does that make me a horrible fan? I think it just makes me realistic at this point.

Speaking of horrible though (bad transition, I admit), I shook my head only a few times during the game. One, was after the Rangers eighth too many men on the ice penalty. Eighth.

These Rangers really seem to be aiming for the you-don't-want-to-be-known-for-this record books this season, eh?

No excuse. And according to one Larry Brooks, no accountability for Chris Drury who jumped on the ice.

Are the Rangers really so bad a team that this has happened not once or twice, but eight times in 50 or so games? I tell you what, it's not the mark of a good team.

That play negated what would have been their only powerplay of the game. Although, knowing how the powerplay unit probably would have looked if given more of a chance, maybe it was a blessing in disguise.

Blech. I know.

Today's reflections were much of the same. I didn't think anyone played spectacularly well on the Rangers yesterday afternoon. But considering how low my bar was set, I wasn't complaining.

Brooks, in my usual Sunday morning read, however, saw it a little differently. He said a 1-0 game might seem great, because it was against the best team in the league (I believe by winning in regulation Boston jumped over the Sharks for the time being but remained #1 when the Sharks lost to the Blackhawks late last night).

But, he highlighted things that I was unaware of because, well, watching a game in the stands, with a slight buzz and no stat sheets to consult, makes it difficult to keep track of simple things like the lines.

Oh, but wait, according to Brooks Renney utilized 14 line combos in the 3rd period. Even if I hadn't been drinking, I wouldn't have been able to keep track of that!

He also makes mention to something that, I won't lie, I was thinking to myself the other day at the (other) Garden.

"Has anyone noticed, by the way, that Drury was a much more effective player with Petr (The Scratch) Prucha on his wing?"

Yes, Larry, indeed I have. As I admit I thought Drury would drag Prucha down when after two games on the wing with Dubinsky and Zherdev, Prucha was moved to a line with Dawes and Drury, back early last month, I didn't think for a moment that Prucha would actually help Drury be better.

Apparently that just might have been the case. He has not looked as good, minus Chicago's outburst, since Prucha’s dismissal from the lineup.

Brooks' other points:

Dawes' silly play that led to Boston's (and the game's) only goal.

And super Redden, highly touted quarterback of the powerplay, which as we well know is anything but competitive and effective, on the ice late in the game when the Rangers were pushing to tie.

". . .by a team as impotent as the Rangers, who, for some unknown reason, had Wade Redden at the right point for an offensive zone draw with 48.4 seconds to go in the match after pulling Henrik Lundqvist.

But then, Redden does have two assists in his last 20 games, doesn't he?"

I'd laugh, but I'm still crying over the fact that there's still five more years of this.

Honestly, I do not know. I'm still holding to the bottom line with the score on this one, but again, I've been the person for most of the year, even during the great start to the season this team had, saying things were not fundamentally right with this team and that their basic flaws - bad powerplay, lack of goal scoring, lack of anything resembling cohesiveness on the ice - would haunt them all year.

So just so there is no mistake, I am not one of those that still finds themselves in the categories of surprise or denial.

P.S. I have been to a lot of hockey games, and not just at MSG. I saw more random NHL jerseys yesterday in Boston than I think I have ever in my hockey journeys. There was an Avalanche, a Red Wings, a Senators Spezza, and even a Quebec Nordiques jersey. My personal favorite though. I saw a woman in the restroom wearing a Kings Ziggy Palffy jersey.

Oh and in case you’re curious, someone did once buy a Kevin Weekes Rangers sweater, and apparently still wears it.

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