Mark it down: November 1.
If the Rangers end up as a viable playoff team, it’s because they were able to live up to the promise of last night’s 4-3 overtime win at Anaheim. If they sputter out, it’s because what we saw last night proved to be an aberration.
It wasn’t perfect, necessarily, but in coming back twice against the best team in the league, and then finally getting a clutch goal from their captain, the win was the most complete, resilient showing in what has been, to date, a painfully inconsistent season.
A couple of quick hits:
Did I not say it was a brilliant tactical move by Rangers coach Tom Renney to start Kevin Weekes in net? You’re right. “I did not say that”:http://rangers.lohudblogs.com/2006/11/01/hanging-out-to-dry/. Nonetheless, the coach’s hunch paid off, not only against Anaheim, but perhaps in building up the confidence of a backup the team is going to need all season. Does Weekes get the start again tonight against San Jose? I don’t know yet. But after making 30 saves against the Ducks, it certainly merits asking.
In the ridiculously-obvious-statement department, a 6-6 record is a lot better than 5-7. And to think, I wasn’t even a math major. Seriously, with four points already secured, the Rangers can now call their West Coast trip a success regardless of what happens tonight against the Sharks. Yes, they still return home to the fearsome Sabres on Sunday. But they also avoid the unenviable task of facing Buffalo on the heels of three straight losses as opposed to, at worst, one. Big difference.
Another big game for Brendan Shanahan, who continues to impress on the ice and off. In my conversation with Darius Kasparaitis yesterday, the exiled defenseman said that Shanahan had called him after Renney had sent him down, and that he continued to be amazed at the type of leader the new Ranger is. In fairness, Kasparaitis also said he spoke to Jagr shortly before being sent down as well. But you got the sense that a call from Shanahan, Kasparaitis’s teammate of little more than a month, resonated more.
Meanwhile, plenty to follow up on regarding the Kasparaitis situation (“here’s my story today from Hartford”:http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061102/SPORTS01/611020414/1046/SPORTS). In hindsight, I suppose the defenseman’s comments both to me and to Bruce Berlet of the Hartford Courant (we spoke to Kasparaitis at separate times) had some bite to them, and could even hamper his chances of being called back to New York. But think about this: the guy’s always been defined as a fierce competitor. Maybe he could have toned down some of the things he said about not being supported enough. But what sort of message would it send if he WASN’T disappointed by being demoted?
Meanwhile one last thing about Kaspar: the defenseman said he also received a text message upon his demotion from Marek Malik, who of course had another poor effort last night against the Ducks. This is just a guess here, but maybe it went something like this: “Be there soon.”