It’s hard to believe we’ve spent all this time talking about whether Jaromir Jagr’s shoulder is completely healed — not to mention whether the Rangers are doing enough to protect him — and it turns out what the team really needs to do is make sure no one hurts his feelings.
I’m not sure I’m entirely kidding. How else do you explain the Rangers’ captain playing to little effect when he was booed incessantly in Pittsburgh, and yet flying up and down to cheers last night at the Garden? Is that all it takes? And if so, where’s Dr. Phil when you need him?
Amazing. Jagr gets half his teeth knocked out in a game a few weeks back, and he doesn’t miss a beat. And yet give an insurance salesman a few too many beers in Section 39, and he can render the right wing useless. You tell me which is worse.
Still, “an impressive effort last night at the Garden”:http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061120/SPORTS01/611200351/1034/SPORTS, further maddening the Rangers faithful who can’t make sense of this team from one night to the next. I wish I had an answer for you. I know “I joked last night that this team seems to take its lead from Jagr”:http://rangers.lohudblogs.com/wp-admin/edit.php, and to a great extent, I still think that’s true. But there are other factors in there that I can’t place my finger on.
The good news is the team can skate with any team in the league. The bad news is they can look hapless against any of them as well.
At least it makes my job interesting.
Anyway, a few other responses on what is actually an off day for the Rangers:
Reader Plebeian had a question about the voting on the game’s three stars, which is sadly not the scientific process you might expect it to be. For me at least, it goes something like this: At the start of the third period, an arena employee hands us the ballot. Since I’m on deadline at that point, I ignore it almost the entire period, until he taps on my shoulder with about five minutes left, at which point I hastily write down three names that are barely legible, and throw it back at him. Again, not that scientific. As for my personal criteria, it’s often difficult to avoid a player like Shanahan and Jagr who has a big point night, or someone like Henrik Lundqvist who is stellar in net. But I try to identify at least one player who had a good game but who maybe didn’t show up on the score sheet. For instance, one night I picked Jason Ward. Another it was Fedor Tyutin. I know some of my colleagues on the beat have expressed their concerns with the whole process, mostly because they, like me, don’t feel like it’s given quite the thought it probably deserves. I wish there was a way for the fans to get involved, but I’m not sure how that would work.
Reader Wildcard pointed out that Thomas Pock was at least noticeable in his limited ice time last night, and I agree. And I also agree that that contrasts sharply with Nigel Dawes, who could never quite going in the amount of time he was given. Therein lies the reason that Dawes is in Hartford while Pock is here. Since Pock’s role last night was to play a more defensive-minded physical game, it didn’t take much for him to get out there and throw his body around. Dawes, meanwhile, relies more on skill, and really needs a regular shift to be at all effective. Here’s hoping Dawes gets that chance in New York soon, and that in the meantime, Pock can continue to make some headway with Tom Renney.
Reader Chris asked about what happened to the in-goal camera, which I agree was pretty cool. I don’t have an answer, but when I next see Joe Whelan, who is the producer for the MSG broadcasts, I’ll ask him about it. I’m sure it had something to do with money. When in doubt, that’s usually the case.
The reader known as “Long Time Ranger Fan” posed this question: “Sam, do you know where the Ranger ‘twins’ stay during the game? I mean, most of the Rangers MUST have a twin that plays every so often Ã¢â‚¬Ëœcause they arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t quite as gifted or as motivated as the ones that played at the Garden last night.” Exactly LTRF, and welcome to the New York Rangers 2006-07. As I said earlier, you never know which team you’re going to get from one night to the next, and you’re right, maybe this Rangers team is an argument for one-year contracts. I’m not sure you can boil it all down to complacency because there has to be more to it than that. But look at it this way: this team was comprised of players who had a lot more to prove a year ago. Not coincidentally, it was a team that rarely seemed to take a night off.
OK, that’s all for now. One last thing: Congratulations to my big brother Josh (himself a former center man), who ran the Philadelphia Marathon on Sunday in an impressive 4:00:22. Alas, it could have been better, but word is that nature called one too many times, costing him precious time on the clock. The sports writer side of me says I don’t want to hear his excuses. The little brother knows better…