While we were talking to Matt Cullen in the hallway outside the teams’ dressing rooms just now, his former linemate Petr Prucha walked by.
“Don’t score on us tonight, please,” Prucha said.
“Oh, OK,” Cullen said with a smile.
And to think, at this point last year, no one was overly concerned about Matt Cullen scoring on them. Although he finished with a respectable 41 points, Cullen struggled through the early part of last season, for a variety of reasons: the adjustment to New York, a new system, the well-documented decision by Tom Renney to not use him on the point on the power play.
“Everything happened so fast. The summer before we won the Cup, both of my brothers got married, we had a baby, and all of a sudden I was here playing,” Cullen said. “It took me half the season to get adjusted—to everything: living here, playing in the new system, playing with new guys. And then we had a good shot of making a good playoff run. And then it was over and I was back (in Carolina). I have good memories of here, but not many because it happened so fast.”
The question was raised whether Cullen saw the handwriting on the wall when the Rangers made their big July 1 signings of Chris Drury and Scott Gomez. The answer, he said, was yes. But then no. Cullen said he was convinced he was gone that day, only to be assured by his agent, who was given the impression the Rangers were going to hold on to him.
“Then two days later I got the phone call I was coming back here,” Cullen said.
It might have been for the best, for all parties involved: The Rangers have placed their faith in Brandon Dubinsky; the Hurricanes have a rejuvenated Cullen, where yes, he’s back playing the point on the power play; and Zipay and I just picked him up off waivers for our fantasy team.
In fact, at one point I was tempted to put Cullen through a brief physical to see if we should insert him in the lineup, but I thought better. Although he is in the lineup….
In other news, Jaromir Jagr was joking just now about his high glove side goal against Martin Gerber on Saturday, and specifically, why he doesn’t take that shot more often.
“It wouldn’t be fair to everyone else,” the Captain said. “It would be too easy.”
Maybe it’s more complicated than that. If you go back to the goals Jagr scored in 2005-06 (this “YouTube clip gives some pretty good examples”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgQKj7knG_E), you’ll see an inordinate amount came from the very spot he’s scored his last two goals—between the top of the circle and the half boards
Only recently has Jagr returned to taking such shots after enduring through a 2006-07 season in which his shoulder was still weak from injury, and he didn’t have confidence in ripping it.
“I think initially last year there was a strength issue and an issue of whether or not he felt comfortable getting the shot off,” Tom Renney said. “I think I made a comment last year that him shooting at 50 percent is better than most healthy.”
And now, of course, Jagr is back completely healthy, and beginning to see that shot is worth his while. I’m not sure that’s unfair to everyone else. But it might not be welcome news.