Seeing how we’re still minutes away from the start of the season, we can safely say the Rangers in 2008-09 have yet to infuriate their fan base by passing up shots on the power play; Tom Renney has not yet leaned too heavily on his fourth line; and I have yet to make a typo.
Of course, give it time. That could all change within seconds.
I should be clear that I am sadly not in Prague but at Blog Headquarters in Port Chester. Most of you know that, although I have received a handful of e-mails from readers wanting to meet up for a pilsner after the game. If only…
Anyway, the people have spoken, and spoken loudly, so all updates from here on out will be posted chronologically on the bottom of the post. Democracy in action, folks. It sometimes brings a tear to my eye.
More before the puck drops…
Update, 11:37 a.m.: It is rare that I question Dave Maloney’s judgment, but today with the red tie and the black and white striped shirt, would have to count as one of them. Can I play $20 chips here, pit boss?
Update, 11:46 a.m.: Reader Pierre is already in mid-season form. I indeed made the season’s first typo…in a post about how I had yet to make a typo. That has to be an omen of some sort…
Update, 11:55 a.m.: We should take this moment the lament the regrettable dearth of mullets in this game. First the Rangers cut ties with Jaromir Jagr, and then Barry Melrose snips his off before the season. Is nothing sacred?
Update, 12:00 p.m.: National anthems. Sadly John Amirante does not make the trip. Although word is he’s huge in Eastern Europe. And I must say, it’s a rare moment when Amirante has a better head of hair than anyone. But with this lady, it’s a toss-up.
Update, 12:05 p.m.:Â On second thought, maybe Melrose still has remnants of the mullet going. A semi-mullet, we’ll call it…
Update, 12:06 p.m.: Two Czechs get to start — Prucha with Gomez and Drury, with Rozsival and Redden on the back end. That’s only a temporary combination, I’m sure…
Update, 12:08 p.m.: A lot of Sam Rosen right now with Joe Micheletti’s microphone not working.Â
Update, 12:11 p.m.: One departure from the past two seasons: The Rangers scored on the first shift of both of those openers. But we’re at 0-0 five minutes in.
Update, 12:14 p.m.:Â Michal Rozsival, looking to make an impression in his homeland, almost causes the first Tampa Bay goal.
Update, 12:15 p.m.: That’s two glaring defensive lapses that almost lead to goals, and now Tampa Bay has a power play after Brandon Dubinsky gets called for a hook.
Update, 12:18 p.m.: Henrik Lundqvist, on three stops in particular, looks sharper than he did all preseason. That’s the good news for the Rangers. The bad news is they’re forcing him to stand on his head.
Update, 12:26 p.m.: Rangers appear to have settled down after shots by Scott Gomez and Dan Girardi.
Update, 12:28 p.m.: Dmitri Kalinin does little to endear himself to Rangers fans by fanning on a shot from close range, but the Rangers have their first power play.
Update, 12:30 p.m.:Â Even in not scoring, the Rangers power play looks sharp.
Update, 12:34 p.m.: Another Tampa Bay power play after the Rangers get caught deep. The Dmitri Kalinin lovefest continues as he goes to the box. Drury springs loose on a breakaway, but can only manage a slapshot from the top of the circle.
Update, 12:38 p.m.: Rangers kill the penalty with ease, and now draw their second power play after a scrum in front.
Update, 12:40 p.m.: End of first period, 0-0. After a very dicey start, the Rangers were the far better team in the second half of the period.
Update, 1 p.m.: Start of second. Rangers still have a power play. Joe makes reference to he and Sam going on a shopping spree in Prague. I’m not sure how to respond.
Update, 1:01 p.m.: Naslund somehow misses right at the goal mouth. Power play is over, but still a decent showing.
Update, 1:05 p.m.: Another power play for the Rangers after Scott Gomez is interfered with off the face-off.
Update, 1:08 p.m.: Dan Girardi gets beaten to a puck by Martin St. Louis and is eventually called for a penalty.
Update, 1:11 p.m.: We’re still at 0-0 approaching the midpoint. Suddenly the fans in Prague are wondering what the big deal is. “Do they not score goals in NHL?”
Update, 1:17 p.m.: Kalinin redeems himself by drawing a penalty.
Update, 1:19 p.m.: The Rangers are making Mike Smith look like Patrick Roy. The kid is decent, but he’s also been known to be a complete liability with the puck. I’m surprised they’re not trying to exploit that.
Update, 1:23 p.m.: It is remarkable how much better a skater Colton Orr is compared to even last spring. No one’s going to confuse him with Scott Gomez, but he’s much more effective with the puck than he was.
Update, 1:29 p.m.: Markus Naslund is snakebitten. He just missed his third golden scoring opportunity. And despite all my claims that the Rangers’ power play is much improved, it’s now 0-for-5.
Update, 1:33 p.m.: Rangers 1, Lightning 0. Naslund accepts a beautiful feed from Gomez, then wrists a shot Messier-style off the wrong foot past Mike Smith. It’s the Rangers’ first goal of the season and Naslund’s first goal as a Ranger.
Update, 1:36 p.m.: End of the second period. Rangers 1-0.Â Although sloppy at times, the Rangers are offering a glimpse of the style they want to play all season, limiting chances against and pouncing on turnovers. The Drury-Gomez-Naslund line looks like it has staying power, and Nikolai Zherdev already looks like a more responsible player than he was the first few days of training camp.
Update, 1:53 p.m.: Start of third period. The first test of Barry Melrose’s new gig. Does he rev up the boys for the third, or did he spend the intermission sitting in a corner watching ESPN?
Update, 1:57 p.m.: Smith is down after taking a shot off the left arm. He stays in the game, but is still clearly hurting.
Update, 2:02 p.m.:Rangers 1, Lightning 1. Phenomenal backhander by Martin St. Louis beats Lundqvist high. St. Louis has been buzzing all game. The question still remains if the Rangers can take advantage of Smith’s condition.
Update, 2:04 p.m.: So much for Zherdev’s new-found responsibility. He coughs up the puck in the defensive zone, which almost leads to a goal. But the Rangers now have their sixth power play.
Update, 2:12 p.m.: Ridiculous glove save by Lundqvist off of Steve Stamkos on a breakaway. That kid’s going to score a lot of goals in this league. Lundqvist obviously doesn’t want the first one to be on him.
Update, 2:19 p.m.: Yet another chance for the Rangers power play after a Gary Roberts high-stick. But it’s only a minor.
Update, 2:20 p.m.: Rangers 2, Lightning 1. I was just about to make another snide comment about the Rangers’ power play when Brandon Dubinsky rips a shot through traffic and past Smith. Just under six minutes remaining.
Update, 2:23 p.m.: The Lightning will get a chance to tie it on a power play. Biggest kill of the season for the Rangers coming up. OK, that’s not saying much…
Update, 2:28 p.m.: Rangers kill it off thanks to Lundqvist, who has been stellar all day.
Update, 2:30 p.m.: Put it in the books. Final: Rangers 2, Lightning 1. Rangers are 1-0.
Update, 2:32 p.m.: Altogether, a very encouraging effort for the Rangers. Solid defensive game, some remarkable saves by Lundqvist, and a couple of big goals — one by a player who is looking to get back to where he was, another by a player looking to take it to the next level.
It’s still hard to say what kind of season this is going to be, but if the Rangers can play the style they did today and get some of the performances they got from some key individuals, they may surprise some people.
OK, that’s it for me for now. Thanks to everyone for reading.