Detroit is beautiful in June, in case you haven’t heard. I can’t speak for the weather, the mood, or the convenience, but I can say that if you’re the Rangers and you end up back in the Motor City in a little less than eight months time, you’ve probably done something right.
I know, I know, back to reality. The Rangers have won six of their first seven, but the last two games have included a dispiriting loss and a grinding, edge-of-your-seat win over a team many expect to finish at the bottom of the league standings.
Not to be dismissed as well is that just as the arrival of Marian Hossa’s arrival in Detroit has made the Wings the clear favorite to win the Cup again, there’s no guarantee that will lead anywhere (something my friend Lynn Zinser of the Times “expounds upon today”:http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/18/sports/hockey/18redwings.html?_r=1&oref=slogin)
So in other words, a lot has to happen for these two teams to see each other again. Let’s repeat: a lot has to happen.
But it wouldn’t be the craziest thing in the world, either.
Meanwhile, some notes and thoughts:
<li>Raise your hand if you remember the last time the Rangers faced the Red Wings in a regular season game. I do. It was two seasons ago in early February. The Rangers were outside of the playoff picture, and they ended up blowing a two-goal lead in the third period to lose by a goal. At that time, I wrote something along the lines that the season was now officially a lost cause.
But as it happened, that was also the day the Rangers traded for Sean Avery. The Grate One made his debut the next night in Jersey, the Rangers ground out a needed point against the Devils, and most of you know the rest (short version: the Rangers made the playoffs that year, then again the next year, Avery got an internship at Vogue. I think that pretty much covers it).
<li>Not sure of the lineup tonight, but I share all of your concern about Markus Naslund, who was again a non-factor last night. It’s funny, there are similarities between the way Naslund is playing now and the way Martin Straka played at the end of last season — both highly-skilled players who seem to be a step behind the play, and can’t generate anything as a result. It’s not that they’re a liability, it’s just that they don’t do enough.
Here’s one big difference: when Straka struggled last season, Rangers fans still had been given a sense of what the Czech wing could do based on his performance in New York the previous two seasons. Naslund has obviously been a top player in this league for a number of years. But to this fan base, there isn’t the same reference point.
For the record, though, there’s no way I see Tom Renney sitting Naslund down anytime soon, so don’t even ask.
<li>As for Petr Prucha, who was again a scratch last night, I’m not sure I get what’s going on there. At the beginning of training camp, Renney made repeated reference to giving the wing an opportunity to produce like he did his first two seasons in this league.
I think we can all agree thisÂ cycle of two games in, three games out, one game in doesn’t constitute real opportunity. That’s fine if the team is ready to part ways with Prucha, or if it simply feels he doesn’t provided as much as the likes of Nigel Dawes, Dan Fritsche, or Fred Sjostrom. With at least a couple of those players, I agree.
But what the team can’t do is continue to tear at the kid’s confidence and then blame him for not producing.
OK, that’s all for now. More later….
Update, 5:39 p.m.: Lauri Korpikoski “is back in”:http://njmg.typepad.com/rangersblog/ and will take Dan Fritsche’s spot at right wing on the line that also includes Chris Drury and Markus Naslund. The rest of the lines stay the same as last night.
In other news, as I expected, Sean Avery is not planning to talk to the media when he returns to New York on Monday, but is instead issuing a statement.
Is he running for President or playing left wing?
Anyway, here it is, by way of the Dallas Stars. There is no mention of Vogue or call girls:
“Thank you all for your inquires and requests for interviews. I also wanted to thank you guys for the great work you did in the coverage while I was here; I appreciate your enthusiasm about the team and the game in general. In my effort to focus on the game at hand, I would prefer not to do a lot of interviews so please accept this statement in lieu of full court press.
I extremely enjoyed my time in NY playing for the Rangers. Jim Dolan runs a first-class organization, the fans are as passionate and as tough as they come, and they make MSG a very special place to play and call home. I wish the Rangers all the best and I hope that they have a great season. I have no animosity towards anyone in this organization for not bringing me back; that is sometimes how things work out. On the other side of the coin, however, I am very happy to now be a member of the Dallas Stars organization. This team is one any player would be lucky to be a part of, and I think we have a very exciting and positive season ahead of us.”
Update, 9:40 p.m.: It boggles my mind that hockey still struggles to gain traction in this country, especially after games like tonight’s.
Please, do the game a favor: go find your friends who don’t like hockey, and show them a tape of this game. If they still don’t like hockey, I recommend you find some new friends.
It wasn’t perfect, especially given the final outcome for the Rangers. And while there’s still plenty to take issue with — Too many men? Really? — I think we can all agree a point in Detroit, on the second leg of a back-to-back, after twice falling behind two goals, isn’t terrible.