I don’t want to totally discredit last night’s victory, but this was a pretty bad Islanders team that was so decimated it needed four minor-leaguers who just showed up a couple of hours before game time.
Yes, at this point a win is a win is a win. It is. There are 17 games left and the Rangers need every single point.
And, in fairness, the Islanders are always a tough game for the Rangers because they play a very aggressive style that is even more aggressive when they play the Rangers with nothing to lose. Nothing. But even the Rangers players and John Tortorella said they weren’t really happy with the way they played. Again, at this point, you don’t over-examine. Mark Messier, Mike Keenan, and Glen Sather (when he was Oilers coach) had the theory: Don’t critique the wins. You take the points and move on.
But I am interested to see what happens when this Rangers team, which looks so completely different under the new coaching staff, and with three new players, plays a decent team. Can they score against a top team? Can they win? Can they win a few in a row? And curious to see how it looks when the new players get in a couple of practices, after the old players finally got in a couple of practices with the new coach. This is their team now.
It’s not about me, but I will remind you that I’ve been on this blog since Jan.29. And since then I have seen four wins. One in a shootout over Washington. One over a pathetic Colorado team. Two over the powerhouse Islanders. In that time, I have also seen losses to terrible teams like Toronto and Atlanta and St. Louis.
So excuse me for being skeptical over this two-game winning streak, or for not being convinced that all the changes are going to make for drastically different results. Although I do understand why you might be excited.
Reasons to be cheerful:
1) Nik Zherdev’s goal and his assist were two of the most high-skilled plays I’ve seen in the last month. The shot, off a turnover, found an opening the size of a stamp. The pass, off a collision by two Islanders, went through a defenseman’s legs and onto the stickblade of Scott Gomez, who only had to celebrate.
2) Gomez and Chris Drury have been coming on for a little while now, and are getting better under Tortorella, and if they go, and the Rangers can score three most nights, they will win.
3) The newcomers. Sean Avery was obviously having a tough time staying upright. Maybe that was because of his forced hiatus from hockey. He was a force, though. Nik Antropov had a nice debut, although I think Tortorella will have to push his buttons periodically. I said this before about Derek Morris—soft as he may be for a big man, he’s the Rangers’ best defenseman right now. Nowhere near what he was supposed to be, but better than what the Rangers had.
4) You have to love the pace of the games they play now.
5) When Colton Orr was shaken up, my immediate thought was “Aaron Voros”—the only extra body on the roster. Let’s just say depth isn’t a strength.
6) Markus Naslund’s goal was even weaker than his fight.
7) Sunday’s an NBC game (and Monday a Versus), and you know that that means: Deep analysis you can’t get anywhere else. Like this promotional remark from Mike Milbury:
“It’s always heated when it’s Boston and New York,” MIlbury said. “Whether it’s Yankees-Red Sox, Jets-Pats or Rangers-Bruins, it takes on more meaning. The fans don’t like each other and that often carries over to the players and the teams.”
Yeah, how long did it take you to think of that one, Mike? Spend a lot of time on the internet analyzing and crunching numbers and facts? And do you really think this is still the jump-in-the-stands and beat-somebody-with-his-own-shoe era? Not. Rangers-Bruins ranks about 12th or 15th on the Eastern Conference rivalry list.
Here’s NBC’s Pierre McGuire on the Rangers’ two trades:
“The jury’s out on these. I hope Derek Morris has more than he showed in Phoenix and (Nik) Antropov has always underachieved. I think (Petr) Prucha and (Nigel) Dawes have tremendous upside but if this helps the Rangers make the playoffs, then I’m all for it.”
I’m actually going to be off for a couple of days. I mean, off and actually not working—unlike the 14-hour “day off” when the Rangers made the coaching change, which was my last day off. Jane’s in charge through Sunday.
You guys behave yourselves. And don’t forget to re-set your clocks tomorrow.
Practice update 1:25: Jane here. A few quick bullet points off the Rangers practice. Nikolai Zherdev missed because of a cold, and Aaron Voros played with Markus Naslund and Scott Gomez as John Tortorella worked the same combinations in practice as he did in the game last night.
Last night Sean Avery said he didn’t think he was targeted so today I asked him, “Really?” and he admitted that after having 10 or 15 people tell him he was targeted he guesses he was. But that’s the way he likes to play, he said, so it felt natural to him. Here’s that audio.