So it’s four in a row now, but this last one was different. In each of the previous three — and in pretty much every win this season, since the middle of that seven-game winning streak in October — you and I have been able to say, “Yeah, but …”
Last night there were no “Yeah, buts” unless you are a total nit-picker. You could go right down the checklist of players and plays, in all three zones, at even strength, on the power play, on the penalty kill, in goal, and player-by-player, and it would be almost impossible to be negative about any of it. Seriously, even our usual targets, like Michal Rozsival and Donald Brashear, played well.
Henrik Lundqvist was terrific again, but he didn’t steal this one. And the Panthers are a pretty good team, even though they made some plays they sure would have liked to have back.
1) The moment of the whole year, if the Rangers can maintain any of this, will have been the players-only meeting called by Lundqvist and Sean Avery, at which the King pretty much aired his Festivus grievances.
2) Avery looked rather Avery-ish in this game, again.
3) When we repeated last year’s mantra — that this team just doesn’t have any skill — well, that was when guys like Drury, Callahan and Dubinsky were doing nothing. Well, this is how it looks when three other guys start finding the net, to help the big guy, Marian Gaborik.
4) Say what you want about Sather (and I know you will, and so will I), but the Gaborik signing was a grand slam, maybe the best free agent signing since Adam Graves.
5) In the first three games of this streak, Drury scored twice, but I didn’t think he’d exactly been a force. In Game 4, he absolutely was. So was Dubinsky. I must admit, I’d written off the captain, and his inexplicable, sudden loss of game. He’d been doing nothing, and I couldn’t imagine how or why that happened. Like him or not, he’s a key cog. If he goes, this team has a chance. If not, it doesn’t.
6) That all said, I still expect a bumpy ride the rest of the way.
7) It’s going to be really hard to give Chad Johnson a game here, but it’s a necessity. Maybe in Carolina New Year’s Eve, since the two games before that are spread out.
8) Last night was the second-best Festivus ever (including rap and poetry). The best, of course, was attended by the Costanzas, Kramer, Jerry, Elaine, Kruger, Charley (“I’m a man”) and the other guy from OTB, and briefly by Gwen the two-face. Plus nobody pinned me, so this Festivus is not over.
Enjoy your Christmas Eve.