I gotta tell you, I met Derek Stepan the day before the Traverse City tournament, and I thought, “Wow, this kid is confident and he is mature.”
Then I saw him play, and I thought, “Wow, this kid is pretty good.”
Then I spoke with him a few more times, and thought, “He’s really likeable, I hope he makes it.”
Then I saw him play a few more times, and I thought, “This kid has to make the team because he can do everything on the ice, including, if needed, kill penalties. He makes his linemates better. He’s got good wheels, good hands, good shot, goes to the net, isn’t afraid in the corners, cares about his defensive play, cares about his faceoffs.”
Then I still thought, “Well, they’re handing the No. 1 center job to Erik Christensen, and Artem Anisimov is entrenched, and Brian Boyle is a pretty good fit on the fourth line, and when Chris Drury comes back, I could still see them sending Stepan down, especially since he wouldn’t require waivers.”
Then I saw last night’s game.
The kid isn’t going anywhere, and I think the captain is going to have to play another position next week.
Some other thoughts:
1) They were singing Girardi’s praises, and he was pretty good.
2) I loved Del Zotto’s game, and I really believe all the work he did with Gary Roberts in the off-season is going to help him avoid the sophomore slump, and help him become a more physical defenseman. He seems to like that side of the game, too. I said it last year. He has a chance to be something special.
3) I see Rozsival still fishing for pucks in front when he should be knocking somebody on their Aasen.
4) I loved that they ran the Geico “Jackwagon” ad during the game.
5) I noticed this during the preseason and said it the other night. I think we’re in for more scoring this year, though I don’t know why. Not just the Rangers. All around the league.
6) Said this, too. This Rangers team, with the young core it now has, seems more energetic, better on the forecheck, and seems to move its collective feet a lot better than the 2009-10 bunch that far too often went into 85-percent, full-glide mode.
7) Why does MSG Network continue to cut short the best piece of programming it has: John Tortorella’s post-game presser? In fact, last night it only stayed for three questions, all by Sam Rosen. What’s the point of having a camera at the press conference and showing none of the questions from the press? You are the rightsholder. You should be able to get a 1-on-1 with the coach any time you want. So why do you take a press conference and make it a 1-on-1?
8) We haven’t talked about this much, but Avery is a lot closer to being Avery through the preseason and one regular-season game, isn’t he?
9) I am really, really, really glad that the Dubinsky kiss on Stepan was only on the face shield and not on the cheek. Whew.
Gotta go. Big last-minute meeting with Mr. T this morning. See youse later, or tomorrow from — yuck — Uniondale, N.Y.