Where to start?
OK, let’s start with the line brawl. Why? Because the game was pretty bad, because the Flyers were all yapping about wanting to get back at Sean Avery, etc., and how they had to show restraint because they didn’t want to take a penalty.
1) Normally, I’d frown upon what Avery did, taking advantage of a situation to square off against a pacifist during a melee and beating the daylights out of him, including a couple of bonus punches once Matt Carle was down on the ice. Normally. But this is the team that, you know, might have been known to do such a thing once or twice, including last season when that piece of carcillo jackwagon thug pulled Marian Gaborik out of a pile and beat him up and talked about how he was “licking his chops” when he saw the chance to fight Gaborik, and leaving a giant scar on the Rangers’ reeling season at that point.
2) That is one of the best ways to exact revenge. Sort of like the “Untouchables” line by Sean Connery, about, you get one of ours, we get two of yours. If your tough guys are going to fight non-fighters, then turnabout is, to whatever degree, fair play.
3) That was some piece of officiating, where Jody Shelley jumps into the fray, and Brandon Dubinsky jumps onto his back, and where Brandon Prust and Darroll Powe—who started the whole thing—separate from the pile and, gloves off, trade punches … and not a single one of them got a penalty.
4) In fact, the only fighting penalty called was on Avery and Carle. When asked if he’d ever had a fight before, Carle said, “I wouldn’t call that a fight.”
Now, on to the game:
5) I don’t recall ever hearing the Garden so quiet as it was right from the start, particularly for a Rangers-Flyers game. I’ve heard better crowds at Playland for rookie games. Last night, you could hear cellphones ringing in the arena. Not that the Rangers gave them any reason to cheer. Until the third period, this was a game about which Tommy McVie’s famous line might fit: “They should have let everybody in for free and made them pay to get out.”
6) There was some debate on whether the Rangers were outworked or whether the effort was good enough, and coach John Tortorella took issue with such suggestions. He called them “ragged” and pointed out how they put themselves in trouble, again, with penalties. OK. That’s fair. But it sure wasn’t the Rangers’ best effort. And ragged? Yeah, that’s what you might say about two Rangers defensemen (Staal and Girardi) being trapped behind the net for the goal that made it 2-0 moments after a Flyers power play ended. And Steve Eminger doing the Rangers’ signature slide on his belly in an attempt to break up a short-handed 2-on-1, and of course, not stopping the pass, and of course, Mike Richards burying it for a 3-0 lead.
7) I know I harp on that a lot, but I happened to watch Hockey Night Live the other night, and Ken Daneyko was saying how a lot of coaches don’t want their D-men leaving their feet ever, and Mike Keenan saying, threateningly, “if you do leave your feet, you better stop the pass.” The Rangers always leave their feet. And often don’t stop the pass.
8) I am not sure if the benching of Gaborik will achieve its goal. This is a different guy than, say, Vinny Lecavalier or Brandon Dubinsky. I could be totally wrong here. I just don’t know if he will react in a positive way, or if he needs a coach on his side more than a kick in the tail. Maybe he does. Maybe he doesn’t. Maybe it will work. Maybe it will blow up in the Rangers faces. I don’t think Gaborik has been awful. But he needs to score. No, they need him to score. His shot off the post created their only goal in the 1-0 win over Vancouver. His pass to Staal could have given them a chance in Montreal. His shot off the side of the net last night might have made a difference the other way. So it’s not like he’s totally transparent or ineffective. And he’s never going to be a grinder.
9) Those pants Chris Drury wears are embarrassing, all ripped and torn. What, he can’t afford a new pair?
10) With the renovation underway, and some bathrooms boarded up at MSG, there were lines at other restrooms, and I saw a line of angry women arguing with Garden employees between periods. This renovation during the season is not going to be easy.
11) The Rangers are 1-3 since trading Michal Rozsival. Or 1-3 since acquiring Wojtek Wolski.
AP Photo, above.