1) The Rangers were totally outplayed by an adrenalized Slovakian team until midway in the second period when the Rangers received a 5 on 3 for a full two minutes. The Rangers scored twice on beautiful passing and from then on dominated the game. The capacity crowd of 10,000 was extremely reserved; hand clapping and some chanting was the measure of their enthusiasm. There were, however, a number of cheerleaders dancing in the aisles and a guy with a megaphone exhorting the crowd apparently to little avail.
2) Richards is a hockey artist. He appears so relaxed and he sees the ice exceptionally well. Gretzky once said that when he was in “the zone” the game appeared to come to him in slow motion. I get the feeling Richards also inhabits that zone. He has a wonderful feel for angles and invariably leads his wingers so they receive the pass in full stride. I love how he is committed to getting pucks on net either by shooting, passing through the crease or by passing in front from behind the net. He makes players better not only by placing them in a position to succeed, but also by example: Today, for instance, I saw MDZ doing some very good things on the PP that I’d never seen from him before and they were some of the same things I’ve been seeing from Richards.
3) I’d like to see Boyle remain on the first line. For all of Richards’ offensive genius he is a liability on defense: He is a minus-77 for his career despite point a game offensive production. Watching him, I don’t see much of a commitment to defense. Boyle is a superb defensive player who can make up for Richards and Gabby’s defensive deficiencies. Boyle is also a player on the come who despite a great year in 2010 still has plenty of offensive upside. He is also the forechecking presence that Wolski isn’t. Gaborik was trying to score and please the crowd, but he was not effective on this day. I still don’t see that amazing wrist shot that seemed to disappear after the shoulder injury.
4) Stepan played well. He said he worked on his shot this summer and he’s unveiled a one-legged snap shot where he lifts his left leg off the ground while shooting. Looks funny, but has good velocity. He also seems to have bulked up; I saw a photo of him and his neck was huge compared to last year. He was very visible all game with crisp passes, shots on goal and some nice hits. I doubt a sophomore slump.
5) Artie was really skating well. He showed terrific hands on his goal. He too looks more muscular. Callahan was Callahan. Zuke made some excellent passes, competed for the puck and threw a thunderous check that wiped out a 6-5 heavyweight. He too looks like he’s added some muscle. Dubi, EC and Feds had quiet games. Rupp is not a great player but he is a complete player. He’s got great hockey sense; he ‘s very physical but doesn’t take bad penalties. He passes well, can score some goals and of course he can fight. Prust was his usual amazing self on the PK. How many times have we seen him pin the puck behind the opponents net and defy them to take it away. Time and time again he’s eaten chunks of seconds off the penalty. Additionally, he’s always a threat to put in a short-hander. He’s gotta be one of the best bang for your buck guys in the NHL. Wolski and Avery sat out. Wolski had a groin and they didn’t know whether or not Avery was hurt. Sauer didn’t play.
6) Watching Girardi is to watch a master technician. He exudes confidence. He’s not the biggest or most athletic, but he understands positioning so well; he has a knack of getting himself between the puck and his man along the boards so that he can take control of the puck for a good outlet pass. His positioning on shot blocking is unmatched. He has his occasional lapses but over all his passing is sound and his shot is usually accurate.
7) Hank played the entire game and was brilliant. They really had some great opportunities in the first half of the game because the Rangers kept taking penalties. He stopped everything except for the one shot on which he was screened and didn’t appear to see the puck. He appears to have improved his stick handling and instead of holding the puck for faceoffs, he’s been unloading it for a quick transition.
8) Torts and Micheletti have been talking up Stu Bickel but I don’t see much of a player there. He has zero offensive game, He doesn’t handle the puck well and he takes way too many penalties. To his credit, he hits and he does try to keep the crease clean. Brendan Bell is an OK journeyman who has a little bit of offense in his game but not much. I like Eminger. If they plan to play MDZ on the third pair, they’ll need to match him with a stay at home guy like Emmy. Matching MDZ with Gilroy last year was a bad idea. Speaking of Gilroy, does anyone else wish he were still around.
9) MDZ is playing better albeit against inferior competition. His compete level is much much higher than before. He’s throwing his body around with abandon. His overall focus seems better. Hopefully he’s becoming a professional. He’s been more efficient on the PP and seems to have imbibed some of the Richards way of doing things there. Defensively he has to go beyond trying to maul his man and learn the art of taking the puck away for a quick outlet pass. When he’s on the ice, the puck spends too much time in the defensive zone. He needs to apply the techniques he’s been taught. Ideally I’d like to see him spend a year in Whaledom, but with the injuries and Erixon’s inability to make the varsity, that may not be in the cards.
10) Speaking of the Whale, they should have a heckuva team this year. Many good young players and Talbot’s got game. We should be able to count on them for callup help this year. Last year I believe 10 different players were called up and they didn’t produce a single goal. Grachev played in 10 games and had, as I recall, a total of six shots on goal. Bourque is the guy I’m watching. I’m sure mgmt knows they’ve got something in him. Because of the depth on the varsity, they can afford to let him get some experience in CT. I think we’ll see more of him as the season progresses.
11) Lastly, kudos to Micheletti for doing a good job instead of just being a shill and wannabe comedian. He finally offered some criticism of Ranger players much in the fashion of Edzo and JD and he kept his attention on the game instead of other stuff.