I missed Beavis & Butt-head’s return and that World Series Game 6 for this?
I’m going to break this review into three parts. First, about the game. Second, about the new building. Third, a mea culpa.
1) For years … for decades … maybe a century, teams have coveted guys like Ryan Callahan. Guys who smash opponents into the glass and go hard to the net. They still covet them. But so far this season, I’ve seen opponents gladly face the glass knowing that Ryan Callahan can’t hit them, and if he does (and he has) he gets a penalty. And last night, for going hard to the net, Ryan Callahan had two Rangers goals disallowed, even though on one of them he was clearly pushed. And I’m left to wonder, in today’s NHL, is it possible that guys like Ryan Callahan will not be able to play anymore? Is that possible?
2) If it is, well … what the hell are we going to watch?
3) I’ve said it before, I will say it again. This Rangers team will be better than it is now, and it should and will be better than it was last year because Brad Richards and a rebound by Marian Gaborik make it better, and because you expect the young veterans to continue to improve. But … if Richards and Gaborik don’t work, and especially if Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky and whomever turns out to be the second-line center don’t work, this team is in huge trouble. Not breaking any news there, am I?
4) You hate to blame Henrik Lundqvist after the way he pretty much stole every point the Rangers had until Martin Biron got two in Winnipeg, but Lundqvist sure gave up a few regrettable goals. Otherwise, maybe the whole tone last night and today is different.
5) Dubinsky has not been good, so I won’t sugar-coat it. And he’s taken some dumb penalties, no way around it. But last night, the slashing call was shockingly bad. He did nothing. And for him to get an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for spraying snow on a goalie—if that is really what the penalty was for—that’s an embarrassment to the NHL.
6) I tend to defend Michael Del Zotto because of his upside, and he’s still young, and very much in need of learning. But lesson No. 1 has to be this. The puck is hopping toward you at the point. You either stop it with your foot, or you take a swing at it and then practice saying, “C’mon Hank, bail me out, buddy!” I think stopping it with your skate is a better option.
7) How is it possible that the Garden widened the concourses by that much—by a lot, by an almost unimaginable amount—and now it’s more crowded and gridlocked than ever? How? Maybe they will have to relocate some of those movable concession counters or something.
8) I don’t think it was the new higher pressbox. Maybe it was. To me the place sounded a lot quieter than last year, and last year was much quieter than the place used to be in the old days. And maybe that’s what you get when you price out the leatherlungs. That and empty seats close to the glass and a full house upstairs.
9) Don’t get me wrong. Those are a few complaints about the renovation (which still has two more phases to go). I think overall the place is going to be magnificent. I think.
10) That huge banner that unfurled said: “16 Avery. Send Torts to the Whale.” And then there were the “We want Avery” chants and the simple “Avery, Avery.” I’m a flipper and a flopper on this, and I admit it. I said over the summer, when asked whether Sean Avery would be on the team, that I thought he would. I thought that he’s better on the fourth line than anybody else they have. I dismissed the idea that he could play on the No. 1 line with Gaborik and Richards, but I thought, for sure, he would be better on the fourth line that whomever would replace him.
11) That said, when camp came along and he was penciled in on lines with guys who weren’t going to make the team, I thought, OK, no big deal. We’re talking about a fourth-liner here, not a game-breaker. This isn’t Ted Sator sending Pierre Larouche to the minors. This is a fringe guy who’s not young anymore, who is expensive in terms of cap hit, who isn’t going to be around next year, and whose skills sure seemed to diminish last year. Plus he’s a pain in the neck for coaches because he doesn’t conform, and we all know he crosses a line too often. And, I wondered, how will he react to fourth-line minutes and maybe nights in the (new) pressbox?
12) And now? I still think all of those things about Avery. But I also go back to my original belief. He’s better, warts and attention-grabbing and all, than three of the wingers the Rangers had in last night’s lineup, and most nights this season. I’m not going to mention any names (but their numbers might be 86, 40 and 45). I’m not sure he’s a better player than No. 71, but he’s a better skater. And he always stood up for his teammates, even if they didn’t all love him (ps, from all I’ve gleaned, those in his corner included Lundqvist, Gaborik and, I think, Richards—three pretty important pieces; check out Lundqvist’s remark when asked in last night’s post-game audio thread).
13) What would the Rangers’ record be if he was playing instead one of those other wingers? It would be 3-3-2. I don’t think it has, or would have, made a difference if he was here playing instead one of them. But I do admit, he’s better than they are, and the Rangers are a better team if he was here instead of one of them. Especially when they play the other teams in the Patrick Division.
My Three Rangers Stars (not easy again):
1) Dan Girardi.
2) Michael Sauer.
3) Geez, I don’t even know.
AP photos, above.