For all the complaining we (I) did about the outdoor game, it was a downer going back indoors, especially at the World’s Quietest Arena. What a shame. Could you imagine a first-place team in the middle of a season in the 1970s or ‘80s and the kind of intimidation MSG would throw at an opponent?
Granted, you can never expect the Sunrise Panthers to bring out the same kind of emotion as the Philthy Flys, and the Garden was of pretty good voice when the Flys and the Penguins last visited. So that had something to do with it. Obviously.
But ya boys just keep on truckin’. They don’t care how it gets done, from ahead, from behind, in regulation, in OT—I imagine they’d do it in one of those breakaway contests they sometimes hold after hockey games end. Whatever it takes. They keep on winning. Three in a row now. Eight of nine. First in the Patrick Division. First in the Least. First overall. Maybe that’s why Bill Clinton was there. Presidents’ Trophy?
Just don’t mention this stuff to John Tortorella. Because he’s too smart to get caught up in all of that hype. He’s too worried about Pittsburgh tonight. And what lies ahead for a team still getting near full strength, but a young team that has never been in this atmosphere before. So we’ll see.
1) President Clinton got a nice hand, and why shouldn’t he? I don’t think it was necessarily that things were a lot better in this country when he was in office than they are now, and I’m not getting all political … just, it was a better economic time in the U.S. of A. But remember he won his nomination at MSG in ‘92 and kind of adopted it as a special place. And then he had the honor of hosting the 1994 Stanley Cup champions at the White House, which was pretty cool.
2) John Tortorella might have to deal with NBC again, LOL. If the Rangers are still first in the East on Monday, he’ll be one of the co-coaches of one of the all-star teams in Ottawa. The coaches from the defending champs (Boston) get one team, and the coaches of the top teams in each conference on Monday are co-coaches of the other.
3) Ruslan Fedotenko was sure strong all night long, and it was interesting to hear Tortorella say that he didn’t like the way Fedotenko played previously on that fourth line, where John Mitchell has taken over at center; and that Fedotenko sure better play that way because Wojtek Wolski’s waiting to take his spot.
5) The two goals Martin Biron gave up weren’t so great, but you have to give him the benefit on the first, a clean 2-on-1 pass that got by Marc Staal for an open wrister under the crossbar. The second one, he admitted he was cheating for the pass. Otherwise he was pretty solid again.
6) That said, he’s now started four of the last nine games. I don’t think the plan has changed—which means Henrik Lundqvist getting somewhere around 62, and Biron the other 20 or so. After Lundqvist plays tonight, we’ll be two games from the halfway point of the season, and Biron will have 10 starts, or right on pace. I wonder, though, if Biron will continue to start more frequently so that Lundqvist is ready to play almost all the games in the homestretch … that’s what I would do.
7) After Mike Rupp whiffed on that open net, I thought, maybe he can’t score indoors. Seriously, he got a lot done.
8) The polite applause for Marc Staal’s first shift at the Garden this season was underwhelming. I mean, it’s not like he’s as important as a guy like Sean Avery, who got a much bigger ovation when he made his Garden debut. Makes no sense whatsoever … other than a lot more tickets now go to non-diehards who can afford them. And that you can’t understand the Avery-worshippers unless you are one.
9) Staal did look out of sorts a bit, and he will for a while, and he’s going to have to earn his minutes. But he’s sure happy to be back on the ice.
10) Is everybody in the East playing to be the runnerup to Boston? Will the Bruins go undefeated the rest of the way? Holy shishkebob.
11) IMO, Artem Anisimov really needs to start putting more pucks on goal, because he sure seems to have it on his stick in position to fire an awful lot, and doesn’t pull the trigger (pun intended). I know he’s played well in other areas, and all of that. But in the end, 14-16 goals from the first-line left wing isn’t going to cut it.
12) The first power play chance was awful. More standing around. It’s been happening all season, whenever the PP struggled. The guys without the puck are standing still. And I thought it got a bit better as it went on last night, though at times the puck stayed up high and forwards drifted toward the points, and so the puck never got to the front. But it did get better, even if marginally.
13) OK, maybe Marian Gaborik wasn’t great start to finish, and his line sure wasn’t fabulous. But the GAS line got it done when it matters, and Gaborik was dangerous all night. He’s got 23 now. One more than last season.
14) Much, much better game by Brad Richards, and his linemates were very strong again. We may have not imagined Richards would not play with Gaborik, and we sure didn’t imagine Brandon Dubinsky not playing with Ryan Callahan. The latter two are back together, with Richards in the middle, and it’s working.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1) Marian Gaborik.
2) Dan Girardi.
3) Ryan Callahan.
Photo credits: Gaborik, Rupp (Getty Images); Callahan/Richards (AP).