1) I said it before and I’ll say it again (though I’m sure it won’t placate any of the NNs, or Chicken Littles, the “fire Torts” gang or plain old trolls. If losing three out of five is as bad as it gets, or even four out of six, this is going to be one fabulous, unbelievable, wildly-successful season.
2) Everybody’s going after Evgeny Malkin lately, and I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve it … but it seems to me that you wake him up when you go after him. That sometimes he’s a sleeping dog you don’t really want to wake up. When he’s nasty, he’s really good.
3) Speaking of nasty, Pittsburgh, top to bottom, is as nasty a team as there is, at least in the East. And I mean that as a total compliment. To have that kind of talent, and an edge, is really what you want in a team, right?
4) I’m not like you guys who think there’s a Pittsburgh conspiracy. But I do think the officiating has done a 180 from what it was the first six weeks or so this season, when everything was called and there was rampant pansification. And I definitely prefer it this way, where men play like men, where you have to fight through stuff, where not every little tap or minor tug is a penalty. Marian Gaborik, for example, gets mugged when he drives to the net now, and he’s fighting through it. That’s hockey. I’m not even going to make a stink about mistaken calls, like the double-minor on Gaborik in the Nashville game, when one Predator cut another with his stick, or the high-sticking call on Brandon Dubinsky last night, caused because Dubinsky got hacked from behind. Mistakes happen. But you have to call the freakin’ slew footing, and you have to call it when an odd-man rush is stopped because one of the attacking players is hooked from behind. You just have to.
5) I’ve been saying for a while that most staged fights are useless. But sometimes they do jack up the team(s) and the crowd, and Stu Bickel’s fight did that. I also admire the manly removal of helmets when one guy (in this case Eric Tangradi) is wearing a shield. Honor in fighting. Good for those guys.
6) That start was God-awful, though. I thought they got it straightened out and it really was anybody’s game before the Staal pinch and the bad backcheck by Brad Richards and Brandon Dubinsky on the 2-1 goal. Staal and Richards sure haven’t been very good lately, and you can throw Artem Anisimov on that pile, too, though I thought he was better last night.
7) Did you know that Staal has a brother on the Penguins?
8) When that piece of clarke Matt Cooke slew-footed Richards, at first I thought it was Staal, which would have been awful considering the way he landed on the back of his head. Then I wondered if Richards might have gotten hurt (he had a concussion late last year). Then one of the Pittsburgh guys in the pressbox told me that was one of the few times all season that the “new” Cooke did anything like that, and that the Penguins are trying to get him to hit somebody. What a piece of carcillo he is. Staal gave him a nice shot at the end of the first period. I fully endorse it.
9) My concourse tour continued. I strolled the new concessions and almost got the prime rib sandwich. Got scared off by the $18.50 price tag (and worse, imagining my wife’s reaction when the Visa bill came). So I went back to the burger. It is good. Thus, nothing new to report.
10) Funniest chant of the night from an annoyed crowd … and it was small and didn’t last very long: “Shut up Dolan!”
11) I think a lot of people are making way, way too much out of the next game, in Boston Saturday afternoon. If the Rangers win it, or if they lose it, it’s going to have no bearing on the rest of the season or the playoffs; and it’s not going to definitively tell you where either team stands in relation to the other. That said, I can’t wait to see it.
12) Interesting to see how much ice time Staal got (team leading 26:02 originally, which I think was later changed to 24:58, just behind Ryan McDonagh’s 25:21) and also to see how the rotation went, with Michael Del Zotto moving over to the right side when playing with Staal, and Bickel and Anton Stralman seeing limited time. I really wonder what they’re going to do with Del Zotto when Michael Sauer comes back, and how they’re not going to diminish his minutes.
13) Which was worse? The Rangers power play, or the ice? And are they inter-related? Because the PP has been bad on really good ice, too? But it sure can’t help when your guys already have jittery hands to have the puck hopping around like a rabbit.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1) Carl Hagelin.
2) Marian Gaborik.
3) Derek Stepan.
AP photos, above.