A win is a win, that's what they say in
sports circles these days. The New York Rangers 76th season got underway
this past weekend and two games into the 82 game marathon that is the
NHL's regular season, the Blueshirts are Even Steven after splitting a
pair of games against eastern conference foes.
After an underwhelming beginning to the
Rangers season, an out of sync, chaotic 3-1 loss to the Carolina
Hurricanes in Raleigh on Friday night the Blueshirts returned home for
what they knew would be an impromptu pre-game ceremony filled with emotion
and done like only the Garden can. Firefighters, police officers and EMS
workers alike received their due prior to dropping the puck on the Rangers
home opener. It was an emotional 20 minute ceremony that was not for the
faint of heart. One of the Rangers biggest downfalls during their recent
four year run of futility has been their inability to win on home ice.
Since the 1997-98 season the Blueshirts are just 63-77-22-2 on Garden ice,
a whopping 14 games under .500 in that span. This is a trend that must at
least reverse itself if the fate of this years squad is to be any
different than the previous four. Getting off on the right foot in the
home opener is just what the doctor ordered for this feeling their way
Many a personal comeback was staged wearing
the red, white and blue this past weekend, which concluded with a 5-4 come
from behind OT win against a Buffalo Sabres team that lost just four times
in it's last 13 visit's to the Worlds Most Famous Arena. Overall, the
first two matches contained a little bit of everything for the Blueshirts;
including more sloppy defensive play, which, unfortunately, has become a
Ranger trademark under head coach Ron Low. Once again the defensive zone
coverage was abysmal as opposing forwards were allowed to set up camp in
front of a shaky MIKE RICHTER who allowed a total of 7 goals in the two
Here's a look at some individual
performances over the first pair of games.
ERIC LINDROS asserted himself during Sunday
night's home opener after a seemingly tentative debut Friday in Carolina.
The Big Train collected his first goal as a Ranger when he opened the
scoring on Sunday and was dominant on face-off's in his Garden
Captain MARK MESSIER who scored the teams
first goal of the season in the opener had an otherwise uneventful weekend
and unlike last year wasn't needed to kill penalties or take every
important defensive zone draw.
Center PETR NEDVED had a solid weekend
collecting three points over the two matches including the assist on
Sunday's OT game winner.
RADEK DVORAK once again showed outstanding
speed pulling away from defenders en route to a breakaway goal that
briefly gave the Rangers a 4-3 third period lead in Sunday's victory. The
fleet-footed Czech seemingly picked up where he left off last year,
creating several scoring chances during the first two games.
ZDENO CIGER was solid in his Rangers debut
and seemed to fit well with Nedved and MICHAL GROSEK who picked up his
first goal of the season crashing the net against the Sabres on Sunday.
Grosek must bring a physical presence to that unit and be more aggressive
on the forecheck than he has been during his brief stint with the Rangers
if he is to see an increased role with the club this season.
Natural centerman MANNY MALHOTRA was moved
back to the wing with Messier and Dvorak and played brilliantly, setting
up Dvorak's third period marker against the Sabres. Malhotra is obviously
a huge asset on the wing and seems to play with confidence when teamed
with the Captain.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise over the
first two games was the play of winger ANDREAS JOHANSSON. The 26 year-old
Swede brings speed and a tenacious forecheck to the club and is an
outstanding penalty killer. Johansson, who drew a penalty driving to the
net in Sunday's victory, also chipped in offensively, scoring a huge goal
as time expired in the second period knotting the game at three.
Right winger THEO FLEURY was once again
guilty of taking undisciplined penalties and was a minus-2, in what was an
otherwise quiet weekend for the spunky winger.
Fourth line center MIKE YORK seemed to
struggle adapting to his new role and was also a minus-2 over the first
two matches. The diminutive center needs to find his game in a hurry or he
could see his ice time cut even further given the Rangers depth at center
Enforcer SANDY MCCARTHY sparked the team on
Sunday with a scrap at the end of the second period that seemed to wake
the Rangers up they had fallen into a 3-1 hole.
Rookie BARRETT HEISTEN had an uneventful
weekend and didn't see much icetime in the third period of Sunday's win.
On the defensive side of things, BRIAN LEETCH struggled at times in his
own zone but was able to jump into the play, taking a pass from Petr
Nedved to beat Buffalo goalie Bob Essensa for the OT winner on
Leetch's partner BRYAN BERARD looked like a
guy that hadn't played in 16 months after two outstanding pre-season
appearances. Berard seemed tentative both steeping up to keep the puck in
at the opposing blueline as well as in front of his own net.
Free agent signee IGOR ULANOV looked Marty
McSorely-esque in his Ranger debut. The hard hitting Russian looked unsure
of himself and made several ill-advised passes during Friday night's loss
to the Hurricanes.
DAVE KARPA had a solid weekend showing off
his reputation as a tough stay at home defensemen and keeping his game
VLADMIR MALAKHOV was also solid and should
fit in well as a third pair defensemen once TOMAS KLOUCEK returns from
Second year man PETER SMREK struggled in
Friday's opener and was a healthy scratch in favor of tough guy DALE
PURINTON for Sunday's Garden match. Purinton played well but once again
put the Rangers down a man with an undisciplined penalty.
Goaltender MIKE RICHTER was very ordinary
allowing 7 goals on 56 shots over the first two games. Two of those goals
however bounced in off of his own defensemen, one off of Karpa on Friday
and the other off Malakhov Sunday. Richter showed his rust at times
leaving long, juicy rebounds but seemed to recover quickly.
A LOOK AHEAD: The Rangers are at home to
face Jaromir Jagr and the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night, then
travel north of the border to face the Ottawa on Saturday and the
Canadiens in Montreal on Monday.
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