Friday, October 05, 2007

Thoughts On Rangers' Opening Night

The Blueshirts won their first game of the season last night by beating the Florida Panthers 5-2. Brian Leetch, who is getting his number two raised to the Garden rafters in January, was part of the ceremonial puck drop before the game began. New York opened the game with a buzz which lasted about ten minutes. The rest of the period neither team was very effective and the second period was clearly dominated by the young Florida Panthers. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist kept the Rangers in the game by making some outstanding saves in the second.

The third period was all Rangers. They came out flying and never let up. The third line showed how valuable they are by netting two goals (one each from Ryan Callahan and Petr Prucha) but also by drawing a penalty and just using their speed and determination to wear out the Panthers. Chris Drury (playing on a line with Jaromir Jagr and Martin Straka) was named the number one star of the game. Yeah, I guess that makes for good theater. But the best player was Lundqvist.

Let's go back to that third line and why they are going to be so key to any success the Rangers may have this season. How does an opposing coach determine who he is going to match his lines with? Do you put your top defensive forwards and d-men on against the Jagr line? How about if and when the Shanahan line is on fire? Then you have to decide how to combat the Rangers third line? Brandon Dubinsky looked more and more confident as last night's game went on, and Prucha and Callahan are two of the more spirited Blueshirts that you will find. Surprisingly, Head Coach Tom Renney put Blair Betts in Dubinsky's spot late in the game for a few shifts, because he likes Betts' poise.

Interesting to note that the Rangers have four, count 'em four, rookies in their lineup: Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi, Brandon Dubinsky, and Marc Staal. Only Staal did not see NHL action last season. Callahan, Girardi and Dubinsky did not play in the maximum number of games last season where a player would no longer be considered a rookie.

Now the Rangers visit Ottawa for a big test Saturday night.

Stay Onsides!

No comments: