Saturday, November 24, 2007

New York Rangers: The Kids Are Alright

At some point a couple of years ago the New York Rangers started playing Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" after each win. Well, these days it probably makes more sense to play The Who's "The Kids Are Alright" (posted above).

Just look up and down the lineup and you'll see it's filled with young talent. Yes, wily vets like Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan are still among the key leaders. But if you wanna see a young star leading the charge, you don't have to go any further than to start with the Rangers' goalie, a rock star in his own right, Henrik Lundqvist.

"The King" has been carrying the Rangers this year, so far. Lundqvist, 25, in his third year as a pro in North America, is quickly becoming known as one of the best goalies in the National Hockey League. New York is keeping their goals against down, which means they are playing more like playoff hockey in November, so they won't have too much trouble turning their defensive game up a notch come playoff time like most teams will have to do. Their outstanding defensive play - 1.91 goals against, which is the best in the NHL - is mostly a credit to the man between the pipes. Although, the rest of the team is more committed to defense than any recent Rangers' team, starting with and led by the youth of the blueline...

Twenty-year-old Marc Staal has been performing admirably as one half of the top defensive pair, along with Michal Rozsival. Then there is the number two pairing, Fedor Tyutin (24) and Dan Girardi (23). Neither guy is flashy - although "Toots" has more sparkle in his offensive game - yet they get the job done night after night. Girardi, in his first full season, plays the man extremely well and has a good sense of where he and his partner are at all times.

Then we move up to the forwards, where an Alaskan native is centering the top line with Jaromir Jagr on the flank. Scott Gomez, right? No, the Jagr-Gomez marriage lasted about as long as one of Elizabeth Taylor's forays into matrimony. Of course, I'm talking about 21-year-old Brandon Dubinksy. The 6'1", 224 pound, rookie has the tools to mature into a complete player some day. Dubinsky is as strong as a horse, and looks to be impossible to knock off the puck. He's also not afraid to drop the gloves and I'm glad to see that "pugilist" Jason Strudwick is helping Dubinsky out in that area.

Then, of course, there's my favorite youngen: Ryan Callahan. The 22-year-old Rochester, New York, native scored the first two goals of his career against the Boston Bruins on St. Patrick's Day last season. Oh yeah, he also won a scrap in that game. As if you would need more to like about this kid? Well, he's as quick as a hiccup, shoots the puck, and isn't afraid to go in the corners.

Although not exactly a "kid" line, I do love the "H.B.O." line which plays with grit and overwhelming tenacity. That line is, of course, Ryan Hollweg (24) Blair Betts (27), and Colton Orr (25).

Too bad former assistant General Manager, Don Maloney, isn't around the Rangers anymore to enjoy the maturation of some of his draft picks. Thanks to the Messiers declaring the head position being Mark's as soon as Glen Sather steps down. But that's another story, for another day. Didn't Mark ever get that memo which was delivered by Luc Robitaille to Wayne Gretzky soon after "Lucky" got dealt from L.A. to Pittsburgh? Well, I'll refresh. The memo read: "Players play and managers manage." Oh yeah, and bloggers blog. Whatever that means.

Stay Onsides!

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