Generally speaking, It takes something pretty special for me to do much more than smile while watching a Rangers game during the regular season. It’s not that I am an unemotional fan or anything, it’s just that I am usually very calm and collected while watching a game. I don’t flip out a lot, and I don’t get overly excited a lot, I take everything as it comes calmly. In that aspect I suppose I am more like Tom Renney than the other coaches I advocate (maybe it’s because I think I would be a terrible coach for the Rangers). Anyway, while I never get overly excited during the regular season, I hardly even move while watching a preseason game. I don’t clap, I don’t do anything but watch, observe, and take mental notes. Today, in what is essentially a meaningless preseason game, I went absolutely crazy when Ryan Callahan scored his goal. I think it probably has more to do with the relations between the KHL and the NHL, and my need to see the NHL come out on top moreso than the Rangers being involved. With that said, what we witnessed was one of the most exciting third periods I recent Rangers history.
The Rangers, after playing quite lackadaisically for the first 45 minutes of the game, finished the final 25 minutes absolutely pouring it on in terms of offensive pressure, defensive pressure and goaltending. Yesterday I told you that the difference between the 2 teams was partially attributed to the goaltending. Today you saw something similar the first 45 minutes. Henrik Lundqvist wasn’t just bad, he wasn’t just terrible. He was pitiful. The redirection goal was the only one I could truly say was not his fault. The wrister above his glove was at least semi-soft, and the point shot was an absolute travesty. NHL goalies do not give up goals like that, leave alone a 3 times Vezina finalist. But thankfully my fears about Henrik being injured were at least partially abated when Henrik gave his team a strong performance in the 3rd period, making 3 very clutch saves from in tight. It is simply possible that Henrik is rusty and needs to warm up by playing a few regular season games before he is totally in the zone. I hope that is the case anyway.
Offensively the Rangers got a near herculean performance by Chris Drury, who scored the first, and game tying goals, both in front of the net, in those dirty, “pay the price” areas. He got the time fired up with that first goal, and a rev you up post goal celebration. He was into it, and he led this team to victory, make no mistake about it. I have often criticized the signings of Drury and Gomez, but I tend to focus far more on Gomez than Drury. Why? Because of what you saw today. Leadership and Clutch are 2 things that are impossible to quantify, and yet Chris Drury oozes those virtues from every pore on his body. The guy was the hands down obvious choice for captain, and today should do nothing but cement it.
Of course you have to save the best for last, which was Ryan Callahans final 20 second goal. He anticipated a pass across to the other defenseman, picked the puck up, deked the goalie out of his pads, and single handedly took $100k away from each and every Russian player. That must have been fun. Callahans other linemate continued to have a strong preseason, Lauri Korpikoski was once again all over the place, creating chances, and setting up Ryan Callahan for a potential goal midway through the 2nd, and played a superb defensive game as well.
Not to be missed was a perfect breakout pass to Dan Fritsche which led to the Rangers second goal by Wade Redden. Why did we bring this guy in? That is why folks. Strong defense, strong passing, leadership, etc. Character players are important, Drury, Redden, these guys are crucial to the present day success of this team, while guys like Nikolai Zherdev and Brandon Dubinsky are crucial to the future success of this team.
The future is bright, how the present looks will start to unfold on Saturday and Sunday. I will be out of town in Florida attending a convention for my company which I can not miss. I will watch both games Sunday and do post game wraps for each as soon as I am finished. Let it begin…