Sean Avery (above) on top of Edmonton cry baby Ladislav Smid.

After Sunday afternoon’s Ranger’s blowout victory, defeated Edmonton defenseman Theo Peckham fumed that Sean Avery’s 3rd period actions precipitated a 5 on 5 brawl.  Peckham contended that Smid challenged the Ranger agitator to go, and that Avery’s reply was to the tune of ‘not now, next shift.’  Then Avery pounced on Smid and beat his face in.

Did Smid go down like that?  So what if he did?  Avery, when told of Peckham’s accusation, said “That’s what he said?”, unable to suppress the laughter.  Was he laughing at the assertion, or did the matter simply amuse him, however Smid went down?  Ace New York Post Rangers’ beat writer and hockey columnist Larry Brooks suggested on Monday that such an action was typical Avery and well within his nature.

As if that’s a bad thing?  Avery, the player who stirs the drink for the Rangers, went what seems like a whole season between stirring drinks, playing completely listless hockey for the Rangers last year, who failed to qualify for the playoffs, in what may have been #16’s worst season.  And after a November 4th tilt in Phily in which the Flyers once again bullied the Rangers up and down the ice, led by public enemy number one, Daniel Carcillo, this Rangers fan became disgusted, like many others, by the soft tone of the team.  Carcillo famously got Rangers’ star forward Marian Gaborik into a fight last year.  Sometimes a fight is unavoidable, but the Rangers response at having their best player targeted was nil.  Inexcusable.  And when Carcillo continued his antics in Phily 2 weeks ago, the Rangers did respond, but it was too little, too late.  The Rangers were already squarely off their game, and even admirable tough guys like Rangers’ heavyweight Derek Boogard and NHL middleweight champion Brandon Prust, who won fights after Carcillo’s dirty hit on Ruslan Fedotenko, were merely reacting.  They were not taking the initiative.

Despite having lost a tough game tonight at the Garden to the Bruins 3-2, the Rangers are playing much better hockey, and it has started to seem that the Rangers are more ready to respond to physical challenges.  For one, Sean Avery is noticeable once again, and if he has to sucker punch someone to be that, then let’s get to sucker punching.  The Rangers, a team stocked wth young players, have begun to give their tougher stock more ice time, like Brandon Prust, who arrived here from Calgary as a four minute man, but now plays a regular shift, even killing penalties.  So what if he got caught up ice on the tying goal with 2+ minutes to go in Pittsburgh?  It’s going to happen.  But you have to have confidence in guys.  And Tortorella does.  To the coach’s credit, because it hasn’t always seemed that way, which is why we’ve been critical of him.  And when you play Brandon Prust for 15 minutes instead of 4, that’s 11 more minutes on the ice for a guy who had approximately 40 fights last year, increasing the odds that he will keep opposing scum honest, in a way that the Sean Averys and Daniel Carcillos of the world can not be contained.

The Rangers went down 2-1 Monday night in a blink, after protecting a 1-0 lead for almost the entire 2nd half of the game.  Perhaps an even dirtier player than Carcillo, Cindy Crosby, seemed to commit at least 2 obvious stick infractions that were not called.  Is there ever a call that doesn’t go Crosby’s way?  The kid has a Stanley Cup ring on account of a blown call, after all.  But young Ranger power forward Brandon Dubinsky, now with 11 goals, seems to genuinely have a thing for Crosby, and has made it a point to pursue the Pittsburgh star, stalking him for the precious opportunity to rearrange #87’s face.  And Dubinsky beatifully set up both the tying and winning goal, in a most improbable win in the Rangers first game in Pittsburgh’s new arena. 

For the first time in a couple of years, the Rangers seem to have a squad that may be more than timid, in terms of going on the ice and taking respect, though Theo Peckham surely doesn’t seem to think so.  The real test of mettle for the Rangers will be the next time they face the Flyers.  As for Peckham, it’s a flipping hockey game, Theo.  When you come to the Garden these days, don’t be surprised if you get punched in the face, regardless of any alleged gentleman’s agreements.


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