Rangers’ coach John Tortorella recently announced that captain Chris Drury would return to the lineup tonight in Pittsburgh. On its own, the declaration did nothing to stir our confidence. Drury is a hard working guy, a stand up guy, but let’s be frank–he hasn’t lived up to his $35M contract and the last really clutch goal he scored was against, not for, the Rangers. It was the way Torts said it that was such music to my ears, the song of angels to long time fans of the team. The coach said Drury will play but that “no kids are coming out.” Tortorella went on to say that it would be veterans who lose ice time and that a veteran would be a healthy a scratch, and that it was too bad for them. “He’s the captain,” Tortorella would say. “Everybody’s gotta sacrafice.”
On Sunday night the New York Rangers played perhaps their best game against a quality opponent in years, shutting out the Capitals 7-0. It was the most lopsided shutout victory the team has had since 1970 (and my wife deleted it off the tivo before I saw the 4 goal 2nd period–an “important” American Idol will be deleted in retaliation). The Rangers have a quality team because of the kids they’ve developed and refused to trade. And a lot of them are kids no more. Anisimov, the 6’4, 220 lbs. center iceman, may have slumped a bit as all players do, but he’s a leading scorer and a cog on the team’s best line, which flat out beats opposing units up physically on the wall and with its relentless cycle. The line is so good that it allowed the Rangers to withstand almost a month without world class forward Marian Gaborik, and so good that on most nights since returning, Gabby has been a compliment and not that absolute focal point he’s been on every team he has played on in his life, including the Slovak national team that’s chock full of talent up front.
Defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi who had us pulling our hair out as recently as all of last year, have grown into cornerstones of the team, and now even look polished offensively. Imposing rookie defenseman Michael Sauer won the Rangers a game last week in Ottawa with a well placed point shot in the clutch. Team USA stalwart Ryan Callahan, perennially our extra effort award winner, does everything for this team but drive the Zambonie, and is loathe to miss a shift despite being a league leader in both hits and blocked shots. We feel that Drury is keeping the captain’s C warm for him.
Derek Stepan has been a rookie sensation and now, playing consistently with Gaborik, expect him to flourish even more. The core of youth has played so well that it can carry a guy like Michael Del Zotto, a sophomore defenseman who looks lost out there and who’s struggling very badly. Then there’s team scoring leader and maybe the manliest man of the bunch, emerging star power forward Brandon Dubinsky, recently seen screaming at and giving the look of death to the Ottawa bench, last seen, kicking Alexander Ovechkin’s ass all over the ice on Sunday. You think Dubinsky will be fired up tonight to face his best girlfriend Cindy Crosby, who cheaply and classlessly gave Ryan Callahanthe slew foot in the 2 team’s last meeting?
Whatever happens tonight, New York is bringing the right mix of size, speed, talent, toughness, and meanness to the party, even in the absence of behemoth enforcer Derek Boogard, who is still out with a shoulder problem. The Rangers are seeking to win their second straight in Pittsburgh and to get a win over a Penguin team that last night had a 12 game win streak snapped by the Flyers.
LET’S GO RANGERS!!!!!