From the desk of: RAISE GRESCH WITH THE GREATS
NEW YORK RANGERS: Canadian Turn Around Sets Up a Grand Opening Night at the Garden.
For ol' Tex's New York Rangers - The Blueshirt World Tour, is finally over. The Boys are finally coming home. After seven games in three different countries, the Rangers will get a few nights off before they open MSG Thursday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Some stops on the world tour were very familiar to the Rangers like Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary. Some places - not so familiar; like Sweden. One place may not be around much longer (see Long Island). And one place in particular needs getting used to again as the Rangers made their first trip back to Winnipeg since the last incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets up and moved to Phoenix.
Because Atlanta failed to support it's second chance with an NHL franchise, the Thrashers packed up and moved to the reinvigorated Winnipeg area. And hence, the Jets are reborn. For Atlanta, that makes two teams that found Canada more desirable than Georgia. Once, the Flames also found Atlanta lacking the proper fire and moved operations to Calgary.
Since I went there, and as Phoenix is in dire straights....again, so much for Gary Bettman's expedition into the Belt Ways and Valleys of the Sun, not to mention his dreams of parity and organizational stability. And by the way, Quebec is still screaming for a team too. In the face of a poorly schemed plan to give Hockey a tan, the NHL is undergoing a correction brought on by pure market place physics and a recall from the Great White North.
Congratulations Winnipeg. I'm glad you have a team again. The town has a unique Hockey history after being involved with the old WHA, and subsequently being one of the teams merged into the NHL. It's a shame the Jets ever left Winnipeg in the first place.
But enough with the pleasantries. What about the Rangers?
After seven road games to start the season, the Blueshirts have amassed eight points. That's not bad at all considering the way they sputtered along with weird scheduling. The season got off on the wrong skate until they arrived in Vancouver. It was finally in Canada where the Rangers picked up their first three wins of the season.
But considering Marc Staal is yet to play and Michael Saurer made two top bodies missing from the blue line, I guess eight points is a rather good thing. It's hard to hold the rust-riddled effort against the Islanders against them. I don't. And I'll take a pass on the games and whole swing through Europe.
Henrik Lundqvist started the first six games of the season. Truth be told, he could have used more support. And where have we heard that before? He already posted his first shut-out of the season. But he left last game's third period prematurely. So after getting called in from the bullpen during their 2-0 shut-out loss to Edmonton, Marty Biron made his first start of the season Monday against Winnipeg.
Biron (and the post) tended net marvelously Monday, especially in the third period when Winnipeg unleashed an all out assault in the Ranger zone. Somehow the Rangers held on until they managed an inadvertent goal off a Jets skater during a Rangers power play that was credited to Callahan, for a 2-1 Rangers lead. Then with a minute left, Winnipeg unleash a second furious attack this time with a sixth skater after pulling the goalie. But the Rangers and Biron held on to their second lead of the night for a win.
The Blueshirts improved their record to 3-2-2. The recovery after tripping out of the gate is complete. All that lies ahead is what Coach Torts and the Rangers build upon from Thursday night's opener, on. Logistically speaking and travel wise, the most difficult portion of their schedule may very well be behind them. And it's safe to say, after crossing Canada, they should have their Hockey legs firmly under them by now. Let the season start in earnest now.
It's time to come home.