Friday, November 11, 2011

N.Y. Rangers ~ Carolina Poses Bigger Test for Blueshirts


NEW YORK RANGERS:  If Team Torts is to take one giant leap for Ranger-Kind, they need to finally get through teams like the Carolina Hurricanes.

Carolina's Eric Staal may need ear-plugs tonight.  Thick skin might help too.  And if this was the Blueshirts' rink of old Madison Square from sixty years ago..., I'd say bring an umbrella to protect himself from the blitz of eggs, tomatoes and heads of rotten cabbage coming from the stands. 

But these days we are much more cultured and civilized than that.  Aren't we?  Therefore, at first sight of Eric hitting the ice for warm-ups tonight, jeers, boos, obscenities, vulgarities, and every other mouthed display of contempt you can conjure will have to suffice.  I mean, you don't want to get ejected from the arena, right?  But hey!  It's Friday night.  The MSG crowd just may very well sustain their disdain for the "other" Staal all night long.  Pffft.  Let's just say being that today is a holiday, it afforded fans to get a head start on drinking...I mean thinking about tonight's game.  You can bet Ranger Fans will be taking extra care in their pre-game libations... I mean preparations, because of the way Eric mugged his own brother, who happens to be our star defenseman.  And as a result, Marc is having a substantial portion of a second consecutive season compromised by a head injury.

It was Eric Staal who effectively put his brother's career on pause.  Broadway Blueliner Marc Staal, is still suffering the effects from a February concussion suffered due to a hit delivered by his brother.  And the latest report on that matter is Marc will be completely shut down with the thinking a complete break from activities will be a positive step towards recovery.

There's your back drop.  Now about Carolina, the Rangers, and this game. 

You know what?  We've gone out to Vancouver and Calgary and won there before.  We've somehow beaten the Sharks over the years also.  That's not me trying to take away anything from the Rangers current winning steak, or the fact they seemingly ironed out the wrinkles of a cranky start to their season due in part to a ridiculous schedule.  I'm not doing that.  And certainly, the Montreal game was a dominating performance.  But we've done all that before.  It's almost as if we're following last year's script.

What I'm saying is... Carolina gives us fits.  They always have.  They are in a group along with Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Washington, that we need to prove our mettle against; just like last year and the year before that.  Hell, over the last few seasons, we even seem to beat Boston on a regular basis.  But not Carolina.  I don't know what our recent record against them is.  But I'm guessing it isn't good.  And what's closer to my point is tonight's game is about changing the script.  So yeah, I'm putting a lot of weight into this game.  I really do feel this game is a test to see where we are, more so than our play against some previously mentioned opponents this season. 

Part of tonight's game also involves pondering Brandon Dubinsky's slow start.  Slow?  His game is skating in tar right now.  And we've been "here" before with him also.  It wasn't until the playoffs last season that Brandon really took a more front and center role on this club, that incidentally, Coach Torts always expected, but is still waiting on the consistency part.

You take those two situations (Staal, Dubinsky) and think...what if?  Then, when you marvel at the level Ryan McDonagh has risen his game, and how Derek Stepan is in the process of doing the same, and speak about an apparently resurgent Marian Gaborik, this slaps you in the face - It's hard to keep everything together.  If it's not one thing, it's another.

If I sound a little frustrated it's because I am.  Eric Staal might have triggered this.  But like I said, we've done many things this season we've seen from this team all before....repeatedly.  And what I really mean by that is not being able to separate ourselves from Carolina in a conversation regarding Eastern Conference contenders or on the ice for a game.

If this team is indeed heading in the right direction; if it indeed is on it's way towards being a Stanley Cup contender within the next few years, then they need to start doing things they haven't always done well, better.  That's a direct shot at our power play.  But real contention starts with a win against Carolina at home tonight.  Playing at MSG wasn't exactly the best place for the Rangers to play last season.  This year so far, we are keeping our house in order.  That's good.  A win against Carolina tonight would be better.

I expect the crowd will do their part this evening in making MSG a very uncomfortable place for the Hurricanes to play.  The Rangers need to do their part, and make the ice down right inhospitable.


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