04 December 2005

Well I "Waited till next year" and then I waited some more. And now? (CS)

In the past, I would have agreed with Cable in this particular instance. It was always too hard to dredge up the good ol' feelings of 1994 Rangers hockey after so many seasons that were an absolute mockery. But after losing a year to strikes and following a whole set of rule changes, the Rangers are back this year. And they're kicking ass. So let's talk about them and you can go suck it, Cable.

Ok, I know. We're hardly a quarter of the way into the season. But this team can skate. And this team can score. And this team finally has some decent goal tending. With the new restrictions in place on interference, Jaomir Jagr has gone from a pretty damn good player to the sort of player to put the fear of God into goaltenders. And guys like Martin Straka and Martin Rucinsky have also been unleashed. Plus, we are finally free of the dead weight of Eric Lindros (don't be fooled by his numbers in Toronto, I think they replaced him with a hockey playing robot).

I have hope that gone are the days of guys like Lindros hitting the ice and sapping the life out the entire team with sluggish play. Instead, this team has showed some incredible panache. Early in the season, they faced three very tough overtime losses. Instead of folding into extended losing streaks (as I'd expect the old teams to do) this team righted the ship and came back with some win streaks of their own, including their latest 6 win streak which probably hit its climax with Marek Malik's game winner in the 15th round of an overtime shootout against Washington. That's the type of game you'd expect the old Rangers to have given up on.

Is the team ready for Lord Stanley? Don't think so. Still lacking a certain something on the defensive end. Still stuck with Tom Poti, a offensive defensemen who's only offensive in the non-flattering pun turn of the word. And now without players like Matthew Barnaby, lacking a scrapiness and toughness to pep the team up on certain shifts. But of course, a run at the cup is good enough (for now). Even a playoff berth would seem like a gift from the heavens after so many years in a row of being on the cusp, but never quite making it.

Most of all, this team has promise. Some of the hardest workers on the ice are the younger players. Dominic Moore and Petr Prucha have put in surprising work at Center. Marcel Hossa has the potential to be a solid edition. Most exciting to me, though, is the great backstopping by the young Henrik Lundqvist. The guy's just several months older than me and still shows incredible composure and talent in the net. He racked up a couple shutouts early in the season and has played critical games/minutes during the Rangers' win streaks. Following names like Mike Richter and Mark Messier, these young guys have a lot to live up to. And yet, they've shown enough to me so far that I maintain hope that they can get even better and become a solid basis to build this team around.

Get your tickets to the greatest arena on earth, cuz the Rangers are finally exciting to watch again.
And by god if this rant jinxes them......