HOCKEY BACK HOCKEY BACK. I, for one, am excited. The title of this post references both me arbitrarily ending my blogging hiatus AND far and away my favorite dumb internet story of the past year. I’ll try to not flake out on you this year (/cuts to shot of all my exes nodding sarcastically)!
As you’re well aware, our boys started the 2015-2016 regular season with a quality 3-2 win over the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks. The game was fast, players showed off a TON of skill, Corey Crawford’s pads looked stupid as shit, and god hockey I missed you so don’t ever leave me again. Also, it’s just awesome seeing Zuccarello out there playing again after that horrifying injury last spring. A lot of guys had rough injuries last spring, but only Zucc fractured his skull and, I can’t stress this enough, WAS PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO SPEAK UNTIL UNDERGOING REHAB. Welcome back, you crafty Norwegian hobbit.
ANWAY – Drawing conclusions from a single game is dumb, and because this is my blog that’s exactly what’s about to happen. Buckle up.
1. SPEED SPEED SPEED
While Carl Hagelin and his glorious, glorious hair may have gone west, the Rangers seemed to be much faster as a team. Marty St. Louis, God love him, had lost more than a few steps by the end of last season. Nash-Brassard-Zuccarello didn’t generate much but skated incredibly well. Kreider is the only burner on his line with Stepan and Hayes, but on more than a few occasions his straight-line speed created scoring chances single-handedly. The 3rd and 4th lines were buzzing around the puck in every zone all night long. Take in to account that Emerson Etem, a major burner in his own right, didn’t even dress last night and it’s hard not to feel encouraged by what the team displayed. Speed is probably the hardest thing in hockey to counter when it’s utilized properly, and if the Rangers stay healthy it looks like they’ll have that advantage against most teams all season.
2. BREAKING THE GLASS CEILING (I MAY INJURE MY BACK ATTEMPTING TO BLOW MYSELF FOR THIS ONE)
When the Rangers made the Stanley Cup 2 seasons ago (I don’t remember what happened and no I don’t want to talk about it), their biggest strength was the ability to roll 4 effective lines every night. Brian Boyle made Dominic Moore a luxury, and having a roster where any line is capable of stepping up and scoring brought the team within a few hit posts of raising the Cup (I SAID I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT). Last year, not so much.
Tanner Glass can play NHL hockey on a team that’s top-heavy in terms of talent (think this year’s Penguins) because he can usually take a shift without any disasters occurring. If you have a roster like the Rangers do, depth matters even more because the team doesn’t have the same kind of high-end scorers that a lot of other contending teams have. The season finished last year with Dominic Moore taking shifts as a third line center (bad) and Tanner Glass playing over 10 minutes a night (BAD).
Moore is an overqualified 4th liner, which makes him perfect in the role he played last night. Same goes for Jarrett Stoll. JT Miller was on the 2nd line during last year’s playoffs, and last night he was wreaking havoc all over the ice as a 3rd liner. Victor Stalberg looks like a bigger, faster, meaner version of 2013’s Benny Pouliot. Oscar Lindberg scored as the 3rd line center, and the 4th line generated at least 2 high-quality scoring chances I can remember offhand while playing physically every shift sure the Hawks’ defensemen didn’t get a chance to catch their breath.
If Glass does crack the line-up anytime soon, it will only be due to injuries. The team lost some quality players last off-season, but the front office managed to re-tool so well (and on the cheap!) that it’s much stronger top-to-bottom than it ever was last season.
3. HENRIK IS GOOD
He is #good at #hockey. #Content over.
God damn, I am excited to have this team back. Let’s enjoy the season, y’all. LGR.