Monday, October 11, 2010

Sunday Wrap Up

On a football Sunday with little puck being played, it's a good time to review the first couple of days for the Battle clubs. But before we do, Happy Thanksgiving to our brotherly neighbors up north. Wishing every Canadian a great Turkey Day. There's something cool about having the best holiday a month earlier. I just can't explain it. Maybe I should relocate. :P

Instead of just rambling uncontrollably, we're going to look at each club in this entry. Of course, it's hard to gauge too much off one or two games. But we'll just give a little synopsis based on what we've caught. Last night, the crew had a get together at my buddy John's new house in South River. It was a good night for the Ranger fans. Not so much for our notorious Sabre blogger, who was DVRing a forgettable home opener and even called us while heading home from work in Cali. He was in rare form. Let's just leave it at that. Since we referenced Buffalo, we'll start with the guys in Western New York.

Buffalo Sabres-Things started out well for Lindy Ruff's guys Friday with a hard fought 2-1 road win over nemesis Ottawa. Derek Roy tallied twice including the power play winner late in the third to give the Sabres the 'W.' The No.1 center also scored last night in the 6-3 loss to the Rangers, giving him three goals already. An excellent start for last year's scoring leader. Rating Vezina winner Ryan Miller showed his '09-10 form by making 25 stops, including all 14 Sen shots in the third to get the victory. Also of note, rookie Tyler Ennis assisted on both Roy tallies. Keep an eye on the little rascal. Saturday's home opener was a nightmare for Miller who too often was left to fend for himself. The Rangers easily could've doubled their output. In particular, sophomore defender Tyler Myers had an atrocious night that began with bad luck when a Derek Stepan redirect caromed off his skate past his own goalie. He also was victimized on the second goal when he lost his footing and got beat on another as well. Buffalo looked like a tired club that while their more rested opponents took full advantage. There weren't many bright spots but new blueliner Jordan Leopold tallied twice, including on the power play while also setting up Roy's third. The vet's been shaky defensively but is being asked to pick up the slack. It won't get any easier for Ruff's team when an angry Blackhawk bunch pay a visit tomorrow without a win. Starting with three in four ain't no picnic.

New Jersey Devils-Where to begin? A disappointing season opener saw them blow two leads before falling to coincidental '00 Cup victim Dallas in Jason Arnott's return which he scored a goal. Or yesterday's D.C. debacle in which two more leads went by the wayside as the Alex Ovechkin Caps scored six unanswered in a humiliating 7-2 defeat that even saw the two-time league MVP beat Martin Brodeur on a penalty shot. Something that hadn't occurred since '99. Hell. MB30 hasn't been sharp, allowing two or three questionable goals including one to Jersey native John Carlson from 50 feet out. Still, there was little he could do on Loui Eriksson's overtime winner. Marty was pulled after permitting five on 20 shots Saturday. Reliever Johan Hedberg came in and gave up a pair. Nothing positive could be said. Especially when company man Ilya Kovalchuk wrestled with Mike Green leading to more chaos, including Pierre-Luc Letourneau Leblond picking a fight that got him tossed and earned him an automatic one-game suspension, which could also cost new coach John MacLean $10,000. Playing a more run n' gun style based on the top two lines, the former Devil great has seen his team allow 11 goals in both losses. Sure. They got a point, Arnott's scored in both and the Dream Line looked scary in Game No.1. But where's the D? Henrik Tallinder struggled mightily and Anton Volchenkov took a Nicklas Backstrom shot which broke his nose. The winless Pens visit The Rock in a must watch. The Devs didn't lose to them last year. So, it should be interesting.

New York Islanders-Rarely can a first game potentially crush a team in an 82-game schedule. But if franchise John Tavares' mild concussion keeps the super soph sidelined a while, yikes. Scott Gordon's club is already minus top defender Mark Streit and power forward Kyle Okposo. Now, they'll have to play at least starting in tomorrow's traditional Columbus Day game versus the hated Rangers without their best player. Despite losing JT91, Gordon's bunch showed tremendous heart fighting back from a pair of two-goal deficits thanks to a hot power play which converted three-of-eight including on Stephane Robidas' first delay of game minor, which saw 30-goalscorer Matt Moulson tie it late- sending Nassau Coliseum into a frenzy. But they couldn't cash Robidas' second boneheaded delay, forcing OT. An exciting game that saw them rally with key pieces Blake Comeau (goal), James Wisniewski (PPG, A), captain Doug Weight (G, A) and Josh Bailey (assist) eventually went to a shootout where Star ace Mike Ribeiro deked Rick DiPietro out of his pads for a forehand winner in Round Three. Gordon tried former Ranger wiz P.A. Parenteau but he hit the post. Even though they lost, the third-year coach had to like what he saw with his club showing the same spunk that kept them afloat much of last season. That will be essential. DP's return to net wasn't great with him allowing four on 22 shots, including a couple of klunkers but he got through it. You have to believe they'll work him in slowly. It'd be shocking if Dwayne Roloson doesn't get the call against the Rangers in the 1 ET start. If you got off, don't miss it.

New York Rangers-A day later, people are still talking about Derek Stepan's historic debut that saw the rookie pivot become just the fourth player to ever record a hat trick in his first game- joining Montreal's Alex Smart ('43), Quebec's Real Cloutier ('79) and Dallas' Fabian Brunnstrom (10/15/08). The trick for the poised 20 year-old Minnesota native who had his Mom, sister and stepdad in attendance is not to try duplicating that great feat but to continue demonstrating the work ethic he's shown since Day One of camp. There's a reason his line of unlikely duo Sean Avery and Ruslan Fedotenko works. Because the trio have chemistry and feed off each other. As Avery put it, D-Step might not be the fastest skater but he always puts himself in good position. After the game, he quipped that he choked about missing No.4. Sophomore center Artem Anisimov's (assist) line with Ryan Callahan (A) and Brandon Dubinsky (2 goals) was also very good, doing solid work in the Buffalo end. The best aspect was that only one of the half dozen came from Marian Gaborik's unit with the Big Ticket neatly setting up Erik Christensen. Alexander Frolov was not visible. Henrik Lundqvist looked shaky and the D struggled at times. So, it wasn't a virtuoso performance by John Tortorella's chargers. He may have been pleased with Steve Eminger's aggressiveness but what did Matt Gilroy do to lose the job? Hobey would certainly be a boost on the man-advantage which didn't carry over it's preseason success. Rangers/Islanders is always interesting. Especially off The Meadowbrook. Expect the unexpected.

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