Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rangers set to open Renovated MSG

The fun starts tonight. Based on all the hoopla, you'd think this was some ode to the franchise's fifth Stanley Cup. One could only hope it leads there soon. After a lengthy seven-game tour around the world, the Rangers finally open the doors to a renovated MSG later when they take on the improved Maple Leafs before a soldout Garden.

How will it rate? The unveiling includes a Blue carpet to welcome our Blueshirts, who are all very pumped up about finally taking to the ice in what's expected to be a state of the art facility that barely resembles the old place. The intriguing aspect is this is only Phase I with the bottom to the sixth floor redone for all the rich to pay through the wazoo for an ultimate Garden experience. New restaurants. Better food. A much larger concourse as reported by Ranger radio voice Kenny Albert, who was on with Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts earlier. It's expected to be great.

I'll admit there's anticipation building. Not so much for the same old seats we still have which won't be completed till Year 3. But for the actual team to get introduced by Joe Tolleson and for the Garden Faithful as Adam Graves refers to us, to rain down our heroes with thunderous cheers fit for a King. Did I just say King? The way King Henrik's played thus far, the roof just might come off when he's announced. Without him and Martin Biron, we could actually have come in 0-7, which doesn't say much for John Tortorella's line experiment. Yes, I am down on the coach, who has destroyed any semblance of a fourth line by somehow relegating Artem Anisimov there for the time being and misusing Mike Rupp. Based on the team's struggles, you just don't know from shift to shift what the lines will be. It's almost gotten Renney-esque.

At the very least, Tort should start with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, who just might see fourth wheel Ruslan Fedotenko. Feds has been one of our most consistent forwards, of course looking solid with Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust, which should be our checking line instead of the second line it's been out of necessity. Is it any wonder Fedotenko leads us with four assists and five points? Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan are back together, joined by Wojtek Wolski. Nobody will get louder pops than Captain Cally, who at 26 is the Rangers' 26th captain. He'll get a heroes welcome from 18,200 strong, who hopefully won't be on their mobile phones during what should be a good test.

The Leafs (5-2-1) are out of the gate fast led by NHL leading sniper Phil Kessel (9 goals, 15 points) and rejuvenated captain Dion Phaneuf (7 assists, +7 rating). Toronto is more than that with Mikhail Grabovski continuing to evolve into a reliable top pivot and Joffrey Lupul (remember him) playing like he once did with Anaheim. They'll be without No.1 goalie James Reimer, who's still suffering the lingering effects of an undisclosed injury which involves the head. So, Jonas Gustavsson gets the nod against his Swedish counterpart. It'd be wise for the Rangers to stay out of the box like in their win over Winnipeg where miraculously, they took only one minor. Toronto boasts new point man John-Michael Liles along with Kessel and Phaneuf. Tim Connolly also could return. They also can play it tough with Luke Schenn and former Ranger Colton Orr, who could have a dance partner if Rupp obliges. We've already seen Prust fight too much.

For the Rangers, they managed to win three of four on the Western Canadian part of the trip- earning points in five of the first seven despite offensive futility. Sure. Gaborik did his thing scoring four and Richards looks the part even though he was quiet the last two. But until Tortorella wakes up and reunites the Draft Line, it says here that our team could continue to struggle offensively. Quite frankly, the Boyle unit's been the best and if Fedotenko starts on the Richards line, that means someone else plays with them. It's all too confusing. Anyone else wonder if each player including coach's pet extraordinaire Erik Christensen will be introduced? Never mind. At the very least, Dubi and Cally resembled more of themselves in the win at Winnipeg.

The D is still in limbo minus Marc Staal with not an iota on when he'll be back. Next time the Canes come to town, everyone should lynch Sam and Joe whenever they make a Staals Are Brothers reference. Eric Staal, yeah. I'm talking at you buddy. Be very scared! :P For now, Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi anchor the blueline with Tim Erixon (yes, the same 20-year old Calgary booed) our third best. He's adjusted quickly, covering for Mike Del Zotto's mistakes. Encouraging has been MDZ's offense which seems to be coming around. It's the only way he'll stick. Steve Eminger has been a warrior, doing some outstanding PK work and again elevating his play with the extra minutes. Jeff Woywitka's been better than expected, barely out of position despite not the fleetest of foot. And Brendan Bell received the Sauer treatment the first time he made a mistake a few years ago under Tort. Speaking of Mike Sauer, he's hoping to be a go after missing the last five with the bum shoulder.

We'll be there along with Pop, Justin and Mike, plus the usual regulars up in 411 taking it in. I'll be sure to give a synopsis on the new place. It should be exciting!

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