You guys know I've been a Ranger fan a long time. I go back to the "pajama jersey" days of the 70's, and I've been with them ever since. Without sugar-coating it, I've seen a lot of bad hockey, and along the way some really bad players that wore the Blueshirt.
Of course there have been great memories along the way, the great run to the 79 Finals against the Canadiens, the "Smurfs" of the Herb Brooks years, the upstart 1985-86 team that ran into a wall named Patrick Roy, and of course 1994.
Coming into this season, I think I made it pretty clear to you guys I had no expectations from this year's team, other than hoping to see progress. Playoffs were of no consequence to me this season, because this year to me isn't really about this year, it's about next year, and probably more about the year after that and beyond. Of course nothing compares to playoff hockey, but I was perfectly willing to forego that again this year as long as I felt this team was headed in the right direction. I didn't want to see this team rob Petr Prucha to pay Paul Mara (like that one? Off the cuff, free comedy!) just to make some frantic mad dash to the 8th seed that would end badly for them, and for us.
The first thirty five games of this season have already had their ups and downs, but I can tell you this: I have not had this much fun watching Ranger hockey since the year after the lockout, when no one expected anything from the Rangers, and they had a great regular season. This year's team is gritty, exciting, resilient, and for the most part, they are in every game.
You guys know I'm pretty active on Facebook, and have a lot of Ranger fans as friends, and it really gets to me when I see people who are so quick to get down on them. One loss, and the "Rangers suck!" comments fly. To those that feel that way, I can only reiterate that I am not sure what you expected from this team in 2010-11, but if you had told me in September that thirty five games in this team would be 20-14-1, in playoff position, and doing most of it without their Captain, without Vinny Prospal, partially without Marian Gaborik, and with a Henrik Lundqvist who has not always been at the top of his game, I would have said "Where do I sign?"
Brian Boyle with twelve goals already? Brandon Prust leading the league with three shorties? Rangers leading the league in shorthanded goals? Dan Girardi leading the team in assists? Marc Staal finding offense? Steve Eminger playing well? C'mon, how is this not fun?
More after the jump.....
The Rangers are no longer a team of sweaters cashing paychecks. The Rangers are a team of guys who play hard for each other every night, and taking on the personality of their coach, who also seems to have changed his style somewhat, and perhaps he and his team have "met in the middle", so to speak. For the first time in years, they are a likable team, and one that as a fan you can and should take pride in.
Enjoy the ride Ranger fans, it's been awhile since it has been this fun. Don't let the Facebook crowd and Twitterati get to you, and I'll try and do the same.
A few random thoughts:
- We have a fighter on this team who is overpaid, has been hurt a few times already, and is now suffering headaches. Anybody else get the feeling this has happened before?
- You guys see the video of Dale Weise with the Gatorade bottle? Funny stuff, and I'm with Eddie, I think Double A set him up. I can't post the link from work, but I'm sure one of you has it.
- Looks like the Rangers may get Prospal and Callahan back around the same time next month, which should make for a great last three months of the season, and beyond.
- Rick Carpiniello from Rangers Report will join us tomorrow night for our Blueshirt Banter Radio Holiday Spectacular. If you haven't heard Carp on the show before, he is a great guest, and we always have a lot of fun. Plus, Carp's Boneheads always join us for the show, and they are a great bunch of people. That's tomorrow night at 8 PM.