It was a night that started in cheers, and ended in boos. Only one of those sentiments though, was truly the work of Martin St. Louis.
After being traded to the Rangers just past the 11 a.m. hour, St. Louis was in the lineup and got his first sniff at Madison Square Garden less than eight hours later against the Maple Leafs on Wednesday night. While he didn't start the game, his first shift, which came under a minute into the contest, drew a very positive reception from the Rangers fan. St. Louis quickly got in the action and snapped a shot off on Jonathan Bernier that he gloved for a faceoff, giving fans a chance with the stoppage to again acknowledge the newly acquired forward, which they did.
There were certainly stretches of this game where St. Louis did not look like a newcomer when it came to chemistry with his linemates. A lot of that might have to do with the familiarity he has with Brad Richards from the duo's playing days in Tampa Bay. On one sequence later in the first period, St. Louis fired a touch pass to Richards, who forced Bernier to make a very good save.
St. Louis did a number of other things that drew cheers from the crowd, and will likely endear himself to the Rangers' faithful. He won puck battles using his excellent skating ability, beating Maple Leaf players to spots. He made strong plays on the backcheck in transition. On a power play in the second period, he made a great pass off the wall diagonally to the point man, the kind of puck movement the Rangers are starved for at times on the man-advantage.
How good does Martin St. Louis make the Rangers?
His speed also seemed to mesh well with Carl Hagelin, a fellow very fast skater. Both players not only looked to push the tempo in transition, but appeared to be looking for each other.
In the third period, Alain Vigneault even elected to double-shift St. Louis, giving him two extra turns on the third line alongside Derick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot. The chemistry with Hagelin and Richards is only bound to improve, and the same can be said about his cohesiveness on a power play unit.
All-in-all, short of finding his way on the scoresheet and the Rangers earning two points, St. Louis' debut seemed to go very well. Of course, how his overall success is viewed will be directly linked to the Rangers' team success. It's no coincidence the 2014 second round pick the Rangers sent to Tampa Bay in the trade can become a first if New York makes it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
This is a move that's expected to put the Rangers over the top. The Rangers are 21st in the league in 5-v-5 scoring, and, outside of Rick Nash, no player is viewed as a top-flight scoring threat. These are areas St. Louis is supposed to help correct, and, fill in that last piece of the puzzle for the Rangers. No one expected it all to be settled after 60 minutes (or in Wednesday's case against Toronto, 61:51) minutes of hockey, but St. Louis will now be under the gun, and under the scrutiny of a very trigger-happy New York media.