The New York Rangers and their captain, Ryan Callahan, roll into St. Louis Saturday night and while the Blues have enjoyed success against Eastern Conference foes in the last couple of seasons, including a 7-0 spanking of the Florida Panthers last week, this match-up brings an element of danger to the rink that gives me some concern.
We’ve probably (maybe?) all been told that when we encounter an animal out in the wild (or if one comes into your house) we should be extra cautious if the animal has suffered some kind of injury or appears sick. Rabid dogs, raccoons, possums, that deer hit by a car? They can all be unpredictable and perhaps uncharacteristically aggressive when hurt, either through some “fight or flight” response or plain ol’ fear. While park rangers are usually out there to protect us from such beasts, Saturday night poses a much different scenario.
The New York Rangers come to town, into the house of the Blues, limping along at 1-3 on the young season. More to my point, they’ve lost two games in a row, getting demolished in the process and relinquishing FIFTEEN goals in the two contests, while scoring only two. New York netminder Henrik Lundqvist gave up 4 goals and backup Martin Biron was torched for 5 more in a 9-2 loss Tuesday in San Jose. Last night they were shut out by the Anaheim Ducks 6-0, King Henrik getting blasted for all 6 tallies.
The Rangers were, if you ask some hockey fans, embarrassed by the Sharks and rookie forward Tomas Hertl, who scored four times, the last being one of the flashiest, though perhaps most ill-advised goals of the season against the hapless Biron:
Opinions differ greatly among fans as to whether the Rangers should’ve sent a message to the young Czech for “disrespecting” the game. I think he had every right to show off but perhaps shouldn’t have, given the situation, but my point is this: The Rangers come to St. Louis with a chip on their shoulder. Also in the Sharks game, New York’s star forward, Rick Nash, took a pretty vicious elbow to the head and will not play against the Blues.
So, Saturday night has a team that’s been beaten, bruised, blanked, and belittled coming into Scottrade Center to play an undefeated Blues team who has been lighting the lamp early and often. The Rangers are barely halfway through a NINE game road trip to start their season and are likely tired physically and mentally. Those kinds of teams can be very dangerous and while I doubt the Blues are taking them lightly, New York will undoubtedly be angry, rowdy, and possibly reckless.
The Rangers are a proud franchise and this probably isn’t the kind of start new head coach Alain Vigneault envisioned. He’s going to have his team fired up and ready to prove, mostly to themselves I’d wager, that their last two games are not indicative of who the New York Rangers really are.
The Blues bring a stingy defense and stout goaltending to the table. Jaroslav Halak has given up only 4 goals in 77 chances (.948 save %) and Roman Polak leads the team with 11 blocked shots through 3 games. A potent St. Louis offense has goals from ten different skaters, led by Alexander Steen with three. I would guess Lundqvist will start for the Rangers, but after his last outing, he may be given a rest, hard to say. Biron is a veteran and very capable goaltender in his own right.
(EDIT: 10/11/13 As reported this afternoon by Pat Leonard of the NY Daily News, Biron will start in net for the Rangers tomorrow night.)
New York will rely on center Brad Richards, who leads the team with 3 goals, to continue his fast start, hopefully igniting guys like Callahan, Derek Stepan, and Taylor Pyatt. I’m not a heavy-duty statistics guy, but the Rangers don’t have a single guy who is “plus” for the season right now.
I know the Blues will be ready Saturday night, and I believe they have the better team and will go to 4-0 for the first time in team history, but it certainly wont be any casual weekend skate.
GO BLUES! LONG LIVE THE NOTE!