I have to admit, yesterday was probably the day that finally confirmed just how close the regular season is. With the 2012 Winter Classic confirmed (surely the worst-kept secret in hockey history?) and a good ol’ Rangers/Flyers pre-season game full of the kind of events we’d rather not be talking about, it finally dawned on me that puck-drop in Stockholm is but a mere 10 days away.
Join me after the jump as we recap a reasonably eventful, at least by pre-season’s standards, day in Rangerland…
The day began in Philadelphia at Citizens Bank Park where NHL commissioner Gary Bettman joined Marian Gaborik, Ryan Callahan, Brad Richards, John Tortorella and Chris Pronger (amongst others) to finally confirm what we’ve all known for months now, that the Rangers and Flyers would be facing each other on January 2nd 2012 in this seasons Winter Classic. Expectation levels through the roof? You bet. To not expect fireworks when these two meet in the NHL’s flagship game would be, well, rather foolish. And hey, if the Flyers are prepared to goon it up in a meaningless pre-season game then just imagine what they might do when all eyes are watching.
As Adam touched on last night, Brendan Shanahan will surely have much to say about Tom Sestito’s hit on Andre Devaux early in last nights game – exactly at what point does he patent the “Shanaban” term?. Unfortunately the loss of a guy like Sestito will mean very little to the Flyers in the grand scheme of things (much like Jody Shelley), but, judging by recent suspensions handed down by Shanahan, we should still expect a hefty punishment for a guy that the organisation won’t miss at all.
Jaromir Jagr notched a pair of powerplay goals in the Flyers 5-3 win last night too. Can’t say I was ever interested in the Rangers bringing back a guy that clearly doesn’t fit the system anymore, but I’m sure the knee-jerk reactions, as they were with Evgeny Grachev last week, were great to read.
Notably, Michael Sauer left last nights game following a hit by Zac Rinaldo, something Andrew Gross touched on in his post-game wrap;
“Nothing’s broken,”’ Sauer said. “That’s the good thing right now. it’ll be a day to day thing.”
At the same time, Sauer didn’t necessarily think it was a cheap shot by Rinaldo. Sauer said he felt OK for the first few seconds with the adrenaline still pumping but then, once that wore off, realized there was considerable plain.
“It’s frustrating no matter what when you come out of a game,” Sauer said. “Especially before this trip (to Europe). The good news is that the X-rays came back negative, it’s not broken.”
After the defeat in Philly, the Rangers loaded their bags and prepared to set off for Europe minus Marc Staal. Staal can of course join the team at any point so we needn’t worry about that, but the lingering issues regarding last seasons hit by his brother Eric have to concern a little.
The trip to Europe obviously seems a little bit tougher given the confirmation of the Winter Classic and subsequent attention from HBO’s cameras for “24/7″ later in the year, but the flipside is that it presents a great opportunity for an already close team to get that bit closer on the road. It’s something the Rangers should embrace and I’m sure they will as they play four warm-up games (schedule below) in preparation for the NHL Premiere in Stockholm against the LA Kings and Anaheim Ducks on October 7 and 8.
|THU SEP 29||HC SPARTA||PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC||1:00 PM|
|FRI SEP 30||FROLUNDA||GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN||1:00 PM|
|SUN OCT 2||HC SLOVAN||BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA||11:00 AM|
|MON OCT 3||EV ZUG||ZUG, SWITZERLAND||2:00 PM|