Well, the not-so-long wait is over, folks.
New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Is it just me, or does it feel like we were tailgating outside of the Igloo a week ago? Wasn’t I just embracing complete strangers at Mario’s in the Southside after winning in Game 7?
Well, it’s been almost four months (112 days) since the Penguins hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup and the season begins tonight as they raise their Stanley Cup banner, playing the Rangers at Mellon Arena in the opening game of their 2009-10 season. The Rangers were a team that played well against the Pens in 2008-09 and with winger Marian Gaborik on board, have a lot of potential.
As always under GM Glen Sather, their big question is, can they live up to that potential?
It’s funny, though, because few remember how much the Rangers actually helped the Penguins on their journey to Stanley Cup glory. Let’s take a trip back to Saturday April 11, 2009, and I’ll explain…
On that day, the Penguins defeated the Montreal Canadiens, 3-1, moving in to fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings. With Philadelphia having a game in hand, the Penguins needed some help to earn home ice in the first round.
That help came rather unexpectedly from the New York Rangers.
At the Wachovia Center, the Flyers, then tied with the Penguins at 99 points, needed either a win or to reach overtime against the Rangers to leap the Penguins and start the first round at home.
On the other side, New York’s fate was already determined, knowing the Washington Capitals were waiting in the first round.
It seemed like a team with so much to gain (Philadelphia) would take advantage of a team just trying to stay healthy for a gigantic task in the first round of the playoffs (New York).
No so much.
The Rangers erased a 3-2 deficit after two periods by scoring two goals of their own in the third to win, 4-3.
The rest was history.
Philadelphia opened the playoffs at Mellon Arena, dropping the first two games en route to a 4-2 first-round exit. The Penguins built off the momentum gained from defeating the rival Flyers and marched in to the Stanley Cup Finals, eventually lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup.
So, as Penguins fans, we have a little thanks to give to the Rangers.
The Pens will open tonight with a slightly different look in their lines. Dan Bylsma said that the first line — Guerin-Crosby-Kunitz — will remain in tact. However, the second line will feature Fedotenko-Malkin-Dupuis, despite the fact that Tyler Kennedy spent most of the preseason on Malkin’s line.
Kennedy will drop back down to the third line — Kennedy-Staal-Cooke.
It’s probably a good idea to drop TK on Staal’s line. That line was the best unit in the Finals and probably shouldn’t be shaken up. Dupuis has bounced around a lot in the Pens lineup since he arrived at the trade deadline in 2008, making for probably an easier transition to Malkin’s line.
This year, the Rangers are an unknown. They always are at the start of the season — moreso than any other team in the NHL. Every offseason begins with a high-profile move in free agency from New York.
And seemingly every year, that move ends up being far less effective than Rangers fans expect — most recently overpaying for Scott Gomez and Wade Redden.
Well, Gomez and his salary were shipped to Montreal and the pressure is on with Gaborik this year. He’s injury prone, but could be a 50+ goal scorer is able to play upwards of 70 games.
Time will tell.
It’s the beginning of the season. The verdict is out on every player and every team.
From now on things will start to take shape.
Chris | PPT