The Rangers Game Log

Monday, March 20, 2006

Seems Like Old Times (Not TOO old)

- Seems like things are getting back to the way they used to be. Saturday night’s effort against the woeful Leafs saw the team getting back to the basics that has gotten it where it is. The original HMO line was back together (not the faux HMO’s with Hossa or Orr replacing Hollweg or Ortmeyer); the dynamic duo of Ward and Betts were reunited, the defense pairings settled down after being realigned, Jagr dominated the offense, and Lundqvist shut the door. I don’t really know what game the Toronto players and writers who claimed that they outplayed the home team were watching.

Yes, some of the negatives that have plagued the team all year were on display too – too many penalties, and no response to the liberties taken with Petr Prucha; the target on his back now seems far bigger than the player himself. But the team overcame those, as usual, in part thanks to the seemingly revived power play; and yes, Sanders Ozolinsh can look pretty good there.

It will also be like old times tonight when Brian Leetch comes a-calling. He’ll get his standing ovation, along with a video collage that will certainly get even the most steely and drunken fans at the Garden a bit teary.

OK, perhaps the following will seem sacreligious, so fire away at me if you wish, but I for one don’t get overly sentimental at these occasions. Do the little ceremony, drop the puck and play, and look forward to the night they retire the #2. I am NOT one of the Ranger fans who rooted for Detroit the night that Eddie Giacomin came back. Players come and go, and I’m old enough to have seen a lot of them do so. Yes, Brian Leetch was one of the greatest players ever to wear a Ranger uniform; I love him dearly, have the picture on my wall of him accepting the Conn Smyth (even if Zubov was the team’s best defenseman) and I’m certainly looking forward to paying the proper tribute to him.

But I will not be chanting “Bring Him Back.” After seven non-playoff years during which he was the leading ice-time getter and power play QB, it was time for him to move on, and anyone who saw his ragged performances in the playoffs for the Leafs and in the World Cup that preceded last year’s non-season knows that Glen Sather did the right thing, even if he didn’t do it the right way. Leetch, in my opinion, was never the same player after the wrist injury he suffered in the semis against the Flyers in 1997. This year, he has 5 goals, 25 assists, is a minus 8, and has once again failed to elevate a lousy team beyond its capabilities. So let’s welcome him back. And then kick his team’s butt.


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