Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Good, The Bad, and The Bruno

There's just something about beating the Rangers that makes all seem right in the world. Particularly these '07-'08 Rangers, the team that - according to hockey "experts" - has been predetermined to win the Cup ever since Drury and Gomez put pen to paper and joined hockey's version of "The Evil Empire". Ted Nolan did a great job last year erasing the term "Rangers Hangover" from the team's vocabulary, so hopefully they can keep the good times rolling on Thursday in Toronto. In the meantime, here are my thoughts from the 2-1 victory...

The Good

- Let's start with a big Welcome Back to Bryan Berard. In a previous post, I talked about being skeptical about the decision to bring him back to the Island. Those feelings haven't changed (yet), but regardless of my personal opinions it's impossible not to feel good to see #4 back where he started, after all he's been through.

- DP was outstanding. You can tell that he savors the rivalry with the Rangers, and it's no coincidence that he's played some of his best games against them. It wouldn't be fair to say he stole the game - that would do a disservice to the 18 guys playing in front of him - but he was rock solid from start to finish and did all the team could ask for and more.

- The penalty kill was very effective. The team was short-handed for just over 9 minutes, and for almost all of that time they were well-positioned, aggressive, and responsible. Just thinking about the intra-divisional games we play against high powered offenses (PITT, NYR), a strong PK is going to be a key ingredient in our success this season.

The Bad

- Indications are the Jon Sim may well be out for the entire season. This is certainly a disappointment, as I felt his style of play was a great complement to the Sillinger-Hunter line. The silver-lining is that this will give Tambellini the opportunity to prove what he can do at the NHL level.

- Nolan essentially only rolled 3 lines last night. Bergenheim played a total of 2:35 for the entire game, despite the fact that (according to Nolan himself) Bergy has been playing a strong game thus far this year. I don't have a problem with this in and of itself, I just worry that relying on three lines can take its toll over the course of the season and we risk having a group of very tired players come April.

After the game we had an opportunity to speak with Bruno Gervais before the team left for the airport to make the trip to Toronto. As a brief aside, let me say that he seems to genuinely be one of the nicest people I've ever met in professional sports. Now, on to his responses...

- Speaking about how the addition of Berard and playing 7 defensemen impacts his ability to time his shifts: "You don't really notice a difference. When [Coach Nolan] says your name, you just jump out there and do a good job. Bryan played a great game tonight. You just go out there and do whatever it takes to get a win."

- On how all the new players have come together as a team - "It's been tremendous, it's been unreal. All the guys we brought in are just great guys, so much fun to be around. First thing we noticed during training camp in the first week is that we felt like we've been together for 10 years. Guys clicked right away and we have so much fun in the locker room, so much fun at every team event, you just love to be on the ice together. That's the best way to work."

- On whether he feels added pressure with 7 defensmen currently on the team - "Not really, because you have a lot of different types of defensemen. Witter and Martinek are really good defensively, they block shots. The you've got Bergeron and Berard and Campoli who are good with the puck and try to get some chances. So we each have a different personality, things we do on the ice."

- On focusing on containing Jagr - paraphrasing...All we focus on is our game. Every team we play we focus on playing our game. You need to make sure you're aware of where he is on the ice, but our guys played a great game tonight.

- If the high number of back-to-back games this season affects his preparation - "To be honest, I didn't even notice that. We've got a great strength coach right now, he's doing a great job...the schedule is something I don't control."

Thanks again to Bruno for spending some time with us.

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