As a college student now is the time the whirlwind begins. It is the second half of the semester where final projects are being assigned. It is because of this that my writing may or may not become more sporadic over the next few weeks so an apology in advance if this does happen.
For hockey players, the season is in full swing. The second full month of the schedule is beginning with the Coyotes and Rangers holding their own. The Rangers had a rough few games without Marian Gaborik before playing, in my opinion, their best defensive game of the season this afternoon against the Boston Bruins. Yes it may be frustrating to see a system that should be high scoring held to only one goal, but it is nice to see that this aggressive structure can be very effective at preventing goals.
Of course Gaborik had the lone goal in the contest...who else right? The more important aspect of this game was the defensive play. Young players Matt Gilroy and Michael Del Zotto both looked like veteran defensemen on the ice as they went up against some very gritty forwards from the Bruins. Dane Byers, playing his second game since being called up, returned the physical play in the other end when he had a solid forecheck. Even Enver Lisin, who has been known to have almost no defensive skill when he came to North America, made a few defensive plays that showed huge strides in his learning.
Christopher Higgins did not score a goal but he played very well on the penalty kill. Sometimes getting back to just playing defense will eventually get you scoring chances. He will score soon because everyone knows the Rangers need it from him.
Looking ahead at the schedule for this week, the Rangers hit the road and are going through the dreaded Western Canada trip. Tuesday night they will be in Vancouver to face off with the Canucks, Thursday in Edmonton as they go up against their old head coach, finishing off the road trip in Calgary before having 5 days off. While these out of conference games may not be as important as the divisional ones, two points are still up for grabs. This road trip is going to tell Ranger fans alot about this team.
These western games have even more meaning than usual because they are a chance for the Rangers to help out the Phoenix Coyotes. Phoenix ranks fourth in the Western Conference right now and will undoubtedly be fighting the three western Canadian teams as the season goes on. The Coyotes had a big win Halloween night as they came back from a late one goal deficit to defeat the Anaheim Ducks in a shootout. Since losing to the New York Rangers, the Coyotes have rolled off three consecutive victories and will look to continue their roll tomorrow night when the Los Angeles Kings visit. The rest of the week does not get any easier as the Avalanche, Blackhawks, and Ducks again are on the docket for Phoenix.
I was very impressed, through watching the highlights from Phoenix's game, that the team is standing up for itself. Shane Doan received an elbow to the head from Ducks defenseman James Wisniewski. Keith Yandle immediately jumped in to defend his Captain, who later took matters into his own hands and pounded Wisniewski into the ice. In past years the Coyotes would have been crushed by this and the late goal in the third period. But they were able to compose themselves and battle back to get the victory, something that has not been in their game for a long time. The Pack mentality that they are developing is a huge change from last season and will go a long way in determining the success they achieve this year.