|ESPN.com: NHL Preview 2008||[Print without images]|
It's commonplace to note such things, but if a team was ever flattered by losing two games 2-1, it was the Tampa Bay Lightning. Through the two games, the Rangers dominated time of possession and outshot the Lighting by a total of 80-40. From late in the first period to midway through the second in Sunday's finale, the Rangers did not allow the Lightning a shot on goal for 11:34. It didn't matter what line came over the boards, they attacked with abandon. If not for Olaf Kolzig in the Tampa goal, it would have been a Prague plastering. When Wade Redden jumped into the play to chip in the game-winner -- and his first goal as a Blueshirt -- off a nifty Gomez pass (does Gomez make any other kinds of passes?) on a New York power play, the Rangers were outshooting the Lightning 23-3. "This weekend was a good learning experience," Gomez said. "People were down on us the way our preseason was. But hey, there was a lot of new faces, a lot of guys trying to make a name for themselves." It wasn't so much that the Rangers were 1-5 before coming to Europe, but rather after dramatically overhauling their lineup in the offseason, it seemed they didn't have a clue about what kind of team they were going to be. Even coach Tom Renney acknowledged the team's personality was still a work in progress and would continue to be in the early games of the regular season in North America. Whether it was symbolic or not, the naming of the new team leaders at a team dinner the night before the first game in Prague seemed to have a galvanizing effect. Last season, Gomez and Chris Drury were brought in as complements to a lineup that already featured future Hall of Famers Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan and veteran scoring accomplice Martin Straka.
The ingredients never quite yielded the delicacy they promised. The team finished 25th in goals per game and 22nd on power plays. The Rangers advanced to the second round of the playoffs, but were outmatched by the youthful Pittsburgh Penguins and dispatched in five games as preseason thoughts of a Stanley Cup championship seemed foolishly misplaced. In the offseason, Straka returned to the Czech Republic (he was on hand for both games here this weekend), Jagr went to Russia and Shanahan is in limbo as a man without a team. In their place, Gomez and newcomer Markus Naslund were introduced by Renney as alternate captains, while, to no one's surprise, Drury was named captain. "He talked about leadership and how important it is to winning teams and announced Scotty and Markus first and then said me," Drury told ESPN.com before Sunday's game. "You know, it was a thrill. A team I grew up rooting for and going to the Garden as a kid hoping to wear the jersey one day, and now a year later to be a captain, it's just such an honor. I was thrilled."
|Chris Drury was named the new captain of the Rangers during a team dinner Friday night in Prague.|