Elster's World

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ah Youth

This year's New York Rangers playoff squad is full of the typical movie-like story lines:

- There's the aging gunslinger, looking to will himself on for one more shot at glory (Jagr and Shanahan)

- The two seasoned gunslingers brought in to bolster the run to glory (Gomez and Drury)

- The goaltender who has done it on the big stage (Olympics) but not yet on this big stage

- The antagonizer who you love when he plays for you and hate if he plays against you (Avery)

Interestingly enough, these ingredients probably sound familiar to Ranger fans. For years the team struggled to make the playoffs with the aging gunslingers and overpriced veterans all brought in to make runs (just change the words "aging" and "seasoned" to "done" and "cooked"). They had the goaltender in Richter, but they had nothing in front of him.

The difference with this team? Brandon, Marc, Nigel, Ryan and Dan.

Sure they sound like the makings of a prep-school hockey team in Connecticut - more likely to throw Friday night parties at the parental manses where Santonio Holmes-like photos get taken - than make big plays on the ice. But at the end of the day, the Rangers re-energized themselves by letting the younger players crack the lineup and contribute.

And the results have been great to see.

Dawes and Callahan have been terrific together - Callahan the banger, Dawes the shifty, tricky stick magician. Dubinsky has earned the right to play with the Rangers best scorer - and has done it well. Girardi continues to be a steady blue-line presence...and Marc Staal is slowly turning himself into the team's best all around defenseman - displaying a grit and toughness (not to mention strength) belied by his lanky frame and wispy facial hair. All of them are really talented, not the typically overhyped and underperforming New York prospects. All of them fly around the ice and play with young legs - something Ranger fans have not really seen in a long time.

The younger player seem to re-enegrgize the older players and the older, wiser players are there to help these kids learn what it takes, on the fly, to play in the supercharged atmosphere of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

So yes, the Rangers will still need to lean on Jagr's scoring, Gomez' skating and Drury's clutch play - but they won't have to completely reply on them.

At the end of the day, the perfect mix of veterans and kids makes for the best team.

Hopefully we are seeing that play out in New York.

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