Odd numbers (cont.)
Posted: Monday November 5, 2007 11:53AM; Updated: Monday November 5, 2007 11:54AM
On the subject of chemistry, 400 miles to the south of Montreal's blistering power play are the disappointing Rangers.
Goalie Henrik Lundqvist, playing deep in his net, has kept New York competitive in the first month while it tries to remember how to score goals. Obviously there was going to be a getting-to-know-you period with free-agents Chris Drury and Scott Gomez, but the conventional wisdom -- alas, shared here -- was that one of them, almost certainly Gomez, would prove a capable fit with right wing Jaromir Jagr in the absence of Michael Nylander, now with the Washington Capitals.
Why not? Nylander and Gomez (who has scored more than 19 goals only once in his career) are both capable playmakers. According to one NHL star, the early chemistry problems have been caused by the way Nylander and Gomez typically make plays.
"You knew that Drury wasn't going to be the guy with Jagr long-term because Drury's a shooting center. If he gets an assist it's because there's a rebound of his initial shot," the prominent NHLer said. "Now Gomez is a good passer, but he's a different kind than Nylander. Gomez likes to do everything quickly. Nylander is used to carrying the puck, but he'd hang back, wait, wait, and then get it to Jagr in the places he likes it."
The Rangers would not have been averse to keeping the 35-year-old Nylander, but he absolutely wanted the fourth year on his contract, something the Rangers were understandably chary of awarding to a player in his mid-thirties. (After apparently reaching an agreement with Edmonton, Nylander signed a four-year, $19.5 million deal with the Capitals.) Meanwhile, the Rangers are paying Gomez, who turns 28 next month, $51.5 million for seven years.
Across the river in New Jersey, the Devils second game at the spanking new Prudential Center in Newark attracted a crowd of 13,218, more than four thousand less that capacity. The ready-made excuse for a franchise that ranked 26th in attendance last season was that the game was competing against Halloween.
Against Toronto last Friday, Game 3 of the new era in New Jersey hockey drew an announced crowd of 14,523, but three veteran Toronto hockey writers who covered the match thought the number was as inflated as a Macy's Thanksgiving parade float. Among the Canadian writers, the high guess was 10,000 in the seats.
Nov. 2, of course, was All Souls' Day, which is widely celebrated in Belgium. This could have adversely affected the turnout from the Belgian community in northern New Jersey. Three teams in the New York metropolitan area and one in Toronto: discuss.
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