Back on May 3, after Tom Wilson body-slammed Artemi Panarin, flexed into the penalty box, and was finally sent off the ice by a confused caretaker, the Capitals’ reclusive headhunter turned to the Garden to continue. I raided the locker room corridor. Rangers insult.
“They don’t have anyone for me!” According to a well-positioned observer, Wilson screamed.
Five-plus months and a season later, the Rangers certainly do now. Or do you sleep in the summer and miss the additions of Ryan Reeves, Barkley Goodrow, Sammy Blass, Dryden Hunt, Patrick Nemeth and Jared Tinordi, all of whom are expected to be in the lineup to prepare for Wednesday night’s Turner TV Hopefully the match in Washington.
Let’s get this straight. The 82-game schedule is not a 1-plus-81-game practice. This is not a single challenge for the Blueshirts as they usher in a new era under the direction of chairman-general manager Chris Drury and head coach Gerard Gallant. The two points at stake can be of great use down the road.
But, no matter how much the Blueshirts protested after Tuesday’s preparatory work at the practice rink, it sure seems to be the case. Why else would Tinordi, apparently the club’s seventh defender, replace Nils Lundqvist, a likely candidate for the Calder Trophy for this one? And why would Hunt, clearly signed on as a depth winger, reach the third line in place of Julian Gauthier?
I must say: I’m a little bisexual about this. For the most part, Rangers have done just fine playing it directly against the Caps over the past few seasons. They won four of the first six of the previous season before losing both of the final burlesque shows that revolved in Looney-Toonville. The Blueshirts went 2-1 against Washington last season and 0-1-3 in 2018-19.
Hence, 6-6-3 in three years with David Quinn behind the bench. Not too shabby considering the Caps finished 54 points ahead of the Blueshirts on aggregate through that stretch. Talent can reign, as it did on a March 2020 night when Mika Zibnejad scored five goals in the Blueshirts’ 6-5 overtime win at the Gardens.
But I also know that Wyatt Earp, his brothers, and Doc Holiday didn’t enter OK Corral 140 years ago with a butter knife in their holsters for a gun fight with Ike Clanton and the Cowboys in late October.
Tinordi for Lundqvist? Do you think the hierarchy isn’t aware that the 29-year-old, 6-foot-6 defenseman challenged Wilson last March 5 in Boston after claiming a waiver from Nashville in his second game with the Bruce? Wilson defeated Brandon. Delivered from behind to Carlo with an elbow to the head. The play was not penalized – anyone spot a pattern here? But Wilson was soon suspended for seven games after being pressured by Gary Bateman.
Rangers have posed and forgive them if they want to show their stuff. The Blueshirts banded together like brothers for the May 5 rematch, shortly after the NHL and its player security department refused to suspend Wilson; The statement was dismissed by an angry franchise owner, Jim Dolan, who sought the job of George Parros, vice president of player safety; and the firing of both President John Davidson and GM Jeff Gorton. From Monday to Wednesday, it was the 48 hours that shook the franchise.
There was line contention from the opening draw, with Kevin Rooney, Colin Blackwell and Phil de Giuseppe throwing hands at 0:01. During three simultaneous bouts, Zdeno Chara invited Brendan Smith to leave, The Post was reported. But Smith refuses, telling Big Z that he is waiting for Wilson.
So Smith went after Wilson at 0:50 and fought him by picking up a provocateur for his trouble. At 4:14, there were two more fights involving Ryan Strom and Anthony Bitato. A total of six for the period. Looks like there was some sort of catharsis exercise for the game, for a total of six groups.
Eight of the Rangers’ 18 skaters who played in it will not be in the lineup for this opener, and six who will skate in it are not yet wearing a blueshirt. that does not matter. Within the confines of the room is the institutional memory. There is an eagerness to keep the past there. These Rangers are not going to wear white collar to the dance.
Instead, they’re going to show off their stuff. “Flex,” might be an even better way to put it.