A high level of excitement will most assuredly be in the air this evening at Madison Square Garden when the Rangers take to the ice in their 2013 home opener, hosting Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and the extremely-skilled Pittsburgh Penguins in a matchup of Atlantic Division rivals. And it will be a quick turnaround for the Blueshirts, who dropped a 3-1 decision in Boston last night to open up the abbreviated 48-game schedule.
For the Rangers to be able to feed into the electric atmosphere expected at The Garden this evening, they will need to clean up several aspects of their game from their loss Saturday, and find a way to dictate the flow of the game better than they did against the Bruins. Head coach John Tortorella was not pleased with the Rangers start to the season Saturday, and afterwards mentioned how the team needs to be better in all phases of the game. The Rangers spotted Boston a 2-0 lead, were outshot 34-21, and seemed to be in reactionary mode all night against a physical Bruins team which brought a heavy forecheck all evening long.
All that said, there were some bright spots for the Rangers Saturday, not the least of which was the debut of Rick Nash, who showed flashes of the powerful grace and brilliance the Blueshirts expected when they traded three players and a first round pick this summer to Columbus to acquire the 28 year-old stud scorer. Nash assisted on the team's lone goal, scored by Brad Richards, and finished with two shots on goal while playing in all game situations---including shorthanded---and logging nearly 22 minutes of ice-time. But what stood out were the times he powered to the net, overwhelming defensemen in the process, including when he drew a hooking call against Zdeno Chara in the third period to give the Rangers a 5-on-3 power play at the time.
Of course the Rangers will need more from Nash and everyone else on the roster this evening against one of the top teams in the league. The Penguins opened up their season yesterday afternoon with a 3-1 road victory in Philadelphia, with Tyler Kennedy, James Neal, and Chris Kunitz providing the goals. Malkin, the league's reigning scoring champ and MVP, picked up an assist and Crosby was held off the scoresheet yesterday, so the Rangers can expect both to be fired up to produce points at The Garden tonight---a building both superstars love to play in.
It is expected that the Penguins will start veteran Tomas Vokoun in goal this evening, after Marc-Andre Fleury started the opener. Vokoun would be making his Penguins debut, but certainly is well-known, having won 20+ games in the league nine straight years, including the 25 he secured with Washington last season. He has won thre eof his last four starts against the Rangers, posting a miniscule 1.26 goals against average over that span.
Last year the Rangers were only 2-4-0 against the Penguins, losing two of three games both at The Garden and in Pittsburgh. The Pens won the final four meetings against the Rangers in 2011-12, outscoring their rivals 16-5 in the process.
How excited are you for the home opener tonight? And do you think the Rangers can hold the Penguins at bay and come away with their first victory of the season? Let us know below!