This is a completely different way to talk about the Connecticut Whale. I am going to talk about them although they did not play in this game that I watched, but you wouldn’t be wrong if you said they did play in this game.
The actual team I am talking about is the parent club of the Whale, the New York Rangers. Sitting a few rows from the ice I could clearly see names that I know, and if you are a Hartford hockey fan then you will know them too. If you go to Whale games as recently as last year you will definitely remember these players. Ryan McDonough, Michael Del Zotto, Carl Hagelin and John Mitchell. They are just a few names of players that have recently been in Hartford but are now in New York.
The Hartford hockey connection was not limited to the Ranger bench however.
Hartford hockey hero Kevin Dineen was coaching the Ranger’s opponent, the Florida Panthers. Hartford Courant writer Jeff Jacobs used to call him “John Wayne on skates” back in the Hartford’s NHL Whaler days. Dineen was a gutsy offensive performer and he was quite the problem for Adams Division rivals like Montreal, Boston, Buffalo and Quebec. Dineen was a long time Hartford Whaler but as the new rookie head coach of the Florida Panthers he had yet another Hartford hockey connection on his bench.
Do Whale fans remember Tim Kennedy?
Tim Kennedy played for Dineen in Portland as a Buffalo Sabre prospect. Last year Kennedy was in Hartford playing in the Ranger prospect system. Kennedy used to play for the Whale against coach Dineen’s Portland Pirates. Late in the season last year he was traded by the Rangers to the Panthers in a trade involving Bryan McCabe.
Kennedy ended up in the Panthers prospect system and Dineen was hired this summer as the Panthers new head coach. Kennedy played a few games with Florida last year and Dineen has played Kennedy in 20 games this year so far.
This game last night was not competitive and the game belonged to the Rangers. They wasted no time building their lead. The final was 6-1. The six Ranger goals came fast and furious from Richards, Anisimov, Eminger, Gaborik, and two from Stepan. The Panthers would not be able to mount a comeback. The Panthers had won in Madison Square Garden in November, it was unlikely they could win two in a row here.
Madison Square Garden is huge, but there wasn’t a body in every seat. The entire lower bowl or the 100 sections that are closest to the rink were scattered with people. You couldn’t count the empty seats because there were too many. As the seats get higher above the ice they get cheaper. The cheaper the seats in a section the more the section was filled. You couldn’t find an empty seat if you tried. It is clear where the die hard fans sit in New York. Seats that are too expensive do not get purchased and so the seats are empty during the game. Sunday night football was the Cowboys and Giants and they would be playing at the same time as the Rangers and Panthers, it explained why there was even more empty seats.
Even with empty seats the crowd was loud and sure was impressed with the Rangers play. John Mitchell got an assist on one of the goals, his 4th assist as a Ranger. Carl Hagelin was wearing number 62 and was getting some good shifts on the ice. It was a different atmosphere than the AHL but the players move from league to league and don’t appear to miss a beat even with longer road trips and different travel. Last night the Rangers were in Buffalo where Carl Hagelin scored two goals to help the Rangers win 4-1.
Both the Rangers and the Panthers had played three games in four nights, but you wouldn’t know it from the fast paced action. When Stepan scored his first goal to make it 4 -1, Krystofer Barch and Brandon Prust decided it was time to drop the gloves. Prust was being twirled around like a pinata and he took some shots but didn’t go down. It was a pretty good tussle but the fight didn’t spur the Panthers to get back into the game.
After Stepan scored his second goal to make it 6-1, Coach Dineen patted Tim Kennedy on the back with encouragement as if to say; get out there and see what you can do. The third period brought on backup Panther goalie Scott Clemmensen who relieved Jose Theodore. Neither team scored in the third period and the game ended 6-1.
It’s becoming uncertain whether Hagelin, Mitchell or Del Zotto will ever be back on the Whale but maybe Sean Avery will. Ranger coach John Tortarella dressed Erik Christensen instead of Sean Avery. He even stated in a USA today article that he was having trouble finding ice time for Avery.