That smile is perhaps Tom Renney's way of saying "My way is the right way". Really while Ranger fans have been begging and screaming for Tom Renney to explode about the way the Rangers have been treated by the NHL Referees, Renney has repeatedly refused to do so.
Maybe there is something to the method of Renney's madness as here Ranger fans are sitting with a 3-1 series lead over the New Jersey Devils despite some seriously questionable actions.
Now what people seem to be realizing is that the Rangers have truly bought into the Renney system. Now we are not talking about the playing system but the "We Take the Higher Road" approach in taking a calm attitude in public.
We are not seeing the Rangers complaining win or lose about the level of officiating either during the playoffs or go back though the regular season. The players follow their coach's lead and remain diplomatic even while Ranger fans are burning up the web angry at some of the calls or non-calls.
The Devils on the other hand scream at anyone who will listen about every infraction real or imagined. Their coach Brent Sutter has been complaining all series long that his team has been getting the short end of the calls.
Sutter swears that the penalty that was called on Brodeur for diving, claiming it was not a dive that the video would prove him right. Every video we have seen said otherwise. If anything one gets the sense that the Rangers know they are going to win this series, the Devils by all their complaining and finger pointing are acting as if they have already lost.
If we could be a fly on the wall in the Ranger locker room then we would expect Renney to preach that the Rangers need to play game 5 as if the Rangers were trailing in this series 3-1 instead of leading. Who are we to argue with what is working?
This Man-Child did lead Them
Want to know which people who were not surprised to see Marc Staal bounce back like he did? For starters, us at Prospect Park, those who were reading our game reports about a certain Sudbury Wolves defenseman last year during the OHL playoffs, his teammates (past and present) and the Staal family themselves.
Sure it is easy to say these things after Staal netted his first goal of the playoffs and made it special. We knew he would play better in Game 4 after blaming himself for what happened in Game 3 even though what happened really was not really the result of a bad play by Staal.
Maybe it was exactly what Staal needed to happen as last year when Staal was a member of the Sudbury Wolves, he did not exactly light the place on fire until he suffered a injury and missed almost 2 weeks.
It was as if someone had lit a fire under Staal as from that point on, Staal was the most dominant player in the entire OHL. Nobody and we mean nobody carried their team like Staal did.
Staal took a 6th seeded team and carried them on his back though 3 playoff series all the way to the OHL finals which the Wolves pushed the eventual champion Plymouth Whalers to 6 games. After watching what Staal did leading the Wolves we knew then that he was on a fast track to the NHL.
We also knew that we were watching a future Ranger captain (sorry Dubinsky fans but Staal is going to wear that letter "C"). Fast forward to last night when Staal blasted what proved to be the game winning goal.
Now for the good news, the moment we saw that goal we thought we were back watching the 2007 OHL playoffs watching Marc Staal blast a goal past a shocked Mississauga (now Niagara) team. In game 4 of that series, Staal had a goal and an assist along with a shocking +5 to give his Wolves a 3-1 lead in their series.
Yes, the Wolves went on to win that series in 5 games, then shocked Barrie in 4 games, Belleville in 6 games to win the Bobby Orr Trophy (anyone else see the irony here?) and then in one of the most memorable yet heartbreaking finals we ever witnessed Sudbury lost a 6 game final to Plymouth.
Now while we are not going to say that we are expecting lightning to strike twice but boy this is too close to last year for us not to point out. We will say that Ranger fans may have witnessed Marc Staal's coming out party last night.
These KIDS are Leading them
5 out of the 14 goals the Rangers have scored have been by the Ranger rookies, 2 of the game winners have been scored by the rookies, Ryan Callahan is 2nd on the team on shots on goal with 13 and Dubinsky at 2-2-4 is 4th on the team in playoff scoring.
Our mantra has been that what happens today will pay huge dividends in the future as the more the younger Rangers play the more experience they gain and since they are gaining this experience together as a unit then Ranger fans have every reason to get excited about the future.
So put it this way, look at every Ranger playoff game as a win not matter what the results are. Let the kids learn their craft under the most pressure filled situations and in a few years Ranger fans will be talking about being annual Cup Contenders.
Oh and before we go, we have the advantage of seeing these kids before the rest of you. If you like these prospects then just wait until you see the next wave of Ranger prospects as they are even more talented than the current group.
(Tom Renney Picture Courtesy of the New York Rangers)
7 hours ago