Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Better Than Gold

So where exactly should we begin in recapping the USA's gold medal winning performance against Canada? That it was 3 New York Ranger prospects who were playing key roles in winning the gold medal perhaps?

If you watched this outstanding game then you know exactly what happened. If you did not then boy you really missed a game worthy of the term "classic".

Should we talk about how in all 7 games Derek Stepan elevated his game in the 3rd period including his goal and an assist against the Canadians? How about that the leading scorer at the tournament (5-10-15) was a Ranger prospect?

How about Chris Kreider introducing himself to the Ranger Universe with 6 goals during the World Under-20s or that in crunch time he played way beyond his age of 18?

How about the job as a checker that Ryan Bourque did? The smallest player on the USA roster was the leader of the USA penalty kill or that Bourque put his own stats on the backburner to help him win his 2nd gold medal as a member of a USA team.

We can think ahead to a bright future that hopefully these 3 will bring to the Rangers. Stepan the leader of the pack with the strong 2 way game that nobody wants to say reminds of them of but who else can we say he reminds us of?

Oh how long has it been since the Rangers had a leader who played with a chip on his shoulder, a snarl on his face and an ability to make the clutch play when the team needed it the most?

Or Kreider who's raw talent has not even begun to surface but you see the potential for a first line player. How do we not get excited after watching Kreider show the offense that we were not seeing when Kreider was playing at Boston College?

To be honest what we should be excited about is that these 3 are growing up together and already have shown that each has an almost instant chemistry with the other. See when you strip everything away there is one thing you can never buy with money and that is chemistry.

Stepan and Kreider was together on the USA first unit power play. Bourque and Stepan on the penalty kill; Kreider and Bourque on a checking unit.

You can not buy that as it has to be developed over time but these 3 already have it and it is only going to get stronger. It is something that the Rangers have needed for over a decade but it is still 2-3 years away from paying dividends for the Rangers themselves.

As hockey fans we have to enjoy the performance not only of Team USA but also Team Canada as these young men showed how great hockey can be. Win or lose if you were not entertained by this game then nothing is going work for you.

And for those of you who have never watched something like this now you understand why Prospect Park loves what it does. A game like this makes the long drives and very late nights well worthwhile.

Derek Stepan finished the tournament as the leading scorer 5-10-15, he was named to the Media All-Star team and was named the USA Player of the Game for the final.

Chris Kreider had 6 goals and 1 assist while being a +6; Kreider also despite his physical play only wound up with just 2 PIMs for the tournament.

Ryan Bourque only had 3 assists but his willingness to accept a checking line role says more about his maturity than any stat can.

We also want to mention Luke Walker who we count as a Ranger prospect even though he is a free agent. Walker who plays for the Portland Winterhawks taught us a lesson in courage and unselfishness that makes us proud to know him.

As a Winterhawk, Walker is a star player who wears an "A" on his jersey. Even we did not think he had a chance to make Team USA especially after Walker was badly hurt against Everett just a few days before the USA camp.

Walker choose to have a plate inserted in his mouth and 50+ stitches rather than wiring his jaw shut. Team USA asked Walker to accept being a 4th liner instead of a scorer; to provide energy and be a spare part instead of the star he was used to being.

Luke Walker did that and in our eyes if Glen Sather does not offer him a contract then shame on him. Walker's effort, his courage and his heart is exactly what being a Rangers is supposed to be about.


Someone forgot to tell the WHL not to schedule games on Tuesday and it is ironic that the team displaced by the World Under-20 Championship did not get to watch the game. Sam Klassen and his Saskatoon Blades can return home after defeating the Spokane Chiefs 5-4.

Klassen was scoreless as the Blades won their 6th straight game all on the road and 5 of those wins were against every team in the WHL's US Division. A very impressive performance by a WHL championship contender.

The Blades have one more game on their road trip before they make it back to Saskatoon as they play Kootenay tomorrow.

(Stepan courtesy of Melody Hasse, Kreider: Dennis Peace, Bourque: Katherine Ep, Walker: Portland Winterhawks)

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