The start of the hockey season also meant the start of the regular season for the Rangers affiliate, the CT Whale. The first pair of games produced a 1-1 record as the team lost 6-3 to Adirondack, after which the Whale rebounded with a 1-0 shootout win over Wilkes-Barre. Several players with Rangers hopes stood out over the first weekend’s play, and not all for the right reasons. Here’s a quick look at some of the notables;
- Chad Johnson made the very most of his first start. After the Whale lost their first game it was Johnson who was charged with holding the fort and he did so in spectacular style. Making 41 saves to earn the 1-0 shutout/shootout win Johnson immediately has a leg up on his competition. Given his uncertain status over the summer Johnson’s performance couldn’t have been better timed.
- Kris Newbury. Is he a ‘tweener’? Is he a career AHL’er? Newbury has a lot of NHL experience and at times has proved useful to the Rangers too. However he has never had the offensive impact in the big league like he has in the AHL. An opening night hat-trick last Saturday was followed up by being one of the more active Whaler players in the 1-0 win on Sunday. A great start to the year for Newbury and he offered a reminder to the Rangers brass what he can do.
- Carl Hagelin. Over the first two games he may have been scoreless but a +1, to go with 6 shots and being a constant presence offensively, Hagelin has made a solid start. If he keeps the shot count up he’ll put up the numbers too.
- Cam Talbot will have wished for a better start than to concede 5 goals on 23 shots in his first start of what figured to be a timeshare in CT, especially given his solid preseason. With Johnson following that up with his 41 save shutout Talbot couldn’t have wished for a worse start personally.
- Ryan Bourque and John Mitchell will be expected to be key players for the Whale, especially if both want to force promotion to the Rangers this year. Bourque started -2 with just a pair of shots to his name while Mitchell is already a -3 for the year despite notching an assist. Both players will look for better luck this weekend.
- Wade Redden’s season opener couldn’t have gone worse; the veteran blueliner came off the ice a -4 and has already taken two penalties this season to boot. A key (the key?) part of the Whale blueline while he remains Rangers property, Redden will need to be better if this team intends on making noise this season.
The baby Rangers face a pair of familiar foes this weekend. First up is a trip to Albany to face the Baby Devils on Friday night while Saturday night sees the Whale entertain Bridgeport as the baby Islanders come to town. Both games are divisional match-ups in the Northeast division as the Whale will seek to make it three losses in a row for the Devils. The Whale will look to bypass the Sound Tigers (who have the same record as the Whale) over the weekend too. Two wins would make it a solid start to the year for the Whale (especially given last year’s start) and would be especially impressive given the high amount of new talent being incorporated into the line-up.