by Matt Pennino
After the Rangers managed a tie against the Sabres, I’ve been reading nothing but bad reports from other fans concerning the play of Dan Blackburn. I don’t think I’ve read anything dumber and more ignorant about one-hockey player in my life. First of all, does anyone remember the kind of season this kid had last year? Yeah his record wasn’t the best, but for a rookie starting with a team who couldn’t play defense, these look like good numbers to me.
From message boards to WFAN all that’s been heard is to “send the kid down” or “he’s no good.” So let me get this straight. It was Blackburn’s fault that the Sabres scored four goals in the second period? I agree that the goal by Tim Connolly should’ve been stopped but other than that he was fine. There was no way he was going to stop that Chris Gratton laser beam, and the first of Satan’s two goals was the result of an excellent passing play by Jochen Hecht. Satan’s second goal was a back-hander up close that would be hard to stop due to the traffic that was in the crease. But I’m making a mountain out of a molehill as far as his performance goes in that game. In my opinion, New York is the toughest place for a rookie such as he to start his NHL career in. I think he can overcome this, and if he can then he can play anywhere. This goalie has future Vezina winner written all over him.
Could you play any better? Seriously now. Imagine yourself being an eighteen year-old kid coming into New York City from Canada. You don’t know your way around, but you know there is constant pressure to win. New York won’t accept anything but winning. Here you are, in the crease for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in five years, who has had terrible defense, and who, on a nightly basis gets booed by impatient fans. I felt bad for the kid when he had to face thirty to forty shots a night. But you know what? He did a damn good job of stopping them. At the end of this past season, Richter went down with a fractured skull. In a way, I was upset to have Richter gone for the rest of the year, but in the back of my mind, I knew that this was Blackburn’s chance to shine. So you what he did? He won five straight starts (which tied an NHL record for most wins in a row by a rookie) that might’ve gotten the Rangers in the playoffs if Montreal had not gone on its hot streak as well. Any people who bash Dan at this point in his career should be ashamed of themselves. Whether you like it or not, he is the future of the New York Rangers. When Richter has retired and his memories are secured with Rangers fans forever, it will be Blackburn’s turn. If you don’t like him now, then get used to it. There is one thing he won’t be getting used to…giving up goals.