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FISCHLER: Down goes Richter, not Blueshirts

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The awful news for the actually can produce a sweet use from the adversity. 's season-long sabbatical is as bad as it gets on a personal and team level. There's no minimizing the loss of an outstanding talent and team guy. I won't even begin to rationalize that. It's no secret that Richter has been my favorite goalie for years, and now he's gone for the duration with a distinct possibility that he may have to call it a career. We hope not. As bad as that may be, it is neither the end of the world nor the end of the season for the . In fact the adroit acquisition of could — and should — signal a new beginning for the Blueshirts. Optimism is not out of the question. Look at it this way: A GOOD DEAL: Glen Sather obtained an experienced, grade-A goaltender for small potatoes. The club had given up on Tomas Kloucek, while is an easily replaceable part. A CLOSE RACE: Let's face it, nobody is running away from the with the possible exception of Ottawa. Philly, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Carolina and Florida all are vulnerable, as well as catchable. Plus the season is only one quarter over. A SOLID TANDEM: With a fair amount of rest should emerge as a first-rate goalie while learning under the insightful Dunham. A pleasant, easy-going sort, Dunham should be an excellent mentor for the kid. I know Dunham well from his ' days. He had one weakness — timing. Mike had the misfortune of following during the Jacques Lemaire regime, and there was no way Lemaire was going to bump Brodeur off the goaltending throne. But I can assure you that there were several games during Dunham's Devil career when he bailed out his club in critical situations. Including a game in Montreal that I'll never forget. But that's long ago. Dunham became jaded in Nashville and needed a change of scenery. Playing goal in The Apple should be the perfect prescription for his revival. What matters, of course, is how the — as a team — react to the upheaval. Losing Richter, , , and in one fell swoop would traumatize any team, let alone the . Yet they responded to the adversity in a positive way against Chicago. Fighting back from a three-goal-deficit to come within one backhand shot of tying the game was commendable under the circumstances. Had Dunham been in goal, it would have been a two-pointer for the Blueshirts. But that, too, is history. Starting tomorrow night in Toronto, the are in position to make a genuine upward thrust in the standings. Injuries notwithstanding, New York matches up well with most of the teams it's challenging above them. Certainly Dunham-Blackburn is as good a duet as Boston's -John Grahame. A defensive nucleus of Vlad Malakhov, , Darius Kasparitius, and a recovered Leetch should compete favorably with the Eastern Conference rivals. And there's still plenty of firepower upfront, assuming the likes of , , , , , et. al. deliver to their potential. Ah! There's the rub — playing to potential. The Blueshirts haven¿t come close to reaching that level so far. My theory is that the new coaching staff and the many new faces needed until mid-December to develop positive chemistry. According to my calendar that moment should arrive this weekend. Bryan Trottier, Jim Schoenfeld and Terry O'Reilly have had adequate time to determine who can do what, when and where. For starters, they should establish a marauding line with Holik and Lindros the two pincers leading the attack; young, developing sniper should be 's replacement on the top line with the two big dogs. The -Radek Dvorak-Ronald Petrovicky line should stay as is. When Messier returns, his icetime — as we said ever since October 1 — should be rationed to no more than fifteen minutes a game. Mess centering Barnaby and should be a competitive third line. Newly acquired — he's a neat sleeper in the Samuelesson mode — can round out a fourth line with and . Nobody can tell me that this blend is unworkable. There's plenty of talent, size and diversity to go around. And it WILL work if:
  1. plays with intensity every night.
  2. Messier adapts to lesser ice while remaining the spiritual leader.
  3. Schoenfeld continues to tighten the defense.
  4. Malakhov ups his game by one notch; and he is capable of doing that.
  5. Lindros uses his body — not stick — as an intimidating weapon.
The goaltending should take care of itself. There are some who will moan about Kloucek's departure. I can understand that. I was a big fan of his, but the fact remained that management had to relinquish something of value to get Dunham. It's done. The are not! Known as "The Hockey Maven" in both local and national circles, Stan Fischler is one of the most outspoken authorities on the game of hockey. Fischler can be seen offering NHL analysis on "MSG SportsDesk" and on Fox Sports Net's "Regional Sports Report — New York Edition." Fischler also provides studio interviews and pre- and post-game features and reports for both the and on FSN. His columns appear regularly on MSGNetwork.com.
Tagged: Bruins, Oilers, Devils, Rangers, Predators, Martin Brodeur, Bobby Holik, Petr Nedved, Radek Dvorak, Matthew Barnaby, Tomas Kloucek, Dale Purinton, Rico Fata

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