KEVIN-SENT Weekes Wows ‘Em At the Garden

By Courtesy of NY Post By Larry Brooks
Updated: December 11, 2006
Photo credit: Neil Miller GLOVE STORY: Kevin Weekes reaches high to snag a loose puck in the closing moments of the Rangers' 2-1 triumph over the Panthers last night.

Photo credit: Neil Miller GLOVE STORY: Kevin Weekes reaches high to snag a loose puck in the closing moments of the Rangers' 2-1 triumph over the Panthers last night.

December 11, 2006 — If Henrik Lundqvist’s emergence as the People’s Choice was last year’s feel-good story at the Garden, the ugly counterpoint of the Rangers’ 2005-06 season was represented by Kevin Weekes somehow becoming Public Enemy No. 80.

The booing was so bad, and started so early in the year, that it took the Rangers less than two weeks to stop showing the pre-game scoreboard video in which each player introduced himself by name and birthplace.

But they’re not booing anymore. The sounds of Broadway now can be heard as, “Weeeeeekes.” The appreciation grows with each outing, with each save, with each victory.

The sounds of Broadway are music to Weekes’ ears.

“I recognize that fans develop attachments for certain players, but it was disappointing for me personally, and even more so because I’d always had such a deep respect for the fans here when I played as a visitor,” Weekes said after his 34-save performance lifted the Rangers to a 2-1 victory over the Panthers last night. “I made a choice to come here [in the summer of 2004] when I left Carolina as an unrestricted free agent, and my appreciation for playing in New York was a considerable factor in the decision.”

There was nothing pretty about last night’s match, with the Blueshirts having apparently left their legs at U.S. customs on their way home from Saturday’s victory in Ottawa. The club’s third straight win featured little in the way of artistic merit, even as it was earned. But the point is, the Rangers got their two points, and have surrendered a sum of four goals in winning three straight after having allowed 16 in their previous three matches.

“When you get the goaltending we have, it puts less pressure on the team to score a lot of goals,” said Jaromir Jagr.

Even while fatigued playing their third game in four nights in a stretch of seven in 11 that picks up tomorrow night in Philadelphia – and couldn’t Tom Renney have found a way to get his fourth line more ice time last night? – the Rangers did minimize the chances against their goaltender. When they did break down in their coverage, Weekes was a lifesaver.

“It’s all about the team,” said Weekes, who snuffed Stephen Weiss from 10 feet with 1:20 to play to preserve the victory and, critically, kept rebounds to a minimum. “In New Jersey, you can talk all you want about Marty Brodeur and Scott Stevens, but it’s the template, the recipe, the formula that’s been critical to their success over the years.”

Seasons change. Sometimes so does the way fans respond to their hometown players. Two generations ago, Allan Stanley was booed out of New York before embarking on a Hall of Fame career in Toronto. One generation ago, Bob Nevin never could win over the Garden crowd. But Weekes, who has allowed two goals or fewer in three of his seven starts, has turned the crowd around.

“I felt bad with what happened last season,” Lundqvist said. “But even though it was tough for Kevin, he helped me so much with his support and with the relationship we had off the ice. He was a big part in my success last year. He’s a big part of this team’s success, too.”

Rangers 2 Panthers 1