Pittsburgh Too Good, Defeat Rangers 5-3

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

First off, I'd just like to thank Dubi over at the Blueshirt Bulletin for writing a nice blog entry about me and my thoughts of the game 2 loss to the Penguins. Now, on with the game...

The Pittsburgh Penguins are making it look easy so far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They added to their 7 game win streak with a 5-3 victory over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night. The Rangers threw everything they had at Marc Andre Fleury and essentially outplayed Pittsburgh for most of the game (they outshot the Pens 39 to 15). Marc Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh's PP, and the Pens depth of skill players came through for Pittsburgh in the end.

First, Fleury outplayed Henrik Lundqvist by making save after save, while on the flip side - Lundqvist could never make the big save when it was really needed. I personally thought this was a big edge at the beginning of the series, but Fleury has outplayed Lundqvist - like it or not! The Pens PP looked so good it's almost not fair! They move the puck with ease and find lanes to get their shots on goal without being blocked or deflected. The Penguins depth of skill players is outstanding with Crosby, Malkin, Hossa, Malone, Sykora, and Gonchar - they are pretty stacked!

The game started off bad, with a terrible cross-ice pass through the neutral zone by Rozsival which in turn led to a goal by Hossa. From there, the Rangers tied it on a Marty Straka goal - thanks in part to a crashing of the net by Jaromir Jagr (who by the way was the best player on the ice tonight, he played with a burr up his butt tonight!). Georges Laraque then made it 2-1 when Fedor Tyutin missed a hit on Laraque along the boards and then was real weak with his clearing attempt - putting it right on Laraque's stick. Malkin then made it 3-1 with a blast from the point, while Ryan Callahan was serving a double-minor for high sticking. The Rangers had plenty of chances to get back in the game when not once, but twice they had a two-man advantage PP. However, their attempts to score looked rather amateurish and they could not capitalize on their great opportunities on the two-man advantages. I will give the Rangers high marks for continuing to play hard and they eventually evened the score at 3 a piece due to goals by Callahan and Jagr. All of the momentum was on the Rangers side when Scott Gomez rang one off the pipe, but Ryan Hollweg took that all away with a DUMB penalty for boarding Petr Sykora.

Now, I understand what Hollweg brings to the team - energy, physical play, and a little excitement to get the crowd going. In fact, he was part of the great shift that led to Gomez's shot off the post - but he's got to be aware of the moment of the game and be able to stay under control. Unfortunately, he did not and it cost the Rangers dearly when Malkin blasted another one by Lundqvist on the ensuing PP. In the end the Rangers could not beat Fleury enough, their PP was non-existent, and when they needed a big save - it never came. It's disappointing to outshoot, outplay, and really outchance the Penguins for so long... and lose. It makes no sense, but enough squaking about it. That's hockey! The Rangers now face the brink of elimination.


Pens Take Game 2, 2-0

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Pittsburgh Penguins put on a defensive clinic today that the Rangers know about all too well! The Pens took away the neutral zone and never gave the Rangers room, flow, or clear shots on Marc Andre Fleury. Let's not underestimate the Pittsburgh Penguins, they are growing into a team that's becoming a force to be reckoned with.

Jordan Staal beat Henrik Lundqvist with a nice move on a power play that gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead. The goal was scored on another questionable penalty call on Chris Drury (I think it was a weak call, it appeared Hossa was grabbing Drury's stick rather than Drury hooking him). The Rangers did appear to score a goal late in the 3rd period on a rebound in front of Marc Andre Fleury as Marty Straka whacked it across the goal line. However, referee Dan O'Halloran's quick, and I mean QUICK, whistle nullified the apparent goal and basically killed the Rangers will in the process.

My beef with the call is, when a referee is standing behind the net, of course he's gonna lose sight of the puck, DUH! He's BEHIND the net, not in the correct position to make the right call. NBC was quick to defend the call and both Mike Emrick & Eddy O claimed it was the right call. Basically, they were telling the (Ranger) fans watching - "You're dumb and we're smart". Just look at the video and you tell me if O'Halloran can call anything at all where he was positioned. Ridiculous.

Getting back to the game, high marks for Henrik Lundqvist and Marc Andre Fleury. But, in the end, Pittsburgh took a page out of the Rangers book and just flat out shut them down (where was the Ranger offense?). Down 2-0, the Rangers are in deep water as the Penguins are on a roll (6-0 in the playoffs). Sid the Kid and crew are going to be very tough to beat. Although, I have full confidence in the Rangers being able to respond back at MSG. But they better find some offense quickly or this series will be over!


Penguins Take Game 1, 5-4 Over Rangers

Saturday, April 26, 2008

As I sat in my chair watching the final seconds tick off the clock, I thought to myself - if you're a Pittsburgh fan, you're really happy with the outcome of game 1. Regardless of the 3 bankshot goals to the Rangers' 1.

The Jarkko Rutuu goal off of Mike Rosival's skate/shinpad started the Penguins comeback from a 3-0 deficit that the Rangers had built up on goals by Straka (bankshot), a Drury deflection, and an Avery wrist shot. If you're a Rangers fan, you're not very happy about blowing a 3 goal lead (This is the playoffs afterall) due to the sloppy defensive play.

However, in this game there were some very dubious calls in the Penguins favor ... was that Sid the Kid, or Sid the Flopper? Publicly, Crosby claims that's he's not a flopper - there was no evidence of that tonight. He flopped not once, but twice. He knows that, the fans know it, and the players know it. I personally expect more out of him, but if the NHL doesn't care, why should he? In the end, the Penguins got the job done tonight! The Rangers blew a huge lead and game - this could be the one that hurts them in the end.

One last thought, when the NHL powers that be reacted hastily over Sean Avery's antics with Marty Brodueur, they took a rule that existed - bent it & twisted it in order for that never to happen again. So, what happens tonight? Jarkko Rutuu puts the blade of his stick in Rosival's face before a faceoff for what seemed to be around 10 seconds. What does the referee do? Nothing. No penalty, just a simple friendly warning. There was no call for unsportsmanlike conduct, which clearly was the case. This eventually led to Rutuu's game-changing goal as it was that same shift that he scored to start the Penguins rally. To think, he should of been serving that time in the penalty box. Hypocrisy at it's best. Nice job NHL!


Rangers, Penguins Battle in the East

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

With Philadelphia's impressive 3-2 OT win over Washington Tuesday night, the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals match-ups are set. Philly at Montreal Thursday and New York at Pittsburgh on Friday.

I like Montreal in 7 games. However, I give Philly a definite chance in this series - they showed some serious resilience (they won game 7 on the road!). Everybody's pick seemed to be Washington (I admit, I got sucked into the Washington hysteria), but Philly managed to grind out a hard fought victory in that best of seven series. Don't sell the Flyers short!

As far as the Rangers and Penguins series, I'll be a little biased here and go with the Rangers in 7. Yes, I know it's Sid the Kid & Co, but I think King Henrik Lundqvist will out duel Marc-Andre Fleury in the end. The NHL has got to be real happy with the fact that Sid the Kid will be on Broadway. I believe that this is the marquee matchup the hockey purists were looking for. It certainly will give a huge boost for the NHL, it's fans, and it's TV ratings. I can't wait for it to start!

In the Western Conference Semi-Finals I have to go with Detroit (YUCK!) over Colorado in 6. I don't like Detroit, but Colorado isn't the Colorado of old. I believe they overachieved this year and Joel Quenneville did a great job with his team. I could be wrong here, but I'll stick with Detroit.

The more interesting series (to me at least) in the West is San Jose and Dallas. Dallas showed the hockey world what they are all about; discipline, good defense, and a great all around game plan as they really dismantled the defending Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks. This will be a toss up, but I will go with San Jose only because of the home ice advantage. If they fail in defending their home ice, I believe Dallas can get them.

It's a great time of the year, most of the top seeds are still around and the hockey should be electric and physical. Talk to you all soon!


Avery, Rangers Moving On, Defeating Devils

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The New York Rangers capped off their dominance over the New Jersey Devils with a 5-3 victory last night that puts the Rangers into the 2nd round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, the Rangers had a few scary moments in the 3rd period while trying to protect their 4-3 lead - case in point John Madden's penalty shot. Madden's penalty shot was the first time in NHL playoff history that the shot was in the 3rd period for the tie or the go ahead goal. Fortunately for the Rangers, King Henrik denied Madden's shot and the Rangers held on for the win. In the end the Rangers owned, and I mean owned the Devils this season - winning 11 of 13 games against them (including playoffs).

Also, it's time to get something off of my chest! Sean Avery. What he is, is the best and most talented agitator this league has seen in a long time (remember Claude Lemieux?). The Devils were consumed by his antics whether they want to admit it or not. Marty Brodeur is one of the greatest goal tenders to ever play - however, his Stanley Cups, Vezina Trophies, and shoo-in Hall of Fame career does not give him any special treatment in a live game.

Whether you like Sean Avery or not, you're kidding yourself if you say, "I don't want him on my team". Avery is not the only one in this league that plays the way he does. Jarkko Ruutu, Chris Neil, Scott Hartnell, Steve Ott, I could go on and find more similar players on every team in the NHL. The difference is that Sean Avery plays that role better than anyone else in the NHL. He is more talented and intelligent - knowing exactly what he's doing by playing "on the edge". Look, he's got the opponents, the media, and even me talking - so there's something going right for him!

One last thing, do not, and I repeat do not blame Sean Avery for his shielding antics on Marty Brodeur. Blame the NHL powers that be. They changed the rules and they got caught by a smart player who knows that there is little fear of standing in front of the net now a days. In the pre-lockout rules days, someone would have taken Avery out - but not today. Today there is too much fear of penalties for touching someone who's screening your goaltender. It's ridiculous, but it's a fact.


Rangers in Control

Thursday, April 17, 2008

With a 5-3 victory Wednesday night, the New York Rangers have taken a 3-1 series lead over the New Jersey Devils. I stated a few posts ago that the Rangers have had a hex on the Devils all season long and it has continued in the playoffs.

This series is exactly what I thought it would be, close checking, great hitting, and some awesome goaltending by Lundqvist and Marty Brodeur. Each game really has been a toss-up, but the Rangers have continued to frustrate the Devils in the end (7-1 in the regular season, 3-1 in the playoffs - a 10-2 total domination). With game 5 Friday in Newark, it's going to be an uphill battle for Brent Sutter's crew. Personally, I think it's over, but you never know!

The best moment of the night (aside from the game itself) was a particular fan that had caught my eye. The fan was wearing an authentic Rangers jersey with the number 94 on it. It made me think, "Okay, that's nice - remembering the Stanley Cup squad in '94". But, when he turned his back towards me, it read "DEVILS FANS SUCK" - I burst out laughing! I've seen all the jerseys from various fans, but never have I seen a fan quite as creative as that. Just thought I'd share this little story.

Lastly, on a more personal note - my condolences go out to the family and friends of long time sports reporter Randy Smith. Smith had covered the Hartford Whalers when I was a player there and kept on going well after I was gone. He worked for the Manchester Journal Inquirer covering everything from hockey to golf. I was fortunate to have played golf and poker with him, as well as sharing a few beers and watching some Super Bowls back in the early 80's. He was one of a kind.

Rest In Peace, Randy. You will be missed.



Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs begin Wednesday, April 9th. The NHL Playoffs are definitely wild and extraordinary. My experience (Yes, I did play in a few of these games) is that every team gets amped up a notch or two more than the regular season. The intensity & adrenaline is unreal. The games get faster, tougher, and downright nasty.

Teams that do well are the ones who, somewhere in the playoffs find a way to have a short series or two. You just can't play 6 or 7 game series all the way to the cup. That is definitely way too draining mentally and physically, as well as just tiring in general.

I'm not saying that you can't do it that way, I just feel you need a short series somewhere on your march towards Lord Stanley's Cup. Well, enough of my thoughts... here are my predictions:

Montreal in 6 over Boston
Pittsburgh in 5 over Ottawa
Washington in 7 over Philadelphia
New York in 6 over New Jersey

Detroit in 5 over Nashville
San Jose in 7 over Calgary
Colorado in 7 over Minnesota
Anaheim in 6 over Dallas

That's it for my first round predictions, I'm sticking with 'em!


Charity Celebrity Sled Hockey Game

Monday, April 7, 2008

I just got back from one of my old stomping grounds - Hartford Connecticut. I was invited to play in the 4th annual "Connecticut Sled Hockey Celebrity Game". And let me be the first to tell you up front, it was a blast!

I didn't know what to expect at all, but the sport itself is very difficult to play. I was very impressed with the players and staff of the Connecticut sled hockey team. They were wonderful hosts and even though they took it easy on the celebrity team (thank god!) it was amazing to see the agility, skill, and overall ability of these players.

If you haven't figured it out, most players are handicapped in some capacity. The pure joy and excitement on their faces was great to see as they handed the celebs a 6-3 whooping (Believe me, they were taking it easy on us).

The celebrity team consisted of members of TV, radio, and former NHL/AHL players. I especially was happy to see Russ Anderson and Bob Crawford, former teammates of mine with the Whalers, as well as Yvon Corriveau and Chris Govedaris - former NHL'ers. And lastly, I was happy to see Gerry McDonald - who was traded along with myself to the Hartford Whalers, it was so long ago I can't even remember that well. It's been nearly 25 years since I've seen Russ Anderson or Gerry McDonald - talk about a long time!

Overall, it was a great day and I hope we made the day a good one for the CT Sled team as well as the fans who bucked up for a great cause. Lastly, if you're interested the website address for the hockey team is as follows: http://www.ctsledhockey.org, give the site a look - I think they'd appreciate it.

Also check out some pictures from the game here.


Charity Game in Hartford

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Hartford Wolfpack have invited me (former Whaler) to participate in a charity sled hockey game (this Sunday, April 6th, 2008). I'm looking forward to meeting some former teammates like Bob Crawford, Russ Anderson, and a slew of friends. It should be a great time. Although, I think we "celebrities" will have our butts handed to us. We will also be signing autographs after the game for an hour.

I'll give you a rundown on what took place at the game and get my thoughts on the NHL playoffs when I get back from the event. Thanks for reading & take care.


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