Happy Valentine’s Day!
I’m back. Did I miss anything?
Before I get back to work, special Thank Youse to Sean Mayer for subbing and injecting some of his thoughts and opinions (I don’t think he minded that one bit), and to cwgatti and CTBlueshirt for doing those fabulous game reviews (see, it ain’t rocket science).
Now, back to doing what I do. Thoughts on yesterday’s game and surrounding events:
1) When I hear or read remarks like these made by Mario Lemieux, this is what it sounds like to me: “Whine, whine, whine, whine, hypocrite, whine, whine, hypocrite, whine, whine.” Hello, and pardon me Mario, but do the Penguins lead the NHL in fighting majors? (answer: yes, with 61; Detroit, by comparison, has eight). And do they have some of the dirtiest players in the league like Matt Cooke and Maxim Talbot on their roster? (answer: yes). And does that combination sometimes lead to incidents like the one on Long Island—which absolutely crossed all lines of acceptability? (answer: yes). Lemieux, probably the third-best player I ever saw, is threatening again to leave the league. Well, guess what, Mario. Outside the banks of the three rivers surrounding Pittsburgh, nobody would care.
2) Say what you want about Sean Avery, who seems to get he short end of the stick on every call against him, on anything committed by him or the opponent on him, and who is universally despised by the league (meaning NHL HQ and the other 29 teams). He’s not even close to the cowardly, predatory, intent-to-injure cheap-shot artist that piece of carcillo Matt Cooke is. And here’s a guy, who, maybe in part because he plays for the league’s adopted franchise, has yet to be justifiably punished for any of his filthy attacks. I kind of wish he had been playing on the Island the other night. Then again, he would have turtled.
3) Rangers weren’t that bad while Pittsburgh was piling up that 2-0 lead, and they weren’t that good while piling up five consecutive goals themselves. I thought the Rangers were much better at the beginning of their losing streak than they are right now. I don’t think the snarl is the same, I think some guys skate, away from the puck, at scrimmage speed, and I think that effects a lot of what they do offensively through the neutral zone, and defensively, too.
4) Special teams can sometimes bail you out in an otherwise very imperfect game. I think that was the case yesterday … that and the Penguins playing their third-string most of the game. (ps, this call-up Nick Johnson who scored … he reminded me of this: Is Nick Johnson still on the Yankees?).
5) I also think there are some guys who’ve really had confidence problems—and I’m not blaming the coach entirely or even suggesting he was wrong in his handling of them … but maybe it’s time to stop publicly calling out Marian Gaborik and Henrik Lundqvist. At this point, in my opinion, it doesn’t do anybody any good to expect them—especially Lundqvist—to have no margin for error.
6) And I think it might be too late for the shattered confidence of Michael Del Zotto for this season.
7) There are also some guys whose production had flattened out a bit—guys like Zuccarello and Prust, even Boyle and Stepan. When the Rangers were flying in the first 50 games, they were getting goals from everywhere.
8) That coach Tortorella sure has developed a knack for taking some timely timeouts, and making them count, hasn’t he? My buddy Dellapina at the NHL reminded me of the Keenan timeout in Game 6 in East Rutherford, in which he said nothing to anybody, and things got worse immediately following said timeout … fortunately he had guys wearing Nos. 35, 2, 11 and 27 to make that timeout look like a stroke of genius.
9) I am really impressed by the new wrinkle(s) in the power play. See, sometimes you have to think outside the box. Ultimately it comes down to personnel and puck possession, but sometimes you can draw up plays like a basketball coach does—a backdoor play, or something. The Rangers’ coaches have done that.
10) So I’m watching the game, and all of a sudden comes this ambush to the senses as the NBA lowers the bar once again. I’m guessing that was a promo for the NBA all-star game disguised as, what, a terrorist attack on Los Angeles? WTB? Seriously, is there anything more distasteful than comparing an NBA game—especially one played with so little actual passion—to a war in a U.S. city in this time of global anxiety over attacks and bombs?
AP photo, above.