Glad that’s over. The NHL will be thrilled—and Gary Bettman clearly was, bogarting the stage as NHL Network’s first interview on the never-ending post-game show—because it made a ton of money, got a zillion eyeballs to watch, sold a gazillion pieces of merchandise. But the all-Philadelphia presentation of the Hyper Bowl was a complete joke.
The first-place Rangers were the Washington Generals. Inconsequential innocent bystanders and accidental tourists. Until they won. Despite the ridiculous calls late in the game.
Guess what. The Rangers are better than the Flyers. I’m not a conspiracy theorist. But those calls—the two against Ryan McDonagh and the non-call on the Marian Gaborik breakaway—What in Holy Hell?
Thoughts on the game:
1) What a game for John Tortorella, who really understands all of this stuff, and who made some changes that worked during the game, who had his team play the way it always plays, and who has turned all these potential distractions this season into positive energy.
2) His wallet’s going to be losing some weight though because of this comment:
I’m not sure if NBC got together with the refs. It started with the non-call [when] Gabby was pitch-forked in the stomach, and then everything starts going against us. They’re two good referees; I thought the game was refereed horribly. So I’m not sure what happened there. Maybe they wanted to get it to an overtime. I’m not sure if they have meetings about that or what. But we stood in there. They’re good guys. But in that third period, it was disgusting.”
3) Who officiated that third period, Ed Snider? No, it was Philadelphia native Ian Walsh, who grew up in the Little Flyers organization. How in Holy Hell does he get an assignment for a Rangers-Flyers game ever, never mind this one?
4) Again, I take these stats with a grain of salt, because it varies wildly from arena to arena (were those baseball scorers keeping track?). But the Rangers had 50 hits (21 of those by Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan), 20 blocks (four by Block Ness Monster Girardi), nine takeaways (three by Marian Gaborik)!
5) That was Brandon Dubinsky’s best game of the year. He was a force, and he’s gotten better and better lately. As I said earlier, it’s like adding a 20-goal scorer without giving up anything in mid-season. Dubinsky=Beast.
6) Speaking of which, the Rangers also added an all-star defenseman with the return of alternate captain Marc Staal. I thought Staal looked like he hadn’t played in 10 months … but he made some terrific plays when Ryan McDonagh—who had a tough, tough game—was in the penalty box late. So you take the best team in the East and add two big pieces, and do the math. Though I do believe that Dan Girardi should not completely lose the “A” that was removed from his sweater. They ought to find a way to rotate the “A” among Staal, Brad Richards and Girardi, maybe to a home/away rotation as the Rangers did in ‘93-94.
7) Mike Rupp. Talk about timing. And I liked the salute. Of course, that piece of carcillo Hartnell, who complained about Rupp disprespecting Jaromir Jagr, is somebody who should be addressing the topic of respect. The same guy who has gone off the ice after the last two losses to the Rangers swinging his stick. Shut up. And get a haircut.
8) Brad Richards was really struggling again … until he scored the game-winning goal. The guy’s got a knack for the moment, doesn’t he? Again, great plays by Dubinky and Callahan to set up that goal.
9) Is there a goalie on the planet (other than Mike Richter) that you’d rather have face a penalty shot in the final seconds of a one-goal game than King Henrik? The guy is just money. And he was pretty great before that save, too. Big as the building.
10) By my arithmetic, the Rangers’ record since Sean Avery was removed from the lineup: 8-3-0. What?
11) I thought Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust also had solid games, especially Boyle who gave the Rangers a jump-start when put between Callahan and Dubinsky, and who was rugged throughout. Just got a lot done. Rubbed out a lot of Flyers.
Thoughts on the presentation:
1) What a pile of crap, this whole celebration of Philadelphia, the Flyers, Ed Snider, the Broad Street Bullies. And worse, treating the Rangers like an insignificant foreign visitor who just happens to be lucky enough to be playing the sainted Flyers. And it started with the disgraceful lighting of the Empire State Building in orange crud Wednesday. Such garbage.
2) None more garbagy than celebrating Bobby Clarke, that dirty piece of cooke, who came right out and said how good it felt to break the ankle of a Soviet player with a vicious slash in the Summit Series. Freakin’ coward. And Phil Esposito, too. He said he would have killed to win. Yeah, really brave, against a team that wouldn’t fight.
3) Mike Milbury left out the “r” when he said Blueshi*ts on the telecast open. Which is what he probably calls the Rangers when he’s not on camera. The jackwagon.
4) NBC sells, sells, sells the hatred of the rivalry and the toughness and the hitting and confrontations. Then at the first sign of a confrontation, NBC repeatedly cuts to a close up of a goalie or somebody on the bench. Can’t get the cameras away from the action fast enough. As if a naked fan had run onto the field, or somebody flipped the bird. Why? Why? And NBC needs to lose some of those camera angles simply because it has no clue when or how to use them. Made you seasick at times cutting from the corner ice-level to the overhead or end zone. And missed a bunch of stuff, too.
5) Dubinsky buried Claude Giroux in the first. Wasn’t even mentioned on the broadcast. In the second, he had two hits behind the goal line, took the puck out front and got off a good shot. No mention. Then Anisimov won the next draw and got a dangerous shot. No mention. But, “Blah-blah-blah. … shadows, wind … blah-blah.”
6) The ice and glass were both dreadful. And NBC didn’t notice the ice deteriorating until Tortorella said it to Pierre McGuire in the middle of the second period.
7) Could they find a band with less talent than the one that “performed” during the second intermission?
8) Those 35,000 or so Flyers fans must have really enjoyed the fireworks after the final buzzer.
9) Are you kidding? The first press conference was Bettman? And the first player interview on NHL Network was Brayden Shenn? Then some talk about attendance. Apparently this wasn’t an actual hockey game at all.
10) Don’t know who that girl on NHL Network is, but from what I saw this weekend, she has more of a clue about what’s going on than Barry Melrose, Kevin “Without a doubt” Weekes, Jeremy Roenick (who said the fans were “Blazing the elements”), Milbury, all of them.
11) Can’t wait for the final episode of “24/7” Thursday. Then I’m canceling my HBO Friday.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1) Henrik Lundqvist.
2) Mike Rupp.
3) Brandon Dubinsky.
AP photos, above.