This is not really a post-game recap, just my general thoughts on yet another amazing and magical Winter Classic that the NHL has put on for us, between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers. Surprisingly, for what seems like the first time in the brief five-year history of the event, there were no ice malfunctions, and the passing and skating was pretty smooth early on. Though the game did slow down in the second, I would definitely rank the overall pace of this afternoon to be one of the better ones yet. And of course, there was plenty of drama with yet another photo finish—something that seems to happen every year, which I will elaborate on later.
When it comes to hockey analysts, Russ Cohen is a jack of all trades. He hosts a hockey radio show on XM satellite radio, runs Sportsology, and even co-authored the ultimate book for New York Rangers fans titled, “100 Ranger Greats”, along with Adam Raider and the late John Halligan.
In this, our second interview, I asked Russ about the NHL playoffs, the upcoming draft and off-season, and of course, the New York Rangers. Russ also recounted his memories with John Halligan, fellow hockey historian who he worked closely with, who passed away just a few short months ago.
GC: As of right now, who are your favorites to reach the Stanley Cup Finals, and who will be the eventual winner?
RC: Greg, I originally picked the Capitals and Canucks in the preseason, and I will continue to pick these teams. I think the Capitals’ overtime win woke them up, and their goalie change to Varlamov was a big factor as well. Vancouver’s blue-line is beat up, but I think they can weather the storm.
GC: San Jose once again finds themselves having a phenomenal regular season only to struggle in the playoffs. Why do you think this is so? And if they fail to get out of the first round, whose jobs do you think will be in danger?
RC: I think they will get out of the first round. I don’t think anybody in management is in danger but I think there could be some personnel changes. If I were the GM, I might try to move Patrick Marleau or Joe Thornton.
GC: With the NHL draft coming in the end of June, which player do you think will be the first overall pick? And who do you see the Rangers taking with the 10th pick?
RC: Greg, I think the first overall pick will be Taylor Hall. You can’t teach speed and that sets him apart from anybody else in this draft. The Rangers need a goalie in their system in the worst way. Now I would pick Jack Campbell, but the question is who do I see them taking? Hmmmm. Ryan Johansen.
GC: The Rangers played their best hockey of the season down the stretch and still missed the playoffs by a point. What do you think was the main reason for this? And do you see Sather or Tortorella getting fired?
RC: Greg, It doesn’t appear that there will be any changes going into next season. I thought the choice of not using Marian Gaborik in the shootout was indefensible, considering Danny Briere was 0-2 or 0-3 in his career against Henrik Lundqvist and he scored. [Tortorella] didn’t give an answer to the media about that decision after that game which was weak. I think the fact that they didn’t carry seven defenseman for most of this season was a mistake as well.
GC: We all know what it would take salary-wise, but what are the chances of the Rangers landing a free-agent like Ilya Kovalchuk? And although I do not want him, will the Rangers make a push for Patrick Marleau?
RC: Well I think Marleau might be available and he is a top-line center. Kovalchuk will want $8-10 million so the Rangers can’t afford him. Marleau will want around $6 million and the Rangers could swing that with some moves.
GC: The question that every Rangers fan wants answered, is whether or not Wade Redden will be demoted to Hartford before next season. Is there any chance this can happen?
RC: Greg, I think the pressure to do that will be there this season. It’s my understanding that he has to attend camp before they can do that without taking a big cap hit. I think there’s a better than 50% chance that this will happen.
GC: Finally, this is our first interview since long-time Rangers PR man, author, and enthusiast John Halligan passed away. Can you tell us what it was like co-authoring a book with him?
RC: Greg, it was a life changing experience. He and I instantly formed a friendship, something he and Adam had already shared. He treated me like an equal, and I certainly wasn’t. He took my opinions into consideration no matter how wacky they were. And at times during these conference calls when we were determining the final list in “100 Ranger Greats”, the conversation did get silly at times, no thanks to me. The three of us were a team and I enjoyed every minute of it and it didn’t end there. John would join me on my XM Business of Hockey Show, he taped some Authors Roundtable Podcasts on our site http://www.rangergreats.com, and they are still there for anybody to listen to. There will never be another John Halligan and I will do everything I can to keep his legacy alive. Thanks for asking about him and thanks for the interview.
I want to thank Russ for taking the time to do the interview, and to also ask that everyone check out his websites and if you have XM radio, give his show a listen!
Aside from the fourth line, the New York Rangers should be embarrassed for not being able to defeat the Flyers in a game in which Henrik Lundqvist played his best game of the season and made 46 saves. They were outplayed and outmatched from beginning to end, and could not overcome the massive amount of pressure the Flyers had on them.
The Rangers would strike first when Jody Shelley scored a little over three minutes in. Assists went to Rozsival and Anisimov. But from there it all went south, as the Rangers could not get any offensive flow going, and that would be their downfall.
Every Flyers fan will admit that Brian Boucher has been terrible. He was not terrible this afternoon, but then again, we really don’t have a large enough sample space to judge him by. The Rangers mustered up a mediocre 25 shots in regulation and overtime.
The Flyers then pounded the Rangers with every chance they had, out-shooting them in every period, for a game total of 47. They had the pressure in the second half of the first period, and the entire second and third periods.
P.A Parenteau, who has been a career AHLer, showed why this afternoon, taking two lazy penalties, with the second leading to the Flyers tying goal, by Matt Carle, assists going Carter and Briere. He had no jump in his step and no work ethic at all.
As the game continued to overtime, the pressure mounted. Lundqvist continued to stand on his head, but the miserable Rangers could not help him out by getting one more measly goal. With all of Gaborik’s greatness, I have to ask, did he even play tonight? Did not notice him one shift.
So then the game went to a shootout, and I guess I ended up jinxing myself when I tweeted, “If the Rangers lose, I hope to God it’s in overtime, and not a shootout, an event that should not even be in the game. It would be a travesty for a playoff spot to come down to one.”
Low and behold, after a fairly uneventful overtime, the game went to a shootout. The Flyers elected to go first, and Briere got them on the board. After misses by Christensen and Richards, Parenteau would redeem himself and score the tying goal. But the happiness did not last long as Claude Giroux got it right back.
The Rangers season then came down to one shot, on the stick of Olli Jokinen, a player who should not have even been put in that situation. He came in on Boucher quickly, and deftly tried to slide it along the ice between the goalie pads, but it failed and the Rangers lost; the Flyers advancing to the playoffs, and the Rangers going home for the summer.
Perhaps this is the wake-up call that this franchise needs, and maybe in the long run, missing the playoffs will be for the better. However, for the moment, it is highly frustrating and saddening to not see Lundqvist walk away with a win in this one. Everyone should be ashamed of themselves.
On a side note, Shelley and Prust just secured themselves a contract for next season and Jokinen just purchased himself a ticket the hell out of New York. I’ve wanted Tortorella fired for months now, and I guess I will keep that same opinion. Something needs to happen though, but just firing Sather will do nothing.
Keep everyone, or clean the house of everyone. When you want to get rid of a hornet’s nest, you don’t go up to it with bug spray and shoot the outside of it; you take a torch and destroy the whole thing.
It was a real pleasure covering the Rangers for all of you, once again, in this, my second full season writing about hockey. Will get my first round playoff predictions up by Wednesday, and other than that, I will be on hiatus from the Rangers for a few weeks until there is actually something to write about.
Many thanks for all the reads, and I wish everyone the best. Please enjoy the playoffs, even if our boys aren’t playing in them.
The fans at MSG chanted Sean Avery’s name this afternoon as his two goals helped propel the Rangers to a 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. Old time hockey made it’s long-awaited return to a Rangers’ game as the tilt was chippy from start to finish.
The Rangers fell behind early when Danny Briere scored just over four minutes in to get the Flyers on the board. As usual, the Rangers got off to a slow start in an afternoon game. They can never seem to have their heads and legs in the game for these early games, but they would get better as it moved on.
Avery would net his first of two less than two minutes into the second period, when Wade Redden took a shot from the point that took a crazy bounce off a defender in front and landed right on the tape of Avery’s stick. Three minutes later, Michal Rozsival would score his third goal of the season (first on the powerplay) when he took a bomb of a slapshot from the point that went off the post and in. That would be Rozsival’s 20th powerplay goal as a Ranger, over the course of the last five seasons. Erik Christensen would assist on both goals while Redden and Drury added one each as well.
Towards the end of the second period, Scott Hartnell would cross-check Avery and as the two skated around during the shift, they locked up at center ice. Hartnell would drop his gloves and look to fight, but Avery did not. Hartnell would be penalized on the play as Avery did what he does best; agitate.
With five minutes to go in the third, Avery would score his second of the game and seal the deal for the Rangers. He took what looked like a harmless wristshot from the half-boards that Michael Leighton missed, giving the Rangers a 3-1 lead. Girardi and Drury would add assists. Brandon Dubinsky would later fight Mike Richards, and beat him, making that his first winning fight in a long time. Henrik Lundqvist had a fairly easy night and stopped 17 of 18 shots.
When the buzzer ended, Staal and Hartnell would go at it but gloves stayed on. As Sam Rosen pointed out during the broadcast, Avery has the ability to take over a game and put on a performance like this. However, he also has the ability to disappear for weeks at a time. He was scratched in the last game and hopefully that served as the motivation for him to play this type of game the rest of the way.