What has changed in the last few months? What has changed since Brendan Shanahan gloriously took over as the NHL’s disciplinarian, promising much stricter action? The only noticeable one has been that things have not gotten better or even stayed the same, they have gotten worse. Blindside hits and cheap-shots never seemed to be a problem until the last couple of seasons, prompting a change and an ushering in of the new era of safer hockey. Suspensions would be handed out like candy to children at a carnival, and because of it, dangerous hits would stop, and the offenders would gradually find themselves out of a job. Well, as most teams near the 50 game mark in this safe hockey haven, thanks to the tireless efforts of Shanahan and league officials, do you feel that the status quo has changed at all? When your favorite players skate near the boards, do you feel any safer watching them?
When the New York Rangers had Sam Rosen and John Davidson in the broadcast booth from 1986-2006, they arguably had the best announcing tandem in the entire league. Both fed off of each other and had unbelievable chemistry. Rosen was the hawk-eye announcer, while Davidson, an ex-Rangers’ goaltender lent his unbiased expertise while adding humor on a nightly basis. Win or lose, listening in to MSG Network for a Ranger game was enjoyable—it was pure entertainment.
After the 2005/06 season, John Davidson left for a job in the front office with the St. Louis Blues, and we were left wondering who would be able to fill his immense shoes. The job would go to Joe Micheletti, the former color commentator of the New York Islanders, but someone who had done nationally televised games and actually was somewhat popular with a big name in the business. Right off the bat it was realized that he would in no way even come close to matching Davidson, but we were not expecting him to. All we wanted was competence, and what we have gotten for five seasons, including this one, is a horrendous display of mediocrity and babbling. Monday night, between him and John Gianonne, who was replacing Rosen due to the snow, I was just seconds away from putting on the Islanders’ broadcast to hear Howie Rose and Butch Goring. It was just that bad.
I cannot remember a time when I was more disgusted with a broadcast team. Sure nationally televised games with Mike Emrick or Joe Beninatti involving the Penguins or Capitals are sights to behold regarding bias and ridiculousness, but this Rangers duo takes it to a whole other level.
Joe Micheletti: I am someone who cannot stand a homer. I like my announcers to be fair and balanced, while they can lean slightly towards the Rangers. This is why I can’t take listening to Chico Resch, who is so far up Martin Brodeur’s
ass nose, that he can feel his shoes on his chin. At first, Micheletti did not seem too bad. Davidson was always the first to call out a Rangers mistake, and I applauded him for that. Sometimes I wonder if there was some tension between the Dolan’s and Davidson, who felt he was being too critical of the team. Nevertheless, the problem I have with Micheletti is not that he’s critical of the team, but his constant gushing over opposing players. Games where they play the Penguins are almost nauseating. We know that Sidney Crosby is a good player, Joe, you don’t have to make mention of it every single time he touches the puck, or how Evgeni Malkin is good too. We get it!
Also, every team the Rangers play is coming off a great game, even if they are having a horrible season. It does not matter if they lost ten in a row, they had to play well doing it. It is almost as if Micheletti is trying to make a loss to a bad team not seem like a big deal, if he is constantly telling us how good they are. And how about the next game, against the Lightning; how many times will we have to listen to how amazing Stamkos is, and that he is a “good kid”? Nothing against any of these players, but fans are not stupid. We do not need to be reminded of their play every five minutes.
As for Rangers’ players, did you happen to know that Marian Gaborik has a powerful stride and quick release? It seemed to slip my mind, even though Joe M. has mentioned it about a million times this season. And how about him always asking questions? “Hey, Callahan’s having a great game, isn’t he Sam?” is just an example of one. Sometimes I think he is just talking to hear himself talk. No, Joe, Callahan is having an awful game, which is why you brought it up.
When he talks, it is borderline rambling. He says things that do not make any sense. Oh, and how can I forget, Tyler Myers is the second coming of Bobby Orr, or should I skip straight to Jesus Christ?
John Gianonne: At first, Giannone seemed like the nicest guy in the world. I requested an interview with him and he got back to me saying yes and that he actually read my site and liked it. This was all done through Facebook, and next thing I know, I am no longer friends with him and he will not talk to me anymore. Since I don’t hold a grudge, I moved on, but it was only then when I started to realize how awful of an announcer he is. When filling in for Rosen, Gianonne and Micheletti combined have the smoothness of Howard Cosell and Gilbert Gottfried calling a backgammon match. His voice is screechy, he consistently makes mistakes, and he appears to be allergic to the word “the”.
How many times do I hear him say, “Puts it toward net” or “Toward goal”? What about, “Puts it toward THE net”? Ever hear of that magical three-letter word? Did we skip schooling and go right to broadcasting? He must have known one of the Dolan’s to land a job like that, because it wasn’t talent that brought him there. Listening to him almost makes me want Mike Crispino back…on second thought, no one is that bad.
Now let’s move on to his brilliant interviewing skills, when he asks brain-busting questions like, “Are you happy about the win?” or “Are you upset about the loss?”. No John, Lundqvist is thrilled that he just lost a game, and Gaborik is crying buckets over a game where he just recorded a hat trick. One of these games I am just waiting for a player to stand up and pop him one right in the kisser.
Sam Rosen: The gripe I have with Rosen really is not in what he says, but how his senses are failing him. I am not going to make fun of his old age and severe loss of hearing and eyesight, but when a player rips a slapshot off the post and it makes a ping that everyone and their mother heard, and you say with an astounding stupor, “I think it hit the post!”, there is a problem. But then he does something that confuses me: a shot will barely glance off the iron and he will declare that it hit the post, when no one else heard it.
Dave Maloney: Move on over Foster Brooks, Dave Maloney is the next lovable lush. In all honesty, I am not going to accuse him of alcoholism on the air, but he sure seems like he has a few belts before he does the Rangers pre and post-game shows. He slurs words and mixes up players’ names like a champ, but he actually does provide decent insight and is very, very honest with the team’s play. I would take him over Micheletti in the TV booth any day. My only concern is that his breathe will one day melt the microphone.
Originally I wasn’t planning on writing a game recap, since I had to work until 8:30, but thankfully the Rangers decided to score all their goals in the third, and I was able to see the final twenty minutes. Coming off a convincing 7-0 win over the Washington Capitals, the Rangers looked like they were going to have a let-down loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, having only generated 12 shots in the first two period, and not starting the third with any conviction. But after a fight by Avery that seemed to spark the team, and a stupid, borderline slew-foot penalty by Matt Cooke, the Rangers not only tied the game at one a piece, but poured it on for a 4-1 victory.
The Penguins would open the score in the first period on a late goal by Evgeni Malkin. This would be all the scoring until the third period, before which the Rangers lacked flow and were doubled off in shots 24-12. But as Sam Rosen noted, the Rangers began to pick up their game in the second. After an uneasy start to the third, with not much flow for either team, Arron Asham would take a few extra chops at Henrik Lundqvist, and Sean Avery skated right over and dropped the gloves with him. This seemed to be the little spark the Rangers needed as they picked up their game and put more shots on an untested Brent Johnson.
With a little less than ten minutes remaining, and the Rangers still trailing by one, the puck would be sent down to the Rangers’ end of the rink. Derek Stepan and Matt Cooke would chase for it, when Cooke knocked the feet out from under Stepan, causing him to fall to the ice hard. It was not exactly a slew foot, but perhaps that was Cooke’s intention, since he is a dirty player. He would be penalized for tripping, and 20 seconds later, the Rangers would tie the game on a powerplay goal by Erik Christensen (6). Marian Gaborik would get the lone assist on the laser of a wrist shot which went off the crossbar and post before bouncing in. 15 seconds later, Alex Frolov (6) would break out of his funk with a rebound goal on assists from Brian Boyle and Dan Girardi.
Four minutes would then pass by and the Rangers would strike again. Artem Anisimov (9) came skating down the center of the ice, and with a snap of the wrist, it was 3-1 Rangers. Assists would go to Michal Rozsival and Michael Del Zotto. Less than two minutes later, the Rangers would put the icing on the cake with yet another fantastic wrist shot, this time by Brian Boyle (12), from Frolov and Staal. Three of the Rangers four goals would be by terrific shots, but it still makes me wonder if they would have scored them if Marc Andre Fleury was in net, but nevertheless, the Rangers and their fans should be very happy about this win.
The team stayed close, fought back and got themselves a big win. I’m also loving the toughness, as Avery did a good job in sticking up for Lundqvist by fighting Asham, and Boyle got into it with Malkin late in the third period. There is finally some cohesion from these Rangers and they are actually playing like a team now.
One sour note on a happy evening, though, would be the loss of Ryan Callahan who left in the first period with a broken hand. It is ironic because Chris Drury just returned to the lineup after missing virtually the entire season with a broken finger. The hockey gods giveth, the hockey gods taketh away.
Finally, it is also worthy to note the officiating in tonight’s game. Because biased calls against the Rangers were subjects in the last two game recaps between these teams, I must say that the referees behaved themselves tonight, including giving the Rangers a very blatant benefit-of-the-doubt call. Late in the third period, with the Rangers up 3-1, the Penguins seemed to have scored, but it was quickly waved off, citing that Pascal Dupuis had made contact with Henrik Lundqvist. Though he did touch him and possibly contribute to him not making the save, I have seen much worse go uncalled. The play was deemed “incidental contact” and not goaltender interference, which was why there was no penalty on the play. For all the times the Rangers have been screwed, I’ll definitely take it.
Would you say that a game between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins would be an exciting one, full of intensity? Wouldn’t you want to tune in to see one of the league’s best forwards lead his team against one of the league’s best goalies? How about seeing if the Rangers take any action against the Penguins from the last game, where Crosby slew-footed Callahan and got away scott-free? Well, if your answers are yes to all these questions, tonight you will have to do some searching to see what channel the 7pm start between the Rangers and Penguins is buried on.
It appears that Dolan and Co. could really care less about Rangers fans, because two games on the MSG Networks tonight will get priority. The first is the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics game, which I can understand since the Knicks are playing incredible basketball right now. But the second game is a head scratcher—the New Jersey Devils and Phoenix Coyotes are getting top billing over Henrik Lundqvist, Marian Gaborik, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin. The Devils, who are in 29th place in the league and on a five game losing streak, have played some of the most boring hockey the league has seen this season, and they will be doing so in front of
a sold-out an echo inducing Prudential Center tonight against a team that no one outside of Arizona cares about (do they even care?).
Sure you can go onto MSG.com and find their channel searcher, but you shouldn’t have to. For me, since I have Comcast Digital Cable, the game finds it way to a lofty channel 709. However, I only have two digital cable boxes in my house, and the computer room, which is where I watch all games from so I can Tweet updates and get a head start on the game recaps, is not one of the rooms with a box. So I will have to watch this one downstairs. Normally that would be beneficial, since the TV downstairs is HD, but MSG2 is not broadcast in high-definition.
I just think it is disgusting that the Devils in their current state would get priority before the Rangers, especially since it is the Rangers that have carried the network with the Knicks struggles these past few years. This is nothing new, though, as it has happened at least once already this season, if memory serves me correct, and I was equally as angry. I guess it could be worse, though—they could have lost priority to the Islanders.
What can we do about this? Absolutely nothing. I would say email them, but they could care less about what we think.
Looks like there will be no game-recap from me tonight, because work will cause me to miss the first half of the game. I will be missing the game tomorrow night as well, so that will be four straight games without a recap. I apologize for that, and hope to get back to it for Saturday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
If the NHL still wants to sit back and pretend that the Pittsburgh Penguins do not get preferential treatment, then they better destroy the tape of this game. The New York Rangers received six penalties while their opponents got zero. Most of the penalties were unfounded, and showed the league bias against teams facing the Penguins in their building, including a soft hooking call on Gaborik early in the third period, a holding call on Callahan shortly after when he barely even touched Malkin (who clearly embellished), and finally, the exclamation point on the refereeing fiasco, when Lundqvist was penalized for throwing his stick after giving up the second goal.
Despite the insanity in the penalty calls tonight, that have left me almost speechless, Henrik Lundqvist was spectacular and was the sole reason why the Rangers achieved victory tonight. He made 37 saves behind a team that was not very sharp, at least on offense until very late. The penalty killing was fantastic, and kept the Penguins 0-6 on the night, quite the thorn in the side of the referees who unblushingly made this game look like a rigged card game.
In the first period, the Rangers would hardly get any offensive pressure, and only record five shots on goal. The only difficult save Fleury had to make was a give-and-go with Frolov and Del Zotto, in which the defenseman cut to the net, and shot it into Fleury’s chest, sending him sliding back to the goal line. The Penguins would more than double the Rangers shot total, with 12, and Lundqvist had to be sharp early on. He made several big saves throughout the first and kept the game scoreless. He did not show one bit of rust, after missing the last two games with a bad head cold. The Rangers would also bring their fisticuffs from the previous game, as Ryan Callahan would fight Mike Comrie, a very even bout between two players who hardly ever fight. Callahan looked pretty good, though, and landed a few big punches before they both toppled to the ice.
The second period would be much like the first, as Lundqvist would stand on his head and the Rangers would get little offensive pressure. While recording only nine shots, the Rangers were able to make one count when Erik Christensen, a former Penguin, got to a rebound, pulled it back, turned and flicked it past Marc-Andre Fleury. Assists would go to another former Penguin, Ruslan Fedotenko and the other to Matt Gilroy, his second of the season. Through two periods, the Rangers penalty killing would be excellent, with Brandon Prust and Ryan Callahan doing a good job on the offensive in keeping the Penguins pinned in their own end. The period would end with the Penguins on the powerplay, the second half of a double-minor assessed to Marc Staal for high-sticking Pascal Dupuis. This would be a questionable call, as Staal and Dupuis both went down, and there was no call initially. It was only after Dupuis stayed on the ice for a few extra seconds and the referees saw he was bleeding was a penalty called.
With the Rangers up by one goal, the game would begin to get shaky with awful refereeing. The Penguins would have three powerplays in the third, not including one from the second that carried over. The Rangers would kill them all and not give the Penguins (or NHL) the satisfaction. Lundqvist was simply brilliant, but unfortunately, their luck would end as shortly after a powerplay expired with 2:31 remaining, Chris Kunitz lifted the puck over Lundqvist who was sprawled on the ice. 38 seconds later, the Penguins would take a 2-1 league and it looked like all hope would be lost—the game would finish how it was supposed to. If that was not bad enough, Lundqvist would show some emotion and break his stick over the crossbar, before throwing it across the ice. He would receive a penalty for this, further insulting the Rangers franchise with how biased this game was called.
It was here that was the turning point of the game. The Rangers could have easily given up and went home without a fight, but with a quick rush down the ice shorthanded, Marc Staal would score on an assist from Dubinsky, and tie the game with 1:26 remaining. After killing the unsportsmanlike penalty, Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan would have a 2-on-1 late in OT and after a nifty toe-drag, Dubinsky slid the puck to Callahan who buried it in the back of the net for the win.
Even with the victory, I am still incensed about this game. I never like to complain about officiating, or furthermore, claim there is a conspiracy in games involving the Penguins, but judge for yourself. This game looked anything but normal and it looked like the referees were helping the Penguins get back in this game. Sadly, it is nothing new—just listen to post-game interviews of players of all teams in the league after facing the Penguins.
On a positive note, Dan Girardi really showed some toughness tonight, after taking a puck to the face in the third period, sending blood pouring onto the ice, he would return later in the period, with fresh stitches above his nose, and blood not even having a chance to dry on his forehead. Michael Sauer and Steve Eminger were also very good, and Eminger’s play has gradually gotten better in recent games.
It also looks like there were no repercussions in the locker room after Christensen made some controversial comments about Sean Avery after yesterday’s game.
That is all for now; unfortunately, tonight’s game was about the referees.
By Joe Aiello
Heading into the 2010/11 season, the New York Rangers must look to a new philosophy when re-evaluating their team. Given quotes by head coach John Tortorella and Assistant GM Jim Schoenfeld, this looks to be the case. The Rangers must finally cut ties with disappointing defenseman Wade Redden. Freeing up his $6.5 million cap hit will allow the club to add additional pieces so they can take a step in the correct direction. I have said this from the beginning that Redden will not play in the AHL, but I can see him being put on loan to a team in Europe.
On the back-end Michal Rozsival is not going anywhere. Given the warranted praise he received by Tortorella at the end of the season, his jobs looks to be safe. Rozsival logs a ton of minutes and on a defensive squad, which is young, he plays an important role. Can a comparable defenseman that can log Rozsival’s minutes at a lower cap hit be had? I think not. I would not be shocked if some teams in need of a defenseman come calling the Rangers during the NHL Draft looking to make a trade. The Rangers will listen given cap implications, but they will not get rid of Rozsival for nothing.
Captain Chris Drury is going nowhere, Ranger fans. He does not deserve any breakdown, as he is impossible to move. I will say this; Drury will be a good captain on a young team. If there is anyone who threatens his power in terms of a veteran presence, his power goes up in flames. This is why Vinny Prospal will be playing elsewhere come next season. Prospal was a different player after his injury last season and the Rangers are looking to get younger. I would not count on him being back, even at a low price.
Expect restricted free agent defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi to be back in Ranger blue. If the Rangers had any desires to cut ties with Girardi he would have been moved at last season’s trade deadline. The Rangers personnel envision a shut down pair of Staal and Girardi to be anchoring the Rangers defense for years to come.
Come the first of July, the Ranges must set their targets on three glaring needs. They must get a physical defensive presence, if Ryan McDonagh chooses he does not want to play in the NHL for the Rangers this season. Anton Volchenkov would be a perfect fit, but don’t expect it to happen. The must also sign a veteran backup that can easily handle twenty games. I fully expect Martin Biron to be the Rangers backup heading into next season. Have you fellows seen Johan Hedberg play last season? If you are calling for him to be a Blueshirt, then I imagine not.
Who the Rangers must sign come July 1 is rather obvious. In the NHL, a team needs a one-two punch to be successful. The Blackhawks have Kane and Toews, the Penguins have Malkin and Crosby, the Flyers have Richards and Carter. Well, the Rangers have Gaborik and nobody.
They must set their targets on Ilya Kovalchuk and sign him. His high cap hit will not have the grueling effects for years to come that some think. If Wade Redden is off the books then it is completely manageable. Chris Drury and Michael Rozsival come off the cap in two seasons and will combine for $12 million in cap room. Signing Kovalchuk will give the Rangers the one-two punch in Gaborik and Kovalchuk they have never had in recent memory. Given the young prospects that are on the rise in the organization, it could be the start of a turn around. The Rangers cannot afford to rebuild while in Henrik Lundqvist’s prime.
The Rangers need to fix their club from within the organization, but by adding a key scorer in Kovalchuk, can help anchor them towards the right direction. By re-evaluating their club and addressing major needs heading into the 2010/11 season, the Rangers can get back to respectability. Overhauling the roster by ten to twelve players season in and out is not the way to go. By adding on to what the Rangers have in a rather young core I expect next season to be met with better success than last.
[Editor's Note by Greg Caggiano] This will be a new column from writer Joe Aiello who will be taking some of the load off of me by helping to cover the New York Rangers from here on out.