Complaints about the way the Pittsburgh Penguins have conducted themselves this past season have become so commonplace that they blend right in with your general barrage of gripes that you can expect to see with each season. But how about one from a Penguins’ fan himself? Sure enough, these last few weeks have gotten so out of hand, culminating with yesterday afternoon’s debacle with the Philadelphia Flyers, that it prompted an Open Letter to be posted on their SB Nation blog PensBurgh. This is a very thoughtful yet straight-to-the-point message from a lifelong Penguins’ fan that really captures everything that the rest of the league has been saying for years:
At just over 13 minutes into the second period, New York Rangers forward Artem Anisimov scored a beautiful goal off some tic-tac-toe passes shorthanded to give his team a 2-1 lead against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but then, he skated to the top of the circle, turned around, and made a shotgun motion with his stick, aimed towards the net. This celebration, which is called a “sniping”, went on to cause an absolute frenzy as Lightning players proceeded to attack him. This will no doubt be the center of conversation in the NHL for the next few days, and so it deserves additional attention on here.
Today in the National Hockey League, there is much controversy amongst fans over players who pad their stats, whether it is trying to show that a certain number of goals a player scored in a season came against an empty net late in the game, or even more popularly, the role of the secondary assist in the game of hockey. We all know today, that each goal scored has the potential to have two assists attached to it, a primary and a secondary, being the last two players to touch the puck before the shooter puts it in the net. Sometimes, the passers make brilliant plays to get the puck to the scorer, but other times, a lucky bounce just happens to glance off their stick or body before landing right on the sweet spot of the eventual scorer’s stick. Is it really stat padding or just a part of the game? The answer to that question will vary based on who you ask, but there is no doubt that recording points today is much easier than it was, in let’s say, the first year of the NHL’s existence back in 1917; before that, the professional hockey league of the era being the NHA, short for National Hockey Association.
Just a quick little post in the aftermath of today’s 5-2 New York Rangers victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Unfortunately, I am not writing about how the Rangers got a very important win today on the road. I am not writing about how Michael Sauer and Ryan McDonagh continue to amaze with being the team’s best defensemen. I am not even writing about Ryan Callahan, who is starting to prove me wrong when I said he would never be a skilled offensive forward. Instead, here I am, writing about yet another headshot from Penguins’ cheapshot artist Matt Cooke, who has already served one suspension this season, and one last year, after he almost ended the career of Marc Savard.
What is it with this epidemic of stupidity that has crept into the minds of hockey players of late? The league is in the middle of a crusade right now because hits to the head are at an all time high, and they seemingly came from out of nowhere because this was never really a problem in the past, just a bunch of isolated incidents. Last night on Hockey Night Live, hosts Al Trautwig, Billy Jaffe, Ken Daneyko, and Ron Duguay devoted about twenty minutes to discussing this, and the new policy where team doctors have to hold players that might be concussed for fifteen minutes to fully examine them. All agreed that these hits need to stop, and if the NHL wants to completely eradicate them, they need to step up with harsher sentences for offenders.
[Enter Matt Cooke, stage left]
The repeat offender showed his dirt yet again this afternoon, with a blindside elbow to the head of McDonagh, who did not even have the puck when attacked. Thankfully he was alright, and got up before the trainer completely made it over to him, but what if he wasn’t? What if Cooke caught him in the same spot as Savard? What if the promising young defenseman had his career ended or jeopardized because of this idiot? This frustration surrounding Cooke and his dangerous antics was only escalated when Mario Lemieux called out the league a month ago for not doing enough to protect players, a sentiment he gathered after watching his star and league poster boy Sidney Crosby sitting out due to a concussion. It is only by complete irony that Lemieux happens to be the one that employs Matt Cooke, and the firestorm of anger directed at him after he made those asinine comments is because of that.
On to today, there was not even an argument from Cooke or even his head coach from what I could tell. Why? Because Cooke knew he had done wrong, and that is the problem—he just keeps on doing it. He has no regard for the safety of players around him, and keeps getting away with it because of the garbage suspensions he is given. What does a two or four suspension do? The money a player loses is pocket change. I understand that a Penguins’ player can do no wrong in the eyes of the NHL, but if the league really wants to show they are serious, they need to hit Cooke with at least a ten game suspension. It is unfortunate that this happened against a Ranger player, because I just seem like an angry fan ranting, but Cooke is a repeat offender who needs to learn his lesson. Anything less than ten games will mean absolutely nothing, because he’ll just do it again— you know he will.
If the league wants to show that there is no double standard, and that they actually mean business, they will do something severe here. Cooke deserves to be made an example of, because he is not an angel, as you already know. I do not expect hits to the head to end overnight, nor can they simply be banned outright, but these blatant headshots need to stop, and stop immediately. Let today be the beginning of the end for cheapshot artists in the NHL.
EDIT: Here is a nice piece from Daniel Tolensky, with 15 videos of Cooke deliberately attempting to injured players, appropriately titled, “Matt Cooke: A History of Violence”.
Yes, you read the title correctly. No helmets? Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, no more ridiculous than people in the NHL speaking out that there needs to be stricter hits-to-the-head penalties, an argument sparked by the furor surrounding the concussion sustained by Sidney Crosby after he was hit by David Steckel, which the leagued deemed to be incidental contact.
This has been a major issue in recent years, as concussions and players headhunting were always around, but never thrown into the spotlight as they have been. It seems every year, more and more players go down with injuries and more and more players are being suspended for head shots. What’s funny about all this is, there seemed to only be a spike in concussions and suspensions after the rules were made more strict. I suppose the instigator rule being in effect has a large part of that, as players sometimes feel it is their duty to get a player back in-game and settle for a cheap shot that sometimes causes severe injury.
Pierre Lebrun at ESPN is suggesting that the league should amend rule 48 and make it more broad, thus making it easier for a hit to be penalized, and would hopefully cause players to be more careful and less head injuries would be a result. But there is a problem with this, as Lebrun notes, because hitting is a major part of hockey—it embodies what the sport is all about—hard work, grit, and determination. But if there are now more penalties, wouldn’t that remove hitting from the game all together as players will not bother risking throwing a check? And if no players are hitting, how boring and watered down will the sport become? The game is already a shell of itself, when it reached the height of its popularity in the mid-1990′s, but even so, hitting (and fighting) is what makes this sport special.
My suggestion is, get rid of the helmets. For what, seventy years, people played hockey without helmets and there were dramatically less head injuries during this time. Why? Because there was a code of conduct amongst the players. The game was even nastier back then than it is today, but because no one was wearing a helmet, no one was checked head first into the boards or hit with a blindside elbow. After all, if a player’s head is unprotected, why would he hurt someone else whose head is in the same predicament as his? You think this would be the same as every player is wearing a helmet as opposed to no one wearing a helmet, but as many injuries as helmets do prevent, they are a false sense of security. If someone has their back to you, and they are facing the boards and you check them, if they are wearing a helmet you may feel it is no big deal—the helmet will save them. But if that player is not wearing a helmet, you’re not going to throw that check because maybe later on in the game, when you’re that player facing the boards, someone might nail you.
Hockey was a different animal back then. Gordie Howe, one of the toughest players the sport will ever know, played 1767 games in the NHL and an additional 419 in the WHA. He checked, he fought, he scored goals, all without a helmet, and all without one head injury. How about Craig MacTavish? A player so tough that when the rule came in making it mandatory that players must wear helmets, he chose to still go without one, having been grandfathered in. He would play until 1997 and a total of 1093 games, and you guessed it, he never suffered a concussion.
It is not likely, well, damn near impossible that the NHL would ever do something like this because people would think it’s barbaric. But if you put every player on the ice without a helmet I would almost guarantee the amount of concussions caused by hits to the head would be cut in half, if not even drop more than that. I just wanted to put this all into perspective for you, and hope that one day players will regain this code of conduct and have a mutual respect for one another
According to ESPN, the New York Rangers are one of six teams that have been asked by the NHL to take part in the annual Premiere Games in Europe, an event that began in 2007 when the Anaheim Ducks faced off against the Los Angeles Kings in London, England. It was so successful that the Rangers and Tampa Lightning played each other the following season in Prague, Czech Republic. The NHL is going to continue with these games for the foreseeable future as they serve as free exposure for the league, and also to showcase to the up-and-coming European players that it is their league they should play for, and not the KHL.
That said, this news is just preliminary, according to ESPN as nothing has been finalized. I did not like the idea of the Rangers starting the season in Europe last time, and even though they won both games against the Lightning, it leaves a longer lasting effect on the team than the standings after game two in the season. The traveling oversees and getting used to time zones combined with an irregular preseason that consists of games played in both America and Europe causes players to sometimes not correctly get into their preseason rhythm.
I really hope the Rangers will decline this invitation because their season and development of prospects is more important than the NHL’s fascination with Europe. The article does mention that the Rangers may not be able to play at MSG early next season anyway because of renovations, but I would much rather have this team go the entire month of October on the road than take part in this gimmick.
The other teams included are the Edmonton Oilers, Washington Capitals, Buffalo Sabres, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks. I’m really surprised to not see Pittsburgh on that list since the world should behold the glory of Sidney Crosby.
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.
I originally published this in December of 2009 for my old blog, Metro-Hockey. I sent it around to a few people and it was actually NHL analyst and 100 Ranger Greats co-author Russ Cohen who enjoyed it so much, he asked for my address so he could send me a “reward”. Turns out, about a week later, an Eric Lindros jersey card showed up in the mail. I could not help but laugh when I saw it, though it did contribute to my rather large memorabilia-card collection. It’s amazing that even though this is from last season, some of these still hold true. I hope you enjoy!
On the first day of Christmas, my season ticket rep gave to me, a coach that made me miss Tom Renney.
On the second day of Christmas, my season ticket rep gave to me, two Voros punching bags, and a coach that made me miss Tom Renney.
On the third day of Christmas, my season ticket rep gave to me, three softies let in by Lundqvist, two Voros punching bags, and a coach that made me miss Tom Renney.
On the fourth day of Christmas, my season ticket rep gave to me, four announcing Rosen’s, three softies let in by Lundqvist, two Voros punching bags, and a coach that made me miss Tom Renney.
On the fifth day of Christmas, my season ticket rep gave to me, FIVE SHOTS GONE WIDE! Four announcing Rosen’s, three softies let in by Lundqvist, two Voros punching bags, and a coach that made me miss Tom Renney.
On the sixth day of Christmas, my season ticket rep gave to me, six Rozsival’s falling, FIVE SHOTS GONE WIDE! Four announcing Rosen’s, three softies let in by Lundqvist, two Voros punching bags, and a coach that made me miss Tom Renney.
On the seventh day of Christmas, my season ticket rep gave to me, seven Gilroy’s pinching, six Rozsival’s falling, FIVE SHOTS GONE WIDE! Four announcing Rosen’s, three softies let in by Lundqvist, two Voros punching bags, and a coach that made me miss Tom Renney.
On the eighth day of Christmas, my season ticket rep gave to me, eight gallons of agita, seven Gilroy’s pinching, six Rozsival’s falling, FIVE SHOTS GONE WIDE! Four announcing Rosen’s, three softies let in by Lundqvist, two Voros punching bags, and a coach that made me miss Tom Renney.
On the ninth day of Christmas, my season ticket rep gave to me, nine Gaborik hat-tricks, eight gallons of agita, seven Gilroy’s pinching, six Rozsival’s falling, FIVE SHOTS GONE WIDE! Four announcing Rosen’s, three softies let in by Lundqvist, two Voros punching bags, and a coach that made me miss Tom Renney.
On the tenth day of Christmas, my season ticket rep gave to me, ten Michelletti exaggerations, nine Gaborik hat-tricks, eight gallons of agita, seven Gilroy’s pinching, six Rozsival’s falling, FIVE SHOTS GONE WIDE! Four announcing Rosen’s, three softies let in by Lundqvist, two Voros punching bags, and a coach that made me miss Tom Renney.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, my season ticket rep gave to me, eleven Eklund Kovalchuk predictions, ten Michelletti exaggerations, nine Gaborik hat-tricks, eight gallons of agita, seven Gilroy’s pinching, six Rozsival’s falling, FIVE SHOTS GONE WIDE! Four announcing Rosen’s, three softies let in by Lundqvist, two Voros punching bags, and a coach that made me miss Tom Renney.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my season ticket rep gave to me, twelve Crosby’s crying, eleven Eklund Kovalchuk predictions, ten Michelletti exaggerations, nine Gaborik hat-tricks, eight gallons of agita, seven Gilroy’s pinching, six Rozsival’s falling, FIVE SHOTS GONE WIDE! Four announcing Rosen’s, three softies let in by Lundqvist, two Voros punching bags, and a coach that made me miss Tom Renney.
In case I can’t get on here tomorrow to wish everyone a formal Christmas greeting, I would like to extend to all of my readers and their families the very Merriest of Christmases!
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.
The officiating picked up right where it left off the last time the New York Rangers squared off against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was just weeks ago at the Consol Energy Center in Steel Town where the Penguins were handed six powerplays to the Rangers’ zero, all while the referees missed several offenses against the Blueshirts that almost caused the Rangers to lose the game. Luckily, they responded and defeated the Penguins 3-2 in overtime.
Tonight, though, the Rangers would not be so lucky. Even though the officiating did not directly result in the Rangers losing this game, 3-1, it is worthy to note of a horrendous call made against Ryan Callahan in the first period, to be explained below. The Rangers looked very tired tonight, on the heels of a 17 games in 30 days stretch. But that is no excuse, and the Rangers could not generate even the slightest hint of offense.
- First period: Maxime Talbot would open the scoring a little more than five minutes in on a very odd play. The puck had deflected up into the air and was temporarily gloved by Ruslan Fedotenko. The puck would then fall out of his glove and roll right to Talbot, who quickly shot it past Lundqvist. Aside from that goal, the period was offensively stagnant and shots were only 8-6 in favor of the Rangers. However, this period would also see one of the most ridiculous and hysterically bad calls of the season, if not since the Crosby era began in Pittsburgh. This was a call so bad that it made the last time these two teams played against each other look like child’s play. With five minutes remaining, Crosby became entangled with Ryan Callahan, who he then slew-footed to the ice. Rather than call Crosby for a dangerously bad penalty, the officials decide to call Callahan for interference. Brandon Dubinsky, in his intermission interview would tell John Giannone, “That’s the type of player he is.” and “Yeah, I mean that’s just a dirty play.…he tries to get away with all that kind of nonsense and complains a lot.” Truer words have never been spoken to laughably bad interviewer John Gianonne.
- Second period: If the Rangers play looked bad in the first, it would get even worse in the second. Still, neither team would look too hot on offense, though around the midway point, the teams traded chances with the Penguins getting several odd-man rushes. With eight minutes remaining, Kris Letang would put the Penguins up by a deuce, and just over a minute later, Chris Conner would score their third goal of the game. Conner now has three goals on five shots in his career against Henrik Lundqvist. Three seconds after the third goal, Sean Avery would drop the gloves with Tyler Kennedy, handily defeating him and knocking him to the ice. Late in the period, the Rangers would finally break through, when Michal Rozsival hit Marian Gaborik (5) with a pass mid-stride, who then skated in and flicked his deadly wrister past Marc-Andre Fleury.
- Third period: Tonight’s game would end with the same score that was on the board heading into the period. The Rangers would have plenty of chances, including two powerplays, but they failed on both and did not even garner a good scoring chance. They would record a game-high 12 shots in the third period, but way too many missed the net, including some with the man advantage. This would lead to their downfall tonight, as Fleury was having problems with rebound control all game long, and the Rangers could only muster up 26 shots on goal. It seems that has been the theme of late—don’t shoot if it looks like the opposing goalie is having an off-night.
The Rangers showed tonight that they desperately need to practice two things: the powerplay and taking faceoffs. Watching the Rangers a man up is like watching the Keystone Cops on ice. They do not generate any chances, they pass until they’re blue in the face, and when they get an opportunity, they shoot it wide. As for faceoffs, they rank 29th in the league; nothing else needs to be said in that regard.
The Messiah was also finally called for a penalty in the third period. Of course, the referees had to send Brandon Prust to the box at the same time for elbowing, making the penalties coincidental.
Consistency still seems to be this season’s quest, as they have yet to find any. There really is not anything else to say—the Rangers play games like night and say. Some are good, others are like tonight.