A Game That Showed Me Some Things
Watching the Penguins vs. Rangers game yesterday, a few things about each team and a little something about the league became apparent to me. Something about the game just made certain things quite clear.
1) The Rangers have a total attitude problem. Although to some this may not be a new assessment, and for those people I should say the Rangers STILL have a total attitude problem, it was so strikingly clear to me for the first time in this game. The cockiness and attitude I saw on so many players faces was mirrored similarly on Slats’ face a couple times. There is a difference between a team being confident and a team being cocky, this team is cocky! One reason that this could have been so apparent in this game was the fact that the Rangers played the Penguins, and went in thinking badly of the Pens and, thus, looked cocky, and if this was the case, the Rangers should have a total attitude adjustment any time they play any team after today.
Examples abound. At the end of the second period, Eric Meloche was forchecking, digging in the corner banging with Kasparaitis, as the horn sounded Kasper skated over toward the nearby gate laughing, he looked at Brian Leetch and Leetch shared in his smile, both kind of saying did you see his puny little attempt against me. The look on Glen Sather’s face after two seperate penalty calls on the Rangers was one of, “oh come on, give me a break!”–yes, this is seen all the time, but it just looked exactly like the faces of all the other players. The Rangers played a horribly undisciplined game today, and were still lucky to get the powerplay chances they did, and lucky the Penguins didnt get more oppurtunities. In the second period, Mark Messier blatantly tripped Sebastian Caron as he headed back to the net, the puck was no where around, it was not a big deal, but Messier was not called, and he clearly looked like, HaHa I am Mark Messier, they aren’t gunna call me for this. To see Messier and Leetch seem to have this attitude problem amazed me. Matthew Barnaby made a terrible pass that resulted in a great shift in the Rangers zone for the Pens, and showed no care of making up for the play during his shift, and skated off the ice with a smug smile on his face after the whistle blew. Chris Simon crashed to the net and gave Caron a knock on the pads after the puck was gone and then gave him another stick shot after Caron responded with a glove on Simon, luckily, he didn’t get called, though it would have likely been coincidental minors, but then brushed off a teammate’s attempt to say “dude, we’ve already been shorthanded enough”… Slats’ mouthing of “What the F—?!” about the goal that was waved off, clearly for a valid reason …. and it just became clear to me how much a team of individuals the Rangers are. Just when I thought (I don’t watch the Rangers, so just from seeing game scores) that the team was coming together, I saw them disgrace themselves.
The Rangers got their asses handed to them 5 on 5 in this game, and were lucky that Jussi Markkanen stood on his head for most of the game, and that Bill Mcreary evened some of the calls up with some iffy calls on the Pens.
2) The Penguins played their best game of the year today for sure 5 on 5, and possibly overall. This will not be apparent on the scoreboard, but they recorded 41 shots, and as I said, absolutely dominated the game 5 on 5. Forchecking was as good as I have ever seen from the Pens, Chemistry was there, for the most part they were well disciplined, the penalty killing was outstanding, but the powerplay was not as good as it has been (Tarnstrom was missed). What became clear through this is that Eddie Olczyk is a good hockey coach. His desired systems showed through today, and he is right on for what he wants the Pens to do. Forecheck like crazy, get the puck to the night, make the simple play in their own zone, use their speed for oppurtunites, and don’t be afraid to be aggressive on the PK. If the Pens had been getting any bounces, and faced a goalie playing average, they would have owned this game, nearly from start to finish, minus about the first 3 minutes. If this continues, the Pens will not be in that top lottery spot for Ovechkin.
3. The NHL is definitely looking for more Penalty Shots. It was noted by Mike Lange that the average this season is something like 1 every 24 games, as opposed to 1 every 43 in previous seaons, and the call Mcreary made was very iffy. Meloche broke in shorthanded, driving to the net with the puck on his backhand (R handed shot) and as he was shooting toward the top corner near side, a Ranger player slid in cutting his legs out. Meloches swipe for a shot succeeded and his shot went into Markkanen’s chest. As Meloche fell and slide into Markkanen, the puck crossed the goal line, but the net came off the moorings. Mcreary signaled for a penalty, and quite delayed it seemed to me, then signaled for a penalty shot. The play was reviewed to determine if the puck crossed the line before the net came off, and then Meloche took his Penalty shot. By the books, this should not have been a Penalty shot, unless the Rangers player (who I can’t remember) let go of his stick, which I didn’t see at all. So it would seem that the NHL is trying to up Penalty shots to me!