NEWARK, N.J. -- Forget the silver hairs, the gaudy résumé dragging along the floor, the questions about age and even the ghosts he thought he'd buried long ago; Martin Brodeur stood tall with a legend's prescience and saved his case of the yips for a postgame leap into a pile of teammates.
Make no mistake: the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils are rivals, bound by geography and defined by history. Their proximity is obvious looking across the Hudson, at the standings and in seeing the two teams battle six times annually during the regular season as part of the Atlantic Division. History is personal, made in the moment by the players involved and remembered throughout time by the fans on each side. It becomes the fabric that enthralls us all when it comes to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
NEW YORK -- At some point, it's time to expect the unexpected, to look at the player who entered the postseason with one NHL game this year and see not a fourth-line plug but an integral piece of a winning puzzle. On a team that boasts such offensive talent as sniper Ilya Kovalchuk and workhorse Zach Parise, it would be easy to see players like Stephen Gionta, Ryan Carter and Steve Bernier as bit players -- perhaps heroes for an evening. But night in and night out this spring, their impact continues to be felt, and on the backs of their fourth line, New Jersey pulled within a win of the Eastern Conference title by defeating the Rangers 5-3 at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.
NEWARK, N.J. -- The Devils figured out a way to get through the Rangers' vaunted defense; now they have to find ways to beat their goalie.
NEW YORK -- The New Jersey Devils' David Clarkson is now 3-for-3. When he tipped in a high point shot from Adam Henrique past New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist, the 27-year-old winger scored his third goal of the postseason -- incidentally, his third game-winner of this spring. Clarkson himself has no answer as to why his stick has a certain Midas touch this spring.
Does anyone get the feeling that this is 2004 all over again? It's the Stanley Cup playoffs, the pinnacle of NHL competition, yet there is such an unsettled feeling to this year's proceedings -- as was the case eight years ago. The similarities as I see them are: a collective bargaining agreement about to expire, unforeseen playoff runs by unlikely teams, and much ado about a boring brand of hockey. Let's debate, shall we...
If these playoffs have told us one thing, it's that rest is for wimps. For teams that had a lot of rest and relaxation coming in, the results the next series have been rusty and rotten.
Regular season series: Rangers win 3-2-1
John Tortorella was given the chance to counteract what Dale Hunter acted upon in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Saturday night. And there is your difference as to why the New York Rangers are pushing on with their season, and the Capitals are all done.
Whatever John Tortorella said to his players before Game 6 Wednesday night, they totally ignored him. On a night when his New York Rangers could have eliminated the Washington Capitals and moved on the Eastern Conference finals, Tortorella's troops played a robotic, passion-free hockey game, with the thought bubble that seemed to say "It's OK, we can get 'em in Game 7 in our barn if we don't do it tonight."
1. Marc Staal, Rangers. Staal had just two goals and five points on the season after his debut was delayed by long-term concussion issues, but after pounding home the winner in New York's I-can't-believe-that-just-happened 3-2 overtime win on Monday night, he's already matched those totals in the playoffs. The goal -- a laser from the blue liner that took full advantage of an Artem Anisimov screen -- is likely to go down as one of the greatest in Rangers lore, but it was the amazing defensive work in the third when he broke up a 3-on-1 twice on the same play that kept New York within striking distance and set the table for the remarkable comeback.
NEW YORK -- Call it the power of pessimism. With his team down in the waning seconds of a likely 2-1 defeat in Game 5, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was looking ahead.
Ladies and gentlemen, for this afternoon's performance, the role of the New York Rangers will be played by the Washington Capitals. All shot blocking previously depicted by Mssrs. Girardi, Staal, Del Zotto and McDonagh will instead be handled by Carlson, Alzner, Green and Schultz. Especially Schultz. Big time Schultz. One man traffic snarl, that Schultz. Time to call roadside assistance to evacuate the impediment.
The game was over in the first overtime. Matt Hendricks crushed Ryan McDonagh with a clean hit, took the puck and fed Troy Brouwer with a backhand pass to the front of the Rangers' net. A shot into a wide open right part and the Washington Capitals would be going to Game 4 with a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals. But Brouwer simply missed it, wide right.
NEW YORK -- Enough talk about role players, fourth-liners and character-gritty-unsung one-off heroes. With one laser strike, Alex Ovechkin righted the hockey hierarchy, the emoting superstar with his fists in the air and his team on his back. With the lethal suddenness that befits the sniper he still is, Ovechkin rifled a game-winning 45-foot missile past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist with 7:27 to play, giving the Capitals a 3-2 victory in what is now a 1-1 series.
NEW YORK -- Three weeks ago, Chris Kreider was a champion. With Boston College, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound winger helped the Eagles to their fifth NCAA title as the NHL regular season was coming to a close. Three days later, he signed with the Rangers, who drafted him 19th overall in 2009, and joined the top team in the Eastern Conference for a playoff run, getting acquainted with new teammates, a new coach and New York City.
NEW YORK -- Thanks to a defense-turned-offense that was unexpected and timely goaltending that was presumed, the New York Rangers are alive to play another game, the remaining top-seeded team after a first round of playoffs that cleared out a number of favorites and left eight fortunate and resilient survivors.
Whether it was Henrik Lundqvist shaking with anger at the final horn, Chris Neil barking through his 7-10 split teeth, John Tortorella clearly mouthing one of George Carlin's seven words you can't say on TV or Paul MacLean heatedly saying ... something ... through that Wilford Brimley mustache, everyone it seems got their two cents in to the referees during the Rangers' 3-2 stayin'-alive win over the Senators at Scotiabank Place.
NEW YORK -- They didn't look all that different Saturday night, those Senators and Rangers. Both teams, backed by solid goaltending, undermined by impotent power plays, looked for any edge in a 2-2 series, however thin it might be. And in the end, it was Ottawa that found it, defeating top-seeded New York, 2-0, in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden.
This wasn't exactly the way the Ottawa Senators had game-planned it.
NEW YORK -- It would barely warrant an entry in the legendary log of exchanges New York head coach John Tortorella has shared with reporters. But Thursday morning, just hours before his Rangers would open the playoffs against the Ottawa Senators as Eastern Conference favorites for the first time since 1994, the oft-irascible coach discussed his team's mindset going in as the Conference's top seed.
Season series: Senators win, 3-1
NEW YORK -- This time was going to be different; it had to be. It would be impossible to hold even Sidney Crosby to the standards of last Nov. 21, when he scored two goals and four points against the Islanders in his first game back from a concussion suffered more than 10 months earlier. But if that November game was a reminder of Crosby's singular brilliance, then Thursday night at Madison Square Garden was a perfect demonstration of how Crosby, despite his status, still fits in a team.
PHILADELPHIA -- The NHL's Winter Classic has become an unlikely showplace for fourth-liners and support players. Maybe there are just better body-heaters on the end of the bench.
A bit more than a year ago, many Washington Capitals fans were preparing to celebrate a Stanley Cup championship before the 2010 playoffs even began, after their high-octane, offense-oriented club won the Presidents' Trophy for finishing first in the regular season. Then they were confronted by the reality of playoff hockey -- and the Caps' inability to adapt to a different style -- which led to a first-round knockout at the hands of Montreal.
NEW YORK -- New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist probably deserved a little better. Despite finishing with 49 saves, including a spectacular denial to Washington Capitals sniper Alex Ovechkin in the game's first overtime, the netminder just had to watch Wednesday night as Washington winger Jason Chimera cashed in on a goal in the second overtime that seemingly materialized out of nowhere.
The fortunes of two teams rest largely on one player's shoulder pads in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal, and will likely remain there. Henrik Lundqvist is simply the most important player in a series that his New York Rangers should logically not be able to win.
Regular season series: Rangers win, 3-1
A friend of mine came up to me the other day and asked if I'm contractually obligated to discuss the collective bargaining agreement in every column. Only through the dog days of summer, buddy. Now, with training camps set to open across the league this weekend, we can get back to the fun stuff.
The New York Rangers lost the final Eastern Conference playoff berth to Philadelphia on Sunday because of a gimmick, to which we say: Boo and hoo.
NHL teams will soon be turning their attention to next week's resumption of play that begins on Monday night in Denver where the Avalanche host the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings, currently tied with the Dallas Stars at 28-21-12, find themselves in the unfamiliar circumstance of chasing down a playoff spot. Both the Stars and Wings trail the Calgary Flames by a single point, having played one less game. In seventh are the Nashville Predators with 71 points.
1. Ray Bourque and Dave Andreychuk to the Avalanche from the Bruins for Brian Rolston, Samuel Pahlsson, Martin Grenier and a first-round pick; March 6, 2000 After two decades spent redefining excellence in Boston, Bourque was finally put out of his Stanley Cup-less misery by Bruins owner Harry Sinden. The Avs saw the future Hall of Fame defenseman as a missing piece. Though they didn't win the Cup that season, Bourque immersed himself in the team's culture for the full campaign of 2000-01. The desire to win one for the highly regarded veteran served as a rallying point. In a touching moment, captain Joe Sakic handed the chalice to an emotion-wracked Bourque after their Game 7 finals win over the Devils.
UNRESTRICTED: F Mike Hoffman, F Joe Motzko, D Nathan Oystrick, F Eric Perrin, F Grant Stevenson
Scott Gomez's brief New York tenure ended Tuesday when the star center was traded by the Rangers to the Montreal Canadiens as part of a six-player deal.
This game epitomized the entire series in that it was closer than expected. Not until Sergei Fedorov ripped a stop-up wrister over the left shoulder of Henrik Lundqvist did the heavily favored Washington Capitals procure a lead (RECAP | BOX). The Rangers fought valiantly in this one after displaying more confusion than conviction in the last two contests -- thus forfeiting their once imposing 3-1 series lead.
Random observations in the wake of Washington's series-tying 5-3 win over New York on Sunday.
The Washington Capitals did exactly what they had to in winning Game 5 (RECAP | BOXSCORE) and forcing a Game 6 back at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers on Sunday afternoon. In fact, they did exactly what they did last year in forcing the Philadelphia Flyers to seven games after similarly falling behind in that series 3-1.
My three stars from Wednesday night:
To say the Rangers lead this first-round series 3-1 is a bit misleading. Really, it's Henrik Lundqvist 3, Washington Capitals 1.
My Three Stars from Sunday's action:
Regular season series: Washington won 3-0-1
Bad boy Sean Avery is back with the New York Rangers.
John Tortorella made his presence felt right away during his first day as coach of the New York Rangers.
Once the decision was made to oust Tom Renney, general manager Glen Sather knew exactly what coach he wanted behind the New York Rangers bench.
If you are in New Jersey and look across the Hudson River into midtown Manhattan -- oh, say toward the vicinity of Penn Station and its crowning piece, Madison Square Garden -- you generally see New Yorkers smirk. They can see Jersey from that lofty perch and on most days they don't think much of anything about their neighbor other than that it's not New York.
However archaic it may be, it's true. The NHL's Original Six -- Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, New York (Rangers) and Toronto -- make up the backbone of the league, and it's been said time and again: The success of those six teams is integral to the overall well-being of the league.
NEW YORK (AP) -- If the New York Rangers are going to pull off one of sport's biggest comebacks, they will have to do it without premier motor mouth Sean Avery.
Lawd knows sports arenas aren't places for soothing delicate sensibilities. Ever since the boo and the jeer were invented only moments after the Dawn of Man, stadiums have been filled with the kind of language and hair-raising antics that pinken Beelzebub's cheeks. That's only natural in places where inflamed tribal passions and John Barleycorn are mixed, shaken or stirred.
The first rule of the NHL is don't start a fight when your team is a few goals up because you don't want to wake up the opponents. The second rule of the NHL is never underestimate a Ted Nolan team.
Editor's note: We asked SI.com writers to share their memories from the best game they've ever seen. Here are their stories:
There's been quite a bit of anguish about the way free agency has played out this summer. Listen to the talk shows, check out the message boards, it's everywhere. In fact, my SI.com colleague Darren Eliot crafted a piece bemoaning the fact that, just like in the bad old days, the best free agents have flocked to such big-money franchises as the Rangers, Red Wings and Flyers, leaving their middle-class relations to fight over the scraps.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. If you're looking for a theme around the NHL since the July 1 free agency frenzy began, it has to be that old saying.
It's a rough crowd in the Anaheim locker room on the night of May 3. The Ducks have just closed out their Western Conference semifinal series against the Vancouver Canucks, winning Game 5 on Scott Niedermayer's bad-angle, what-the-hell wrist shot from 59 feet in the second overtime. An unofficial assist came from his younger brother, Rob, who had freed up the puck with an organ-jostling, ass-over-bandbox hit on Vancouver winger Jannik Hansen. Across the room from Rob, now recounting that collision to a scrum of reporters, is Brad May (he of the 2,000-plus career penalty minutes) discussing the mucking he did in those final seconds. In the middle of the room stands the formerly handsome
Don't expect the Sabres to panic after Tuesday night's gut-wrenching 2-1 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Buffalo's second consecutive loss evened the series at two games apiece, and the Sabres have now gone from Presidents' Trophy winners solidly in control to Cup favorites trying to fend off the underdog's rush of emotion.
Cablevision, the nation's No. 5 cable operator, accepted an offer Wednesday from the company's founding Dolan family to buy the rest of the company in a deal worth $10.6 billion.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Sid the Kid has two more goalies to beat.
With the four series all heating up over the weekend, the number of young players contributing in prominent roles for their respective teams caught my attention. Some of them are guys we've heard about and who had high expectations associated with them, while others just sort of appeared.
While these aren't full recipes for playoff success, here are three ingredients for each of the eight semifinalists:
(Note to readers and NHL general managers : Clip or stick this in some electronic folder or whatever you internet generation people do, save, and read it next February as the frenzy of the trade deadline approaches.)
Just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean they're not out to get you.
Islanders defenseman Sean Hill on Friday became the first NHL player suspended for violating the league's drug policy -- a 20-game ban that will carry into next season.
NEW YORK -- The surprising part about the Rangers' 7-0 victory against the Thrashers on Tuesday night wasn't really the result. New York closed the season on a 13-3-4 run, spooked into playing well by the threat of missing the playoffs entirely. Atlanta, on the other hand, bolted out of the gate to a 28-15-8 midseason record, but played closer to .500 hockey over the balance of the schedule (15-13-3).
Left wing Sean Avery's physical presence and willingness to establish a forecheck helped the Rangers win their first playoff game in 10 years and take a 2-0 series lead over the Thrashers at week's end. Coach Tom Renney and alternate captain Brendan Shanahan deserve a lot of credit for keeping Avery focused and playing more maturely. Avery, 28, whom the Rangers acquired on Feb. 5 from the Kings, is no longer the sideshow he was in Los Angeles but a big-time player who has the ability to swing a series because of his physical commitment to the game.... While many would name Calgary's Dion Phaneuf, 22, as the top young defenseman in hockey, San Jose might give the nod to Nashville's Shea Weber after facing him in their opening-round series. The 21-year-old Weber, who is 6'3" and 213 pounds and can log big minutes, stifled Sharks star Joe Thornton in Game 2 and is a major reason why the Predators have a chance in this series. A second-round pick in the 2003 draft, Weber has the potential to become one of the
Sean Avery is trying to change the way people perceive him. No wonder. In a Hockey News poll this year, his peers voted him the NHL's most hated player. Yet, with big-name first-timers like Sidney Crosby and Roberto Luongo entering the playoffs this spring, Avery is doing what he seemingly always does -- bull his way into the spotlight.
It's time to play for keeps, and this season's two-month siege for the Stanley Cup is rich with peril, high-stakes and unlikely heroes.
ALSO: Western Conference Preview
The New Jersey Devils, unique as a snowflake, again took conventionality by the scruff of the neck and shook it hard. With three games left in the season, the first-place team in the Atlantic Division, winners of four of five, fired their coach, Claude Julien.
Rick DiPietro didn't travel with the New York Islanders to Buffalo on Thursday and will sit out a second straight game when his teammates play the Sabres.
Brrrrrrrr. A chill came over Gina Luongo as she spoke on the phone to her husband last June and learned that the couple was in for a serious latitude adjustment. Roberto Luongo, then the star goaltender for the Florida Panthers, had just been traded to the Vancouver Canucks, and he was crying as he broke the news from his parents' Montreal home. Gina, who'd just pulled up to her parents' house in sunny South Florida, tried to comfort him, but heading north for the winter didn't sound like much fun to her, either. The next day Gina got even gloomier after she looked at a map and realized that she and Roberto would be making a diagonal move across all of North America -- no other two major pro sports franchises on the continent are so far apart. You've got to be kidding me, she said to herself. "They might as well have sent us to Alaska."
There is an interesting concept in sports I like to call "The Improssible." It's something slightly more than improbable, but slightly less than impossible. Like the Knicks winning a playoff series within the next few years.
Is Peyton Manning funny?
With 501 career goals, Dallas Stars center Mike Modano enters this weekend just one shy of Joe Mullen's all-time mark by a U.S.-born player. Modano's achievement got us to thinking about some of the most notable U.S.-reared players to lace up skates. (We say "reared" rather than born because some, such as Rod Langway, were born in non-hockey playing countries but grew up in the U.S., where their games were developed and nurtured.)
The National Hockey League has rejected hockey's version of the Twinkie defense.
Stop me if you'd heard this one before: Chris Simon, the hulking New York Islanders winger, tried to perform a Sher-wood lobotomy on Ryan Hollweg of the New York Rangers on Thursday night with a short, chopping, axe-like swing that got Simon an indefinite suspension but could also get him a belated invitation to spring training by a team looking for a designated hitter.
1. A jokester at Topps photo-shopped President Bush and Mickey Mantle into the background of Derek Jeter's 2007 baseball card. The prankster reportedly considered putting A-Rod next to Jeter but figured nobody would buy it.
With the NHL trade deadline looming on Feb. 27, some teams, especially those out of the playoff picture, would love to make moves -- dumping players with large salaries, perhaps as rent-a-players, and maybe getting some prospects in return. This is easier said than done, given salary-cap restrictions, but here are seven players who teams would at least hope to jettison in order to re-tool for the future:
One night in September 2000, on a makeshift stage in a resort ballroom on Sanibel Island in Florida, Cablevision Systems CEO Jim Dolan stood before a captive audience of subordinates -- six or seven dozen senior managers from Madison Square Garden and its sports properties -- and began to sing. It was a lark, one of those gags designed to blow off steam after a day of meetings. Still, barely a year had passed since Dolan had taken full control of the Garden and its two main tenants, the New York Knickerbockers and the New York Rangers, and many in the room had had only glimpses of an owner who, for his entire adult life, had been overshadowed by his father, cable-TV pioneer Charles Dolan. The tales of Jim's drug-and-drink-addled past, his volcanic temper, his shifting moods, were already legendary, fueling the image of a spoiled boy who had been handed the keys to perhaps the most prized property in all of U.S. sports. No one expected a song.
At the start of last season the Tampa Bay Lightning's arena finally got wired to receive Canadian sports networks TSN and Sportsnet, throwing the organization a technological lifeline that was as significant, in its way, as the bullet trains linking Paris with France's provincial capitals or the World Wide Web connecting China to the West. Even after winning the Stanley Cup in 2004, Lightning players still sensed they were working in a far-flung hockey redoubt, away from the sport's hot stove, and that by hooking up with Canada they were finally coming out of the cold or, more precisely, into it. "So at last we get TSN and we're all pumped,"
With the All-Star Game in the rearview mirror, it's time to turn full attention to the players who are potential difference-makers over the final 30 games or so. That's of particular importance to the teams that are hovering around the NHL's Mendoza line -- the coveted eighth and final playoff spot -- which this year consists of at least a half-dozen squads in each conference.
From his home in the Great White North, hockey goalie-turned-hockey broadcaster Glenn Healy mulls the transaction that laid down the course of his future career. It was yet another confirmation of the First Sporting Law of Psychokinetics, whereby major talent, if unfulfilled, acquires the power of temporarily disabling minor talent that comes within its sphere of influence and impedes its development.
TORONTO (Ticker) -- The New York Rangers on Wednesday placed defenseman Darius Kasparaitis on waivers, according to a report on Web site TSN.ca.
Note: All statistics are through Sunday.
Earlier this week, the NHL announced the 12 players who were voted in by the fans to start at the 42nd All-Star Game, to be held Jan. 24 in Dallas. The rest of the roster, selected by the league's hockey operations department, will be announced on Saturday afternoon.
Maple Leafs center Kyle Wellwood is a man who can do without. For one, the Toronto sophomore doesn't own a television set. "I watch too much television on the road as it is," the bookworm says.
The Dolan family, which controls the New York-based cable provider Cablevision, renewed an offer to take the company private for an estimated $7.9 billion in cash.
Dana Reeve, the widow of the actor Christopher Reeve, has died of lung cancer at age 44, according to the Christopher Reeve Foundation.
The family that controls Cablevision Systems Corp. has moved to buy out the public shareholders of their media empire and create a separate company for its prized entertainment assets, the company announced Monday.
A $4 billion bid to buy all the teams of the National Hockey League would group franchises into three different tiers to determine the payout for their current owners, according to a published report.
It sounds like a plot fit for a cheesy cable movie. A wealthy New York family caught up in a bitter boardroom battle that pits father against son. Can they patch up their differences or will greed and pride destroy their relationship forever?
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