Can Pens Caps Series Save Hockey?

May 7, 2009
never a dull moment when these two are on the ice

Never a dull moment when these two are on the ice

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals battled it out again tonight with the Pens coming out on top after an OT winner by Kris Letang.  Washington is up in the series now 2-1, but game 3 saw the resurgence of Evgeni Malkin, who scored his first goal in six games which could spell disaster for the Caps as the series goes on.

No matter the result of the series, this was the matchup Gary Bettman dreamed of.  These aren’t necessarily the best teams in the league, but the NHL’s three brightest young stars are all under one roof.

Malkin, Sidney Crosby, and Alexander Ovechkin really represent how hockey has to right the ship.  Three young great players poised to be the faces of their franchises for years to come.  For a while now, the average NHL fan has been wary of buying jerseys or even of becoming loyal to teams as their favorite players are shipped from one team to another.  Malkin and Crosby are signed to five year deals with Pittsburgh and Ovechkin has a contract that expires somewhere in the distant future (13 year deal).

They have shown loyalty to their cities, and the fan bases in Washington and Pittsburgh have grown exponentially with the emergence of these stars.  Ovechkin and Crosby are the reigning MVP’s from the last two seasons and Malkin may win this year’s.

This is not even mentioning that the hockey in this series thus far has been great.  Game two saw both Ovechkin and Crosby record their first playoff hat tricks.  The NHL playoffs have been unbelievably good this year.  Anyone who contends that hockey is boring doesn’t watch the game, and everyone who says “I can’t see the puck,” can go eat shit.  Turn it on, pick a team, and enjoy yourself.

The fact that the games are on Versus has not helped ratings, but Versus doesn’t get any credit for their coverage, and they do a pretty good job.  All the games are available in HD, and only contractual obligations can get in the way of good coverage.  Unfortunately they don’t make Brian Engblom cut his hair.  Engblom apparently has Wayne and Garth use the Suck-Cut to get his desired look.

No words can describe that mop

No words can describe that mop

If ESPN had the coverage these games would get respectable ratings, but Versus is starting to pick up a larger and larger audience.

The NHL has to be  hoping one of these teams makes it through to the Stanley Cup Finals just to get their big stars faces more in the limelight.  NBC will carry the coverage for those games, and only Ovechkin or Crosby can guarantee decent ratings.

Its sad that hockey has gotten so beat up in this country, but it is a result of bad business.  Teams that haven’t really considered fans for a while, and a lack of American talent has led to a dwindling American interest.  Though Crosby and Ovechkin are both non-Americans they have shown loyalty to their cities, and the fans and ownership have shown loyalty to them.

This has given the other teams a formula they can follow to get hockey back as one of the four major sports (Is Nascar the fourth now?  We should be ashamed of ourselves).

Though not every team has the opportunity to sign an Ovechkin or a Crosby, there are players that teams can build around (Richards and Carter in Philly, Lundqvist sp? in NY, etc).  Let the fans get to know and love their players instead of having new rosters every offseason.  The fan bases will grow and the quality of hockey will improve.

Figure out what channel Versus is, and turn on the playoffs.  Gary Bettman, who i doubt can skate but knows his salary caps, will thank you.

The Monty Burns of hockey

The Monty Burns of hockey

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Rangers Win. Despite Sean Avery

April 23, 2009
King Henrik was the star tonight, but Ovechkin and Avery made it interesting

King Henrik was the star tonight, but Ovechkin and Avery made it interesting

The Rangers beat the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night in one of the better games I’ve seen in a while, in any sport.  The Rangers took a 2-0 lead into the third period, but then Alex Ovechkin turned it on and almost singlehandedly took game 4.  Ovechkin scored 2 minutes into the third, and rang another shot off the crossbar later on.  He played nearly half the game, and had 11 shots on goal.

There were times in this game when one had to wonder how the Rangers were winning.  They were completely dominated, outhustled, and outshot by a margin of 18.  The biggest factor that has made them the winning team in 3 of the series’ first four games is Henrik Lundqvist.  He was brilliant again and survived a few barrages late in the game that would’ve made even the great Martin Brodeur bitch and moan about contact.

The luckiest Ranger tonight, though, is Sean Avery.  Avery had a meager 4 penalty minutes tonight.  He is probably proud.  He restrained himself from acting like a dumbass for a large portion of the game, but waited until the halfway point in the third with the Caps poised to tie the game.  He then pulled an Avery-like move by smacking Milan Jurcina’s schnoz with the butt of his stick and the back of his glove and pretending like he didn’t mean it.

Some might say his reputation got this one called.  I would agree.  He is a douchebag, and he made a douchebag move, the refs called it.  The Rangers survived the powerplay somehow.  Ovechkin hit the crossbar and King Henrik made about 8 saves then Avery came back.  He learned his lesson.  Or did he?

Just 4 minutes after getting his freedom he decides to whack Brian Pothier (who sold this pretty poorly, but it was funny) with a high stick a couple seconds after play had stopped.  He again, tries to sell to the refs that he is innocent, and heads off.  John Tortorella looked like an embarrassed father who lost control of his kid at this point.  Avery sat in the box, and thought about which young celebrity he would go after next (I actually have a lot of respect for him with respect to the top shelf ass he gets).

Luckily, Lundqvist saved him again, and the Rangers got away with a 3-1 advantage in the series.  Maybe there’s a backstory.  Maybe Pothier and Jurcina picked up Avery’s “sloppy seconds” like Dion Phaneuf and Mike Komisarek.  I do not know, but it is difficult to get a penalty called against you in the playoffs, especially late in tight, big games.  Avery managed to pull it off twice with blatant, pussy cheapshots.

Sean showed his true colors tonight.  He is a goon, but not the protect the stars, and fight to pump up you team good goon.  The hit guys behind the play and get a kick out of it goon.  Its a shame, too because up to that point he had done a great job around the net creating chances for New York.  Avery was a liability on the ice by the end of the game, and if the Rangers would have lost, he may have been done there, again.

But don’t worry there’s hope for goons after hockey.  Matthew Barnaby proves it every night on Sportscenter.  The heir apparent to Barry Melrose (whose mullet and salt and pepper facial hair rank him as the most dignified looking gentleman since Robert E. Lee), Barnaby makes it clear that he used to get his head bashed in every time he tries to describe a clip.

No matter how he does on the ice, Sean Avery is doing just fine.

No matter how he does on the ice, Sean Avery is doing just fine.

Avery, who is sort of the David Beckham of hockey (if Beckham went around goosing guys all over the pitch), has got to watch it for the rest of the playoffs.  Everything he does is watched by the refs, and he can no longer get away with his signature cheapshots.  Maybe he doesn’t care about hockey, if you had been linked to Elisha Cuthbert, Mary-Kate Olson, Lake Bell, and Rachel Hunter would you care?  and those are just the celebrities.  Imagine the amount of tail he pulled on random nights throughout Los Angeles, New York, all of Canada.  This man is living the dream.  I would take his sloppy seconds any day.