Monday, May 5, 2008

The Morning After: A Recap of the Pens/Rangers....

First off, the horrid display of officiating is the one thing I can take away from this series. This is in inexcusable. How 4 officials can miss a high stick is an absolute joke and the officiating crew should be banned from the playoffs.

The whole point of the 2 referee system was so crap like this wouldn’t be missed. Why on earth are there 4 guys out there if they still miss shit? Should we put another official out there and make even less room? The Rangers have legitimate beef as should fans of the NHL. Who knows if the Rangers score with a 4 minute powerplay but this further extends the belief that the NHL wants the Penguins to go the cup as opposed to say the biggest market in the world.

The refs made and missed calls throughout the side and its not nearly as one sided as Rangers fans seem to think. The fact of the matter is the Pens are moving on as they were able to rise above the bullshit and come through when they needed to.

Anyway, here are some other thoughts:

The big culprit for why the Rangers bowed out so quickly was special teams. The Penguins powerplay , despite all the officiating inconsistencies, was able to consistently take advantage of the Rangers soft penalty killing. It wasn’t until game 4 where the Rangers stepped up and became more aggressive where they able to limit the powerplay. On the other side, the Rangers PP was indeed urine like when they needed to step up. A number of piss poor powerplays and failing to capitalize on the Penguins’ mistakes is the main reason the Rangers are now thinking about the off-season.

The star of the series is easily Henrik Lundqvist still in a losing effort. There is no question that without this guy here, the Rangers don’t have a prayer as the Penguins overwhelmed the Rangers defenders with their speed and skill. Many people (I included) thought the Rangers d could handle the Penguins but suffice to say they could not. Marc Andre Fleury benefited greatly from his team's overall defensive play. He didn't face very many high scoring chances, and stopped a lot of the Ranger shots that should have been stopped by any NHL goaltender. From someone who watched every minute of every game this series- I cannot fill one hand with the amount of times I thought to myself "What an amazng save by Fleury!" On the other hand, I was awestruck by some of the things King Henrik did to keep the Rags in games. In the end, Wins/Losses are what matter for the team overall- but the goaltending individually goes far beyond that. Lundqvist was faced with a juggernaut offense while MAF stopped what was a mostly anemic attack by the Rangers.

Sadly the 2nd best player in this series was Jaromir Jagr. The effort, determination and consistently dangerous threat he provided brought back memories of the mid-late 1990s Jaromir Jagr. It will be a damn shame if Jagr goes to Russia. He still can play and at an elite level and anytime the best player of an era moves on, it is indeed a sad day. I’m personally offended by Penguins fans for booing this guy. I don’t care how it ended but to completely boo all this guy has done for the Penguin organization is indeed asinine. Jagr should have got a standing ovation for all he did in Pittsburgh and I hope Penguin fans realize this. It was fitting, if this is his last dance, that he began and ended in Pittsburgh.

So how did the Penguins win if the rest if the two best players for the series were Rangers? The fact that the Rangers spent 60 million on Gomez/Drury and got more than little for both of them. This is not to say these guys played poorly but they just couldn’t score or get points to what we expect out of two. Moreover, the play of Nigel Dawes, Brandon Dubinsky and Marty Straka wasn’t near what we saw in the regular season and the first round. Sean Avery was also kept quiet in the series when in the previous series, he was the focal point. The lack of secondary help for Jagr and Henrik wasn’t enough to come through. The Pens got timely scoring/shifts from Malkin, Hossa, Malone, Crosby, Stall too, heck even Big Georges Laraque.

Turning point of the series: Ryan Hollweg’s check from behind on Petr Sykora. Rangers would have likely won Game 3 had this bone head not forgotten the rules of the game. Sure you want guys to come and play physical but hitting someone from behind is not the answer.

Regardless, Ranger fans should be excited of the future. The pipeline is deep and the youth of the team will only get better. Not to mention having the best goaltender in the game is sure to also help. Pens and Rags will see each other in playoffs to come.

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