Watching that game, I felt like I had just been punched in the gut. Recapping it feels like something not as bad as passing a kidney stone but not as good as slipping on an icy sidewalk and cracking your head. I also have a massive hangover, so I’ll try to keep this short.
It would be easy to blame the referees for some of the Rangers problems, but let’s be honest, the Rangers defense looked terrible. The Penguins were faster and caused about 10,000 turnovers in the defensive and neutral zones. The Rangers need to be more confident with the puck and, as my Canadian college hockey coach would say, they also need to stop treating the puck like a “hot potato.” There were stretches where 3 or 4 shifts went by with the puck spending 90% of the time in the Rangers zone. The other 10% consisted of the Rangers softly dumping the puck to be picked up by the Pens defense in the neutral zone and rushed back towards the overwhelmed Rangers defense and the suddenly vulnerable Lundqvist… not exactly a winning strategy.
Still, the Rangers managed to build a 3 goal lead… only to see it disappear in about the time it takes my buddy Spivack to pound an Irish car bomb. But I digress.
And you know what, while I’m on a roll, I think I will complain about the officiating. My problem is that it was inconsistent, and it has been throughout the playoffs (not just in Rangers games). Sometimes it looks like a classic playoff hockey game, with the refs swallowing the whistle to allow 2 elite teams to really play some hard-nosed hockey. But, at other times, the refs suddenly decide to call the game like its a November matchup between Tampa Bay and Atlanta. It’s completely inexplicable and there’s no way to know when they make this transition. It’s almost like the refs slip into their usual playoff mode for a chunk of the game until they realize, “oh crap… If I want to keep my job, I better start calling penalties.” The result is the weak penalty called on Martin Straka at a crucial point of the game. 3 minutes left in a tie game and you call that? Really?!? The same thing happened in Montreal on Thursday. No penalties for a while, then they call a questionable one and change the outcome of the game. Why is it so difficult for the NHL to let these guys play 5-on-5? [I'll be right back. I have to go slam my head against the wall for 10 minutes]
[Okay, I'm back]. Here’s what Brendan Shanahan said. “I think it’s a weak call at that time in the game. Sidney embellished and you could make the call that he was interfering with Martin Straka. . . I think it was a tough call for the referee to make at that time in the game.” Ding ding ding.
Oh, and one more thing… Jarkko Ruutu is a [expletive deleted]. Now I know how other teams feel about Sean Avery. There’s no doubt that Ruutu waving his stick in Rozsival’s face during a faceoff should have been an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Maybe I’m missing something, but didn’t they just make a rule about that? The ref went over and actually pushed Ruutu’s stick down but didn’t call a penalty! What’s up with that? Then he scored. I have to go slam my head against the wall again. See you tomorrow.