Getting out of the first round of the playoffs in any sport require some skill, some grit and not just being better at being average than a few other teams. The difference between the winners and losers in the second round are a lot easier to identify than the what separates ninth and tenth place teams from seventh and eight.
For the New York Rangers there are three fundamental points where this team is lacking the elements needed to move them from the pretender to contender category.
First and most obviously, the team needs speed. Neither the Boston Bruins nor the Washington Capitals are top teir speed team. Yet the Bruins had little trouble playing around an out of reach of the Rangers. The Bruins handled them in five games and that’s surprising given how tight the games for these two teams have been over the last half decae. Nearly every regular season meeting between the two has been a one goal game. In the first round they took seven games to escape a team that dragged into the playoffs.
Second, and posssibly most important the team needs glue guys and attitude. Former head coach John Tortorella said the team lacked “stiffness”. That isn’t really surprising given that Brandon Dubinsky and Brand Prust were jettisoned during the last off season. Sean Avery was run out of town by Torts before that. Dubinsky’s last season in New York was awful, the worst of his career. There was however no real reason to expect it to be the start of a major decline. Brandon Prust went north of the border, delivered hits, dropped mitts and went on to one of his best statistical seasons. Sean Avery who was one of the most polarizing players of the last decade is no longer playing hockey, but absolutely no one fell asleep in games he was playing and he wanted nothing more than to pull on the blueshirt. Without the three of them the Rangers went from a bounce or two from the Stanley Cup finals to never really in a second round series after escaping the first round minus some skin.
And last, the team needs on ice swagger. When you look at some of the Red Wings dynasty teams, the Blackhawks when they won their Cup, or some of the Islanders dynsasty you see a team that not only expects to win, but knows their opponents know it too. I don’t see a way for the Rangers to get this until they get the first two and get them right.
Coming up the Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks and Ottawa Senators.
Matt Cooke is one of those players that make me wish the NHLPA would learn to police their own in the board room as well as on the ice. Players who continually endanger and end the careers of other union members should be removed from the players associastion and hence the league. The players need to step in and do this because the owners never will, it should be done even if it means the PA reimburses a team for the cost of players contract.
But that’s not going to happen. Matt Cooke will continue to make reckless, studpid and or vicious plays that might end another players career or life. His hit on Marc Savard wasn’t the first time he’d done something vile. It certainly wasn’t the last. Until he finally hangs his skates up, no player on an opposing team is safe. Just like Raffi Torres, Matt Cooke is a player who is bad for the business of hockey. Not just for the players currently in the leauge, but he’s the type of player who makes parens fear to let their young boys and girls play or even watch hockey.
Based on Cooke’s lengthy disciplinary history. Adam McQuaid turned 25 feet from the boards, while Cooke is facing Krug. There’s no question this was a major penalty, no question it is suspension worthy. The league really doesn’t have any choice but to hand out the same type of suspesnsion that it did to Torres for cleaning Hossa’s clock last year. Anything less than 10 games is going to be seen as the league taking a step back from suspending a player for a bigger market team. With all the theatrics Mario Lemuix has engaged in for years from the owners box, it won’t be a surprise if the suspension is less than 10 games. It wil however be a signal o the dirties players in the game, of which Cooke is near or at the head of the class, that you don’t have to worry about ending careers, or lives if you play for an owner who not only is never at fault, never has a player who is at fault either.
For this drinking game you’ll need two beverages. You mght want to pick drinks mathing your favorite team colors or just the two nearest things you can handle in volume.
Take One Sip:
Every time scoring chances are mentioned.
An opponent of from the previous round is mentioned.
Jarome Iginla and Matt Bartkowski are mentioned in the same sentence.
The cameras pan the crowd or the guy between the benches instead of a scrum.
You know what a coach/player is going to say in an interview before they say it.
Either team gets a five on three powerplay.
Don Cherry makes more sense than anyone else the camera has been aimed at in the last ten minutes.
If the trade deadline is mentioned.
If Jagr’s time in Pittsburg is mentioned.
If any mention is made of the number of Stanley Cup wins a players has.
If the Nathan Horton vs Jarome Iginla fight is shown.
A goaltending change is made.
A pending UFA is mentioned.
A full period passes where you don’t hear the name of the junior and or college team any player was drafted from.
Anyone says a team is or isn’t getting bounces.
The broadcast fails to show a faceoff but cuts in when the puck is already in motion.
Two commericals for the smae company play in one commercial break.
A period ends with more than a 10 shot difference between the teams.
Take One Sip:
If Chara’s size is mentioned.
If any of Crosby’s past injuries are mentioned.
If a backup goaltender is shown.
If either Coach is shown standing on the bench.
Someone on sicial media says the offials are biased.
Someone dangles so much they lose the puck with no one with no help from opposing players.
James Neal or Tyler Seguin miss high and hit the glass with a shot.
The broadcaster between the benches asks the guy(s) in the booth if they saw something going on in the game.
Someone mentiones “line shuffling”.
Any rookie is pointed out (Simone Despres and Beau Bennett for the Penguins, Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski for the Bruins).
A general manager or owner is shown.
A fairly routine hockey play (faceoff win, goal, or saucer pass, etc) is described as “wizardy” or magic.
The Bruins powerplay scores in a game.
The Penguins get a shorthanded goal.
A too many men penalty is called.
A penalty is called that makes no sense.
Matt Cooke’s hit on Marc Savard is mentioned.
Double Fist (1 sip of each)
If the playoff win total of a coach is mentioned.
Trades between the teams are mentioned.
The age of a player or players are mentioned in relation to how long its been since the teams last played in the playoffs.
The regular season series is mentioned.
Any player is mentiond for a past award or current nomination.
An obvious rule is explained for no reason.
Some says the refs have swallowed their whistle.
The compressed schedule in the regular season is mentioned.
Everytime there’s an obvious dive that goes uncalled.
If there is a fight where the combined salary is more than four million dollars.
Players or officials are said to be sending a message.
Skip a drink if:
You find yourself unable to scream coherently at a pinkhat.
You start explaining a simple rule like “icing” and take longer than two minutes.
You can’t remember which beverage to drink from.
Both fourth lines are on the ice.
A family member, girlfriend or spouse of a player is shown in the audience.
You can seriously injury yourself, destroy property, or even die even if your participation in this drinking game is nothing more than water. If you should happen to do something incredibly idiotic and entertaining during this drinking game that makes it to Youtube, TextsFromLastNight or other fun sites; do send a link. It won’t make your life better, but I’ll get a laugh too. No one is responsible for the stupid you commit but you.