It wouldn’t sound right to say that Pittsburgh completed a five-game sweep of the New York Rangers yesterday but really, as the Rangers left the Consol Energy Center ice at the conclusion of the first-round series, wasn’t it hard to remember that the Rangers had won a game?
It was, in fact, Game 2, by a 4-2 score. Otherwise, and especially in the fifth game, the Penguins dominated in every way possible. Their stars were better, their role players were better, their goalie – a rookie, mind you – was better than King Henrik Lundqvist. The Pens scored and defended and the Rangers didn’t do nearly enough of either.
It’s hard to know where to start in praising Pittsburgh’s best players, but let’s give “thumbs up” to those of yesterday and of the series as a whole.
For the Game 5 heroes, I’ll make it easy and pick all three members of the so-called checking line – centre Matt Cullen and wingers Bryan Rust and Tom Kuhnhackl. They combined for half-a-dozen scoring points, with Rust’s first of two goals breaking a 2-2 tie in the second period and Cullen following with a goal that stood as the game-winner in a 6-3 score.
Embedded ImageThat line did well enough all series long to be singled out again, but when the Penguins are as good as they were against the Rangers, Sidney Crosby should always be mentioned first, Kris Letang next and in the absence of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, the work of rookie Matt Murray in three straight wins amounted to the biggest difference of all. Lundqvist wasn’t going to feel better no matter how he lost, or to whom, but he was supposed to provide the very edge that belonged to Murray and the Penguins.
It’s a long time since the Pittsburgh season included Crosby’s bad start and the firing of coach Mike Johnston. With a new coach, Mike Sullivan, and the old Crosby, and all the other contributors who dominated the Rangers, it’s a very different Pittsburgh team that’ll take some beating to keep it out of the Stanley Cup Final.
State of the Game
Times are about to get tough for hockey purists. They will be told that NHL players won’t be going to the Olympics in 2018 and that the World Cup in 2016 and beyond will have to satisfy their craving for international hockey.
The World Cup will eventually shed the gimmickry of Teams North America and Europe and become more like the Olympics. Purists will scoff and say it’s not the same, and it’s all about money being made by the NHL and the players instead of money spent to stay in the Olympics. But the fans will watch and they’ll like what they see. They’ll need to save some of their protestations for the day the first advertising logos arrive on the jerseys of NHL teams.
More NHL greed, they’ll yell, but what’s the difference between messing up the uniform with ads and concocting ghastly third jerseys with which to stock store shelves?
Embedded ImageThe game is the thing, not where it’s played or what the players or wearing. So passionate fans are better to use their voices to tell NHL teams what the game should look like. Hockey fanatics deserve to be heard if they wish to react to low-scoring games, fights, lengthy video reviews, confounding rules and all of the things that NHL bigwigs should care about to keep customers happy.
The fans’ money is more important than revenue from jersey ads, which will eventually be ignored the same as board signs. The World Cup can be better than the Olympics, whose formats and procedures are boring and confusing.
“Thumbs up” to fans who will save their concern for the state of the game, never mind stuff that really doesn’t matter. Like Las Vegas. Yes, the NHL will make its money any way it wants and nothing will stop it. And a visit to the arena near you by the Las Vegas Dealers is liable to be more interesting than a game against the Arizona Coyotes.