Tuesday, January 3, 2012
24-9-4: Classic Classic
It is getting to the point where it is nearly impossible to ignore the position of the Rangers in the standings. The fact of the matter is that the Blueshirts are in first place. First. Having watched every second of every game that fact is virtually unfathomable. The team is flawed in several major areas, it has been battling crippling injuries and it has yet to play a full 60 minutes this season.
The Winter Classic in Philadelphia was a microcosm of the season to date because all of that was on display under the open sky in Citizens Bank Park. And yet - as they have been doing all season so far - they pulled out a win. And ya know what? It was delightful. Two periods of atrocious, inexcusable drek wiped away by one well-played frame where the guys nearly reached their potential. Simple north-south, hard working, hard hitting, relentless hockey is this team's bread and butter and it is wonderful to watch. To have seen it working after being surrounded by swirling snow, well that was classic.
*Mike F-ing Rupp. Can you believe it? Two goals from Mike F-ing Rupp. I've been chirping the guy on Twitter of late, saying he was just as irrelevant as Jody Shelley and he scores not once but twice. Just as shocking was that he mocked Jaromir Jagr with a salute after the first goal and instead of giving him a beating, the Flyers let him score again.
*I laughed hysterically when the second one went in before delighting in the moment - who in the world could have guessed Mike F-ing Rupp would score twice in the biggest game of the year? His first goal, however, was even better, because it brought the snow, as seconds later the first flakes drifted down into the stands. After basking in the wonder of the snowstorm in Buffalo and the flurries during Frozen Fenway, it was awesome to experience it again - it definitely adds to the awesomeness.
*Also awesome? Fireworks after a Ranger win in Philadelphia. You have to wonder what the hell was the NHL thinking ...
*Also questionable? Saving Kate Smith/Lauren Hart's rendition of "God Bless America" for an intermission, instead of starting the game with it. The game was in Philly and that is something inherent to Flyer hockey. Why do the anthems? And, if they did insist on saving Kate for the Broad Street Bullies tribute and bring out old Patti LaBelle for the Star-Spangled Banner, why do the Canadian anthem? There were two American teams playing. Was it some kind of pittance for our friends north of the border who won't get to experience an outdoor game thus year?
*And did the league want the Flyers to get a chance to tie things up or what? I can't imagine a first time viewer of hockey not thinking the sport was fixed after watching that - even though the calls were both legitimate penalties.
*Live by the sword, die by the sword. Del Zaster has been picking up points by jumping into the play in the offensive zone. So he tried it in this one and got caught. Claude Giroux came down and scored to make it a 2-0 game. It happens. MDZ was not particularly good in this one but he was not nearly as bad as Ryan McDonagh.
*All of the extra minutes have clearly cost McD as he has not been his sharpest in the last few weeks and he was horrid here, at least until the end. The defenseman made up for all of his earlier mistakes by scooping the puck out of the crease with 20 seconds left in the third period. Sure it brought about Briere's penalty shot but it stopped a sure goal against; I will put the game on Henrik Lundqvist's shoulders any day.
*Hopefully Marc Staal can get his mojo back to take some of the time and pressure away from McD. It was shocking to hear that he was dressed and it was sad to watch him play because "rusty" would be an understatement. Everyone was happy to see him step out onto the ice but it was nerve-racking to watch him go to the wall and take contact. No one wants a Crosby situation to occur with the team's best defender.
*The Roots? Not really hockey music.
*Best line overheard walking out of the ballpark? "At least we won the alumni game."
*Worst line overheard walking out of the ballpark? "Go back to Jew York Ezekiel!" screamed by a drunk Flyer fan at a Ranger fan.
*That idiot aside, the Flyer fans that I saw were largely well behaved, even boring. The pockets of Ranger fans around the stadium started more chants and were largely louder than the home fans. We travel well.
*It is hard enough to follow a hockey puck from the upper deck of a ballpark but to have NBC's cable camera constantly drifting through the line of sight was horribly distracting.
*I paid $85 for a sweatshirt. A sweatshirt. Tees were $40. Yep.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Claude Giroux - one goal.
2-Henrik Lundqvist - 34 saves.
1-Michael Rupp - two goals.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Brayden Schenn - The kid collected his first NHL goal and won a ton of faceoffs. He's still not worth Mike Richards but perhaps he will grow into a real player.
2-Rupp - Mike F-ing Rupp. Seriously. Wow.
1-Hank - If he doesn't make all of those glove saves then Rupp's two goals would have been about three short of tying things up. And to think that high glove side was the King's weakness not too long ago ... great work by Benoit Allaire.