Should the New York Rangers somehow collect themselves to come back and win Game 7 against the Washington Capitals Tuesday night, they will go down in history as arguably the least deserving team to ever win a playoff series.
As it stands now, the Capitals are outscoring the Rangers 17-10 through the first six games of the series and outshooting them 192-141, which means they’ve been outshooting the Rangers by an average of 8.25 shots per game. With 44 shots in the series so far, Alex Ovechkin has just one fewer shot than the Rangers’ top three shooters – Ryan Callahan, Nik Antropov and Scott Gomez – have combined.
We can probably all agree if the Rangers do win Tuesday night, it will be by a razor-thin margin with goalie Henrik Lundqvist stealing another victory in a game and a series in which the overmatched Rangers had no business even being competitive.
So let’s say the Rangers somehow manage to win by a goal. That would leave the difference in goals between the two teams at six, which would have to be one of the largest, if not the largest, in NHL history for a team that won a best-of-seven series.
But really, is anyone outside the metropolitan New York area even hoping the Rangers win this thing? After all, which would you rather watch in the second round – a slow, plodding, old team with a brilliant goaltender or a dynamic young team with the most explosive talent in the game today? Would you rather watch Ovechkin weave his magic and be a dangerous player every time he steps on the ice or watch Sean Avery be a menace to himself, his opponents and his own team every time he gets out there? Would you rather see a guy such as Bruce Boudreau have some success, or would you like to watch John Tortorella scowl his way through another round and do things that embarrass and hurt his organization?
(As an aside, how exactly does Tortorella walk into that dressing room again and try to preach a disciplined approach to the game? More importantly, how can he talk about Avery being on a short leash and admonish him for doing stupid things on the ice when he can’t even control his own behavior behind the bench? My colleague, Adam Proteau, is bang-on when he says Tortorella should not be held responsible if the Rangers lose, but there’s no way he doesn’t lose a good amount of credibility with his players. And a loss of credibility, not wins or losses or strategy, is almost always what ultimately leads to the demise of any coach.)
Most of all, though, do you want to see a bunch of whiners win this series? For Rangers GM Glen Sather to first send a letter to commissioner Gary Bettman complaining about a lack of security at the Verizon Center in Washington is one thing. He is entirely within his rights to do so. But for the organization to send the letter to selected media outlets screams of nothing more than the kind of silly gamesmanship and ridiculous behavior that only the playoffs elicit. If the Rangers really wanted Bettman to take their concerns seriously and were not trying to deflect criticism away from their own pathetic effort, they would not have made the letter public.
Either that or Sather has never spent a moment in the blue seats at Madison Square Garden, where the patrons are merciless in their catcalls to opponents. After Philadelphia Flyers goalie Pelle Lindbergh was killed in a car accident in 1985, fans in the blue seats at MSG jiggled their car keys at the Flyers and coined the chant, “Buy a Porsche, Hextall, buy a Porsche!” They would also chant that Denis Potvin was a wife beater.
But the words the Rangers had to hear before Tortorella tossed a water bottle into the stands were apparently too much to endure. According to their letter to Bettman, “the grey-haired bearded man in the white T-shirt could literally scream in the coach’s ear.”
But it got far worse, according to the Rangers. They said later in the letter, “One patron was screaming at the team, in graphic language, about whether Dan Girardi and Marc Staal have a sexual relationship. This was within earshot of several children seated nearby. Several other fans also made repeated homophobic remarks.”
Wow. Now if any of these guys had mentioned anything about sloppy seconds, that would have really prompted Bettman to swing into action. Who knows, perhaps the entire crowd would have been ordered into anger management counseling?
Sather closed the letter by saying, “Neither the Rangers nor the well-behaved Capitals fans should be forced to endure the extraordinary level of misconduct that Washington failed to prevent in Game 5.”
So there you have it. All Sather was really concerned about were the kids and the well-behaved fans of the Capitals. What a prince.
And what a bunch of malarkey. It was a desperate move made by a desperate GM of a desperate team that knows it’s badly overmatched. And if there’s any justice in the world, the Capitals will make short work of their opponents in Game 7 and we’ll get to see a talented team move on to the second round.
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Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
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