Washington Capitals v New York Rangers - Game Three

Alex Frolov denies accusing Sean Avery of making racist comments

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Strange things happen when you combine the language barrier with a need to back down from controversial comments. For those of us who don’t speak fluent Russian, we often have to take a foreign source’s word for things when a European player makes some controversial remarks.

It’s hard to tell how exactly the true thesis of Alex Frolov’s commentary about controversial former teammate Sean Avery was lost in translation, but it certainly was for quite some time when the story circulated around the hockey world on Monday. Before we get to the clarification, here’s the snippet from Joe’s Monday post regarding the comments that incensed some and eventually bewildered observers.

Slava Malmud of sport-express.ru translated the Q&A portion of the interview with Frolov to reveal what seems to be some pretty inflammatory comments.

Q: Why does everyone hate him?
AF: It’s not hate, it’s… He has a specific role, he is a pretty unique man and he likes to do, let’s say, extravagant things. Sometimes they’d be bordering on the forbidden. He isn’t a fool. Lately he has become calmer, smarter. Before he’d get swept away with emotions and do something stupid. To mention each and every one of his stunts… Something always happens around him, it’s a part of his job. He needs to be talked about. He loves it, he feels at home in the spotlight. Sometimes he called opponents “black monkeys.” He did a lot of things, I can’t remember all of them.

Yikes, right?

Frolov claims that he was either being misquoted or that his comments were taken out of context, according to a conversation with Jesse Spector.

“I didn’t say anything about Aves calling someone bad language – I was saying he’s really emotional and that in the past he could say the wrong thing,” Frolov told The News. “It wasn’t particularly about black people. He doesn’t have anything against black people. I mean, he’s a nice person, and he wouldn’t say something bad about black people or Asian people or any kind of people. It’s some kind of misunderstanding.”

Frolov’s relationship with Avery is interesting for the fact that they played together not only this past season, but also with the Los Angeles Kings from 2003-07, until Avery was traded to the Rangers. It was that incarnation of Avery that Frolov was mostly talking about in the interview, the Avery who was accused by the Oilers’ Georges Laraque of using a racial slur in 2005.

“I never heard him call anyone anything like that,” Frolov told The News. “Russian journalists, they were asking about him, and sometimes he could say something stupid, especially in the past. He’s not a bad person. He’s a good guy. … I didn’t try to say anything bad about Aves or say that he was trying to say something bad about anyone else.”

When it comes to a well-publicized agitator like Avery, many people will assume that he’s guilty until proven innocent. Who knows whether or not he made that comment toward Laraque or other ugly remarks to a variety of other opponents. It would take a dump truck full of naivete to assume that personal acts aren’t thrown around in the heat of battle, even when Mr. Avery is far from the scene.

It seems like the general message from Frolov – not to mention Avery’s more respectable series of react decisions – is that the man I once called “The Bart Simpson of Hockey” is growing up a bit. Greg Wyshynski provides this amusing vision of what might be going on in Avery’s head.

And that’s the point, isn’t it? That at sometime around Sloppy Seconds Gate, Avery decided he didn’t like the person staring back at him through $300 fashion glasses in that mirror from Urban Outfitters, and decided to change his behavior? That he’s still a pain in the ass but not the pain in the ass dropping racial taunts?

If only the takeaway quote from Frolov had been “calmer and smarter” instead. Because that’s Avery in 2011.

With the New York Rangers possibly primed for the 24/7 spotlight late this year, Avery could be the program’s best talker or biggest villain (or maybe a little of both). Perhaps we’ll get a better idea about the “new” Sean Avery then. Better yet, maybe the new Avery can even help the Rangers become an elite team next season.

Video: Drouin equalizes, but Rust strikes again 30 seconds later

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Bryan Rust is really having himself a series.

After opening the scoring in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, Rust took matters into his own hands after Jonathan Drouin evened the score for Tampa Bay, notching his second goal of the game — just 30 seconds after Drouin scored — to put Pittsburgh back out in front, 2-1.

Before digging into the Rust goal (posted above), let’s take a moment to appreciate Drouin’s snipe, one that whizzed by Pittsburgh netminder Matt Murray:

Now, back to Rust.

With that second goal he’s now racked up eight points for the playoffs, just three back of the 11 he put up over the course of the entire regular season. The former Notre Dame standout has become a major storyline, and now sits tied with Patric Hornqvist for the team lead in even-strength playoff goals.

Not bad for a guy that spent a fair chunk of the year in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, eh?

Video: Rust opens scoring in Game 7

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What an Eastern Conference Final for Bryan Rust.

Rust scored his second goal of the series — and third point in as many games — to open the scoring on Friday night, giving the Penguins a 1-0 lead over the Lighting at Consol.

After scoring just 11 points during the regular season, Rust — in just his second season at the NHL level — now has seven points in 16 playoff games, and has emerged as a vital bottom-six contributor in the process.

Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin notched assists on Rust’s goal, which came early in the second period. The Pens out-shot the Bolts 8-5 in the first period, but were unable to get one past Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Oh, and speaking of Kunitz, he’s also produced extremely well in this series — he now has six points in his last five games.

Shock of Lightning: Stamkos will play

Steven Stamkos
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He’s in.

As if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final couldn’t get any more dramatic, it has — Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos, who hasn’t played since Mar. 31, will make his playoff debut against the Penguins tonight.

Stamkos underwent vascular surgery in early April to correct a blood clotting issue, and has remained on blood thinners ever since. While there’s been no confirmation he’s off medication, he did tell Sportsnet he’d be able to return to the lineup once he was.

More:

Stamkos reiterated that he’s still on the same prescription of blood thinners he was given earlier this month. He takes a 12-hour dosage, twice a day, and it has been suggested to him that once he is cleared to stop taking the medication, Stamkos conceivably could return to the Lightning lineup almost immediately.

That’s why I’m trying to stay in shape,” he said.

Per NHL.com, Stamkos took the warmup and participated in line rushes centering Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan.

It’s been exactly eight weeks since Stamkos played his last game. At the time of his diagnosis, the Lightning said his timetable for recovery was 1-3 months.

To say his return will be a boost is a major understatement. Aside from the emotional factor, Stamkos led the Bolts in goals this year, with 36, and would presumably spark a power play that’s gone just 2-for-12 in the series.

 

Drama builds as Stamkos takes Game 7 warmup

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 26:  Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 26, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Lightning shutout the Devils 4-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Steve Stamkos took the team bus to tonight’s Eastern Conference Game 7 in Pittsburgh. As TVA noted, it was the first time he’s arrived early for a game in these playoffs.

In his pregame presser, Bolts head coach Jon Cooper refused to answer any questions about Stamkos’ availability.

And then Stamkos took the warmup.

As such, the drama surrounding Tampa Bay’s captain has reached an all-time high. Stamkos, who’s been out of the lineup since early April due to blood clots, looks as though he’s on the verge of an emotional comeback as the Lightning try to win an ECF Game 7 — on the road — for a second consecutive season.

“If Stamkos is in the lineup, it’s our best foot forward,” Cooper said. “If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he wasn’t eligible to play.”

No word if No. 91 is still on the blood thinning medication he’s been taking since undergoing vascular surgery on Apr. 4.

Stay tuned…