You’d think if there was one person that understood the intensity of the Rangers-Devils rivalry, Mike Rupp would be the guy.
He was front-and-center during the infamous Mar. 19 line brawl. He’s also one of the few to play for both New York and New Jersey, scoring the Cup-winning goal for the Devils in 2003.
Yet heading into tonight’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, Rupp downplayed the rivalry entirely.
“At this point in the playoffs it’s more for the fans and the media to have fun with than us,” he told the New York Times. “We’re just trying to win four games.
“Right now you’re four wins away from getting to where you’ve been working so hard to get to as a team. So I don’t really think about that, I really don’t. I really don’t look at me once playing for them, or them being one of our biggest rivals. That’s kind of nonexistent right now.”
What Rupp might be focused on is trying to conjure up more big-game magic. For a relatively unassuming journeyman — he’s played for five different teams over a 10-year career — Rupp has often found himself in the spotlight.
— He’s the only player in Stanley Cup history to have his first playoff goal be the Cup-winner. (He was notched four points in four games for the Devils during the 2003 finals.)
— In 2011, Rupp had one of the most spirited fights in Winter Classic, chucking knuckles with Washington defenseman John Erskine:
— A year later, Rupp stole the show at the 2012 Winter Classic, scoring twice. He also raised a few eyebrows by doing the Jagr salute:
Another thing to consider: Rupp is due.
Like, long overdue.
He’s scoreless through 14 postseason games, meaning his pointless streak goes all the way back to Feb. 16 — 40 games all-told.
Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead
For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”
They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:
Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.
Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).
Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.
The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.
(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)
Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)
You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:
It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.
The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).
One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.