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.
When Ondrej Kase cashed in on another breakaway opportunity for the Ducks to make it 4-1 in the second period, it looked like that goal would be icing on the cake for Anaheim. Even if it would be especially pretty frosting.
Instead, that stylish goal ended up being critical, as the Pittsburgh Penguins nearly rallied in the third period to at least send Wednesday’s game to overtime. John Gibson ended up holding down the fort, and with an empty-netter in the dying seconds, the Ducks ended up beating the Penguins 5-3.
You could call it a game of periods and close calls.
The Penguins entered the first intermission thanks to a 1-0 Evgeni Malkin goal, but the Ducks dominated the middle frame with their first four-goal period of 2017-18. The Penguins’ prolific power play helped them stay in the game (2-for-4, with both goals coming during that third-period comeback bid), but the rally fell short. Pittsburgh’s winning streak ended at four victories.
Some bounces went both ways, as Antoine Vermette nearly scored for the Ducks while Carl Hagelin suffered a near-miss. So maybe those missed opportunities cancel each other out?
From the Ducks’ perspective, this is the latest argument in favor of this team being a threat now that key pieces have returned to the lineup. This win begins what they hope is a successful five-game homestand, as Anaheim still needs to battle for its own playoff hopes.
The Penguins can’t ruminate on this loss for very long. They head to Los Angeles to face what must be a frustrated Kings team (four straight defeats, only two wins in their last eight games) on Thursday, with little reason to expect any mercy.
This last stretch of wins improved the Penguins’ outlook, but dropping games in back-to-back nights could make things tense again in a hurry. You can check out that Penguins – Kings game on NBCSN Thursday.
BOSTON (AP) Hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree was honored in Boston on Wednesday on the 60th anniversary of the Bruins forward breaking the NHL’s color barrier.
At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day”. O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.
Walsh called O’Ree a Boston legend who changed the city for the better and thanked him for his courage. As part of the celebration, the city dedicated a new street hockey rink in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood to be known as Willie O’Ree Rink.
A native of Canada, O’Ree, 82, had four goals and 10 assists in 45 games over parts of two NHL seasons. He spent a total of 21 years in pro hockey.
For the past two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.
Don’t blame Claude Julien if Wednesday made him think of better times, and not just because it was his welcome back night in Boston.
Coming into this one, it was a tale of two teams going in opposite directions, and the teams stuck to their scripts. The Boston Bruins remain red-hot with a 4-1 win, while the Montreal Canadiens are mired in mediocrity .. or worse?
When you’re as disappointing as the Canadiens have been, plenty of things are going wrong. It was a weak start even with a 1-0 lead and 1-1 first period in mind, and it obviously didn’t get any better.
This is the worst period the Canadiens have played in a very long time. And I realize they have played many bad periods.
Nights like these have to sting for Julien, a coach known for his sophisticated systems and eye for defensive detail.
There are questions about Max Pacioretty possibly being trade bait. People wonder if Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galchenyuk fit as centers, or if neither work that way. Yet, these performances make you realize that as exasperated as management must be, they may also appreciate more specific distractions.
Because, frankly, this was a team … non-effort.
Then again, the Bruins are a red-hot squad, so maybe they shine an especially harsh light on the Habs’ haplessness?
Boston generated a 32-22 shots on goal advantage in this one, with multiple contributors stepping up. Big guns came through (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were among the goal scorers, Patrice Bergeron collected two assists), while David Backes and others added to the fun.
It was the kind of effort Julien would have been very happy with, if it didn’t come at his expense.