Shutouts are becoming common Broadway these days. On Tuesday night, Henrik Lundqvist pitched his fourth shutout of the season – and the sixth shutout for the Rangers this season. But a far rarer occasion greeted members of the media after the game: Rangers’ owner James Dolan spoke to the Rangers media.
It’s peculiar that a shutout in January against the Nashville Predators would pull Dolan into the spotlight. Dolan hasn’t formally addressed the Rangers media in six seasons—so when he speaks, it tends to get people’s attention. He didn’t disappoint.
“… Glen [Sather] and I made a pact,” Dolan told members of the media. “I gave him something, which I won’t reveal today, but I gave him something to seal the pact. I said ‘You can’t give it back to me until we win the Stanley Cup.’ And I think we’re pretty close to getting that thing back.”
But wait, there’s more. Aside from telling the world that he thinks the Rangers are “pretty close” to winning the Cup, he went on to wax poetically about the greatness of general manager Glen Sather:
“For me it’s all about the system he built — of course its great coaching — but it’s about the farm system, the scouting system and the development — going with kids — and sticking with that philosophy even at times when it didn’t look so good.” Dolan told reporters. “So, I’m very proud of him and the organization.”
Predictably, John Tortorella brought the hammer down after Dolan’s lofty comments. “I have my owner up here talking about a Stanley Cup. That’s a bunch of bull—-. We need to take one game at a time.”
In summation: the Rangers owner thinks his team is close to winning the Stanley Cup, he thinks his general manager put together a great organization from top to bottom, and John Tortorella is still awesome.
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If all the Michigan rumors are true, this isn’t going to be your average Winter Classic. As if there was an emerging routine for outdoor spectacles, the 2013 Winter Classic is proving to pose more problems than just the average weather and revenue questions. Last week we heard that the league was considering the idea of splitting the festivities between Comerica Park in Detroit and the Big House (pardon me, Michigan Stadium) in Ann Arbor. Now we’re hearing from the university that just the game on January 1 still comes some serious obstacles.
University of Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon spoke out earlier this week: “When we were approached (by the NHL), I thought this could be a great opportunity. But boy, doesn’t it have a lot of complications, and I still feel that way.”
So what are the problems? Where do we start…?
Among the problems posed by a game on New Year’s Day is that the stadium usually closes up for the winter when the University of Michigan’s football season ends (at home) at the end of November. There are concerns about the game being played on a holiday – and people don’t usually work on the holiday. The university also has concerns about being able to find enough people to support the event (infrastructure and attendance) because the football team could possibly be playing on the same day in a warm-weather market.
And then there’s the booze issue:
“It is a university issue and a state law issue. This is not a venue that has a liquor license to operate on a day-in, day-out period like a lot of other sporting venues.”
The infrastructure and scheduling conflicts are all important, but issues with the liquor license? How would all those hockey fans keep themselves warm during an outdoor game in January?
Clearly, there are issues that still need to be remedied. A.D. Brandon summed up the conversations as such: “We’re still having conversations. It’s a work in progress. We’ll see if we can work it out.” Good thing there’s still about 50 weeks before the teams would take the ice.
The St. Louis Blues used last night’s 1-0 victory against the Dallas Stars to vault themselves into a tie for the best record in the Western Conference with 60 points in 45 games. It’s no secret that the team turned the proverbial corner when Ken Hitchcock took over for Davis Payne at the beginning of November. They’ve earned points in 27 of 32 games under their new boss (21-5-6) and they’ve gone 11-0-2 in their last 13 games at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. No matter how you cut it, this team is streaking.
Watch as Keith Jones and Mike Milbury weigh-in on the Blues recent success.
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The Battle of Ontario is alive and well. In Ottawa’s game in Toronto, Senators forward Nick Foligno delivered a low check to Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf in the same mold of Brad Marchand’s check on Sami Salo and Evgeni Malkin’s low check on Vinny Lecavalier. We can debate the legality of all three hits, but the fact remains that the hip check is returning to the game. In some cases, the low hip check.
For the record, Foligno received a two-minute penalty on the play.
How long before the new buzzword in the NHL is “low bridge?” Take a look for yourself at Foligno’s handiwork:
Whether any of these are legal hits or not, the reaction from the opponent was the same: anger. The Canucks were upset with Marchand’s low check on Salo that earned the Bruins’ forward a five-game suspension. Vinny Lecavalier was fuming after Malkin up-ended him with a low hit late in the Pens victory over the Lightning over the weekend. And Dion Phaneuf? He wasn’t happy about an opponent going low either.
So what did Phaneuf do? He waited until the right opportunity, lined Foligno up for a check of his own, and then dropped the gloves with the willing combatant. For fans who want the players to police themselves and “handle it on the ice,” this is exactly the kind of response they’d expect.
Take a look at the response:
Just because the Capitals have lost defenseman Mike Green for the next four to six weeks, don’t expect the team to make any knee-jerk moves to fill the void. Washington’s general manager George McPhee explained that he’s in no hurry to make a trade to replace Green in the short-term. Instead, he hopes that a couple of young blueliners that are already on the roster will be able to step-up their games and make the most of their opportunities.
“It’s interesting how things go,” McPhee said to CSN Washington. “Mike [Green] went down early, we gave Orlov a chance and he’s exceeded our expectations. We thought he would need a full year in Hershey, and he’s sort of expedited his development process and he’s playing very well for us. Kundratek is in the same sort of situation right now. We’ll see how he comes along.”
Before you think Orlov and Kundratek are in the clear, he also added that he doesn’t know how things will be in six weeks and he’ll “just have to wait and see.” For now, it’s the youngsters chance to show what they can do with added responsibility.
Green’s teammates were talking about the surgery as well. Karl Alzner noticed that the midseason sports hernia surgery has a silver lining. “It’s good and bad,” Alzner explained. “It’s a good thing he’s getting this done, and hopefully it’s said and done and nothing else will come up. Now we know he’s not going to be back [for four to six weeks] and you have to get over it.”
That’s right—the Caps know they’ll be without their most productive defenseman for around a month and a half. They’ve proven to be a different team in with Green in the lineup despite their current three-game winning streak. They’re 9-1-0 when Green is on the ice; they’re 15-16-2 without the former Norris Trophy finalist.
McPhee sounds confident that his team will be able to weather the storm with the players who are already in Washington. But if things start heading south in the next six weeks, the general manager has proven in the past that he won’t hesitate to make a move to fill the void.