Back From Vacation: Torts Out, Hawks Advance

So yeah, I spent a week in Disney World in the middle of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I know, WHO DOES THAT RIGHT?? Well, I did but now I am back so let’s catch up on a lot of stuff. I did stay at the All-Star Movies resort and stayed in the Mighty Ducks rooms so I was close to hockey. Plus, I didn’t tune out from the playoffs, just the daily blogging of them.

Rangers Fire Tortorella – I completely agree with this move. Tortorella, during his tenure in NY seems to have been a Tortorella first guy and a team second guy. I never liked the way he conducted himself or seem to treat his players. Maybe it was different on the inside but from the outside it certainly appeared that he lost the respect of a player or two. Go back a few years ago and look at Sean Avery’s tenure. The whole league hated his bullshit but the Rangers always seemed to be a better team with him in the lineup because he got the other teams focused on his bullshit but Torts hated him and the room is split on whether or not maligning Sean Avery was the right thing to do. However, other names that you can add to the list that Torts alienated are: Wade Redden, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Brandon Dubinsky, Mats Zuccarello, Marion Gaborik,  Brad Richards, and even the untradeable Chris Kreider. It would appear that Henrik Lundqvist’s name may even be on that list.

Yes, Torts won a cup once but this shot blocking, rely on defense to grind out wins isn’t the style the New York Rangers play with. You have guys like Richards, Gaborik, Nash, Callahan, etc. and they finished 15th in scoring? In fact, the Rangers have never done better in that a 2.7% in Goals For under Tortorella. That’s not Rangers hockey, not a team that once had Messier, Graves, Leetch, Gretzky, and Duguay in their history.

I do believe it was Henrik Lundqvist that put the final nail in the Torts coffin. His exit interview made it sound like he was done with the Rangers and done with Torts. I also believe that if it wasn’t Lundqvist it was the Brad Richards healthy scratch that did him in. Despite his poor play, you don’t bench a former Conn Smythe winner in an elimination game. That does nothing but send the wrong message to your players.

The Rangers are FAR from a Stanley Cup contender in my opinion but firing Torts is a step in the right direction.

Chicago Blackhawks – That certainly was some series against the Red Wings. A fitting end to the Chicago/Detroit rivalry. Maybe one day we will get a Cup Final with these two but for now, the rivalry is done. I do believe that every cup winner needs a scare in the playoffs and if Chicago proves to be the cup winner, this series will have easily been that scare. It’s hard to believe that both Chicago let the series get to a 3-1 lead in favor of Detroit and Detroit failed to close out a 3-1 series lead but bravo to one great series. Had Chicago lost, I have no doubt in my mind that there would be another coach firing to talk about.

Los Angeles Kings – Right now are my favorite to win this…AGAIN. This team is rolling and playing some great hockey behind Jonathan Quick who might just be the best player in the playoffs…AGAIN. I wouldn’t be surprised to watch the Kings just roll over the Hawks on their way to the Finals. Having watched both series in Round 2, the Kings just seem like the better team.

That’s it for now. Sorry for the silence for the week but as I said in the beginning of this post, I was in Disney for a week and there wasn’t a lot of time to post about hockey!! I will be posting both the Eastern and Western Conference Final Previews tomorrow.

The Red Wings Continue To Surprise Us

I love playoff hockey and right now, the Detroit Red Wings are a prime example as to why I love it so much. When there were only a handful of regular season games remaining, you really couldn’t browse hockey web sites and forums without seeing the discussion about the possibility of the Red Wings playoff streak coming to an end. But then, this team went on a tear, winning their last 4 games of the regular season and outscoring their opponents 15-3 in those 4 games, which secured them a spot in the post-season. Streak still intact and now Detroit looking to turn some heads but no one really gave them a chance, yours truly included.

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In Case You Didn’t Tune In: Rangers v Bruins – Game 1

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Sometimes when you have kids that have their own sports activities, you don’t get to sit down and watch as many playoff hockey games as you would like but for Game 1 of the Rangers and Bruins, the kids were in bed, the wife was at a friend’s house putting the final touches on a school fair she’s helped organize, so that meant it was me, the TV and some playoff hockey.

This is the one series that I am just so unsure about. For this series, I expect low scoring games, huge hitting and grinding it out in the corners. Both the Rangers and Bruins play similar hockey so it should be a very entertaining series and one that expect to go long. Besides, its the Rangers, win or lose they don’t seem to know how to do that very quickly.

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Playoff Hockey = Raffi Torres Being an Idiot

Here we go again. Stop me if you heard this one because it’s a familiar story that I am getting tired of reading about. The NHL will be having a disciplinary hearing with Raffi Torres.

Seriously?? Again!!!

In case you missed it, As LA Kings Forward Jarret Stoll is playing the puck, Torres decides to put a hit on Stoll. That hit, that decision was Torres impacting Stoll in the side of his head and shoulder simultaneously.

So is it a dirty hit? Well, if I look back to the last round of the playoffs and the NHL decided that the Eric Gryba hit on Lars Eller was illegal, then this one has to be as well. I’d say 4 or 5 games for Raffi Torres because he’s a repeat offender. I’m just tired of it. What’s this, the third year in a row that Torres is making a questionable hit in the playoffs? Seabrook in 11, Hossa in 12 and now Stoll in 13? At what point do they just tell this clown to go away? Is the hit 100% dirty? No, it isn’t but Stoll was in a vulnerable position and Torres took advantage of it once again and makes contact with the head. He doesn’t learn from his past. He said he had learned when trying to get a reduction in his suspension for the hit on Hossa last year but clearly he doesn’t get it.

Jarret Stoll didn’t return for the third period due to “upper body issues” which is a playoff hockey term for “hurt my brain.”

Penguins-Senators Series Preview

Near the end of the regular season, it looked like the Senators were going to plummet all the way into the 8th spot so this was a matchup I thought we’d be seeing in the first round. They stopped at 7 but never-the-less, we get the match up in the second round.

I don’t really know if Ottawa was impressive in the first round of if the Canadiens just fizzled. I’ll go with my gut feeling and that feeling is that none of the teams in the Eastern Conference thrilled me through the first round so I guess Montreal just fizzled. Pittsburgh made a lot of mistakes against the Islanders and the Senators are a well-coached team.(Shouldn’t Paul MacLean be a slam dunk for the Jack Adams Award?) If Pittsburgh continues to make those mistakes in this round, the Senators might just eat them up. MIGHT!!!

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Sharks-Kings Series Preview

This is the series I am most looking forward to. These don’t appear to be the San Jose Sharks we are used to. By that I mean it’s no longer a team that hinges on the success of Joe Thorton and Patrick Marleau. Sure, they still play an important role on this team but I look at the Sharks as a team that now belongs to Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture. The Sharks easily handled the Vancouver Canucks in round one and head into the Conference Semi-Finals a well-rested and confident bunch.

Let’s not give the Sharks $200 for passing “Go” just yet. These are the Kings, the king of all Kings if you will, the defending Stanley Cup Champion. Throw out the first two games against the Blues in the first round and you could say the Kings handled the Blues pretty easily as well. After a little bump in the road to get things started, the Kings rattled off 4 straight wins to send St. Louis home….again.

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Hawks-Wings Series Preview

This is a match up that very few saw happening a few weeks ago but a very welcomed match up since the upcoming re-alignment will put an end to this rivalry. Let’s be honest for a moment, this isn’t the deepest or most talented team or even the most experience team that Detroit has put on the ice over the last 20+ years but the growth that they’ve shown over the last month has been very impressive.

Just a few short weeks ago, the Red Wings were being inserted into the conversation about the draft lottery, not about making a run in the playoffs. Yet here they are, one of the final 8 teams to remain in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs and they are coming off an impressive series win against the #2 Anaheim Ducks. They’ve managed to go further into the playoffs than the 2012 Red Wings, a team that put together a league record 23 game home winning streak. The Red Wings have come a long way but now, they face an enormous task, the rival Chicago Blackhawks.

It’s no surprise that the President’s Trophy winning Chicago Blackhawks are still around. They are a team loaded with guys that know how to score, defensemen that know how to minimize the opposition’s opportunities and a goalie that cleans up after those rare mistakes are made.

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The Rebirth of 2MA

“Back like Jordan, wearin’ the 4-5”

Yes, I know, that’s a basketball reference and this is a hockey blog but I couldn’t come up with an NHL player that fit that line. Plenty of guys have left the NHL for a bit and returned but I couldn’t think of one that returned to the game wearing a different number and was as dominate to the NHL as Michael Jordon was to the NBA. Somehow, “Back like Mario wearin’ the 6-6” didn’t convey the right message. I guess I could have referenced a Phoenix rising from the ashes but the words “Phoenix” and “hockey” don’t seem to go well together.

So what is this all about? This is the return of 2ManAdvantage.com … sort of. Once upon a time for a very brief amount of time, I was pegged by Patty to help write on this site. Of course real life got in the way then and I couldn’t find the right balance between life, a job, a family and a blog. Since that time, I’ve learned how to juggle everything so I sent the powers that be a message and said I wanted to revive 2MA but changes were going to be made as well.

I’m a Devils fan before anything but I am also a hockey fan so while 2MA might still focus on the Devils at times, it’s really going to turn into a general hockey blog. I have a lot of ideas in the hopper that will hopefully come to life over the next few months. Sadly, I didn’t get to revive this blog in time for the 1st round of the NHL playoffs but there is still plenty of hockey to be played which means there will be plenty of hockey to talk about, which is what I will be doing right here.

Hopefully you will come back regularly because 2MA, while serving up some different content than what has been done in the past, will be talking about hockey on a regular basis.

Fehr’s the Problem

Blame Donald Fehr.

Sure, the owners were the ones responsible for the lockout, but the NHLPA’s head honcho seems to be the one prolonging it.

It’s something Fehr has done in baseball for years and now he’s doing it to hockey.  There are no Super Bowl gambling picks as secure as that one.

As the head of the Baseball Players Association, Fehr oversaw strikes or lockouts in 1985, 1989 and cancellation of the World Series in 1995.

Only a blockade of players led by Tom Glavine in 2002, prevented another work stoppage.

And look at what happened in 2010 or what didn’t happen, Fehr was gone and baseball didn’t even come close to a work stoppage.

So now he haunts hockey. It looks like last week there could have been a deal struck, but Fehr wanted to get his hand in on it, even he said they were close.

“We think we’re either done on the dollars or very close to it with the exception of one issue called transition that we haven’t even discussed yet. It seemed to me that we ought to be able to move forward and try and finish it off,” Fehr told news reporters in Toronto. “So far, at least, they haven’t indicated a willingness to continue discussions.”

But when the owners wanted to finish it off without Fehr, that’s when negotiations broke off.

If we want hockey this season, something has to break but it seems like the players may have to get rid of Fehr before a deal can happen.

In the meantime visit http://www.superbowl360.com/ to pass the time until hockey returns.

Rangers win in Miracle fashion

NEW YORK – As far as predictable goes, these playoffs have been anything but. Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Rangers and the Capitals topped that – this game was unpredictable moment to moment according to the sports betting sites.

The Rangers set the tone for the game immediately, establishing their strong presence and scoring halfway through the first period. Nevertheless, 49 minutes later, despite 33 shots on goal and 24 more shots that were blocked by the Washington Capitals, the New York Rangers were trailing by one goal. With 21.3 seconds left on the clock, Carl Hagelin drew a four-minute penalty for high-sticking, of which three and a half seemed wasteful. On the bench, Henrik Lundqvist was thinking about the next game. By the bench, Carl Hagelin wiped the blood off his face, and hurried back to where the action was. In the stands, the fans were on their feet, and while their hope was dwindling, they were determined to show their belief and support.

“It’s awesome,” captain Ryan Callahan said after the game. “They supported us all night. Twenty seconds left, they’re standing up chanting ‘Let’s go, Rangers!’ That fuels you. That makes you feel good. To be able to get that one for them and hear the Garden explode – I haven’t heard it that loud since I’ve been here.”

With 6.6 seconds left on the clock, the Rangers’ efforts throughout the game finally paid off, and the thirty sixth shot on goal was it.  “I think it’s fitting that Richie (Brad Richards) gets the one to tie it up there,” said Ryan Callahan. Brad Richards is no stranger to final seconds goals – on December 17th, he scored the game-winning goal against Coyotes’ Mike Smith in the final second of the game. So he really did have 6.5 seconds to spare here. “We’ve been talking about it all year,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. “Not only on the ice but off the ice, to have a guy like that – he knows what it takes. You could tell when games are getting tighter, more important, he plays better. I think he likes the intensity in games like that. It just shows what type of player he really is.” Carl Hagelin was in agreement with Henrik Lundqvist’s assessment of Brad Richards: “I think he’s probably been that ‘go to’ guy his entire life. He knows what it takes to win, he IS a winner.”

“Would you take another high-stick to the face if it means two goals?” I ask Carl Hagelin, lip swollen, after the game, and I immediately know the answer, even before he has a chance to respond. His quick skate to the bench and back after being struck said it all. “I didn’t want to get off the ice there, it was a key part of the game. Just try to wipe some of the blood off, and then get going again.”

What seemed like a miraculous comeback was actually the result of the effort that had been there the whole game. “If you look at the blocked shots, we didn’t block many shots because we’ve had the puck,” said coach John Tortorella, pleased with both the outcome and his team’s performance. Henrik Lundqvist had similar thoughts: “The way we played tonight, we worked so hard. It was tough for us to get in front and create real good scoring chances, but we were shooting a lot and had a lot of energy. I definitely think we deserved this win. We worked so hard.”

They also never gave up. “We stuck with it,” said Ryan Callahan. They looked at a power play, an extra attacker, and 21.3 seconds on the clock as an opportunity, ignoring lack of success on the seven previous power plays.  “That’s just the result of working hard and creating chances this whole game. Sooner or later, it’s going to go in, and that’s why we play for sixty minutes. If it means scoring with 5 seconds to go, or 55 minutes to go – it doesn’t matter,” said Carl Hagelin.

Game six of this back-and-forth nail-biting series is on Wednesday evening at the Verizon Center in Washington DC.  On the line is the time of the next Rangers game at Madison Square Garden.