I haven’t written in these virtual pages about my love of NHL hockey, perhaps mostly because my favorite team, the Boston Bruins, has been mostly pathetic on the ice for the past few seasons. Even when the team finishes near the top of the league, it still can’t seem to get past the first round of the playoffs. This year the Bruins finished fourth worst in the league. So why am I writing about hockey when my favorite team is playing golf? Because there is a certain sense of justice in watching my LEAST favorite team, the NY Rangers, completely unravel in the playoffs due to a lack of discipline.
Now, the reasons I dislike the Rangers so much are many. Even for the near decade that the Rangers were out of the playoffs, the local media continued to write as if they were the best team in the NHL. For years I had to look at Mark Messier’s face, watch him elbow other players, watch him yap at the refs, and be generally treated like a god for bringing a Stanley Cup to NY (at the very least, watching any Bruins/Rangers contest the past season was much more enjoyable knowing I would not have to see his face on camera anymore). Also, before the salary cap was put in place this season, if the Rangers wanted a player, they could pay him anything he wanted to come to NY. It didn’t matter if he was a third- or fourth-line player, his salary would be inflated if the Rangers wanted him, and that drove up salaries all over the league, meaning that teams that could NOT afford such talent were put in an even WORSE position because suddenly any third-string player could look to someone on the Rangers payroll and say, “hey… I scored three more goals than that guy, and my +/- is much better — I deserve to be paid that much too,” and any arbiter would agree.
So anyway, fast-forward to last Saturday, and the Rangers are playing their hated arch-rivals, the NJ Devils in the first game of the first round of the NHL playoffs. In a fantastic show of uncontained emotion and a complete lack of discipline, the Rangers buried themselves early by allowing the NJ Devils some thirteen power-play opportunities, and ended up losing the opening game of the playoffs by a score of 6-1.
But the real story in the loss was that Jaromir Jagr, a NY Ranger who also just happens to be the league’s 2nd-leading scorer, apparently became frustrated by yet another penalty-kill late in the 3rd period of Saturday’s game. He decided to take a swing at Devils centerman Scott Gomez, but he missed and dislocated his left shoulder. It is doubtful he will play tonight in Game 2.
Now, I never like to see players get hurt, but when they bring it on themselves, there really isn’t much you can do except sit back and relax, and realize that there is some sense of karmic justice at work in the universe.
And lest you think that the Rangers have solved their little discipline problem, think again. Apparently, a recent practice didn’t go any better. Newsday reports, “In a violent display of emotion that surprised the media throng watching practice, center Michael Nylander cracked a glass panel above the sideboards with three whacks of his stick after mishandling the puck on an offensive rush with Martin Straka and Petr Sykora.”
I can’t wait to watch tonight’s matchup.