Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Success in South Philly - Rangers beat Flyers and Referees 3-2 in Winter Classic 

That.  Was.  Cool.

The New York Rangers hung tough and overcame so many different obstacles to win the Winter Classic 3-2 Monday on South Broad Street.

1 –The Rangers overcame the outdoors.  Citizen Bank Park introduced the elements to a hockey game that very few NHL players have had to deal with: cold, bad ice, crazy-bounce boards and wind (!) for example.

2 – They overcame a 2 goal deficit with 25 minutes to play.

3 – They overcame the most hostile environment they're ever likely to face: nearly 47 thousand screaming Philadelphia fan(lun)-atics.

4 – They overcame a talented, motivated, gritty (and ultimately, evil) Philadelphia Flyers team.

5 – And shockingly – they had to overcome some of the worst refereeing you are ever likely to see in an organized sport (or an NHL game, and there is a difference).  I wish I could say the refs were having a bad day – but it was much worse than that.  The league seems to hate the New York Rangers and were not at all shy about showing it.

Ranger Coach John Tortorella went so far as to call the officiating "disgusting", saying that the league and NBC were conspiring to send the game into overtime.  Glen Sather added "You see three or four calls [in the third period] that are enough to blow your mind".

First of all - the officials were ignoring Flyer infractions left and right.  But then – with an empty net and the Flyers trying to even the score in the last 2 minutes – Ryan Callahan was tackled from behind by with no one between him and an empty net.  Any rational person (or hockey fan, and there is a difference) was thinking "penalty shot" – but apparently the officials were watching the game in some alternate universe where cats and dogs are line-mates and the time-space continuum does not apply.  At first the zebras actually thought about giving the Ranger Captain a penalty for taking a dive ("Crosby-ing") but they quickly realized that this would be too absurd for even them to let stand.  So they made it a "stick-holding" minor"!  On Callahan!!  Talk about blaming the victim!!!

And then – to top it all off – with the Rangers about to win and the NHL about to lose its Winter Classic audience for the year – Ryan McDonough was whistled for "covering the puck in the crease" (which sounds like a euphemism for something nasty).  The only problem was – Ryan hadn't covered anything – he swatted the puck away from the Ranger goal.

And so with 19 seconds to go the referees exited the rational universe and decided, just for fun, to award Philadelphia with a penalty shot.  A penalty shot.  The same penalty shot they just stole from Callahan they are now awarding – falsely – to Scott Hartnell – as John Tortorella's head looked about ready to explode.  But – in epic fashion – Hank stoned Hartnell – the Rangers won – and good triumphed over evil in South Philly.

And that's not even the best part.  Marc Staal – our long lost concussed defensive all star – returned to the ice for 12:41 and 20 shifts.  It was like seeing an old friend out there and had this not been the Winter Classic – Marc's return would be the top headline of the day.  Staal skated with several different defensemen – including reuniting with Girardi.  It may not be the best place to put him now – but wow, was that a sight for sore eyes.

Hank was nothing short of spectacular on the big stage, stopping 34 shots for a .944 save percentage, besting the .909 of Bobrovsky.

And get this – it was Mike Rupp (a.k.a. "punchman") who scored the first two Ranger goals to knot the game at 2.  Rupp's first, in the second, ignited the Rangers – as he mocked Jagr's earlier goal celebration by saluting the Flyer bench.

And in the end it was the below-the-radar superstar- Brad Richards – who netted the game winner in the third.

Assists for Callahan and Dubinsky – plus two each for Mitchell and Prust.  And once again in a game we were outshot and out-face-offed – the Rangers emerged triumphant.

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