My first-round Stanley Cup Playoffs assignments on Versus came to an end with the ultimate for any hockey fan: a Game 7. I’ve done several Game 7s in my career, but the anticipation leading up to the game and the excitement of watching two teams putting it all on the line never gets old. I had the call of the Rangers-Capitals on Tuesday at Verizon Center. When the Capitals were at their best in this series, it was hard to imagine that the Rangers could have grabbed a 3-1 series advantage. But that’s what makes the Stanley Cup Playoffs so unique. The best team on paper doesn’t always win. There are so many intangibles that can turn a series. The Rangers took advantage of shaky goaltending by Jose Theodore in Game 1 and then rode two brilliant performances by goalie Henrik Lundqvist to put the heavily-favored Caps and Alex Ovechkin to the brink.
The Rangers played their best in the first period of Game 7. They shut down the Caps in the neutral zone and out-chanced their opponent. But, despite allowing just two shots on goal, the best the Rangers could do was a 1-1 tie at the first intermission. The Caps showed
|Washington Capitals goalie Simeon Varlamov. |
throughout the rest of this tightly played elimination game why they have taken another step toward becoming a championship team. They stuck to their system, got timely goaltending from rookie sensation Simeon Varlamov and they proved they are way more than just a team with the league’s most dynamic player. The game-winning goal came from 39-year-old Sergei Fedorov who moved into a tie for 15th place with Mario Lemieux on the NHL’s all-time playoff scoring list.
The Caps are a big team, built for the long haul and have enough scoring depth to beat anybody. Their next challenge, the Pittsburgh Penguins, provides both Versus and NBC with so much marquee star power: Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin and Green. We’ll find out in a hurry if Varlamov is for real against a powerful offense that will be far more of a challenge than the NY Rangers. I like Pittsburgh to win in six games.
Late last night, I received an e-mail from Versus with the second-round playoff assignments. I’m fortunate to be part of one of three crews that will bring all the action to hockey fans across the United States. My first game is tonight in Vancouver for Game 1 of the Western
|Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo makes a save against Andrew Ladd of the Chicago Blackhawks earlier this season. |
Conference semifinals between the Canucks and Blackhawks. It’s the only game of the night so we’re kicking off the coverage of Round 2! I’ll be working with Eddie Olczyk in the booth while Bob Harwood is our sideline reporter.
Our crew will stay in Vancouver for Game 2 on Saturday night and then move down the coast for Games 3 and 4 of the Ducks-Red Wings series. Darren Eliot will slide into the analyst seat next to me while Edzo heads back east for his NBC duties.
By the way, speaking of NBC, how about Panger getting the call to work some of their telecasts from between the benches?! He’s done a terrific job. I think our best shows on Fox Sports Arizona were the home games with Panger between the benches. He’s made for that position. Panger will be part of the NBC crew for Sunday’s Game 2 between Detroit and Anaheim from Joe Louis Arena.
|Darren Pang aka Panger. |
I heard some great news just before heading up to the booth in Washington, D.C. last night. The American Hockey League is going back to my hometown of Glens Falls, N.Y. The Philadelphia Phantoms will lose their home when the old Spectrum is torn down. The new owners of the Phantoms want to build an arena in Allentown, Penn., at some point, but that project is going to take some time. So, the Glens Falls Civic Center once again will be home to an AHL team. It may only be for a season or two, but it’s a great opportunity for the community to prove it can once again support a pro franchise.
Glens Falls was home to the Adirondack Red Wings for over 20 seasons, starting with the 1979-80 campaign. I was the radio voice of the team for the first six seasons and the way that team brought our town together was something special. So many future NHLers went through that franchise and I continue to see former Adirondack Red Wings in my travels around the NHL (I just said hello to one on my flight from Toronto to Vancouver: Kris King from the NHL’s Hockey Operations Dept.). I will run into another one when I see Detroit General Manager Ken Holland next week in Anaheim. So many players that went through there have made that area their home: Greg Joly, Pete Mahovlich and the entire Dineen family, just to name a few!
I’m so happy for the fans and the business community that have needed and wanted something to fill the void since the Red Wings moved their top farm team to Grand Rapids, Mich.. I hope the Phantoms are a huge success.
That’s all for now and thanks for stopping by phoenixcoyotes.com.