One of the most respected voices in hockey, Mike “Doc” Emrick had the rare experience of sitting in a media level without calling a game Saturday afternoon, as he watched the Penguins push their winning-streak to eight games with a 3-0 victory over the New York Rangers.
But Emrick, who will call Sunday’s game against the Boston Bruins on NBC, couldn’t help but dissect the Pens’ performance in the first period of the game, which ended with a 1-0 Pittsburgh lead.
“I saw (the Penguins) really anxious at the start of the game,” Emrick said. “Not a fearful anxiousness, but they were really anxious to get it started and I could tell, even when there was an offsides call, they were angry and revved up about that.
“That was a team that wanted to play and really wanted to be ready to play and I think they are.”
The Penguins dominated the action in the first period, outshooting New York 12-4, which led Emrick to say it was “a miracle” for the Rangers to have surrendered just one goal.
While peering out on the second frame, Emrick discussed Sunday’s match-up between Pittsburgh and Boston, saying it will pit two teams against each other that he considers to be polar opposites, but equally effective.
“You have two teams that are highly successful in their own ways,” he said. “They both play the sport, but with Pittsburgh it’s all about up-tempo offense and with Boston it’s all about, just physical pounding.
“They succeed in different ways. They’re captains are totally different players, one’s a forward, one’s a defenseman, but they pretty much epitomize the team.”
In their contest last Tuesday, the Penguins rallied from a 2-0 deficit with less than seven minutes remaining in the game to not only earn two points, but keep the Bruins, who sit just behind the Pens and the Montreal Canadiens at the top of the Eastern Conference, from earning a point by defeating them in regulation.
“(The Penguins are) going to play a team tomorrow that they played earlier in the week and they came from behind and won, so they know they’re going to get their best game from Boston, just for the sake of vengeance,” Emrick said.
The Pens also came back late to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 on Thursday. Pittsburgh’s back-to-back come from behind wins in the third periods of their two games heading into Saturday impressed Emrick, who said he never thought the team could be as effective as it’s been without Evgeni Malkin.
“On a 1 to 10 in terms on where I’d think they’d be playing without (Malkin), and I should know my history better because it’s the same way they produced without (Sidney Crosby), I would guess that they’d be playing at a level of a 6.5,” Emrick said. “But where they’re playing at is a 9. Nobody gets a 10.”
While Emrick spent much of his time examining Saturday’s action, he said he enjoyed being able to play the role of a casual viewer, if you consider still marking down the line combinations, casual.
“It’s force of habit,” Emrick said. “Much of what I do is unnecessary. I do watch the game and I saw that there was one team that was ready and one team that wasn’t. That was pretty obvious.”