Sunday, September 26, 2010
Avery and Kovalchuk renew rivalry
For Ranger bad boy Sean Avery, his No.1 rival used to be Martin Brodeur. However, the future Devil Hall of Famer has been replaced by Russian teammate Ilya Kovalchuk. Ever since the electrifying former Thrasher's donned Devils black and red, Avery's been all over him when the bitter Hudson rivals have played.
It's almost as if the Ranger pest has a new boyfriend and we use that team loosely. :P This rivalry began during the Ranger first round sweep of Kovalchuk's Thrashers a few Springs ago. In a big spot with his team trailing in the series, Ilya lost it going after Avery and taking costly penalties. Perhaps all they needed was the Devils bringing the superstar to Newark. At least that's all it's taken for Avery to get better acquainted with his new nemesis.
There they were again front and center with the Devil investment taking the bait during a scrum, chasing Avery around while David Clarkson did his bidding. Speaking of Clarkson who's still letting Avery get to him, he's no angel either. Not with his coming from behind and jawing that somehow drew zilch along with the predictable 14 minutes for Gary Bettman's favorite E-Z target. Of course, Sean wouldn't go with the Devil antagonist, further angering his favorite audience at The Rock. At one point, he had Kovalchuk so upset that they exchanged barbs between benches with one of the game's best finishers pointing repeatedly at Public Enemy No.1.
If Avery was mixing it up, it means he was doing his job. An ugly description that includes playing on the edge, bantering and driving opponents batty. He was at his best Saturday pushing the envelope while also being in on two goals, right in front of Johan Hedberg. The question becomes will his chaos eventually wear thin in the room? Other forwards also impressed including former John Tortorella '04 Lightning hero Ruslan Fedotenko, who scored a power play goal and added two assists. Ex-Sabre Tim Kennedy had a strong game, distracting the Devils in front while Ryan Callahan fed Mike Del Zotto for the winner. If Brian Boyle continues to impress along with rookie pivot Derek Stepan, the competition should heat up.
There's also diminutive and skilled Mats Zuccarello-Aasen who looked good in his first taste of NHL action Thursday. He used his speed well and also took the puck to the net and made things happen. The question is what kind of team does Tortorella want? They obviously need to score more goals but also want to make life difficult on foes. If motivated, Avery certainly fits the second criteria. As long as he has his new Russian crutch, that shouldn't be an issue.
What about the other 76 games? That remains to be seen.