Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Preview: Rangers visit Crosby Pens tonight

It's a big night for MSG. Today, the Garden's two winter teams have pivotal games against bitter rivals. With this being a hockey blog, we'll focus more on the Rangers' third meeting against old Patrick Division rival Pittsburgh instead of the much anticipated Knicks-Celtics battle in Beantown on MSG.

There's no doubt that these two teams hate each other. Especially the war of words between Brandon Dubinsky and Sidney Crosby following the Pens' 3-1 win in the Big Apple a couple of weeks prior. The match featured a Crosby slew foot on emotional leader Ryan Callahan, who somehow got nabbed for phantom interference after being taken down by the league's best player. Dubinsky has never been shy about how he feels towards his former junior rival, disapproving of the Pitt captain's sneaky antics between whistles. It's no secret that Sid The Kid isn't afraid to mix it up, often delivering hacks and whacks which go undetected. A few blatant slashes which are potentially dangerous. That has rubbed Dubi and in particular our fanbase the wrong way. Call it sour grapes. But from our vantage point, it looks like the league's Golden Boy is getting the 'star treatment.'

Even Alex Ovechkin hasn't gotten this kind of love. Perhaps it's because the Cap sniper is more reckless, even getting suspended last season. Or maybe it's because Crosby is the very low key superstar the NHL wants to promote with a clean image that can easily be respected. For as much as Sid whines when things don't go his team's way, you'll never see him lose his cool in the locker room or postgame a la the Great 8 after that Olympic meltdown in Vancouver. Along with the league's leading scorer (26-27-53) being Canadian, it's easy to see why he's so well marketed. For as exciting as Sid's rival is, Ovi will never be portrayed that way. Instead, the leading Cap must shed the unfair label as a playoff choker while Crosby gets the accolades for winning a Cup, making two Finals, winning a Hart, Art Ross and Olympic gold thanks to one of the greatest goals in interntional history all by age 23.

There's no denying his unique talent which sparked a recent 12-game win streak before Pennsylvania rival Philadelphia snapped it with a 3-2 win last night. Ironically, the dominant stretch came following a 3-2 overtime loss to the Blueshirts in a wild game that saw the Pens get all six power plays and not beat Henrik Lundqvist until there were three minutes left, scoring two straight only to see All-Star candidate Marc Staal tie it shorthanded. Dubinsky set up Callahan for the OT winner, giving the Rangers their best win of the season. Since, Crosby's taken off passing Steven Stamkos for the league lead in goals and putting up an amazing 19-game scoring streak which continued yesterday with two assists on Evgeni Malkin goals. During it, he's totaled 38 points including a ridiculous 20 goals that featured two hat tricks in three games sandwiched around a one assist effort in Pittsburgh's win over the Rangers.

Can Staal and partner Dan Girardi keep him in check? They're emerging into a shutdown tandem capable of neutralizing the opposition. Ovechkin was left frustrated in a 7-0 rout Monday. The team's best performance. Lundqvist was also strong making 31 stops. So, are they up to the challenge with Geno also back having scored twice? It will take another gigantic effort from our heroes to make it two in a row and a two-game losing streak for the hated rival. If you want to see it, you'll have to find MSG2 due to the Coyotes/Devils being on the second network instead.

There should be fireworks. Don't miss it!

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