Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tort blows gasket on Orpik hit, Pens

John Tortorella didn't take too kindly to a Brooks Orpik knee on knee hit that injured Derek Stepan during tonight's 5-2 loss to the Pens. With under five minutes left and the Rangers trailing by two, Stepan who moments earlier took a clean hit and delivered one of his own tried to skate by Orpik at the Pittsburgh blueline. Unfortunately, as he was making his move the right knee was caught by the Pens' bruising defenseman. Orpik was tossed out of the game for a kneeing major, which is an automatic review by the league. I don't believe there was intent to injure. Just an unlucky play.

Tortorella fumed during a terse postgame, labeling the hit as "cheap and dirty." He then went on to rip the Pittsburgh organization, basically pointing out if the shoes were reversed, they'd whine about it while referencing Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who both have come under fire recently. Both were involved post-whistle during the Flyer game last weekend that finished ugly due to Dan Bylsma sticking out his fourth line with the outcome decided. A clear message, which isn't supposed to happen. Not coincidentally, energizer Joe Vitale nailed Daniel Briere with a clean hit that injured him, causing two fights and a reaction from Peter Laviolette we don't usually see with the vet coach climbing the railing screaming obscenities at Bylsma, who let Tony Granato do his bidding.

During the same game, Vitale accidentally had a knee on knee hit on Flyer defenseman Niklas Grossmann, who remains questionable for the first round against those Pens. It's hard to come down on a fourth liner like Vitale who plays the game the right way. However, superstar teammates Crosby and Malkin in particular do get away with a lot post-whistle. So, it's easy to see Tort's point about the organization's hypocrisy. Given how Matt Cooke has transformed himself into a clean player, it's hard to believe his more successful teammates are the guys Flyer assistant coach Craig Berube called the dirtiest players on the Pens. If you follow their games, they push the envelope. I don't take issue with Crosby but could do without soon to be Hart recipient Malkin's repeated two-handers and cross checks which disrespect the game.

Whether I would've went off about what looked like an accident is another story altogether. Tortorella should've stopped short of going after the Pens, leaving the focus on Stepan's recovery. A positive was that he was able to skate to the bench but the Rangers were cautious, not using him at the end of the game. Hopefully, the second-year pivot will be alright for next week's first round.

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