Friday, April 6, 2012

Tortorella, Milbury right on the money

If you're a Washington Capitals fan, or just a Pittsburgh Penguins hater this past week has been somewhat gratifying.

No, I'm obviously not talking about the wins over the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers on Tuesday and last night.

That fact really sucks by the way.

I'm talking about comments from NBC Sports analyst Mike Milbury and Rangers Coach John Tortorella.

Both echoed what Capitals fans and Penguins haters have been saying for the last five years.

Sidney Crosby and the rest of the boys in black, gold and silver are a bunch of arrogant, whiny babies.

This all started after Sunday's matinee between the Penguins and Flyers. Pittsburgh forward Joe Vitale leveled Philadelphia forward Danny Briere that led to an on ice-brawl and Flyers Coach Peter Laviolette smashing a stick over the class and shouting at Penguins coach Dan Bylsma.

Vitale's check on Briere steamed from a cross-check by the Flyers Brayden Schenn on Crosby a few minutes earlier.

The response from the Penguins prompted harsh comments from Milbury towards Crosby on a Philadelphia radio show, Monday, where Milbury called Crosby a "punk" and "Little good two shoes."

Here's an excerpt from the inteview:

“Little goody two shoes (Crosby) goes into the corner and gives a shot to Schenn. Schenn was late to the party, I mean, he should have turned around and drilled him right away, but I guess better late than never. So you know, Crosby gets cross-checked, big whoop, you know? He said after he came back from his 35th concussion, ‘I’m not going to do this any more, I’m not going to get into these scrums, I’m going to stay away from that stuff.’ And he couldn’t help himself because there’s a little punk in Crosby. He’s not the perfect gentleman. He’s not the sweet kid you see in interviews with his hat pulled down over his eyes. I’d say screw him, hit him whenever you get the opportunity .”

Tortorella's comments were made after last night's loss by the Rangers to the Penguins in which Rangers center Derek Stepan suffered an apparent knee injury after absorbing a knee-on-knee from the Penguins Brooks Orpik in the closing minutes of the third period.

Tortorella called the Penguins "one of the most arrogant organizations in the league" and referred to Evgeni Malkin and Crosby as Pittsburgh's "two whining stars."

Here's an excerpt from Tortorella's remarks:

"They whine about this stuff all of the time, and look what happens? It's ridiculous. But they'll whine about something else over there, won't they?"

I applaud Tortorella and Milbury for their comments. For years, Crosby has constantly whined and bitched and moaned to league officials during games about calls they aren't making.

Does anyone remember the clip from 24/7 when Crosby felt a referee missed a high stick on the Capitals John Carlson during the two team's Dec. 23 meeting?

Crosby adamantly argued the non-call, repeatedly telling the official "That's a (bleepin) joke."

How about the infamous check on Alex Ovechkin late in the 2009 regular season when both players were skating to the their respective benches?

Crosby sat at the end of the Pens bench and chirped with Capitals players well after the incident took place.

The Penguins whining has come from Mario Lemieux who last year said the league failed in the punishments laid out in the aftermath of the Penguins brawl with the New York Islanders in February 2011.

All Tortorella and Milbury did was state the obvious. Penguins stars have been getting away with dirty play since Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr's haydays with the organization.

Penguins players, coaches and management have always felt they could do whatever on the ice and get away with it. You want to know why Crosby whines and pulls the cheap crap that he pulls? Because the league does nothing to stop it.

Milbury has since apologiezed for his comments mainly because of his insensitivity towards Crosby's recent concussion problems. I understand Milbury doesn't want to lose either one of his jobs, so I can't totally fault him.

But, the league can do whatever they want. I know the playoffs start next week, but if Orpik is not suspended for at least the first two games of the Pens first round series I'm seriously going to question the leagues integrity.

Tortorella and Milbury simply stated the obvious.

It's time the league does the obvious.

Should Caps worry about winning division

Late in the third period of last night's game between the Capitals and visiting Florida Panthers, Comcast SportsNet showed the final score of the Philadelphia Flyers-Buffalo Sabres contest.

The Flyers had defeated the Sabres 2-1 in regulation, so all the Capitals needed to do was hold on to the 3-2 lead they were enjoying to secure a fifth consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Alexander Semin ensured the Capitals would hold on by beating Panthers goaltender Jose Theodore on a backhand shot to the top left corner of the net with just over a minute to go.

The 4-2 win over the Panthers clinched the Capitals fifth straight postseason appearance and gives them a realistic chance of claiming their fifth straight Southeast Division championship.

A regulation loss by the Panthers to the Carolina Hurricanes coupled with a Capitals win over the New York Rangers in tomorrow's regular season finale's would give the Capitals their eigth division championship in franchise history.

After the game, Capitals players and coaches had different takes on how important it is that they win the Southeast and earn the number three seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Alex Ovechkin said it doesn't matter where the Capitals are seeded, but Troy Brouwer, Brooks Laich and coach Dale Hunter all said you want to earn the highest seed as possible, especially with home-ice in the first round at stake.

As much as I like the Capitals having home-ice in a playoff series, it hasn't done this group of Capitals any favors the last four years.

We all know about the four Game 7's they played at Verizon Center from 2008-2010 and we all know they only won one of those four games, so I don't need to go into any great detail about that.

I also don't need to go into great detail about how this group of Capitals has had home-ice advantage in all six playoff series they've played in together and have only won two of them; both being over an inferior group of New York Rangers.

My take on this is very simple. The Capitals seed in this years playoffs is irrelevant.

Despite the first seven games of the season, the Capitals have been an inconsistent bunch. They seemingly quite on Bruce Boudreau which prompted General Manager George McPhee to hire Hunter as coach.

The thought there was Hunter's old school in your face style of hockey would rub off on the players and they would finally realize the little things they need to do to win hockey games.

They haven't.

With both Boudreau and Hunter, the Capitals have failed to consistently crash the net this season, forecheck, and tighten up in their defensive zone.

Those are the keys to winning in April, May and June, but the Capitals still don't seem to understand that concept.

So, by the end of the night tomorrow, the Capitals will either be the number three, seven, or eight seed in the Eastern Conference. That means either a first round matchup with the Rangers, defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins, or the New Jersey Devils.

What do all three of those potential opponents have in common? They crash the net, forecheck consistently and play tight in their own zone.

Plus, all three teams are big and physical which isn't exactly the Capitals style. Yes, Ovechkin will steamroll anyone in the league and guys like Joel Ward and Jason Chimera are certainly not small.

But, the rest of the Caps lineup lacks the overall size of the Rangers, Bruins and Devils which in a seven game series is usually a bad thing.

Yes, lower seeded teams have made unexpected runs to the Stanley Cup Finals in the past. The Anaheim Ducks in 2003, the Calgary Flames in 2004, the Edmonton Oilers in 2006 and the Flyers in 2010 were all seven or eight seeds that made surprise runs to the Finals. Only the Flyers were defeated in less then seven games and their loss to the Chicago Blackhawks took six games.

Could the Capitals conceivably make a run with talented forwards like Ovechkin, Semin, Nicklas Backstrom and a defenseman like Mike Green?

Sure.

But, seeing how inconsistent this team has been all year, I would bet they are outed in no more then six games.

I hope I'm wrong.