Five reasons the NHL’s Capitals/Rangers is a bigger Game 7 draw than the NBA’s Lakers/Nuggets

Both New York and Los Angeles host big Game 7s on Saturday night. On the West Coast, the NBA’s LA Lakers and Denver Nuggets will go the distance at the Staples Center. On the East Coast, the New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals will face off for the right to play the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Final.

No doubt, with the Lakers involved, conventional wisdom says that that’s the hottest Saturday ticket on the schedule. But, as it turns out, that’s not actually the case. Judging from the online resale market, New York/Washington is far and away tomorrow’s marquee event. From USA Today:

Tickets for Rangers-Caps are averaging 2 vs. 5 for Lakers-Nuggets, according to Joellen Ferrer of StubHub. The online ticket service is seeing 10 times the sales volume for Rangers-Caps as Lakers-Nuggets, she adds.

So what’s making the Rangers/Capitals showdown the hotter ticket? Braden Holtby prom hopefuls? The rise of Jay Beagle? Maybe it’s all that sexy, sexy shot-blocking?

Here are 5 things that might be giving the NHL’s Game 7 the edge:

1) Star power

Not to take anything away from Kobe Bryant, but he’s the only real star here in a Lakers/Nuggets matchup; the opponents bring very few recognizable names to the table. Seriously, name a player on the Denver Nuggets. If you can’t do it, don’t feel bad — I assure you that basketball fans struggle just as much. And if you said Javale McGee, um, wow.

The Rangers’ opponents, on the other hand, have this Alex Ovechkin guy. You’ve probably heard of him, since he’s one of recognizable hockey names in the world. He can draw a crowd, and the fact that he’ll be in the visitors’ locker room for this game is going to drum up some additional interest.

2) The live experience

You hear it all the time, but for all its knocks about the television experience, most Americans will tell you that hockey is incredible live. If this were just about TV viewers, the NBA probably takes the title in a walk, but we’re talking about the in-arena experience. If you have an opportunity to attend a hockey Game 7, you have to take it.

3) Madison Square Garden

More than just the live experience, the MSG experience factors in here. Let’s be clear: as nice as the Staples Centre is, it’s no Madison Square. Seeing a Game 7 at the Staples Centre is one thing; seeing a Game 7 at MSG is something you remember forever. The world’s most famous arena is a draw all on its own, and the fact that the event inside of it Saturday has some serious marketability is the cherry on top.

4) Canadians

The distance between Toronto and New York is about 8 hours by car, which is completely manageable since the game’s on a Saturday and there’s no need to rush back for work the next morning. The opportunity for Canadian fans to see a rare Game 7 at Madison Square Garden is there, and we all know how easily swayed Canadians are by the promise of hockey history. They’ll pay through the teeth to witness it, and that may be factoring into the high resale volume.

5) Hungrier Market

And finally, speaking of rarity, the Lakers are a massive draw, to be certain, but they’re in contention a lot more often than the Rangers. They’ve won 6 of the last 12 NBA titles. Kobe Bryant has played in five Game 7s in his career, the most recent being the final game of the 2010 NBA Finals, a home court win over the Boston Celtics. The Lakers also hosted Game 7s in 2009 and 2006.

The Rangers, on the other hand, are in territory that hasn’t been charted in a long time. They haven’t won a Cup since 1994, and they’ve played just one Game 7 in the last 17 years, and it was two weeks ago. This isn’t just a big game. It’s an exceptionally rare big game, and the novelty factor tends to jack up the price.

Puck Daddy – NHL – Yahoo! Sports

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Paging Mr. Gaborik! | Rangers Pulse. By James Wrabel, Jr.

Hockey This Week

Hockey This Week

Why Marian Gaborik Has to Play Better for the Rangers to Advance.

Paging Mr. Gaborik…a Mr. Marian Gaborik, you are needed for the New York Rangers immediately.

Since scoring in Game 1 in the opening round of the playoffs, Rangers sniper Marian Gaborik—the team leader in goals in the regular season with 41—has been held without a goal in eight straight playoff games.

Hardly the numbers you want to see from your No. 1 offensive threat. But has it been THAT bad for Gaborik? Not necessarily.

In last night’s Game 2 loss to the Washington Capitals, Gaborik had the primary assist on Brad Richards’ goal late in the first period. Using his underrated playmaking abilities, Gaborik cut to the middle, allowing Richards a lane to the net and fired a pass that was redirected past Braden Holtby.

Objectively, it’s plays similar to that which have escaped Gaborik during the playoffs, as well as having the time and space to fire off his deadly shot. But is that a byproduct of not giving maximum effort?

Hardly. It’s more a case of Gaborik being marked extremely well.

Hockey This Week

It’s almost common in the NHL to know each team’s top-six forwards will cancel each other out and it’s up to the respective role players to come up huge. It’s why we’ve seen players like Ruslan Fedotenko, Mike Rupp and Maxim Talbot, to name a few, score critical, Cup-clinching goals for their teams in the past.

The getting isn’t too good in the NHL’s second season.

During the Senators series, Gaborik was not only marked well, Ottawa defenders were very physical with him, possibly taking him off his game. Gaborik thrives in the open ice, and need time and space to be effective. Take that away, and you’ve rendered Gaborik useless.

Through two games, Washington has done a superb job of limiting Gaborik sans a breakaway chance in Game 1. The competition only gets tougher as the playoffs move on.

Is that an excuse for Gaborik to have just one goal in the playoffs? Absolutely not. There are no excuses in the playoffs and it’s up to the Slovak to find a way to make a difference.

It’s a critical reason why the New York Rangers need to get their power play—ranked 23rd in the NHL in the regular season and just 10th of 16 teams in the postseason—in order. If goals aren’t going to come five-on-five, then the power play becomes paramount. It’s the area where a team’s skilled players like Gaborik have a chance to make a difference because of the man advantage.

New York’s power play was inconsistent at best during the regular season. Despite seeing glimpses in Game 2, it needs to be better going forward.

So does Marian Gaborik. Otherwise, winning the series with Washington becomes much more difficult.

James Wrabel, Jr.
Hockey This Week

Follow James on Twitter @thewrage

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Eastern Conference Semifinals
Game 1
Madison Square GardenNew York, NY
(NYR lead 1-0)

Team Notes:

  • The Rangers opened their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Washington Capitals with a 3-1 win in Game 1 today at Madison Square Garden. The Blueshirts now lead the series, 1-0.
  • New York improved to 203-219-8 overall in postseason action, including a 113-85-2 mark at home.
  • The Rangers have won their last three games, including wins in Games 6 and 7 of their first round series against Ottawa.
  • The Blueshirts have opened five of their last eight playoff series with a win in Game 1. New York has posted a 31-11 series record when winning Game 1, including wins in six of the last seven playoff series in which the Rangers won the opening game.

Player Notes:

  • Chris Kreider tallied his first goal at Madison Square Garden with the game-winner, and added his first career assist in 15:22 of ice time to earn first star honors. The last Rangers rookie to register a multi-point effort in the postseason was Brandon Dubinsky (one goal, one assist) on May 1, 2008, in Game 4 of the Rangers Eastern Conference Semifinal series against Pittsburgh. Kreider now leads all rookies and is tied for first in the NHL overall with two game-winning goals in the playoffs.
  • Henrik Lundqvist made 17 saves to register his 20th career playoff win, and is now 20-23 overall in postseason action with an 11-10 mark at home. Lundqvist is the third Rangers goaltender to record 20 playoff wins in franchise history, joining Mike Richter (41) and Ed Giacomin (29).
  • Brad Richards notched one goal, was credited with two blocked shots, won a game-high, 12 face-offs (12-24, 50%), and led all forwards with 23:16 of ice time. He leads the team in playoff scoring with six points, and is tied for the team lead with three goals in postseason action.
  • Artem Anisimov opened the game’s scoring with his first goal of the playoffs at 12:38 of the second period. He is now tied for third on the team in playoff scoring with four points (one goal, three assists).
  • Ruslan Fedotenko recorded the primary assist on Anisimov’s second period goal, and tied for the game-high with three blocked shots to earn third star honors. He is now tied for fourth among NHL forwards with 11 blocked shots in the postseason.
  • Ryan McDonagh tallied his first career playoff point with an assist on Anisimov’s second period goal, and led all skaters with four shots on goal and 25:04 of ice time.
  • Derek Stepan registered the lone assist on Kreider’s game-winning goal at 7:00 of the third period to extend his point streak to three games (one goal, four assists over the span). He was also credited with a playoff career-high, five hits and logged 20:20 of ice time. Stepan now ranks second on the team in playoff scoring with five points (one goal, four assists).
  • Marian Gaborik recorded one assist and logged 19:20 of ice time in the contest. He is now tied for second on the team in playoff assists (three) and third in playoff points (four).
  • Ryan Callahan was credited with a game-high, eight hits, and tied for the game-high with three blocked shots in 23:01 of ice time. The Rangers’ captain now leads the NHL with 38 hits in the playoffs, and is tied for fourth among league forwards with 11 blocked shots.

Post-Game Quotes:

John Tortorella on the play of Chris Kreider

“We showed him our concept. We went over our concept with him, and then we just wanted him to play. There are a number of things that we’ll end up working with him on but this isn’t the time of year to do that. We just want his instincts and speed, and then just go out there and play. As I said the other night, forget about what he’s doing on the ice, the mental part of the game as far as him trying to make a difference every shift it’s really good stuff for a young kid.”

Henrik Lundqvist on the team’s focus after Washington’s goal

“That could have hurt us big time, but we came in here, regrouped, talked about staying patient and just let the game come to us. I think we played really well. Coming from that Game 7, such an emotional and big win, it was important for us to regroup and start all over. This team doesn’t give up much so we have to be smart with pucks and they kind of wait for mistakes, so the key for us is not to make too many.”

Chris Kreider on the crowd chanting his name…

“It was a surreal experience; I got goose bumps, obviously. I was really tired after the goal, but didn’t feel so tired when they started chanting.”

Team Schedule:

  • The Rangers will return to action when they face-off against the Washington Capitals on Monday, Apr. 30, at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m.), in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series. The game will be televised live on NBC Sports Network, and can be heard on Bloomberg Radio.

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Brodeur Sets New NHL Record in Victory

Is there a record that Martin Brodeur hasn’t broken?

As the New Jersey Devils defeated the Florida Panthers 4-0 in Newark, Brodeur earned his 24th career playoff shut out. That is one more than NHL Hall of Famer Patrick Roy and new league record.

Brodeur already holds records in regular season wins, in which he surpassed Roy for back in 2009. He also is the NHL’s all-time leader in shutouts and games played, along with a slew of other league and franchise records.

While Brodeur may not be the player he used to be, the future Hall of Famer sure showed he still has what it takes. He pushed aside 26 shots in the win and rebounded quite nicely after being pulled from game three on Tuesday after allow three goals.

Brodeur and the Devils play game five against the Panthers on Saturday in Florida.

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New Jersey Devils Face A Virtual Must Win In Game 4

For approximately seven minutes on Tuesday night in Newark, the New Jersey Devils played a dominant, nearly perfect hockey game. Then, suddenly and inexorably, the pendulum of momentum that has been ever-present in this first round series swung the opposite way, and the Florida Panthers stormed back, eventually holding on to a 4-3 lead to take a 2-1 series advantage.

The collapse was stunning, disheartening, and demoralizing, and with Game 4 Thursday night in New Jersey, the Devils find themselves with their backs firmly against the wall.

(Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE)

“I don’t really have an explanation, but I think it starts with not taking penalties,” head coach Pete DeBoer said in the post game press conference. It was a reference to New Jersey’s penalty kill unit, which set a post-expansion record in the regular season (89.6%), but has been putrid in this series, including surrendering three power play goals in Game 3. “I don’t have an answer for you,” DeBoer added, regarding the penalty kill issues, “but we better figure it out fast.”

Despite the hole the team has placed themselves firmly in, the players are refusing to panic, and downplayed the issues the team has had with handling Florida’s previously unheralded offense and power play.

“I don’t think there’s a concern,” forward David Clarkson said of the penalty kill unit. “They’ve been best in the league all season. There’s going to be times when bounces go their way or things happen. I still think they’re doing a good job, they’re working hard.”

Goaltender Martin Brodeur, pulled from the game after Florida tied the score at 3, had a slightly different take on what’s wrong with the team.

“We definitely got a little over excited about a three goal lead and got them back in the game by being a little undisciplined,” Brodeur said after the game, “I thought we started real good. We got over excited and tried to get the fourth one.”

While the series is still not out of reach for New Jersey, they have placed themselves firmly in a hole that could prove inescapable if they lose Game 4 Thursday night at home.

This article was originally published at: The Hockey Writers.

The Hockey Writers

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Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game 4
Scotiabank Place – Ottawa, ON

(Series tied 2-2) 1st 2nd 3rd OT F
New York Rangers 2 0 0 0 2
Ottawa Senators 0 2 0 1 3

Team Notes:

  • The Rangers were defeated by the Ottawa Senators, 3-2, in overtime tonight at Scotiabank Place in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal match-up. The series is now tied 2-2.
  • New York is now 200-218-8 overall in postseason action, including an 89-134-6 mark on the road.
  • The Rangers have tallied the first goal of the contest in each game this series.
  • The Blueshirts notched two goals in seven power play attempts (10:35), and are now 3-18 (16.7%) on the man advantage in the playoffs. The two power play goals were the most by the Rangers in a postseason game since they tallied two against the Washington Capitals on Apr. 26, 2009 in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.
  • New York was credited with 30 blocked shots in the contest, led by Brad Richards’ game-high, six blocked shots. The Rangers had five players with four or more blocked shots
  • Richards (six), Dan Girardi (five), Ryan McDonagh (five), Marc Staal (four), and Anton Stralman (four).

Player Notes:

  • Brad Richards tallied two power play assists, led all skaters with eight shots on goal and six blocked shots, and won a game-high, 14-23 face-offs (61%) in 22:07 of ice time. He is now tied for the team lead in playoff scoring with three points (one goal, two assists), and has tallied 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in nine career postseason contests against Ottawa.
  • Anton Stralman notched the game’s opening goal with a power play tally at 0:49 of the first period, and was credited with four blocked shots in 19:13 of ice time. He has recorded a point in three of the four games in the series (two goals, one assist) to tie for the team lead in playoff points, and is tied for first among NHL defensemen with two playoff goals. Stralman also leads all NHL defensemen and is tied for the league lead overall with two power play goals in postseason action.
  • Ryan Callahan tallied a power play goal at 6:10 of the first period, and led all forwards with 25:35 of ice time. He has registered a point in three of the four games in the series, and is tied for the team lead in playoff scoring with three points (two goals, one assist).
  • Marian Gaborik recorded two power play assists and logged 17:29 of ice time. He is now tied for the team lead in playoff scoring with three points (one goal, two assists), and is tied for first on the Rangers with two power play assists/points in the postseason.
  • Henrik Lundqvist made 28 saves and is now 17-22 overall in the playoffs, including an 8-13 mark on the road. His shutout streak ended at 87:04 (7:04 of the second period).
  • Dan Girardi was credited with five blocked shots and logged a game-high, 31:17 of ice time.

Team Schedule:

  • The Rangers will return to action when they face-off against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, Apr. 21, at Madison Square Garden (7:00 p.m.), in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal match-up. The game will be televised live on MSG Network, and can be heard on 1050 ESPN Radio.

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Raffi Torres suspended indefinitely; NHL playoff violence scaring sponsors?

Raffi Torres of the Phoenix Coyotes will not play in Thursday’s Game 4 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Chicago Blackhawks.

On Friday, we’ll find out when he’ll play again in this postseason, if at all.

Torres was due to have an in-person disciplinary hearing with the NHL before Game 4, which has typically meant a minimum of a five-game suspension, for his hit on Marian Hossa on Tuesday night; a hit that made principal contact with the head, and sent Hossa out on a stretcher and to the hospital.

But Torres and the NHLPA, in a peculiar move, deferred the hearing until after Game 4, opting to be “suspended indefinitely” pending the hearing.

From the NHL:

Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres has been suspended indefinitely, pending an in-person hearing Friday, April 20, the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety announced today. The hearing, which had been planned for today, was deferred at the request of the player and the National Hockey League Players’ Association.

The hearing will be convened at the NHL’s New York office for a hit Torres delivered to Chicago forward Marian Hossa 12:42 into the first period of Game 3 of the teams’ Western Conference Quarterfinal series in Chicago on Tuesday, April 17.

Just spit-ballin’ here, but considering the NHL’s mantra has been to heavily weigh injuries in the punitive phase of supplemental discipline, perhaps the delay is to see if Hossa is able to go in Game 4, or at least to have a better understanding of the aftereffects of the injury, given that he left the hospital last night?

(UPDATE: Hossa is out for Game 4; and per Darren Dreger: “GM Don Maloney was willing to do hearing today. Agent and PA requested more time. Will still be mutli-game.”)

It may not matter, of course: Last night’s suspensions of James Neal, Arron Asham and Nicklas Backstrom weighed intent more than the results of their actions. Torres gets five as a minimum, but probably more.

Why? Because all of this suspension stuff might be making the NHL’s sponsorship friends a little edgy.

Bruce Dowbiggin of the Globe & Mail heard from NHL COO John Collins, who said the suspensions and fines of this first round have them jittery:

“They’re paying us a lot of money to associate with our brand,” said Collins who came to the NHL from the NFL. “So when our brand is under attack in the press on issues as serious as player safety, they want to know that the league is on top of it and has a plan for dealing with it and hear the league articulate it. That feedback is always going to be there.”

Have hockey’s violent incidents so far this spring had an impact on the league’s attempts to penetrate Corporate America?

“It affects the business, our ability to attract new fans, to grow the business, to attract other blue-chip advertisers and brands (who want) to associate with the games,” said Collins, who joined the NHL five years ago. “It also affects our ability to attract casual fans who maybe haven’t watched all year and now they’re hearing the buzz about the game.”

Uh, the casual fans won’t watch games that promise chaos, violence and intensity?

The ratings this postseason disagree.

Puck Daddy – NHL – Yahoo! Sports

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New Jersey Devils blow 3-0 lead to Florida Panthers, lose 4-3

Todd Cordell: New Jersey Devils blow 3-0 lead to Florida Panthers, lose 4-3

Last night the New Jersey Devils took on the Florida Panthers in New Jersey with an opportunity to regain the series lead they had after Game One. Despite a picture perfect start – 3-0 lead less than seven minutes in – they couldn’t get the job done. Here are some notes on the game as well as a couple other Devils related topics.

- That is one of the toughest losses I have seen a team take in a…

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