Tag:2012 Winter Classic
Posted on: February 3, 2012 3:14 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2012 3:51 pm

Weekend Preview: Winter Classic redux at MSG

Before Thursday, Giroux's last goal was against the Blueshirts in the Classic. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Weekend Schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

Let's go back just over a month on the NHL schedule, shall we? The Philadelphia Flyers had just finished losing to the New York Rangers in one hell of a finish in the Winter Classic hosted by the City of Brotherly Love.

The first half of the game was pretty dull, no scoring. But the game made up for it with a great second half, including a penalty shot in the final minute.

Among the two goals that the Flyers potted that cold January day was a beauty from Claude Giroux. It was his 18th of the season. It was a great start to the season that led me to pick him as my midseason Hart Trophy winner.

Would you believe that Giroux went the entire rest of the month without a goal? In the remaining 12 games in January, Giroux had nine assists.

You could look at it as a classic case of regressing to the mean. Giroux can score, but in his previous four seasons with the Flyers he never scored more than 25 (the mark he hit last season). Interestingly, he has exactly twice as many assists in his career as goals at this point. So his 18 goals and 29 assists were a bit out of whack. He's still a play-making center.

The only thing I wasn't sure about if it was a regression to the mean or not is if we were going to see a new way of playing for Giroux. There was obviously a lot more pressure put on him to carry the load after the offseason the Flyers had, jettisoning Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.

Well, a Flyer can't change his wings. Or something like that.

Now of course Giroux scored on Thursday night in the Flyers' win over the Nashville Predators and ruined the nice little tie in I was going for here. That being the Flyers visiting Madison Square Garden on Sunday and the Rangers for their first encounter since that day outside in South Philly.

It should be a nice appetizer for the Rangers/New York Giants fans before the Super Bowl.

Little will be all that different from that Jan. 2 meeting either. The teams are still two of the best in the NHL, fighting each other in the Atlantic Division and the Rangers are even expected to be wearing their Winter Classic jerseys. Old-schoolers can rejoice, that would mean the Rangers are wearing white (or at least off-white) at home again. For one day.

Yes, it will be a pretty familiar feel, except for, you know, the game being played indoors on a quality sheet of ice (no disrespect to Dan Craig, the NHL's ice guru). And perhaps a different Giroux from that earlier meeting, but the same Giroux the Flyers have fallen in love with and have come to count on, goals or not.

Central casting

It seems like every weekend there is a massive matchup from the Central Division. I guess that happens when you have four of the eight teams in the league that have reached the 65-point mark.

Between the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators, that's 36 games against one another throughout the season. So if the schedule were completely balanced, it would actually be more than once a week.

So it's not a rare occurrence to see one of the games. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't be missed or not enjoyed to the fullest.

That's why we suggest you don't miss out on the Blues' visit to the Predators on Saturday night. It might help if you like defensively sound hockey, though.

This is their fourth meeting this season and if we throw out the Predators' 4-2 win in the second game of the season seeing that it's pre-Hitchcock, each game has played out the same way, a 2-1 shootout win for the Preds. That's not a lot of scoring but it doesn't mean it's not a lot of good hockey.

Don't underestimate the importance of all these games in the Central. They are what people like to call four-point games because of the potential swings they can cause in the standings. Considering the second and third seeds will go to the Pacific and Northwest, the second spot in the Central by season's end will be crucial, it will give that team home-ice advantage against what will surely be another Central foe.

Battle of Ontario resumes

Here Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul thought they got their month's worth of booing last weekend in Ottawa. Nope.

Those two plus the Leafs' third All-Star, Dion Phaneuf and the rest of the guys from Toronto will head for the Quebec border and meet the Senators in the Canadian capital on Saturday night.

This season the stakes have been ramped up in the Battle of Ontario already with the success the teams have enjoyed thus far and their battling at the bottom half of the East's playoff picture. But this one is crucial for the Sens.

This will be their second game back on home ice since Jan. 16 (Friday night they host the Islanders) and for the first time this season, the Sens have lost four straight in regulation. For a team that has played more games than anybody in the NHL, that has made their somewhat comfortable position in the playoff picture much more perilous. Considering the Leafs are one of their competitors for one of the East's eight spots, you can see why this is a massive game for Ottawa.

The captain is back

That would be the Capitals captain, Alex Ovechkin.

On the other side of that provincial border down in Montreal, Ovechkin will play his first game since his three-game suspension before the All-Star break. Because of the time off it feels like Ovi has been out much longer than three games, his last game coming way back on Jan. 22.

"I'm not used to watching the games from upstairs and staying [on the ice] after the morning skates," Ovechkin told Chuck Gormley of CSN Washington. "I'm pretty excited. I miss hockey a lot. It's a situation where you miss the game and you're tired of watching."

The Caps weren't bad in his absence, playing honestly about the same level they were with him, going 1-1-1 in the three games. But there's no doubt he's welcome back in the lineup for his offensive ability on a team that just isn't doing a whole lot when they have the puck these days.

Star showdown

The old North Stars and replacement Stars (see: the Wild) get together for another one of their reunions that's always slightly uncomfortable for the fans back in Minnesota.

But they are clearly much more meaningful this season, more than just some interesting nostalgia coming back up to the fore. This is about the playoffs.

The West has six spots pretty much spoken for already and the Kings are making a good case for the seventh. That means there are a lot of teams fighting for one final spot in the playoff picture, currently held by Minnesota. The Stars are right behind them, three points back with a game in hand. So yea, the games are pretty big.

Of course that includes Saturday night's tilt in Dallas. Both teams could stand to get some wins going again as the Wild are just 4-5-1 in their last 10 while the Stars are 3-6-1 in that same span.

Fight for Florida

Are you noticing a little bit of a rivalry sense this weekend?

While I hesitate to call the Panthers and Lightning rivals, they get the nod based on nothing more than being division and intrastate rivals.

It's hard to quite believe, but this Saturday's game in Tampa Bay will mark the sixth and final meeting between them this season and there are still 30 or so games to go in the season.

Don't let the importance of the game for the Lightning be lost. Their playoff hopes are slim but not non-existent. A chance to take two points from the Southeast-leading Panthers would help them stay within striking distance. It's pretty close to the clichéd must-win game for the Bolts.

We're going streaking!

Here is a look at the streaks, both good and bad, headed into the weekend across the NHL.

San Jose Sharks: Believe it or not, this is the only team in the league right now that has a winning streak (three games in a row or more). And the Sharks barely qualify with three straight. They visit the Coyotes on Saturday night looking for four straight.

Senators: Already covered above, they have lost four in a row in regulation for the first time this season. They have two home games, against the Isles and Leafs.

Blackhawks: Punctuated by that beatdown by Sam Gagner -- I mean the Edmonton Oilers -- the 'Hawks have actually lost four in a row. Their only game of the weekend comes Friday night in Calgary.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Still smarting from that loss that shouldn't have been a regulation loss against the Kings, the Jackets ride their six-game skid into Anaheim to face the Ducks on Friday.

Colorado Avalanche: The up-and-down boys from the Rocky Mountain State are going downhill again. Four consecutive losses follow them into a Saturday matinee with the Canucks.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 11, 2012 4:45 pm

Rangers give fan beaten in Philly tickets to game

By Brian Stubits

Just after the New Year, we relayed to you the story out of Philadelphia where a Rangers fan was badly beaten by some Flyers fans outside of Geno's Steaks following New York's 3-2 win in the Winter Classic.

The victim is 30-year-old Neal Auricchio, a police officer in New Jersey and former purple heart honoree from his service in Iraq as a marine. He is also a life-long Rangers fan who was on leave from his duty with the police after his wife gave birth the week before Christmas.

While the police investigation to find the men responsible for beating Auricchio and damaging his eye socket to the point of requiring surgery, the Rangers have set into motion a day for Auricchio to come to Madison Square Garden for a game on them. He'll be on hand Feb. 27 when the Rangers host the New Jersey Devils

Rangers coach John Tortorella was the one who called to give Auricchio the news.

“It absolutely lifted his spirits,” his wife Maria Auricchio told the New York Post. “He’s, and we’re all, such big Rangers fans. It was great [to get Tortorella’s call].”

I tell ya, between this and his relationship with Liam Trainer, Tortorella is going to win over some more fans.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 6, 2012 1:59 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 2:06 pm

President Clinton gets a puck, gives Jagr salute

By Brian Stubits

Former president Bill Clinton decided to take in the New York Rangers' home game against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night, New York's first game since the Winter Classic win in Philadelphia.

Unlike the majority of high-profile guests, President Clinton elected not to sit in a suite but instead right on the ice. I'm glad he did, too, it resulted in a pretty cool moment.

Gesturing to somebody on the ice, Clinton was soon getting a puck flipped over the boards and into his waiting hands. Watch.

Yes, after giving the all-too presidential thumbs up, President Clinton than gave a salute to the ice crew member. It would have only been better if it were Mike Rupp who tossed the puck. Because apparently somebody was watching the Winter Classic.

Politics aside, Clinton always seemed like a guy I'd enjoy having a beer with (same goes for George W Bush). This does nothing to change my mind there. Giving the Jagr salute back to a Ranger? Awesome.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 5, 2012 8:37 am
Edited on: January 5, 2012 9:46 am

Flyers fans attack Rangers fans after Classic

By Brian Stubits

Fan-on-fan violence has hit hockey again and unfortunately for the good fans of the Philadelphia Flyers, it will further sully their overall bad reputation.

The Winter Classic was great. It was a fun event, turned out to be a really entertaining game and sure seemed to be a hit in Philadelphia to me. Despite the large numbers of New York Rangers fans I saw in attendance, there was nothing more than a few boos for the Blueshirt fans walking around the stadium before the game.

It was after the game that things got rough.

When you want a quick meal in South Philly, where do you go? Geno's Steaks, of course, one of the most renowned Philly cheesesteaks in the world. Naturally, there were fans of both the Rangers and Flyers waiting in line when a fight broke out. I'm not even sure if fight is the right word, more like an assault.

Here is video of the incident and Philadelphia Fox 29's story. (NSFW warning: there is some cursing.)

Apparently proud of their efforts, you can hear one of the attackers telling the Rangers fan that was just knocked cold to "go to [expletive deleted] sleep."

What was the cause of the disturbance, was it some postgame trash talk that heated everybody up? According to the Fox report, it was a situation where the Flyers fans bribed a local window washer to come and squirt the Rangers fans with water. That led to the hostilities boiling over and the above being the result.

One of the two Rangers fans that was assaulted is reportedly a police officer who was off duty. He was taken to a hospital in North New Jersey near his home, in the Woodbridge township. From the Star-Ledger:

"He took a severe beating," township spokesman John Hagerty said, adding that the officer was taken to a hospital, where he required stitches to close wounds. Hagerty refused to release the name of the officer, though News 12 New Jersey identified him as Neil Auricchio Jr., an Iraq war veteran.

Thanks to Facebook and SB Nation's Broad Street Hockey -- and one person's intelligence -- the Philadelphia police have a pretty good lead. Check out the information that Broad Street Hockey's Travis Hughes dug up and turned over to the police.

The dispute might not have been related to the game, I don't know, but what I can deduce is that these Rangers fans were picked partly because they were wearing blue instead of orange. It's stories like this that will continue to dissuade fans to wear opposing team colors to games, a sad development if I may say so.

This is the second fan violence incident in hockey in a little more than a week. You'll recall the story in San Jose of a 16-year-old girl being hit over the head and concussed at a Sharks game because she was wearing a Canucks jersey. In that case it was one hit and the accused attacker said it was an accident. There is no using that excuse in this melee.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 4, 2012 8:16 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2012 9:16 pm

John Tortorella fined $30,000

By: Adam Gretz

Rangers coach John Tortorella apologized on Wednesday for, in his words, tainting the Winter Classic with his mouth by suggesting that on-ice referees may have been trying to get the game to go into overtime for television drama by calling a penalty shot with less than 20 seconds to play in the third period of New York's 3-2 win.

That apology (which you can read here) did not stop the NHL from handing out a harsh fine on Wednesday evening. According to TSN's Daren Dreger, the league has fined Tortorella a whopping $30,000 for his remarks.

This is what Tortorella said (sarcastically, according to him) after Monday's game on the referees decision to award a penalty shot to the Flyers with just 19.6 secods to play in a one-goal game: "I'm not sure if NBC got together with the refs or what to turn this into an overtime game. It started with the non-call on Gabby's [Marian Gaborik] walk, he gets pitch-forked in the stomach and then everything starts going against us. For two good referees, I thought the game was reffed horribly. I'm not sure what happened there. Maybe they did want to get it to an overtime. I'm not sure if they have meetings about that or what. They're good guys, I just thought tonight, in that third period, it was disgusting."

Questioning the integrity of the game, whether it's in a joking manner or not, is obviously something the NHL (or any league, for that matter) is going to frown upon. And that's something that Tortorella paid a pretty heavy price to find out.

In a statement released by the league on Wednesday evening, Colin Campbell, the NHL senior executive vice president of hockey operations, said "There is no acceptable explanation or excuse for commentary challenging the integrity of the League, its officials or its broadcast partners. People can disagree with calls by officials on the ice, but even in instances of the utmost frustration there is no justification for speaking as inappropriately and irresponsibly as Mr. Tortorella did."

More 2012 Winter Classic Coverage

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 4, 2012 1:19 pm

Tortorella: I tainted the Classic with my mouth

By Brian Stubits

You knew it was only a matter of time before John Tortorella would apologize for his remarks regarding the officiating in the Winter Classic. Either that or face a fine (or both, which is still entirely possible).

Following the Rangers' 3-2 win at Citizen's Bank Park, Tortorella was asked about the officiating at the end of the game. He went on to joke -- at least that was my impression there -- that NBC and the NHL were conspiring to take the game into overtime. He went on to call the officiating disgusting. Of course that perked some ears in the NHL offices.

Well on Wednesday Tortorella began the backtracking, explaining in his apology that he said his comments re: NBC were tongue-in-cheek but understands they might not have come across that way. Here is his apology from the Rangers' website.

"They were sarcastic comments by me at the wrong time, and it was frustration on my part, as far as the referees on my part and what was done at the end of the game," Tortorella explained. "Not for a second in no way, time, shape, or form did I think anything like that [fixing the game so that it goes to overtime] goes on within our league, or ever will."

Tortorella added that his comments regarding the referees meeting with NBC to conspire at having the Winter Classic go to overtime were completely "tongue-in-cheek." "For me to question the integrity of the league, the integrity of NBC, the integrity of [referees] Denny [LaRue] and Ian [Walsh], the Flyers, the Rangers, go right on through all the people here -- there's not a chance I am thinking that way," Tortorella continued. "It was wrong with my sarcasm and my frustration and I apologize to everyone involved.

"I tainted the Classic with my mouth," Tortorella said.

In his apology, Tortorella explained that he went so far as to call everybody he could think of to apologize to, including Flyers GM Paul Holmgren. Tortorella has apologized to just about everybody, except the referees who he did call good referees before criticizing them on Monday. He's saving those apologies for in-person.

I don't know Tortorella very well in the coach-reporter sense, but I've had the chance to be around him and see him in the locker room after a few recent games. He has a gruff exterior to be sure, but he has a sincerity to him. I respect the fact that he's taking his apology as far as he is, including apologizing to the officials in person.

With that said, you can't criticize league officials, jokingly or not. Behind every joke lies some truth, so they say. The over-the-top part about the conspiracy was obviously the joke, but his criticism of the officials still had some seriousness to it.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 3, 2012 3:39 pm

Leafs coach Wilson echoes Tortorella's remarks

By Brian Stubits

Even after his New York Rangers won the Winter Classic on Monday in Philadelphia, coach John Tortorella still had reason to complain. Let's just say he wasn't fond of the officiating that included a penalty shot being awarded to the Flyers with 19.6 seconds to go.

Asked after the game what his thoughts were about the calls at the end of the game, Torts didn't hold back. You can see it beginning at the 8:45 mark in the video below.

For the audio impaired, here's a refresher on what he said.

"I'm not sure if NBC got together with the refs or what to turn this into an overtime game," Tortorella said afterward. "It started with the non-call on Gabby's [Marian Gaborik] walk, he gets pitch-forked in the stomach and then everything starts going against us.

"For two good referees, I thought the game was reffed horribly. I'm not sure what happened there. Maybe they did want to get it to an overtime. I'm not sure if they have meetings about that or what. They're good guys, I just thought tonight, in that third period, it was disgusting."

Gary Bettman was on that same podium just a few minutes earlier. You know that caught the attention of the league offices and Torts could end up paying for what he said -- literally. That in spite of the fact that a lot of people would agree with Tortorella's view of the officiating. Including Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson.

"I kind of agreed with Torts at the end and his postgame comments," Wilson said on Tuesday. "I was wondering what the heck was going on."

Presumably, Wilson is just a neutral third party watching the game as an experienced hockey man making that observation. Of course, when you are a head coach, the expectations are different. If Tortorella is fined for his remarks, you might expect that Wilson will at least get a talking to that he shouldn't make such comments.

However they're only saying what a lot of people were thinking.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 3, 2012 2:33 pm

Flyers-Rangers give Winter Classic worst ratings

By Brian Stubits

The 2012 edition of the Winter Classic might have arguably been the best game, but it was the worst in another category: ratings.

The overnight rating for the game Monday between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers drew a 2.4 on NBC, down from last year's 2.8 and below the high in 2009 of 2.9 in the game between the Red Wings and Blackhawks at Wrigley Field.

Looking at the overnight ratings (from Sports Business Journal) in the two participating cities -- Philadelphia and New York -- Philly had a very solid 11.9 while New York produced just a 4.3. Steve Lepore of Puck the Media points out that's well below what the Knicks drew for their Christmas game against the Celtics, a 7.2.

Time for the question that everybody is thinking ... is this a sign that the novelty is wearing off? Too soon to tell, honestly. This game had some differences from years past, the primary one is the fact that it was played on Jan. 2 instead of New Year's Day. Blame the NFL for that one.

Another factor that some are citing is the fact that the start of the game was delayed two hours, beginning at 3 ET instead of 1 p.m. I don't buy that as a good explanation. Last year's game between the Penguins and Capitals was pushed back until 7 p.m. ET and it drew a 2.8. A later start presumably means that you have a chance for more viewers on the West Coast, no? But to be fair, 3 p.m. isn't prime time like last year was.

But to keep things in perspective, it wasn't a massive drop. A 2.4 rating is still going to beat any other hockey broadcast during the regular season. In that sense it's still a very good number of viewers. But as an NHL fan, I'm greedy. I want to see these numbers continue to climb. At the very least, I hope that it causes the rest of the national broadcasts to see jumps in their numbers in the windfall of a very good Winter Classic.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com