It's incredible to think how differently two separate minds could interpret one single series of events.
What occurred late in the third period of last night's Game 4 match between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils has been portrayed by the media in two distinct ways. There is the group of analysts of the situation who believe that the Rangers' purpose in riling up their opponent was to send a message in a game in which they were dominated from start to finish. Then, on the flip side of things, you have the other set of analysts who claim that the Blueshirts uncharacteristically lost their composure and completely unraveled their emotions.
A legitimate case could be made for either, I suppose, but what happened last night in the third period was done knowingly. This wasn't a matter of the Rangers boiling over from frustration and losing their cool as some claim, and quite honestly, for those who do see it that way, they have obviously not followed this hockey team all too closely this season. And excuse my side rant here for a second, but is there anything more annoying than members of the media who did not follow the Rangers all year, now inputting their opinion just because it is the Conference Finals? You don't know this team, so shut your mouth.
Anyway, as I was saying, Mike Rupp sparking a near brawl in the third period was not a decision made on impulse. There's a reason head coach John Tortorella had him out on the ice, along with Stu Bickel, at that point in the game, because it was crucial for the Blueshirts to, in some way, shape or form, prove that they were not going down without a fight. Whether or not punching Marty Brodeur in the face was the correct way to go about doing that is beside the point, it's more about the reasoning behind it that counts.
This, in turn, is why Devils coach Pete Deboer was irate after the incident. He knew that the Rangers knew exactly what they were doing and why they were doing it. It's a cheap but effective tactic, basically.
Did the Rangers create a distraction in the game? Yes. Did they give the media something to write about other than how poorly they performed in the actual game? Yes. Did they get the Devils to lose their cool? I would say so, since Pete Deboer was practically leaping up and down behind the bench, screaming at John Tortorella before the two finally met face-to-face with NBC analyst Pierre McGuire standing in the middle of it.
Ponder this: Had the Rangers not sparked some fireworks there late in the game, their evident fatigue, lack of speed and inability to establish a forecheck would make up a majority of the focal point in this series right now. But now, with how they've created a sideshow here, there is some anticipation leading into Game 5 in regard to how each club will respond to what occurred and if either coach got to the other's head.
What should be the focus right now is how the Rangers have become the underdogs in this series. But it is not, so in the minds of the Rangers, despite the loss, they must be thinking "mission accomplished" here with how this has all been played out and blown up.
The Rangers didn't lose their composure late in Game 5 - they simply did the only beneficial thing they could've at that stage of the game.
DUBINSKY, ZUCCARELLO SKATE IN PRACTICE
The report from Rangers practice this afternoon is that forwards Brandon Dubinsky (ankle) and Mats Zuccarello (wrist) are both skating with the team. While that doesn't guarantee that either will be ready to suit up for Game 5 on Wednesday, it is at least a good sign for a team that needs any fresh legs they can get right now.
Stu Bickel also skated in a red defenseman jersey.