At the end of the New York Rangers 3-0 win over the Penguins, both teams came dangerously close to a bench clearing brawl. Many Pittsburgh players didn’t leave the ice when the game ended, preferring to gather at center ice as both team jawed at each other. As the Penguins finally went off, Igor Shesterkin made a show of “waving” them off the ice.
Some background on what was a very chippy game. It started with Anthony Angello’s hit on Tyler Motte 13:37 into the third period, a hit that left the team very upset. The Blueshirts believed it was a headshot, but on replay Angello hit Motte in the shoulder with the force of the collision snapping Motte’s head back.
It was not a headshot, but was a dangerous hit.
K’Andre Miller immediately challenged Angello, but it never got as far as a fight. After much discussion by the refs, Angello ended up with a two minute interference penalty. A few minutes later the bad blood continued with Ryan Strome and Mark Friedman roughing each other up at the Pittsburgh net.
With less than four minutes left in the period, Barclay Goodrow and Evgeni Malkin got into a shoving match with Malkin throwing a punch at Goodrow just as Mike Matheson grabbed Goodrow.
How Goodrow and Malkin got the only penalties was perplexing since Matheson clearly joined the fray. Then, he “facewashed” the linesman in error with his uniformed pulled over his head. If what he did didn’t deserve an unsportsmanlike penalty, nothing does.
Wit just 3:14 left and Pittsburgh on the power play, there was a play that the ESPN announcers completely missed. Shesterkin went behind the net to play the puck and Brian Dumoulin tripped him, knocking him on his keister. Of course, a penalty wasn’t called, but ESPN’s Bob Wischusen and Brian Boucher didn’t even see it. It was just another example of broadcasting incompetence, but that’s another story.
The game ended with a massive scrum with Mark Friedman tackling Chris Kreider along with other assorted shenanigans.
Led by Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins didn’t leave the ice and Malkin and Guentzel kept jawing at the Rangers while Brian Boyle tried to get his teammates to head to the locker room.
So, Shesterkin had reason to be upset. Besides the entire Rangers team being upset at the hit on Mott, there was the unpenalized Dumoulin trip.
Was it smart?
Considering that the Rangers and Penguins are likely first round opponents in the playoffs, the last thing you want to do is provide a team even more of an incentive to win.
That’s exactly what Shesterkin did when he mocked the Penguins. Here’s how the Pittsburgh Gazette described it. “The surging Rangers punctuated their third straight win over the Penguins by smirking at them from center ice as the visitors skated off following a post-buzzer brouhaha. Superstar goalie Igor Shesterkin even waved them goodbye.”
It was a subject of discussion on NHL Network Radio throughout the day with most agreeing that it was probably not a good idea. Consider the headline on PGH Hockey Now website that said “Shesterkin Taunts Penguins During Postgame Scrum.” In the old days of print, that would end up on a bulletin board in the Penguins’ locker room.
Method to the madness
If Igor Shesterkin wanted to get into the heads of the Pittsburgh Penguins, he already has. He won three of four decisions against them, posting a 1.95 goals against average and .933 save percentage. He allowed only one even strength goal in the four games.
Just think how crazed the Penguins will be if he plays the same way in the playoffs. There is such a thing as wanting something too much and an overwhelming desire to beat Shesterkin could come back to haunt them.
In fact, it appears that the bad blood from Thursday’s game will give Shesterkin even more incentive to beat the Penguins. And when it comes to the playoffs, a motivated goaltender can make a huge difference.
Remember when Alex Ovechkin scored on Henrik Lundqvist in the first game of the Rangers-Caps Second Round series in 2015 and skated by him saying “All series baby, all series.” All Lundqvist did was lead the Rangers to a seven game win, allowing only 10 goals by the Capitals over the next six games. And what did Ovechkin do? He scored only two more goals in the series,both coming in games the Capitals lost.
So, let’s just say boo hoo, poor Penguins. We are totally confident that Igor Shesterkin will back up his attitude by beating Pittsburgh, like he did on Thursday. What do you think?