NHL Helps Washington Capitals Defeat New York Rangers' Two-Headed Monster

Martin AverySenior Writer IApril 26, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 22:  The Washington Capitals leave the ice after losing Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Round of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs against the New York Rangers on April 22, 2008 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Capitals 2-1 and lead the series 3 games to 1.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Bert: Now, who let the Two-Headed Monster be Santa Claus?

Ernie: Yeah, but, Bert, he said he'd never been in a play before...I mean they said it...um... both of him said it.

The NHL suspended New York Rangers coach John Tortorella after the game he made Sean Avery sit out and the one-two punch to the two-headed monster called Averella could win the first round playoff series for the Washington Capitals.

Some say the NHL does not like the Rangers, Tortorella, or Avery, for various reasons, and is trying to help the Capitals extend the series to seven games. They say the NHL wants to see the league's top goal-scorer, Alexander Ovechkin, in the playoffs with the Capitals, rather than Avery and the Rangers.

The NHL may not like it, but Averella, the combination of Sean Avery and John Tortorella, turned the "vanilla" Rangers into the dark horse of the playoffs, the team most likely to create an upset over a higher ranked team.

The Rangers did just that, stealing the first two games of the series in Washington and winning another at home to lead the series and come within one win of moving on to the second round.

When Rangers GM Glen Sather created Averella by putting together fiery John Tortorella and hot-head Sean Avery, just about everybody predicted they would fight. Instead, they turned into one fire-breathing, two-headed, player-coach, monster combination and the Rangers went on one winning streak after another.

The Rangers turned into a Cinderella team in the stretch run and the dark horse of the playoffs with Averella breathing hot, new life into the team. They played like Typhon, the multi-headed monster out of Greek mythology, shutting down the high-flying Washington Capitals.

The Capitals outscored the Rangers 12-7 and outshot them 170-119 but somehow the New York team was winning the series 3-2. The Rangers were leading three games to one but then the two-headed monster chopped off one of its own heads.

The Rangers season turned around when Tortorella and then Avery joined them around the time of the NHL Trade Deadline. They also picked up forward Nik Antropov and defenseman Derek Morris at that time.

Tortorella got most of the credit for the turnaround but in the one game the Rangers played without Avery, it was like Cerebrus, the multi-headed dog that guards the gates of Hades had died, because all hell broke loose.

Tortorella benched Avery for undisciplined play and taking bad penalties. But did he take those penalties or was he given a bunch of bad penalties by the NHL's referees?

The Rangers without Avery played their most undisciplined, disorganized, game of the playoffs. They took bad penalties and lost the game 4-0.

Avery was conspicuous by his absence from the team lineup, as it said in the Arab Times yesterday. Or, as the New York Times described it, "The idea that the Rangers could play with more edge, passion and intensity without Avery was put to rest by their abysmal performance in Game Five."

The team was penalized for having too many men on the ice and the coach was suspended for squirting water, throwing a water bottle, and waving a hockey stick at fans bothering him behind the bench.

Averella is an odd monster as its heads grow back after you chop one off. The Rangers will play without their coach in Game Six but Avery is expected back in the line-up.

If the Rangers win with Avery and without their coach, Tortorella will rejoin the team for the second round of the playoffs against the Boston Bruins. If the Washington Capitals tie the series by winning Game Six, the Rangers two-headed monster should be leading the team into Game Seven in Washington.

Averella is nothing like the Two-Headed Monster on Sesame Street. When Big Bird asked it, "Where's Ernie?" the Two-Headed Monster pointed in two different directions. Averella has consistently given the Rangers clear directions, agreeing the best game plan was aggressive offence all game long, backed up by a great goal-tender.

The Rangers polycephalic monster is more like Janus, the bicephalic god of Roman mythology, or Nehebkau, the dicephalyc snake in Egyptian mythology.

The Washington Capitals and their fans in the Verizon arena in Washington had no trouble beating the Rangers without Avery while Tortorella was distracted.  The Rangers will not have their double-headed eagle for the game in New York City, but the Capitals will have to face a different monster.

Rangers fans in Madison Square Garden, sometimes described as a seething entity, will be like a monster with twenty thousand voices. If Tortorella was there, they might be screaming for his head, as they did when Tom Renney was the coach. Without Tort, they can give their monstrous support to fan favourite Avery, making another return to the Rangers.

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