Washington-New York: The Lone Ranger With Anger Issues

Martin AverySenior Writer IApril 29, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 20: Sean Avery #16 of the New York Rangers interferes with goaltender Simeon Varlamov #40 of the Washington Capitals during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Round of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 20, 2009 in New York City. The Capitals defeated the Rangers 4-0. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

"If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,

Or, being hated, don't give way to hating ...."
-- from "If" by Rudyard Kipling

Sean Avery was not the lone Ranger with anger issues, he just played like the Lone Ranger riding the Rangers dark horse in the playoffs, upsetting the Washington Capitals.

Sean Avery is not the Lone Ranger with anger issues or the lone Ranger with anger issues.

The bizarre playoff series between the New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals featured upsets, suspensions, a shot to the head, lots of shots on net and blocked shots, scorers not scoring, a new goalie, mysterious bite marks, a concussion, very little fighting, a coach showered with beer, fans fought, a coach suspended, and Sean Avery.

Yes, this series had all that and Sean Avery, too.

For the record, Avery did not bite anybody, elbow anyone in the head, cause a concussion, score goals, or fight fans. He was called the Rangers' most effective forward.

He got lots of shots on net, he got credited for lots of hits, he picked up a pair of assists on big goals, he bothered two goalies, he was given too many penalties, he took too many hits without penalties being given, and he got suspended.

Those penalties resulted in his coach suspending him for a game, and in that game his coach got showered with beer and suspended for his retaliations.

The rest of the Rangers remained calm and kept their heads while all about them were losing theirs, or getting them concussed by an enforcer's elbow in New York and Washington.

Blair Betts, one of the big stars of the NHL's top penalty killing unit, got a killer of an elbow smash to the head that re-arranged his orbital bone and gave him a concussion. It left the Rangers wondering if he would every play hockey again.

Donald Brashear of the Capitals got a shorter suspension for that hit than Avery got for saying "sloppy seconds" before a game on TV.

Oddly, Avery did not go after Brashear for that hit or for hitting Colton Orr in the pre-game skate. He did not go after anybody.

In fact, in his first game back after his coach benched him for taking too many penalties, Avery played 20 minutes but skated away from all Caps who wanted to fight. He played a more intense game in the final meeting between the Rangers and Caps, playing 20 minutes, again, without taking any penalties.

In game six, he stopped finishing every check with a hit, he steered clear of the goalie, and he tried to set up goals, instead. He got an assist on the first big goal of the game by Scott Gomez but none of the other Rangers could convert his passes into goals.

Nik Zherdev, in particular, missed a very good chance in game six. He ended the season stuck at 99 and will have to wait until next season for goal number 100.

In game seven, he was the best Rangers forward and his new line, with Brandon Dubinsky and Nik Antropov, was the Rangers best line of the year. Avery assisted on Antropov's goal to give the Rangers the lead at the start of the game.

Too bad that turned out to be the Rangers only goal of the game.

The new Avery line, with Dubinsky and Callahan, left Rangers fans with something to inspire their hopes for the team in the new season like the Lone Ranger departing on a dark horse, saying, "Hi-yo, Silver, away!" as he and the horse galloped toward the setting sun.

Meanwhile, the world outside of hockey is dealing with an outbreak of swine flu and the media is telling us not to panic about reports of an epidemic or pandemic. Just act like the Lone Ranger and the rest of the New York Rangers in game six and seven of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year.