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New York Rangers at Washington Capitals Saturday 1 p.m. ET; Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins Sunday 3 p.m. ET
“The vitriol, the anger, the bad blood.” — McGuire on Pens-Flyers
“As electrifying a player as I’ve seen.” — Milbury on Ovechkin
NEW YORK – April 15, 2009 – NBC Sports’ coverage of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs begins this weekend with Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals (No. 2 seed, Eastern Conference) hosting the New York Rangers (No. 7) on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET and the Philadelphia Flyers (No. 5 seed, Eastern Conference) at Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins (No. 5) Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.
Mike “Doc” Emrick (play-by-play), Eddie Olczyk (analyst) and Pierre McGuire (inside-the-glass analyst) call the action (Darren Pang will fill in for McGuire in Washington). McGuire and Pang will pull double duty, hosting NBC’s studio show alongside analyst Mike Milbury on site in Washington and Pittsburgh.
MCGUIRE ON THE RANGERS: “John Tortorella has gone into New York and just doing a spectacular coaching job, getting those guys to go from a passive team to a very aggressive team, along with the reemergence of Sean Avery as an important player and a controlled player for the New York Rangers.”
OLCZYK ON CHANGES PROPELLING PENGUINS AND RANGERS: “I think it went hand in hand, not only with the job that these two particular coaches did with getting the teams into the playoffs, but also the important personnel changes that the general managers made. It’s almost a piggy back type of situation of bringing in a new voice and then also bringing in really key components; Pittsburgh taking their game back to the level that I think a lot of people saw last year, and then in New York just an up tempo type of philosophy. But I think it’s proven, you need the horses in the barn, and it’s up to the coach to be able to let them play to their strengths.”
MILBURY ON RANGERS AND PENGUINS COACHING CHANGES: “Every situation is different, but when the guys that get the nod to coach the teams bring them to the playoffs, you have to say, well, maybe it was the right way to go. There are a lot of coaching changes I think that were positive this year, and whether it was luck of the draw or not, what coaching changes do is basically bring an attitude change. You take a classic case of Pittsburgh and Dan Bylsma, Mike Therrien is not a bad coach, but everybody seemed to be down and really not enjoying playing the game. He brought in a free spirited aggressive kind of style, and it seemed to let the horses out of the barn. Tortorella has certainly dipped into a different well of motivation to get guys going in New York. All in all, you have to say the changes that the GMs sought to make and made turned out pretty well for the most part. So you’ve got to give them credit. But I’ve seen plenty go the other way, as well.”
OLCZYK ON PENGUINS-FLYERS: “This is a breathtaking series.”
MCGUIRE ON PENGUINS-FLYERS RIVALRY: “Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the vitriol, the anger, the bad blood, the villains, Scotty Hartnell for Philadelphia and Matty Cooke for Pittsburgh.
“You’ve got star power galore with Crosby and Malkin and Jordan Staal, who’s been superior ever since they made the coaching change in Pittsburgh. And then you look at Jeff Carter and Mike Richards emerging in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Flyers are going into the series a little different, a little bit more depth, a little bit more experience, and I think Marty Biron proved to a lot of people that he is a top goaltender.”
MCGUIRE ON OVECHKIN OF THE CAPITALS: “He can do it by himself. A lot of guys need other players around him. He can make himself great and make this team win because he is so overwhelmingly dominant because of the physical nature of his game. He’s the best player in the world. He’s virtually indestructible. I would call him a ‘cyborg.'”
MILBURY ON OVECHKIN: “He’s taken it to another level. There’s no question he’s as electrifying a player as I’ve seen.”
NHL ON NBC CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS SCHEDULE:
Saturday, April 18, 1 p.m. ET, New York Rangers at Washington, Game 2
Sunday, April 19, 3 p.m. ET, Philadelphia at Pittsburgh, Game 2
Saturday, April 25, 3 p.m. ET, Pittsburgh at Philadelphia, Game 6*
Sunday, April 26 2 p.m. ET, Washington at New York Rangers, Game 6*
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