John Giannone’s Thoughts On Hit-By-Puck
If there is a moral to my story from last night, it is to never, ever take your eye off the puck. Lest you’ll have the puck in your eye.
Or, put another way, if you look at the clock, you might end up getting clocked.
It all happened with such shocking quickness that it became almost surreal. I remember checking to see the time remaining in the second period, and then I remember feeling an intense, crushing pain near my right eye. I don’t remember that the puck bounced off my face and caromed almost to the offensive blue line. I don’t remember that Islanders defenseman Joe Finley was kind enough to hand me a towel.
I remember the remarkable Rangers trainer Jim Ramsay getting to me within seconds. I remember consummate gentleman Marc Staal checking on my condition. But I don’t remember the buzzer sounding to end the period. I thought the period ended the moment my luck did.
I remember feeling very strongly that I wanted to tell the fans, the viewers – not to mention my friends and family – that I was not seriously injured. So I asked my producer, Chris Ebert, for that opportunity. I remember saying something about keeping my eye on the puck and that it was “all good.” I don’t remember Jim Ramsay referring to me as a “true professional.” And I don’t really remember leaving the ice.
From there, I headed to the trainer’s room where the entire Rangers’ medical staff was present. A half-dozen doctors plus Jim, all willing to tend to me while the Rangers nursed a 3-1 lead over the Islanders. There was a discussion about a stitch or two. Someone mentioned something about a broken nose and whether it needed to be reset. I just repeatedly insisted that I needed to get back to the bench – mostly because I didn’t feel seriously injured, but especially because it is my job. And a job that I absolutely love.
At no point did it enter my mind that my evening was over. It has been both flattering and humbling to hear and read so many people “praise” me for being “a gamer, a trouper, a warrior.” More than anything, I was being a sideline reporter for a first-class NHL team. And in my short time in this assignment, I can say in all sincerity that it is among the two or three coolest gigs I’ve ever enjoyed. And the support, both sincere and humorous, from John Tortorella, Mike Sullivan and virtually every Rangers player the rest of the evening was what I will remember most vividly.
So I’m not about to give that up to an errant puck to the face. Even if today, it did leave me looking like Owen Wilson. Or Rocky Dennis from the movie “Mask.” Or almost any MMA fighter.
I cannot wait until Sunday’s game against the Lightning.
What can I say? Hockey is in my blood.
Mave’s Saves: Devils at Islanders
THEME: SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE
RECORDS: ISLANDERS, 4-2-1; DEVILS, 3-1-2
PLUSES: Both teams remain above the .500 mark. The two teams are tied for first in the Atlantic Division, each with seven games played.
MINUSES: Devils have slipped in their past two games — overtime loss to Islanders and 5-1 Saturday night defeat at Pittsburgh. The usually reliable defense has faltered. Isles backline still needs tightening.
EVEN: Moose Hedberg, who was excellent in losing a Shootout to Boston, gave up only one goal over three periods and overtime. He gets his second start on Sunday. Islanders will likely repeat with Evgeni Nobokov who has won all four of New York’s games.
CHALLENGE: For New Jersey, it’s simply a case of reversing a downward trend and giving Hedberg more protection than Marty Brodeur received against the Penguins. On the Isles’ side, coach Jack Capuano wants his skaters to continue developing their collective confidence.
TWO KEYS FOR EACH CLUB:
1. With Adam Henrique back in the lineup and Bobby Butler, the veteran right wing, recalled from Albany, coach Peter DeBoer must develop an effective second and third line.
2. An excess of defensemen provides DeBoer with an opportunity to try Peter Harrold who, so far, has not been used. Defense combos are a work in progress.
1. The imminent arrival of Lubomir Visnovsky on defense means that Cappy will be studying his current units and will drop the least effective Dman. That’s a neat luxury.
2. Michael Grabner’s speed drove the Devils to distraction as did the Isles splendid penalty-killing. Those factors will be decisive and — if positive — could be a big plus for New York.
1. John Tavares-Matt Moulson vs. Travis Zajac-Ilya Kovalchuk: Two of the NHL’s top duets always provide excellent viewing.
2. Moose Hedberg-Evgeni Nabokov: Nabby has played six out of seven games and could be tiring but still has been a game-stealer. The underrated Hedberg must continue his excellent pinch-hitting role in goal. Fans will be seeing two of the best.
MAVEN’S RAVIN‘: This shapes up as a genuine “turning-point” game. A victory for the home club would certify that the Isles are for real with no-kidding-around playoff designs. The Devils built a solid cushion with Adam Henrique out but now that the ace is back, they have lost momentum. Another loss would significantly diminish the cushion.
Mave’s Saves: Devils at Pittsburgh
THEME: Staying “undefeated”
PLUS: After six games, New Jersey still has not lost a game in regulation time. The three extra-session points were garnered in overtime (two losses) and a lost shootout. The return of sophomore Adam Henrique was better than expected. He played nearly 15 minutes and scored a magnificent game-tying goal late in the third period.
MINUS: Martin Brodeur suffered his first less-than-stellar game. His forte — puckhandling — resulted not only in the winning, overtime goal but was flawed throughout the game. Marty will need to return to form in order for the Devils to shut down Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and co.
EVEN: Henrik Tallinder notched his first goal and appears in mint condition on the blue line. Adam Larsson made his season debut and all things considered, played a fair game. The fourth — Energy — line continues to earn significant ice time. Ryan Carter and Steve Bernier were very effective with Stephen Gionta doing his imitation of a water bug on a pond.
CHALLENGE: With Henrique back in the lineup, coach Peter DeBoer must find the right combinations for his first and second lines. Where to place Jacob Josefson remains an issue as well as the decision as to whether rookie Stefan Matteau should be returned to the Junior ranks or signed to the big club. In beating the Rangers on Thursday night, Crosby, Malkin, and James Neal dominated and therefore that terrific trio must be a major focus of Devils checkers and defensemen.
THREE KEYS TO BEATING PITTSBURGH:
1. Utilize all four lines to outscore a Penguins club that relies heavily on Crosby-Malkin on separate lines, but together on the power play.
2. Stay out of the penalty box. Pitt has an excellent power play.
3. Take the Consol Energy Center crowd out of it by following the Islanders’ plan; score first and often.
THREE MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
1. ILYA KOVALCHUK VS. EVGENI MALKIN: Two big Russians have game-winners on their sticks whenever they play.
2. DAVID CLARKSON VS. BROOKS ORPIK: Among NHL power forwards, the Devils hard-driver has improved every year. He’ll give the Penguins fits; unless Orpik can put the brakes on the New Jersey ace.
3. HENRIK TALLINDER VS. JAMES NEAL: Now that he’s playing like a Top Four Dman should, Tallinder will be key against Pitt’s gunners. The surprisingly effective Neal will be a prime target for the Devs’ Henny.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: Neck and neck in the standings, the Devs and Pens are fighting to establish themselves as elite teams. It’s too early for all that, but a win either way would move the victor closer to that exalted rung on the NHL ladder. Brodeur has been shaky in the past two games, but on the Pittsburgh side, Marc-Andre Fleury will get the start — even though Tomas Vokoun shut out the Rangers in Pitt’s last contest.