MSG Rangers play-by-play man Sam Rosen called the Blueshirts’ entire first-round series win over the Penguins. MSG won’t have live games in this round but will have complete pre-and postgame coverage. Rosen takes a shot at some NHL playoffs Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: What is the key to the Rangers-Hurricanes series?
A: Get the lead. You want to make Carolina chases the game a little bit. When they get a lead, they’re very tough. They have talent, they’re very aggressive on the forecheck, they skate very well, have enough physical play to be tough on you. But I think if you get the lead on them, they become a different team, they can make mistakes, and the Rangers have the players that can take advantage of that.
Q: What makes Igor Shesterkin special?
A: Doesn’t lose his focus. No real highs or lows, stays even-keeled and makes the big saves. And he carried the team for a long part of the season as it kinda grew together.
Q: Describe Artemi Panarin.
A: A player you love to watch because you never know what he’s going to do. His passes are brilliant, sometimes he thinks too much passing instead of shooting. No ego involved, really friendly, always has a smile on his face. We were in Nashville, I’m walking down the street, I look over at a bench on the street and there’s a guy in a baseball cap reading a book on the bench. I look over, it’s Panarin.
Q: Chris Kreider.
A: Kreider has become the player that we always thought he could be. He has this great athletic ability. Tremendously fast skater. Powerful. Not afraid to go into the corners, not afraid to go in front of the net, and finally, he’s scoring big this year.
Q: Mika Zibanejad.
A: He is a No. 1 center. He does it all. What he’s done over the last couple of years is he’s become the complete player.
Q: Adam Fox.
A: Adam Fox is a rising star. This guy is a very intelligent hockey player, has great vision in the ice, and you can see it with the passes he makes and the scoring chances he creates.
Q: Alexis Lafreniere.
A: The hope is he will become a star. He has all the tools, and I think the key to me is he wants to be great. He’s far from what he’s going to be. In a few years he has the potential to be a star in the league.
Q: Jacob Trouba.
A: A physical force. I don’t think that incident last year with Tom Wilson happens if Trouba were on the ice. He was injured at the time, but he sticks up for everybody, he hits as hard as anyone in the league. He’s been a big factor in the rapid growth of K’Andre Miller.
Q: Coach Gerard Gallant.
A: He has the respect of the players. Keeps everybody on an even keel, but demands that everybody give it their best every night. He downplays his role, but he’s a very, very good coach.
Q: How would you describe a New York Rangers fan for a visitor from Mars?
A: New York Rangers fans are the most passionate fans you could ever meet. If you meet a Ranger fan, they will have a jersey on, they will have something that indicates their love of the team and they will have a favorite player that they love. … It’s the passion, it’s the intensity, and the love that they are not afraid to express and show.
Q: How would you describe the Garden when it is electric?
A: It gives you a feeling of … there’s goose bumps, there’s excitement, exhilaration. … You want to get up. If you’re sitting down, you have to get up. The sounds of the building reverberate throughout. You feel it. You feel the sound. You feel the cheers. You feel it. I felt it at the Knicks’ championship win in 1970. I felt it on a New Year’s Eve concert that Billy Joel put on at the Garden, and I remember saying, “This is how it’s going to be when the Rangers win the Stanley Cup.” And it was exactly like that.
Q: You were working as a statistician on the Knicks radio network when the Knicks won the 1970 NBA championship. How did the decibel level in the Garden compare to the night the ’94 Rangers won the Cup?
A: I would say comparable, equal. When the Knicks won, it was their first ever, and when the Rangers won it was the first time in 54 years, and I think the emotions were exactly the same.
Q: What was your boyhood dream growing up in Brooklyn?
A: To play for the New York Yankees.
Q: You were a catcher. Who were your favorite Yankees?
A: Mickey Mantle was No. 1 … clear No. 1. Yogi Berra was another one that I loved. As time evolved, I loved Derek Jeter. Derek Jeter became the next great Yankee to me.
Q: Why was Mel Allen your favorite broadcaster?
A: Wherever he was, whether it was on the radio side or on the TV side, he just brought an energy, an enthusiasm and excitement to his play-by-play.
Q: Marty Glickman.
A: He was an idol in that he was a Jewish announcer. It meant something to me. I grew up listening to him on the radio doing the Giants. … To me, calling Giants football, there was nobody better in the world. To me, Marv Albert became the best basketball announcer ever, but Marv learned from Marty. Marty was the guy who set the standard.
Q: What was it like going to Rangers games with your friends?
A: We had the G.O. card for 50 cents to get into the Garden, on Sunday you’d get there at 4:30 and run up the steps to try and get to the end balcony seats so you can see the entire ice, or the first two rows of the side balcony where you could see the entire ice.
Q: You loved Andy Bathgate.
A: He was a big, statuesque player. Great shot and could score.
Q: Vic Hadfield.
A: He was the strong, force of that [GAG] Line and of that team.
Q: Jean Ratelle.
A: Elegant player, brilliant passer … who could also score.
Q: Brian Leetch.
A: I remember interviewing him at Boston Garden when he was a freshman at Boston College and saying, “I can’t wait till he becomes a Ranger.” And he did after the ’88 Olympics. … Great skater. Bobby Orr was to me the guy who changed the game with the way he played. Brian Leetch was in that class.
Q: Mike Richter.
A: Great competitor … hard worker … fanatic about physical conditioning … and always a big-game player.
Q: Eddie Giacomin.
A: The best at the time … could do everything … could handle the puck better than everybody.
Q: Henrik Lundqvist.
A: Class … smarts … student of the position, and a leader. I respected that he was always available to the media.
Q: Describe the first time you saw Wayne Gretzky play.
A: Was able to find the open man on the ice no matter what … great vision of the game … total control of the game.
Q: Gretzky as a Ranger.
A: It was seeing, in my mind, the best player to ever play the game in a Rangers uniform. And then having him with the best all-around Ranger to ever play in a Rangers uniform, Mark Messier, to have them both together — that one year that they played together was special. Very special.
Q: Messier’s Guarantee, before Game 6 of the 1994 conference finals against the Devils.
A: I was there when he expressed the Guarantee. There was this huge throng of media there, and they asked him basically what he thought about going into Game 6, and he gave the answer that any athlete would give: “We’re gonna win.” Unfortunately for me, we were in New Jersey for Game 6. MSG couldn’t do the game, it was a Jersey telecast, and at that time, we didn’t go into their building, and they couldn’t do the games at our building.
Q: Game 7 of the ’94 Finals aside, was Game 7 of the Devils series the most anxiety-ridden game for you?
A: Without question. … When [Valery] Zelepukin scored with 7.7 seconds to go, sends the game to overtime, we go to the studio, John [Davidson is] walking in the booth and I’m sitting down with my head in my hands and he says, “What’s the matter?” And I said, “What else can happen to this team?” Thankfully there was Stephane Matteau.
Q: Howie Rose.
A: One of the great iconic calls ever. The Matteau call, [“Matteau, Matteau, Matteau”] everybody will remember that forever.
Q: Messier as a player.
A: The consummate hockey player. Tough, great leader, with all the skills of the highly skilled player … could skate, shoot, pass, he had it all.
Q: Adam Graves.
A: Heart and soul player. Beloved by everybody — teammates, fans, media — but off the ice, a teddy bear. As wonderful a person as you’ve ever met. On the ice, as tough a competitor as there was.
Q: Phil Esposito.
A: Slow, lumbering player with great hands and the ability to score around the net. To this day I still see the sign in Boston Garden — Jesus Saves, and Espo scores on the rebound.
Q: And as a broadcast partner?
A: Fun to be with. Didn’t know the players, but knew the game inside-out.
Q: John Davidson.
A: One of my best friends in the world, and great at everything he worked at. He was a terrific player whose career was cut short by injury. He learned how to become a broadcaster and became a Hall of Fame broadcaster. And as a general manager, he did a good job getting things going in St. Louis, he did a really good job getting things going in Columbus, and I think he was on the right track in New York, and now he’s back in Columbus.
Q: Brad Park.
A: A great player on that great Rangers team of the early ’70s, and was a great player in Boston. Always played in the shadow of Bobby Orr.
Q: Mike Keenan.
A: Found a way to win … tough guy, could be very tough to deal with. Liked to control things.
Q: Emile Francis.
A: One of the nicest people I’ve ever known. Fun to be around. At any minute, he could give you a story from any era about any player. Just a consummate hockey guy.
Q: Joe Micheletti.
A: Consummate professional. Always ready, knows the players, knows the coaches, knows the general managers, great insight … good at every level of his hockey career.
Q: Kenny Albert.
A: Can do it all. Whatever sport there is, he can do it. Great knowledge of the game, and totally the most prepared announcer you’ll ever find.
Q: The “Potvin Sucks” chants.
A: Don’t like it. Denny [Denis Potvin], I consider a friend of mine, I like him very much. Hated him as a rival player, don’t like the chant, sorry.
Q: What was it like broadcasting Rangers games during the Islanders dynasty years?
A: Always hoping that the Rangers could find a way to beat them. Game 5, [1984 Patrick Division semifinals] Kenny Morrow scoring in overtime that was as tough a loss.
Q: Three dinner guests?
A: John F. Kennedy, Bruce Springsteen, Charlize Theron.
Q: Favorite movie?
A: “A Few Good Men.”
Q: Favorite actor?
A: Tom Hanks.
Q: Favorite actress?
A: Charlize Theron.
Q: Favorite meal?
A: Most pasta dishes.
Q: Describe your broadcasting style.
A: Similar to what I said about Mel Allen, and that is energy and enthusiasm and love of the sport. I want them to know there’s a next great play coming up. I want to be ready for it and convey how great a play I thought that was.
Q: How long do you want to do this?
A: As long as I’m healthy, and I love doing it. And as long as I’m on top of my game. I tell my sons and my grandsons if you hear my game dropping off you need to tell me. Because I don’t want to be hanging on just for the sake of hanging on and to have something to do. … There’s nothing better!
Q: You’re a Hall of Famer.
A: I appreciate that.
Q: How proud are you of your, “This will last a lifetime call” the night the Rangers won the Cup?
A: Very proud because it came out naturally. It wasn’t anything planned, it wasn’t anything scripted. It will always stay with you. It was the one that broke the long drought, and it was a special team, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
Q: What’s your message to Rangers fans as the second round nears?
A: Team has a chance. And if it doesn’t happen, it’s going to happen real soon. This team is on the move and on the rise.
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