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Jagr making a difference for Rangers

Bob McKenzie
5/2/2008 1:59:14 AM
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You've got to hand it to New York Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr after his performance in Game 4 against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.

Over the years, he's taken a lot of slings and arrows - and rightfully so. He's been petulant, he's had a bad attitude and he's been temperamental. But no one has been able to dispute his ability when he wants to play.

And he has clearly wanted to play in this playoff series.

Now I don't know if this is Jagr's swan song or if he's going to Omsk of the Russian League next year. I don't know if he's going to ride into the sunset or return next season with the Rangers. That's a call he'll make when it's over.

But by getting the first goal of the game for the Rangers, by getting his bell rung in the process, earning an assist on the Rangers' second goal and scoring an empty netter while facing elimination in Game 4, Jaromir Jagr has emerged as the best player - the most passionate player - on the ice.

The European Question

In NHL playoff history, no team has ever won a Stanley Cup with more than eight European players in its lineup. That being said, the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings have 10 of them on their playoff roster and could be the first team to win a championship with a near-50/50 split.

You don't want to be overly xenophobic in a situation like this, but there are general managers in the National Hockey League that will tell you that you do have to be careful about the chemistry of putting a hockey team together. Too much of the same element isn't always good, whether it's European, North American, or otherwise.

But the Red Wings don't have a problem in the sense that they have a good number of European players that play like North Americans.

Their players have an incredibly high skill level, while a player like defenceman Niklas Kronwall has been a crusher. No one has delivered big hits in the postseason like he has. And as a 'European' defenceman, he can also skate and move the puck - much like teammate Nicklas Lidstrom.

Decision time for Sakic?

It's a possibility that Joe Sakic played his last National Hockey League game on Thursday night.

Sakic has been taking things on a year-by-year basis for quite a few years now, but you always knew at the end of the season that he would be back. But this is the first year where his teammates in the Colorado dressing room are wondering if he'll return.

It was a difficult year for Sakic in terms of injuries and the carrot for him to stay is the possibility of playing at the 2010 Winter Olympics in his hometown of Vancouver.

That being said, Sakic will be thinking long and hard this summer about what he wants to do.

Bob McKenzie

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