Who is the Rangers’ MVP So Far?

  1. The Rangers are on top for a reason; many reasons actually. But if you were picking a Blueshirt MVP for the season so far, who would you pick? Reader Matthew Blittner goes with J.T. Miller. “I see him as most ‘clutch’ player,” Matty insists.
  1. My three picks for Rangers MVP are A. Captain Ryan McDonagh; B. Mats Zuccarello; C. Mika Zibanejad.
  1. I’d also throw in Dan Girardi simply because of his comeback season, teamsmanship, grit and a little scoring thrown in for good measure.
  1. Going back to Item (2), Zibanejad has more than replaced exited Derick Brassard. Zucc remains the Mighty Mite, coming up with big goals and bigger assists while McDonagh has climbed to the standout level with big minutes.

Rangers Zibanejad Jets Stock 110616

  1. The above all equates to a very firm conclusion, that this is more than a Rangers team; it is a TEAM and never better coached since Alain Vigneault arrived on Seventh Avenue.
  1. Minus Taylor Hall and Michael Cammalleri for who-knows-how-long, the Devils‘ challenge to remain high in the standings resumes Thursday night in Anaheim. Beating the Stars in Dallas on Tuesday night was a case of gritting out two road points.
  1. So far, so good for John Hynes‘ stick handlers. His — and GM Ray Shero‘s — decision to retain Keith Kinkaid as Cory Schneider‘s backup is working. Meanwhile, CS remains at the top of his game.
  1. In case I didn’t mention it before, Schneider ranks among the most important goaltenders on the NHL committee working on the new goalie equipment due out later this season.
  1. Speaking of Devils goalies past and present both Cory and Marty Brodeur shared a panel for The Hockey News discussing the state of puck-stopping.
  1. Brodeur’s key comment: “I don’t like that goalies drop to their knees and shuffle instead of using their skating ability to handle the puck.”
  1. Schneider’s best observation: “Shrinking the goalie equipment won’t have as big an effect as everyone thinks. But I’d sooner change the equipment than the net (make it bigger) size.”
  1. Much overlooked in the Department of Heroic Acts was the gallant return of Travis Hamonic to the Islanders’ defense last Monday. All previous indications were that he’d be out several more weeks because of a hand injury.

Butch Goring analyzes Travis Hamonic's game in his return from a thumb injury.

  1. Post-game Travis told me he was able to maneuver and expects to play on Friday night at Barclays Center against the Penguins.
  1. There’s not a better no-nonsense guy than the Islanders’ alternate captain Cal Clutterbuck. I liked what he said to Newsday‘s Arthur Staple the other night when asked about improvements: “Everything is fixable. We’ve had success in here before and I think we know what needs to be done.
  1. Devils fourth-line ace Vern Fiddler was touched by the warm greeting he received on return to Dallas and especially the first-period scoreboard tribute at American Airlines Center.

Vernon Fiddler talks about his return to Dallas and the Devils' big OT win over the Stars.

  1. “It was special for me and my family who were up there in the stands,” the grizzled-yet-still-effective New Jersey pickup admits. “I went through a lot during my five years with the Stars and the fans always stuck behind our team.”
  1. Once his NHL career is over, Fiddler and his family will make Dallas home. In the meantime, his line with Nick Lappin and Sergey Kalinin continues to be effective in all three zones.
  1. Knowing that coach Hynes wants a complete game from him, Kalinin came up with the offensive-defensive play of the night against Dallas. With the score tied 1-1 and three-and-change left in the period and Devs on the PK, Kalinin blocked a gigantic shot preventing a goal.
  1. The overtime game-winner by Adam Henrique would never have happened had Kyle Palmieri not deftly stickhandled his way free to create the two-on-one. Kyle’s radar pass allowed Henrique to score what he called “an open-netter.”
  1. Reader Noam Kogen picks his three Devils MVPs so far: 1. “Damon Severson; seamlessly replaced Adam Larsson on first D tandem with Andy Greene without missing a beat; 2. Taylor Hall; the Devils’ perennial goal-scorer they’ve needed for years; 3. P.A. Parenteau; gives NJ an extra goal-scorer and another threat adding effectively an extra line.”