King Henrik Will Be Just Fine on His Throne

  1. Overlooked amid the weekly, media X-Raying of Henrik Lundqvist‘s goaltending is the fact that his defense too often has failed to adequately defend for Hank.

Rangers Lundqvist Kings Home 012317 Stock Getty

  1. Any goalie hung out to dry the way His Majesty occasionally has been this season would wind up with unpleasant results whether it’s Carey Price or Cory Schneider.
  1. Defensive flaws are not fatal. They bedevil every team in this era of higher-than-high speed hockey. The good news on the New York side is that counter-balancing the defensive deficiencies is one of the most formidable offensive arsenals in Rangers annals.
  1. Better still, The Young Turks — Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes, et. al  — are only going to get better.
  1. The unanswered question surrounds Michael Grabner. Specifically, it comes to this:  can Kid Lightning still improve on his absolutely improbable, inconceivable, incredibly productive season?
  1. The Devils neither wanted nor needed the NHL’s new-for-this-season-and-hopefully-the-last system of byes for each team.
  1. New Jersey’s bye arrived after a good week in which John Hynes‘ club amassed seven out of eight points and welcomed the return of captain Andy Greene.

[Daneyko: Youngsters and Vets Aid Devils’ Climb in the Standings]

  1. Absolutely the worst timing of the Devils’ bye is that it came immediately after the club’s most complete 60-minute effort.
  1. The 2-1 victory over Buffalo featured a sextet playing physical, fast and focused. Better still, Hynes’ Kiddie Korps is delivering big-time.
  1. My diligent Devils-watcher, James Mauldin, predicts that Steven Santini “will eventually become the Number One defender on the team.”
  1. Among Santini’s accessories include smarts, skating with his head up and having his stick in position. Plus, his shot manages to get through the attempted shot-blockers.
  1. MSG Network analysts Ken Daneyko and John MacLean marvel at the rookie Santini’s confidence making his first move. He releases the puck very quickly.
  1. Slippage among the recent Islanders‘ goaltending performances must be halted if Doug Weight‘s valiant playoff push is to continue.
  1. Let’s face it, the onus is on Thomas Greiss to prove that he’s capable of handling the number one goalie slot — or not. And what better time than the present.

[Boyle: Why Isles’ Gamble on Greiss Will Pay Off]

  1. The “Hockey In Harlem” (HIH) benefit on Wednesday night was one of the premier off-ice hockey events of the year with MSG Networks’ Sam Rosen emceeing the event
  1. Nothing could have been more appropriate than HIH honoring Willie O’Ree, the first Black player to skate in the NHL, alias “The Jackie Robinson of Hockey.”
  1. A class act if ever there was one, O’Ree made an amazing confession. A hockey accident when he was young cost him sight in one eye. He concealed that from minor pro teams and the Boston Bruins when they signed him to an NHL contract.
  1. “I played my entire pro career with the use of only one eye,” Willie revealed, “but I was so determined to succeed that I managed to compensate for the loss and enjoy a long career.”
  1. Thanks to O’Ree’s breaking of the color barrier, such NHLers as Anson Carter and Claude Vilgrain were able to enjoy NHL careers; Carter was with the Blueshirts, among other teams and Vilgrain with the Devils. Both toasted O’Ree at the event for enabling their NHL careers.
  1. Hall of Fame Ranger Rod Gilbert was a hit at the HIH event — surrounded by well-wishers at the jam-packed HIH jubilee. Many lucky ones heard some stunning Rod tales of “Old Time Hockey.”
  1. One of Gilbert’s most arresting recollections was about the time he was given up for “dead” on a hospital bed after surgery. Only the vigilance of GM Emile [The Cat] Francis saved Rod’s life.
  1. “For some reason,” Rod remembered, “I was choking to death and turning blue in the face — all alone — when The Cat walked into my hospital room. He screamed for a nurse, yelling, “My best right wing is dying; you’d better save him.” And they did!
  1. Rod added that his boss, Francis, didn’t realize that Gilbert still was conscious and had heard every word that The Cat said. “After I recovered and had to negotiate a new contract,” Rod recalled, “Francis offered me $50,000. But I said to him, ‘You said I was your best right wing.’ The Cat turned and said, ‘YOU MEAN YOU HEARD ME.’ He couldn’t believe it and that helped me get a bit more dough.”
  1. The Maven liked the way Weight — talking to the media after Jean-Francois Berube and Greiss had less-than-stellar nights — defended his netminders “You see 10 goals (over two games) on (49) shots and you think it’s bad goaltending but we’re not giving up a lot and also not helping our goalies out.”
  1. Today marks a 49-year-milestone. The Rangers played their final game at the “Old Garden,” tying the Red Wings 3-3. The last player to score at MSG III — Jean Ratelle.
  1. I was at that game and thrilled as the MSG folks invited all living Hall of Famers to attend and wear their original team uniforms. Rocket Richard, Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay were among those who wowed the crowd taking energetic turns on the ice before the game.
  1. The Maven is a fan of simplicity and classiness in one short analysis. Alain Vigneault is a past-master at that trick. After winning his 600th career game last Tuesday he explained how:  “You need good players and that’s what I’ve been fortunate to have.”
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  1. The Devils Mighty Mite, Joe Blandisi, is playing as if he knows this is his last shot with The Big Club. Joltin’ Joe knew he had to improve his 200-foot game when he was demoted to Albany. He’s done that and comes off significantly improved in his own end. Against Jack Eichel of Buffalo in New Jersey’s last game, Blandisi went one on one vs. the Sabres ace and played him soundly.
  1. Hynes’ prize rookie, Pavel Zacha, has lifted his game since being lined up with Jacob Josefson and Stefan Noesen. Zacha is using his size, getting to the right places and improving in his own end.
  1. The beauty part of Zacha’s development is his knack for scoring power-play goals. He has four so far and that’s with limited ice time.
  1. Study Michael Grabner’s body language and it becomes apparent that he now feels what he actually is — a star.
  1. What’s more, if he maintains his current scoring pace, it would not be a stretch to call Kid Lightning a super-star.
  1. New Jersey’s answer to Grabner happens to be ex-Islander Randy Wood’s son, Miles (Per Hour) Wood. He continues to create, consistently is first to the puck in the offensive end and is learning how to manage his speed.
  1. Although it’s cliche all the way, John Tavares is absolutely on target when he says “Every game is like a playoff game for us.” That includes today at Ottawa and Sunday night in Brooklyn.