Isles’ Playoff Vision, Gritty Rangers, Devils’ Net Dilemma

1. The good news is that the Islanders tortuous nine-game (Feb. 21-March 11) road trip will be over Saturday night in St. Louis. No NHL team ever should be inflicted with such an imbalanced schedule.

2. On the other hand, coach Doug Weight‘s skaters play the next three of four contests at home, starting Monday against Carolina and the “iffy” news is that we have no idea whether they can make playoff-race hay at Barclays.

3. The Brooklynites jet to Raleigh on Tuesday to complete their home-and-home exchange with the Canes. Next, come challenges from playoff-seeking Winnipeg on Thursday and John Tortorella’s Blue Jackets arriving Saturday. Tough and tougher.

Islanders Weight devils Home 021917 Getty

4. A tendency among Islanders fans is to do a daily “Standings Study,” in the hopes that challengers such as Toronto, et. al., do Weight a favor and lose. But the fact remains that it comes to this: John Tavares, Inc. must win on its own.

5. Of all Henrik Lundqvist‘s observations about handling adversity, the one I like best goes like this: “When things don’t go your way, you have to stick with it, believe in yourself — and your team.” Speaking of adversity, The King’s latest injury can be turned into a plus, long-range. He’ll be well-rested for the playoffs.

6. Department of No Coincidence: The Rangers play grittier hockey when Tanner Glass is in the lineup. Lucky for the Blueshirts that nobody picked up the Glass Man when he was put on waivers.

7. Not That This Is Breaking News Department: Antti Raanta could be a starting goalie on at least half the NHL teams; and a successful one at that.

8. Sweet Story on the Devils side: When New Jersey needed a goalie the other day, Ken Appleby was promoted from Albany.  He became the Appleby of the scouts’ eyes with his performance at the Devs 2015 Development camp as a tryout. Nice jump from a walk-on to the NHL.

9. My trusty New Jersey fact-finder, Leo Scaglione, Jr., points out that Appleby played most of last season with the ECHL Adirondack Thunder. Leo The Lion claims Appleby’s arrival in the NHL is historic. “Ken is the first player who played multiple games with the Thunder to earn a recall to The Show.”

10. The Wolf Pack can provide insights and invigoration for Rangers aspirants. Exhibit A is Pavel Buchnevich. The rookie has improved significantly since his return from Hartford. P.B.’s ice vision is improved as well as his ability to create space and score.

11. Just about the best bargain in Manhattan has to be Nick Holden. With little fuss or fanfare, the Blueshirts’ back liner is enjoying a career year in points as well as in the plus-minus department.

Rangers Nick Holden Road Stock 121416

12. When the Rangers visited Sunrise, I asked my man in Florida, Alan Greenberg, to judge fan reactions. His note: “The ‘home’ crowd was at least one-third Rangers fans. Even a few Potvin chants. Plus plenty of ‘Zuuuc’ and ‘Henrik’ cheers as well.”

13. Captain Ryan McDonagh on Glass: “The most important thing about Tanner is the example he sets.”

14. Doug Weight allows some of the best advice he ever got came from ex-NHLer Trent Klatt: “He told me: ‘Dougie, every guy on that bench is you. They know what you’re thinking. Don’t stickhandle around it. Don’t be phony.'”

15. Veteran Edmonton Sun columnist Terry Jones offers an interesting trio of unsung heroes of Oilers past, two of whom played for the Rangers and one for the Islanders. “One would be Kevin Lowe,” says Jones, “another would be Ryan Smyth, And the other would be Doug Weight!”

16. A few games do not make a hero. That’s a given. But there’s reasonable hope in Islanders Country that Josh Ho-Sang will contribute enough to put the Weight-men into the postseason.

17. The Devils are giving a spate of Albany farmhands a shot at The Show and, lately, I’ve been impressed with Blake Coleman. He displays good hustle, fearlessness and the prospect of goals to come.

18. Looking backward, I point to the biggest pothole of New Jersey’s season and that was the Taylor Hall injury early in the campaign. Place that alongside Mike Cammalleri‘s wounds and you have the one-two punch to the Devs’ offensive solar plexus.

19. Talk about melodramas-on-ice, try any Islanders game during their endless expedition across North America. The pulsating win on Thursday night in Vancouver featured a Canucks last minute game-tyer followed by Andrew Ladd‘s overtime-score. Final road stop is St. Louis on Saturday.

20. If you don’t mind my saying so, Ladd has so effectively turned his season around from a bummer to a bonanza that he could be a prime reason they make the playoffs. Ditto Anders Lee. “Anders is getting big goal after big goal,” enthuses Doug Weight.

21. Rangers fans should be interested in this terrific book: ‘ACCESS DENIED — FORGOTTEN & FUTURE HEROES OF HOCKEY’S HALL OF FAME.’ It’s authored by Kris Kullas.

22. One ex-Blueshirt Kullas says should be in the Hall of Fame is Kevin Lowe. “Kevin was the true leader of both the Oilers and Rangers,” writes Kullas, “both on and off the ice. His leadership helped win Stanley Cups on both teams. He was a tower of strength on defense, who lifted players to his level.”

23. The most infuriating call against the Rangers took place on Thursday night in Carolina. Elias Lindholm’s third period crease-bumping of Antti Raanta was bad enough. Hey, it enabled the Sebastien Aho game-winning goal that followed.

24. Most perplexing was the league’s rationale for allowing the score. The refs allowed that Raanta’s feet were in the blue paint but his head was outside the blue. Now that explanation tells you why coaches get prematurely gray.

25. If your team is not involved the episode, it can be laughed off with the bromide that “Hockey is a game of mistakes.” Actually, Vigneault best summed up the NHL version this way: “The league is going to spin it anyway so that it looks all right — and that’s the way it always is.”

26. Like others in our broadcasting biz, I’m saddened by the death of A-Plus director Bill Webb. The Maven worked with Bill many times in our old SportsChannel days. He’ll be sorely missed by all who have experienced his excellence.

27. This is a good time for the Devils to give Cory Schneider a rest. A run of Keith Kinkaid starts will give us a better idea in terms of his future with New Jersey.

28. When a coach like Weight believes that his club played an eh game yet still wins, it’s worth hearing his reaction after the win in Vancouver: “We were overconfident the first two periods — not getting pucks where we needed to; trying to be too fancy. And we still had the lead after two.”

29. Maybe that’s the definition of a winning team. We’ll know better on April 9th when the Isles regular season ends.

30. Department of Great Lines: Glen Sather talking about his gifted forward Jimmy Carson, who was soft in one attribute: “You can have all the talent in the world, but if the pumper’s not there, it doesn’t matter!”