Lundqvist’s Return, Isles Playoff Push, Young Devils Step Up

  1. Henrik Lundqvist‘s return to the Rangers lineup will be as closely watched as possible playoff opponents.
  1. The King could benefit most from his most recent sabbatical. A well-rested and focused Lundqvist heading into the postseason figures to give the Blueshirts what they need in their last line of defense.
  1. If Rangers fans are looking for two surprise playoff performers, The Maven suggests Oscar Lindberg up front and Nick Holden on the blue line.

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 03: Nick Holden #22 of the New York Rangers is congratulated by his teammates J.T. Miller #10 and Oscar Lindberg #24 after scoring a second period goal against the Buffalo Sabres at Madison Square Garden on January 3, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)

  1. Nobody can definitively explain the Rangers home woes, but try this: They’ve been running into some desperate teams (Islanders, Florida, Tampa).
  1. Then again, if you want to get even more specific about The Garden losses, in the last two it came down to an inability to finish scoring chances — alias “looks.”
  1. On Wednesday night, the Blueshirts overwhelmed the Islanders defense and hurled 36 shots — many of them threatening — at Thomas Greiss and came away with only two goals. The Rangers had between 15 to 20 good opportunities to ignite more than two red lights.
  1. Cory Schneider gave himself a needed confidence booster last Tuesday night at The Rock. He made 36 out of 38 saves against the Rangers in the 3-2 overtime test and re-defined the goaltending art of “stealing a game.”
  1. Nothing beats Grade-A melodrama, whether it’s in the movies or on the ice. That’s why “The Return of Jaroslav Halak” is a compelling story no matter how it ultimately unfolds.

Islanders Greiss Halak Away 051516

  1. Toronto’s Kiddie Korps is receiving deserved accolades, but our Met Area rookies are developing at a nice pace, starting with the Blueshirts Jimmy Vesey, Pavel Buchnevich and Brady Skjei.
  1. Then again, the Devils have every reason to be enthused about their own Kiddie Korps with special attention to Pavel Zacha, Miles Wood and John Quenneville.
  1. Although New Jersey’s Joseph Blandisi doesn’t qualify as a rookie, because of his fresh approach to the game, you think he’s a newcomer.
  1. If you’re wondering why Blandisi and Quenneville were so enthused after teaming up for the OT winner against the Rangers last Tuesday, it’s all about chemistry.
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  1. “We’re best buddies in the whole world,” Quenneville explains. “Me and Joe are such close friends. I still can’t believe we ended up out there in overtime and the way that goal happened. Pretty crazy!”
  1. It took 12 games for Andrew Ladd to finally pot his first as an Islander. Four months later, he’s a 20-goal man. Andy’s game-winner on Wednesday night at The Garden was his biggest yet — and for the team as well.
  1. The Isles need Johnny Boychuk now more than ever. The Big Guy was enjoying a sensational campaign before his unfortunate injury in Chicago. If Johnny returns in time, he could be the final piece for the Isles to secure a playoff berth.
  1. If there was any doubt that Doug Weight is as candid as any NHL coach, that doubt was dispelled last Wednesday night when NBC’s Pierre McGuire interviewed the Isles coach during a break in the action.
  1. The interview took place just after a series of dangerous scoring attempts and near-goals. Agitated over his club’s play, Weight described his Isles as “Sleepy, sleepy.” He added that the Isles’ bad passes were “self-inflicted.”
  1. Whether his players heard it or not, they twice rallied from one-goal deficits and went on to win the game. (Maybe they were tuned into the telecast).

March 22, 2017: The New York Rangers face the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

  1. On April 9, Detroit’s storied Joe Louis Arena will host its last NHL game with the Devils as visiting team.
  1. There will be stories galore about Red Wings’ Cup wins, but The Maven’s favorites were Detroit’s Cup defeats; specifically when the Devils swept the first two games of the 1995 Final in the Motor City, stunning The Joe’s fans.
  1. Goals by Jersey Boy Jimmy Dowd and Scotty Niedermayer rank at the top of my list. Scotty Bowman’s still-stunned skaters next came to the Meadowlands, where they were ousted in the next two games. (P.S. It still seems so unreal.)
  1. Antti Raanta‘s most recent spelling of Henrik Lundqvist was competent as usual. That’s the good news just in case the Fine Finn is needed in the playoffs.
  1. The not-so-good news is that this summer, teams will be allowed to protect only one goalie in the Expansion Draft. Lundqvist, of course, will be protected which means that Raanta will be exposed.
  1. Ken (Mister Devil) Daneyko‘s 17-year-old son, Shane, received a warm round of applause after singing the “Star Spangled Banner” last Wednesday at The Rock. The Kid was cool, but Dad Daneyko was a nervous wreck.
  1. This was Shane’s second National Anthem appearance at Prudential Center, but his first time solo. My Newark music critic, Leo Scaglione, Jr., reports that “Four years ago, Shane and his older sister, Taylor, did it together.”
  1. Interviewed recently by The New York Post, Isles Hall of Famer — and deep hockey-thinker — Michael Bossy offered an improve-the-game suggestion. “I’d like to see the league put a ‘key’ on the ice like they have in basketball so we’d be able to call ‘an illegal defense.'” The way the “key” works in the NBA, a player cannot stand inside the painted portion for more than three seconds or there will be a whistle for illegal defense.

The NHL 100 takes a look back at Mike Bossy's illustrious career after being named as one of the 100 greatest athletes to ever play hockey.

  1. If you ask veteran Jason Chimera his feelings about playing for the Islanders, he’ll give you a thumbs-up. “It’s the (good) way ownership treats people,” Chimera recently told my buddy, Leo. “The atmosphere they’re creating for the players is second to none.”
  1. When Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones was in town, he was asked to name those responsible for his rapid development. Among those coaches cited was former Islanders center Travis Green. “He (Green) did wonders for me when I played Junior hockey in Portland (Oregon) for the Winterhawks.”
  1. Green is now coaching the Canucks American Hockey League farm team in Utica and is considered a top candidate for an NHL job when one opens.
  1. Hockey Humor via Glenn Liebman’s “Sports Shorts.” Here’s what ex-Rangers defenseman Bob Plager said about hockey: “If you take the game seriously, you go crazy anyway. So it helps if you’re a bit nuts to start with because you don’t waste time getting that way!”