“Quoth The Maven” is a weekly column where Stan Fischler touches on the three local teams plus other hot NHL items.
1. Strange as it may seem, the Rangers could go a long way toward a first-round match-up with the Islanders if the Blueshirts simply knock off Ottawa Thursday at the Garden.
2. Then again, the Isles still hold their playoff fate on their sticks. Winning in Pittsburgh is not out of the question. And if that fails – and the Senators keep winning – there’s always the home (and season) finale vs. Columbus on Saturday night.
3. Granted, this is not what Isles fans had anticipated when their club was riding high, but the bottom line now is simply this: Get into the playoffs and then worry about the future.
4. It gives me the heebie-jeebies, but the Senators remind me of the 1969 Mets; everything is going their way. Full credit to Ottawa for making this near-miracle happen.
5. Regarding Las Vegas as an expansion 31st team, it would not surprise me if NHL owners OK Sin City before this summer is over; if not sooner. Owners would split a virtually guaranteed, record-breaking $450 million entrance fee.
6. More than half the NHL coaches were polled on which team is favored to win the Stanley Cup. The Rangers were overwhelmingly picked to sip the champagne. That, by the way, is no surprise to me since I’ve been saying the same since January.
7. That said, I’ll tell you which foes could pull the rug on the Rangers: A. Montreal because of speed and Carey (Wish I Was Around For The Entire Playoffs Last Year) Price; B. Tampa Bay because the Bolts can match New York’s speed; C. Boston just because they are the Sometimes Big, Sometimes Bad Bruins.
8. Kevin (The Hawks Wish They Had Him) Hayes and Anders (No Relations To Robert E.) Lee get a nifty boost in The Hockey News. Author Jared Clinton rates the “Five Rookies Who Could Make A Major Impact In The Playoffs,” and the Ranger and Islander are included.
9. The Isles’ center ace, who has been at or near the top of the freshmen scoring race for most of the season, brings up the rear in fifth place. Clinton likes him in the postseason for “depth scoring.”
10. Hayes is runner-up to Calgary’s Johnny (Hockey) Gaudreau on the THN list. The Blueshirts’ Big Boy came to New York with no pro hockey seasoning and has provided strength through the center while getting plenty of minutes. Alain Vigneault will love him in the playoffs.
11. If ever the need for patience in terms of handling young players is evident, J.T. (What’s His First and Middle Name) Miller‘s growth should be the leadoff topic for a seminar called Coaching Kids 101.
12. What’s fascinating to me as we complete the homestretch is the shock-and-awe coming from out-of-towners after watching the Rangers. Bob Dill, Jr., son of ex-Blueshirt Bob (Killer) Dill, writes from St. Paul that Alain (You Still Can Call Me A.V.) Vigneault’s marauders look like the “best team I’ve seen.”
13. The word that comes to mind when you don’t give Alex (Hooray For You) Ovechkin, who has scored 52 goals this season, the Hart Trophy – LUDICROUS.
14. Give the Blue Jackets’ Ryan (The Holdout Kid) Johansen credit; he held out for big dough; got what he wanted and has since put his money where his mouth is with 69 points; six better than his total from last season. Between you and me, I’d take his teammate Nick (Better Than His Dad) Foligno over Johansen. Big Nick has 30 goals and 41 helpers for 71 points.
15. One of my all-time favorite Islanders, Travis Green, has become one of the finest developmental coaches. After guiding the Portland Winterhawks to the Memorial Cup Final, Travis moved on to leading Vancouver’s AHL club in Utica.
16. Green’s Utica Comets recently reeled off a nine-game winning streak and clinched a Calder Cup playoff spot for the first time in franchise history. What’s more his Comets clinched the AHL’s North Division title.
17. Bruce (Cousin Brucie) Boudreau’s Ducks might be “quacking” their way to a Standing-O regular season, but will they be doing the same come playoff time?
18. Maven’s answer: NO! Go back in time even to three years ago. When it becomes crunch time, the Ducks stop “flying together.”
19. Scientists at Virginia Tech University have been doing a study of hockey helmets and what can be done to make them safer, and frankly the results are not flattering.
20. Best unknown young goalie I’ve seen this month happens to be the Sabres‘ Andrey Makarov. The Kazan, Russia, native was lights out against the Islanders last Saturday even in losing, 3-0. Three red lights did not reflect his outstanding effort.
21. Lubomir Visnovsky‘s – aka “Vis” – return to the Isles’ blue line could not have come at a more opportune moment. The vet still knows how to lug the puck out of his end and launch an offensive.
22. Sure, the Red Wings would like to have Mike Babcock back as their forever coach, but the high command is not sweating it should MB go to Toronto or some other nutty situation.
23. The minute Babcock would go bye-bye, the next minute GM Ken Holland would elevate the very capable Jeff Blashill from Grand (AHL) Rapids as the new Detroit bench boss.
24. It takes class to admit a mistake. Therefore, kudos to Scotty Gomez, who allows that he should have paid better attention to Lou Lamoriello when the Devils’ boss told him not to sign with San Jose in January 2013.
25. “Lou wanted me back in Jersey,” Gomez allows. “He said he wasn’t going to let me fail. I should have listened to him, but at that point I was set on trying something new. I just wanted to get the hell out of the East Coast and I didn’t hear him out.”
26. Talk about a sophomore slump, how about Patrick Roy – from Coach of the Year to Coach of the Chokes.
27. Now we’ll see what kind of general staffer Joe Sakic really is, but don’t bet on him turning the Avs into Haves. (Between us; could Joe fire Patrick or would the vice be versa?)
28. If I’m Lou Lamoriello, my next captain will be Andy (The Underrated) Greene. He’s respected and plays the game respectfully.
29. Paul Devorski’s retirement means that the NHL will feature mostly anonymous zebras. When I started watching the Rangers in 1942, every ref had a special character and every player knew exactly how each one officiated; distinctly different from one another.
30. King Clancy reffed the way he played, boisterously. The King’s philosophy was roughly equivalent to “Let ’em play and let ’em fight.” New Yorker Bill Chadwick leaned backwards not to appear as a homer when he worked for MSG Network. George (Gertie) Gravel was a semi-clown who bowed to the crowd before every opening face-off.
31. Henrik Lundqvist has looked nothing short of sharp since his return. His defensemen report that the “The King” is acting, playing and talking as if nothing out of the ordinary happened to him in February.
32. Granted that Marty (I’m Not From Missouri) St. Louis now is on the “Third Line,” but his gears mesh well with Hayes and Carl Hagelin. Not only can Marty and Kevin play center, but they’re two of the club’s better passers. That opens plenty of room for Kid Lightning Hagelin.
33. Portent of Still Better Things To Come Department: The Rangers “All-American Line,” comprised of Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller looks like a keeper for the next decade. They’re young, speedy and smart. Not a bad combo.
34. The Lightning would appreciate a playoff crowd virtually entirely rooting for the Bolt. To help make that possible, Tampa Bay’s high command is attempting to limit ticket sales to Floridians. The Maven’s response; nice try but it won’t work!
35. I was hoping that Florida would stay in playoff contention this week, but Dale Tallon’s team has done some awfully good things in Sunrise. One of the Panthers neatest surprises is the blossoming of ex-Blackhawk Brandon Pirri. Over 47 games he’s tallied 22 goals. Ah, but in the assists department … BP only has a pair.
36. It’s been a tough injury-plagued season for Carolina coach Bill (Maybe I Never Should Have Left Detroit) Peters, but he sees a ray of hope for his Canes. “Our specialty teams have been good,” says Peters, “and I like the way Justin Faulk has emerged on defense. Plus, Cam Ward had a very good year, bouncing back and staying healthy.” The onus now is on GM Ron Francis to come up with more help for Peters.
37. Let’s not forget that Antoine Vermette, a clever center, will be an unrestricted free agent and wouldn’t this non-Ranger A.V. look good in a Devils jersey. Make that VERY good.
38. The Devils will have a Top-10 draft pick in this year’s upcoming draft. The question running through the mind of every Devils fan is will Lou Lamoriello trade the pick as he did when acquiring Cory Schneider during the 2013 Draft? Or will he use the pick to draft a young forward to inject youth into the lineup?