Hayes Becoming a Major Threat for Rangers

  1. Forget about the loss to Vancouver — upsets happen — when you think about it, this season’s edition of the Rangers could be nicknamed “The Turnabouts.”
  1. For proof positive, check out the ascent of Kevin Hayes, Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh and Michael Grabner.
  1. Most amazing is Hayes, whose performance last season can best be characterized as up and down. This week, Hayes was named one of the NHL’s Three Stars — along with the Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov and the Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford.

Rangers Hayes Miller Grabner Edmoton 111016

  1. The scary thing — if you happen to be an enemy goaltender — is that Bostonian Kevin will only get better.
  1. And speaking of “scary,” if you’re any team skating against the Blueshirts, you’re facing a third line (Hayes, J.T. Miller and Grabner) that’s as productive as some first units around the league.
  1. So far, the most encouraging — least-mentioned — Devil is backup goalie Keith Kinkaid, who almost didn’t make the team out of training camp. Double K, who sparkled with a 33-save effort against Carolina last Sunday in Raleigh, appears calmer and more confident than a year ago.

Devils Kinkaid Hurricanes Road

  1. Coach John Hynes would do well to rest Cory Schneider the way Alain Vigneault is alternating Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Raanta. If Kinkaid is as sharp as I figure he’ll be this season, I’d give him 22 games with Cory handling the rest.
  1. Travis Zajac, who always flies under the radar, continues to play a major role for Hynes. Not only does Travis help set up Devils‘ snipers — namely Michael Cammalleri, Taylor Hall, et. al — but he also shuts down top enemy centers. (Doubters should check Jonathan Toews’ and Steven Stamkos’ stat lines when playing against New Jersey.)
  1. After averaging almost a point a game last season, Cammalleri finally broke through — following a Zajac set up, of course — in Carolina last Sunday. The third-year Devil recorded his sixth career hat trick and first with New Jersey. The better news for the Devs is that Cammy looks as healthy as ever.
  1. Also warming up for New Jersey is offseason acquisition, Beau Bennett. After battling injuries during his short career, he’s finally healthy and delivering crisp passes leading to timely goals. His career never took flight as a Penguin, but he’s starting to climb as a Devil.
  1. A year ago, Adam Larsson blossomed into a reliable NHL defenseman as Andy Greene‘s partner on the top pairing. This season, third-year NHLer Damon Severson is doing the same beside the quiet-but-always-consistent Captain. Damon has already buried more biscuits this campaign than last.

Devils Greene Road Stock 101416

  1. Ironman Greene skated in his 322nd consecutive game Sunday night vs the Canes. He sits fourth on the team’s all-time list. Next is three-time Cup-winner Sergei Brylin who skated in 328 consecutive contests.
  1. Michael McLeod, Nathan Bastian and Pavel Zacha get a lot of ink as the Devils’ top prospects. But don’t nap on forward Joey Anderson. The Hockey News lists him as one of the Devils’ sleeper prospects, and for good reason. The 18-year-old freshman at Minnesota-Duluth is among the club’s top point producers.
  1. If Rangers met Penguins in a best-of-7 series starting tonight, the Blueshirts would take Crosby Inc. in five games — max. Could be a sweep.
  1. It was refreshing to see Jaro Halak try for a Marty Brodeur-type empty-net goal Monday against Vancouver even though Halak’s shot never cleared center ice. Jaro showed me some goaltending “chutzpah” (Yiddish for “nerve.”).

Islanders Halak Cizikas Stock 101116

  1. If anyone is still wondering why Jimmy Vesey signed with the Rangers, listen up to the rookie: “The first time I came down to New York after I signed, I stayed at the Ritz and flew down first class. That was my first time flying first class, and I was kind of like, ‘Wow!’ I had to pinch myself when we got there.”
  1. Make no mistake, Matt Martin still has his former team on his mind. To wit: “If the Leafs can’t win the Stanley Cup, then I want the Islanders to win it. Heck, if we’re out, I’d probably be in the stands at Barclays Center in a Casey Cizikas jersey. I made Long Island my home.”
  1. Brown University’s gift to the Devils is Nick Lappin whose hustle delights the Rock’s crowd. “I’ve been dreaming about playing in the NHL my whole life,” says the rookie right wing. “This is a dream come true.” His debut just so happened to come against the Blackhawks, his favorite team as a kid.
  1. The word that comes to mind when discussing the Rangers’ stratospheric play is “speed.” Or, as Derek Stepan puts it, “We can match up with anybody and look forward to matching up with them all. Speed is a dangerous thing.”
  1. Lack of defenseman Dylan McIlrath’s sufficient speed could be the most accurate way to describe the Blueshirts’ decision to trade Mac to Florida for defenseman Steve Kampfer, a former Rangers chattel. My man in Sunrise, Alan Greenberg, offers this on the exchange: “Kampfer is a great team guy,” says Greenberg, “and filled in well last year when the Panthers defense had injuries. McIlrath will provide much-needed intimidation when Florida needs it. That has been decidedly lacking with the Cats.”
  1. A year ago I figured that toughie Dylan was ready to gain a Rangers roster spot, but general manager Jeff Gorton obviously didn’t like enough about McIlrath’s overall game to turn him into a regular. That’s the difference between The Maven and The Manager. The Maven opines; the manager makes the moves.
  1. Lappin has become the new “find” for the Devils although the Brown University grad caught coach Hynes’ eye in the Calder Cup playoffs last Spring. “The more intense the playoffs,” Hynes remembers, “the better Nick played.”
  1. One of the aspects of hockey players that I find endearing is that when you talk to top-liners about their “Fourth Liners,” the aces invariably insist that they are better than “Fourth Liners.”
  1. Tonight, the Islanders visit Tampa Bay. The question is whether they can carry the momentum of Monday night’s home win over the Canucks down to Florida.
  1. And, if so, win yet again on Saturday in Sunrise against the Panthers.