In this week’s Q&A, Ken Daneyko discusses a controversial non-call, the cohesion of the Taylor Hall-Kyle Palmieri-Travis Zajac line and playing spoiler down the stretch.
MSGNetworks.com: We saw some pretty interesting calls and non-calls in Tuesday’s game between the Devils and Jets. We know that Taylor Hall and John Hynes wanted a penalty shot after Hall was tripped up by the Jets’ Blake Wheeler in OT. What was your take on the play?
Ken Daneyko: From the criteria of the rule, yeah, you would have thought that it would have been called a penalty shot. Having said that, some calls go your way, some go against you. It seems that calls have gone against the Devils in the last four-to-six weeks.
While I certainly thought it should have been a penalty shot, I was more concerned about Taylor Hall. The way he went into the boards, I was so concerned about his health. It showed what type of shape he’s in and how tough he is because he went into the boards with full speed, and I was just elated that he wasn’t injured. That was my first thought.
As for the game, the Devils have had all these close contests. At this stage of the season, I know the players want to win and they’re playing hard every night to do so. They lost these close games and [Tuesday] was another tough one. But in looking towards the future, I’m seeing some good signs – Beau Bennett scored, Pavel Zacha with an assist. As a fan, you want to see the development of the younger guys. They did a lot of good things, but couldn’t find a way to win. They’re still learning and it’s part of the process to win these types of games consistently.
MSGNetworks.com: On the bright side for the Devils and Hall, he was able to score a beautiful breakaway goal against Winnipeg. It looks like the Devils may have a first line for next year in Hall, Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac. Is that something to look forward to next season?
Ken Daneyko: You can have a well-balanced attack, but you always want that front line and I expect big things from those guys. Who knows what transpires next year, but the Devils are pretty set with the leaders and top guys like Palmieri, Hall and Zajac. I’m sure they’ll be excited about starting from scratch together or partially together.
They know they’ll feel good about themselves going into next season. As the season winds down here, they can be counted on and know they can be a top line in this league.
MSGNetworks.com: The Hall line did have support Tuesday with some of the younger forwards stepping up and playing well. We saw it over the weekend with Blake Coleman scoring. This has to be encouraging for the future.
Ken Daneyko: We know that there will need to be some improvement offensively going forward, but it’s good to see these young guys come through. It can only boost their confidence. [Stefan] Noesen displayed some really good hands in tight [on his goal Tuesday] and he’s scored a couple of really nice goals.
Guys like Noesen, guys like Coleman, they get rewarded for some of their hard work around the net. It’s going to help the team when you need to get a goal and you’re starting to see that. Coleman scored his first of his career on Sunday and that has to do wonders for his confidence. He’s starting to create more chances and offensive plays.
He’s got some offensive ability. Along with Noesen, Zacha and Bennett, we’ll see if these guys are a part of the solution moving forward.
MSGNetworks.com: Looking ahead to the Devils’ next game, they have an opportunity to play spoiler against the Islanders on Friday. Obviously, the Isles are fighting for their playoff lives. Is there any motivation in playing the spoiler role and does that playoff-type atmosphere rub off on a young team that’s learning?
Ken Daneyko: Well, everybody knows the situation. For a team like the Devils, yeah, you take pride in that. That’s part of the team’s process – playing in big games when they’re big for the other team and learning what it’s going to take to succeed. These are little steps you want to take pride in. I think it’s going to help the Devils progress, playing in some meaningful games for other teams and seeing what that’s like for their opponents. The Devils have something to prove to be a part of the playoff conversation next season.
MSGNetworks.com: Finally, we’ve heard you had a good conversation with John MacLean and Steve Cangialosi about why you think the Capitals are going to be the favorite to win the Cup during Tuesday’s telecast. You’ve pretty much seen the entire league, do you have a dark horse we should look out for in the playoffs?
Ken Daneyko: What’s great about the playoffs is that there are no certainties when it comes to the postseason success. There are teams that look great in the regular season, but in a seven-game series we know that anything can happen. There’s always a dark horse and I think this year will be no different.
Even though they’re having a great season, you look at a team like the Columbus Blue Jackets and can say they’re a dark horse. You might not put them in the same class as the Caps or even the Rangers because these teams have been there and done that. Montreal with Carey Price is capable of stealing a series. They’re a team that can make some noise. The Boston Bruins if they get in, they’re big, they’re strong and I think they’re built more for seven-games series. They could be dangerous as well. I still say you’ve got to beat the champs and the Penguins know what it takes come playoff time. If they get healthy, they’re going to be tough.
Out West, I think the Nashville Predators have something going on. That’s a team that could be a dark horse and could surprise some teams. They’re a little more balanced, offensively, and they have a great defensive corps. That’s always so important in the playoffs.
Teams like the Calgary Flames are dangerous too, with the way Brian Elliott is playing and their real good defensive unit. The top teams like the Sharks, have been there and made it through their ‘down’ period. I’d also put the Ducks right up there and they’re heating up at the right time. But you can never count the Blackhawks out. They’ve won The Cup three times since 2010.
It’s going to be fun and that’s why we all love the playoffs!