Rangers Playoff-Ready, Weight’s Message, Devils’ Spotlight

1. Alain Vigneault‘s primary chore from here to April 10th is to hone his roster to sharpness so that the Rangers are playoff-ready as possible.

2. By far the most pressing question surrounds Henrik Lundqvist‘s ability to enter Round One of the Playoffs as sharp as he was in the Spring of 2014.

3. The Blueshirts back-up in 2014 when the Blueshirts reached the Final Round was the capable Cam Talbot, now the Oilers starter. Right now, I’d take Antti Raanta over Talbot.

4. Now that the Rangers are IN the playoffs, there’s the very vital matter of winning at home; over and over again as in days of yore.

5. Master of Analytics, sages, savants — anyone — please tell me why an elite Blueshirt sextet cannot do as well on Seventh Avenue as it has done out-of-town. The Maven hasn’t deduced the answer.

6. Credit to Josh Bailey for delivering a career year; and the Islanders vet has produced both during the Jack Capuano abbreviated season and now with Doug Weight.

Islanders Strome Bailey Ducks Away 112216

7. He won’t get consideration for the Calder Trophy as rookie-of-the-year, but Anthony Beauvillier will be a key element in the Islanders future offensive corps. Really, it’s hard to believe that he was a longshot to make the team at training camp.

8. From here to season’s end, Devils head coach John Hynes will be placing his rookies in crucial situations. That explains why he had John Quenneville lead off the shootout session against Winnipeg last Tuesday.

9. Granted that the rookie failed to score, but then again, neither did Taylor Hall nor another rookie, Pavel Zacha.

10. Speaking of Hall, he blasted through the Jets defense in overtime before being upended by Blake Wheeler. It clearly called for a penalty shot, but the referees nixed the Hynes-Hall complaints.

11. You have to admire Hall’s tempered post-game comment that he made to me: “I don’t envy the ref’s position. They have to make so many hard choices throughout the game so, sometimes, they see something that maybe they look at on video and see another thing after the game. I don’t know. You just want to see some consistency. I would have loved to have a penalty shot to win.”

12. That’s a nifty diplomatic way of seeing a play that I clearly believe called for a penalty shot. So did Hynes, who put it explicitly and accurately: “Taylor was on a clear-cut breakaway … Blake Wheeler put his stick up under Hall’s hands, hooks him and there was no shot on net. Hall goes flying into the boards. Those are the facts.” (Refs: Dan O’Rourke and Chris Schlenker).

13. Just about every hockey person I know is tickled that Uncle Sam’s defending Gold Medal-winning Women’s hockey team won concessions from USA Hockey following their boycott of World Championship.

14. You have to like New Jersey’s Cory Schneider‘s reaction at The Rock. “The women made a stand for what they believe in and we all respect that. When you heard the details of what they were being compensated for the amount of work they were putting in, it didn’t seem fair.”

15. Slowly but relentlessly, Blake Coleman, Blake Pietila, Joe Blandisi and Miles Wood are impressing the Devils high command enough to return to The Rock on opening night next October.

16. The Devils new defenseman Michael Kapla looks like a keeper. He starred at U-Mass Lowell and describes himself as a “puck-mover.” The term I use is “rover.” John Hynes was impressed with Kapla’s debut on Friday night against the Islanders.

17. Dan Girardi will be part of the Rangers defense core at playoff time after a too-long layoff. “When you don’t play for a month,” says the vet blue liner, “you have to deal with a certain amount of rust. The positive is that I feel good physically.”

18. An appreciative hockey player always is a welcome sight and sound. Exhibit A is Derek Stepan talking about his Rangers playoff-clinching. “I feel very fortunate to have made it for all my seven years in the league.”

19. The Maven gives Doug Weight credit for seeing things clearly and seeing them whole. Doug’s candor is refreshing and his emotions are worn on his face and sleeve; not to mention evident in his voice.

20. Weight’s message has logic: “You have to want it — want to come out and put your opponent on its heels. Too many times lately our first periods have been just ‘touchy-feely.’ We let our opponents think they can hang around and get going on us. You can’t do that at this time of year.” This never was more apparent than in the Thursday night loss in Philly when the Flyers went up 4-0 in the first period before you could finish your hot dog. That all changed for the better on Friday night in Brooklyn with the Isles 2-1 win over the Devils.

21. Here are 11 reasons for Rangers fans to be proud of their hockey club. Out of the last dozen seasons, the Seventh Avenue skaters have missed the postseason but once. (How many other clubs can make that statement?)

22. You don’t hear many quotes from Matt Puempel, but here’s one to stash away for future use. “In the playoffs, any team can win any game. Just look at the Kings the year they won the Cup. Came into the playoffs as an eighth seed.”

23. The Isles dazzling rookie Josh Ho-Sang can look to a long, creative career. No. 1 on his Improvement Agenda will be learning the defensive end of the game.

24. Ho-Sang’s speed and zig-zag moves up ice are reminiscent of the best NHL puck-mover on offense, Hall of Famer Max Bentley, who skated for the Blueshirts in 1953-54. One hockey writer described Bentley this way: “He skates like a scared jackrabbit.”

25. When I congratulated the Devils low-key, low-maintenance but high-quality captain Andy Greene on playing more than 700 games, he shot back, “Guess what — I’m still learning.”

26. Henrik Lundqvist knows what’s needed from here on to the playoffs and articulates it succinctly and well: “You need another level to make that extra save. You’re not going to get away with just an okay effort.”

27. Dan Girardi has been studying King Henrik’s return and offers this: “Henrik’s going to take care of himself and we’ll worry about our job in front of him.”

28.  Even more succinct — yet accurate — is Penguins coach Mike Sullivan’s X-Ray of the Blueshirts: “You have to give the Rangers credit; they play hard and they are a good team.”

29. The Flyers Sunday night visit to The Garden does not figure to be a soft one. When Philly hosted the Isles the other night on Broad Street there was apparent bullying by the home team. I hope A.V. dresses Tanner Glass!

30. The Hockey Punch Line: Ex-Ranger Derek (Turk) Sanderson once was asked to name the greatest player he ever saw. Turk’s reply: “Me, on instant replay!”
(The above courtesy of HOCKEY SHORTS by Glenn Liebman. It’s one of the funniest hockey books ever written.)