Blueshirts Playoffs Predictions, Possible Isles Sighting, Devils Honor Elias

  1. The best way for Michael Grabner to re-create his first-half bonanza would be to make good on half his breakaways in the Canadiens-Rangers series.
  1. Want a good Rangers sleeper against the Habs? Jesper Fast, because he gets to pucks first in the corners. He’s also good for big-time assists and an A+ skater.
  1. Toughest aspect to figure heading into New York-Montreal is how well Henrik Lundqvist will fare against Carey Price. Or vice versa.
  1. We can only wonder how Chris Kreider will handle the avalanche of boos in Bell Centre since every Hab fan remembers his collision with Price in the 2014 Conference Final.
  1. Keith Kinkaid‘s first season shutout over Philly last Tuesday could mean that — if the Devils do not — some NHL team will sign him for 2017-18.
  1. Forgetting Pavel Zacha, the best new face on the Devils this season is defenseman Steve Santini. For a rookie, he’s responsible and strong in front of his net.
  1. New Jersey’s big freshman forward Ben Thomson impressed quite a few key people in his first NHL game — against Philly — with his controlled aggression. Working alongside Blake Coleman and Luke Gazdic, Thomson turned the unit into a darn good fourth line with some neat chances.
  1. My buddy Leo Scaglione, Jr. offers this observation about Josh Ho-Sang after interviewing the Isles’ flashy rookie: “He’s well-spoken, thoughtful and insightful. Yet, there’s an edge to him. Guess what? So does Taylor Hall who has an edge and, to a media person, that’s a breath of fresh air.”
  1. I asked my sidekick Steve Cangialosi to pick his most pleasant surprise as a Devil this season. “Miles Wood,” he said without hesitation. “He’s shown that only a year out of college he belongs in the NHL. Only needs a little polish.”
  1. The Game’s Bible, The Hockey News, opened the season listing odds for each team when it came to winning the Stanley Cup. The Rangers were slotted at 35-1 and Montreal at 22-1 (don’t forget which team wound up firing its coach. Hint: It wasn’t the Blueshirts!)
  1. Ex-NHLer and now Los Angeles broadcaster Jim Fox offered an interesting comment about the Rangers to Maven Reporter Matthew Blittner: “Upfront,” said Fox, “the Rangers have a good size-skill combination. But I wonder who the ‘Go-To’ guy will be. I’m talking about the player who will take over a game at times.”

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  1. The Maven’s answer to Fox has two parts. Part One; Rick Nash; Part Two: Chris Kreider.
  1. New Jersey’s hero goalie of the 1987-88 season, Sean Burke, has an interesting job. If NHL players don’t go to the Olympics, Burke’s gig is to scout an alternate Canadian player pool and build a Team Canada sextet for South Korea around it.
  1. Ironically, the man who assigned Burke that task is none other than Manhattan — and The Maven’s — favorite, Tom Renney. Terrific Tom quit coaching to become Hockey Canada’s Chief Executive Officer.
  1. This Week in Rangers History: On April 6, 1980, Ron Duguay scored a goal nine seconds into the Blueshirts-Flyers game. It set a club record for Fastest Goal At The Start Of A Game.
  1. Hard To Believe Department: On April 8, 2006, then Ranger Jaromir Jagr set a single-season franchise record with his 53d goal of the 2005-06 season.
  1. Frankly, I’m hard-pressed to recall an Islander in the past decade who’s had the impact of a crashed-cymbal the way Josh Ho-Sang has; and he hasn’t scratched the surface yet.
  1. One Ranger I’m counting on to play BIG against Montreal is the smallest fellow on the squad, Mats Zuccarello. This could be his tourney.
  1. Among the keenest Rangers fans I know is my pal, Patrick Hoffman, who delivers a compelling formula for beating the Habs. “Drive Carey Price crazy,” says Hoffman. “Throw lots of pucks on net, create traffic, crash the net for rebounds and do everything else that drives a goaltender mad.”
  1. Patrick didn’t mention any names but I have to believe he has Chris Kreider on his fertile mind.
  1. Speaking of a Patrik of another kind, I’m so pleased with the manner in which the Devils have honored future Hall of Famer Patrik Elias. The Czech’s weeklong run in Newark culminates on Saturday night at The Rock before the Devils host the Islanders.
  1. Elias will do a goodbye skate around Prudential Center ice and will be lauded as one of the prime franchise heroes. Surely, he ranks among the most underrated stars in NHL history.
  1. Not long ago Patrik entertained the idea of not only putting on his uniform but actually playing against the Islanders. “The more I thought about it,” said Elias, “the more I realized it wouldn’t be the right thing to do in a game so important to the Islanders.”
  1. Here’s the latest Rangers Prospect Report on goalie Igor Shesterkin playing in the KHL for SKA St. Petersburg: “He was named the Best Goaltender of the KHL Conference Finals as he helped SKA complete a four-game sweep against Lokomotiv and advance to the Gagarin Cup Finals. The Rangers’ fourth round pick (118th overall) in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft posted a 3-0-0 record, along with a 0.55 GAA and a .985 SV% (65 saves on 66 shots) in three appearances in the series. Shesterkin led all goaltenders in the Conference Finals in GAA and SV%.”
  1. Following Thursday night’s Penguins victory at The Rock, I asked several Devils and coach John Hynes about Sidney Crosby. To a man, they picked Pittsburgh’s captain as the best player in the league.
  1. Granted that Washington iced a formidable team all season but winning the Presidents’ Trophy guarantees nothing in the playoffs. In the 1949-50 season, the Blueshirts went to Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Final against the Red Wings. That year the Rangers finished the regular campaign under the .500 mark.
  1. A week ago you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who figured the Islanders still would be mathematically alive for a spot in the playoffs heading into this weekend. Yet this is the case as they take the ice tonight at Prudential Center.
  1. Even more surprising is that the club survived this week without captain John Tavares, plus Casey Cizikas, Travis Hamonic, Nikolay Kulemin and Ryan Strome.
  1. Among the Brooklyn heroes, start with Jaroslav Halak‘s goaltending, Anders Lee‘s leadership and the peripatetic performances of Josh Ho-Sang. Congratulatory bows also should be directed at interim coach Doug Weight.
  1. Smile Of The Week: When Hall of Fame defenseman Babe Pratt skated for the Rangers in the late 1930s he’d have occasional disputes with his boss, Lester Patrick, over money. Exasperated one day, Pratt blurted, “Lester isn’t tight with money, he’s adjacent to it!”