2. In this fifth – and most crucial – game of the Blueshirts-Senators Second Round series, Alain Vigneault is hoping that his charges bring the same, swing, swagger and sustained attack that gained them two backs-to-the-wall wins at The Garden.
3. Among A.V.’s most telling comments on his outfit’s turnabout are six little words: “We have all four lines going.”
4. Certainly, when a return-from-Hartford-exile Tanner Glass can become an offensive star – as he was against Montreal and again on Seventh Avenue on Thursday night — it’s like Christmas in May for Vigneault.
5. Add to that the stealth bomber named Oscar Lindberg – two big red lights in Game 4 – and the fourth line automatically becomes the first line.
7. And thank you to Michael Grabner for the delicious pancake pass to No-Holdens-Barred to produce the game’s first – and so important to The Garden crowd – goal of the game.
8. Let’s not forget that Ottawa’s big guns were, for the most part, either kept in check, shunted to the sides or foiled by Henrik Lundqvist.
9. Senators one-man gang, Erik Karlsson – perhaps hurting – was less noticeable than the brutish Dion Phaneuf.
10. The latter did some extra-curricular scuffling along with a few buddies, but the hosts held their own in the physicality department, reducing any intimidation factor in the final decision.
11. Ottawa’s answer to Mats Zuccarello — Jean-Gabriel Pageau – valiantly tried to rally his troops, but the Sens’ version of Mighty Mite was mightily invisible.
12. Before the Rangers or their faithful enter the Kingdom of Hockey Euphoria, they would do well to remember the parting words of Guy Boucher.
13. Ottawa’s crafty coach duly – and wisely – noted that: A) The series is currently tied at two games apiece. Which means that nobody is leading.
14. Boucher then added: B) If the series extends to the seven-game limit, two out of the three remaining tilts will be played in Canada. And, C) His club has won two out of two at home so far.
15. A.V. could counter by pointing out that even in his club’s opening two losses on the other side of the border, New York played well. And now his defense appears to have jelled in the manner that lifted the Rangers to elite status in mid-season.
16. Reader Steven Braverman, a Manhattan physical therapist, offers this suggested rule change to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman: “The face-off after an offside should be moved to the opposite blue line dots. This would potentially reduce stoppage and penalize the offending team by putting them in a more defensive position on the ensuing face-off.” Me? I like it.
18. In a recent piece, Berger paid tribute to the 1967 Maple Leafs, the last Toronto sextet to win The Stanley Cup. One of that club’s stars was a then young Peter Stemkowski, currently an occasional MSG Networks analyst and Long Island resident.
19. Berger celebrated the 50th anniversary of that Toronto victory with a call to Stemkowski. Howard asked Stemmer whether it feels as if the triumph happened a half-century ago. “Yeah,” chortled Pete, “especially when the players from that team get together.”
20. After that, Berger pointed out that ex-Devil-now-Leafs-boss Brendan Shanahan said that “This will be the last reunion for the 1967 team.”
21. That prompted the whimsical Stemmer to agree with Shanny and then reference 1967 teammates Red Kelly and ex-Ranger-turned Leaf, Johnny Bower.
22. “If we had a 60th anniversary reunion,” quipped Stemkiowski, “Bower will be 102 years old, Kelly will be 99 and – as the ‘Youngster’ – I’ll be 83. I hear that Kelly was in Las Vegas playing the slot machine – and four prunes came out!”
23. Until the Entry Draft actually takes place in Chicago, Devils fans will debate about which player Ray Shero will choose with his first overall pick — Nolan Patrick of the Brandon Wheat Kings or Nico Hischier, starring for the Halifax Mooseheads.
24. Then again, the Devils sage general manager could very well fool everyone and go for a defenseman such as highly-touted Cale Makar. Writing in The Hockey News, Ryan Kennedy opines: “New Jersey needs defensemen right away, so I wonder is the first pick even safe from trade?” The Maven says, “No, it is not.”
25. With nary a word from the Islanders camp, I have to believe that talks between the High Command and John Tavares soon will begin, if the negotiations haven’t started already. Talk about decisive, this is it.
26. Scanning Game 5 of the Rangers-Senators series, my sidekick Matthew Blittner likes Henrik Lundqvist’s observation delivered before Game 4 as valid then as it is now.
27. His Majesty Hank observed: “We have to push ourselves. We just need to understand how important the game is. Then desperation and determination will come. If you understand the importance, it’s hard not to come with that desperation. The preparation and how we execute; it’s all about that.”
29. That’s a double-plus, but The Maven remains tickled by Josh (Ace) Bailey’s career year that includes a team-leading 43 assists and a career-high 56 points. He was – in my humble opinion – the Isles best two-way forward.
Josh Bailey discusses his disappointment with the season ending but is humbled by the opportunity to play on a line with John Tavares and Anders Lee.
30. Of all the Islanders, my highest grades include an “A” for Anders Lee and “A-Minus” for Bailey.
31. With the Devils vacating Albany as home to its AHL team in favor of Binghamton, plenty of folks associated with hockey in New York State’s Capital are nostalgic about the past. One of them is current Vancouver Canucks assistant general manager John Weisbrod, a native of Long Island. Weisbrod was the Albany River Rats GM in 1995 when the Devs’ farm won the Calder Cup.
32. “We had a terrific team in 1994-95,” Weisbrod recalled. “Players like Sergei Brylin, Mike Dunham, Brian Rolston and Corey Schwab were among our best. Plus, a terrific fighting forward in Reid Simpson. Those were the days when we’d fill the big downtown arena.”
33. Weisbrod recalled the moment when he knew deep down his club would take the title. “We were playing the Canadiens AHL farm team in Fredericton and a pre-game brawl erupted. Their tough guy was Donald Brashear and our guy – much smaller – was Reid Simpson. Well, when Reid held his own against Big Brash, I knew we’d go on to win – and we did.”