John Davidson is coming home! Rangers hire JD as new Team President

Oh Baby! John Davidson is the new Rangers Team President. AP Photo courtesy Getty Images.

Welcome back JD! After spending 13 years away from MSG, John Davidson is coming home. He was officially named the new Team President of the Rangers today.

A move that had been anticipated once Glen Sather stepped down, Davidson will now assume the role for the team he carried to the 1979 Stanley Cup Final. He served as President of the Blues and Blue Jackets. He helped rebuild both clubs in the front office.

First, he returned to St. Louis, where he started his NHL career. Following a very successful stint as a color analyst for the Rangers from 1986-87 through ’05-06, Davidson took over as Team President for the Blues. A role he served until October 2012.

After helping rebuild St. Louis, he was hired by the Blue Jackets the same month. He did a good job with Columbus too. He hired current GM Jarmo Kekalainen in January 2013. A move that helped stabilize the franchise. It was also under Davidson that former Rangers coach John Tortorella was brought in to replace Todd Richards due to a poor start in October 2015.

They’ve made three consecutive postseasons for the first time, and recently won their first series in a huge upset of the Lightning. They stunned the President’s Trophy winners by sweeping them to advance to the second round for the first time in franchise history. After taking a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference Semifinal, they lost three in a row to the Bruins to lose the Atlantic Division Final in six. Boston has been on a roll ever since, sweeping the Hurricanes last night to reach the Stanley Cup Final.

With the future in Columbus looking bleak due to the expected departure of Russian stars Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin, Davidson left his post earlier today to take the job with the Rangers.

A huge fan favorite, JD as he’s known received some of the loudest cheers when he was announced during the emotional 25-Year Anniversary of the ’93-94 Rangers. This time, he’s back in a much more important role that’ll help determine the future of the club.

It’ll be up to Davidson and current GM Jeff Gorton to continue to make wise moves that’ll bring the Rangers back to respectability. Having the second pick in the Draft definitely helps a lot. Especially when you have two franchise players going 1-2. Whether it’s Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko, it’ll set them up for the future.

How much of an impact will JD have if any on whether Panarin chooses the Rangers or the rumored Panthers, who are expected to go hard after Bobrovsky and the Bread Man? That remains to be seen.

If you’re not excited about the return of Davidson, then you might want to lock yourself in a cave. It’s better following what the Blueshirts do than the unmitigated disaster going on in the NHL Playoffs.

Oh Baby!!!!!

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Kaapo Kakko leads Finland to 3-1 win over Denmark

Kaapo Kakko continues to roll in the IIHF World Championships. The 18-year old right wing led Finland to a 3-1 win over Denmark in Slovakia earlier today.

He was involved in all three goals. After Mortin Madsen put Denmark ahead early in the second period, Kakko scored his sixth of the tournament to tie the game four minutes later. As the highlights show below, it was a brilliant goal in which Kakko used his speed and patience to maneuver around the Denmark defense and tuck the puck in around Dane goalie Sebastian Dahm.

Kakko helped set up Suomi’s second of the day. He dropped the puck for Mikko Lehtonen, who skated in creating two chances for Toni Rajala and goalscorer Sakari Manninen to convert on the rebound for a 2-1 lead.

With less than nine minutes left in the third period, Finland put it away. Pulling up at the circle, Kaako waited before firing a wrist shot that Harri Pesonen tipped in for the insurance marker. It was a well executed play.

Kakko finished with a goal and assist with two shots and a plus-three rating in 14:02. In four games, he leads Finland with seven points (6-1-7). That’s tied for sixth in scoring. His six goals are tied for first with Evgeni Dadonov of Russia.

The only game he didn’t hit the score sheet was in an overtime loss to Team USA. It wasn’t for lack of effort. A dominant OT shift during a three-on-one nearly produced the winner if not for Devils goalie Cory Schneider. Dylan Larkin won it.

USA has also played four times so far. Still no points for Jack Hughes. He had six shots in yesterday’s 6-3 victory over Great Britain. It’s again worth repeating that his role is very different from Kakko, who’s the Finnish headliner.

Tomorrow, Finland faces the British. The Americans have the day off to prepare for Denmark on Saturday. Games can be seen on NHL Network.

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Kaapo Kakko shows off skills in Finland overtime loss to USA

Earlier today in Slovakia, Team USA defeated Finland 3-2 in overtime at the IIHF World Championships.

Dylan Larkin got the winner with a nice snipe from the right circle during three-on-three. He took full advantage of a missed interference call on linemate Clayton Keller, who knocked down a Finland defenseman at the blueline.

Even though the Americans pulled out the win to earn two points in Group play, most of the discussion centered around Kaapo Kakko. The hot teenage prospect continues to demonstrate why so many experts, scouts and fans are drooling over him.

He might not have registered a point unlike the five goals he had in the first two games (both wins). But 1B had a overtime shift that was flat out dominant. None of the three USA players could get the puck from him. He was so strong on his skates that he created a couple of dangerous scoring chances off a hard forecheck around the net.

It’s astonishing to watch Kakko use his size, strength and speed at only 18 against grown men. Sure. There was some hype surrounding the match with 1A Jack Hughes playing in a lesser role due to USA’s depth. But they only faced each other once during a shift. It was a solid battle even if the bigger player protected the puck.

Wearing number 24, Kakko led Finland with six shots in a team high 18:46. He was on the ice for a goal in front that got the game even. Suomi rallied from an early two goal deficit to tie it up. He takes up a lot of space.

This is the exact type of winger the Rangers need. The growing question is will the Devils be convinced by Kakko’s strong showing to select him first over Hughes. He received only 9:24 while playing mostly with Frank Vatrano, Luke Glendening and Derek Ryan.

Playing a lesser role has to be hard for the American teenager. But it’s due to USA being top heavy with Jack Eichel, Patrick Kane, Johnny Gaudreau, Chris Kreider and Alex DeBrincat having significant roles. Ditto for Larkin, Keller and James van Riemsdyk.

Ranger defenseman Brady Skjei scored the game’s first goal and was named USA’s Star of the Game. He logged 21:48 overall. That trailed only Ryan Suter and Noah Hanifin.

Rangers D prospect Adam Fox received 11:50 with one shot on a crowded D corps that also features Quinn Hughes. The older brother picked up an assist on Larkin’s overtime winner. He has two helpers so far. Fox has a power play point thus far.

USA next takes on Great Britain Wednesday. As for Finland, they have off until Thursday when they face Denmark. So, the Kakko Kraze can relax for the next 48 hours. That’s a good thing.

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Kaapo Kakko is lighting up the Worlds

The World Championships is only two days old. Already, Kaapo Kakko is taking it by storm. The projected number two pick has scored five goals in two Finland wins. He followed up a two goal performance in a 3-1 Suomi victory over Canada with a hat trick to highlight a 4-2 win over Slovakia today.

If Kakko keeps this act up, he will vault over American top prospect Jack Hughes and go number one to the Devils next month in Vancouver. He is the bigger player that plays a power forward type game. He should score more goals than Hughes, who is the prototypical playmaking center.

They play different positions. Hughes is a center while Kakko is a right wing. Both have unique styles that’ll be successful in the NHL which is why there’s so much debate over who the Devils will take.

Either way, the Rangers will come out with a great consolation prize. The two Hudson rivals are set up to improve leaps and bounds for the future. That should take the Hudson Rivalry back to new heights like we saw in the 90’s and post lockout between ’06-12.

This is a time for excitement for fans on both sides. It shouldn’t be a reason to panic. It also shouldn’t cause overly optimistic fans to jump the gun. Check the Twitter handle below.

Yikes. What if Kakko isn’t a Ranger? That would look pretty bad. Oh well. I’m sure they won’t mind the alternative. This is a classic case of a win win situation. Nobody loses. Let’s try to remember that.

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RIP Stephen Curatolo (stephennyr89)

I write this with lots of sadness and emotion. It’s never easy to eulogize someone you knew was taken from us too soon. Especially when they were the best kind of person who always stayed positive no matter the tremendous fight they had.

The New York Rangers community is a lot emptier today. We are mourning the loss of Stephen Curatolo. Best known as stephennyr89 on Twitter to those who followed him, he was a special Ranger fan who battled cancer throughout his life.

Even though I never got the chance to meet him, I felt like I knew him. Based on our pleasant interactions, he was the kind of unique person that was special. Despite his courageous bouts with cancer, he never let it change who he was.

Stephen is the most positive and optimistic person you’ll ever come across. Everyone knew him. He was recognized by MSG reporter John Giannone and the Rangers for his fight with cancer. In the decade I knew him like so many passionate Ranger fans, I was always taken by his enthusiasm and love. No matter how many times he was in the hospital, he always kicked Cancer’s ass.

Curatolo never gave up. In many ways, he was our version of Jim Valvano. The memorable coach of NC State, who brought the same positive energy and passion before succumbing to this awful disease.

Those who knew him personally posted tributes on Twitter. His younger sister Jennifer put up a fitting tribute to her older brother. Our prayers and condolences go out to her and the Curatolo family.

Here are a couple of more tributes to as good a man as there was. Stephen was the best of us. He will be sorely missed.

RIP STEPHEN CURATOLO πŸ˜’πŸ’” πŸ™ (February 4, 1989 – May 10, 2019)

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Bruins and Hurricanes star in Eastern Conference Final

Tonight, the Eastern Conference Final begins. It features the Bruins and Hurricanes. They’re the two survivors left standing from a tremendous NHL Playoffs.

While quite a few predicted the Bruins to reach this point if the Lightning failed, nobody had the Hurricanes playing for a chance to reach the Stanley Cup Final. They got here by coming back to beat the Capitals in seven and sweeping the Islanders.

Boston had to dig deep by beating Toronto the final two games and then taking the last three from Columbus to prevail in six. So, they sure earned it. Their road proved to be tougher than Carolina, who didn’t miss a beat after veteran backup Curtis McIlhinney replaced Petr Mrazek for the remainder of the Metro Division Final. Mrazek could be back for Game One.

If you love playoff experience, the Bruins have it in proven performers Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, David Krejci and Tuukka Rask. If you love playoff mojo, the Hurricanes boast it with Jaccob Slavin, Sebastian Aho, Warren Foegle, Jordan Staal and Mr. Game Seven, Justin Williams.

There’s an interesting contrast between the two teams. Boston possesses more skill when you throw in David Pastrnak on that top line with Bergeron and super pest Marchand. Charlie McAvoy has covered a lot for Chara. He’s serving a one game suspension tonight for his illegal check to the head of Josh Anderson, who accepted his apology during a warm exchange. Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson have provided scoring balance along with Jake DeBrusk and fourth line checker Sean Kuraly.

Carolina does it more by committee like their coach Rod Brind’Amour. They have gotten contributions up and down the lineup despite losing players. Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and rookie Andrei Svechnikov are the offensive leaders with veterans Staal and Williams key cogs along with rookie Foegle. Game Seven hero Brock McGinn will never have to buy another drink in Raleigh. Nino Niederreiter did in his former team last round. Dougie Hamilton, Brett Pesce and Justin Faulk all provide help on the back end.

In net, the edge should go to Rask, who’s playing the best hockey of his career. Without him standing on his head, the Bruins don’t get past the Blue Jackets. He’s been to two Stanley Cups with one as a backup behind Tim Thomas in 2011, and one as a starter in 2013. This is his first time back to this round. You know he’d love to win one as a starter and silence the critics up in Boston. He’s your leading Conn Smythe Trophy candidate entering the Conference Finals.

If he is back, Mrazek has played as well as he ever has. He’s been making the clutch stops and seems to have settled in as the Hurricanes starter. Hard to believe considering how much he struggled as a rental for the Flyers last year. He had one good year in Detroit. If he can find his rhythm, then the Canes have a puncher’s chance. He doesn’t have to match Rask. That’s up to the Carolina offense.

Conventional wisdom says Bruins in 6. Unconventional says Hurricanes in 7. Even though I’m leaning towards Boston, don’t count out Carolina. They’re very resilient and play like Brind’Amour, who led them to their only Cup in 2006. Nothing this postseason has made much sense. Expect the unexpected.

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When the Avalanche tweet you back

So, following their tough 3-2 loss in Game Seven to the Sharks, the Avalanche received plenty of love on Twitter. They deserved it.

Even though they lost the very competitive second round series to a determined Sharks, who got a heroic performance from leader Joe Pavelski (goal, assist) in his return, the Avalanche proved to everyone that they’re not going away anytime soon. With a bright future surrounding the franchise who last won a Stanley Cup in 2001, they’re gonna be a force to be reckoned with.

The Avalanche and Sharks shake hands following a great series. AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy Denver Post.

Featuring top five superstar Nathan MacKinnon along with gifted Mikko Rantanen, who played through injury, and emotional leader Gabriel Landeskog, they have an unbelievable top line that can scare opponents. Just ask the Sharks and fans like my forever friend Jen how they felt as Colorado applied the pressure in the third period last night. They outshot San Jose 15-2 with Tyson Jost scoring early on to make it 3-2.

Martin Jones faced a lot of dangerous scoring chances. He made some spectacular saves in crunch time with Colorado pulling starter Phiipp Grubauer for an extra attacker. The Avalanche tried some tricky deflections off good passes that Jones swallowed up. That included getting a piece of a Rantanen redirection to force it wide. He also made two saves on another try.

Considering how poorly he played in the first four games against the Golden Knights last round, Jones has been money since. He was a little better than Grubauer in a series that developed into a lower scoring, physical encounter. Full credit to him for stepping up. He also got a bit lucky when a Colorado goal was overturned on a good Sharks offside challenge. Landeskog did not change quick enough to negate an apparent tying goal that would’ve made it 2-2. Instead, it stayed 2-1 until Joonas Donskoi tallied the series winner that gave San Jose just enough of a margin to hold on.

After the handshakes, I posted a complementary tweet on the Avalanche. A team that will be heard from soon. I didn’t expect a response.

Pretty cool. On the NBCSN postgame, studio analyst Keith Jones said that the Sharks won’t beat the Avalanche again next year. I agree. They’re here to stay.

With the emergence of J.T. Compher along with other young players like Jost, Alex Kerfoot, and early 2020 Calder favorite Cale Makar, they’re set up really well. Before even playing a regular season game, Makar stepped in from winning the Hobey Baker by putting up a goal and five assists in 10 postseason games. He made so many good reads including the one that resulted in Landeskog scoring the overtime winner in Game Six.

Colorado will boast the best right side in hockey next season in Tyson Barrie, Erik Johnson and Makar. They also have the number four pick from the Senators in next month’s Draft. They’re only going to get better.

With some time off for Rantanen and MacKinnon to recover from injuries, the Avalanche will be back next year. It really could spell the end for the rest of their division that includes Nashville, Winnipeg and St. Louis, who will play San Jose for a chance to reach the Stanley Cup Final starting on Saturday.

For experienced teams who have been knocking on the door, it could signal the changing of the guard. The message to the Blues and Sharks is clear. Win while you have a chance now. You might not get it again.

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Zuccarello, Stars fall an overtime short of helping the Rangers

When it was over, all Mats Zuccarello and his Dallas Stars teammates could do is watch helplessly as an excited St. Louis Blues poured off the bench to celebrate a hard fought 2-1 win in the second overtime of Game Seven.

St. Louis native Pat Maroon broke Dallas hearts. He wanted to come home and play for his hometown team last summer. Now, the 31-year old veteran is a unlikely hero in a unlikely postseason full of dramatic finishes and upsets.

While the Blues will move on to face the Colorado/San Jose winner in another seventh game to be played later, the Stars fell an overtime short of reaching their first Conference Final in a decade. Instead, they’ll be left to wonder how close they came to getting the one goal they needed to make Ben Bishop a household name. His 52 saves including 31 in a lopsided second and third were miraculous.

It wasn’t enough to get the win they were looking for. Zuccarello had a golden opportunity to win it in the first overtime, but over passed for Alex Radulov. He could’ve delivered the series winner which would’ve made the Rangers happy. They were hoping the conditions of a first round pick would be met. So were Zucc’s fans, who adopted the Stars this postseason.

Instead, Jamie Benn’s wraparound try didn’t cross the goal line with rookie Jordan Binnington getting just enough of the puck to keep it out. The Stars were much better in an evenly played sudden death after being outshot 31-4. Even dangerous for most of the first five minutes of the second OT.

All that changed when Tyler Bozak won a draw back to Robert Thomas and his shot rang off the post while trickling off Bishop to create confusion. That was enough time for Maroon to score the winner.

So, the Rangers won’t get a third first round pick from Dallas. Instead, they’ll settle for a second round pick in next month’s NHL Draft. There’s still a good chance Zuccarello re-signs with the Stars. He was a great fit under another rookie coach in Jim Montgomery, who came over from the collegiate ranks.

Indeed, Zucc led the Stars with eight points (1-7-8) against the Blues in the well played second round series. He finished with 11 points (4-7-11) in the Stars’ run, tying Tyler Seguin for the team lead.

The 31-year old pint sized Norwegian with the giant heart made two good defensive plays in his end during sudden death to break up Blues chances. He meshed well on a speedy line with promising youngster Roope Hintz and Jason Dickinson. They buzzed during a few overtime shifts.

It makes sense for Zuccarello to stay in Dallas where he found chemistry and became a team leader. Dallas fans took to him by saluting him with trademark, “Zuuuccc, Zuuuccc,” chants.

Even if his team still isn’t playing, here’s hoping he stays.

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Maroon’s double overtime winner against remarkable Bishop is what the NHL Playoffs are all about

Hometown hero Pat Maroon celebrates his goal in double overtime of Game Seven to give the Blues a 2-1 win over the Stars, who lost despite a heroic game from Ben Bishop. AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy Robert Cohen of Post-Dispatch.

There was a great Game Seven played in St. Louis last night between the Stars and Blues. The two Central Division rivals gave everything in a do or die situation that required double overtime to decide.

Despite remarkable dominance and puck possession by the Blues in the second and third periods, they could not beat Ben Bishop. He was a brick wall. Astonishingly, the Vezina candidate was a one man wrecking crew who prevented the home team from winning the deciding seventh game more comfortably.

Instead, they had to dig very deep to earn an emotional 2-1 win in a memorable Game Seven won by deserving hero Pat Maroon at 85:50 of the second overtime. That’s because following a evenly played first period in which Vince Dunn and Mats Zuccarello exchanged goals 2:25 apart, Bishop basically kept his team alive by himself.

Unbelievably, the Blues outshot the Stars 31-4 in the second and third periods. That included a lopsided 18-1 in period two. No matter what they threw at him, St. Louis couldn’t solve Bishop, who was heroic making a career high 52 saves in defeat.

Once it reached sudden death, anything was possible. The Blues continued to be aggressive searching for the one goal they needed. They had 11 of the first 17 shots in the first overtime including some close calls on Bishop, who was seeing everything.

As the overtime went on, the Stars’ confidence grew. They had a couple of close calls against Blues rookie Jordan Binnington. Zuccarello passed up a shot opportunity on a point blank chance. He passed across for Alex Radulov, who was open. But the pass just missed due to a St. Louis stick breaking it up. What if Zucc had taken the shot? We’ll never know.

Given how dangerous the St. Louis top line of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko were, Blues fans had to be worried about Bishop stealing it. All it would take is one chance for the Stars to break Blues hearts. A wrap around by Jamie Benn almost ended it, but Binnington got the puck on the goal line with his outstretched pads to keep it out. That close.

Both NBCSN studio analysts Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp liked how Blues rookie Robert Thomas was playing. He had been creating chances. Already with an assist on the lone St. Louis goal scored by Dunn, he made the emotional OT winner happen.

Off a clean face-off win from Tyler Bozak, Thomas got a small pick from Maroon. That allowed him to skate in and get free of Dallas defenseman John Klingberg and fire a good shot off the goalpost. The puck took a favorable Blues bounce off the back of Bishop right to Maroon, who deposited the rebound for the biggest goal of his life. It touched off a great celebration.

The former Devil, who phoned St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong last summer about wanting the chance to play for his hometown team, became an unlikely hero. The kind you love if you’re a hockey fan. Maroon’s son Anthony was brought to tears by the emotional winner scored by Dad. It’s the kinda heartwarming story we love.

True enough, I picked him to win the game in the famous #bucciovertimechallenge. That was for the first overtime. So, I had a hunch he’d get a garbage goal. But was off by 5:50. I took David Perron in the second overtime.

It’s always cool to watch a team celebrate a series win. Especially when it requires an all or nothing Game Seven and sudden death. There’s nothing more dramatic.

I also felt bad for Bishop, who played the game of his career. He previously was 2-0 in seventh games with two shutouts. One I’d soon rather forget. In his first loss, he allowed two goals on 54 shots. A truly remarkable performance in a heartbreaking defeat.

The handshake is one of the best traditions in the playoffs. After such a hard fought series in which the two rivals gave it all they had, you could see the mutual respect between players and coaches from each side during it. There were lots of hugs and well wishes.

A pretty cool behind the scenes look at Maroon’s heroics and postgame celebration with proud teammates in the winning locker room. Plus his son wearing his t-shirt and watching Dad bask in the moment.

That was only the Blues’ second home Game Seven since 1986. They won that one too over the Maple Leafs. Also a Round Two victory before losing to the Flames in the Conference Finals.

Ironically, the last time they reached the Final Four was in 2016. They lost to the Sharks in the Western Conference Final. A San Jose win tonight on home ice against Colorado would guarantee a rematch of three years ago.

Don’t forget at one point in early January, these same Blues were 31st in the standings just after interim coach Craig Berube took over. They’ve been incredible since Binnington became the starter. Now, they’ve beaten both Winnipeg and Dallas in two closely fought series.

The Blues haven’t made the Stanley Cup Final since 1970 when they made a third consecutive appearance following Expansion. They were swept by the Bruins. The losses in ’68 and ’69 were to the Canadiens. Also sweeps.

This is the fourth chance St. Louis will have to get back to the Final. They’re not here without the hometown hero. Maroon also notched the game-winner in Game Three. Now, he and the Blues await the winner between the Avalanche and Sharks in another Game Seven.

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Devils can’t contain excitement over Jack Hughes

The World Championships haven’t officially started yet. They’re still in the exhibition stages. However, that hasn’t stopped the Devils from showing their enthusiasm for a certain American prospect wearing a number six Team USA jersey.

Jack Hughes had a sweet primary assist on a James van Riemsdyk power play goal that put USA ahead 4-2 on Germany. They can’t contain their excitement over the future of the franchise because let’s face it. They’re going to take Hughes with the first pick in next month’s NHL Draft.

He’s got world class skill. Interestingly, Adam Fox picked up the secondary assist on the power play goal by feeding Hughes, who drove towards the net and threaded a perfect backhand pass for an easy van Riemsdyk finish. It’s good to see the recently signed Rangers defense prospect representing America overseas.

There’s sure to be a lot of fanfare over this tournament. Especially when both Hughes and Kaapo Kakko are representing their countries. Kakko for Finland. Those are the top two picks. What makes it better is it involves the Hudson Rivalry. Devil and Ranger fans are salivating.

Save the Artemi Panarin talk for the summer.

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