Jagr’s Legend Grows and more Zucc

Somewhere in the Czech Republic, a long haired and gray bearded hockey legend continues to amaze the hockey universe who watch him. Of course, that would be the legendary Jaromir Jagr.

Number 68 still plays the game he loves for his hometown in Kladno where they worship him. I mean most passionate hockey fans do. But just imagine what it must be like for his countrymen to finally be able to cheer him after a vintage Jagr goal like this.

The beard is a little grayer. The hair is still the same with the classic long mullet. The rush by the 47-year old (really!) is beautiful to see. Sure. He abused defensemen who can’t be too good before going to a deke and sweet backhand finish to score.

All I can think of is all the jaw dropping moves he made and scored on while starring for the Pens, Caps, Rangers, Flyers, Stars, Bruins, Devils and Panthers. Sure. It didn’t end well in Calgary. But sometimes, that’s how it is in sports.

I wish Jagr could play one final NHL game. But I guess I’ll have to settle for that golden video in the Czech Republic. That’s perfectly fine.

As far as another more recent former Ranger, Mats Zuccarello seems to be fitting in just fine with the Stars. He had the game-winner in their Game One win over the Predators. A game he felt he didn’t play well in. Ever so modest. He’s been hurt a lot too.

The beauty of Zucc is his candid responses to reporters. In this interview, he discusses playing with linemate Roope Hintz and jokes about Dallas life. Watch the final two minutes. It’s classic.

My takeaway is Zucc’s a simple man who doesn’t need more than a pair of pants and a shirt from his hotel to get to the rink. It’s too bad he no longer plays here. Good luck to him and the Stars in Game Two. It’s tomorrow at Nashville.

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Marner leaves Rask and Bruins in dust

It’s funny. But I find myself intrigued by the NHL Playoffs so far. Even though I swore I wouldn’t do it, here I am caving in. I guess it’s the passionate hockey fan in me.

What caught my eye on Day Two? Only the game’s brightest young star doing in the Bruins. Mitch Marner is a special talent who can beat you with his creativity, speed and skill. He was instrumental in helping the Maple Leafs steal home ice away from the Bruins in a convincing 4-1 win that silenced TD Garden. Marner tallied twice including this wonderful shorthanded goal on a penalty shot that left Tuukka Rask in the dust.

Wow. He’s only the second Leaf to ever score on a penalty shot in the postseason, and became just the fifth player in playoff history to convert shorthanded in such a unique situation. Pretty cool stuff for a tremendous young player, who as Mike Milbury deadpanned looks like he’s 14. How much money will Toronto pay him this summer? Right now, they’re only concern is overcoming the Bruins and getting out of the first round.

Boston started the scoring on a Patrice Bergeron power play goal. He was set up by Brad Marchand early. But the Leafs used their game breaking speed to turn the game around. It was Marner, who rebounded home his own redirection to tie the score. He then scored the beautiful penalty shot on the very patient, forehand deke that left Rask searching for his jockstrap.

I was impressed with how the Leafs checked. Hard to believe. But they did a good job in front of Frederik Andersen. Boston was sloppy throughout. They let William Nylander get behind them for a back breaking insurance goal on a breakaway through Rask’s five-hole. Nazem Kadri made the stretch pass and Nylander did the rest. Then, Zdeno Chara fumbled a puck causing more problems. David Pastrnak also turned a puck over and was bailed out by Rask, who stoned John Tavares.

One surprise was Mike Babcock matching Auston Matthews against Bergeron. Matthews’ line did a solid job stifling the Bruins big line of Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak at five-on-five. Bergeron was the most dangerous. He was denied by Andersen on a rebound at a crucial moment. Jake Gardiner also played well for Toronto. He will help that blueline.

Tavares added a empty netter for his first postseason goal as a Maple Leaf. If I’m Boston, I’m displeased with how we played. They were careless and outskated by Toronto. The Leafs possess superior speed. The Bruins have to grind them down low to be most effective. Game Two should be interesting.

In the other early game, the defending champion Capitals held off the pesky Hurricanes 4-2 in Game One. They used a three goal first period barrage to their advantage. The best player was Nicklas Backstrom, who beat Petr Mrazek from distance early, and then converted on the power play in front. He always gets overlooked due to Alexander Ovechkin, who added a second power play goal for the Caps to make it 3-0.

Despite trailing by three, I never got the sense Carolina was out of it. They sure carried the play in the second period by allowing just four shots. The problem was Braden Holtby wasn’t cooperating. He made some key saves to keep it 3-zip after two.

To their credit, the Canes didn’t go away. Rookie Andrei Svechnikov scored his first two postseason goals. After taking a hit from Ovechkin, he came back and made it 3-1 on a great rush and finish. The teenager wasn’t done. On a great feed from Lucas Wallmark, Svechnikov blasted a one-timer by Holtby to cut it to 3-2.

A T.J. Oshie hi-sticking minor handed the Canes a golden opportunity to tie it with three and a half minutes left. But the Washington penalty kill was splendid. Having already shutdown one Carolina power play, they made it difficult on the Canes to find the seams. In particular, Backstrom blocked two shots. He can really do it all. A Jordan Staal turnover at the Washington blueline allowed Lars Eller to score the empty netter for a 4-2 finish.

My takeaway from this game is that the Canes have enough speed and skating to play with the more experienced champs. At one point, the shots were 29-17 Carolina. Holtby was the difference along with the stingy Washington checking late. It was enough to squeeze out a win. I think this will be a closely fought series.

In the biggest shock thus far, Mike Smith stopped all 26 shots to post a shutout for the Flames, highlighting a 4-0 home win over the Avalanche at the sea of red in Alberta. The 37-year old veteran struggled most of the season, even losing his job to unknown backup David Rittich. But Calgary coach Bill Peters showed faith in the veteran for Game One.

Smith turned the jeers to cheers. They chanted, “Smitty, Smitty,” throughout. He deserved it. His glove was on fire 🔥 robbing Derick Brassard, Tyson Barrie and superstar Nathan MacKinnon. He had them shaking their heads in disbelief. It was a great performance.

There was no scoring until Andrew Mangiapane made a strong move and backhand finish to make it 1-0 with 5:35 left in the second period. Then, Matthew Tkachuk went to work in front by deflecting home a Mark Giordano shot past Philipp Grubauer for a power play goal. Colorado challenged for goaltender interference. But it was unsuccessful with replay confirming that Tkachuk didn’t interfere with Grubauer on his first career postseason goal.

Why the video review took so long is puzzling. That is the problem. Even the Islanders had to wait before celebrating Josh Bailey’s overtime winner due to a play that was not even close to offside. It’s sad that this is what technology has done to sports. You can’t even get excited anymore.

Mikael Backlund added a power play goal in the third on a good Sam Bennett screen. Speaking of Bennett, he should change his name to Lonnie. His mustache is a classic tribute to former Calgary Flames great Lanny MacDonald.

Tkachuk added a empty netter for the final nail in the coffin. Then, it got interesting. Matt Calvert went at it with Travis Hamonic. Words were exchanged between a few other players. Finally, some truculence.

Friday’s schedule has four games on tap. Game Two between the Pens and Isles is the headliner at Nassau Coliseum. I’m curious to see how Pittsburgh comes out following such a lackadaisical Game One. The Lightning face some early adversity after blowing a three goal lead in a deflating 4-3 loss to the Blue Jackets.

Out West, you have Winnipeg facing a similar situation against the Blues. They don’t want to go down 2-0 with the next two at St. Louis. The late game is the Golden Knights in San Jose. The Sharks are looking to go up 2-zip while Vegas is hoping to bounce back.

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A friendly Zucc reminder

Mats Zuccarello scored the game-winner for the Stars in their 3-2 win over the Predators in Game One tonight. I seem to remember seeing this kind of enthusiasm from Zucc following goals like this one.

Dallas got a pair of goals from rookie defenseman Miro Heiskanen and Zuccarello followed up a Ben Lovejoy shot that rebounded off Pekka Rinne right to him for his first postseason goal as a Dallas Star. Your typical hard working goal from the gritty Zucc, who found the rebound for a 3-1 Stars lead with over nine minutes left.

It stood up as the winner due to a great individual effort from P.K. Subban, who successfully spun around off a defender and blew a shot past Ben Bishop a couple of minutes later.

A key shot block from Roman Polak prevented a potential tying goal. The Stars were able to get out of noisy Nashville with a win.

The biggest stunner was the Blue Jackets rallying from a 3-0 deficit to stun the Lightning for a 4-3 win. I couldn’t help but smile after Seth Jones scored the winner from Artemi Panarin. Sergei Bobrovsky held them in after a rough first period. Columbus became the first team to beat Tampa after trailing by such a deficit. It’s Playoffs. Anything can happen.

In the best game of the first night, Josh Bailey put in a rebound of a Mathew Barzal shot that hit the goalpost to give the Islanders an emotional 4-3 win over the Penguins in overtime at the crazy NYCB Live Nassau Coliseum. It sounded like a madhouse.

Pittsburgh came back three separate times to tie the seesaw game with Justin Schultz tying it with Matt Murray pulled for an extra attacker with over a minute left. The Isles shutdown Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel. They also gave Kris Letang fits. His turnover cost the Pens on Bailey’s winner. Robin Lehner was superb. Jordan Eberle had a goal and a helper. For the Pens, both Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin had a goal and assist. They showed up in what was a physical contest with plenty of hitting. It was fun to watch.

The Sharks were winning comfortably over the Golden Knights in the late game. St. Louis used a Tyler Bozak goal with over two minutes remaining to edge Winnipeg 2-1. Patrik Laine got the only Jets tally early. But the pesky Blues used third period goals by David Perron and Bozak to steal home ice. Jordan Binnington made a clutch save in the waning seconds to preserve the victory.

Tomorrow, the other three series get underway. That’s the Bruins hosting the Leafs, the Caps hosting the Hurricanes, and the Flames at home for the Avalanche.

This night belongs to the Islanders and the beloved Zucc.

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Rangers had luck on their side in Lottery

For a team that’s never had the first pick in any NHL Draft, the Rangers finally had one go their way last night. Even though they didn’t win the first overall pick in the Lottery drawing, luck was on their side in Toronto.

Rangers GM Jeff Gorton had a special memento on him as 15 executives representing each team gathered for the big drawing shown on NBCSN. For the Devils, who won their second Draft Lottery in three years, they had good luck charm Taylor Hall. The 2017-18 League MVP tweeted out that he’s now been part of five lotto wins, referencing his days as an Oiler. It also was Devil blogger Hasan’s Birthday. He got the ultimate birthday present.

For the Rangers, they had their own secret lucky charm that helped their chances. Steven McDonald remains a beloved figure in New York City. The former NYPD detective was a true hero in every sense of the word. His inspirational story is one of great courage and perseverance. Even though he’s been gone for over two years now, we will always remember what he stood for.

Surviving gunshots that paralyzed him from the neck down that made him a quadriplegic, he continued to live his life by inspiring others. Despite needing a ventilator, he was a incredible person. He even forgave the teenage shooter after they apologized on the phone.

Thinking back on all those years the Steven McDonald Award has been in existence since 1987-88, it was his wonderful speeches that captivated our fans. He fought so hard and lived for over 30 years following the unfortunate incident on July 12, 1986.

McDonald’s spirit lives on. Wife Patti and son Conor continue to keep that spirit alive along with the Rangers organization. Seeing how emotional Conor McDonald got when speaking about his father before presenting Extra Effort winner Mika Zibanejad got to me. It was another special moment at MSG.

It’s only fitting that Gorton had Steven McDonald’s shield with him for yesterday’s drawing. When the Blackhawks were revealed by Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly to have moved into the top three, I had a uneasy feeling. How often do two teams outside the top three move up?

I breathed easier when the Kings moved down. Little did I know that McDonald’s shield he wore to protect and serve would have so much significance. If you don’t believe it helped our team’s chances, you’re nuts. The Rangers have never had any luck in these things. Granted. Our team made the playoffs a lot since getting royally screwed in the 2005 Lottery.

I’m just gonna leave this here. Listen to what both Patti and Conor say about the shield bringing the Rangers luck.

I actually believe it. So did Gorton. If you’d seen me curled up on the couch, you’d understand. My reaction when they made the top three was a fist pump. When the Blackhawks were revealed as the number three pick, I couldn’t contain myself.

As disappointed as I was that Daly flashed the Devils logo on the winning card that had actually been drawn an hour before they went to air, a few obscenities came out. What can I say? I wanted to win and beat our close Hudson rival. Look at Hasan’s post for why. 😂

I guess winning even matters in a silly lottery for fans of both teams. Even with there being two worthy top prospects like Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, we go a little crazy.

A day later, I feel very good about winning the second pick in this year’s NHL Draft. I find myself so excited about what will take place on June 20 in Vancouver. It’s not quite the amazing ending in classic movie The Shawshank Redemption where Morgan Freeman’s Red gets out of prison and reunites with his friend Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins). But it’s the kind of enthusiasm every Blueshirt fan has at this moment.

Many are dreaming of scenarios by penciling in Kakko into the top six with Artemi Panarin. I’m not one of them, which makes me the minority. I’m okay with that. I can envision a top six without signing the creative Blue Jackets left wing. Picture this:

Kreider-Zibanejad-Buchnevich

Kakko-Chytil-Kravtsov

That top six could be scary. Especially if as expected, 2018 first round pick Vitali Kravtsov signs and proves he’s NHL ready. He’s a top six forward. Kakko is too with bigger potential. Right now, it’s all speculation.

I’m sure Devils fans are doing similar with a fully recovered Hall back along with Nico Hischier, Kyle Palmieri with Hughes penciled in.

There’s plenty of excitement. I’m thankful the McDonald family allowed Gorton to bring the shield. One he truly appreciated. It still gets me choked up. Sometimes, luck truly is on your side.

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The Hudson Rivalry is back!

I gotta admit to something. Being sick plays tricks with you. I have a really bad cold right now. It definitely didn’t help watching the way over hyped and overly dragged out NHL Draft Lottery in Toronto.

I had just finished doing a guest spot on my New Jersey friend Madison’s podcast about the first round. Even though I have no voice, that was fun and a good segment. Asked what I felt about tonight, I predicted the Avalanche to win due to how much bad luck Ottawa has. As for a wildcard, I threw in the Red Wings due to their odds and Original Six history.

What we got was a wild roller coaster ride in the metro area. It’s been a while since both the Devils and Rangers were relevant at the same time. Well, after what transpired on NBCSN, that’s about to change. If the final meaningless game between the Hudson rivals was an appetizer featuring three fights in the middle period of a New Jersey home win, wait till Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko become part of it.

The Hudson Rivalry is back! The astonishing part is I was getting ready to propose a change to our hockey blog name if Hasan is okay with it. Hint: It has something to do with both teams.

As Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly started revealing the teams from 15 down, my first thought was oh God when the Blackhawks moved up into the top three. As if they deserve any more potential superstars. At that point, I half expected the Rangers to drop either to nine or seven, and I would be catatonic.

Instead, a funny thing happened. The Kings and Sabres dropped. At that point, it was revealed that the Rangers were in the top three. That’s when I got excited and a little crazier than usual. Think Heath Ledger’s memorable Joker. Poetically, Joaquin Phoenix has his Joker movie coming out later this year when hockey is back in the city and Newark.

I didn’t want to lose to either the Blackhawks or Devils. Especially given the recent 2017 Lottery that New Jersey won to land Nico Hischier. But I don’t think I was rational. I forgot that the Devils had the third best shot to win it. Even if I regrettably tweeted some spiteful things about some of their curious lineup decisions. The emotion came out in the heat of the moment when following the Blackhawks thankfully being revealed as third, Daly announced the Devils had won the number one pick.

Sometimes, you can turn into a basket case like the Green Day epic hit from the Dookie album. I’m basically channeling my college radio days as a freshman at Fairleigh Dickinson in Madison here. That song was played a lot during my show.

Maybe my overreaction to losing to the Devils was like the devastation over Game Six in 2012 when Adam Henrique scored. I walked out of the room and was at my old public school in the dark for a while before congratulating our friend Rob on his team’s big win. Or maybe it was more like my gallows humor when I left FDU for St. John’s by giving my fraternity friends a silly made up sign that read:

19—NEVER!!!!!

Like I said, I have a wicked sense of humor. 😂 I was actually happy for them when they won a year after Stephane Matteau broke their hearts. All this time later, Rangers/Devils has taken on a whole new meaning. The incredible hatred between the players and fans of each side of the Hudson is very real. The former Lincoln Tunnel rivalry is now a Path ride away.

If you thought it was over or dead like many games have been since Martin Brodeur retired, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Things are just heating up.

So, losing out on the soft spoken Wayne Gretzky sounding Hughes initially got to me. I cursed and lost it like any normal fan of this rivalry would. After about 10 minutes, my anger dissipated into excitement. I’m happy that it finally went our way. Even if Jeff Gorton reminded TSN’s David Amber that in the franchise history, the Rangers have never picked first overall.

None of that matters now. Landing Kakko is so worth it. I’m assuming Hughes to the Devils will happen on June 20 in Vancouver. There’s no loser here. Both are unique talents who’ll make the rivalry the best it’s been in a long time. Think back to when these franchises had great players that made these games extra special. On one side, you had Brodeur, Stevens, Niedermayer, Lemieux (Claude), MacLean, Richer and Holik. On the other, you had Messier, Graves, Leetch, Richter, Zubov, Kovalev and Tikkanen.

There is a lot of potential here. In a very competitive division, this is exactly the big break the Devils and Rangers needed. There is sure gonna be a lot more excitement in these parts this offseason than ever anticipated.

It’s only just beginning!

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Lotto Recap: Terrific Tuesday

Well I’ve had some interesting birthdays as a Devils fan…the two I remember most vividly until tonight were when we lost to the Rangers ironically enough in Game #1 of the 2008 playoffs at home, a bad birthday to be sure.  My other vivid Devil fan birthday memory was a few years back when we played Fan Appreciation against the Leafs and it was thought to be a passing of the torch from a Czech legend (Patrik Elias) to the prince in waiting (Pavel Zacha) at the end of the 2015-16 season.  Albeit that was a meaningless game, but still a nice memory as one of my all-time favorite Devils went out on a spectacular note.  Tonight’s hilarity – and that’s really the emotion I’m feeling right now – tops all that.

Honestly I was prepared for the worst tonight.  After all, the Devils had already won two lotteries against the odds, in 2011 jumping four spots from #8 to #4 and drafting Adam Larsson, eventually flipping him for the now self-proclaimed lottery ball specialist Taylor Hall.  Why lottery ball specialist?  When he was in Edmonton, they won multiple lotteries to get the top pick in the draft (including Hall himself), and once again in 2017 after joining the Devils when they moved up from #5 to #1 to draft Nico Hischier.  You would think we were due for some bad luck and it certainly seemed that way when first the Hawks, then the Rangers of all teams jumped into the top three.  It seemed we were about to pay the piper in a big way.

But nobody circles the lottery wagons like Taylor Hall!

Once again Devil fans got a last-minute surprise in the lotto when the Kings drew the fifth slot, signaling the Devils had in fact won one of the three lotteries and were now in the top three with the Blackhawks and rival Rangers.  Visions of 2017 started dancing around in my head…was this really going to come down to us and one of our bitter rivals again for the #1 pick?!  Indeed it did as the Blackhawks’ card was drawn first after the commercial break.  Then when the Devils card came up I just broke out laughing, quite literally.  I didn’t even listen to the TV interview with GM Ray Shero, I was too busy texting a couple of friends and just laughing at the absurdity of it all.

And sure you can’t really accuse the lotteries of being fixed, although I’m sure some bitter fans of other NHL teams will wonder why we keep winning lotteries all of a sudden.  Still, it’s interesting that karma was once again rewarded as it seems so often to be during these NHL lottos.  Chicago was in the playoff chase till the final weeks after a bad start that got longtime coach Joel Quenneville fired, and while I’m not thrilled a still talented team will get a top three pick I’ll take it all things considered.  Say what you will about both the Devils’ and Rangers’ seasons, but they played hard most of the time despite talent and experience deficiencies, each winning games down the stretch that could have screwed their odds but in the end actually helped them in this weighted randomness that is the NHL lottery.

I wasn’t kidding a while back when I said in one of Derek’s blogs that I thought the Rangers had a real shot of winning the lottery.  It just seems to be the new norm now that a team outside the bottom three wins.  In fact of the four years of the current lotto system no more than one team in the bottom three has actually wound up with a top three pick in any of those lotteries, and in this lotto it was only the 3rd-worst Devils that wound up with a top three pick.  In the Hischier lottery they finished 5th from the bottom but like this year actually had the best odds of any of the three teams in the bottom three.

With what appears to be a clear top pick in Jack Hughes and a clear #2 in Kaapo Kaako (both forwards), the Battle of the Hudson is set to heat up again in a big way after a dull 2018-19 between the two rivals.  Just like Nico vs. Nolan forever linked the top two picks of the 2017 draft so will Hughes vs. Kaako be linked in 2019, both by their draft position and the fact they’ll be on rival teams for years to come.  I’m not going to get into a full draft preview or comparison even though it’s almost certain both of these players will be in the top two.  As we learned from 2017, the top pick at the beginning of the process isn’t always the top pick at the end of it since if you asked the majority of Devil fans on the night of that lottery win they would have expected to be taking Nolan Patrick, the consensus #1 pick for the previous eighteen months.

And just like 2017 while it stinks the Rangers will also be getting a very good player, the trade-off is worth it.  Not to mention having to wait nearly an hour to find out the result with the lottery ostensibly starting at 8, although unlike most of the viewers I’d gotten a heads up that the first half hour was going to be a playoff preview so I refused to turn on the coverage till 8:30.  Winning the lottery changes everything for the Devils, needless to say.  Having our top two centers for the forseeable future being Nico and Hughes, or adding a guy like Kaako to a top six that could use another power winger is a potential game-changer and yet another enticer for Hall to sign long-term this summer.  Not to mention a potential enticer for free agents, and spur for Shero to make more moves to get this team into consistent contender mode.

 

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Rangers hoping to punch their ticket

USA prospect Jack Hughes is considered the ultimate prize in this year’s NHL Lottery. AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy Sporting News.

Tonight at 8 PM, the NHL Draft Lottery takes place in Toronto. The festivities can be seen on NBCSN. Fifteen teams that missed the playoffs will all have a chance to win it. Of course, the higher you are, the better the odds.

I’m not gonna rehash the whole thing. It’s pointless. The Rangers are sixth with a 7.5 percent chance of punching their ticket. Since the NHL Draft came into existence, they’ve never had the first overall pick.

History hasn’t been kind. See 2005. I still can’t believe they fell from fourth down to number 16 before moving up to take Marc Staal at number 12. The famed Crosby Draft that was gifted to the Penguins, saving their franchise from possibly leaving Pittsburgh for Kansas City.

Even when they had a high draft pick, former GM Neil Smith took Pavel Brendl at number four. A huge bust who at least was packaged to the Flyers for Eric Lindros. He also traded with Calgary to select Jamie Lundmark in the same ’99 Draft that cost Marc Savard. Holy moly.

There have been other swings and misses. Glen Sather took Al Montoya at number six in ’04 when they had Henrik Lundqvist. They didn’t know he’d become great. It was right before the lockout. Hugh Jessiman remains the biggest bust in a deep ’03 Draft that still featured Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Brent Burns, Corey Perry, Patrice Bergeron and Shea Weber.

The best first round picks by the Rangers have been Staal, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Michael Del Zotto and Brady Skjei. All taken later. It proves that you can find good players even if you don’t pick in the top three.

Regarding tonight, the Avalanche (18.5%), Kings (13.5%) and Devils (11.5%) have the best chances to win the Lottery that features Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. Here is the rest of the field:

Red Wings (9.5%)

Sabres (8.5%)

Rangers (7.5%)

Oilers (6.5%)

Ducks (6.0%)

Canucks (5.0%)

Flyers (3.5%)

Wild (3.0%)

Blackhawks (2.5%)

Panthers (2.0%)

Coyotes (1.5%)

Canadiens (1.0%)

It’s important to note that the 2019 NHL Draft isn’t just only Hughes or Kakko. They’re considered can’t miss prospects, who can make a big impact. However, with several good players including Vasili Podkolzin, Dylan Cozens, Bowen Byram, Kirby Dach, Alex Turcotte, Trevor Zegras and Arthur Kaliyev, it has the potential to be a deep draft.

When they go live later, they’ll reveal 15 thru 4 first. Then comes the big drama of the top three. At least it won’t be as late as last year. They did the first part during one intermission and the second following another period in the postseason. It didn’t make sense.

It should be better as a stand alone event before the NHL Playoffs kick off tomorrow with four series getting going.

I’m sure I won’t be the only one with an eye on this silly lottery. Hasan’s team has won it before and they are ranked third best. But as he would point out, winning the lottery doesn’t guarantee anything. Look at Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick so far. At least the Devils chose the right player. It’s hard to fathom how Patrick was considered better than Elias Pettersson.

As you can probably tell, I’m not expecting much. The Rangers have never had much luck. In the second straight year without a postseason that has left Lundqvist miserable, it would be nice to at least move into the top three. They have over a 20 percent chance of that happening. It’s more realistic. As long as they don’t drop, I’ll be fine.

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NHL Playoffs: First Round and Beyond

Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby are only part of the story for the 2019 NHL Playoffs. AP Photo via Getty Images.

As we already know in this space, there’s no playoffs for either the Rangers or Devils for the first time ever. This is the first time since Colorado relocated to New Jersey that that’s happened. It’ll be a quiet Spring for our blog. There’s still tomorrow’s NHL Draft Lottery to tune into on NBCSN.

The 2019 NHL Playoffs will go on without either Hudson rival. It all begins on Wednesday night. That includes the only area local in action with the Islanders hosting the rival Penguins at Nassau Coliseum. It’s one of the more intriguing first round match ups. The Isles have home ice in a series for the first time since ’93.

Rather than bore you with a long drawn out playoff preview, I’ll cut to the chase and make predictions for the first round and beyond.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

First Round Series

(1) Lightning over (8) Blue Jackets in 5

Observation: Too much firepower from loaded Bolts featuring Kucherov, Stamkos, Point, Hedman, Johnson, McDonagh. Bobrovsky will be under siege.

(2) Capitals over (7) Hurricanes in 7

Observation: The defending champs will get tested by the good skating, pesky Canes led by Aho and Hamilton. The experience of Ovechkin, Backstrom, Carlson, Kuznetsov, Oshie and Holtby get them through.

(A2) Bruins over (A1) Maple Leafs in 6

Observation: Marchand, Bergeron, Pastrnak will dominate a weak Toronto D. Krejci, Debrusk lend support. Tavares and Marner are lethal. But the Leafs need Mathews and Kadri to show up. Andersen must steal two games.

(M3) Penguins over (M2) Islanders in 7

Observation: Tough series to call due to how strange the Pens are. But it’s hard to go against Crosby, Guentzel, Letang, Hornqvist and Murray. Malkin and Kessel will show up. I’m not sure the Isles have enough offense. Their tight checking will frustrate Pens, but they need Barzal, Lee, Bailey, Nelson, Eberle, Cizikas, Filppula and Pulock. Lehner will start.

Division Final

Lightning over Bruins in 7

Observation: It’ll be closer. But unless Boston gets help from deadline disappointments Coyle and Johansson, they can’t match the depth and speed of Tampa. Rask will have to outplay Vasilevskiy.

Capitals over Penguins in 6

Observation: The Pens added solid depth with McCann, Bjugstad and Gudbranson. But they’re beatable. Crosby, Guentzel and Letang have carried them. The Caps are more balanced due to Wilson, Eller, Vrana, Connolly and Orlov.

Conference Final

Lightning over Capitals in 5

Observation: The wear and tear from the last year will start to show for defending champs. The Bolts are better equipped due to Cirelli, Erne and Cernak. McDonagh gives them an edge on the back end.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

First Round Series

(1) Flames over (8) Avalanche in 5

Observation: The Flames are loaded with skill, speed and grit led by Gaudreau, Monahan, Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk and Giordano. Despite iffy goalies (Rittich and Smith), they should roll over Avs, who still rely too much on MacKinnon, Landeskog, Rantanen. Grubauer could replace Varlamov.

(2) Predators over (7) Stars in 6

Observation: Despite not playing well recently, the Preds are proven. Expect Forsberg, Arvidsson, Josi, Johansen, Ellis, Subban and Boyle to make a difference. Rinne will raise his level. It won’t be a picnic against a Dallas team that played well without Zuccarello. Seguin, Benn, Radulov, Klingberg have help from Faksa, Heiskanen and Lindell. What’s Zucc’s status? Bishop must outplay Rinne.

(P2) Sharks over (P3) Golden Knights in 7

Observation: Arguably the best series, it could hinge on the goalies. Fleury is my Vezina pick. Jones has been to a Stanley Cup Final. But he’ll need to make the big saves. I think San Jose’s superior skill wins out. Hertl, Pavelski, Meier, Kane, Couture, Burns and Thornton are a handful. What about Erik Karlsson? Vegas is tough. Stone adds needed skill to help Wild Bill Karlsson, Tuch, Smith, Marchessault. Pacioretty and Stastny are keys along with Schmidt and Theodore.

(C2) Jets over (C3) Blues in 7

Observation: The hardest series to pick. St. Louis is hotter coming in led by Tarasenko, O’Reilly, Schenn, Pietrangelo, Parayko and Calder candidate Binnington. They’ll need Schwartz, Perron, Bozak and youngsters Dunn and Thomas to play well. Hellebuyck wasn’t as consistent for the freewheeling Jets, who boast elite stars in Scheifele, Wheeler, Byfuglien. Connor, Hayes and Laine are threats along with Ehlers. Trouba is the best D in the series. Winnipeg has more on the line.

Division Final

Flames over Sharks in 7

Observation: This is a tough call. But it could come down to the secondary scoring. I prefer the grit of Calgary. That’s what they got Neal for. Bennett, Jankowski and Ryan are tough to play against. Calgary actually might have the edge on D due to Hanifin, Brodie and Hamonic. First to 40 goals wins. Kidding.

Jets over Predators in 6

Observation: A second round rematch. When push comes to shove, Winnipeg knows how to beat Nashville. I’d feel similarly if it’s the Blues. There’s something off about the Preds.

Conference Final

Flames over Jets in 7

Observation: The top six of Calgary is a problem for Winnipeg. Backlund doesn’t get much ink. Neither does Frolik. Jack Roslovic is the wildcard for Winnipeg. Andrew Copp and Adam Lowry are solid supporting cast members along with Little. Laine has been inconsistent all year. Giordano is my Norris pick. He can dominate games. Tkachuk is your classic playoff guy due to his tenacious style. Imagine how Canada will feel if this is the match-up with one advancing to play for the Cup.

Stanley Cup

Lightning over Flames in 7

Observation: Cue Canadian fans anger here. It would be a 2004 rematch. Insert the controversial Khabibulin save on Gelinas. If the Lightning get through the Bruins, they’ll be here. It’s do or die for them. You don’t win all those games to lose. Vasilevskiy is a top five goalie who can steal games. Point and Johnson are clutch. Stamkos and Kucherov are the deadliest combo on the power play. Hedman can control games. They’ll need help from Miller, who’s never done anything in the playoffs. Palat and Killorn know how to play as do Paquette, Callahan, Girardi and Stralman. If not now, then when?

Conn Smythe: Brayden Point, Lightning

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Game #82: A positive conclusion in Quinn’s rookie year

Ryan Strome was one of the bright spots who improved after coming over from Edmonton under David Quinn. AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy Rangers.

Last night, the Rangers played their final game of rookie coach David Quinn’s rookie year. Like over a quarter of the games, Game 82 required overtime. The Penguins were still playing for something. A shot at home ice in the first round series against the Islanders. But the Isles shutout the Capitals 3-0 to finish second and clinch home ice for the first round.

All season, the Pens had been a royal pain in the butt for these Blueshirts. Pittsburgh handled them in the first three games with two uncompetitive including an ugly blowout loss at home that sent us home early. I wanted our team to get a win in the final game for that reason. Some might say, ‘At the expense of a worse record for a better chance in Tuesday’s Lottery?’

My reaction to that is you play to win no matter what. As veteran beat writer Rick Carpinello echoed all year for The Athletic, the Rangers didn’t tank. They played hard and were competitive most of the season. That came out in the last two games against two playoff teams.

In the home finale, they made the Blue Jackets earn it by fighting back on Pavel Buchnevich’s 21st goal with 6.1 seconds left to force extras. A game ultimately decided in the shootout by potential future Ranger Artemi Panarin.

Even if I’m in the minority against paying the gifted Russian left wing the kind of big money he’ll command this summer, I’m not oblivious. He very well could wind up on Broadway. Especially if John Davidson returns to take over as Team President for Glen Sather. Carpinello mentioned the ties JD has to Panarin in Columbus. A lot is riding on the line for the Blue Jackets, who are huge underdogs against the Lightning. Let’s just say Sergei Bobrovsky will have to steal it and play better than he ever has before in the postseason. Columbus stands to lose Panarin, Bobrovsky, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and Adam McQuaid in July. They could look very different if they’re eliminated early. John Tortorella could lose his job and Davidson could relocate back to Manhattan where he’s a beloved figure.

For now, all that stuff is on the back burner because it’s all speculation. Nobody can predict the future. The only thing that’s guaranteed is no playoff hockey at MSG. However, it’s easy to have a positive outlook based on how this team competed for Quinn. Unlike the other Garden tenant, they didn’t mail it in for more lottery balls.

They proved it by defeating the Pens 4-3 in overtime on Ryan Strome’s 19th goal. He scored 18 with the Rangers after coming over from Edmonton for Ryan Spooner. Another smart move by GM Jeff Gorton, whose best trade remains stealing Mika Zibanejad from Ottawa for Derick Brassard. The Rangers Team MVP, who also was voted by the fans as the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award winner, set new career highs across the board in goals (30), assists (44), points (74), shots on goal (236) and power play points (23). It’s the first time in his career he played a full 82 games. The professional way he handled himself on and off the ice showed maturity. He is the leading candidate to become the next captain.

If there is a unique quality the ’18-19 Rangers possessed, it was their resilience. In a season where not much was expected, they worked hard to stay in games. In fact, just over half their games were decided by one goal. In 42 one-goal games, they went 18-10-14. Had they been able to get at least half the combination of overtime and shootout losses, they would’ve wound up with a respectable 85 points. A talented game breaker like Panarin can get you those valuable extra points. He had four OT winners and went 2-for-3 in the shootout including his wildcard clincher on Friday.

Also interesting is that Saturday was the 23rd overtime game the Rangers played. They finished 9-9-5 by how the NHL keeps track of it. However, six of the nine wins came via the shootout. Eleven games needed the skill competition, which the Rangers went 6-5 in. So really, they were 3-9 in overtime. That’s why it was nice to get a couple of those OT victories over the past month. Beating the Pens yesterday for a 4-3 win gave Quinn one final moment to savor in his first season behind the bench.

Judging by the reaction of the players, it meant plenty. There were all smiles as they celebrated their 32nd win. More importantly, they prevented the rival Pens from a series sweep. Doing it in Pittsburgh made it sweeter.

As I said, I didn’t get to see the game due to a wrestling event we went to at The Garden. The first ever one that didn’t involve the WWE since 1960. They’re having their signature event tonight. WrestleMania is at Met Life Stadium. My brother went over to our friend to watch. I’ll stop by in a bit out of curiosity. Finishing up the wrestling portion, the amount of fans who turned out for Ring Of Honor and New Japan Super G2 was mind blowing. There was more noise for many wrestlers we’ve never heard of than at any Ranger game. It was sold out.

I only reference that due to what happened at the 41 home games. MSG was too often a library. There wasn’t enough energy in the building for most games. Though I do want to point out that the crowd went nuts when Pavel Buchnevich tied Columbus. Nobody cared about the silly loser standings in that moment.

I want to praise Quinn for how he handled his first year. Making the jump from Boston University in college to the Rangers at the NHL level is difficult. He did a good job under tough circumstances. Everyone knew that with a rebuilding team that featured quite a few rookies, there would be major changes by the deadline. It took them a while to recover from the trades of key top six forwards Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes. They even missed Adam McQuaid on the back end.

But the evolvement and maturation of young players like Buchnevich, Tony DeAngelo, Strome and Alexandar Georgiev (36 saves for 14th win) were important steps for the franchise. Players appreciated Quinn’s honesty in communicating why they were scratched. It wasn’t like the cold war under Alain Vigneault, which had guys like Buchnevich and DeAngelo scratching their heads. Carpinello did a good piece on The Athletic about that aspect. There were many telling quotes from players including Henrik Lundqvist, who this year was especially tough on.

Seeing Vladislav Namestnikov get rewarded on Saturday for his hard work is nice. He didn’t score as much under Quinn, but improved into a more responsible two-way player who could be trusted in a checking role and kill penalties. The effort on his shorthanded goal in the third period was superb. He also got the primary assist on Strome’s winner in which Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang couldn’t be bothered. I wonder if the Pens think they can magically flip the switch for the Islanders, who’ll have the comfort of NYCB Live Nassau Coliseum for the first round. They could be in for a rude awakening.

I also liked Brady Skjei, who improved down the stretch. At one point, his third full season was a disaster with the key left skating defenseman they signed long-term looking lost. It wasn’t until McQuaid returned from injury that his play steadied. He scored the tying goal in the third period for his career high eighth. It was a good defensive play by Skjei in his end that started it. He took a Kevin Shattenkirk feed and beat Matt Murray. Skjei finished with 25 points (8-17-25) and a minus-four rating. A marked improvement from where he was. He definitely became more of a leader, speaking to reporters following games while being accountable.

I know I get on Shattenkirk a lot for his defensive issues, but he also was better towards the end finding offense. Sure. He still must do better than two goals. But many of the 26 assists he had came in the final two months. He told Carpinello he needs to be better on the power play. You’ll get no argument here. I’m not sure you can go into next season with Skjei and Shattenkirk as your number one pair. As much criticism as Marc Staal gets for what he can’t do in large part to his contract, he is strong defensively and more consistent in battles. That’s why DeAngelo praised him. They were a solid pair that had good chemistry.

I wonder if Fredrik Claesson will be re-signed. He is a good depth guy who can fill in. He’s best suited as a seventh D. With both Libor Hajek and Ryan Lindgren looking to be part of the NHL roster next Fall, I’m not sure where that leaves Claesson.

You had to smile when Brendan Smith scored on a mini break to beat Murray with a good shot. If ever a guy deserved a goal in the last game, it was him. Somehow, Quinn turned Smith into a serviceable part time forward. Astonishingly, the veteran fit in on the fourth line when he wasn’t asked to play D. He drew the most penalties of any Blueshirt. They still owe him a good chunk of change for two more years. Maybe all is not lost for the prideful veteran who made the most out of a unconventional situation. Give him credit.

I know Jesper Fast won Player’s Player again. But I would’ve given it to Smith for what he did. Talk about unselfish. Speaking of Fast, he had thumb surgery and can resume training in six weeks.

I almost forgot to include Chris Kreider. I’m glad he returned for the final week and looked more like the impactful power forward we love. He was able to match his career best in goals (28) the other night on a great pass from Zibanejad. Kreider is a team leader who played through pain until he needed time off. There was no way the drop off in production was due to him mailing it in or slumping. They must get him re-signed this summer. There are no excuses.

As far as the trio of young centers go, all three made strides in their first year. Filip Chytil showed off the tremendous skill he possesses. He obviously still needs work defensively now that he was shifted back to his natural position.

Lias Andersson finally started to play with more conviction when Quinn gave him more minutes. I know how quick some fans are to rush to judgment. I see a solid player, who will become a tough center for opponents. He definitely doesn’t shy away from anything.

Brett Howden definitely is what Quinn called him. “No nonsense.” He hit the rookie wall going through an awful slump. He never wavered. His strong finish bodes well. I see a active player who can set up teammates by creating chances off hard work.

Time will tell the future of all three. For now, let’s remember they’re 21 and younger entering ’19-20. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Brendan Lemieux was a good addition from Winnipeg in the Hayes deal. He is the kinda gritty and hard nosed forward who could become a fan favorite. He expends a lot of energy during shifts dishing it out and taking it. That kind of yeoman effort is appreciated by fans and teammates. He also had enough skill to contribute offensively. In order to become more consistent, he will have to get in better shape. Especially if he wants to become a top nine forward who Quinn can use regularly.

I’m curious to see what happens with 2018 top pick Vitali Kravtsov. The kind of gifted offensive player who can aid the offense. It all depends on if he’s ready assuming he signs. You also have the interesting Igor Shestyorkin dynamic. Back as the starting goalie for St. Petersburg SKA in the KHL Playoffs, will he finally sign? He’s 23 and the time is now to find out.

Tuesday night is the long awaited NHL Draft Lottery. NBCSN is broadcasting it live starting at 8 PM. Due to Edmonton winning over Calgary last night, the Rangers finished with the sixth worst record. That gives them a 7.5 percent chance of winning it. Colorado (from Senators), the Kings and Devils have the highest winning percentage. Detroit and Buffalo follow with the Rangers sixth. I’ll take my chances.

As for the upcoming NHL Playoffs, there are some intriguing first round match ups. I’ll make predictions for fun in a day or two. Hasan, you’re more than welcome to join me. That’s if he’s not on hockey vacation 😂.

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Rangers thank fans with honest effort to make Columbus earn playoffs

Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich celebrate Buch’s tying goal in the final Rangers home game. AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy Rangers.

Blue Jackets 3 Rangers 2

Game 81 of 82 will just be a footnote in a season without the playoffs. However, the final home game was exactly how I’ll remember the ’18-19 New York Rangers. Playing for nothing but pride for the true fans who showed up that weren’t tourists with no idea what was going on, they gave a honest effort to make the Blue Jackets earn the playoffs.

Sure. MSG isn’t the same loud arena anymore. But the passionate diehards like us and some of our long time favorites who came got to meet former Ranger Nick Fotiu. That was a special treat. Getting to chat with one of the most popular Rangers alumni was pretty cool. Even if it was a mandatory gig for “Nicky” as my father and other older generation fans called him. I enjoyed spending time with him and appreciated his candor on our seats being the best along with other stuff he shared.

Glenn Anderson was also there signing autographs for lucky fans like my brother. So too was Ron Greschner, who like Fotiu posed with fans for the scoreboard and tossed free t-shirts to the crowd. It was nice.

What was nicer is that the team responded the right way to one of their worst games of the season. By earning a point on Pavel Buchnevich’s goal with over seven seconds left which I sarcastically predicted to our regulars who were all standing, the Rangers are up to 76 points with one final game remaining tomorrow at hated Pittsburgh. Wouldn’t it be something if they drove gamblers nuts by taking the Pens to overtime? That would put them right at 77 points with the Over/Under crowd nervously watching.

Yes. Buchnevich getting his 21st by sticking with it to bank one in past a ultra sharp Sergei Bobrovsky, had to drive the Columbus bench crazy. Our friend told us that John Tortorella was going cuckoo. Haha. It was only their playoff livelihood on the line when the three-on-three overtime started. Too bad they didn’t have to sweat it out more in the silly shootout which Artemi Panarin won to help them reach the playoffs. A Bobrovsky save on Tony DeAngelo in the top of the third allowed Tortorella and the Jackets to breathe easier and celebrate eliminating Montreal.

So, the Rangers fell in the skill competition 3-2. But it was the one shootout we stayed for due to it having an impact. Plus I wanted to see the boys a final time before exiting. At least it was quick. Bobrovsky stopped all three Rangers shooters while Alexandar Georgiev went 1-for-2. He couldn’t stop Panarin, who is lethal coming from that left side and unleashing that wrist shot. Outside of that, Georgiev turned in another worthy performance by making 39 saves. He was superb.

Alexandar Georgiev makes one of his 39 saves in tight. AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy Rangers.

Bobrovsky was even better. He only finished with 25 saves, but you wouldn’t have known it if you watched. What a sensational goalie. He’s the only reason the Blue Jackets are in the postseason. If not for his brilliance that again included a highlight reel save to rob Brett Howden on a two-on-one, there likely would be no playoffs for Columbus. These are the type of saves the two-time Vezina winner has made over the past two months. He’s a great goalie. I’d love to see him have success when it counts.

I thought Columbus started squeezing their sticks due to how closely fought the first period was. Even though they held a 15-6 edge in shots, they couldn’t beat Georgiev. He stoned them on a couple of point blank chances. The thing I took away is what I’ve been saying. The team plays harder for him and gives Georgiev most of the shots from the outside. If he sees it, he usually stops it. His positioning is very calm and he moves well side to side, taking away the bottom of the net.

A couple of goalposts were hit by both sides. Mika Zibanejad had one on a strong power move around the net. The Jackets probably felt like they created some excellent chances early on. Not capitalizing had to make them nervous.

It showed in the second. They started missing the net a lot. Especially Cam Atkinson. The shooters were trying to go high on Georgiev, which is the adjustment I’d make. But they were unable to get close to scoring on him. He stopped 11 more shots and took a 1-0 lead to the locker room.

Chris Kreider provided it by converting a two-on-one feed from Zibanejad for his 28th. A well executed play from both. Zibanejad got a step and sold the fake shot on Seth Jones, who bit. Mika then passed for Kreider, who blew one by Bobrovsky for the one goal lead. Kreider easily could’ve had more if not for some big saves by the Columbus franchise netminder. If they lose him this summer, oh boy. He’s easily a too five who can carry teams. Florida will come calling.

The pressure was on the Jackets. They didn’t want to have to go to the 82nd game at Ottawa. Montreal was set to host bitter rival Toronto. It sure would’ve been interesting. I wouldn’t have been home anyway due to wrestling we are going to see at MSG. Not WrestleMania. But Ring Of Honor and New Japan. It should be good.

It took a key mistake by the Blueshirts to allow the desperate Jackets to score. A bad pinch led to a three-on-one. Nick Foligno was allowed to pass across for Ryan Dzingel, whose one-timer whizzed by a helpless Georgiev to tie the score at 2:25. Fotiu told me that should never happen. Especially the pass. Always take the open man and give the goalie the shooter. There’s a reason he played in the NHL. I also loved what he said about the instigator. If you’re gonna fight, then fight. Truth spoken!

With the game tied, Columbus still needed something from their top gun. For the most part, Panarin and Atkinson had their hands full with the Zibanejad line. They were forced to play defense more than they’d like. I thought Tortorella made a mistake flipping Pierre-Luc Dubois and Matt Duchene. Duchene has no chemistry with Atkinson or Panarin. Not surprisingly, they weren’t that effective.

It took a great individual effort from the Bread Man to put the Jackets ahead. Taking a David Savard feed in his own zone, he backed up Howden and turned DeAngelo inside out to fire a laser high stick side past Georgiev at 14:27.

Game over? Not so fast. With Georgiev pulled for an extra attacker, the Rangers got their chances due to a few careless Columbus icings. With the Rangers pressing the action, Buchnevich had his initial shot blocked. But he stuck with it by sending another towards the net with Howden in front. Sure enough, it banked in with just over seven seconds remaining in regulation.

I know it didn’t mean a whole lot. But after joking that they should make Columbus sweat it out and kiddingly predicting a goal with two seconds left, you better believe I celebrated the Buchnevich tally. I even low fived a cool MSG security guard I was chatting with about our fun crew who were jokingly pulling for Columbus.

I wanted to see overtime. Even if it meant another point. I don’t care about the logistics of the stupid lottery. Can you believe the Rangers are holding a viewing party at some dive? Gee whiz. Who’s playing at the Theater anyway on Tuesday night? I bet they also bring back the Draft Party with the team having so many picks.

Zibanejad got the best chance in the three-on-three. But Bobrovsky wasn’t having it. Neither was Georgiev, leaving it to a shootout. After Kevin Shattenkirk fanned on his attempt, Georgiev stayed with Atkinson by getting a toe on his forehand deke. It was tremendous. Out came Panarin after Bobrovsky gave Zibanejad nothing. He shot the Blue Jackets to the playoffs. Then Bobrovsky denied DeAngelo to finish matters.

BONY 3 STARS:

3rd 🌟 Artemi Panarin, Blue Jackets (28th of season and shootout winner)

2nd 🌟 Alexandar Georgiev, Rangers (39 saves including 26 of 26 in 1st 2 periods, stellar as usual)

1st 🌟 Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets (25 saves including a enormous one to rob Howden on a 2-on-1 in the 3rd with the game tied)

Notes: Lias Andersson had another good game. He hit the crossbar during the second when the Rangers had the Blue Jackets on the ropes. He’s looked much more confident the last few games. A good sign moving forward. … Fredrik Claesson sat out. That allowed rookie Ryan Lindgren to dress and pair up with Neal Pionk, who looked more at ease throughout. Lindgren nearly had his first NHL goal in the first. He played sound defense and looks like he can help the team in the future. If both he and Libor Hajek make the roster next Fall, it bodes well. … Mets Noah Syndergaard, Jeff McNeill and Edwin Diaz took in the game on their off day.

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