Is it possible, and I am just throwing this out there, that the Rangers at this very moment are the third-best team in the Metro area in this season, in which all of our teams are in position to qualify for the playoffs for just the fourth time in the 40 seasons since New Jersey joined the fray.
Disclaimer: No one is handing out the Cup today.
The Devils have been among the NHL’s elite since the third week of the season, elevated by the acquisition of Timo Meier from San Jose in return for a package that no one in New Jersey will notice is missing.
They continue to impress even with Jack Hughes somewhat diminished since returning from a four-game absence on Feb. 18, No. 86 with nine points (1-8) in 10 games prior to Saturday in Montreal after having posted 28 points (17-11) in the 15 games before sustaining an upper-body injury. New Jersey is 7-2-1 in these contests.
The Islanders have re-established themselves as mentally as tough a team as there is in the NHL. They have survived the teeth of the winter in which they seemed tired, beaten down and done in this league dominated by high-end talent. They survived that — Bo Horvat might have had something to do with that — and are now thriving by getting to this small portion of the season in which everyone is trying to adapt to more of a playoff brand of hockey.
Which is what the Islanders essentially play every game. It isn’t only that they entered Saturday night’s match with the Capitals having gone 6-1-1 since Mat Barzal exited with a significant lower-body injury, but that the Islanders have allowed two goals or fewer in six of those eight contests.
Games are never over until the Islanders say they are. That is part of the reason they appear closer than they are in the Rangers’ side rear view.
Chuck Fletcher’s reign as GM of the Flyers had turned into an unmitigated disaster, the once-proud but now absolutely irrelevant franchise’s arena overrun by Rangers fans a couple of weeks ago when Vlad Tarasenko’s overtime winner set off a Broad Street celebration worthy of Broadway.
Ghosts of the Spectrum wept.
There is, though, shared blame for this debacle of a season in which management refused to commit to a necessary full-scale rebuild and instead tried to cut, paste and patch through the hiring of John Tortorella to instill discipline and accountability from behind the bench.
That is not typically a decision made at the GM’s level. That is on ownership and executive management. You don’t think that one day during the winter of 2017-18 that then-Rangers GM Jeff Gorton started writing The Letter do you? That was top-down from chairman Jim Dolan and team president Glen Sather.
So I wouldn’t advise Flyers chairman and governor Dave Scott to get too comfy with his office furniture. The buck, as well as the big bucks, likely stops there.
Daniel Briere, hired as interim GM in the wake of Fletcher’s dismissal on Friday, will almost certainly get a full-time job in the hierarchy, but it remains to be seen whether Chris Drury’s one-time teammate and co-captain in Buffalo will go forward as general manager or as president of hockey ops, the position Fletcher held dually.
Chris Pronger, Briere’s teammate in Philadelphia for the final three seasons of the defenseman’s career, should be a leading contender for either job. I have heard Eric Lindros’ name from people who should be taken seriously, though I don’t know that No. 88 is prepared to devote the 24/7/365 attention that will be required to rescue the operation.
Either Hall of Famer would be able to suggest to Tortorella, and perhaps even gently, that he not run down the team’s roster in every press conference.
Kind of a flashback to 2012-13 in New York when the coach spent half the season bemoaning the absence of John Mitchell, a fourth-liner who had been scratched from the final two games of the 2012 conference finals against the Devils before signing with Colorado as a free agent.
If there is a baseline three-game suspension awaiting any player who spits at an opponent, then why shouldn’t there be a baseline, three-game minimum suspension attached to any player who is found guilty of an illegal headshot?
By the way? Has a victim ever received less sympathy, and deservedly so, than Corey Perry when he was on the wrong side of a spear from Tony DeAngelo?
There hasn’t been this kind of a gap between the league’s greatest player and whomever might be second that has been established by Connor McDavid since Wayne Gretzky’s reign through the ’80s until Mario Lemieux challenged No. 99’s supremacy the final season of the decade.
I don’t believe that this kind of a gap has existed in any other major professional sport since when … Tiger Woods or Serena Williams?
And in a team sport since … Michael Jordan?
Does anyone outside of the hockey world know that … or McDavid?
Entering play on Saturday, the Mighty Bruins had a goal differential of plus-104 in 63 games, or 1.65 per. That’s the largest per-game differential since the 1995-96 Red Wings’ 1.76 per. Pretty, pretty good.
But do you want to know what was pretty, pretty great?
The 1976-77 Canadiens, that’s who, establishing the NHL record at a 2.7 goal differential per while going 60-8-12. That, if you can do rudimentary arithmetic, is more than a goal a game better than this “all-time” team. The 1943-44 Habs are second at 2.5 per while the 1970-71 B’s clock in at third with a goal differential of 2.46 per.
Finally, I don’t get it.
In his life away from hockey, P.K. Subban seems to have charity for all. Yet as a studio analyst for ESPN, he displays the same disrespect for his peers as he did while playing with reckless disregard for at least the final season of his career. Eye-rolling apparently is the (much less harmful) version of the slew-foot.