After waking from hibernation to find flowers popping up, temperatures blissfully warming, and birds singing in the morning, I know we’re not far from that rejuvenating feeling of anticipation, waiting for opening day - - of the NHL playoffs!
At a time when most of my favorite teams are either trying to find their way (Giants), or trying to hold on to past success (Yankees) or struggling underachievers (Knicks), I celebrate the defending Eastern Conference Champion New York Rangers – newly crowned winners of the Metropolitan Division.
They’ve allowed their young players to see more consistent ice time this year, stopping the “yo-yo” effect of sending players down to “work on things.” LW Chris Kreider, RW-LW Kevin Hayes and C J.T. Miller have paid off the return of faith by netting 21, 15 and 10 goals respectively.
Of course the youth is offset by aging veterans 39 year-old RW Martin St. Louis and 38 year-old D Dan Boyle. Boyle started the season on the injury list and has not paid off as the Rangers had hoped after picking him up in the off season. St. Louis has been everything they’ve hoped for, leading the way in last year’s march to the Cup finals and providing 20 goals this year.
The revelation and season savior has been G Cam Talbot who picked up for the injured King Henrik Lundqvist in January and backstopped the Rangers vault up the standings, winning 17 out of 21 games.
As the disappointment of last year’s Finals loss has ebbed (losing three OT games to an excellent team is no shame), the achievement left one question: was it a fluke? The answer seems to be a resounding “no”. There’s work to be done in the last four games, home ice throughout the playoffs is there for the taking, Boston or Pittsburgh looms as a first round test, and the range of points between the top 16 teams is only 17 points, meaning that parity has arrived and the Cup is there for anyone.
Which leads back to the exciting spring that awaits – and lots of late nights.
I think there’s a better chance that they beat the number for “players used” which is set at 54.5.
Eli Manning is talking more this off season than ever before. How much is confidence in the offense and how much is posturing for a new contract?
OK Knicks fans, who do you want? Karl-Anthony Towns? Jahlil Okafor? D’Angelo Russell? I’m not sure who will make a difference. But I do know that the recent Calipari-led Kentucky kids have mostly panned out in the NBA (John Wall, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, DeMarcus Cousins), while you have a harder time finding Dukies who succeed.
If Wisconsin beats Kentucky, then I’m in the money for my bracket – Go Badgers!