There's green all around on a nice day here in the metro area. The luck of the Irish is what our hockey clubs will be hoping for tonight. A Happy St. Patty's Day to all who celebrate. I maybe Jewish but enjoy corned beef and cabbage along with a pint of Guinness. Come to think of it, that wouldn't be a bad option at the Ranger game late versus Al Montoya and the Islanders. I definitely could go for one if it changes our luck.
It seems like every St. Patrick's Day, there's big games going on and of course fun happenings as well. It feels somewhat appropriate that we get to combine a festive Irish holiday with the coolest game on Earth, to borrow a favorite old NHL commercial. Our game is the best even if we have a cyclops who runs the asylum and a senile deputy who should be on Benny Hill. Why not brighten the mood at M$G tossing in a few jokes at James Dolan playing the role of Scrooge. If he got run over by a reigndeer, we'd throw a party that would make all the fake celebs on Page Six jealous.
Tonight should be fun no matter who you root for with all four Battle clubs in action. Playoff positioning is at stake. The best part is two of the three games start at 7 while the other drops at 7:30, making for chaotic scoreboard watching. So, between your brew and banter, there'll be plenty to keep us drawn or withdrawn depending if the Rangers remember how to win at home. I sure hope they wear the white road jersey again. That sounds wrong. Isn't it about time the NHL goes back to tradition? Oh wait. That'd be asking for too much from a league that sees nothing wrong with not holding Zdeno Chara accountable after breaking Max Pacioretty's neck. Even if unintentional, come on. This league never ceases to amaze me.
With the Lightning doing everyone a favor by blasting the Leafs 6-2 to keep them at 70 points, it's quite simple for the Devils and Thrashers. The winner passes Toronto. Atlanta would have two more points and New Jersey more wins in less games played. The Thrashers try to cool off the miraculous Devs who bring a 22-3-2 mark that has them eight out after being declared dead. When Brian Rolston and Anssi Salmela are scoring big goals, it speaks to how miraculous a run they're on. But meal tickets Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Martin Brodeur and Travis Zajac are doing their part. The Thrashers fell victim with Kovalchuk burning them late and Zajac winning it in overtime. Will it be deja vu all over again in Newark?
While Atlanta and New Jersey skate across the Hudson, the Rangers and Islanders will be doing battle at The World's Most $hameless Arena. If you didn't catch Larry Brooks' take on the preposterous ticket hike, go read it. As for the puck, it's Islanders-Rangers on St. Pat's. What more do you need? Of course, there'll be plenty of Islander fans mixed in due to tickets being easier and easier to pry. Are you listening Jazzy Jim? Oh wait. He's got a date with his third rate jazz band.
It doesn't get much better than Manhattan versus Long Island. Everytime these bitter rivals meet, the unusual happens. The norm lately has favored the road team, which suits a more talented Islander club, boasting Matt Moulson, Michael Grabner, John Tavares and Ranger killer Blake Comeau. The Islanders have four 20-goal scorers with three on the verge of 30. Our team has three 20-goal scorers in Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan and leading scorer Brandon Dubinsky. He leads them with a measly 45 points. It really hinges on an improved D led by Marc Staal and Danny G with rookie tandem Mike Sauer and Ryan McDonagh logging big minutes. Henrik Lundqvist has to be at his best because goals are at a premium.
Not satisfied despite squeaking past the Sharks, John Tortorella has made two changes. Sean Avery's back in with shootout ace Wojtek Wolski sitting out for the first time. And Steve Eminger replaces Matt Gilroy, who sits for the first night since Jan.2. This feels like a tactic to keep his guys mentally sharp.
The final game pits the fading Canes visiting the Sabres. Buffalo bounced back from a disappointing defeat to the Leafs with a 6-4 win over the Sens. Rookie Tyler Ennis tallied twice and deadline pickup Brad Boyes already notched his fourth goal. The ex-Blue has been brilliant, tallying seven points (4-3-7) in eight contests since Darcy Regier traded away a second round pick. Exactly the kind of return the Sabres needed, relieving pressure from Thomas Vanek, who also scored a highlight reel goal in the win. Vanek quietly has 60 points, pacing the Sabres while his 25 markers rank just behind emerging right wing Drew Stafford (26 G). They've gotten solid contributions from vet Jochen Hecht, who could be missed due to a lower body injury. The goalie match up is a primary one with Ryan Miller taking on Cam Ward. The last meeting went to the former Conn Smythe winner 3-2 in overtime with the Canes rallying back to win it on March 2. Carolina hasn't won since, bringing a four-game losing streak (0-3-1) into tonight's big match. The Canes still rank ninth with 72 points but really need the game. A big difference between potentially being down six and only two if it gets decided in regulation.
All eyes will be on the six teams battling. Hopefully, the luck of the Irish will spring eternal.