Tonight, the spotlight will be on the two local hockey teams with both the Rangers and Devils looking to continue their seasons. Each prevailed in Game Six to force a deciding seventh game. With a 3-2 win over the Sens, the Rangers play host to Ottawa in the first Game Seven since you guessed it. Lord Stanley some 18 years ago. MSG will be rocking with the Blueshirts looking to set up a Conference Semifinal against Washington, who upset defending champ Boston yesterday.
While the Rangers and Senators will be almost through two periods, the Devils take the ice in the Sunshine state against the Panthers with faceoff after 8:30 on the East coast. The Devils forced it seven thanks to OT hero Travis Zajac, who’s been his team’s best player. Ilya Kovalchuk, who also had a goal, set up the winner with a nifty feed past two Panthers, allowing Zajac to play the hero. The Devils haven’t been to the second round since ’07. Now, they’ll try to end a playoff curse by winning two straight to set up a potential Conference Semi versus classic I-95 rival Philadelphia.
The heroes for the Rangers were Brad Richards (PPG, assist), Derek Stepan (tying PPG, 2 assists) and former ’09 first round pick Chris Kreider, whose first goal as a Blueshirt held up as the winner. Tonight, they try to hold serve and use The Garden as their personal playground. Home ice hasn’t treated this series kindly with the road team taking four of the first six. The Rangers will be looking to buck that trend in Game Seven.
For the Devils and Rangers, anything less than victory would be a big disappointment. Especially for the Blueshirts, who earned home ice with 52 wins and 109 points. Their best since ’93-94. Ryan Callahan has been held to two goals and Marian Gaborik one. Both need to be factors along with all but invisible four-plus million Brandon Dubinsky, who’s replaced concussed Brian Boyle on the third line. It’s about time for Dubinsky to earn his keep.
The hockey clubs will be the spotlight for New York City and New Jersey even if the NFL Draft gets going at 8 ET. It’s a bit anticlimatic with the Colts taking Andrew Luck with the first pick and the Redskins giving up a slew of picks for Heisman winner Robert Griffin III. There probably should be more pressure on Griffin III considering what Washington paid.
Once they’re selected, then it becomes interesting with the Vikings on the clock. I’ve heard some already label this as the Luck/Griffin Draft much like the year when Indianapolis chose Peyton Manning and the Chargers got stuck with now jailed Ryan Leaf. Amazing how one’s an all-time great getting ready to QB Denver while the other’s hit rock bottom. Drafts make or break you. Especially when you risk it all on a quarterback.
Still, times have changed. Today’s athletes are better prepared for the NFL. So, it the 2012 Draft shouldn’t just be about two players. As Giants GM Jerry Reese has proven, you can find gems late. It’s all about how well you’ve scouted and how players project. So, while all eyes will be on Luck and Griffin, you can guarantee that they won’t be the only players who evolve at the next level. Otherwise, 28 other teams and its fans wouldn’t even bother to follow a catastrophic event where the Mel Kipers pretend that they’re GMs.
After taking part in a Draft Preview last night with buddy Brian Sanborn along with NFL gurus Rob Davis, Jeff Bashlor, Daniel Wheeler and Nate Sousa, it becomes clear how huge an event it is. NFL fans are as diehard as it gets. Even if I’ve never been a big draft proponent, I’ll definitely take a look at who the Giants draft. It won’t be Matt Kalil, Fletcher Cox, Michael Floyd, Mark Barron or Trent Richardson.
No matter what, Big Blue supporters should have plenty of faith in Reese. What will be more intriguing is to see whether or not Sanborn and Davis approve of who Buffalo takes at No.10. The plight of the Bills is always fun to dissect when you’re close buddies live and die with their team. For Davis, he’ll have a curious eye at his Devils. So, it’ll be a big night. For Sanborn, he can just sit back and enjoy the two Game Sevens while keeping a close eye on Barron, who both Bill diehards covet.
Even better, Wheeler’s Panthers pick right before Buffalo at No.9. Could they spoil the party? And don’t forget Bashlor’s Chiefs are on deck at No.11 with Sousa’s Cowboys on the radar with the 14th pick. You know what part of the Draft I’ll be watching.
The Giants don’t pick until dead last at 32nd. A linebacker, some offensive line help or a receiver are most likely. Meanwhile, Jets Nation will be on the clock earlier at No.16 with Melvin Ingram projected to help boost their defensive line. First round picks are always vital to any draft because so much is expected. That said, I still think doing well in the later rounds can prove worthy for bargains and depth.
For Benny In The Bronx and Ira from Staten Island, there are no better day(s). All sorts of Draft coverage begins tonight with a chaotic weekend to follow. Let the cheers/jeers rain down.