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Maven's Ravin': Twenty Things I've Learned In the Homestretch

The Rangers will win The Stanley Cup. Nothing in the past month has changed my mind. The combo is right down the middle; best goaltender; best defense, best chemistry and best coach. More scoring will come when prodigy Chris Krieder leaves Boston College following the Frozen Four.

• Patience and fortitude is paying off for Sabres owner Terry Pegula. He never buckled under media and fan pressure to can either his astute general manager, Darcy Regier, nor his experienced coach Lindy Ruff. Regier resisted any temptation to trade ace goalie Ryan Miller and, somehow, Ruff got his skaters to play genuine playoff hockey throughout March.

• Steve Tambellini should pay attention to what's happening in Buffalo. Give Tom Renney a new extended contract and get it over with so that the Oil can gush again as a playoff sextet.

Evgeni Nabokov's re-signing with the Islanders has more than passing significance. For starters, remember that just a year ago the Russian stopper turned his back on Nassau and seemed as much interested in playing for Jack Capuano as he did for President Putin. Nabby's returning for 2012-2013 because he's discovered -- a la John Tavares, Matt Moulson, et. al. -- that the Island is a fun place to play. Now let's hope that pending free agent PA Parenteau follows suit.

• There are many reasons why Boston won't win The Cup this year. A forgotten one is all about the player most conspicuous by his absence; Mark Recchi. The veteran glue behind last Spring's triumph never has been adequately replaced and that will cost the Bruins once the post-season begins.

• Easily the most unheralded contender has to be my buddy, John Davidson's Blues. Shows you how much The Maven knows, I figured that Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott would wilt in St.Lou. Guess they haven't hurt one bit.

• Teemu Selanne is leaning toward a return next season. Why not? The Flashy Finn can outskate kids half his age.

• If you can figure the Sharks so would the entire city of San Jose.

Cody Hodgson to Buffalo is the Trade Deadline acquisition of the year.

• Toughest award-pick of the Spring will be selecting the Adams Award winner for coach-of-the-year. You start with Ken Hitchcock, neck-and-neck with John Tortorella but how can anyone overlook the pheenom job pulled off by Paul MacLean in Ottawa. Let's not forget that The Hockey News was not the only genius-outfit to forecast a 15th place finish for the Senators (I know I did!).

• Biggest Forgotten Disappointment: Patrice Cormier: Remember him? That was the forward who was supposed to be the key piece for Atlanta -- now Winnipeg -- in the Ilya Kovalchuk trade with the Devils. The Thrashers thought he'd be a building block for the franchise. (I like the franchise in Winnipeg but I don't see any building block in Cormier. Do you?)

• The good news is that Ron Wilson still is getting paid. The bad news is that Randy Carlyle has been minus-the-radical-50 as an improvement behind the Toronto bench.

• More Maple Leafs bad news: Dion Phaneuf IS the most over-rated, over-paid player in the NHL.

• It's easy to say that Scotty Gomez would like to return to his original club, the Devils. It's more difficult to figure whether there's any REAL hockey left in the Alaskan. Even harder to figure is whether Lou Lamoriello would want him back in the Garden State.

• Two reasons why the Penguins won't win The Stanley Cup: 1. Pitt's defense is not that good; 2. Neither is Marc-Andre Fleury.

• Chairman of the Oh-How-The-Mighty-Have-Fallen Bureau has to be Vin Lecavalier.

• Indisputable Poster Boy for the NHL this year: Steven Stamkos.

• The Pittsburgh media must be kidding; Matt Cooke for the Masterton Trophy.  Is that some sort of bad joke?  Better they should have picked Boris Valabik since Boris Karloff -- as Frankenstein -- is not available.

• And if you're wondering who'll be the next NHL superstar still in Juniors, try Sven Baertschi of the Portland Winterhawks. The Swiss swfity dazzled in his brief emergency call-up for Calgary earlier this month. The kid has high-end offensive skills and plays with a dogged determination.

• Darkest darkhorse for the Cup: Nashville. Biggest problem; not big nor tough enough!


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