WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW FOR A WEEKEND SCHMOOZE
1. STICKS: GM Don Waddell had better find a fourth line goalie because Little Bad Marchand thinks Carolina goal scorers are archery targets.
2. OILER: The kings are learning that not even landmines can do it
scare off a McDavid end-to-end. Connor is the best 200 foot skater since Bob Orr.
3. BACK: As colleague Adam Proteau notes, good guy Bruce Boudreau shouldn’t be made into a lame coach. The problem is that Fischler and Proteau have more faith in Cousin Brucie than in Jim Rutherford.
4. The Rangers-Penguins’ first game marathon pushed the older Pittsburgh harder than the younger New York. It says here that the Pens will be lucky enough to win another one; even at home.
5. BRUINS: Charlie McAvoy is a good defender unless Tony D’Angelo is better. (Like four assists in two games better.)
6. EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES: Want to make lots of money fast? Open a used goalkeeper ticket!
7. BATTLE OF TRAINERS: A compelling side effect of the Rangers-Penguins tournament has to do with the opposing coaches. Both Gerard (He Is Quite) Gallant from New York and Mike Sullivan from Pitt are top contenders for the Adams (Best Mentor) Award.
8. After watching Washington lose in Florida last night, my Sunrise husband Al Greenberg put it succinctly: “Caps without Tom Wilson are like bagels without cream cheese!”
9. All in all, the Predators’ OT effort last night in Denver was nothing short of brave; close to victory.
SINGING THE THIRD STRING BLUES
This is the best – and worst – time to be a goalkeeper.
Worst because front row NHL netminders are like ducks sitting in a shooting gallery. End of the announcement! End of the announcement! Every single week!
The best, because former no-names like Pyotr Kochetkov became headline thieves overnight. Or, as Mel Brooks commented in The Story of the World, Part One, “It’s great to be king.” If not king; then third goalkeeper!
Only in this crazy playoff year can third- and fourth-row goalies become legends. Exhibit A, Louis Domingue: Exhibit B. Pyotr Kochetkov.
As my curvature guru Al (Stop The PucK) Greenberg notes, “Kochetkov had his biggest moment of sudden fame since David Ayres. Pyotr endeared himself to the Carolina fans not only for his goalkeeping skills but also for his liveliness in a very physical game. He retaliated in kind for a Brad Marchand shot on goal and then challenged the Bruin up front before both wisely retired .
Earlier this season, Kohetkov was so far from making Canes varsity that he didn’t even make it into The Hockey News Yearbook for Canes Goalies. (Beck Warm of Whistler, BC beat Pyotr.)
When the Big, Bad B’s return to Boston tonight for Game Three, the Bruins’ expensive starter, Linus Ullmark is oh-for-two.
(Could be oh-for-three tonight unless Bruce Cassidy wisely goes with his number 2 plier, Jeremy (I’m From Alaska) Swayman.)
THE CURSE OF TORONTO – OVERPAID AND UNDERPRODUCTED
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 100 times; There’s no way Toronto will see Stanley unless John Tavares does more than just win a faceoff or two.
Sorry, but the league’s most overpaid, under-produced millionaire (seven years, $77 million) has forced the Matthews-Marner moving company to take on Shelly Keefe’s offense.
And that’s not fair.
For the pile of dough JT is pulling in, he should have done better than finish 41st in the standings, and he should have done better tonight when his teammates in Tampa Bay will try to take the lead in the series to take over.
“In the two playoff games so far, Tavares has one assist,” points out Mike Augello, my husband at TO.
But there’s still time for The Pajama Boy to deliver. But not one whole lot of time!
I JUST SAY YES’
* At the start of the season, Connor McDavid’s “200-Foot Game”
measured about 90 feet of ice.
* But after ESPN’s John Tortorella shook the world of Edmonton because McD found the other 110 feet of ice, the Oilers captain has become a legitimate 200-footer. Watch him in LA tonight and see.
* Peter DeBoer deserves another chance to lead the Golden Knights back to hockey excellence.
* Geno Malkin takes a lot of heat from an anti-Evgeny block in Pitt. But his game winner in the opening game against Rangers was the 13th of his career.
* Guess what? Malkin’s red light in game one was the best game winner in penguins Story.
* Kudos to Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald for staying with Lindy Ruff for another season.
* What New Jersey needs is an A-1 goalie; no new man behind the bench.
* As long as Igor Shesterkin stays healthy, the goalkeeper poor penguins don’t stand a chance. Iggie-The-Goalie could lead New York to third round; at least.
* Gary Bettman’s middle name could be “Indefatigable”. The Commish visited Sunrise last night for Caps-Cats. It was his fourth game in four nights!
* This makes him a back-to-back-to-back commissioner.
* How about this for a possible upset. The Stars use last night’s momentum to win the series and Edmonton – not Calgary – makes it through to the second round!
NO ENDORSEMENT OF THE PLAYOFFS
The change-for-the-change-of-change block out there wants the NHL to increase the number of teams qualifying for the playoffs.
When this was brought to the attention of Commissioner Bettman in Edmonton the other day, the Commish shook his head. “No!”
Bettman’s logic makes sense: “The current system creates great competition during the regular season,” says The Commish. “It makes these games most meaningful.
“Nothing beats our playoff tournament. The Stanley Cup is the hardest to win; and there is no such thing in any sport in the first round. We like where we are at the moment.”
(The Board of Governors — Bettman’s employer — likes where he is
now. Next February he will celebrate his 40th anniversary.)
FUN PLAYOFF HOCKEY AT ANOTHER LEVEL
America’s only Tier I junior circuit, the USHL is celebrating its 20th season. Both the Western and Eastern Conference finals begin tonight.
To the west, it’s the Sioux City Musketeers at Tri-City Storm, while to the east, the Madison Capitols are home to the Muskegon Lumberjacks. You can bet a lot of scouts will be watching both tilts.
WHO SAID THAT? “The difficulties we had with goalkeepers earlier this year didn’t make it a big deal.” (ANSWER BELOW.)
College level hockey is more popular than ever and the proof is in the numbers. Nearly 350 former college hockey stars played in the NHL last regular season. That breaks the previous record of 327 set three years ago.
Fun fact: The number of NCAA alumni in the NHL has grown 65 percent over the past 19 years.
SITUATIONS WANTED: NHL COACHING JOBS
Only a genius will be able to tell me who – among the retainers – will have an NHL appearance on the bench next season. Some of the worthy (names) follow—in no particular order: Claude Julien, John Tortorella, Travis Green, Mike Babcock, Paul Maurice, Kirk Muller, and Rick Tocchet.
ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT? Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour on two-time rookie goalie Pyotr Kochetkov against Boston.