there is such a thing as “tradition” in hockey and tampering with the four-by-six feet goal is sacrilegious, no more, no less.
* Mike Babcock’s idea for the NHL to widen the nets is nuttier than a fruit cake. Sorry, Mike, but there is such a thing as “tradition” in hockey and tampering with the four-by-six feet goal is sacrilegious, no more, no less.
* For starters, 1-0 games through the years have been among the best I’ve ever seen, way back to 1951 when the Rangers Chuck Rayner shut out Detroit’s Terry Sawchuk two 1-0 games in a row.
* But if you want more scoring there are three very harsh ways to bring it about, starting with equipment-cheating goalies. “I don’t want to say ‘cheating,'” Jonathan Quick observes, “but there’s been some trying to supplement their gear a little bit.” Ray Ferraro says, “The upper body gear is, in some cases, comical. The sizing on goalie pants is crazy.”
* I’d start by trimming the catching glove by half and then work up and down with the make-them-skinnier moves from there.
* Two other harsh ideas to add goals: 1. Penalize any non-goalie who deliberately goes down to block a shot. 2. Eliminate one skater per side. If rinks can’t be made wider, then institute four-on-four hockey. Let’s face it, shot-blocking has gotten so out of hand it would be miraculous if a howitzer ever managed to fire a puck through the huddled masses of shot-blockers.
* Speaking of absurd, the idea that John Tortorella wanted a “revenge” win over Vancouver is about as dumb as they come. Truth is that Torts never wanted the Canucks job in the first place. But when the bucks being offered to him became so outrageously stunning, it became an offer he couldn’t refuse.
* Here’s the deal on expansion. As long as chief NHL power broker — alias Chairman of the Board of Governors — Jeremy Jacobs is luke warm about admitting Las Vegas and Quebec City, those cities will be in a state of suspension. A high NHL team exec tells me that Vegas eventually will make it because Commissioner Bettman allowed — encouraged? — the successful season ticket promotion. And if Vegas gets in — whenever that happens — Quebec City will have to be admitted as well otherwise there’ll be a Canadian.
* When he was helping the Habs win Stanley Cups, Peter Mahovlich was a fun-loving guy. One story had it that during a Montreal city hall Cup-winning celebration, he attended the fete in his bare feet. I recently caught up with Pete — now scouting — and checked on the bare feet tale. Mahovlich agreed that it did happen but not the way everyone thought. “It was very hot that day,” Peter recalled, “and I had shoes on to start with but the mayor invited us into his office and offered me a cigar. So I said: ‘Normally, I put my feet up on the desk when I have a cigar.’ Then, the mayor said, ‘Oh, you can do that!’ And so I did — after I took my shoes and socks off.”
* The best-least-talked-about-goalie in the NHL right now is Antti Raanta. The Rangers back-up — formerly Blackhawks — is a better stopper for New York than Cam Talbot was and that’s saying a lot. Right now, Raanta is better than Talbot no matter how good Cam plays for Edmonton. Frankly, Raanta could be a first-stringer for 16 NHL clubs.
* Speaking of goaltenders, Cory Schneider is the primary reason the surprising Devils are staying around the .500 mark.
* For a short trip inside Mike Babcock’s head, try this: “When I talk to my guys I don’t necessarily talk about goal-scoring. I talk about ‘Are you winning your battles? Are you shooting the puck? Are you getting yourself in good spots to do that?” (Now you know why MB is getting paid more than the net worth of Pago Pago.)
* The Nerves of Steel Award must go to Patrick Kane. Trapped in a whirlpool of rumors, allegations and, ultimately, no grand gury fuss, the sharpshooter has maintained revolutionary decorum and scoring like a well-oiled machine. On the journalistic side, none of the big scoop-getters got the beat on the criminal charges dropped in Kane case. Kudos to Buffalo News reporter Dan Herbeck who wrote it first.
* Florida’s Reilly Smith on the difference between playing in Dallas, Boston and now Sunrise: “Not much. There was pressure with the Stars, pressure with the Bruins and there’s pressure with the Panthers. Pressure to make the playoffs.”
* There’s been a ton of talk about the Steve Stamkos contract contretemps in Tampa Bay and that’s overshadowed unrestricted-free-agent-to-be Anze Kopitar in L.A. That makes Dean Lombardi’s negotiating skills as challenged as those of Steve Yzerman. Picturing the Kings without their super-Slovenian is like imagining Hall of Famer Nick Lidstrom in anything but Detroit’s winged wheel jersey.
* Tyler Toffoli on the L.A. turnaround: “We had to find our rhythm. What helped was our video work and focusing on keeping things simple. (Milan) Lucic coming here helped take pressure off me. He’s a team-first guy who fits in great.”
* I’d like to meet anyone who can point out one weakness on the Rangers. Goaltending — solid. Defense — tight. Offense: four good lines, top to bottom.
* Right now Travis Zajac is looking very much like the Poor Man’s Jonathan Toews and not because they both wear #19. Sure, it’s early, but Zajac has never looked better as a two-way center since his buddy Zach Parise busted off to Minnesota. (Having Kyle Palmieri on right wing hasn’t hurt one bit.)
* Toews on the Devils surprise start: “That’s a team that plays fast, skate well and check enough to not give you a lot of room.”
* From my readers. Joe Dionisio writes from Hollywood, California: “I heard the ‘experts’ on ‘Hockey Night In Canada’ trotting out the cliche ‘Getting the first goal of the game is a key to success.’ What a myopic statement. Since everyone from Michael Nuevirth to Jake Allen are pitching shutouts, obviously it’s imperative to grab the first goal of a game that ends 1-0 or 2-0. I’m no math major but if you score first in a 1-0 game, I’d put your winning percentage at about 100 percent. The bigger story is that too many contests end 1-0 or 2-0.”
* Perhaps Mister Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons — And Coaches can figure out what happened to the genius of Patrick Roy. Or is it the fault of his high command?
* What amazes me is that for all the terrific work he’s doing — going back to winning the Art Ross Trophy as leading scorer — Jamie Benn gets such minimal media attention.
* Just Wondering About Sean Avery Department: Apart from recently getting married, what is Manhattan’s erstwhile Puck’s Bad Boy doing these days?
* I loved The Hockey News “Dream Teams” special. Will there ever be a “Nightmare Teams” sequel? If so, I’d lead off with the Philadelphia Quakers, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Eagles up to the wartime New York Rangers who once lost 15-0 to Detroit.
* Marty Brodeur on his secret weapon: “I tried to get into people’s heads.”
* Brodeur on Lou Lamoriello: “He believed in me from the start and brought me along the proper way, slowly to the NHL. He showed me the path. I was fortunate to have him on my side.”
* Brodeur on the trapezoid: “No problem, they took away the red line. Hey now I could make a pass all the way to the far blue line.”
* Brodeur on more scoring: “Bigger nets.”
* It’s sad that Mike Weaver’s retirement has gone virtually unnoticed. For a dozen NHL years he epitomized what my Florida buddy, Alan Greenberg, calls “The gritty, in the trenches, old-time Dman.”
* Speaking of sad, how about the end of distinguished careers belonging to Olli Jokinen, Eric Brewer, and Eric Cole.
* As for those who never lived up to their potential, consider David Booth, Stephen Weiss and Devin Setoguchi.
* I can do without the “delay of game” penalty for shooting the puck over the glass.
The “penalty” should be the same as icing — face-off in the defensive zone and no change of players.
* The ECHL bills itself as “The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League.” Fair enough but that loop’s Official Guide & Record Book is major league all the way. Kudos to ECHL’s Communications Director Joe Babik for splendid work on it.
* The passing of ex-Ranger Aldo Guidolin shall not go un-noticed. A member of the Memorial Cup-winning Guelph Biltmores, Guidolin was one of the 1950s top penalty-killers and later an AHL First All-Star defenseman. Apart from being a solid citizen and outstanding player, Aldo remains the only NHL player to have come out of Forks Of Credit, Ont.
* Finally, leadership words from Ryan Callahan about treating European players on your team: “The biggest thing is to make them feel welcome. Invite them for dinner; have them feel part of the group. Extend yourself; get to know them. And, in the end, make them feel comfortable.”