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Bluelines: Behind the Lightning's Remarkable Resiliency

Stan Fischler looks at the Tampa Bay Lightning, Connor McDavid, John Tortorella and the Philadelphia Flyers, a major milestone for women's hockey, Frans Nielsen, Claude Giroux and so much more.
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FIVE THINGS TO THINK ABOUT OVER THE WEEKEND

1. RANGERS: The Blueshirt Brigade invaded Never-Lose-At-Home-Country last night and, guess what happened? They lost.

2. CANES: Fortified with the first two series wins, the Canes withstood a pair of losses at MSG before winning again at home.

3. BLUES: The remarkable double-comebacks on Wednesday should energize coach Craig Berube's battalion tonight. Another big game in goal from Ville Husso is a must.

4. AVS: Blowing a three-goal lead and a one-goal lead near the end has removed Colorado's veneer of invincibility. A loss tonight could torpedo any Cup hopes.

5. CATS: The Sunrise scenario -- from Dream Season to Nightmare Playoff -- has sent GM Bill Zito back to the drawing board. His first decision will be whether or not to retain head coach Andy Brunette.

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BEHIND THE LIGHTNING'S REMARKABLE RESILIENCY

The respite earned by sweeping the Panthers has given Tampa Bay a valuable opportunity to recharge batteries and prepare for the next round in a relaxed mode. Make no mistake, the four-game sweep was not as simple as it looked on paper or the tv screen. Jon Cooper's crew had to work hard for its wins, especially goalie Andre Vasilevskiy. It was the Bolts goaltending above all that was so decisive. That's the good news. The possible negative angle regard's The Big V's ability to maintain that marvelous mode through a third round. These days -- with goaltenders going down with scary frequency -- that's a very chancy situation. Cooper simply does not have a backup capable of puck-stopping in the Andrei manner.------

BEHIND THE LIGHTNING'S REMARKABLE RESILIENCY

The respite earned by sweeping the Panthers has given Tampa Bay a valuable opportunity to recharge batteries and prepare for the next round in a relaxed mode.

Make no mistake, the four-game sweep was not as simple as it looked on paper or the tv screen. Jon Cooper's crew had to work hard for its wins, especially goalie Andre Vasilevskiy.

It was the Bolts goaltending above all that was so decisive. That's the good news. The possible negative angle regard's The Big V's ability to maintain that marvelous mode through a third round.

These days -- with goaltenders going down with scary frequency -- that's a very chancy situation. Cooper simply does not have a back-up capable of puck-stopping in the Andrei manner.

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MEMO TO FLYERS: HIRE TORTS, NOW!

Whoever leaked the news that the Flyers have interviewed John

Tortorella did a good thing. Now that the story is out in the open, the Philly high command should get it over with and sign The Man, presto, pronto.

With 673 wins and Stanley Cup on his long dossier, John is the best coach out there to invigorate a once proud franchise. Nothing against Mike Yeo who took over from the canned Alain Vigneault in December but the Broad Streeters need a headliner with a perfect head for hockey in Philly.

Torts spent a solid season at his ESPN haunt watching every aspect of NHL action. Typically, he had the guts to call out His Majesty McDavid early in the season for playing one-way hockey. Clearly, King Connor was paying attention and wised up enough to lift his team to Cup contention. Repeat" Hire Torts, now!

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I'M JUST SAYIN'

* My advice to those who already have knighted McDavid with the title,"Greatest Ever" Whoa! Whoa!

* Hold your horses on the McDavid Bandwagon. He's a prodigy, to be sure, but The Young Fella hasn't come within continents of winning a Stanley.

* Adam Rogowin has been one of the NHL's best team PR men, ever. And I do mean ever and a role model for those in the business.

* That explains my sadness over the news that the very nice fellow -- nicknamed "Rogo," is leaving the Blackhawks after 14 years of deluxe work.

* "The hardest thing in the world," says Adam, "is to define how grateful I am, right here, right now, when I'm saying goodbye."

* Has there been a bigger second-round disappointment than Jake Markstrom? I double-dare you to find one.

* Frans Nielsen, who skated for his native Denmark in the World Tourney, announced his retirement as an active player.

* One of those players who you just loved to be around, Frans played some terrific hockey for the Islanders.

* For a time goalies were constantly fooled by Frans' top-shelf backhand in Shootouts. Be well, old pal!

* Claude Giroux is done with Florida. Figure he'll wind up back on Broad Street. Once a Flyer, always a Flyer; except when some Panthers chump change is available.

* The fact that Billie Jean King Enterprises is exploring the start of a Women's Pro league can only be good news. Let's hope it gets past the exploratory phase.

* Nice to see old pal Nick Leddy doing well in St. Lou.

* Good Line from Gorgeous George Falkowski: "If there's a two-word title for next year's Boston media guide it should be, "Now What?"

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THE SECRET 'SAVE' OF CONNOR MCDAVID

With all the well-deserved Edmonton euphoria, let's not forget that the guy helping it happen -- Evander Kane -- almost did not join the Oilers. When the controversial Kane became available many media types suggested that acquiring him would not be a wise move on a couple of counts.

The key, however, was that the Commodore with total veto power, Connor McDavid, never turned thumbs-down on Kane. Had McD said N.G. -- as in No Good -- Evander would have had to check the "Help Wanted" listings in The Hockey News. Bottom Line: Kane's an Oil Can hero because Captain Connor wanted him on the team.

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THE INTERIM ISSUE:

Ken Holland should stop with the nonsense and remove the "Interim" tag from Jay Woodcroft. What The Lumberman has done for Ken's Oil Cans since taking over from Dave Tippell on February 10th is nothing short of stupendous.

Edmonton's season was halfway down the tubes when Joltin' Jay did a "Shake Well" with McDavid, Inc. -- and just look at them now.

For crying out loud, Ken, The Lumberman has saved your job; and kept King Connor from demanding a trade. Give Jay three years; you'll get the rookie cheap in the bargain!

Andy Brunette is another story in Florida. GM Bill Zito might want to keep him for another year, sure. Behind the curtain, there's the wizard ownership who watched a wonderful season blown away in less than a month. I say give the guy another year; but, then again, it's not my dough. Not Zito's either.

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WAS IT WORTH IT DEPARTMENT: (PART ONE)

Flames GM Brad Trelving figured his club had a fighting chance for Stanley and who could blame him? So, what did Buffalo Brad do at the Trade Deadline? He gave up future Second, Third and Seventh Round picks for Vegas rental Calle Jarnkrok.

You would need an electron microscope to see what junk Jarnkrok has done for Calgary. And that goes for the late season and this postseason. As my "Was It Worth It Emperor", Al Greenberg, says: "The Flames have zilch to show for this deal!"

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WAS IT WORTH IT DEPARTMENT (PART TWO)

Taking time out from his award-winning screenwriting and Zamboni-driving, Joltin' Joe Dionisio has a thing or two to say to Panthers g.m. Bill Zito. "I'm no fan of 'Mortgage The Future' deals," warns Joe D.

"I never thought Florida's Claude Giroux trade was smart.

"More important, too many g.m.s are ignorant that acquiring big names may be an adrenaline rush, but it throws a monkey wrench into a team's established gravitational forces. Why screw up successful chemistry? The far smarter trade-deadline strategy belongs to Lou Lamoriello. He usually imported valuable role players whose presence didn't dishevel his club's orbit when the Devils won three Stanley Cups."

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COACHES HANGIN' IN -- THEY HOPE

Before anyone "fires" Andrew Brunette after his Panthers got their dentals removed by Dr. Jon Cooper in Tampa Bay; just hold on and remember the facts, man, just the facts.

For starters, Brunette climbed to the head coach rung on October 28th under challenging conditions; namely the firing of Joel Quenneville. Andy proceeded to lead his Cats to the Presidents' Trophy. As The Athletic's sage Pierre LeBrun noted: "It was an absolutely seamless transition from one of the winningest coaches to the rookie bench boss." Ergo: Andy deserves to be head coach.

As for Dave Hakstol's future in Seattle, our man in the Northwest, Glenn Dreyfuss puts it this way: "I expect Ron Francis to stick with Hakstol for at least the start of next season. Furthermore, I suspect that Ron will try to package some of his excess picks to either  players or move up in the Draft."

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WHO SAID IT? "There are two types of forwards in the NHL. Scorers and bangers. Scorers score and bangers bang." (Answer Below.)

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SO YOU WANT TO BE A ZAMBONI DRIVER (PART THREE)

Jolitin' Joe Dionisio fulfilled a long-held dream of driving a Zamboni.

Now a full-fledged Captain of the Z machine, Joe explains what a wonderful gig he has at Santa Barbara, California's Ice In Paradise Rink. Take it away, Joltin' Joe:

"The #1 self-help book in history, Dale Carnegie's 'How To Win Friends,' glaringly omitted one chapter: Be A Zamboni Driver.

Despite the bumps (figuratively and literally) I've endured as a Zam trainee, I learned that my profession engenders immeasurable goodwill.

"My job's greatest perk is receiving non-stop smiles merely for sitting behind the wheel of the iconic resurfacer. From 5-year-old tykes to seniors watching grandkids figure skate, I reap a daily dose of joyful waves and unabashed glee

"One 'College Night,' after USC Santa Barbara students skated to music and disco lighting, I finished Zamming -- yes, it's a verb -- and was stunned to hear the collegians burst into applause. Why? Because our DJ played the song "Tokyo Drift," sarcastically implying my 9 mph machine deserved a starring role in 'Fast & The Furious.'"

(MONDAY: EXPLAINING THE CULT-LIKE ADORATION FOR A BOXY PIECE OF MACHINERY.)

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A MAJOR MILESTONE FOR WOMEN'S HOCKEY

The Jewish Maccabiah Games -- held in Israel -- have long featured ice hockey as one of its staples; for men only -- up until now. This July, however, the big breakthrough will take place in Jerusalem. Women's teams from Canada, the USA and Israel will compete.

Further to the historic event will be the fact that it will be the first International Women's Hockey Tournament held in the Middle East.

"It will be the coolest sport at the Maccabiah," enthuses Ottawa-based Mitch Miller, manager of the Canadian squad. "Our coach, Peter Smith, coached hockey at McGill for 21 years."

Team USA will be coached by Justin Levin -- he's bench boss at Drexel -- while Israel's mentor has yet to be announced. The games will run from July 14-25. The Jerusalem arena is used primarily for

basketball but a group of NHL owners have generously provided funds for a portable ice rink to be installed.

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

When a reporter asked Panthers bench boss Andy Brunette about having the "interim" label removed from his coaching title, Merry Andrew shot back: "We're all interim."

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