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Bluelines: How to Go Nuts About Major Hockey Talking Points

This week on Bluelines, Stan Fischler looks at three of hockey's most controversial topics: fighting, the shootout and officiating. Plus, he discusses Auston Matthews, the Florida Panthers, Jean Potvin, John Forslund and more.
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It's a certified, verified, classified fact of life that on every day of every National Hockey League season fans will have something to beef about.

Go to Twitter -- or Un-Twitter for that matter -- tune in to the "Insiders," (I prefer the "Outsiders" ) and they'll be hissing and moaning about anything, as long as they can sit in the corner and sulk

When it comes to topics, there's always a three-way tie for first place among the cry-babies.

They're either shedding reptilian tears over A. The Shootout; B. Fighting and C. Officiating.

Or, to put it another way, the Inside-Outsiders are down on the zebras; hate fisticuffs, and don't even bring up that "skills competition."

Me? I happen to like skill and I love competition so it only figures that I am passionately fond of the Shootout.

By the way; what's not to like; it's an extra added attraction at no extra cost that usually consumes no more than five electrifying minutes.

You don't like the Shootout, don't hang around; all I can tell you is that I'd never leave. Sometimes it's the most exciting aspect of the hockey adventure.

Arguably, the issue of fisticuffs goes back a long way; probably all the way to the Rangers' first game at Madison Square Garden when Frank Boucher put the slug on Tom Phillips of the Maroons

Boosh, who won more Lady Byng's than anyone, felt on this night he had to take things into his own hands -- and did. Pow!

Granted, a player can get hurt in a fight. And, frankly, I get upset when my 15-year-old hockey-playing grandson winds up throwing punches. And I wish he didn't.

But such rough stuff has been part of the woof and warp of hockey since Lord Stanley crafted a Cup.

What's more, the fisticuffs issue has been debated forever by The Lords Of Hockey. And the verdict remains the same.

Frankly, I do my best to avoid any involvement because then I'd go nuts. My policy is to let the league owners decide what's best for their business.

So, until changes are made I shall let the Insiders battle the Outsiders until they reach Redundant Road. Then we all should get off the topic and enjoy another rousing hockey game.

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ANSWERING STAN -- THE SHOOTOUT MUST GO! THE OPPOSING VIEW:

No question, there's an anti-Shootout bloc out there. Try Alan Greenberg's opposition for size. See if it fits your thinking.

"Alex Ovechkin and I have something in common, which few people can claim.

We were both eyewitnesses to the longest shoot-outs in NHL history. In 2005-06 , the inaugural year of the shootout, the Caps at Rangers went 15 rounds before unknown defender Marek Malik ended with a trick shot. Nine seasons later it was the Caps at Panthers in a 20 round extravaganza won by Florida. I daresay these are the only shootouts that stand out in my memory.

"Hockey requires total team effort. Why then would you want critical points to be awarded for purely individual skills, some of which can never possibly be displayed in a real game? A certain former NHL goalie once told me he hated shootouts because he was facing ' Playground shots.' Stops, starts, between the legs, behind the back -- stuff which would never happen with a burly defender on your back and barely enough time to think.

"Three-on-three hockey has been an unparalleled success. It has fans on their feet

from start to finish and displays the extraordinary skills of NHL players. I would like to see the three-on-three extended to say ten minutes and if the game is not decided leave it at one point apiece. Why award an extra point which can impact other teams' positions in the standings based on anything but team excellence.

"Since three on three was introduced in 2015-16 the percentage of games decided during the OT jumped approximately 50 percent to the mid-60's range by adding a few minutes to the OT this percentage will get even higher. Why not?"

A USEFUL GRAB BAG OF PLAYERS

With the trade deadline approaching, many NHL general managers will avoid the blockbuster route and be content with finding a useful utility forward. Of all the lists I've seen, the best I found was on the Sportsnet website; thanks to Jason Bukata.

The stick handlers he names -- in this order -- are as follows:

1. Auston Watson of Ottawa; 12. Brandon, Hagel, Blackhawks; 3. Lawson Crouse, Arizona. My choice would be Crouse, especially after his first career hat trick earlier this week.

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I'M JUST SAYIN':

* A strong fourth line smooths the road to The Cup. Rangers adding Frank Vatrano is a better move than would appear on the surface. Blueshirts are getting Cup-stronger.

* Biggest mistake Vegas' GM Kelly McCrimmon made this season was placing his goaltending hopes on Robin Lehner.

* On too many of the Knights' nights they look like they may be golfing earlier than expected.

* Dreams sometimes do come true. That's why Oilers' boss Ken Holland is thinking that Mikko Koskinen is the goalie who can get The Eds past the first round.

* A few more good games for the Devils and Nico Daws might wind up being New Jersey's starter in goal next season.

* Or, as our resident "Poet But He Doesn't Know It," Gorgeous George Falkowski says, "We started with Chico and now we have Nico."

* One more rhyme from the poet: "Jack Hughes gets a rise out of the crowd every time he touches the puck. Haven't seen that since Kovalchuk."

* I don't know about you but I'm having fun watching the Coyotes play like they want to make the playoffs; while knowing that they cannot pull off such a miracle.

* Despite the bitter -- some would say appropriate -- Canadian winter conditions in Hamilton, the Leafs-Sabres outdoor game again proved a roaring success. The crowd of close to 30,000 attests to that.

* Jonathan Quick celebrating his 700th game tells me two things: A, What a fine goalie he is and; B. How overlooked his superior contribution to L.A. Hockey.

* Some questions should be simply answered: A Chicago writer asked: "Will Patrick Kane still be good when the Blackhawks finish their rebuild?" Answer: YES!

* There's a lot to be said in favor of coach John Hynes and his Preds' surprising season.

* But not enough can be said about defenseman Roman Josi who reached a career high 17 goals. How about saying that Josi as a genuine Norris Trophy candidate; again!

* TSN's Travis (The Terrific) Yost came up with a neat item that I'd never even thought about: The Leafs peripatetic Michael Bunting for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. No-Baby-Bunting is all of 26 years old.

CATS HAVE BITE:

"The Panthers are going all out!" That's the word from Alan Greenberg in Sunrise, Florida. Acquiring Ben Chiarot from Montreal gives the Cats three solid defense pairings, And guess what?

They're still in the mix to obtain left wing Claude Giroux from Philadelphia. Benny's beauty part is that he's a lefty which means that the MacKenzie Weegar-Aaron Ekblad unit can be split. Chiarot and Radko Gudas can be in the first two pairings.

Granted that GM Bill Zito won't have a first-rounder for the next two years; but who cares? This adventurous leader is going for broke. P.S. Noel Acciari likely will have to go.

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EXCLUSIVE: THE SCOUT'S REPORT – PERRY GOOD INTANGIBLES

In every issue, Bluelines and The Fischler Report will bring you a special, in-depth report by David Kolb, whose scouting career dates back to the early 2000s working for the Tampa Bay Lightning. As you will see by the following, this is an in-depth, no-nonsense evaluation of specific tactical success.

So often skaters are judged by the number of goals, assists and points they have accumulated, yet the intangibles left off the scoresheet are often forgotten about - simply missed.

Wednesday night, Corey Perry had no goals, no assists and no points in 14:10 of ice-time. A rather pedestrian statistical evening for the 36-year old Tampa Bay forward; yet he was instrumental in the final result.

The Bolts were deadlocked in a tight game with the Seattle Kraken, and were tied 1-1 in the second period. Then, Seattle forward Yanni Gourde, slashed Erik Cernak and the Lightning went on the power play.

About halfway through, Tampa entered the Kraken zone, and Cory Perry did what he does best. He skated hard, in full stride directly to the net, reversing to skate backward around the high slot. Artfully, he continued to the front of the net, gliding backward, screening Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer while watching the play develop at the blueline.

In the meantime Victor Hedman sent the puck to Steven Stamkos, who sent it back to Hedman for a blast on net -- and with Perry now angled in perfect position, Grubauer had no shot at making a save.

Replays showed the perfect execution.

The Bolts went ahead 2-1, and never looked back, winning 4-1.

Here was the perfect example of how intangibles can turn a game on its head. The goal gave the Lightning momentum, and from there, they easily picked up the two points -- but you can't read about it in the boxscore, or in advanced analytics.

The little things!

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AUSTON MATTHEWS FAIR PENALTY OR NOT?

Just a few days ago, I wrote in this space that Auston Matthews will face more intense coverage now than ever before in his young life. Within hours, The Toronto Goal Factory was pushed away from his crease by Buffalo defender Rasmus Dahlin.

In this case, push-came-to-shove and the shove-came-to-vicious-cross check. For his indiscretion, Matthews got not only two minutes but a two-game suspension.

No question, the NHL Court of Law is cracking down on stars and non-stars for crosschecking. This is why this is a lesson for a superstar such as Matthews as it will be for fourth liners.

But there's more to the incident than that. Matthews must know his hockey history. Stars have to hit back if they're going to survive. Canadiens icon Jean Beliveau was a huge disappointment in his first two seasons. The change from wimp to warrior took place once Toe Blake became Habs coach.

Essentially, Blake said, "Jean, if you don't play tougher, you're not going to survive."

Beliveau took him seriously. The next season his penalty minutes climbed over the 100-minute mark and his soaring soared; and never stopped.

Matthews may feel he must follow the Beliveau pattern to succeed and the Rasmus Retaliation just might be a signal from the Leafs ace. My prediction is that he'll play tougher but not as outrageously as the Chop Shop job on Dahlin.

One big difference between Beliveau's belligerence and Matthews' is that there was no video review nor War Room to analyze such one-on-one battles.

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REMEMBERING JEAN POTVIN

A good friend has passed. Johnny Potvin, big brother to Denis and good friend to all, has left us. How very sad. It was inevitable that Jean's accomplishments would be overshadowed by his Hall of Fame brother but never, ever would you have known that because Jean adored Denis and was so proud of his career.

Likewise Denis knew that Jean was one of the better offensive D-men in the league and an asset to Bill Torrey's Islanders during his pair of stints in Uniondale.

But when it came to Johnny we really didn't care about his stats; we just loved being around this gracious, funny, understanding and loveable man while appreciating his excellence on the ice. R.I.P. Jean Potvin.

WHO SAID IT? "He's gutless, chicken -- and, print it!"

(Answer below.)

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JOHN FORSLUND

Seattle Kraken TV voice John Forslund is celebrating his 30th anniversary behind an NHL microphone. National audiences have followed John's calls on ESPN and NBC and most recently TNT and NHL radio. In this third of a four-part series John details his only conversation with a broadcasting legend and also about maintaining his integrity.

Dan Kelly was my idol when I was growing up. I was excited when Springfield coach Jimmy Roberts organized a phone call for me to talk to Dan and Kelly gave me some advice. He said, "John, never sell a goal down. Never sell a big save down. These are the great moments; and those players and their families deserve your voice. Remember that. Don't be that dialed-down homer." So, I learned to carry the energy of the game. And like everyone else in the business, I had my problems.

One night Carolina owner Peter Karmanos was listening to my call. His Canes were playing Nashville and J.P. Dumont scored a goal for the Preds in Nashville. I called it and Mr. Karmanos was upset. He thought that his Canes had scored because my voice went up. And he and I argued about it later. It reached a point where I finally had to dig in and say, "Maybe you need to find another guy, because I'm not going to do it."

After the Canes won The Cup in 2006 we got player Cup rings which I appreciated from Mr. Karmanos. But the only time I wore my ring was the following season for the Banner-raising ceremony. I emceed the ceremony and that was it for wearing the ring.I put it in a box and then in a safe.

And when we had a day with the Stanley Cup, I didn't lift it over my head. It stayed in our bedroom that night. And when I took pictures of The Cup with family and friends and fans, I never touched it because I believe that only those who compete or manage or coach have the right to do it.."

(IN PART FOUR, NEXT ISSUE: FORSLUND DESCRIBES THE DOWNSIDE OF BROADCASTING ROAD GAMES FROM A STUDIO.)

ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT: Rangers coach Phil Watson after Chicago rookie Hec Lalonde scored a hat trick in a Black Hawks win over New York.

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