THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW AS 1ST ROUND HITS THE STRETCH
1. RANGERS: The gifted kids and a rejuvenated Igor Shesterkin should knock off Pittsburgh tonight and in Game 7 to take the series.
2. PENGUINS: The minute Sid Crosby got hurt in Game Five, the Pens turned into table hockey players. They can't win any more with a Louis Domingue or Tristan Jarry.
3. PANTHERS: It's okay to play with playoff fire -- like falling behind 0-3 too many times -- as long as you have a fire extinguisher. The Cats should prevail tonight. Too much talent for Ovie & Company.
4. FLAMES: I expect Darrell Sutter has the blueprint for ending the series tonight. Plus he has Jacob Markstrom. Jake is the difference-maker.
5. OILERS: Full credit to McDavid, Inc. for resisting the Kings hometown push and prevailing at the end. Connor's crew will wrap it up in Edmonton.
6. LEAFS: Auston Matthews and his buddies -- especially John Tavares -- have one more shot to avoid another playoff debacle. Home ice will do the trick for them.
7. LIGHTNING: The defending Champs stand proud for their valiant effort in Game Six. I see no more gas in their tank. They did right by their home fans and it should be adieu to their Drive for Three on Saturday night.
8. BLUES: Pre-season, The Hockey News Annual had St.Louis third in the Central Division and Minnesota fifth. This figured to be a solid series win for Craig Berube's boys. Form held this time.
9. BRUINS: In this intense Battle Of The Back-ups, I like the younger Jeremy Swayman over vet Antti Raanta making the difference in favor of the Beantowners.
THE CROSBY-TROUBA AFFAIR AND HOW IT AFFECTS A SERIES
When Penguins captain Sid Crosby was whacked out of Game Five of the New York-Pittsburgh series opinions differed on the collision.
The defendant, Jacob Trouba, was not found very guilty. Just a little.
In Rangerville, the judiciary ruled it a perfectly normal -- not clean, mind you -- result of a tense series in which the theme is, "All's fair in love, war, and the playoffs."
In Pittsburgh, Trouba's torpedoing of the Penguins captain was considered as bad as that old coward, Frank Howard, shooting Jesse James in the back. Trouba finished the game but the very wounded Sid did not.
Furthermore, the Rangers rebounded from a 0-2 deficit and won the game going away. It says here that Trouba's whacko-in-the-head-oh has ended Pitt's designs on taking the series.
Guess what? There's not a whole helluva lot Pitt can do about it, really. Contemporary hockey is faster, more artistic and more exciting than ever. This series is Exhibit A.
It also is mean-spirited just as it was in the earlier days of the sport.
"It's a tough game," Gordie Howe liked to say. He said it plenty after Toronto's Ted Kennedy allegedly butt-ended him during the 1950 Leafs-Detroit Final. It nearly killed the budding star.
Had Gordie watched the Trouba hit on Crosby, he would have nodded his head and then comment, "That's hockey."
Sure as shootin' had Gordie been in Sid's skates, Trouba eventually would be seeing stars! Perhaps for a month.
THE NEXT ISLANDERS COACH -- WHO? (Part One)
Lou Lamoriello got as much -- if not more -- out of Barry Trotz as Islanders coach as he could wish for; with the exception of this past, cockeyed, convoluted Islanders season. As a personality, they just don't come any better than Barry. He's a good guy; and a wise hockey person. Those are the givens.The outpouring of affection -- not to mention rage over the firing -- for the man was evident minutes after Boss Lou made the shocking announcement.
Sure, Lou could have breezed along with the breeze and kept Trotz for the year left on Barry's pact. But that was not Lou. It wasn't Lou during his stewardship in New Jersey -- three Cups worth -- and it wasn't gonna be on the Island either. In Devils-land, he fired the iikes of Robbie Ftorek and Claude Julien at the very end of the homestretch because he sensed that there was something wrong in the State of New Jersey.
I'm convinced that Lou sensed there was something wrong after the Islanders got bopped in their first two games of the season, if not Game Seven against Tampa Bay in the playoffs last spring. Sure, the Isles lost by only one goal but I've never seen a team play so disjointedly as the Isles in that most important game of the season -- if not the decade -- for them.
Lou knows that the Devils have a gifted corps of talented youth while the Rangers already have established themselves as a power. It's
Lou's job to keep pace with the competition and that means bringing in a coach with the three V's -- Vim, Vigor and Vitality with a large gob of smarts.
He did just that in 1993 when he fooled everyone and hired Jacques Lemaire to orchestrate the Devils Symphony and it turned out to be one of the smartest moves ever. Now we'll see if Lamoriello can pull off a reasonable facsimile. History tells us; do not underestimate this man!
As for the next coach; check out the "names." Mike Babcock, who knows Lou well from their Toronto days, and John (Torts) Tortorella have to be candidates. Torts and Lou speak the same language; New England-ese. (MORE ON ISLES BELOW)
The Coyotes may be finished for the season but Arizona hockey still is on Commissioner Bettman's mind. With the Yotes moving into a new, compact Arizona State arena next fall, some critics wonder why the league doesn't find another market
"Arizona is a terrific market," Bettman explains. "The Coyotes have a great following. Plus there's great grassroots hockey in Greater Phoenix. Ask (Arizona native) Austen Matthews. It turned out that Glendale was not an ideal location."
The Coyotes vision is to play in a new arena being blueprinted for Tempe but -- sp far -- without official city approval; and that may take a while. But Yotes owner, Alex Meruelo remains confident that it will happen.
So is Bettman.
"We're confident that Alex is on the right track and that he has the ability and resources to do it. The team is going to be fine."
One reason for that is the Oak View Group, one of the most influential arena managing outfits on the continent. Oak View and the Coyotes have combined on a new deal with Oak View overseeing sales at Arizona State's new arena. That should heavily influence the Tempe politicians to okay the planned NHL arena.
I'M JUST SAYIN'
* At his recent press conference in Florida Commissioner Bettman was asked whether there's been contact with Joel Quenneville. The answer: It will be up to Q to initiate a chat.
* Should Florida exit in the first round, coach Andy Brunette cannot be guaranteed the head coach slot.
* Can you believe this from a Pittsburgh media fellow: "Malkin's don't give a hoot level without the puck is mind-boggling."
* Then again, with the puck, hoo-hah!
* The most overworked cliche of the playoffs: "We have to play the right way."
* Translated, it means we won. Play the wrong way and you lose. Simple!
* Too bad Nashville couldn't challenge the Avalanche with Juuse Saros in goal. Guaranteed it would not have been a Colorado sweep.
* Nathan MacKinnon says Cale Makar is the best player in the league. I'll take Sidney Crosby.
* Darnell Nurse needs an eye doctor. He mistook Phil Danault's head for a soccer ball.
* If I'm Vlad Tarasenko, I'd urge a trade -- to the Blues. (Just kidding!)
* My vote for two best second-line left wings goes to LA's Adrian Kempe and the Panthers' Carter Verhaeghe.
* I don't get it. Adam Fox wins the Norris last year with a non-playoff team He's even better this year and Rangers make the pre-season and Foxy isn't even a Norris finalist. I still don't get it!
WHO SAID IT?
"Shoot the puck, Barry, shoot the puck!" (Answer below.)
MORE ON A COACH FOR THE ISLANDERS
Speculation about the next Islanders coach includes just about every name in the book short of Don Cherry. Those who have covered Lou Lamoriello longest -- me included -- know one thing; you never know what he'll do. What's more there will be no media leaks; it will just happen.
That's how it was with Jacques Lemaire, Larry Robinson and Pat Burns, each of whom delivered a Stanley Cup to New Jersey. So, expect the least-expected. But expect the best available mentor.(
WHAT NEXT FOR TROTZ?
The real question centers around Barry's future. The past non-playoff season -- including his mother's passing -- was the most enervating of his career. My guess is that should Barry
want one more swing behind the bench, it would be in Winnipeg, Barry's hometown. He lives in Manitoba, loves Western Canada and would feel most at home with the Jets.
DOES THIS KID LIKE HIMSELF OR WHAT?
Guaranteed first overall 2022 Draft pick Shane Walsh does this scouting report on himself: "I believe I'm the best in the Draft."
(He'll go to the Canadiens and then we'll see how good he really is.)_
LAME LINE OF THE WEEK AWARD:
Toronto defenseman Jake Muzzin just doesn't get it. After his Leafs were trashed by Tampa Bay early in the series, he told reporters, "We just weren't ready!" Somebody had better clue this guy in on when game's start. How in the world can you not be ready for a playoff game?
THE ART OF GOALTENDING FROM THE MASTER
A three-time Stanley Cup-winner over 18 NHL years, Andy Moog has been a goalie coach since 1976. One of his clients happens to be the Portland Winterhawks currently immersed in the WHL playoffs.
The Hawks goaltending tandem -- Taylor Gauthier and Dante Gianuzzi -- have learned well from Moog so i decided to ask Andy a few questions about goaltending science: The topics and Moog's answers follow:
THE THREE ESSENTIALS OF NETMINDING: "A. fundamentals; B. Composure; C. Compete."
DIRECTION: "My dad had the biggest influence on my career."
WINTERHAWKS PUPILS: "They both possess the three essentials. Dante (6-1, 183) requires more patience because he's smaller. Taylor (6-2, 208) can be more conservative in his depth because he's bigger."
CONTROVERSY OVER THE BUTTERFLY: "All goalies are 'stand-up' to prepare. Save selection starts on your feet. 'Butterly" is a save technique, not a style. Some goalies (Jon Quick) use the wide stance. Others (Marc-Andre Fleury) use a narrow stance."
HOPE FOR THE DEVILS:
1. Defensively, the team has a solid crop of good prospects.
2. Tom Fitzgerald will trade his No. 1 pick for a top-end goalie.
3. Fast-developing youngsters (Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, et. al.) will further bolster the offense.
4. Lindy Ruff had them competing hard right to the end; winning three of their last five games.
ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT? Rangers "color" commentator Bill Chadwick often criticized defenseman Barry Beck for not using his heavy shot more often.