THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW -- ARGUMENTS, WELCOME!
1. RANGERS: The beauty part of a playoff game at Madison Square Garden includes the historic aspect of MSG. For the contemporary Blueshirts, last night's win will be the springboard for their taking over the series and winning over Carolina in six games.
2. HURRICANES: Arguably the least-publicized of the contending teams, Carolina remains secure in the knowledge that they played New York even but lost. Raanta must match Shesterkin going forward; otherwise, the Canes become toast. I don't expect Antti to do it.
3. LIGHTNING: Only a diehard Bolts booster would have bet on Jon Cooper's sextet sweeping their cross-state rivals. Yikes! It's about to happen tonight!
4. PANTHERS: If any Cup-seeker has suffered from the odious build-up-to-letdown, it's the cloudy club from Sunrise. Just one win would help erase the ignominy of a sweep. But I very seriously doubt that such a miracle will happen.
5. OILERS: Connor, the conquistador, may out-Gretzky The Great One by the time this series is over.
6. FLAMES: Dauntless Darryl Sutter may be suffering from sleepless nights thanks to The Daring McDavid. Last night
7. AVALANCHE: That the Saturday night victory over St.Louis knocked Jordan Binnington out of the crease looms as Colorado's ' series-maker.
8. BLUES: Up to now, St.Louis back-up Ville Husso has been just average. Now's his chance to save the Blues and win a new contract. His challenge is immense.
DIRTY OR NOT?
Running goalies always is an iffy proposition because circumstances -- a push by a defenseman -- can make a collision unavoidable. Historians forever will debate Chris Kreider's Iceberg-Titanic sinking of Carey Price in the 2014 playoff third round. Minus Price, the Habs lost in six games while the Rangers gained the Final. Milan Lucic's depth charge vs. Mike Smith last night underlines the point.
Nazem Kadri pulled off a reasonable facsimile of Kreider-Price on Saturday night in St.Louis. Jordan Binnington was the victim of Knock-'Em-Sock-'Em Kadri. Thus, the question: Dirty or not? Blues coach Craig Berube, who has a working relationship with rough play, put it this way: "Look at Kadri's reputation."
I did. My conclusion is that Nasty Nazem never will be a Lady Byng Trophy candidate. Second conclusion, St.Lou minus Binnington is roughly equivalent to Habs minus Price, circa 2014. Third conclusion:
Hockey is a war game on ice. So far, the Avs are winning the conflict. Kadri is smiling. The Binner is not the winner!
There's absolutely no room for threats such as reportedly made against Kadri. None at all. NONE!
HOT TO TROTZ
Easily the most amazing aspect of The Barry Trotz Saga is that the deposed Islanders commodore appears to simultaneously be auditioning for both "Silent Movie" and "The Invisible Man." (And I'm talking about a once very talkative and visible personality.
Word on the street -- and on the ice as well -- has Trotz being coveted by many teams. If so, good for Barry; especially if he goes hope to Manitoba -- via the Jets -- or to Dallas where my old pal Jim Nill could use him with Rick Bowness now on the Going Home Train.
This year's Coaching Derby is so loaded with experienced out-of-work mentors you have to wonder whether Mike Babcock or Joel Quenneville ever will be back behind an NHL bench. Or whether old pal, John Tortorella, will leave the cozy confines of an ESPN studio for another Cup quest. (It says here, yes!)
FLORIDA MONEY -- THE COST OF BANK-BREAKING
There's only one thing wrong with being the Florida Panthers -- The Tampa Bay Lightning. When The Hockey News Annual forecast the final standings, the Panthers were right behind the Bolts.
And now in the playoffs they still are behind The Champs.
Lord knows g.m. Bill Zito gambled heavily at the trade deadline in the hopes of displacing his cross-state rivals. It got him past the Maple Leafs but at a heavy price. "Florida mortgaged its future," says my Sunrise savant Al Greenberg. "There's no way they'll have the money to sign Claude Giroux or Ben Chiarot.
"They won't have first round picks for three years and Jon Huberdeau's contract is up next year. Where will the money come from to keep this team together? Plus, they gave away Frank Vatrano and they'll probably have to let hustling Marchment walk.
Zito chose to "go all in" with a "now or never" blueprint. Failure to advance past the second round will mean failure to his "all in" philosophy.
I'M JUST SAYIN'
* If reports are accurate, that Rick Bowness got an ownership heave -- rather than the stated "resignation" -- RB might just find his name in the "Situations Wanted" column of the fictitious Coaches Journal.
* Don't you think the Leafs would have gained the second round if they still had Zach Hyman in tow? I do.
* Of the coaches who've been fired, who do you think will be rehired first? Mike Yeo, Jeff Blashill, Pete DeBoer, Barry Trotz?
* My dough is on DeBoer for no particular reason other than he got a bum deal getting canned in Vegas.
* If the Panthers go out in four, Monsieur Brunette may not want to pick up his phone for a while.
* My non-analytic guess is that Home Ice is an advantage 50 percent of the time; give or take half-a-percent.
* From the tune, "I Can Dream, Can't I?" Try this on for size; Can you imagine King McDavid playing in New York instead of Oil Can Country?
* Toronto gave up three future picks to rent an aging -- but experienced -- Mark Giordano. Smart or Not-Smart?
* Not-Smart. The Leafs maintained their tradition and didn't get out of the first round; plus they made a contribution to the Kraken. (Thanks, Al.)
* The Anaheim general staff is still thanking Pitt for the Rickard Rackell trade. The Duck got three players and a 2d round pick.
* Sounds like the Bruins high command is not doing cartwheels of joy over Butch Cassidy's playoff coaching ability.
* If Jay Woodcroft's Oil Cans beat Darryl Sutter's Candle-Flickers, that would be roughly equivalent to Antti Raanta beating Iggy Shesterkin on the East Coast.
* My buddy, Joltin' Joe Dionisio is right: The Leafs are fearful of taking the "C" away from darling Tavares 'cause it'll make the Dubas overpaid deal for Pyjama Boy look ever more absurd.
* What's a playoff round without controversy? Right now the Kadri sinking of the Good Ship Binnington tops the list. Right behind is Lucic pinballing Smith.
WHO SAID IT? "You're nothing but a been-has!" (Answer Below.)
THE CALM DOWN THEORY HAS ITS POINTS
A precious few general managers refuse to get crazy about trade deadline day and make moves they later regret. I figured that Billy Guerin did the smart thing by loading up his goaltending with Marc-Andre Fleury. It cost the Wild a draft pick and now The Flower is a free agent.
With 20-20 hindsight, it would seem that the Wild would have done just as well starting Cam Talbot against St.Louis. Talbot had been 13-0-3 in the homestretch. Meanwhile, the Blues general staff calmly tweaked their line up with vet D-man Nick Leddy. Look who's still playing and ain't!
WHAT'S REALLY WRONG WITH THE LEAFS?
After digesting a week's worth of post-mortems about Toronto's favorite hockey team, I have discarded assorted alibis, like poor reffing and settled down with Toronto Star columnist Damon Cox's question. After yet another discouraging ending, how come none of the team's architects still has his job.
Lord High Executioner Brendan Shanahan doesn't have to worry since the multi-headed ownership group still is coining money with the second most valuable of the NHL's 32 teams.
That means that Teflon-coated g.m. Kyle Dubas as safe as a stolen base without a shortstop of second baseman to take the throw. Coach Shelly Keefe is safe because of Shanny.
My dual Leafs-watchers Rob Del Mundo and Mike Augello agreed to tell me about their Leafs X-Rays. Rob acknowledges that Toronto has improved over the past years but there are no points for moral victories.
"They are unlikely to embark on any deep playoff run with the entire group of core forwards intact," says Del Mundo.
That means one of the following must be shipped out of town. William Nylander, Mitch Marner, John Tavares or Auston Matthews.
"Nylander is the most tradeable," Del Mundo explains, "given his relatively low cap hit."
That may be; but I say the problem is leadership, specifically captain Tavares being the wrong guy wearing the C. Augello puts it this way:
"The question more than halfway through his seven-year, $77 million contract is whether that decision has paid off."
Not a chance, I say. Sure, he had a better year than the previous one. But when the playoff chips were down, The Pyjama Boy was -- as usual -- on the losing end. And this is the guy with the fifth highest salary in the league.
The problem is simple, at age 31, he's not tradeable. But he can be de-captained. Matthews should get the C. Johnny T might sulk a bit but only 'til his next check comes in.
And since Sir Shanny won't get canned -- or can anybody -- the only tonic can be provided by the best player on the team became wearer of the "C."
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
"The Lightning's Corey Perry doesn't look like a 37-year-old who was bought out and has played for three teams in three years. At $1 million per for two years, this guy is a steal. He was 19-21-40 in the regular season. Now he's showing off his veteran playoff grit." Our Florida reporter, Alan Greenberg.
SECOND BEST QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
A wooden medal goes to often-winner Darryl Sutter. When a reporter asked the Flames coach how to get his players to stay out of the penalty box D.S. answered in English: "STAY OUT!"
SO YOU WANT TO BE A ZAMBONI DRIVER (PART TWO)
On Friday, we introduced the first of a series about how our West Coast correspondent, Joltin' Joe Dionisio, became a Zamboni driver. Joe D -- an award-winning Hollywood screenwriter, "Serenade of the Vulture"-- picks up where he left off last week:
Joe's Zamboni mentor, Ice In Paradise rink manager, Erik, Norton, offered his secret to training for the Z: "The tough part," said Norton,"is getting the trainee to appreciate it for the art that it is. "So many things can go wrong. But when you're able to create a perfect sheet of glass, it makes you want to play hockey.
"The Santa Barbara-based rink is the baby of ex-Bruin Steve Heinze. That was seven years ago when Heinze recruited investors, helped by Jack Norqual of USA Hockey's Board of Directors and the late Flyers' owner Ed Snider. Heinze, who witnessed myriad Zambonis with the Bruins, marvels at its popularity.
"Even non-hockey people are mesmerized by Zambonis," says Heinze, board president of Ice In Paradise. "Kids love its quirkiness. Watching the Zamboni cut ice, they're full of anticipation; like getting ketchup out of the bottle.
"Dionisio: "My newfound rink job has inspired my other career: writing screenplays. I'm now itching to brainstorm a Zamboni movie! After all, wouldn't 'Batman' be better if Robert Pattinson traded his Batmobile for a Zamboni? Or, shouldn't I remake, 'Back To The Future' and swap its Delorean for a Zamboni? Since Stan Fischler once portrayed Doc Brown on MSG Network, the role is his!"
(NEXT FRIDAY: HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS DRIVING A ZAMBONI.)
LOOKING BACKWARD -- GOALIE MALARCHUK AND DUCKS
Producer-historian Glenn Dreyfuss tells one about former NHL goalie Clint Malarchuk and his nickname, "Mallard." This is what Glenn learned:
"Malarchuk got the nickname because he would quack and do Donald Duck impressions on the ice during games," Dreyfuss explains. "Turns out there was a serious issue behind Malarchuk's goofy antics. Clint later was diagnosed with anxiety, clinical depression and OCD. He courageously detailed them in his autobiography, 'A Matter Of Inches.'
"What others -- and even Malarchuk at the time -- didn't realize was that he was using the antics to distract himself from the mental pain he was suffering. Since going public and becoming a mental health advocate, Clint has received an outpouring of thanks from those who have suffered like him."
ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT? Rangers center Phil Watson was a francophone with a poor grasp of English. Once, after being floored by big, old Toronto defenseman Bucko McDonald, Phil meant to say, "You're a has-been," but it came out backwards.