1. RANGERS: The Blueshirts should wrap it up in Raleigh. They have the edge everywhere and home ice means nothing in Game Seven. Goaltending is decisive; NY has it; Raleigh does not. I called Rangers in five and am surprised it's taken them so long.
2. CANES: When Rod Brind'Amour lost goalie Fred Andersen, he lost his chance for a Cup. Antti Raanta was heroic to a point but he's reached his point of no return. Carolina is in disarray while the loose Rangers are playing with house money. A Canes win tonight with be miraculous, but I don't see it.
3. OILERS: McDavid, Inc. is sniffing that sweet smell of success. Which means that the Oilers think they even can beat the Fave Of The West, Colorado. If somehow, goalie Mike Smith stays awake, I'll take the Eddies over the Avs.
4. AVALANCHE: Everybody's favorite to dethrone the Lightning is not my pick. Not with Darcy Kuemper in goal. And if coach Jared Bednar thinks he knows how to defuse Superman McDavid, well, good luck, Beddie, good luck!
5. Blues: No Binner, no winner! Give coach Craig Berube and his Blues credit. With replacement Ville Husso in goal, they took the Avs as far as could be expected. Bottom Line: The better team won over a valiant squad.
THE MCDAVID EFFECT:
There's only one thing wrong with Connor McDavid.
He's not playing for a Metropolitan New York team.
Throw in Chicago, Toronto and L.A.. while you're at it; but you get the point:
This guy is just too big for small-town Edmonton.
Same as it was with Gretzky and Messier back in the 1980s.
Big-time virtuosos belong on the big stage; same as Broadway shows auditioned in New Haven before hitting the Big Apple.
The pity of it all is that nothing can be done about McDavid-In-The-Sticks.
The Great One escaped Alberta and eventually, Mess did too. Naturally, the NHL was all the better for it.
In their own individual ways, both Wayne and Mark made indelible, positive impressions for the NHL while on The Great White Way.
Of course, they still loved Edmonton but they were smart enough to realize -- as Frank Sinatra pointed out in song -- you haven't really made it big until you've made it on Broadway!
LOOKING AHEAD -- SUPERMAN VS. CAPTAIN MARVELOUS
What comes to mind when you think of the Edmonton-Colorado match-up? Our Gus Vic offers this capsule comment:
"The thought of Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon's speed, drive and commitment is one of the most appealing and anticipated visuals in the history of the NHL -- and that ain't no overstatement!"
I'M JUST SAYIN'
* I'm always amazed when seemingly obscure players suddenly emerge as playoff heroes. Exhibit A: Darren Helm, who scored the series-winner for Colorado is a fourth-stringer on the Avs roster.
* Since it's been revealed in Boston that Brad Marchand's hip surgery will mean he'll miss the start of next season, Taylor Hall becomes the B's top left wing. And that's not the worst thing in the world.
* Jack Campbell will be the number one Maple Leafs goalie next season and do you know what that means?
* It means that Jumpin' Jake will get the Leafs into the playoffs and he'll get them out in the first round. (It's the Campbell style.)
* Apart from Master McDavid, the one Colorado guy who could take the Avs to the Final is Cale Makar.
* There's no Oil Can D-man who comes even close to matching Mak's total game. And don't tell me Darnell Nurse.
* Department of Amazing: Still haven't heard from Barry Trotz.
* Assuming that Barry does want another NHL job, I can't see him going anywhere but Winnipeg.
* Word out there is that Trotz already has done a few interviews, including Peg.
* If Florida bounces Brunette -- and the silence in Sunrise is killing -- I could see Trotz leaning towards palm trees than another bicycle every day.
HOLLYWOOD ON ICE
Hockey's appeal in Tinseltown extends far beyond the Los Angeles Kings yet can also be found in the NHL's Toyota Sports Center at El Segundo.
That's where the Kings practice but also happens to be the semi-secret pond where Hollywood A-Listers convene for pickup games.
And since such big-shots as Justin Bieber skate there, you can't call it Beer League Hockey. More like Champagne League.
Our Joltin' Joe Dionisio once skated there and remembered that security was tight when the stars took to stickhandling.
"To keep autograph hounds far away," Dionisio recalled, "security was tight and areas were cordoned off. It's rumored that guys like Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding, Jr. skated in these surreptitious games."
Joltin' Joe tells me that the celebs were given their own locker room with their nameplates on each metal locker. Seattle Kraken's co-owner Jerry Bruckheimer had his nameplate up as well.
"Before my game one night," Dionisio recalls, "I sneaked into the room and slid a note into the thin metal slats in Bruckheimer's locked locker. My note said, 'From one hockey fan to another, can you take a peek at my screenplay.?' Unsurprisingly, I got the same reply I would have received if I asked Scarlett Johansson on a date. Nada. 'A' for effort, at least!
TIME FOR 'UPON FURTHER REVIEW' FOR THE REVIEWERS
When a truly controversial decision is made in a playoff game, it's wise to reach out to impartial critics with no axe to grind and get their honest opinion.
That's why -- a day after Calgary's Blake Coleman's goal was ruled no-goal -- I sought some objective opinions.
The first came from TSN commentator Craig Button who simply referred to the NHL's Situation Room's decision as "A terrible call."
Former goalie-now-TSN analyst Jamie McLennon asserted that "the goal should have counted."
Had Coleman's late third period goal been ruled legal it easily could have been the game-winner and -- who knows? -- we still might be watching the series.
Getting back to the rule, it's "No Goal" if there's a distinct kicking motion but there was nothing distinct about it. Not to my eyes and I just bought a new pair of reading glasses.
Button and McLennan were supported by others in the business but emphatically not by NHL boss Colin Campbell who diligently oversees such matters.
"Iti's as difficult a call as we've had in the last few years," Coly told the Calgary media. "We felt there was distinct kicking motion and he propelled the puck in. There's no such thing as 'The skate has to be on the ice. You can kick a puck without taking your foot off the ice."
Others involved in the ultimate decision included Kris King, Mike Murphy and former ref Bill McCreary.
They all agreed that it was distinct. End story and end of series!
THE HIDDEN GENIUS OF TAMPA BAY
Among general managers, the NHL's leading "Taken For Granted Guy" has to be the Lightning's Julien BriseBois. "What his team has done is a notable accomplishment," says our Gus Vic. "The Bolts have become only the fourth team in NHL history to win ten straight playoff series. It's about time more folks took note of his work.
"While he did inherit the foundation from Steve Yzerman, Julien made the needed adjustments after the 2019 disaster against Columbus to win in 2020. In addition, he was about to keep his core in place while doing a nifty plug and play with his third line to repeat in 2021. Now he's in the process of replicating the magic this spring."
P.S. Among the smartest things BriseBois did is what he did not do.
After the loss to Columbus he did NOT get suckered into firing Jon Cooper, arguably the best coach in the NHL.
ABOUT THE CATS AND THEIR NINTH LIFE
Our roving critic, Gus Vic is puzzled by the Panthers' putrid exit in four straight. Listen up:
"Florida is rife with questions. Built to win now, the meekness of their effort against Tampa was confounding and disturbing. Barkov and Huberdeau were both invisible and ineffective for large stretches of the series. Giroux was passable but unable to elevate to the required level at this stage of the playoffs..
"Plus, the defensive side of the puck came up short. That said, coach Andrew Brunette has done an admirable enough job to have 'interim" removed from his title. That said, this is the biggest 'so what' for a Presidents' Trophy-winner since the 1968 Flames who were swept by Edmonton in the Smythe Final."
WHO SAID IT? "Hockey is a game of mistakes." (Answer Below.)
SO YOU WANT TO BE A ZAMBONI DRIVER (PART THREE)
Our pal, screenwriter ("Serenade Of The Vulture") and hockey critic, Joltin' Joe Dionisio, took up the art of Zamboni driving . His home rink is in Santa Barbara, California (Ice In Paradise) and it's there that Joe discovered why people love the machine.)
"Kids are fascinated by the Zamboni," says Breanne Bonilla, skating director at Ice In Paradise. "It's loud, it's big and it's kind of a truck that they've never seen. Even on YouTube, tons of videos show people mesmerized by Zambonis. It's like ASMR to them."
But how did the miraculous machine come about in the first place?
A film industry mechanic, Frank Zamboni invented the device in 1949 on the Paramount set, two hours south of Ice In Paradise. Skating movie star Sonja Henie wanted better ice for her acts and Frank designed a machine that satisfied her demands. Eventually the NHL Bruins got into the act and soon Zambonis were everywhere; even in pop culture.
Dionisio: "It's been a toy in a McDonald's Happy Meal. When NFLer Marshawn Lynch became part-owner of the Seattle Kraken, he celebrated by doing doughnuts on it. David Letterman Zammed
Rockefeller Plaza's rink. Then there was Zamboni driver David Ayres becoming a cult hero as the Carolina Hurricanes' emergency goalie beating the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2020.
"Zambonis made 48 appearances in 'Peanuts,' thanks to Snoopy's creator Charles Schulz (SP); whose family helped fund Ice In Paradise. As Snoopy's pal, Charlie Brown, proclaimed: 'There are three things in life people like to stare at: a flowing stream, a crackling fire, and a Zamboni clearing the ice.'"
(NEXT FRIDAY: THE ZANY ZIGS AND ZAGS OF JOE'S ZAMBONI)
ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT? Rangers' original manager-coach Lester Patrick.