THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW FOR THE EVENING DEBATE
1. PENGUINS: Pitt's boss Ron Hextall was a goalie. He must have known Lou Domingue comes through when an S.O.S is flashed.
2. LIGHTNING: The Champs have found that "extra tank" and are milking it well.
3. PANTHERS: Hockey madness has returned to South Florida. BB&T Center is selling out and the media is turning out in force.
4. OILERS: This is beginning to look like the upset-of-upsets with L.A. having the true glamor. Jon Quick is fantastic.
5. PENGUINS, AGAIN: Pitt tops the Rangers in one key department; the Captaincy: Pens have Sidney Crosby; Blueshirts got a big 0.
6. LEAFS: Sheldon Keefe finally is getting credit for what he is; a good coach who can develop average players into better-than-average. But Shelly can't do a thing about his goaltending. King Sieve -- Jack Campbell -- got yanked last night after giving up five goals on 16 shots. Yikes!
7. STARS: Joe Pavelski of Plover, Wisconsin is the most underrated player on the entire playoff scene. Good get, Jim Nill!
RIGHT NOW, WHO LOOKS LIKE THE CUP-WINNER?
Right now, it's too close for comfort. I figured Toronto until the floodgates opened last night in Tampa Bay. Still could be the Leafs if the attackers somehow can overwhelm the defensive deficiencies.
Colorado is an easy pick but I see the Avs getting upset along the way. (See Kentucky Derby result!) What we have is excitement in virtually every burgh!
ON TROTZ FIRING:
While the firing of Barry Trotz may come as a surprise to many, not I, sir. Not I. Here's why:
* AGE: At his end-of-season interviews Trotz made it evident that it had been an enervating season for him. He made it clear that he needed a respite; which is completely understandable.
* LOU: I worked Devils from 1986 through Lamoriello's stint in New Jersey and his days with the Islanders. Lou does not fool around. If he thinks a change should be made, he's king of proactive. The likes of Robbie Ftorek and Claude Julien could attest to that.
* STYLE: Trotz preached a defensive version of hockey and it served him well until this season. This is only a guess but I have a feeling that the team's core wants a more giddyap, firewagon game; and this was not the route Barry would take at this point in his career.
Where Lou goes from here to find a successor is a fascinating question. My guess is that he'll go for a younger, more vibrant personality. Time will tell.
This much is certain: The Trotz Years were good ones. There never will be a more media-cooperative gentleman in the game! The press will surely miss him.
WHY YOU SHOULDN'T BELIEVE PREDICTIONS
These were my predictions when the playoffs began; plus a comment on what's happened so far:
RANGERS OVER PENGUINS IN 5
So far: Pitt's amazing me with 2-1 lead. Rs yanking Shesterkin a surprise in Game Three.
CAROLINA OVER BRUINS IN 7
So far, 2-2, thanks to Boston's new song: "Swing And Sway With Jeremy Swayman."
FLORIDA OVER WASHINGTON IN 4
So far: Bad, bad call by Me! It's 2-1 Caps 'cause I forgot about Ovie!
TORONTO OVER TAMPA BAY IN 6
So far, 2-2. The Champs won't go away easily..
CALGARY OVER DALLAS IN 6
So far the Stars lead 2-1 but I still believe in Flames and Duane Sutter.
EDMONTON OVER LOS ANGELES IN 4
So far, 2-2. I underrated the surprising Kings. McDavid and his "Murderer's Row" got a Quick blanking and spanking last night.
MINNESOTA OVER ST.LOUIS IN 7
So far, 2-2. Jordan Binnington to the rescue, rising to the occasion like a former Cup-winner.
COLORADO Vs. NASHVILLE: I didn't make a prediction as I'm rooting for the Preds and Saros is not in goal. Not fair!
WHO SAID IT? "I've never dodged a bullet on where we need to improve?' (Answer Below.)
THE ENDLESS CALGARY ARENA QUEST
As their favorite hockey team improved over the season, so did the frustration level of Flames fans. The Flames Faithful has been hoping for a new arena at least since the last century.
What they've gotten is frustration after frustration. But there's a bit of hope ahead. Both the City Fathers and Flames ownership have returned to talks.
In fact, a third party mediator has been introduced to facilitate a settlement. "A deal eventually will get done," says sports business guru Evan Weiner (But he didn't say when. -- because he knows better.)
L.A.- EDMONTON FUSS ABOUT ICE -- A GOOD SIDESHOW.
In long, bygone years, some home team wise-guys would try to "sabotage" the opposition by messing with the ice -- slow it down for fast foes -- or similar gimmicks.
On the morning of Game Three -- Oilers at Kings -- some media types went nuts, charging that the L.A. ice crew stalled putting the nets out for the soon-to-practice Edmontonians. (Turned out that the Oilers arrived a bit early.) As if this would alter the game at night.
The silly stuff ended in the evening when Edmonton smacked down L.A. to the tune of 8-2.
EDDIE SHORE'S MORNING CAPER BETTER THAN L.A.'S.
When Hall of Fame Bruin defenseman Eddie Shore owned the AHL Springfield Indians, his club faced King Clancy-coached Cincinnati in the playoffs at the Eastern States Coliseum in Springfield. (The Coli had large windows at each end of the building.)
When the Cincy players arrived for an early a.m. practice, the rink still was dark. Clancy found Shore and said, "Eddie, why don't you put on the lights for us so we can skate?"
To which the frugal Shore shot back: "King you don't need lights; just wait until the sun comes up through the end windows!"
I'M JUST SAYIN'
* Nino Neidereiter's strong play for Carolina is just another reason why scouts should do more bird-dogging in Switzerland.
* Remember last fall when Vlad Tarasenko couldn't wait to see St.Louis in his rearview mirror?
* The yearner from Yaroslavl seems to have found happiness in Blues-ville after all. (Ah, the power of patience pays.)
* I'm eagerly awaiting an announcement from Chicago that my buddy, Derek King, will be rehired. I hope Mr. Wirtz doesn't disappoint me.
* Reader Brandon Oliver seems to think a lot of fans outside Denver actually "hate" the Avalanche. I have no idea why; do you?
* The Knights' high command and Pete DeBoer are supposed to "discuss" his Vegas coaching job.
* Does that mean that the lawyer-turned-coach has to talk George McPhee out of firing him?
* Guaranteed to happen. Every time the NHL War Room makes a ruling against the home team; the home team fans think the league is out to "get" their favorites.
* And those fans are the ones who just don't get it!
* Fascinating" is the word to describe the Flyers and Wings decision-making about a new coach.
* If I'm the Flyers, I go for Rick Tocchet. If I'm Detroit, I hire Travis Green.
* Not that the Oilers need any help, but the fact that referees are calling the playoffs tight, is all to McDavid's advantage.
* A possible story hinted at in a Las Vegas daily paper is Robin Lehner's alleged falling out with the club in the season's final weeks.
* Speaking of Weekes, it wouldn't surprise me if an NHL team considers Kevin Weekes as g.m. material. They don't come better.
* My man in, Pitt, Vince Comunale, believes that Igor Shesterkin was intimidated by the Paint Shop crowd in the opening minutes of Game 3.
HOW TO CURE A MIGRAINE IF YOUR TEAM GETS BEATEN BY 6
Kings fans, simply remember this: In the first game of the 1947 Stanley Cup Final between Toronto and Montreal, the Habs won 6-0. (Toronto won the Cup in six games.)
APPLESAUCE OR NOT? ULLMARK OFF MARK
After losing his first two games with Linis Ullmark in goal, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy chose to go with his backup, Jeremy Swayman, for Game Three against Carolina.
"Linus has been fine," Cassidy said with a straight face.
Applesauce! Cousin Brucie yanked his starter because Ullmark was off-mark; by a lot. It's just that the coach didn't know how to say it.
That makes Cassidy full of applesauce!
(P.S. So Butch Cassidy starts The Sundance Kid, Swayman in Game Three and gets a Beantown win!)
TROUBLE IN SIN CITY
Vegas owner Bill Foley is appropriately angry at his team's first failure to make the playoffs. He claims that his Knights "have lost their identity." And that may be true.
But the Knights' identity was symbolized by goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
And it was the high command that lost Fleury by allowing him to go bye-bye. So, the blame goes right to the top, hands-on owner Foley.
As for the future, Battle-Hungry Bill has a wonderful line: "I want us to be, 'Ready, aim, fire,' not, 'Ready, fire, aim!'"
ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT? Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald on New Jersey's need for an experienced forward and a starting goalie.