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Are the Knights Really that Good? Maybe.
Knights drop Game 2. Is Jack Eichel on the move, or not? Blueshirts make Gerard Gallant hire official. Has media coverage changed forever?
Jackpots regularly are won in Las Vegas.
Some are lost, too.
But when it comes to the city's National Hockey League team, the chips keep falling in the right places; for four straight seasons, no less.
Ever since Sin City obtained acceptance in the ice fraternity, the Golden Knights have been blessed with good luck and superior management.
"The team is well-crafted," writes Mark Spector of Sportsnet, "and has a winning culture."
Plus, fortune came in the NHL's decision to give its newest expansion team better rights to obtain players than any previous frat member enjoyed.
With that bonanza, owner Bill Foley hired George McPhee to run the operation and the one time Lightweight Champion of the league pushed right button after right button, starting with Marc-Andre Fleury.
Not only that, but Foley pulled off one of the best "interference" moves in league annals vis-a-vis Fleury.
"Foley made his presence felt," wrote Scott Zerr of The Hockey News, "in determining that Fleury was staying put when the general staff wanted to move him."
Snubbing his nose at the skeptics, the peripatetic French-Canadian not only galvanized the team during the regular season but has been the Knights -- not Robin Lehner -- saviour so far in the post-season.
For Nevada fans, the beauty part of Foley -- as Zerr puts it, "is that he has shown no hesitation when it comes to a spend-to-win approach."
Foley's imprint was visible again when Vegas corralled the biggest name on the free agent market, defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. G.m. Kelly McCrimmon has smilingly watched A.P. enhance the club's Cup aspirations.
"Management has brought in good character guys," says original Knight Braydon McNabb. "We've got good leaders and have gotten better since I joined the club."
The pre-series fear -- if one could call it that regarding this semi-final round -- was that Montreal's seven-game win streak would extend into T-Mobile Arena.
Peter DeBoer's team ended that illusion faster than disappearing smoke rings. But that was Game One and the Law of Averages was due to catch up with Montreal, the NHL's 19th rated club.
The second clash, last night, would provide a better barometer for Club Ducharme. And another opportunity for Carey Price to try to steal what could have been the turning point match of this tourney.
However, the Knights got the daylights knocked out of them from a surprisingly vengeful visiting Habs sextet. Montreal ran up a 3-1 lead after two periods and counted on the resilient Carey Price to carry them through the third period and victory.
The Price was right. He gave up one goal in the third as Montreal won Game Two, 3-2. Now we have a series!
Stan’s Java Jive
HEADLINE: JACK EICHEL TRADE RUMORS ABOUND
THE JIVE: Gee whiz, that header could have been written months ago; and, as a matter of fact, it was. But Jumpin' Jack hasn't jumped the Sabres cable yet and, who knows, he may never. That aching Eichel herniated disc neck issue still has not been satisfactorily resolved,right? Right!
So, if you're a general manager, why in the world would you want to gamble on either a potential stiff neck on a potential stiff? Then again, out of 32 -- counting the Kraken -- teams there always seems to be one boss willing to be suckered into such a move. I
According to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun, talks have become more intense and serious." n the meantime Eichel remains a Buffalonian and every week or so, I'll dust off Jumpin' Jack's headline just in case a true trade, as opposed to a rumored one, is in the works. (Just don't expect it to happen tomorrow.)
HEADLINE: TAYLOR HALL WANTS TO STAY IN BOSTON
THE JIVE: Looking backward, I insist that a few deals bear analysis. One involved Beantown's Don Sweeney obtaining Taylor Hall from the Sabres and the others were the Islanders boss, Lou Lamoriello snaring both Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri from New Jersey.
For starters, the Hall move scored like Gangbusters in New England.
Taylor sure looked perfectly tailored for the Big, Sometimes But Not Always Bad Bruins, He generated enough good offense to power them ahead of the Islanders into a playoff berth. So far, so good.
But when Bruce (I'm No Saint) Cassidy most needed Taylor against the Islanders, he disappeared into some hall and gave Cousin Brucie nothing. Meanwhile the Zajac-Palmieri duet have managed to stay away from the golf course by supplying Barry Trotz with some good, solid, experienced hockey. (Case closed; Islanders win this one!)
HEADLINE: THE LONG, 'OFFICIAL' RANGERS WAIT
THE JIVE: Last Monday, Larry Brooks of the New York Post broke the story that Gerard Gallant is the new Blueshirts bench boss. Not surprisingly, the Brooks' scoop was shoveled up faster than you can sing "You Were Meant For Me." Just about every media outlet reported the Brooks' beat with one exception -- the Rangers p.r. department.
It wasn't until Wednesday that the "official" announcement was released by Blueshirts publicists.
Fans really don't care but the delay had media types pushing the "What gives?" button. It's possible that Gallant had been negotiating to bring additional staff with him. Hence, more time was required to fill out the blanks for the other new Gallant helpers. (Just curious; that's all!)
HEADLINE: LIGHTNING KEEP STREAK ALIVE
THE JIVE: After losing Game One 2-1 to the Islanders, many questions were asked about the Lightning. However, Tampa’s players have kept an even keel attitude this entire playoff, so one loss is not going to throw them off. They know that this semi-final against the Islanders, for the second year in a row, will be, and has proven to be, a tough series. While the Islanders might be the underdogs, they must be respected as one of the elite teams in the NHL.
Entering Game Two, the Lightning had a few statistics to buoy their spirits and confidence. For example, the Bolts have not lost back-to-back playoff games since their first-round loss to Columbus in 2019. They have not lost consecutive games at home this year. All-universe goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is now 4-0 following a loss this postseason, and has now won 42 playoff games, tied with Evgeni Nabokov for the most by Russian netminders.
The Bolts blueliners finally got on the scoring sheet with goals from Victor Hedman and Jan Rutta. Hedman didn’t realize he hadn’t scored a goal in the playoffs until after Game One. In games like these, the cream comes to the top. Brayden Point scored his league leading 10th goal of the playoffs, and Steven Stamkos has posted five goals and nine assists this playoff. Finally, Nikita Kucherov leads the playoffs in assists, with 17, and scoring, with 22 points. Hard to believe Kucherov didn’t play one game this regular season.
The series switches to “The Old Barn,” The Nassau Coliseum for games three and four. A fitting venue since this series has been a genuine barn burner so far.
HEADLINE: OSKAR LINDBLOM WINS THE MASTERTON TROPHY
THE JIVE: The Flyer not only beat bone cancer, he returned to Philly and played again. If ever a stickhandler deserved this prize for perseverance and courage, Lindblom is it. Mazel tov, Oskar!
HEADLINE: PANDEMIC HAS PERMANENTLY CHANGED MEDIA
THE JIVE: Before the Covid assault, media accessibility to players and management was -- depending on the team -- as good as it gets. Print and electronic reporters attended practices and visited dressing rooms after the games for one on one interviews as well as the scrums. But that all ended with Pandemic.
In person press conferences gave way to Zoom. Dressing room access ended and, depending on which media type you talk to, may never return. "Under the new system," one reporter tells me, "we'll have less running around to do. We've found that out already and, frankly, it's not a bad thing, plus the players seem to like it this way as well."
No doubt that the entire media accessibility will be reviewed by Bettman, Inc. It's very likely that what began as a temporary, emergency system will -- in 2021-22 -- be the norm. (And that might not be the worst thing in the world.)
HEADLINE: COACHING -- AND ASST. COACH SLOTS BEING FILLED
THE JIVE: Darryl Sutter's hire of Kirk Muller as his Calgary Flames aide is a goody. I've known Kirk from his rookie season as a Devil. Remember, he was picked second overall by New Jersey after Pitt landed Mario Lemieux. After retiring as a player, Kirk has matured into a capable bench operator and will add to Calgary's coaching strength.
HEADLINE: SECRET TO THE PRICE TURNAROUND
THE JIVE: Former goalie, Sean Burke, joined that Canadiens staff after Claude Julien was axed and has helped Carey Price get where he is right now. Good job, Sean!
HEADLINE: TORONTO HAS A GOOD SPEZZA-RIA
THE JIVE: The Maple Losers got a boost this season from Jason Spezza at pivotal points. On that basis the retread has been re-signed for chump change ($750,000). The laugher, of course, is that Hasten Jason did as well in the playoffs as the Twin Cartels, Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews. (Come to think of it, maybe even better!)
TRIVIA CORNER: When Chicago's Hall of Famer Bill Mosienko set a record scoring three goals in 21 seconds, against the Rangers, who was the embattled Blueshirts goalie? (Answer below.)
CLASSIC COMMENTS FROM YESTERYEAR: "It's a chance for a shy person to be onstage."
-- Glenn (Chico) Resch on goaltending.
TRIVIA ANSWER: With regulars Chuck Rayner and Emile Francis both injured, the Rangers used Lorne Anderson, who played for the club's Atlantic City Sea Gulls in the Eastern Amateur Hockey League.