Biggest Upset In History
Montreal edges the Leafs 4-3 in a best-of-seven, to advance. Thoughts on playoff rooting. Mike Sullivan returning to Pens bench. Parise's future. Seth Jones wants out of Columbus.
…Or, biggest choke.
Call it what you will but heads will be rolling in a terribly saddened Toronto as the Maple Leafs re-designed the fold-o of all fold-os.
But, hey, how about those Habs. How about them!!! At the very least they earned at least a hat trick of exclamation points; maybe six !!!!!!
You want three stars; start with general manager Marc Bergevin. He took a gamble and snared the clutch vet Eric Staal who relieved Auston Matthews of the little black biscuit.
The Staal steal got the puck to Brendan Gallagher and the Leafs second-string goalie, Jack (I'm Really In The Soup) Campbell fished it out of his net.
Bergevin's second brilliant acquisition, Corey Perry, got the winner. And magical Marc's hat trick of "gets" was rounded out by Tyler Toffoli who deposited the insurance open-netter at 17:22.
William Nylander's red light with a minute-and-a-half left in the Leafs colossal disaster was the punch line since the joke was all on Toronto.
Meanwhile, Mister Keene, Tracer of Lost Superstars, is on the lookout for the following millionaires:
* Auston Matthews: Last seen doing imitations of Connor McDavid on the Edmonton vaudeville circuit.
* Mitch Marner: Warbling a chorus of "Where, Oh Where, Has My Little Puck Gone -- Oh, Where, Oh, Where Can It Be?"
You know the rest of the blundering bunch: Zach Hyman, Alex Kerfoot, ad nauseum. But let's get down to the crux of this calamity. (What did I say all along:)
1: GOALTENDING: The high command thought it could succeed with the ever-failing Fred Andersen and when he got hurt, the ever smiling -- except not now -- Campbell. The poor guy came up with a measly 20 saves in the biggest game of his life. Carey Price had 29 stops; need I say more. Price vs. Campbell -- who would you want in the biggie-of-biggies?
2. THE OVER-PRICED NO-SHOWS: We wondered how Matthews would fare in the playoffs? Answer: Not even fair. Marner? He must have figured it was a seventh game scrimmage.
3. ENDLESS LEAFS THEME: A year ago they lost to Columbus in a five-game qualifier. The template remains the same; an identity of inconsistency and defensive ineptitude and -- a big deal -- immaturity.
4. COACHING: Sheldon Keefe had a three-games-to-one lead over a club that barely squeezed into a playoff berth. Habs were on a treadmill to oblivion. Not only were they on the ropes; they were on the other side of them. So here's the Keefe beef. He got careless and out-coached. Another year with the Marlies might help.
5. MANAGING: Kyle Dubas might start off by buying a new pair of glasses.
He thought he had the right formula. When things got rough those wily vets -- Jason Spezza, Joe Thornton and Wayne Simmonds were supposed to stabilize HMCS Maple Leafs but it capsized under them.
6. THE ALIBI: The 2,346,821 "IF's" you're hearing throughout Leafs Nation end with "... we only had John Tavares.” Sorry, buds, but the playoffs are a war of attrition and all those other aces were supposed to "Win This One For Johnny." Hey, it could have happened in a best-of-seventeen playoff!
7. FACT ARE FACTS: It's Montreal Canadiens vs. Winnipeg Jets in the second round. (You might want to read this a few times; but I kid you not -- Edmonton and Toronto, over and OUT!)
HEADLINE: ISLANDERS TIE BOSTON SERIES WITH OVERTIME WIN
THE JIVE: Game Two of this tourney had just about everything -- sort of a giant see-saw on the ice. Isles blow 3-1 lead late in the third. Boston has all the momentum in overtime but the Visitors gallant "Fourth Line," holds off a Bruins counterattack and Casey Cizikas wins it on a breakaway after a takeaway from Boston's D-man Jeremy Lauzon.
"It was a heck of a heavyweight battle," says Gus Vic. "I can see the series returning to Boston tied at two wins apiece. The series is living up to its billing and is this close."
HEADLINE: CROWNING THE HOCKEY KING OF THE NORTH
THE JIVE; You'd have to be nuts to count out either Winnipeg or Montreal for the Northlands champ. Both have proven to be marvelous underdogs but in wonderfully different ways.
They do have one thing in common -- their general managers -- Kevin Cheveldayoff and Marc Bergevin -- learned their early hockey in the Islanders system. Both were defensemen and each was one of the wisest, funniest, nice guys in captivity. (But enough of that.)
Now we have a series with two real serious goalies; no funnymen like Jack Campbell. Connor Hellebuyck and Carey Price could be series-stealers. If there's a "secret weapon," the Habs have it in right wing Cole Caufield, the wunderkin from Wisconsin. But we'll get to Jets-Habs tomorrow. (I hope it goes seven!)
HEADLINE: ALIBIS PREVAIL AMONG GOLDEN KNIGHTS
THE JIVE: Now with the fallout from the Avalanche demolition of Vegas in the first game, what do we have? A ton of excuses out of Sin City. Start with the fact that the poor, beleaguered Knights only had one day off; then we go to a standard alibi -- Denver's high altitude. Ho-hum. The fact that Ryan Reeves will be sitting out a two-game suspension is also a matter of debate; as in how badly does coach Peter DeBoer need Reeves to win a couple of playoff games? But here's the real key from Gus Vic: "Colorado's speed is mind-blowing." I'll add one to that: The Avs Nathan MacKinnon is the best player in the game today; better even than Connor McDavid. (And if you don't believe me, check The Hockey News' Annual, Page 19!)
THE INTENSE ART OF PLAYOFF ROOTING
We all couldn’t wait for the playoffs to begin so that the rooting really is in earnest.
At the same time -- and I speak first-hand -- cheering for your favorite team can cause everything from ecstasy to heartache and several hundred emotions in between.
I offer no prescriptions to cure The Hockey Fans Playoff Malady other than to distribute a few of my favorite quotes gathered -- and uttered -- through the years:
1. When The Other Team Does A Big Push: 'GET THE PUCK OUT! Followed by 'GET THE DAMN PUCK OUT, ALREADY! 'GET ON THEM ; GET ON THEM' (Often followed by Oy Vay!)
2. A Referee's Call Against Your Team: ''ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I MEAN, GIMME A BREAK. RIDICULOUS. I GOTTA GET SOME COFFEE!”
3. When Your Team Has A Three-Goal Lead And The Other Team Is On The Attack: “I DON'T LIKE THIS; I DON'T LIKE THIS AT ALL. THE MAVEN IS RIGHT 'THE DREADED 3-GOAL LEAD.”
4. When You Don't Like What The Announcer Says; “WHADDYA GONNA DO; THE GUY IS A HOMER; A REAL HOMER."
You know the rest!
Stan’s Java Jive
HEADLINE: MIKE SULLIVAN RETURNING AS PENGUINS COACH
THE JIVE: That's good news for the Sullivan family. Everybody likes Mikey but he can't play goal and the Brian Burke-Ron Hextall cartel have to be wondering whether Tristan Jarry can stop playoff pucks. Meanwhile, Sully must be wondering what BB and RH are going to do about the Sid Cosby-Kris Letand-Gino Malkin half-demand that they be retained as lifetime Penguins. Hey, Burke-Hextall have a right to wonder if the Pens first round exit also is a telltale sign that there's rust around the veterans' skate blades. (No, not that Rust although he may go bye-bye if Burke-Hex want more toughness.)
HEADLINE: SETH JONES WANTS TO LEAVE COLUMBUS
THE JIVE: I would have hoped that the gifted defenseman had said, "I want to lead this team back to the playoffs." But it apparently isn't so and, frankly, returned prexy John Davidson deserves better than that. Columbus happens to be a heck of a nice town in which to play hockey. At least I know so but apparently Jonesy thinks otherwise. (P.S. I hope he changes his mind. Davidson will do his level best to keep his best defender.)
HEADLINE: ZACH PARISE UNSURE OF HIS FUTURE IN MINNY
THE JIVE: This business of Parise's on and off benching obviously got to a proud athlete. Here's where my wise buddy -- g.m. Bill Guerin -- has to reach the bottom of what has become a somewhat mysterious coach Dean Evason vs. Zach annoyance. The team could do without it. The issue; is Zach tradeable and, if so, to which team? (I still believe he has at least one credible season left -- in the right place.)
HEADLINE: WHAT THE CANES DON'T HAVE, THE CHAMPS DO
THE JIVE: A quick glance at the Bolts roster brings oohs and ahs because of the names Stamkos, Kucherov and Hedman; just for starters. But when the defending Champs win a game as they did, 2-1, in the Raleigh opener the oft-forgotten name is the key. Three-time Vezina Trophy finalist Andre Vasilevskly is a darn sight better than the Canes' Alex Nedeljkovic. Could be only a goal better but that's the difference. (Tonight Big Al will have an opportunity to prove The Maven wrong.)
TRIVIA CORNER: Two leaders of their NHL teams had the military title of "General" and "Major," respectively, during World War II. Name the individuals.
CLASSIC COMMENTS FROM YESTERYEAR: "Don't go into the (Pullman railroad) diner until the Red Wings clear out." -- Head waiter's advice to the Maple Leafs who were on the same train after a nasty game earlier that night in Toronto. Players on each team did not want to be seen with their foes.
Rangers president John Reed Kilpatrick was a general in the U.S. Army. Maple Leafs boss Conn Smythe was a major in the Canadian armed forces; and was severely wounded in action while serving in France.