Have the Underdog Isles Any Gas Left in their Tanks?
Islanders try and force a Game 7. Montreal takes a 3-2 lead over Vegas. Where will Tony DeAngelo play? Kudos to Tampa AHL affiliate, Syracuse Crunch and owner Howard Dolgon.
In all fairness to hockey logic, neither the Islanders nor Canadiens still should be competing for Stanley.
Both the Nassaumen and Flying Frenchmen -- plus non-francophones -- entered the tourney as underdogs with a capital U.
That they each knocked off favorites over two straight rounds was an accomplishment worthy of a couple of YAYS, if not more.
If you can discount the 8-0 drubbing the Isles suffered Monday night in Tampa Bay, coach Barry Trotz's team has been playing the defending Champions even-Steven over four contests; no small accomplishment.
Likewise, the Habs -- even minus their head coach -- have traded punch for punch with the favored Golden Knights. That gives them equal rights to garner a sort of Team Bill Masterton Trophy for noble efforts above and beyond the call of duty.
But the Islanders loss in Florida stunned me to the point of wondering -- has the time arrived when The Trotz Machine simply has run out of gas?
Hey, these things happen.
Did Ryan Puloch's miraculous "save" with seconds left in Game Four require the last drop of gas in the Isles tank?
Surely it's a question worth asking as the teams prepare for Game Six tonight at what could be the final game played at Nassau Veterans' Memorial Coliseum.
Then again, with a full-throated, devoted crowd behind them, the Isles may find that auxiliary gas tank and put the breaks on the Lightning's march to the Final round.
As for the contending Canadiens, what can one say other than, smash, bam, alakazam; they not only knocked off Vegas, 4-1, last night in Sin City -- by the way, there's nothing sinful about beating the Knights -- but now sit one win away from the Cup Final.
You tell me; has there ever been a better Cinderella story in, okay, the last three years?
But, wait a minute; what in the world possessed Knights coach Peter DeBoer to start Marc-Andre Fleury instead of Robin (The Lip) Lehner who starred in Vegas' Game Four victory?
Fleury made only 22 saves; gave up three and then there was the open-netter. Carey Price out-goaled Marc-Andre.
Carey was priceless!
Stan’s Java Jive
HEADLINE: THE TONY DEANGELO MYSTERY CONTINUES
THE JIVE: It won't be very long before the Rangers buy out controversial Tony DeAngelo's contract. The defenseman has been hors de combat ever since his "clash" with goalie, Alex Georgiev. At the moment he hangs like a luscious apple on a tree waiting to be plucked by at least a dozen NHL teams in need of a young, gifted defender and the soon-to-be-drafting Kraken top the list.
Which brings us to a general manager such as Seattle's Ron Francis or a Bob Murray in Anaheim where a Young Turk like DeAngelo would seem a natural to grab should others ignore Tony. Whatever the case, this is an ongoing novel to read as it approaches the next -- very -- likely climactic career of one of the NHL's most mysterious cases.
HEADLINE: GALLANT ALREADY LEADING RANGERS CHARGE
THE JIVE: New Rangers bench boss Gerard Gallant inherits a team that he says "is ready to take off, go to the next level." He is certainly correct, as this Rangers squad has stars scattered around its roster.
Gallant seems confident in his new squad, adding that “I know we’re going to take a big step, and hopefully it’s a real big step,” Gallant said. “We’ll see what happens once training camp starts, but I know one thing is we’ve got an excellent roster there and we’re going to get down to work right away and make it the best it can be.”
New president and general manager Chris Drury echoed that sentiment. “My goal and our hope is that we’re a playoff team next year,” Drury said. “It is a mandate? I don’t believe so. But I want everyone to come back and know that that’s where we want to be and with the talent on this team where we should be.”
HEADLINE: HAWKS FACE INTERESTING OFFSEASON
THE JIVE: Our Chicago resident, Coby Maeir, has more on the future of the Blackhawks:
Will they trade for Jack Eichel? My guess is as good as yours, but if the front office wants to maximize the careers of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, both of whom have two years left on their contracts, then it certainly makes sense to trade for Eichel. He is a top tier centerman, and those do not grow on trees.
However, what will the cost be? I assume that Kirby Dach will be in the trade package going back to Buffalo, but that won’t be enough. It will probably take this year’s 11th overall pick, plus at least a defensive prospect like Ian Mitchell, Nick Beaudin, Adam Boqvist, or Wyatt Kalynuk. Even that probably won’t be enough, though.
Additionally, Jack Eichel carries an annual cap hit of $10M. It’s difficult to build a team around three players, Eichel and the aforementioned Kane and Toews, who combined, count $31M against the cap per year.
In non-Eichel news, the Hawks have pending free agents to take care of. Bottom six forwards Brandon Hagel, David Kampf, Pius Suter, and Adam Gaudette are all RFAs, while Vinnie Hinostroza, who scored 12 points in 17 with Chicago, is a UFA.
Hinostroza will cost the most to sign, but all five of the pending free agent forwards won’t command unreasonable amounts of money, and I think they will all be back next season. That will likely come at the expense of losing Alex Nylander, who spent the entire year out with a knee injury. Nylander had 26 points in 65 games in the 2019-20 season.
This upcoming off-season could be instrumental in determining the future of this organization. Let’s see what occurs.
HEADLINE: MORE ON THE LATE TOM KURVERS
THE JIVE: Because of the passing of our deceased pal, Tom Kurvers, many of his former teammates and media pals have come up with tales about Tom. My New Jersey pal, Emmy-award-winning George Falkowski reminds me of the climactic seventh game of the Bruins-Devils series in 1988 at Boston Garden.
I covered that game from the Devils tv side for SportsChannel -- later to be part of MSG Networks -- and vividly recall how New Jersey dominated the first period which still was 0-0. What I remember most was New Jersey's Pat Verbeek in position for a "sure goal" against goalie Reggie Lemelin. Pat shot and Reggie made the save of his life.
Falkowski: "What many have forgotten is that Tommy Kurvers had a splendid chance before Verbeek and Lemelin stuffed him on that one, too. Those were two of the best saves Reggie ever made. Had he missed, it would have been 2-0 Jersey and a possible ticket to The Final."
HEADLINE: ABOUT THE HABS UNIFORMS.
THE JIVE: You can stump just about any hockey fan with the question:
What does the "CH" on Montreal jerseys stand for in French? I doubt that one out of ten -- if that many -- get it right. It's Club de Hockey Canadien because the Habs originally were meant to be an all -- or close to all -- francophone team.
The bleu, blanc et rouge (red, white and blue) uniform has held up handsomely over the century. No less fascinating is watching the oldest National Hockey League club skate against the youngest franchise in what has been a thrilling old-young mix of hockey clubs.
HEADLINE: TAMPA BAY AND SYRACUSE -- AN ODD COUPLE
THE JIVE: When it comes to comparison cities, no two burghs could be more different than Syracuse, New York and Tampa Bay, Florida.
The latter is renowned a tropical paradise and cigar capital of America.
Syracuse -- where the winters are not cold, but fridged -- houses a distinguished university among other notable houses of higher learning; likely some lower as well.
What Tampa Bay and Syracuse do have in common is their hockey link; cousins so to speak. The AHL Crunch have been a model of marketing and owner Howard Dolgon is the reason for that. Matter of fact this Brooklynite belongs in the Hall of Fame's Builders category.
Dolgon's Crunch has worked hand in glove with the Lightning for a number of years. A check of the Champs' roster will reveal a healthy chunk of Crunch graduates; and that includes Bolts' g.m. Julien BriseBois. I could go on about this odd -- yet well-coupled -- couple but you get the point. (Plus, the Bolts have The Point, Braden!)
HEADLINE: YET ANOTHER ODD COUPLE -- IN VANCOUVER
THE JIVE: Slowly but relentlessly, the Canucks are reinforcing their infrastructure. It began with the re-hiring of g.m. Jim Benning, followed by Travis Green's new contract which, of course, I endorsed over and over again. But now there's a new twist; a veritable rarity when it comes to an organizational general staff. Vancouver has imported the Sedin Twins, Henrik and Daniel as Benning's consultants.
Frankly, I can't recall any similar hire -- twins, that is, for the same gig -- in all NHL annals. Which is not to demean the odd nature of the move; rather it could evolve into a brilliant move in terms of the twins' savvy and likeability. Ergo: good for Benning; good for the twins and good for the Canucks.
TRIVIA CORNER: The Canadiens brother act of Maurice and Henri Richard turned out to be Hall of Famers. Who was the third Richard who almost played for Montreal. (Answer below.)
CLASSIC COMMENTS FROM YESTERYEAR: "Six feet behind the moose's behind."
-- Islanders Hall of Famer Clark Gillies response when asked about the location of his home town, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
TRIVIA ANSWER: Claude Richard played for Les Canadiens but only in scrimmages during the late 1950s. The Habs management hoped that the right wing -- like the famed Rocket -- would make the big club but he failed all auditions and wound up in the minors.
The Syracuse Braves, Blazers, Eagles, Firebirds and Hornets franchises lasted a total of just over 13 seasons combined. Howard Dolgon brought the Crunch to town in 1994. This fall they will begin their 28th season. I've noted this and thanked him during chance encounters at games. A Hall of Fame builder, indeed.