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How to Pick an Alternate Hart Trophy Winner
Andreij Vasilevskiy is the key to a Cup repeat; Vrana proving Stevie Y right; and the Rangers, all but done...
The "Connor McDavid For Hart Trophy" bandwagon has so overflowed with adoring journalists that you'd think Leon Draisaitl is some caboose being pulled along just to bring up the rear.
Look; let's not get stupid about this, once and for all. I've seen enough of McDavid to understand why he's worthy of the Hart. His histrionics are just plain hot stuff -- unless, of course, you're one of the two defensemen Connor cuts through for another Ripley's Believe It Or Not goal.
The man has re-defined astonishing so I'm not going to argue for Patrick Kane or the always-quietly-amazing Sidney Crosby or even The Arizona Cowboy, Auston Matthews.
Alright already, give the Hart to McDavid.
That bit of business done, I'm suggesting -- knowing it'll never happen -- an Alternate MVP Trophy. Just for the heck of it, I'm dubbing it the Heart Trophy.
This hunk of so-far-make-believe silverware would go to the stickhandler -- or goalie -- who does the most to squeeze his team into the playoffs.
For example, if Pal Rick Bowness' delightful Dallas guys do it, I'd give my Heart Trophy vote to defenseman Miro Heiskanen, the most underrated blue-liner since Kevin Lowe.
Nashville could make the post-season. Should Johnny Hynes’ club turn the trick, I'd nominate goalie Juuse Saros, the pride of Finland and all points north of Helsinki.
Of course, the miracle story of all miracle stories would be Vancouver squeezing in on the final night of the season. My guy for that longest-of-long-shots would be Bo Horvat. The Canucks captain helped the B.C Boys make a bit of a Cinderella run last year.
The real toughie is in the East. Wouldn't it be a heck of a note if the Bruins latch on to the last available rung and Taylor Hall turns out to be the difference-maker.
He'd get The Maven's vote on the grounds that it would be one heck of a story.
But since there'll never be a Heart Trophy it will have to be McDavid for the real hearty Hart.
I only hope that the presenter is Leon Draisaitl. He deserves at least a feel of the silver!
Stan’s Java Jive
HEADLINE: DOES MARLEAU DESERVE HALL OF FAME CONSIDERATION?
THE JIVE: Hey, it doesn't cost anything to consider, does it? So let's not let our vowels get into an uproar over The Hockey News' question. After all, Marleau broke a National Hockey League record, did he not? Plus, he played well for many years and that's a point not to be overlooked. Not that this matters a whole lot but it does matter that Patrick has been -- and still is -- a role model. As a two-year member of the Hall of Fame Selection Committee 'way back when, it's hard for me to judge from one voter to the next. Ergo: Marleau could make IT.
HEADLINE: AFTER VASILEVSKIY WHAT?
THE JIVE: A winner is a winner. Tampa Bay's general manager Julien BriseBois owns a Stanley Cup ring because he crafted one heck of a championship club. Now he's looking for a deuce. Julie Babe is going with the same tandem of three-time Vezina Trophy finalist Andreij Vasilevskiy and ageless Curtis McElhinney. The trouble is that Curtis -- like The Maven -- has aged but I don't have to play goal. Should Vas get hurt -- he logged every single minute of ice time in the last playoffs and put up Smythe-worthy numbers -- then what? Can he depend on the crafty Curtis anymore? Doubtful. Then what? Ryan McDonough? (Answer: Big trouble.)
HEADLINE: HOW TO BLOW A PLAYOFF BERTH
THE JIVE: Hockey can be so simple and yet so complicated at the same time. Take the case of twin playoff hopefuls -- Nashville and Chicago. The Preds had the "Dreaded Three-Goal Lead" in the third period, blew the advantage and lost in overtime. How could such a mini-hockey-disaster happen? Here's the simple part as explained by Nashville's Mikhael Granlund: "We were playing good until we got a little loose -- and it just happened." Really, that's all it takes -- one tiny letdown and the roof falls on top of the Preds' heads. As the Tennessean noted: "That lost point could cost Nashville a playoff berth." Oh, yeah the "complicated" part. You have to wonder once Chicago scored its first of the three comeback goal whether coach John Hynes should have called a timeout; or altered strategy; or what? Very hard to figure. (Best definition: That's Hockey!)
HEADLINE: HOSANNA FOR VRANA
THE JIVE: When crafty Detroit manager Steve Yzerman obtained Jakub Vrana from Washington, it was variously claimed that -- considering all the other Motor City deals -- it was a Red Wings steal. Last night's 7-3 Detroit win over Dallas underlines the point. It was highway robbery. All Vrana did was score four goals in the romp and furthermore proved he'll be he Wings offensive balance wheel in the future.
The superb observer of flying Wings, Paul Kukla -- of the excellent Kukla's Korner -- makes a potent point: "Give the Wings credit. They have nothing to play for except pride while the Stars are in a playoff battle." (Vrana now needs a nickname. How about "Joltin' Jake!")
HEADLINE: PLAYOFF HOCKEY IN THE REGULAR SEASON
THE JIVE: For starters let me note that I did not see the Islanders-Capitals game last night. But my younger son, Simon, did and he's still raving about it as "classic playoff hockey." The zip-zip score went through three periods and overtime before Washington won it via Shootout. "It was back-and-forth action from start to finish," Simon reports. "Both goalies (Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Samsonov) were outstanding as there were chances galore from both sides. It really was just like a playoff game." (Yeah, and Caps-Isles have two more coming up next!)
HEADLINE: FLYERS BEAT RANGERS; WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
THE JIVE: I had billed this yesterday as "A game to watch" because both clubs still had a mathematical chance to make the post-season. And still do and where's where the "but" intrudes on the scene. The Blueshirts had been coming on strong until they lost to the Isles the other night. New York looked like the team capable of a dramatic run to that coveted berth. Losing 3-2 at Madison Square Garden last night, was like taking a torpedo amidships. So, Philly gains a pair of points while one Rangers fan, David Perlmutter, wrote me at the end: "Wait 'til next year?" (For the many too young to remember, that was the chant of Brooklyn fans every season except for 1955 when the Dodgers won their first World Series, beating the Yankees in seven!)
Who was the third Bentley brother who briefly skated alongside Hall of Famers Max and Doug with the Blackhawks?
CLASSIC COMMENTS FROM YESTERYEAR:
"It's like ham and eggs. The chicken makes a contribution, but the pig, he makes a commitment."
-Flyers coach Fred Shero on the difference between contribution and commitment.
Max and Doug's older brother Reg made a brief appearance in 1942-43 playing 11 games. He scored a goal and two assists.