Isles-Bolts is the Series to Watch!
Isles fall, but return to the Coliseum with a split. Will Rod Brind'Amour leave Carolina? The Big Apple Reacts to the Gallant Hiring.
It would be patently unfair to judge either of the two NHL tournaments as one better than the other.
Each has its melodrama; especially Montreal coming at Vegas with a seven-game winning streak before that bubble burst.
Yet there's something compelling about the Islanders playing David against Heavyweight champion Goliath.
Unlike the Cup-holders, New York did not compile anything resembling a seven-game parlay, a la the latest pride of Canada.
Nor is there is single Islander who'll make the First All-Star Team or even the Second outfit.
Perhaps most symbolic of the Barry Trotz band of traveling skaters is that goalie Semyon Varlamov -- with one of the best years of his life -- wasn't even one of the Vezina Trophy finalists.
How about that for being ignored?
But the kicker of all kickers is that these upstarters from Uniondale, New York skated into Amalie Arena and beat the Champs, 2-1, to take a one-nothing lead in the semis.
This hardly upset Jon Cooper's star-studded, experienced skaters. "Been there; done that" was the Tampa Bay theme, alluding to the fact that losing Game One at home was no big deal at all. Small potatoes, in fact.
That's why the curtain-rising last night posed so many curious questions, starting with the biggie of all; will the Floridians teach the New Yorkers a lesson and smack them all over the place?
Before the first face-off there were more new and different guesses that not even Albert Mitchell, The Answer Man, could come up with a legit response.
The Answer Man also would have been useful in the second period with the score tied 1-1 and the game looked like it would remain a one goal game for a while.
But the Bolts then scored at a time when Tampa Bay had six skaters -- illegal -- on the ice. The four on-ice officials failed to make the call. That gave the home club a 2-1 lead which eventually concluded with a 4-2 decision tying the series.
It was mean early on and right up to the very end. But in the end it was the Lightning’s speed and puck possession that proved decisive over the 60 minutes.
Now the series moves to Nassau Coliseum. All signs indicate that The Old Barn will require a few thousand extra nuts and bolts to keep it in place on Thursday night
HEADLINE: WILL BRIND’AMOUR JUMP THE CANES?
THE JIVE: Of all the coaches out there who now fascinate me the most, the guy happens to be Rod Brind'Amour.
The Hurricanes bench boss has amassed an impressive resume since moving to Raleigh.
His players will vouch for Rod's intensity and savvy and there's no doubt that Carolina fans have given the man plenty of rah-rahs.
Then again, the Canes have emerged as one of the NHL's more impressive organizations; one that I thought could make it to the Cup Final. Unfortunately Tampa Bay got in the way.
Yet, for at least a month, I got the impression that Rod -- now a free agent -- would rush pell-mell to sign a new contract with Carolina.
This could be especially so now that crack defenseman Dougie Hamilton has gone public with word that he's planning to play the field.
Not that I blame Brind'Amour for holding out. As coaches go, he's a hot commodity. He's young, likeable and -- as noted -- owns a commendable track record.
He's also buddies with the boss in Seattle, Ron Francis. You can be sure they've talked and I'm certain that Rod would be tempted to reunite with his former teammate and take on the Kraken challenge.
I see it as a deal that would be hard to refuse, still my gut feeling is what Elliotte Friedman says he'll do; stay in Raleigh.
HEADLINE: GALLANT CHOICE GETTING RAVES IN GOTHAM.
THE JIVE: I've chatted with a number of Rangers fans and their reaction to the hiring of Gerard Gallant for an assortment of reasons.
Andrew Meier of Newburgh, New York, put it best: "If Gallant coaches as well as he has in the past, the Rangers will make the playoffs." Really, it's as simple as that. The complicated part will come soon enough. He'll be picking assistants and no doubt will continue the team tradition of retaining goaltending guru, Benoit Allaire. Gallant will find that the roster is oozing with talent, led by Artemi Panarin as well as potential aces such as Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere. The special bonus is Norris Trophy candidate Adam Fox. Actually, it's a more talented group than Gallant orchestrated to the Final in Vegas freshman season in the league.
HEADLINE: GALLANT STARTING DOMINO EFFECT?
THE JIVE: Now that the Rangers have hired Gerard Gallant as their next bench boss, which head coaching vacancy will be filled next? Our Coby Maeir lets us know his thoughts.
Buffalo, Arizona, and Seattle all have openings, and Rick Tocchet, John Tortorella, and Bruce Boudreau are all coaches who have coached in the NHL recently and are all free agents at the moment. With the Seattle expansion draft just over a month away, I’d expect that the Kraken are the first of the three teams to choose its first head coach.
I think Kraken g.m. Ron Francis is waiting to see if his former teammate, Rod Brind’Amour, sticks around as head coach in Carolina. If not, I’d be shocked if he is not coaching Seattle this fall. However, if Brind’Amour stays in Raleigh, Tocchet is probably the favorite to take that job.
As for Buffalo, the team played much better under interim boss Don Granato, so I would not be surprised if he is stripped of the interim tag. If not, look out for Bruce Boudreau.
Out in the desert, Arizona is looking to get back in the playoffs, and looking for a new coach. What if they made a splash and hired Mike Babcock? Clearly, given his interviews and gig on NBC Sports, he clearly wants to get back into coaching.
HEADLINE: THE BEAUTY OF DEBOER
THE JIVE: I don't know how many of you are aware that the Knights noble coach also happens to be a lawyer. Take another good look at Peter DeBoer as he orchestrates a line change; or whispers sweet ideas into Alex Pietrangelo's ears. There is something lawyer-ly about his demeanor. And that's in a positive, not negative, way.
When Pete coached the Devils I got a look at his modus operandi and I was impressed. He's a hockey guy who sees things clearly and sees them whole. Or to get down to the common denominator, he gets it.
Among my favorite DeBoer sequences took place in the spring of 2012 when Pete went head to head with then Rangers ranter and raver John Tortorella. DeBoer not only coached New Jersey over the Blueshirts -- Adam Henrique got the clincher in OT -- but Pistol Pete also won the media battles. DeBoer remained cool, calm and collected throughout the whole rabble-rousing series while Torts went overboard with his filibusters; only winning when it came to the Battle of the Decibel Counts.
This time around, DeBoer is coaching a genuine Cup contender and, as any lawyer will tell you, there's no law against that!
So will that saviour in the crease, Marc-Andre Fleury!
HEADLINE: BILL ROBERTSON DOES IT AGAIN
THE JIVE: One of the most successful executives in the hockey realm, Bill Robertson soon will begin another new and exciting gig. Here's the deal:
"The United States Hockey League (USHL) announced Friday Bill Robertson as its 10th President and Commissioner. Robertson joins the USHL after seven seasons as the President and Men’s League Commissioner of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA).
"Robertson was approved Thursday afternoon by the USHL Board of Governors to take over the role from Tom Garrity, who has served in the USHL President and Commissioner role since November 2017. Robertson will begin his role with the USHL on July 12.”
“'I’ve known and worked with Bill for 20 years and am confident in saying the USHL is in great hands with Bill taking over the roles of President and Commissioner,” said Garrity. “We had a lot of fantastic candidates for the position but feel Bill’s experience in the sport will help continue to grow the league’s pedigree as one of the best junior hockey leagues in the world. I have great respect for Bill as a person and leader and there is no one better to lead the USHL.”
“'I’m honored to serve as the President and Commissioner of the USHL,” said Robertson. “As the only Tier I junior hockey league in the United States, the USHL stands as the top development league for the sport of hockey in this country. I’m excited to work with our owners, team executives, general managers, coaches and the individual markets that support this great league as we continue to raise our profile and grow the USHL. I’m also grateful to succeed my good friend Tom Garrity, who has seen the league thrive under his leadership.”
TRIVIA CORNER: During the Original Six era only one team had a practice rink attached to the main arena. Which team was that?
CLASSIC COMMENTS FROM YESTERYEAR: "Nobody teaches an athlete how to retire." -- Gordie Howe.
Madison Square Garden III -- the previous MSG -- also sported the Iceland Skating Rink where the Rangers practiced. It was on the top floor of the MSG building.