Jake Allen's Biggest Career Challenge

Jake Allen backstopping the Canadiens through a rough start. Jack Eichel pumping up the Vegas fans. Patric Hornqvist returns to Pittsburgh. Ovi about to claim the PPG record. Messier's new book.

Always serviceable; always competitive, Jake Allen now is more in the NHL limelight than ever in his career.

Realistically, the Canadiens future for 2021-22 also hangs in the balance.

Carey Price clearly is improving in his battle to regain full health but it's also apparent that there's no clear date for his return as full-time, number one Montreal puck-stopper.

That could mean that Allen will have to do a variation on his pinch-goaltending role from last season with more added to his game-starting. 

Because of Price's injury last season and inconsistent play, Allen started 27 games, two more than Price who was left unprotected for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft.

Allen's 2.68 goals against average was almost identical to Price's 2.64, the difference being that Jake will be expected to play many more games under much more pressure.

Not that Marc Bergevin doesn't have enough headaches this is another. 

Which is not to suggest that Allen won't deliver but it's going to be under the some challenging circumstances.

Then again, he is a Maritimer and they are cut from tough cloth. 

Let's hope that Price's recovery -- as long as it might take -- is complete and that Jake Allen is up to the task ahead.


Stan’s Java Jive

HEADLINE: JACK EICHEL PUMPS UP FANS

THE JIVE: As he awaits surgery, Vegas' newest acquisition is getting on the good side of Nevada fans. Actually, Jumpin' Jack is firing them up in anticipation of his eventual return; he knows not when.

No matter, that's a positive for a personality who's been experiencing extraordinarily difficult times. I'm glad he's adding some spunk to his new team. Disappointing so far, the Knights could use Eichel the moment he gets the green light following his surgery.


ALEX OVECHKIN IS ABOUT TO CLAIM THE RECORD FOR MOST CAREER POWER PLAY GOALS

Our man in Florida, Alan Greenberg, sat in on a teleconference with Dave Andreychuk during which the Hall of Famer discussed the imminent breaking of his NHL record for most career power play goals.

It’s only a matter of days but Alex Ovechkin is about to add another record to his impressive resume. His 271 power play goals are only three short of the NHL record held by Dave Andreychuk. It will have taken Ovi more than 400 fewer games to achieve that prestigious mark.

Andreychuk, who played for six teams over a 23 season NHL career, retired in 2006. He is still with the Tampa Bay Lightning, his final team, in an executive capacity. He recently told a media gathering that given Ovechkin’s special talent, “it was only a matter of time” until a new mark would be established.

“Andy” has nothing but admiration for Ovechkin. “It’s 16 years (that Ovechkin has been in the NHL). If he’s still in the league he’s going to pass a lot of players in a lot of categories. He’s a special player. We all have watched him over the years. Playing against him, he’s no different now than he was then. When you put that kind of talent together – the speed, the strength, the desire, the competitiveness, a lot of things are going to get done.”

Andreychuk added that Ovi was “at the top of the class when it came to one-timers,” his patented shot from the left circle. “Everybody knows it’s coming but nobody can stop it.”

In comparing his style with Ovechkin he said they were totally opposite. “I think I got one one-timer in my career…I was primarily six feet in front of the net. That’s where it came from. I got good players to shoot at me, I had good players to pass to me, similar to Ovi. He has to get someone to give it to him. We see it here in Tampa. Steve Stamkos has got a great shot but it’s Victor Hedman that puts it in the right spot all the time. I don’t know that you can compare the two of us. Just on numbers.”

He graciously is prepared to congratulate Ovechkin when the record is finally broken. “I had a good run. Let’s just say that. It’s been a while, it’s been fun and to be put in that same class as Phil Esposito, Brett Hull and now Alex Ovechkin, I’m still very honored.”


HEADLINE: VETERAN NETMINDERS GOT A NEW LEASE ON NHL LIFE UNDER TWO-GOALIE EDICT.

The Jive: Author George Grimm follows up on his story about the origin of the Two-goalie rule, describing how it added years to the careers of some future Hall of Fame goaltenders.

Although the owners probably weren’t happy about having to pay an extra salary, the NHL’s 1965 ruling that required teams to dress two goaltenders for every game was beneficial to the sport for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, the ruling went a long way towards  legitimizing the sport in the eyes of the public because the results of a professional game would no longer rest in the unsteady hands of an over-matched amateur who was called out of the stands to replace an injured netminder.

The league’s decree as well as the 1967 expansion also opened up new roster spots for goalkeepers and extended the careers of veterans like Terry Sawchuk, Johnny Bower, Glenn Hall, Jacques Plante and Gump Worsley.

Toronto’s Punch Imlach jumped ahead of the curve when he claimed the 35-year-old Sawchuk in the 1964 Intra-league draft from Detroit.

Sawchuk teamed up with the already 40-year-old Johnny Bower to share the Vezina Trophy in 1965. It was Bower’s second Vezina and Sawchuk’s fourth.

Two seasons later the pair led the Maple Leafs to the Stanley Cup in 1966-67. It was the fourth Cup victory for both veterans, but Maple Leaf fans have been waiting for another Cup ever since.

During that season Imlach often added a third goaltender to the mix, calling up Bruce Gamble to back up one of his veteran netminders, while the other one stayed home and rested or went ahead to the next stop on a road trip.

Glenn Hall 36, was selected in the expansion draft by St. Louis in 1967. He took the Blues to the Stanley Cup Finals that spring and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs MVP.

Jacques Plante, 40,  came out of retirement in 1968 to team with Hall and shared the Vezina that season. It was Hall’s third Vezina and Plante’s seventh.

Another veteran netminder who saw his career extended was Gump Worsley who spent his last five years in the league sharing the crease with Cesare Maniago in Minnesota. The 5-7 Worsley and 6-3 Maniago reminded many of Mutt and Jeff, but the pair became close friends and Cesare was even able to convince the Gumper to don a mask during his final season.


HEADLINE: PATRIC HORNQVIST RETURNS TO PITTSBURGH

THE JIVE: Panthers’ Patric Hornqvist returned to Pittsburgh last night for the first time since being traded more than a season ago. Hornqvist was popular and effective in Pittsburgh, where he spent six seasons and helped the team win two Stanley Cups.

He was not happy when Pittsburgh traded him to Florida but has since mellowed and has enjoyed his time with the much-improved Panthers. He expected an emotional evening, at least until the puck dropped.

Before the game he said, “It feels great to be back. I had a lot of good hockey in this city and the city really took care of me. We won two Cups so there’s a lot of emotion obviously, but we have to get back to work.” The priority then turned to the Panthers poor performances against the Rangers and Devils. He admitted though, “Tonight’s going to be a special night for me and I’m going to enjoy it.”

“My kids grew up here and one was born here so we’ve got a lot of good memories from the city.”

He was reminded that the Pens had the customary video tributes when Marc-André Fleury and Phil Kessel returned so there would likely be one for him. “It’s going to be fun, obviously. It’s going to be emotional. Soak it in is the best thing you can do and then get back to work.”

Hornqvist averaged more than twenty goals a season in his six years in Pittsburgh. He started slowly this season and has but one goal and six points. He would have liked nothing more than to break out against his old mates. “The challenge will not be hard. I’m going to play the same way every single night. My season so far hasn’t been the best. I know I can play better.”

Postscript: Hornqvist received a thunderous ovation during the obligatory first period timeout tribute. He came close to poetic justice when he had the opportunity at the winning shootout goal but was stopped by former teammate Tristan Jarry. The Pens prevailed in the shootout.


HEADLINE: REVIEWING MARK MESSIER'S NEW BOOK

THE JIVE: Author Sean McCaffrey has followed Messier's career from Day One. Here's how he feels about #11's new book, "No One Wins Alone, A Memoir," published by Gallery Books on October 26th.

Ghosted by NBC's Jimmy Roberts, the 368-page-turner hardly will make headlines but does offer compelling insights. Mess is big on his family and its influence on his career, particularly in the area of leadership.

There have been other books dedicated to Messier throughout the years, including Jeff Klein's 2003 release, "Messier," which I consider to be the best. In "Messier", Klein recounts every single moment and controversy in the captain's career, whereas in "No One Wins Alone", Messier and Roberts gloss over some moments - including Messier's nuclear family, dating life and his impact on Ranger roster decisions, such as the 1995 trade of Petr Nedved.

In "No One Wins Alone," fans of the "Moose" will enjoy Messier talking about his contract negotiations, thoughts on his numerous legendary teammates (Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey, Brian Leetch, et al.), the art of winning and all of his off-season vacations - including an eye-opening tale about ingesting psychedelic mushrooms.

My gripe is that Mess cuts stories too short, often jumping to a conclusion rather than giving us all of the juicy details.

As someone who has read many hockey books over the years, I rate this book a 6.5 on a ten-point scale.

Messier's book should be written the way Mark played. And he never played a tepid game!