Leafs vs. Habs; Is Jack Campbell a Playoff Myth or Miracle Worker?

Blashill back in Detroit. Colby Armstrong's big interview. Battle of Florida one-sided so far. Coach-talk.

Put it this way: and you tell me --  Jack Campbell -- is he for real, or for fraud?

Until tomorrow night in Toronto, Port Huron, Michigan has been known as both "The Maritime Capital of the Great Lakes" and "The Gateway To Canada."

But if the Maple Leafs defeat the Canadiens in the North Division playoff opener, the sign will be changed to Port Huron, Home of Jack Campbell.

Right now, the Maple Leafs goaltender is harder to figure than the Mona Lisa's smile and her cousin, the Egyptian Sphinx.

His supporters point out that Jumpin' Jack was a Dallas Stars first round Draft pick In 2010. That automatically made him a big deal.

His detractors retort that -- since then -- he's been a big nothing until the hard-up Leafs stuck Soupy into the net this season and he won ten in a row. But, really, who cares?

What matters now is that coach Shelly Keefe will start him against the Habs in a series that some figure that Toronto should win by scores of 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 and 5-0.

"Jack is playing," explains Sly Shelly, "because Fred Andersen hasn't played much and Jack has played extremely well. He deserves the opportunity."

Can't argue with that. Can argue with the opposition. Pray tell, what do the Habs have going for them? Not a whole heckuva lot.

Their record since Claude Julien was unfairly fired is no better than when Julien was coach. Their ace goalie, Carey Price, will return with more rust on him than a 1941 Ford. 

Their returning forward -- and super sparkplug -- Brendan Gallagher does not match up well against any of the Leafs Murderers Row. That includes Auston (I Am An American) Matthews, Mitch (I'm From Markham, Ontario) Marner and William (When's The Team Meeting?) Nylander.

Come to think of it, the Canadiens corps of scorers is so nondescript, even the fellow who stars in "The Pyjama Game," John Tavares, is better than any Montreal forward, with the exception of Cole Caufield.

And, from what I hear, Mosinee, Wisconsin's gift to Montreal might not even dress.

All signs point to a four-game broomhandle Leafs sweep. 

But then there's that potential goalie fraud in the Toronto crease. Jack Campbell, are you ready for The Big Show?

Stan’s Java Jive


THE JIVE: This is very good news because a good man is being rewarded for guiding a Detroit team that is suffering through its rebuilding process. G.m. Steve Yzerman, who re-defined "work ethic" in the National Hockey League, recognized that Blashill brought the important element to the team. In three little words, Stevie Y explained why he gave Jeff a new pact: "We play hard!" And if you need a further solid thought, The Boss added: "That this team plays hard reflects on the coaching staff and that has the respect of the players." (Hooray for Jeff. Good move, Steve!)


THE JIVE: A couple of things bear comment. For starters Thatcher Demko has spoken out. The Canucks goalie wants coach Travis Green and his goalie coach re-hired. That's strong stuff. Now that g.m. Jim Benning is returning he should follow through and re-sign Green. Also, glad to see that the Rangers and Kraken both will be interviewing Rick Tocchet. I hope my old buddy winds up in Seattle because I remain convinced that the Rangers really want Gerard Gallant. 


THE JIVE: As long as I've known the former Detroit Red Wings goaltender, Jim Rutherford has been as open and honest as Webster's Dictionary. Gentleman Jim has been that way into his long and successful managerial career which ended this mid-season in Pittsburgh.

James' abrupt walkout on the Penguins remains to this day as more mysterious -- if that's possible -- than the Rangers pink-slipping John (Nice Guy) Davidson and Jeff (I Built A Foundation) Gorton.

What's more, Rutherford -- in rare appearances -- essentially has played a "Mum's The Word" game when queried about his emigration from the Penguins' lair. The thing is that Jim's name now is emerging as a possible "Something-Somewhere" with some NHL team for 2021-22 and it ain't Seattle.

For those of us who love "I Love A Mystery," The Rutherford Effect is pervasive but with no definitive answer. Guess, if you like, and I like Buffalo.


THE JIVE: If you've known Zach as long and as well as I know Zach, this belongs in the "Hard To Believe" Department. Parise was a rookie when Sid Crosby was a freshman. Zach didn't become a superstar with New Jersey but he was darn close to it in his prime. Obviously, Minny coach Dean Evason believes he can win without Parise and did so in Game One with Vegas. What intrigues me is whether Evason believes that Parise has lost his effectiveness. Or, is there some behind-the-scene business that I'm missing?

Minny’s loss to Vegas last night only adds to the confusion.


THE JIVE: Is this some sort of joke? That's roughly equivalent to Mitch Marner interviewing Cousin Auston or Leon Draisaitl giving King Connor the Third Degree. Kidding aside, Colby and I became pals when he was a Crosby teammate on the Penguins. After Pitt's morning skate all the media folks would gather around Crosby. Meanwhile, I'd bring my camera guy to the Penguin who everyone ignored who happened to be sitting next to Sid. That, of course, was Saskatoon's gift to the world, Colby Armstrong. My opener to him always was, "Who needs Crosby when I have Colby Armstrong here?" and then we'd have a roarin' good time. So nice to see that Army is doing well in his post-hockey-playing life. (Next time have Sid interview Colby. That could win an Emmy!)


THE JIVE: Rare though they are, goalie fights always captivate the fans. The idea of pad-burdened netminders trying to slug it out makes a good photo op and tv replay every time. It almost happened at the end of St. Lou-Avs Game One when Phil Grubauer became embroiled in a melee in front of his net. At the other end Jordan Binnington took a dim view of proceedings and hustled down the ice a lot faster than his forwards did during the game. Before Jordan could do his due diligence, the referee's radar sent an S.O.S. and angry Binnington was told to observe revolutionary decorum which he did after doing a U-turn toward the dressing room.  


THE JIVE: As good as the Panthers have been this season, that's how disappointing their once-starting goaltender has been -- bad. Last season was Bob's worst as a starter and he clearly has been no bargain this time around. Still, coach Q's decision to bench Bob in favor of back-up and AHL grad Chris Driedger in Game Two vs. the Bolts raised a few eyebrows but not Q's Essentially the coach noted that -- over the season -- Chris had played better goal than Bob; simple as that. But results count and what happened last night was that Driedger made 26 saves but lost 3-1. Andrei Vasilevskiy was better with 32 stops.

TRIVIA CORNER: Which hockey player was booed out of his home rink and, eventually, his uniform? (Answer below.)

FUNNY COMMENTS FROM YESTERYEAR: "We've been in a slump."

-Coach Roger Neilson after being asked to explain the reason for a Rangers losing streak.

TRIVIA ANSWER: Rangers defenseman Allan Stanley didn't play rough enough for Garden fans so they unmercifully booed him. Finally, manager Frank Boucher only played Stanley in road games. On Thanksgiving Day eve, 1954, Boucher finally traded Stanley to the Blackhawks. Big Allan's career lasted through the mid-1960s. He played on four Stanley Cup-winners and made it into the Hockey Hall of Fame.