Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen

Avalanche go down in 6. Vegas returns to the Stanley Cup Semis. Pointing fingers in Boston. Tyler Toffolli stays hot!

Like Humpty Dumpty, neither all the kings horses nor all the king's men, can put the Avalanche, Maple Leafs. Jets, Hurricanes nor McDavid's together again.

By far, the biggest plop-flop currently is being throughout the grand state of Colorado,  Call the Avs loss to Vegas last night an embarrassment, if you will and you would be right.

A nugget or two in Denver would call the Avalanche exit from the playoffs in the second round and downright disgraces.

I'm talking about the team rated "Best In The League" by our sport's bible, The Hockey News; even ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

As as added fillip, THN also knighted -- wrong word under the circumstances -- King Nathan MacKinnon the very best player in the league; better even than Nazim Kadri, who did as much to scuttle his ship as anyone.

Like the Maple Losers, Oilers, Jets and Hurricanes, the Avs were victims of their own build up.

So the great Phil Grubauer was outplayed by Faded Flower Fleury and Peter DeBoer craftily out-coached Sir Bedna by about ten slapshots.

Based on the Avalanche early ouster, it's reasonable to believe that Bednar could get the fall-guy award and be shown the door in favor of a Denver favorite called Patrick Roy, who'd love that job

The Knights have become an NHL institution within three years.

And an inspiration to, guess who?

None other than the Seattle Kraken, whoever they may be.

Stan’s Java Jive


THE JIVE: Vegas is not a team to be counted out.

Coming into the Round Two the Avs were on a roll, having decisively swept St. Louis. After the first two games against Vegas it was more like an avalanche, running this year’s playoff streak to six straight wins. The top trio of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen was on fire. The Avs had won 13 straight home games before the crushing OT defeat in Game 5.

Vegas proved that they could never be counted out. They were blown away 7-1 in the opening contest. Marc Andre Fleury replaced Robin Lehner as the starter in goal but they suffered a tough OT loss in Game 2. Things did not look good. They actually trailed in all six games of the series and trailed after two in four games.

In Game 3 the Vegas luck began to change. Led by Jonathan Marchessault’s five goals in three games it was now Vegas on a roll. In winning the next four straight the Knights held Landeskog, MacKinnon and Rantanen to a combined one goal and four assists. Avs coach Jared Bednar did some line shuffling, breaking up his top trio.

Game 5 was the turning point of the series. It started ominously. Marc-Andre Fleury had given up what might have been the worst goal of his career, waiving at a soft buzzer beater goal to Branson Saad in period one. Later Fleury admitted that he “felt stupid” on the Saad goal, but added “When I was younger this would have thrown me off a bit more.” He came up big for the rest of the game, including a giant save on  J.T. Compher at the ten second mark of OT, setting the stage for Mark Stone’s breakaway game winner. “Vintage Mark Stone,” was coach Peter DeBoer’s comment.

Game 6 was another comeback, with McKinnon breaking his pointless streak with an assist on Devon Toews’ goal at the 23 second mark only to have Nick Holden tie it less than a minute later in what became a see-saw battle of turnovers before more than 18,000 frenzied fans.

In the 6-3 clincher the Knights showed its depth with goals by fourth liners Keegan Kolesar and William Carrier. When it was all over, however, it was the veterans who excelled in closing out the series. Fleury came up big when needed and Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, Shea Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo justified their mega-contracts.

Post-game, DeBoer praised the work of his team’s depth players. “The identity of this team is our depth and the number of contributions we’re getting. Guys that have sat out and then come back into the lineup…We’ve had so many contributions from so many guys – how the guys have handled when they’re out and their ability to hop back in and make a difference for us. It’s been critical. You don’t beat a team like Colorado without that.”


THE JIVE: Years from now Boston hockey historians will be studying Bruce Cassidy's manhandling of his Bruins and how the panicky coach cost hist team the second round series to the Islanders. Bruce should have known better than to do a filibuster on why the NHL officials cost him team  hockey game and gave his players a crutch when they needed leadership in the Jon Cooper and Barry Trotz mold. Ignoring revolutionary decorum when most needed, Cassidy made like Bugs Bunny and the result was a bunch of losers wearing the proud Boston jersey.

Now that the NHL has ruled on the intemperate, impudent Cassidy, the question now is whether the Boston high command will punish him as well.


THE JIVE: As Steven Ellis so accurately put it in his Hockey News column, it didn't have to be this way. G.m. Jim Benning should have known better than allow such a talent a Toffoli leave the Vancouver system. This is especially true since the B.C. sextet was on the rise. "Toffoli was willing to stay," Ellis concludes, "but the offer wasn't there." It was in Montreal and that's one reason while the Habs have been hot.


THE JIVE: What with the likes of an infinite number of tv and radio "hockey insiders," it's always interesting to wonder about the mystery sources that the likes of Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman and TSN's Darren Dreger come up with on a weekly basis. It reminds me of a story passed along by pal George Falkowski about onetime Rangers coach Ted Sator. Discussing the media with friends, Sator opined, "When they say 'A source up high in The Garden, it's probably The Window Washer."

TRIVIA CORNER: The man who later starred with an NHL team, once doubled as a rink organist and practice goalie. Who was he?  (Answer below.)

CLASSIC COMMENTS FROM YESTERYEAR:  "If Bert Olmstead did publicity for Santa Claus, there wouldn't be any Christmas!"

-- Former player discussing the outstanding -- but very gruff and demanding -- Canadiens and Leafs left wing Bert Olmstead in an obituary.

TRIVIA ANSWER:  Goalie for the 1933 Rangers Cup-winners, Andy Aitkenhead learned his trade in Saskatoon.

Before he earned his NHL spurs, Andy ran the Saskatoon rink's wheezie organ and acted as a practice goalie.