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Stan’s Java Jive: 2/11/21
Who is Canada's top team?; Metro area to have fans in-arenas; More fallout from Pitt, Columbus and a Fight of the Year candidate
HEADLINE: WHO'S THE KING OF CANADA?
THE JIVE: The beauty part of this North (Canadian) Division is that we now are into a couple of masterful rivalries. I remember Toronto-Montreal back to 1947 when the Leafs scored a huge Cup upset over Rocket Richard's Habs. Last night's collison proved one thing and that is simply the mastery of the Maple Leafs. When a terrific Toronto team can win a game without an Auston Matthews goal, nor Mitch Marner, nor John Tavares; that's a start. They topped Carey Price with the likes of two D-men scoring -- ever-improving Justin Holl and Travis Dermott -- while Ilya Mikheyev -- The Oracle of Omsk, Russia -- illuminated his red light for the first time this season. Also Fred Andersen was even more loveable to teammates with a bunch of solid saves. So, as far as this marvelous Canadian rivalry is concerned, last night's equation reads:
MAPLE LEAF FOREVER!
HEADLINE: RANGERS, ISLES, SABRES FANS SOON WELCOME
THE JIVE: New York State Governor Cuomo's latest edict is a reasonable one for Rangers, Isles and Sabres fans. Starting on February 23 a limited number of fans will be admitted to the respective three arenas -- but with restrictions. For starters the crowd will be limited to ten percent of the arena's capacity. Fans will be required to wear masks and to socially distance. Finally, this is all predicated on final approval from the New York State Department of Health. (All in all, I see this as a start. If it works, the teams will move from there. Call it a light at the end of the arena.)
HEADLINE: DISSENTING OPINION FROM PITTSBURGH
THE JIVE: The Penguins controversial Brian Burke-Ron Hextall double-dip hire has not won unanimous raves in Pitt. Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook is suffering doubts. He's fine with Hexy; not so much with Burke.
He labels Brian's hire as "Shocking!" Cook points out how Burke "failed in Toronto," citing the Phil Kessel deal as Exhibit A. "Also, surprising," Cook goes on, "is going from one man in Hockey Ops to two." And, "Can Hexie and Burkie play nice together? I'd hate to see PPG Paints Arena without a roof!"
HEADLINE: WHAT MOVES CAN BE EXPECTED OF BURKE?
THE JIVE: As Brian points out in his newly-published autobiography, "Burke's Law," every team he's taken over almost immediately is beefed up with tough guys. Brian unabashedly goes against NHL thinking and advocates fighting. The first thing to look for is the goonie-bird he signs to beef up a roster that lacks a Ryan Reeves-type. A Burke conference with Sidney Crosby and Mike Sullivan should happen post-haste if it hasn't already taken place. (I wonder whether Brian has consulted with Jim Rutherford -- or is that not Kosher?)
HEADLINE: IS THERE A SIMILARITY BETWEEN PUNCH IMLACH AND JOHN TORTORELLA?
THE JIVE: The Toronto Sun's crack columnist Steve Simmons did a brilliant interview with Hall of Famer Frank (Big M) Mahovlich. In it, the outstanding left wing discussed his disgust with martinet coach Punch Imlach. After reading it one wonders whether the Big M was talking about today's John Tortorella."My first four years with Punch were okay," said Mahovlich. "After that, if we lost a game or did something wrong, he'd punish you. After a while it became ridiculous. My last four years with him were a disaster. It was laborious for me. Nobody liked Imlach but nobody could say anything because nobody did in those days of a six-team NHL."
(At one point, during the worst of Imlach, Mahovlich checked into a hospital with a nervous breakdown. That won't happen with Torts and Laine. But do you see a similarity?)
HEADLINE: BEST BOUT OF THE SEASON SO FAR:
THE JIVE: On Tuesday night a pair of NHL heavyweights, 6-2, 225-pound Ryan Reeves of Vegas, and 6-3, 219 pound Niclas Deslauriers of Anaheim squared off. It easily was the best, evenly matched fist-fight of the season. Reeves, who unofficially is called "The Heavyweight Champion Of The NHL" was no champ in this one. If Niclas didn't take Ryan on points, he certainly took Reeves to the ice and for that alone, the Duck was mighty.
Just one thing. I got disgusted when these guys got into the sweater-tugging part of the fight. Thoroughly disgusted, in fact. I suggest a way to trim fights but allow the fighters to get it over with. And that is, any player who grabs a jersey in a fight immediately be tossed out of the game. In other words, you wanna fight? Fists only; otherwise forget about it!
HEADLINE: THE FALLOUT FROM TORTS-LAINE KEEPS FALLING
THE JIVE: The unhappiest chappy in Columbus is g.m. Jarmo Kekalainen. As the sage Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet opines, J.K., who likes quiet, ain't too sanguine over the Tortorella Follies. Friedman says the manager was hoping the inevitable coach explosion wouldn't have happened "so quickly." The inside on Laine's benching allegedly was when Patrik blew off one of the assistant coaches who wanted to explain a blunder. While he was at it, Elliotte completely debunked a theory that Johnny-On-The-Spot "wants out." Friedman asserts that Torts is loyal to the organization and players. (I'll buy that. Friedman is flawless.)
HEADLINE: MORE FALLOUT FROM THE TORTS FALLOUT:
THE JIVE: Little Lord John is fed up to here with all the Laine business and has declared: "I'm not speaking on this subject anymore." That is, not until Patrik does something stupid again like insult another Tortorella aide. Furthermore the NHL's Most Captivating Coach says this of his team. "It's terribly disjointed." (To which I say, who's managing this Joint?)
HEADLINE: DO YOU BELIEVE THESE ESPN POWER RATINGS?
THE JIVE: I don't go along with all of them but we'll get to that in another day. For starters lemme point out that ESPN's distinguished expert Emily Kaplan does fine work and these picks are supremely thought out. And I'll get to my views in another JJ issue. Here's how Ms. Kaplan views the club's from one to thirty-one: 1. Toronto; 2. Boston; 3. Vegas; 4. Tampa Bay; 5. Montreal; 6. Philadelphia; 7. Colorado; 8. St.Louis; 9. Washington; 10. Carolina; 11. Dallas; 12. Florida; 13. Winnipeg; 14. Columbus; 15. Pittsburgh; 16. Edmonton; 17. Islanders; 18. Arizona; 19. Minnesota; 20. New Jersey; 21. Calgary; 22. Chicago; 23. Anaheim; 24. Buffalo; 25. Rangers; 26. San Jose; 27. Nashville; 28. Vancouver; 29. Los Angeles; 30, Detroit; 31. Ottawa.
BASED ON LAST NIGHT'S RESULTS -- Bruins over Rangers and Toronto over Montreal, Emily is batting a thousand on the first pair. Ergo: Two for two ain't bad!
HEADLINE: RAY RATTO RATS ON BRIAN BURKE:
THE JIVE: In case you're wondering, Bay Area journalist, Ratto, writes for Defector. com and doubles as sportscaster for KGMZ-FM. More to the point, this guy writes with style, with a capital S. Commenting on the Burke hire in Pitt, Ratto spins some neat lines. Here are a couple.
1. Burke is a more digestible version of Don Cherry.
2. Burke likes teams that headbutt locomotives and fistfight tractors.
Ratto also recalled the time when Brian was Leafs g.m. and Pitt won Sidney Crosby in the Lottery. A Toronto writer asked Burke if he would follow the "Pittsburgh Model?" To that Burkie replied: What's the Pittsburgh model? They won the god-damn Lottery. Is that available to me? Should we do that? Should we ask the league to do a Lottery this year and maybe we pick first? 'The Pittsburgh Model,' my ass!
Finally, Ratto on Ron Hextall: "He's another Rottweiler impersonator!"
* SENS G.M. PIERRE DORION SAYS DEREK STEPAN HAS NOT ASKED FOR A TRADE. Rumor has it that he wants to "go home" to Minnesota. I wouldn't be surprised if he winds up with the Wild.
* LEAFS COACH SHELDON KEEFE ON TORTS: "He's very purposeful how he does things." (You mean like hissing off his players?)
* A BUTTON GOALIE BLAST: X-Raying Sens' goalie Marcus Hofberg getting yanked after three softies, Craig described the Swedish stopper's performance as "Horrific. Impossible to win games with goaltending like that."
* BLACKHAWKS MUM ON JONATHAN TOEWS: Whatever ails The Captain has not been disclosed and you won't catch me making any obtuse guesses. Just hope he's okay/
* PIERRE-LUC DUBOIS RATES HIS PEG DEBUT: "I can play a lot better." Funny, Paul Maurice was thinking the same thing.
* CAPS HIRE MICHAEL PECA AS PLAYER DEVELOPMENT COACH:
Smart move by a smart team getting a smart guy.
BEST HEADLINE AFTER AN OTTAWA BACKUP GOALIE GETS THE HOOK: "MARCUS HOGBERG SPRUNG A LEAK." (He also may be sprung to the AHL.)
THE RANGERS ONCE HAD AN 'ATOMIC' LINE. WHO WERE THE MEMBERS? (Answer below)
SUPER QUOTE FROM THE PAST:
"WHERE'S THE REST OF YOUR GOALKEEPER?"
-Larry Robinson, on the Blackhawks' 5-5 goalie Darren Pang.
ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION: The Rangers Atomic Line, from 1945-46, consisted of Cal Gardner at center flanked by Church Russell and Rene Trudell. Only Gardner lasted as a longtime NHLer with Rangers, Leafs, Blackhawks and Bruins.