Stan's Java Jive: 2/12/21

Burke says why now; Rivalry in Florida is building; Mike Smith backstops another Edmonton Win


THE JIVE: As expected, Brian Burke's arrival in Pittsburgh has finally pushed John Tortorella into the headline shadows. Chatting with ace interviewer Christine Simpson, Burke revealed he turned down two captivating previous offers from NHL teams. Plus, he loved his tv gig. "I picked Pittsburgh," he confesses, "because it's a 'magical' destination" and not because the team is that good. Honest to a fault, Brian compares Pitt with the Cup-winning Bolts and notes, "I put the Penguins roster next to Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh is not as good." Burke says he's chatted with Sidney Crosby and kidded the Captain about how close Brian came to getting The Kid on his team. "This close," and puts his thumb a half-inch from his index finger. Speaking of chats -- or, in this case, non-chats -- Burke has not talked to exited Pens g.m. Jim Rutherford. "Even if I did talk to Jim," he chuckles, "I wouldn't tell anyone our conversation." He allowed that the Penguins were not big enough nor tough enough to suit him." (Which means he'll be in the market for at least one enforcer.)


THE JIVE: Like Islanders-Rangers or Pitt-Philly, the hope among Sunshine State hockey people was that an intense Florida-Florida rivalry would sizzle. The trick, of course, in any rivalry is that it has to have an opening explosion. For example, the Isles-Blueshirt competition erupted only after the Nassaumen upset the Blueshirts in the 1975 playoffs. Now, at last, something like that is possible. The Champ Bolts are -- what else, the best -- but something hot is brewing across the state in Sunrise where rookie g.m. Bill Zito and coach Q have a competitive team on their hands. But "how competitive?" That's the question. The answer was provided last night in Sunrise. The Cats took a big bite out of the Bolts, 5-2. (More Below)


THE JIVE: The knock against South Florida's fast-rising NHL representative was that it hadn't faced the Champs from Tampa Bay. Now that they've turned the Champs into (9-2-1) chumps, the (9-1-1) Cats have moved up to the league's creme de la creme category. "They stifled Tampa's possession game," says my Florida reporter Alan Greenberg, "and they are getting production out of Alexander Wennberg -- three goals in his last three games -- and Carter Verhaeghe, a Bolts discard." And if you're wondering what's come over the former Tampa fourth-liner, who's scored seven goals already, Carter will tell you. "They trust me here," he explains. If there's an issue in Sunrise -- and there is -- oddly enough it's in goal. Here's the paradox; Sergei Bobrovsky is 5-0-1 with a .889 save percentage and a 2.90 goals against average and yet his club continues to win. Now here's the beauty part; they meet the Bolts again tomorrow. The rivalry is for REAL and even Bolts boss Jon Cooper sees it as he prepares for revenge against his cross-state rivals. "It should be fun," says Smiling Jon. (Beware, pal, it could be more fun, Jonny, for the other guys.)


THE JIVE: Where a week ago the Rangers version of "Puck's Bad Boy," seemed to be headed for Calgary in exchange for Sam Bennett, that deal never materialized; although it still might. Meantime, Blueshirts g.m. Jeff Gorton's desire to "find him another home" just might not be fulfilled. And then what? Some seers believe that it will wind up as an end-of-season buy out of Tony's $9.6 million deal. And then there's the wonder why a desperate team -- say Ottawa -- wouldn't take a flyer on him. One explanation I've heard is that any prospective team is "leery of the p.r. fallout," whatever that means. (Only time will tell.)


THE JIVE: We all remember how Tuukka Rask suddenly and mysteriously exited the Bruins at playoff time last season. The Bruins No. 1 goalie did an encore the other night against the Rangers. Only this time, in the final minute and with the scored tied, he inexplicably left his net and skated to the B's bench. This left his Boston buddies with an open net to defend and a chance for the Blueshirts to score a gift, winning goal. Fortunately for the Beanie Boys, the New Yorkers never got the puck. Meanwhile the traffic cops behind the Boston bench advised their wandering goalie that he was going in the wrong direction. "Get back, get back!" was the urgent message; and so he did. As for why he did what he did, Rask explained that he thought that his Bruins were trailing 2-1 and needed an extra skater. (In other words he was doing a remake of "Dumb And Dumber!")


THE JIVE:  When a club such as the Vancouver Canucks suffers a slump, the media hauls out the X-Ray machines, the questions are asked and the answers perused for headlines. They got one after practice the other day when defenseman Quinn Hughes suggested that off-season moves made by the high command may hold the answer. "We lost some pretty good players," Quinn honestly and innocently explained. One of those "pretty good players" happened to be Hughes' buddy and defense partner Chris Tanev. Not surprisingly, the press jumped all over Kid Hughes. Captain Bo Horvat jumped into the fray, pointing out that looking backward is a no-no in this case and the time has come to start winning hockey games. Unfortunately that "time" failed to come last night. Calgary took the B.C. boys, 3-1. 


THE JIVE: That should make Torts happy. Better still, Paul Maurice is tickled  pink. Ditto for Pierre-Luc's new teammates who are admiring the center's work habits on and off the ice. Then again, the way Winnipeg is winning -- 5-1 last night over Ottawa -- to reach the 8-4-4 mark, there's no rush for Dubois to show his goal-scoring stuff. Not when a Nikolai Ehlers continues to deliver, as he did with another red-lighter last night and Paul Stastny as well. Rounding out the Jets joy is Connor Hellebuyck's consistent puck-stopping. He's playing like the Vezina Trophy-winner that he is.


1. THE DEREK STEPAN RUMORS ARE TRUE. Sure he'd love a trade. Now Stepan allows that his family -- in Arizona -- is "on my mind." He'd like to play closer to his brood. I still say home-state, Minnesota beckons.

2. MATT MURRAY YANKED: Biggest disappointment in Ottawa is goaltending. Double M allowed three goals on 15 shots last night and got the hook after the second period. Back-up Marcus Hogberg isn't the solution.

3. MORE TEAMS TO ALLOW FANS: Tampa Bay soon will open doors for a limited number of spectators and ditto for the three New York State teams -- Rangers, Isles, Sabres. Madison Square Garden will allow 2,000 fans.

LUSCIOUS LISTS: By far the champion publication when it comes to luscious lists is The Hockey News. My latest favorite comes via old pal, Matt Larkin. He calls his new edition, "5 NHL Players Who Need Fresh Starts." They include: Sam Bennett, Calgary's left wing; Travis Dermott, the Leafs defenseman; D-man Vince Dunn of the Blues; troublesome Anthony Mantha, the Wings right wing and, finally, Jake Virtanen of Vancouver. (Any takers?)

YAY ONE: TO COMEBACK KID MIKE SMITH. Edmonton's big fella outshone Connor McDavid with a 3-0 blanking of the formerly-hot Habs. In  only his second start, Smitty produced the 40th shutout of his career with a 38-save effort.

YAY TWO: TO VANCOUVER VET JAY BEAGLE. This unobtrusive warrior completed his 600th NHL game.

TRIVIA CORNER: The great Canadien, Howie Morenz, was of Swiss descent but often mistaken for a French-Canadian. However, his two most famous linemates were of French extraction. Who were they? (answer below)

Good goalie quote from yesteryear:

"I’m supposed to stop the puck, not beat it up."
- Don Beaupre, on being a 5-7 goalie.

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION: Aurel Joliat and Johnny (Black Cat) Gagnon.