Stan's Java Jive: 2/2/21
Ovie tops 21-22 UFA list; Panthers surprise; Carolina happy, not content; big Bruins comeback win; a look back a Connor McDavid's coast-to-coast goal
HEADLINE: OVIE RANKED BEST UFA-TO-BE
THE JIVE: Writing in The Hockey News, Matt Larkin figures that Alex Ovechkin will be the best Unrestricted Free Agent of 2021. Ovie is followed by Canes' D-man Dougie Hamilton and Avs ace Gabriel Landeskog. The trick is that all three are determined to finish their careers with their present clubs. Ditto for fourth-place Tuukka Rask in Beantown. Which means that the most-likely-available-player-of-quality will be Buffalo's Taylor Hall, followed by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Edmonton.
HEADLINE: PANTHERS ARE THE SURPRISE TEAM
THE JIVE: We've become accustomed to the annual Florida build-up-to-a-letdown but this season may be different. Rookie g.m. Bill Zito acquired a gem in Patric Hornqvist, not to mention Carter Verhaeghe and Anthony Duclair. For non-Good Housekeeping mean-ness, Radko Gudas is as intimidating as usual but less nutsy. (He reminds me of Gord Lane a key intimidator on the Islanders four-Cup dynasty.) Our man in Sunrise, Alan Greenberg adds: "The veterans, Alek Barkov, Jon Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle have not diminished their play. Plus, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has regained his superior game." However, Greenberg wisely notes, "So far the Cats are winning their games against the bottom-feeders." Good point but they've added intensity to their game and they've got personality in the room along with enthusiasm. Then again, As Al adds, "Nobody is taking anything for granted."
HEADLINE: TONY DEANGELO DUMPED BY THE RANGERS:
THE JIVE: Right from his rookie year, this gifted defenseman had -- as one club official put it -- "maturity" issues. That, plus the post-game "incident" involving goalie Alex Georgiev the other night gave the high command a reason to wish Tony well with Waivers. All teams passed on him which leaves a question about his future. Tony's situation is similar to creative players from other years and other teams who disturbed management for better or worse. Exhibit A would be Carl Brewer who left the dynastic Maple Leafs in his prime yet found his game and a home elsewhere. Perhaps it will happen with DeAngelo, perhaps not. Right now the only question remaining is whether another NHL club can relieve the Blueshirts of a gifted D-man who essentially battled his way OFF the team. Meanwhile, the L'Affaire DeAngelo and its sidebars will remain incomplete until the Rangers rid themselves of the distracting D-man! From the Blueshirts point of view, the club did what it had to do to/ Last night's win over Pittsburgh proves the wisdom of a decision to eschew a problem talent.
HEADLINE; BLACKHAWKS ARE NOT DEAD
THE JIVE: Chicago's sextet found itself behind the eight-ball before the season even began. With captain Jonathan Toews out and goaltending a big "If," the Hawks slipped precariously from opening night. Then third-string goalie Kevin Lankinen stepped in -- and up -- and at last look had a commendable .937 save percentage. He could even win the Number One gig in the Windy City cage. Our Chi-watcher, Coby Maer, points out that Patrick Kane is earning his salary with a better-than-ever defensive game to go with his superior offense. "The rookie, Pius Suter, has been on the top line with Kane," says Maer, "and has looked good. Ditto for Dylan Strome who has taken over the center spot vacated by the absent Toews."
HEADLINE: DESPITE INJURIES PENS DO SEMI-SWIMMINGLY WELL
THE JIVE: With no less than five defensemen down with wounds, Pitt coach Mike Sullivan had to dig deep for help. Doing so, he mined a winner in rookie Pierre-Oliver Joseph. Our Penguins keeper, Vince Comunale, observes, "Joseph came to the Penguins in the Phil Kessel deal with Arizona and was a key piece. In last Saturday's game with the Rangers he had three assists and the most time of any of the backliners." Another Pitt plus has been Kaspen Kapanen, obtained by Jim Rutherford for a number one Draft pick. Speaking of the Pens, one writer offered this line after Ev Malkin declared that he, Evgeny, doesn't like the way he's playing. This prompted a squelch: "Neither does anyone else!" Point is, Malkin has to get off his keister and start scoring. Last night's 3-1 loss to the Rangers merely confirms the point: Rutherford is gone, Malkin now is the issue in Pitt.
HEADLINE: NHL HAS 'BUFFER' FOR POSTPONED GAMES:
THE JIVE: Smart move. Covid-related postponements means that those games must be played sometime in the future. Word is that the NHLwill provide seven to ten days, post-season, to compensate for the postponements. Now that the Devils are the latest team confronted with Pandemic issues, the "Buffer" takes on even more importance in terms of completing the season.
HEADLINE: IN CAROLINA, NOTHING COULD BE FINER THAN CANES
THE JIVE: It takes plenty to get Rod Brind'Amour's Hurricanes much attention outside of Raleigh yet with a 5-1-0 record they have surmounted injuries -- five regulars out of lineup -- and are doing just fine. Thank you for the latest bit of heroism back-up goalie James Reimer who successfully has replaced the injured Petr Mrazek. The often-discarded Reimer is getting substantial help from Jordan Staal , Nino Nederreiter, Dougie Hamilton and Vincent Trocheck. "We're very happy -- not content -- but very happy with the way we're playing," says an enthused Staal. "We didn't change our game with the guys out and all the other stuff going on outside of being on the ice."
* RANGERS OVER PENGUINS, 3-1. With Tony DeAngelo having cleared waivers, so has the air cleared in the Blueshirts room; and the ice. Good news for coach David Quinn is that Chris Kreider has awakened.
* BRUINS OVER CAPITALS, 5-3. The Big, Bad B's overcame a three-goal deficit which was a nice way to welcome back David Pastrnak. Davy responded with a pair of goals lifting Boston to a healthy 5-0-1 in their last six games.
* LIGHTNING OVER PREDATORS, 5-2. The Champs are so, so, so loaded! Yanni Gourde with a pair followed by Braden Point, Ondrej Palat and Steven Stamkos tell you why the Bolts are hard to beat. Again!
* CANADIENS OVER CANUCKS, 6-2. "Fire Wagon Hockey" was the theme in the Habs dynasty decades and it's back. Jeff Petry had two goals and an assist as team speed spurs the lethal offense.
* FLAMES OVER JETS, 4-3. It was another field day at night for Johnny Goudreau who scored the Shootout winner and extended his season-opening streak to eight games.
* KNIGHTS VS. SHARKS, POSTPONED
HOCKEY 101 WITH PROFESSOR MCDAVID.
The amazing Connor was asked to explain how he managed to skate through the entire Maple Leafs team last week and score a goal.
"You just have to isolate the guys." (With the exception of Leon Draisaitl, no other player has an Isolation Machine to pull off a stunt like that.)
YAY TO THATCHER DEMKO of the Canucks. The goalie from San Jose was voted the NHL's Star of the Week and it's well deserved I might add. He went 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals against average and .971 save percentage. Also, the NHL picked Richmond, British Columbia Hospital respiratory specialist Alim Somani as the Co-Star. Somani has worked tirelessly since the Pandemic's start and deserves NHL commendation.
HAVE A 5-SPOT:
1. The Canucks Brock Boeser bears watching. He's goal-hungry and devouring the biscuits.
2. Good man Lee Stempniak has retired after 14 useful NHL years. He's now the Coyotes "Data Strategist."
3. Hard to Believe Department: Still in mint condition, Sidney Crosby is about to reach another milestone -- his 1,000th NHL game.
4. Habs assistant g.m. Scott Mellanby took himself out of running for the vacated Jim Rutherford spot in Pitt. (Is Chris Drury really a candidate?)
5. With ten Devils on the NHL's Covid 19 list, tonight's game vs. Pitt has been postponed. Earliest NJ return to play is Feb. 9.
HISTORIC QUOTE OF THE DAY: Detroit Red Wings coach Jack Adams said the following about Hall of Fame goalie Turk Broda of the Toronto Maple Leafs after a Broda clutch performance: "Turk could play in a tornado and never blink an eye!"