Stan's Java Jive: 3/2/21
Leafs roll in the North; Sabres sinking; Trocheck comfortable in Carolina; and Binnington's Billy Smith act.
HEADLINE: THE BATTLE OF CANADA; NOT THE STANLEY CUP YET:
THE JIVE: You gotta love the North -- alias Canadian -- Division even if it lasts only one year. What's making it so pulsating, among other things, have been the Oilers-Leafs clashes whether or not Auston Matthews plays. It's not quite Cup Final intensity but media coverage has been so all-inclusive that Matthews' bum wrist gets more attention than McDavid-Draisaitl combined. Wherever they're hiding. Not surprisingly, last night's game also featured some nifty sidebars not including the previous game's "Saga of Jack Campbell." The Port Huron, Michigan product blanked the Oilers in the opening set. So, Act II featured Leon & Connor, Ltd. seeking -- what else? -- revenge., but this time -- surprise -- vs. Michael Hutchinson in Toronto's goal. Meanwhile, Edmonton got "Venge," as in vengeful Leafs. All things considered the 3-0 pasting last night is laughable. No need for Matthews, Marner, Tavares, et. al. when Zach Hyman, William Nylander and Morgan Rielly supply your goals. Starry Jack Campbell got a "much needed" rest and starry Hutchinson got the Zero for Leafs. (Who needs Fred Andersen?)
HEADLINE: WHO'LL RESCUE THE SINKING SABRES?:
THE JIVE: Buffalo's beleaguered sextet is at The Garden tonight facing the minus-Artemi Panarin Rangers. Things are so bad in Sabreland that there's talk about a benching of over-priced Taylor Hall -- 18-game goal-less drought -- as if that will help the Western New Yorkers. Owners Terry and Kim Pegula are not likely to can rookie g.m Kevyn Adams. But Adams could very well axe coach Ralph Krueger if his club loses to the also beleaguered Blueshirts. The benching of Jeff Skinner certainly didn't work. What can work? (Ten Doctor Hockey's are needed for this solution. Scotty Bowman, where are you when the Pegulas need you?)
HEADLINE: PANTHERS FORGOT THAT TROCHECK CAN CHECK -- AND SCORE:
THE JIVE: A late arrival in Carolina to anchor the Canes' second line, Vinnie Trocheck has made the Florida folks wonder what they were thinking when they let the Pittsburgh native go bye-bye. "Perhaps they thought Vin never would get over his ankle injury," my crack Florida reporter, Al Greenberg, wonders. "It slowed him for a couple of seasons." Obviously no more. Leading Carolina to a 3-2 win over the Cats last night all Trocheck did was tie the game with 1:13 left in the third for his team-leading 11 goals and third in the last three games. The game-tyer allowed the Canes to salt the game away in OT. "Vinnie has done it for us all year," chuckles Carolina's smiling coach Rod Brind'Amour. "He logs lots of minutes and plays in every situation." (Come to think of it, he might have been doing the same in Sunrise.)
HEADLINE: YES, MARK SCHEIFELE IS THE NHL'S MOST UNDERRATED FORWARD
THE JIVE: Two factors militate against The Kitchener Kid: 1. He went down with a major injury when last season's playoffs began; thus depriving him of Kucherov-type headlines; 2. He's in Winnipeg; not quite the media-capital of the world. This jolly Jet not only is a top-line center with skill to spare, he's brought his playmaking to a new level. At last look, Scheff was playing on the McDavid-Matthews skyscraper level. That is until last night when Canucks young goalie Thatcher Demko stopped all of Pegs' 27 shots en route to much needed 4-0 win. Hey, Mark isn't gonna score every night. (If you don't believe me, check with McDavid, two provinces away. Connor got zilch for the second game in a row!)
HEADLINE: JORDAN BINNINGTON MISTAKENLY THINKS HE'S BILLY SMITH:
THE JIVE. Start with the fact that there never was a more combative goalie than Islanders Hall of Famer Battlin' Bill Smith. Wayne Gretzky will attest to that. Battlin' Binnington -- for one night at least -- proved a reasonable facsimile of Smitty. After being yanked by coach Craig Berube last Saturday, Binny bumped one Shark, high-sticked another and, while still heading to the showers, was ready to do one-round with Devan Dubnyk. The Sharks goalie (6-6, 224) had a one-two punch ready for the biddy (6-1, 174) Binnington. "I told him to get off the ice," said Dubnyk, "and calm down." With that, The Bin discreetly turned right and disappeared into the dressing room walkway.
(The moral is this: pushing a couple of unsuspecting Sharks is good for laughs. Going one-on-one with two-ton Dubby ranks high in the Not-So-Smart Department. If Binny wants that new contract, he should stick to puck-stopping. Blues 5-4 win over Anaheim last night needed no goalie fight to make St. Lou coach Craig Berube happy. Craig had enough bouts in his long NHL playing career.)
HEADLINE: A KILLER-DILLER HEADED FOR THE CALDER
THE JIVE: Say what you will about Wild rookie Kirill Kaprizov but make sure it's in the superlative category. This Rapid Russian is so good, he's got the Minnesota media searching for new ways of describing his excellence. Jim Souhan of the Minny Star-Tribune has gone just short of nuts, waxing ecstatic over Kappy. "He's not just good," writes Gentleman Jim, "he may be transformative. He may be changing the way the Wild looks and plays." (I never heard anyone rap that way about McDavid, Matthews nor Marner. Too bad, Killer didn't get the winner last night. Vegas rallied for a 5-4 OT win.)
HEADLINE: MANY REASONS WHY CLAUDE JULIEN SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN CANNED
THE JIVE: 1. He's a class act; 2. He taught impudent Brad Marchand how to be a pro; 3. Claude's record was 9-4-5, not 4-5-9; 4. He won a Stanley Cup; Decharme never will; 5. Ownership-general staff couldn't wait to push Claude on to the unemployment line; 6. I'm still waiting for Ducharme to thank Julien for what Claude taught him; 7. Julien was outstanding with the media; Ducharme, "Eh." 8. Habs bosses should have checked out Tampa Bay. When the Jackets knocked off the Bolts in four straight, everyone wanted Jon Cooper canned. Ownership nixed that and, what happened, Coop returned with the 2020 Cup. (Bottom Line, as one of my sage buddies opines, "Sometimes the solution to your problem is right in front of you." In this case, it was Claude Julien who soon could be another team's solution before you know it.)
HEADLINE: DO THE BRUINS MISS ZDENO CHARA? YOU BET THEY DO!
THE JIVE: G.m. Don Sweeney knew he was going to lose Torey Krug but the wishy-washy B's boss couldn't find time for The Captain. Everyone and the Lighthouse Keeper on Cape Cod knew that Big Z wanted to stay in Big B. But Sweeney and Company diddled while Chara burned. He's now made Washington a better team while his former club scrambled for help last week and nabbed Nashville's seventh D-man Jarred Tinordi. Granted, the Beantowners have been hit with hurts but they already were rich with backliners. Tinordi supposedly will clean house in front of the net as the Rask-Halak gendarme. (But, wait, they already had a future Hall of Famer to do that. In case Sweeney forgot, his name still is Chara!)
HEADLINE: UH-OH, TORTS BACK ON FRONT PAGE; NOT GOOD, NOT GOOD
THE JIVE: If there's one thing that gives Columbus g.m. Jarmo Kekalainen the heebie-jeebies, it's a depressing run of five straight losses. Blue Jackets ownership takes a dim view of depressing defeats as well. And you know what that means, those mad, impetuous reporters already have the TORTS MAY BE IN TROUBLE -- headlines going. Maybe Jarmo should be jumping off The Good Ship B.J. He's the guy who dealt for Patrick Laine, whose production so far can be equated with the Square Root of Celery Tonic. As always, my man Torts has the answers. To wit: "I never worry about that (the rumors). I do the job the best I can. If people want to make decisions on me, that's their decision." (If Torts does get the gate, he'll be laughing all the way to the bank; then take care of his canines and wait for the next call for another gig. By the way, Jarmo is expected to deliver the Torts "vote of confidence" today. Shelf life of V.O.C, will be next five wins in March)
HEADLINE: JUST HOW GOOD IS PATRICK KANE?
THE JIVE: For starters, the Blackhawks ace is challenging Leon Draisaitl for first place in the scoring race. For another thing, he's turned a previous No-Name named Pius Suter into a NAME scorer and Calder Trophy candidate. "What goes unnoticed," my Chicago reporter Coby Maeir notices, "is how well Kane brings out the best in his linemates. Plus, his passing and 'eyes in the back of his head' moves are what separates him from your typical goal-scoring wing."
TRADE TALK: There's buzz that the Wings might be tempted to deal Luke Glendening. He'd add depth to a team dreaming of a long playoff run. Slumping Blue Jackets may unload tough D-man David Savard. Oilers claimed goalie Alex Stalock from the Stars. He'll help them no more than Mikko Koskinen.
* BIGGEST GOALIE DISAPPOINTMENT: THOMAS GREISS. Those of us who saw Tommy develop a .915 career save percentage on the Island figured he'd star in Detroit. (Hasn't).
* BEST MEDIA LINE: Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons who wrote, "Has Mike Babcock finished his 'I'm not a bad guy' tour yet? It is annoying!"
* YAY: ANDREI VASILEVSKLY for being named NHL Star Of The Week. He's the NHL's best goalie not named Marc-Andre Fleury.
* YAY: GLENDA M. WRIGHT. She's Tampa General Hospital's Director of Environmental Services and Pest Control. The star is for her solid work during the Covid-19 Pandemic.
* YAY: DRAKE BATHESON: The Senators flash has seven goals in his last six games. "The confidence grows," says Ottawa's goalie Matt Murray after last night's 5-1 pasting of Calgary.
Who was the first president of the World Hockey Association and who was the last? (Answer below.)
FUNNY COMMENTS FROM YESTERYEAR: "I'VE GOT NOTHING TO SAY AND I'LL ONLY SAY IT ONCE."
-Floyd Smith, Maple Leafs coach after a loss.
ANSWER TO TRIVIA CORNER:
The first president of the WHA was Gary Davidson and the last was Howard Baldwin.