Stan's Java Jive 3/26/21
The best of the West faceoff Saturday; Ducks 1-2 punch of the future; Power to top 2021 NHL Draft?
HEADLINE: WORLD SERIES OF THE WEST BEGINS
THE JIVE: You'd have had a tough time picking "The Best Of The West" before the season began. Granted that Colorado was rated a bit higher than Vegas but not by much. Sure, Nathan MacKinnon was knighted as "The McDavid of America," but Vegas boasted impressive depth. The likes of Alex Pietrangello, Mark Stone and Shea Theodore were not to be taken lightly. And if Robin Lehner could recapture his Islanders form, that could put the Knights -- with Marc-Andre Fleury enjoying a A-1 year -- ahead in goalkeeping. All of which made last night's meeting in Denver all the more appetizing and worthy of a watch. Yeah, a watch if you like one-sided hockey. For now, Colorado is king. The Avs won 5-1 and extended their point streak to nine games. Yet if you check the math, Vegas now is 22-8-1 while the Avs are 21-8-3. It's quite a race but interesting that the Knights only managed 18 shots at Phiery Phil Grubauer. By contrast Fleury faced 32 shots, allowing five red lights. (Not, good, Flower, not good at all!)
HEADLINE: LITTLE GUY PLAYS BIG FOR NASHVILLE:
THE JIVE: Throughout his career tiny (5-6) Rocco Grimaldi has been told he's "too small" to succeed in the NHL. But after seven years on the big-league bubble, he's showing that he's got the goods in Nashville. Helping the revived Predators return to the playoff race, Rocco-The-Socko tallied four goals to spur Nash to a 7-1 rout of the Red Wings. A trio of those goals were delivered express in 2:34. My man in the Southland, Big Al Greenberg, remembered Grimaldi during his cup of coffee with the Panthers. "He was a non-stop hustler," Al recalls, "and forever the optimist. He once played an AHL and NHL game the same day. First for San Antonio and then got to L.A. for the second contest. (Not many hockey players from Anaheim make it big the way this little Rocco has done and great for the Grim Guy!)
HEADLINE: ANAHEIM'S ONE-TWO PUNCH OF THE FUTURE
THE JIVE: Unless you like Disney revivals, this is not The Year Of The Ducks. But if you want to check out a couple of Anaheim rookies, you'd report that two freshmen are looking duckie. At least that's what my poultry expert, Coby Maeir, reports. "Keep your eyes on center Trevor Zegras and defenseman Jamie Drysdale," Coby commends. "Those are two good reasons why the future is bright in Duckland." A Boston University product out of Bedford, N.Y., Zigras already owns a solid resume. He's a playmaker with tremendous speed and a high hockey I.Q. Drysdale, who learned the game in Toronto, is a dynamic puck-mover who sees the ice well. His zone exits are beyond exceptional and he's first-rate at managing the game. Promoted from the AHL San Diego Gulls, both look like they're here to stay -- and star!
HEADLINE: RANGERS SOAR, FLYERS SORE!
THE JIVE: Philadelphia's 8-3 loss to the Rangers last night confirms my prediction made weeks ago right here in JJ that the Blueshirts will come on big in the season's second half.
Now two games over .500, they humbled the Broad Street Bumblers in every imaginable way -- and in Flyersville, no less. Suddenly hot Blueshirt, Mika Zibanejad, enjoyed another six-point night but the real story has to be the faltering Flyers. G.m. Chuck Fletcher says he's looking for a defenseman. Heck, he needs a goalie as well. Once again, the formerly-highly-touted Carter Hart got yanked at 2:06 of the second period after relinquishing five goals on 11 shots. Hart's so-called "mentor," Brian Elliott, was no bargain either. Now that Philly has lost four in a row, Fletcher will have to redouble his efforts to save a team that -- at the start of the season -- was rated fifth best in the league.
(Right now, they're looking like the fifth worst!)
HEADLINE: TENNIS ANYONE? ESPECIALLY BARKOV VS. COACH Q
THE JIVE: Sportsnet's amazingly comprehensive Elliotte Friedman came up with a gem the other day when he had Florida's Aleksander Barkov reveal how much he likes tennis. Turns out that the Cats' best player swatted a few tennis balls with coach Joel Quenneville. Big Al said he was impressed with the coach's form on the court. Friedman then asked Barkov whether any of his Panthers teammates could beat him in a best two-out-of-three tourney. Barkov shot back: "No chance!" (Friedman's squelch; He'd like to see it on pay-per-view.)
HEADLINE: THE VERY POWER-FULL DRAFT PROSPECT
THE JIVE: Sharp-writing Steven Ellis of The Hockey News did a wonderful X-Ray article on the University of Michigan's Owen Power. Currently a very top Draft prospect, Power stands 6-5 and projects to be a mighty big-league defenseman. What makes Power so powerful? Ellis writes: "He's strong on the puck and excels with long-range passes. He also can unleash a hard slapshot. He combines size and skill." Scouts say that Owen plays the game "effortlessly" and at age 18, made a seamless transition to the strong NCAA game. (In short, he's a prize who could go Number One.)
HEADLINE: POSTSCRIPT ON THE TIM PEEL OFFICIATING EPISODE
THE JIVE: I once asked Hall of Fame referee Bill (The Big Whistle) Chadwick, "What's the secret to top-flight officiating?" His reply consisted of two words: "Common sense!"
* ANOTHER GOALIE DOWN: The endless list of wounded goaltenders gets longer and longer. Last night while the Islanders were in the process of beating Boston, 4-3 in OT, Tuukka Rask left the game, hurt, replaced by Jaro Halak.
* ANOTHER SABRES LOSS: This time Buffalo bowed 4-0 to Pitt last night minus both coaches, Don Granato and Matt Ellis due to Covid issues. G.m. Kevyn Adams went behind the bench. (As usual, it didn't matter!)
* ANOTHER WILD WIN: Minnesota now has won 11 in a row at home; this one a 2-0 edge over slumping St.Louis. What's it all mean? Battlin' Bill Guerin's club is for real. As for the Blues, they're in the "Not-So-Sure" realm. (Maybe worse!)
TRIVIA CORNER: NAME TWO CALIFORNIA PRO TEAMS FROM YESTERYEAR THAT NO LONGER EXIST.
FUN QUOTES FROM THE PAST: "CORNERS ARE FOR BUSES."
-Former Buffalo Sabre Peter McNab when asked why he never pursued pucks "in the corners." (Thanks to our Al Greenberg for this one.)
TRIVIA ANSWER: Both the Hollywood Wolves and Fresno Falcons played in the old Pacific Coast Hockey League. The Wolves graduated defenseman Bill Barilko to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1946. Barilko was the Stanley Cup hero of 1951, scoring the Cup-winning goal against Montreal.
Fresno was notorious for defenseman Joe Desson, one of the toughest and most feared players in pro hockey.
Desson, by the way, was suspended for life while playing for New Haven. He punched out referee Mickey Slowik from behind, no less!