Stan's Java Jive: 3/30/21
Panther suffer setback; Instant 5OT classic; Who's going?; See Mackenzie Blackwood's sensational save
HEADLINE: A CRIPPLING INJURY FOR THE PANTHERS
THE JIVE: Hockey players are renowned for their ability to tolerate injuries but sometimes the hurt is so bad they simply can't contain themselves. Exhibit A is the Panthers superior defenseman Aaron Ekblad who suffered a fractured right leg that was so painful "You could hear him scream." If any "good" can come out of this devastating wound it's that surgery is reported to be "successful" and that Ekblad will be out of action for the rest of the season. That is, barring a Florida deep playoff march. "Aaron was having a career year," reports my man in Sunrise, Al Greenberg. Coach Joel Quennville calls Ekblad, "A big factor in the team's success. He controlled the outcome of games." Now the club has to find an experienced skilled blueliner and that will be a challenge for g.m. Bill Zito. My obvious, easy choice is Marc Staal of Detroit although he's nowhere near being in the Ekblad class. Still, Staal has experience and is reliable. Meanwhile the Cats will go with Gustav Forsling, a good puck-mover, and Marcus Nutivaara who plays an effective two-way game. No question, the Cats must regroup. (You don't replace an ace who averages 25 minutes per night while playing at a starry level.)
HEADLINE: AN NCAA OVERTIME CLASSIC
THE JIVE: It has never happened before in all the years of NCAA h0ckey -- a five-overtime game. This one featured Minnesota-Duluth vs. North Dakota. it went into a fifth sudden-death period before freshman Luke Mylymok beat goalie Adam Scheel through the five-hole for the winner. Interestingly, the longest NHL game went six overtime periods in 1936 when the Red Wings Modere (Mud) Bruneteau beat the Montreal Maroons, 1-0. Lorne Chabot was the defeated goalie in the match that ended at 16:30 of the sixth OT. It was 2:25 a.m. at the Forum when the red light flashed. The similarity of the two OT's is striking. Bruneteau had just been called up from the minors and had played very little in the early overtimes. But since he was fresh, coach Jack Adams finally inserted him into the game and Mud came up like roses. Likewise. the Minnesota-Duluth rookie, Mylymok, had seen little ice time in the early OT's but he was fresh and -- like Bruneteau -- that's why he finally got his chance. (If there was a Mud Bruneteau Award it would go to Smiling Luke.)
HEADLINE: OILERS VS. LEAFS A MAIN-EVENT EVERY OUTING
THE JIVE: The final score -- 3-2, Oilers in OT -- matters, of course, but there's more to a Toronto-Edmonton clash than the arithmetic on any given evening. One compelling attraction inevitably is Auston Matthews vs, Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl vs. Mitch Marner. No less fascinating has been the Battle of Bad Goalies. Which means anyone who Dave Tippett decides to start against any non-Fred Andersen. Stopping McDavid, Inc. has been coach Shelly Keefe's secret weapon up until last night's encounter in Toronto. The Leafs promised in advance that they'd stop the firm of McD and D but they forgot about Edmonton's Number One defenseman Darnell Nurse who beat -- I kid you not -- fourth-string Toronto goalie Michael Hutchinson in the extra session. (If the decision proves anything it's that the Oil's second string puck-stopper, Mike Smith, is better by a goal than any fourth-stringer the Leafs can produce.)
HEADLINE: OUR GUS VIC'S PICKS
THE JIVE: After a week of considerable scouting, my foremost X-Ray man Gus Vic dispatches some cogent points and picks:
1. The staggering Blue Jackets are no better than a "Bubble Team" at this point. Hence, it wouldn't surprise if g.m. Jarmo Kekalainen puts a "For Sale" sign on the likes of Nick Foligno or Boone Jenner;
2. While others are raving about the Habs acquisition of Eric Stall, Gus Vic says, "I'm lukewarm." Vic figures that Eric The Not-So-Energetic is on the downside. "However," Vic adds, "he might find his game in the playoffs."
3. Aaron Ekblad's injury likely will torpedo the otherwise bright chances for Florida down the stretch. Gus likens the blow to the injury that wiped out last season for Carolina's Dougie Hamilton. (As always, YAY to Vic!)
HEADLINE: A FREE PRESCRIPTION FOR THE SABRES OWNERS
THE JIVE: Sorrowfully, Buffalo has been the NHL's dartboard all season, but, looking forward, finding a way to reconstruct the team is the challenge of challenges. Our esteemed Toronto Sun pal, Steve Simmons, puts it simply: "What the Sabres need is a Brendan Shanahan culture and build over again." What baffles me is constant overuse of the word "culture" in the context of a rebuild. Don't you think every member of the Sabres' general staff imported by owners Terry and Kim Pegula once had a "winning culture" in mind? Of course they did. You can be sure that Shanny won't bring anything to Buffalo. He's got it too good in Ole T,O. The more I think about it, John Tortorella as Buffalo g.m.-coach -- with his hand-picked assistant g.m. and assistant coach -- would be a dramatic culture change. (Very dramatic and very cultured.)
HEADLINE: WHEN DOES A 'BUBBLE' G.M. DECIDE TO TRADE? OR NOT?
THE JIVE: With each victory -- now five wins in a row -- Nashville's general staff of David Poile and John Hynes finds itself in a pickle. A few weeks ago, when their Predators couldn't contrive a win if they tried, experts had Poile putting every other Pred up for sale. But now that the Tennesseans have forgotten how to lose, it's a whole other story. Or to put it another logical way, why in the world would David want to break up a hot club that could even make the playoffs and stir trouble for everyone? Meanwhile, you have to be happy for Hynes. Early this month, the media's "Fire The Coach" brigade had our favorite bald mentor all but gone to the Used Coach Lot. (Fortunately, Jovial John is back in the Catbird Seat and now it's up to his boss, Dauntless David, to make the tough Shakespearean decision: To deal or not to deal?)
HEADLINE: HABS SIGN NCAA HOTSHOT COLE CAUFIELD
THE JIVE: Superficially you can't say that the Canadiens are gambling on a fellow who led all Big Ten scorers. The Stevens Point, Wisconsin native is a genuine prize, except for his 5-7 size. G.m. Marc Bergevin is playing it smart. Sharpshooter Caufield will launch his pro career at AHL Laval. If Cole is as good as his U. of Wisconsin numbers, he should be a Hab in a couple of weeks. Those who know insist that Caufield's skill will more than compensate for any lightweight issue. (Another collegian to watch -- at least down the line -- is Boston University product David Farrance, a defenseman who figures prominently in the Predators' future.)
HEADLINE: THE HOCKEY NEWS' PLAYERS TO WATCH
THE JIVE: Just about every "expert" has a list as the Trade Deadline approaches. Me? I always go to "The Bible" of our game, The Hockey News. Matt Larkin has a list and I'll give you Matt's TopTen: 1. Mattias Ekholm, Nashville; 2. Filip Forsberg, Nashville; 3. Rikkard Rakel, Anaheim; 4. Taylor Hall, Buffalo; 5. Sam Reinhart, Buffalo; 6. Joonas Korapisalo or Elvis Merzlikins, Columbus; 7. Mikael Granlund, Nashville; 8. Nick Foligno, Columbus; 9. Josh Manson, Anaheim; 10. Conor Garland, Anaheim. (Take your pick.)
HEADLINE:HOW GREAT WAS MACKENZIE BLACKWOOD'S SAVE
THE JIVE: Never having been a goalie, I'm not an expert on what does or does not qualify as a "Great Save." But on Sunday night in Boston, my eyes told me that the New Jersey Devils' Mackenzie Blackwood pulled off one for the ages; and with only five seconds on the clock. Plus it secured a 1-0 victory for the Garden Staters. Seemingly out of position, the Devs' stopper managed to get his toe on the rubber just as it crossed half way over -- not all the way -- over the red line. NO GOAL! (Blackwood=Very Good!)
* BRENT BURNS' BEARD: Enough is enough. Stop, my friend, you look beyond ridiculous. Seriously! I've seen smaller rugs in carpet stores!
* UNDERRATED RICK: Okay, coach Tocchet won't win the Adams Award as coach of the year, but he's sure done a super job with not-so-super Arizona.
* HAVE A HART: No question, the Flyers have concerns about the questionable goaltending of their Carter Hart. THN columnist Ken Campbell says Philly should send him to the AHL. (Ken's got a point!)
* NOT THE USUAL SUSPECTS: Among the less-discussed names in the Trade Derby, there's Kings non-stop Dustin Brown and Columbus defenseman David Savard. Each high-quality in his own way.
* PLAYER WITH A KNACK: His name is Simon (Nick) Knak and he's another Swiss-bred winner. He's starring for the WHL Portland Winterhawks and, guess what, he's got a terrific knack for the net! (Try four goals in four games.)
* MINNY TWIN WINNERS? Buddy Steve Simmons says he'd vote for Bill Guerin and Dean Evason for g.m. and coach of the year. (I second both motions!)
* SABRES GET A POINT: The good news is that the Sabres came away with a point last night. The bad news is that Buffalo blew a three-goal lead, losing to Philly, 4-3 on overtime.
* TAYLOR HALL TO WHERE? The latest rumor -- courtesy of Elliotte Friedman -- has the Blues being interested. I got news for St.Lou boss Doug Armstrong; he's got to go to the back of the line.
* NHL STAR OF THE WEEK: It goes to the Rangers very sharp defenseman Adam Fox, a future Norris winner.
* MY PERSONAL THREE POWER RANKINGS:
One of the most popular Canadian hockey writers also doubled as his home team's practice goalie. Who was it? (Answer below.)
FUNNY LINES FROM YESTERYEAR: Leafs goalie Al (Fat Albert) Smith -- after a good training camp
-- "How does it feel to be in shape?" Al was asked by a reporter. To that, Smitty replied: "I don't know I've never been in shape!"
Jacques Beauchamp of the French-language daily, Montreal Matin, was the Habs scrimmage goalie during the halcyon years of five straight Canadiens, Stanley Cups, 1956-60.