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The Locamotive Named 8-0 Lightning
Isles dominated in Tampa; season on the brink. Which goalies will be available this offseason? Condolences on the passing of Tom Kurvers.
No matter how you shake it, the Lightning are the defending Champions until further notice. They are beatable, of course, but not when Lady Luck, weak backchecking and loose defense are on the challengers end. The first fortuitous bounce came before the first period was a minute old and Steven Stamkos said "Thank you very much" and swiped the biscuit into the empty net.When the floodgates closed at the end of the first period, the Isles were fortunate to be trailing by 3-0 and embattled goalie Semyon Varlamov mercifully -- not his fault; no support -- was furloughed in favor of rookie Ilya Sorokin.
The "Dreaded Three Goal Lead" hardly mattered to Stamkos, Inc. as the home club steamed ahead to a six-goal lead in the middle frame.Whatever chances the Islanders enjoyed were immediately saddened by Tampa Bay's defense, goaltending and puck control. Clearly The Champs were playing to their title. Like a speeding locomotive highballing through the night, there simply was no stopping the Bolts machine. The second period ended with a melee with Mathew Barzal slammed for a five-minute cross checking penalty.
When the Lightning added two more in the final frame, the most pressing question heading back to Uniondale in Game Six had to be what can coach Barry Trotz do to tie the series at three. It says here that Trotz will return with Varlamov in goal. Worth noting is the fact that Varly had little chance on any of the trio of red lights. Other possibilities include any one of a spate of forwards and possibly one defenseman to replace aging Andy Greene.
Stan’s Java Jive
HEADLINE: GOALIES FOR SALE?
THE JIVE: The world-class blunder Marc-Andre Flubby pulled last Friday night has everyone -- meaning Me -- talking goalies.
That's especially true after Flubby's back-up -- or is it front-up -- Robin Lehner stepped in and stuck it so the Canadiens and Lehner's critics with a landmark win, evening the Vegas-Montreal series.
And,lemme tell you there's plenty to discuss beyond The Flower's wilting like ice cream in a microwave, or Lehner's profane put-downof the naysayers.
Robbin' Robin has become a subject of the present and future because -- for a while, at least -- the Knights thought they were zooming on The Stanley Cup Speedway.
My point is that -- say what you will -- Knights g.m. Kelly McCrimmon may now conclude that he's gotten the best out of Marc-Andre and the time has come to declare Robin Lehner his goalie of the present and future.
Which is not the hardest decision in the world since that was the reason Vegas overpaid the vagabond puck-stopper in the first place.
But McCrimmon's conundrum should be solved, one way or the other, once coach Pete DeBoer's team decides whether it wants Stanley badly enough or not.
There are other general staffs mulling their goalie migraines. In Beantown, Don Sweeney has Jeremy Swayman on his mind as next season's starter although the Alaskan ace has limited NHL experience.
Tuukka Rask's injury recuperation will last into the new year so it's pointless to keep him in the Boston picture except as a back-up to the backup; which makes no sense at all.
Figure Swayman -- love that name! -- and the Czech, Dan Vladar, as the Bruins twosome. It's a gamble Sweeney must take.
Meanwhile, Capitals g.m. Brian MacLellan will be awaiting Henrik Lundqvist's hoped-for medical clearance to play next season as backup to Ilya Samsonov.
Hopefully, Hank will get the green light but if not, Vitek Vanecek will be the handyman between the pipes.
In Carolina, rookie Alex Nedeljkovic did so well subbing for injured Petr Mrazek that g.m. Don Waddell may decide that Pal Al should be the guy and that's that.
When you think about it, Julien BriseBois, boss of the defending Champion Lightning, has been very fortunate in many ways, but particularly in goal.
The NHL's best goalie -- or so they say -- Andre Vasilevskly has been mostly injury free and continues to be healthy. The bad news is that if he ever gets sidelined, back-up Curtis McElhinney dramatically has turned undependable and thereby lies a Bolts disaster-in-waiting.
Best for a Tampa Bay Cup repeat that Curtis remain in the Waiting Room!
HEADLINE: HOUSE-CLEANING IN BOSTON AND TORONTO
THE JIVE: With crack Canes defender Dougie Hamilton checking out moving van companies, both the Maple Leafs and Bruins loom as likely suitors. Of course, that won't be as easy as finger-snapping, but possibilities exist, especially with Seattle's Ron Francis ogling Toronto's roster. The likes of Zack Hyman, Fred Andersen -- remember when he was the Maple Losers best goalie? -- and Alex Kerfoot could wind up whackin' with the Kraken. Then again, the big noise in Old T.O. is that g.m. Kyle (Am I Lucky I Still Have My Job) Dubas may have to unload the very precious D-man Morgan Rielly in any kind of move to bring Toronto native Hammy back to Hogtown. As for the Bruins, Sweeney & Co. won't make any moves until after the Expansion Draft. Once that's over, figure TD Garden will look like Shakeup City because of yet another playoff failure on Causeway Street.
HEADLINE: TOCCHET FAVORED FOR SEATTLE GIG
THE JIVE: Since Ron Francis was not going to land Gerard Gallant, he was checking out Rod Brind'Amour to head the infant franchise. But Roddy loves Raleigh so much, he's returning at a bargain price; and good for him. Checking the "Situations Wanted" ads, Francis finds Rick Tocchet's name.That doesn't mean that he's better than such employment-seekers as Claude Julien or Mike Babcock, it merely means that the Sportsnet savants think so. And since I trust Elliotte Friedman and Luke Fox more than I do my trusty ouija board, I can see Rapid Rick with the goods to corral the Kraken gig. (Speaking of coaches, not sure you're aware that there's now an outfit called PBI Sports that specializes as an agency for NHL coaches. PBI, for example, handled the Rangers-Gallant talks with Neil Glassberg the firm's main hockey man.)
HEADLINE: THE PASSING OF TOM KURVERS
THE JIVE: Minnesota Wild assistant g.m. Tom Kurvers, who has passed away, was a special guy.
As a New Jersey Devil, he was a good friend and good person as well as a swell hockey player. I watched him play and talked with him many times.
More from nhl.com:
"The Minnesota Wild organization is heartbroken to announce that Tom Kurvers passed away this morning after a courageous battle with lung cancer," the Wild said in a statement. "We extend our deepest sympathies and prayers to Tom's family and loved ones, including his wife, Heather, daughters Madison and Rose, and sons Weston and Roman."
Kurvers had been Wild assistant GM since July 17, 2018. He ran in the 10K A Breath of Hope Lung Run/Walk Twin Cities in 2019 and worked with the A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation to help raise lung cancer awareness and provide patient and family support and fund research since his diagnosis. The run raised more than $100,000.
"From Minnesota high school standout, to Hobey Baker Award winner and Stanley Cup champion, Tom's passion for and success in hockey could only be surpassed by the love and optimism he shared with family and friends each and every day," the Wild said. "Tom's kindness and enthusiasm will be greatly missed by the countless number of people on whom he had a positive influence throughout his life. We join the State of Hockey in mourning the loss of a great hockey player and an even better person."
HEADLINE: A MANIC MANNER OF MOTIVATION
THE JIVE: In the (sometimes) Good Old Days, one form of motivation was the news clipping nailed to the dressing room bulletin board. Often it was a rival player or coach -- Toronto's Punch Imlach did it best -- pinning a nasty remark about his team on the board. "Sometimes it worked," my then buddy, Leafs defender Carl Brewer once told me, "and sometimes it didn't."
Nowadays, such motivational stuff comes electronically. Exhibit A is Robin Lehner. The Knights goalie has been bragging about his motivational technique. After being told he'd start Game Four against the Canadiens, he arrived at Bell Centre four hours early. "I wanted to read all the shit they were saying about me," Robber Robin explicitly explained. "That motivated me!"
Lehner's third period save on speedy Cole Caufield with his team down,1-0, was a de luxe game-changer en route to the Knights 2-1 overtime win. This, by the way, should not come as a surprise to The Robin Marching and Chowder Society. The big goaltender has been speaking publicly and candidly back to the days when I covered him as an Islander. It was then that Lehner laid out his mental health issues -- and how he conquered them. The difference now is that he's conquering his critics and the Canadiens. (Check The Robber out tonight in Game Five -- Habs vs. Knights.
HEADLINE: BLAKE COMEAU GETS NEW STARS CONTRACT
THE JIVE: The Vancouver native -- he grew up in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan -- will be a Star again although he's far from being a star. As a matter of fact, Comeau's nickname could be "Suitcase."
Blake has worn NHL jerseys on Long Island not to mention Calgary, Columbus, Colorado, Pittsburgh and -- for the last three years -- Dallas. So, what's the trick? Nothing complicated. Blake brings savvy, hustle and teamsmanship wherever he plays. Ergo: The Perfect Utility Forward!
HEADLINE: HOW TO BECOME AN INTERIM-INTERIM COACH.
THE JIVE: Ask the Canadiens Double-Interim bench boss. When Claude Julien got canned Duke Ducharme moved in as interim coach. With Covid issues, Ducharme had to back off and now Luke Richardson is 2x Interim. He's good, too. As Habs D-man Jeff Petry puts it, "Luke is one of the best I've ever had. You hardly ever hear him yell at you after a mistake." (No question, Richardson will wind up as a head coach one of these days.)
TRIVIA CORNER: What was the Boston Garden's original name?
CLASSIC COMMENTS FROM YESTERYEAR:
"Don't cross over the blue line into the Montreal zone or it'll cost you $500."
-- Leafs coach Joe Primeau to defenseman Bill Barilko prior to overtime of Game Five, 1951 Final. Barilko broke the rule and scored the Cup-winning goal. (P.S. Primeau then deleted the fine!)
TRIVIA ANSWER: The original Boston Garden on Causeway Street was funded by the owners of New York's Madison Square Garden. Hence its original label was Boston Madison Square Garden.