Thrilling Start for Playoffs!

Bruins even series in OT. Bill Guerin and Dean Evason working in Minny. Malkin to return? ESPN loading up.

There's something symbolic about the Bruins 4-3 overtime win last night and that's simply that the National Hockey League's first week of playoff hockey has been outstanding and even could get better.

Boston's melodramatic comeback with Taylor Hall's late tying goal and then a perfectly set-up winning goal by Brad Marchand accents the artistry we've seen so far as well as superior story lines.

The Washington game also featured a 44 save performance by soon-to-be 40 year old Craig Anderson in the Capitals goal as well as yet another close contest.

On the Raleigh side, Carolina's 5-2 victory over Nashville reinforces the theme that, yes, the Hurricanes must be considered a legitimate Stanley Cup contender and even-- I'm not kidding either -- the Cup favorite!

Then there are the individual efforts. Although his Penguins were defeated in overtime by the Islanders, Sidney Crosby again demonstrated his extraordinary skills, with a unique hand-eye-coordination goal that defied credulity if not the Law of Gravity.

In that same game Isles rookie goalie Ilya Sorokin stepped into his first playoff game as if he'd been doing it for years and stopped Sidney with one of the so-far-saves-of-the-playoffs.

Their rematch tonight will be a must watch.

What bears watching is the St.Louis-Avalanche tourney. My ace seer, Gus Vic, tells me that he believes that this may be a mismatch series. 

"I fear that the Blues may be outclassed," says Vic. "Colorado is just so fast."

Then again, I reserve the right to suggest that Craig Berube's skaters have been the Comeback Kids of the past; and could do it again.

Of course, Vic can come back and tell me that I should have picked Colorado over Carolina as the potential Cup champ.

Bottom Line: This is exciting stuff.


Stan’s Java Jive


THE JIVE: The eagerly-awaiting Tampa Bay-Florida slow burn exploded as hoped on Sunday night. The Panthers went toe-to-toe until the Big Toe was stubbed by the Cats own Sam (Wrong Penalty, Wrong Time) Bennett. As my well-focused seer, Gus Vic, points out, "The Lightning power play is too lethal for any Panther to mess around with bad penalties, especially with Nikita Kucherov, astonishingly, returning in mint condition." For the Bolts coach, Jon Cooper, regaining Kucherov is like getting a superstar freebie. Meanwhile, as Vic notes, both Carolina and Nashville urgently are hoping that the Sunshine State's heated rivals continue beating each other into submission. Either the Canes or Preds will have it a lot easier in the next playoff. (Meanwhile Fla.vs. Fla. in the second round is a must-watch.)


THE JIVE: When the season began, a poll had the Wild finishing 23d out of 31 NHL teams. G.m. Bill Guerin and coach Dean Evason had a three-little-words answer, "Why not us?" That triple-dip mantra is holding up into the playoffs. Minny's 1-0 OT win Sunday night is sending a message for

the upcoming re-match. Cam Talbot is a better goalie than Marc-Andre Fleury -- at least by Joel Eriksson Ek's sudden death winner -- although The Flower played well. It's also noteworthy that Vegas coach Peter DeBoer chose Fleury over Robin Lehner. Pistol Pete explains that Fleury won more big games in the clutch than The Bird. We'll see if he sticks with Marc-Andre. (Answer: Not if he blows Game Two.)


THE JIVE: The rematch tonight at Pitt's paint shop figures to be the long-awaited return of Evgeni Malkin as the Islanders try to make it two-for-two in the erstwhile Steel City. While that's the marquee story, there's also the New Yorkers surprise start of Ilya Sorokin in goal -- replacing injured Semmy Varlamov -- which means coach Barry Trotz will invite Not-So-Ilya back for another shot. The underdog's took Pitt's best shots -- staggered through them -- and somehow won the resiliency battle and the game. Lou Lamoriello's trade deadline prize, Kyle Palmieri, found his game just in time, blending neatly with Jean-Gabriel Pageau. It's never wise to bet against Sidney Crosby but coach Mike Sullivan may decide to start Casey DeSmith, the pride of Rochester, New Hampshire, after Tristan Jarry's not-good-enough performance in the OT opener. 


THE JIVE: Make no mistake; ESPN's hockey presentation next season will not -- as in not -- be a reasonable facsimile of what you now see on NBC. And that, by the way, is not a knock at the latter. However, expect to see familiar NBC faces such as Brian Boucher, who I recall as a darn good Flyers goalie and interview as well. Boucher's ESPN linemates will be Ray Ferraro -- fast becoming best at his craft -- and my old Rangers hard-tryer, Ryan Callahan. Another key add will be the knowledgeable Leah Hextall. With Kenny Albert and Ed Olzyk heading to TNT, ESPN'a play-by-play teams have yet to be announced. I predict that the pride of Rochester, N.Y., Cally, will be ESPN's rookie-of-the-year. ... Meanwhile, John Tortorella has to make up his mind whether he wants to coach again, get into tv or just sit at home and count his money. Bet on coaching but don't bet heavily. That leaves us with John Davidson who figures to wind up somewhere; either as exec or return to tv analysing; but not at MSG Networks.

THE JIVE: Getting the "scoop," journalistically, has become a bigger deal than ever in this supersonic, electronic age. In the hockey world, few -- if any -- do it better than Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman. He's become such a "must read" that the Globe and Mail's Marty Klinkenberg profiled the "Insider's Insider."

The following are a few excerpts.

“If I can make someone laugh or say, ‘What the hell is wrong with that guy?’ I will do it,” Friedman says. “Hockey is business, but for the vast majority of people who watch it is an escape from their day. They want to watch a good game, learn something during the intermissions, feel connected and smile. If I can make them do that, whether it is through the information I give or a head that looks like a bird’s nest, I feel like I have accomplished something.”

Pierre LeBrun, who fills a similar position for TSN, broke into the business at the same time as Friedman. They worked together at theScore. “We remain friends, but we are also competitors,” says LeBrun, who spent 13 years as the hockey writer for The Canadian Press before moving to TV. “I have always had a huge amount of respect for what Elliotte does and how he does it.”

Friedman has more than 585,000 (Twitter followers), which, by comparison, is 200,000 more than Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid. “I spend less time thinking about the scoops that I have had than I do the ones someone else has gotten,” Friedman says. “You are only as good as your last broadcast.”

In 2011, when Brian Burke was general manager of the Maple Leafs, he and Friedman butted heads. At the time, a journalist had reached out to the mother of James Reimer, the Toronto goalie, and talked to her about concerns she had for her son’s health. Burke was enraged. Friedman felt the sportswriter had not overstepped a line and defended him. Burke did not speak to Friedman for a year. “We have generally had a friendly relationship, but sometimes it becomes adversarial,” Friedman says. “It’s not anyone’s fault. When it’s over, it’s over."

Elliotte Friedman kept all of the rejection letters he received from employers who turned him down when he was trying to break into the business. He used to reread them whenever he felt he was getting a big head. “When I think about great things that have happened to me, I don’t think about the events I have covered but about family stuff and the moments I have shared with the people I work with,” he says. “And I think about the responsibility that comes with my job all the time. I have been wrong about things before, and it sucks.”

TRIVIA CORNER: At the end of World War II, the Rangers promoted an entire forward unit from the New York Rovers farm club. They dubbed it "The Atomic Line." Who were the members?


"You should see my brother; he's better than me." Black Hawks ace Doug Bentley to team owner Bill Tobin, touting his kid brother Max. The latter made the team and both are in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

TRIVIA ANSWER: Members of the Atomic Line included center Cal Gardner, left wing Rene Trudel and right wing Church Russell. Only Gardner lasted in the NHL.