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Time to Dismantle Crosby Inc.
Crosby and Co. bounced in the First Round Again. Wild-Golden Knights set for Game Seven. Can the Hurricanes beat the Bolts? Isles Secret to winning.
There's a problem in the Penguins swimming pool and it needs a draining sooner rather than later.
So far, the twin keepers of the Flightless Birds -- Brian Burke and Ron Hextall -- have been as quiet as a churchmouse but they'd better start yapping pretty soon.
The natives are not restless in The City With All The Rivers And Bridges; they're miles beyond that placid state.
They're fit to be tied. They're hot under the collar. They're so angry, they're having trouble keeping their shirts on; and I don't mean maybe either.
"One of the first things we have to do," Big Bad Burkie said when he forgave tv opining for a gig in the Paint Shop, "is study the team for the rest of the season and make some judgements."
While the Burke-Hextall vaudeville act searches for ways to see the future, endless media types have queued up with answers. Some even make sense. To wit:
1. DUMP THE GOALIE: The bromide goes like this: no single player can lose a series. "Jarry is the exception to the rule," opines one Pitt analyst. Tristan entered the season as the undisputed No. 1 for the first time and closed the campaign as the goalie goat. Hextall should start his search for a replacement within the next five minutes.
2. CLOSE THE CORE; The once terrific trio -- Sid Crosby, Gino Malkin, Kris Letang -- no longer can be the club's foundation. Even Captain C allowed that he failed but Sid is an untouchable. Malkin and Letang are most "touchable" and therein lies a trading start. They could toss in Jake Guentzel and Jared McCann who sometimes appeared less mobile than the statue of William Penn.
3. FORGET CUP HOPES: Sportsnet's Emily Sadler wistfully wonders whether the core is "sustainable for another" Cup run. Surely, she must be kidding. If the Core's hobby is exiting the first playoff round, designs on The Cup would require The Wizard of Oz behind the bench. (Rumor has it that The Wizard just replaced Wayne Gretzky as an Oilers consultant.)
4. NEW COACH? Prior to this season Bossman Mario Lemieix approved the dumping of Mike Sullivan's assistants. Respected wise men Jacques Martin, Mark Recchi and Sergei Gonchar disappeared through the Paint Shop's trap door. They were replaced by Mike Velluci and Todd Reirden. Well that sure did a lot of good. Now's the time for Hextall-Burke, Ltd. to examine Sullivan's role. Also,, Crosby's as well. Perhaps Sid and Mario; along with Hextall and Burke can figure the future. (It says here, rebuild, brothers, rebuild.)
Stan’s Java Jive
HEADLINE: WILD GO FOR BROKE AT THE VEGAS TABLE
THE JIVE: Tonight's match could be -- excuse this -- a Knight to remember.
Game Seven in Sin City has all the makings of a Grade A Hollywood melodrama and arguably the best Game Seven so far.
The beauty part -- long-shot, of course -- would be a Minnesota win. Imagine: Vegas, the team seeded third-best out of thirty-one at the start of the season, losing to the outfit rated twenty-third best; or should I say "worst."
But Wild's g.m. "Battlin' Billy" Guerin has sculpted one of the most wonderfully exciting teams in such a short time that it just might take mighty Vegas by surprise. Here's the simple best case scenario for the upset-of-all-upsets -- not counting the Oilers sayonara -- and it's all about goaltending.
Coach Dean Evason has the better, hotter goalie in Cam Talbot. On the other side, Peter DeBoer might have a problem whether to start fading Marc-Andre Fleury or rusty Robin Lehner. Talbot is a guy who can steal this for the Wild. Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that the Wild fellows are playing in Vegas with house money.
We shall see. (Any way you shake it, this should be a winner!)
HEADLINE: CAN THE CANES CLUB THE CHAMPS?
THE JIVE: Based on what I've seen so far, the one team I would not want to meet if I was Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper, would be Carolina.
Granted the Canes had their hands full knocking off stubborn Nashville last night but the Preds were heroic down to the very end. I give them a ton of credit. And that goes for g.m. David Poile and coach John Hynes.
But that Raleigh club is really something. They've continued to get better under the leadership of Rod Brind'Amour. What's more, they've adjusted well to the loss of exemplary leadership of retired Justin Williams. Their defense ranks almost as good -- maybe even as good -- as the Bolts' gang.
Sebastian Aho leads a collection of sharpshooters who tend to go unnoticed only because there's minimal hockey media coverage in North Carolina. But the likes of Andrei Svechnikov, Vinny Trochek and Mister Clutch, captain Jordan Staal, will be a handful for the Bolts.
The big, big difference will be in goal. The Champs have that monster, Andre Vasilevskly while Brind'Amour will start rookie Alex Nedeljkovic.
Champs in seven.
HEADLINE: JIM RUTHERFORD HAS AN EMPLOYMENT AGENCY
THE JIVE: It's now months since Gentleman Jimmy abruptly walked out on the Penguins -- and, by the way, still hasn't told us why -- and now he's actively looking for a job. Pittsburgh's ex-g.m. got himself an agent and put up a "Situation Wanted" sign. What he isn't telling us is which team he most has in mind. My guess is Calgary but we shall see.
HEADLINE: OILERS STILL LIKE SMITH DESPITE THE ROUT
THE JIVE: Speaking of "Hard To Believe," how about Edmonton boss Ken Holland telling the civilized world he wants to re-sign Mike Smith who had a $1.5 million cap hit. That made him the oldest to get that kind of dough and still lose four straight to the underdog Jets. Hey, Holland is an ex-goalie, maybe he does know what he's doing. Other Oilers UFA's include Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson and Tyson Barrie. Before negotiations begin, Pal Holland should open with this question: "And what did you do to help us beat Winnipeg?" Then again, one of the wise guys sitting across the desk from Holland, might shoot back. "Hey, Kenny, what did you do to help us beat the Jets?"
And speaking of those very same Jets, here's a plug for my old pal -- Islanders days -- Kevin Cheveldayoff for his splendid job managing the lads from Winnipeg. You have to say that Chevvy is one of the most underrated, splendid general managers in the NHL. Period!
HEADLINE: THE GERARD GALLANT DERBY
THE JIVE: I still say the Rangers will sign on the GG Line. Yet, I hear that the Blue Jackets newly-elected president John Davidson has his eyes on the free -- but it will cost you dearly -- agent coach-in-waiting. And possibly one or two others. Boy, if the Penguins dump Mike Sullivan, Gallant would look wonderful on the Paint Shop bench.
HEADLINE: THE 'ISLANDERS' SECRET REVEALED
THE JIVE. During the 1946-47 season, the Toronto Maple Leafs won their first of three straight Stanley Cup. The Boss, Conn Smythe, was extremely pleased and proud. "We didn't have one All-Star on the team," Smythe remembered, "and yet we went the route and won."
If that doesn't remind you of the current Islanders, then it should. In a Hockey News listing of the 50 Best NHL Players, only one Islander got mention; Mathew Barzal. The dipsy-doodle center was in the 30th spot, one behind Mark Stone and one ahead of Patrice Bergeron.
So, how come they knocked off Sid Crosby's Penguins in six games? Two reasons; 1. Depth; 2. Coaching. On any given night Barry Trotz can get scoring from a first line or a fourth line. In the Wednesday night clincher, it happened to be a unit comprised of Josh Bailey, Anthony Beauvillier and Brock Nelson that led the way. Another unit featured Travis Zajac -- in his first playoff game -- at center with Kyle Palmieri and Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
Barzal, regarded as the team's most gifted center, has had his offence braked by Trotz's demand for a two-way game. It's something Barry's boss, Lou Lamoriello, has preached for decades. "Our hockey team is like an orchestra; the trumpeter plays trumpet, the drummers play percussion and the pianomen play piano." says Lou. "If a player drifts away from his instrument, we let him know about it."
Of course, all of that goes out the window if the goalies fail. Fortunately, the Isles drafted Ilya Sorokin in 2014 (78th overall) and the rookie won all four of his games against Pitt.
No less important has been Trotz influence on players. Center Brock Nelson had been a big, inconspicuous center until Coach Barry took him under his wing. Nelson has since become one of the club's most dangerous shooters. Likewise, Scott Mayfield had been a fringe defenseman who Trotz turned into into one of the top four blue liners.
Like all systems, there are drawbacks. Scoring can be a problem which means that the Isles have little margin for error. Still, they're in the second round and -- who knows?-- they might even make to Round Three!
Name the 1950 playoff hero who got his nickname from a race horse.
CLEVER LINES FROM YESTERYEAR: "We have only one person to blame and that's each other."
-Defenseman Barry Beck after a Rangers loss.
TRIVIA ANSWER: Don (Bones) Raleigh, a Rangers center and 1950 playoff hero, was nicknamed after New York hockey writer Barney Krememko won a bundle at Belmont betting on a longshot, Bag of Bones.