1. AVALANCHE: Colorado's commanding skaters jet to Edmonton secure in the knowledge that Pavel Francouz's 4-0 shutout over the Oilers last night was the real thing. No need to worry about Darcy Kuemper's injury with perfect Pavel in the crease. Superior checking and timely scoring proves that the Avs can beat you playing any kind of game. The Oilers blitz was blunted which means that if the Favorites win Game Three in Oil Can-ville it will effectively be the series clincher.
2. OILERS: It was Connor McNothing night in Denver. The so-called greatest player in the world had two shots and later lamented "I haven't been at the top of my game." What's he waiting for with his team now down 0-2. Leon Draisaitl went dry and Mighty Mike Smith again proved that he's not an Avalanche-stopper. Maybe Edmonton's pure air will awaken a team that desperately needs a win, not to mention a captain who can lead and live up to his almighty billing. As the late, great Yogi Berra would say for the Oilers, "It's getting late early!"
3. TAMPA BAY: The Champs looked like chumps in the opener but tonight -- going into Game 2 at MSG, they're 18-0 after a playoff loss.
That said, I say forget about it. Tampa appears to me to be is a fast-fading team. In Game 1, the Bolts were smothered by a faster skating team. if Tampa loses tonight at MSG they'll never rebound. Vasilevskiy looks tired and the center ice corps is pedestrian at best. Winning Game Two will be Jon Cooper's biggest test. I see failure ahead.
4. RANGERS: Don't laugh; the Blueshirts have become the best of the Final Four because of goaltending; plus a Kid Line that has soared when others slumped. The blend of toughness -- Reaves over Maroon -- sizzling skill and a surprising defense has the Garden Faithful doing cartwheels of joy. Some even imagine a sweep; others a sweep and a Cup. It could happen starting with another win this evening.
THE ARTFUL DODGER BELONGS IN WINNIPEG
For a guy whose name emerges daily in "Next Coaching Job" stories, Barry Trotz acts like he's auditioning for "The Invisible Man" while very quietly entering through the Stage Door.
The Jets, who could afford Barry's bundle, are trying hard -- according to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun -- to lure the Isles leader back to The Peg where he belongs. Better still, Trotz and Jets g.m. Kevin Cheveldayoff are kindred spirits; both cool, savvy, cats.
Red Wings, Flyers and Knights also have been mentioned as the next Trotz-villes. The only other one I could see for Barry is Vegas. But he's such a natural for his home province, Sin City simply is not Trotz's kind of town.
PITY THE POOR GOALTENDERS
Every playoff season brings forth issues that will be debated forever,
One of them will be -- and already is -- Blake Coleman's Calgary goal-that-was-not-a-goal in the final playoff game against Edmonton.
Another discussion is sure to arise over the manner in which goaltenders have gone down like ten pins in a bowling alley. And right up to Game one of the Avs-Oilers skirmish.
Colorado's starter, Darcy Kuemper, goes down, replaced by The Pride of Pilzen (Czech), Pavel Francouz.
What has made this such a critical subject is the "What might have been" aspect:
Let's say, for example, that Carolina's crack netminder, Fred Andersen was in A-1 shape. You have to believe that he would have been good for one more win in the Rangers series than his backup Antti Raanta.
And have you ever-ever see an NHL goalie's game disintegrate like Raanta's in the last two games against New York. Poor Antti looked like a fourth-stringer from the ECHL. Ugh!
Guaranteed, a healthy Andersen would have given the Canes the quarter-final win over the Rangers.
Ditto for the Penguins who lost both starter Tristan Jarry and backup Casey DeSmith and left with third-string Louie. As a result, there was no way Pitt could defeat New York with the Rangers ace, Igor Shesterkin.
Soon, teams may have to carry three goalies through next season 'cause the chances are that Numbers One and Two will be hurt somewhere down the line.
For sure Pitt's Mike Sullivan and Carolina's Rod Brind'Amour will agree on that count. In each case inept puck-stopping cost them a series win.
Meanwhile, the New York-Tampa Bay tourney is pitting the league's two best stoppers -- Andrei Vasilevskiy and Igor Shesterkin -- face-to-face, just 180 feet apart.
In the Garden opener on Wednesday night, it was Igor all the way; with a sharp 39 saves. By contrast, The Big V appeared tired and borderline helpless.
Sure it's still early, but it says here that Shesterkin can win New York the Cup.
HOW TO SIMPLY ANALYZE HOCKEY WITHOUT ANALYTICS
No mumbo-jumbo graphs or equations are required to understand how playoff series are won or lost. Exhibit A is the Rangers beating Carolina in seven games. Here are a couple of views:
From Joel Cohen in Raleigh: "Gerard Gallant was a better strategist than Rod Brind'Amour. Gallant smothered the Canes offense, taking away the mid-slot area. Likewise, you didn't see any of Sibby Aho's cannonball shots from his' office' at the outside of the circle."
From David Kolb in New York: "Mika Zibanejad is becoming a true number one center. He was a difference-maker."
I'M JUST SAYIN'
* By far the cheapest -- and most underrated -- "Best Get Of The Trade Deadline" has to be the Rangers Frank Vatrano.
* All he does is score big goals. Did it 'way back when in East Longmeadow (alias Springfield), Massachusetts.
* The minute Chris Drury nabbed him from Florida, my guy in Sunrise, Al Greenberg, wrote me: "Rangers got a steal!"
* Johnny Gaudreau says he "loves Calgary. I really like it here."
But does that mean he wants to remain a member of the Flames?
* It tells me that Jumpin' John wants to make the Calgary Chamber of Commerce feel good. My guess is that Flyers' big-dough is something he'd like even better.
* I have to believe that Brendan Shanahan is the boss behind telling Kyle Dubas to hire Jason Spezza as assistant g.m.
* That also makes me certain that another Leafs first round exit will result in Spezza sitting in the g.m.'s chair.
* How many teams are willing to let Barry Trotz take his own sweet time before deciding where he wants to coach? I say one; Chicago.
* Department of Nothing Changes In Hockey: Finland's winning goal produces controversy over cheap penalty vs. Team Canada.
* Sore losing never stops, does it?
* You can't argue with Blake Coleman's postscript comment about his Goal-No-Goal vs. Edmonton because the man has a point:
* If it's that controversial, it's hard to say that anything is 'distinct' about it."
* About the most ridiculous remark to come out of the Hurricanes' room after losing to the Rangers went like this: "We've got to stay out of the penalty box."
* Pretty sage stuff when you think about it but a good three periods too late.
* Will heads roll in Raleigh? Nah. There was only one problem with Rod Brind'Amour's coaching; he couldn't play goal.
* I'm glad Marty St.Louis is fulfilling his dream now that he's signed on as the Habs full-time head coach.
* But if he thinks he can turn that roster into a playoff club, he's dreaming. Broadcaster, Ex-NHLer Shawn Simpson figures that Marty will last a year; no more; maybe less.
* In Pierre LeBrun's most recent Coaching Derby piece in The Athletic, he mentioned my pal Travis Green as a good fit for Dallas, Detroit or Vegas.
ANOTHER HOCKEY HALL OF FAME IS BORN.
Thanks to sportsman Rene M. Leroux, a New York State Hockey Hall of Fame has been launched and celebrated its first induction ceremonies last month.
While the celebrities were honored at a dinner in Troy, New York, the New York State Hockey Hall of Fame will be housed at the MVP Center -- former home of the Albany River Rats and Albany Devils -- a short walk from the State capitol.
The first set of inductees included Pat LaFontaine, Butch Goring, Bob Nystrom, Clark Gillies, Lou Vairo, Lou Lamoriello, Howie Rose, Clint Malarchuk, Brad Chartrand, Jack O'Callahan, Mark Wells, Mark Pavelich, Mike Smith and Herb Brooks.
"Our long-term goal is to honor hockey greats from across the state," says Leroux. "This includes players, coaches, announcers and writers, both men and women. We're covering the collegiate and youth hockey levels as well."
Leroux is the executive director and founder of the NY State Hockey Hall with a five-person Board of Advisors.
"Our first event was a huge success," adds Leroux, "a sellout."
I'm not surprised when one considers hockey's growth in The Empire State since the 1980 Winter Games at Lake Placid.
Leroux: "Lake Placid is the holy city of New York State Hockey for obvious reasons. Also, college hockey is very strong with RPI, Clarkson, Cornell, Union and Colgate to name a few teams.
Then, in the NHL we have the Islanders, Sabres and Rangers, each with a strong hockey story."
Rene, 66, repped the Xerox Corporation as at the 1980 Olympic Games at Lake Placid. He's also the founder and exec director of the NY State Baseball and Basketball Halls of Fame.
"Our state's Hockey Hall will open this fall in Downtown Albany," Leroux concludes. "It was on the drawing board for four years but COVID set everything back. Right now we're looking for corporate sponsors."
NY Sports Extra's Hockey Columnist Matthew Blittner attended the fete at Troy's Hilton Garden Inn. He reports:
"The new Hall is about more than just numbers and accolades. it's about the people and the contributions to the sport; not to mention honoring those overlooked by the casual NHL fan."
Blittner's superb column on the event can be found here.
WOMEN'S HOCKEY SPREADS TO THE MIDDLE EAST
Mitch Miller messages from Ottawa that the International Ice Hockey Federation has sanctioned a women's tournament for 2023. It will be held in Metula, Israel at the Olympic-size Canada Centre rink.
The late NHL coach Roger Neilson launched Israeli hockey with summer stickhandling camps at this very arena decades ago.
WHO SAID IT? "Time enough for one goal? Time enough for Twenty." (Answer Below.)
THE READER'S WRITE: Richard Clontz, who maintains a focus on goalies, offered the following after the Edmonton-Colorado double-sieve opener: "My heart can't take watching any more goals scored through the 5-hole. I also figured how so many goals are scored over the goalie's shoulders -- they're down on their knees."
SO YOU WANT TO DRIVE A ZAMBONI, DO YOU?
What a guy, our Joltin' Joe Dionisio. First, he writes an award-winning screenplay. Then he dipsy-doodles over to Santa Barbara, California, where he became Chief Zamboni driver at the Ice In Paradise rink. In this latest saga about the surfacer, Joe tells about the challenges of driving one:
"Why is mastering the Zamboni more challenging than stopping Ovechkin's slapshot? Visibility on the Godzilla-sized toaster is terrible. And if you loathe multitasking on a stick-shift Toyota, consider that a Zamboni has eight dashboard levers to worry about.
Dionisio actually had one Zamboni "die: on him.
"Other perils are beyond your control. At Ice In Paradise, my worst foible as a newbie Zamboni driver came during a busy night when the temperamental gizmo died. Both hockey teams, frustrated that their game might get cancelled, assumed the malfunction was my blunder...and having witnessed my gaffes as a Zam rookie, who could blame them?"
No, it wasn't Joltin' Joe's boo-boo, the problem was with a blown fuse.
"The last time I saw such a disgruntled crowd," Dionisio recalled, "the villagers were storming Frankenstein's castle with pitchforks.
Luckily, my adventures are relatively tame. One New Jersey-ite got arrested for DWI (Or, ZWI?) after driving a Zamboni drunk. Elsewhere in California a Zamboni went missing until it re-surfaced -- pardon the pun -- at a Jack In The Box drive-through!"
(LAST INSTALLMENT ON MONDAY. THE TRUE ZAMBONI SCIENCE.)
ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT? When Bert Lee, the
Rangers' play-by-play radio broadcaster, would do games and the Blueshirts fell behind; Bert would pull off the "Time again....." line