1. The Flyers, who invade Barclays Center on Monday night, boast the NHL’s most unheralded, successful coach. University of North Dakota’s Dave Hakstol has turned Philly into a threat to make the playoffs.
2. Credit Flyers owner Ed Snider for backing Ron Hextall when the second-year GM decided to hire the unproven Hakstol. Super gamble; superior results, similar surnames.
3. Rookie defenseman Shayne (The Shadow) Gostisbehere features Bobby Orr-type potential with his speed, savvy and shot. He has a reasonable chance to win the Calder. Edmonton’s Connor McDavid will get the Canadian votes which could tilt the prize away from the Flyers speed merchant.
4. Kevin Klein won’t win the Norris Trophy but he gets The Mave’s Raves for his delectable blend of defense and offense that’s helped keep the Blueshirts beaming. That will be necessary with Florida at MSG on Monday night (6:30 PM, MSG).
5. The Islanders recent misfortunes include slow starts and a goal-deficiency. On Monday night, the prescription includes illuminating the first red light and more secondary scoring. Remember, the playoff berth has not been clinched. Thus, the big question: Who does Jack Capuano start in goal? Jean-Francois Berube would be a daring — but interesting — gamble.
6. Quote Of The Week: Devils sharpshooter Kyle (The Style) Palmieri was asked what he misses most about playing in Southern California? To which KP shot back: “The weather and the beach!”
7. Las Vegas is a shoo-in to be approved as the next expansion franchise. The proof is in the fact that the NHL already is devising an expansion draft.
8. You can be sure that the announcement of Vegas approval as an expansion franchise will take place at the annual Awards Ceremony in — guess where? — Vegas.
9. Had it not been for the ever-plunging Canadian dollar — alias Loonie — Quebec City also would have won an immediate expansion vote. But QC has gone from sure-shot to a medium shot.
10. Commissioner Gary Bettman knows that it’s vital for him to keep his Canadian constituency happy. Hence, Quebec City will eventually be the 32nd NHL team but not immediately.
11. Maybe you can figure this one out ’cause I can’t. How come the brains operating Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary, Ottawa, Edmonton and Vancouver could not produce a playoff-bound team this year?
12. And don’t tell me it’s because of injuries.
13. Kudos to the Sabres‘ no-nonsense goalie Robin (I’ll Fight Anybody And Beat Him) Lehner for telling it like it is when it comes to fellow-goaltenders cheating with extra equipment.
14. Lehner lays it on the line thusly: “A lot of goalies have way too big equipment. They can fit four sets of arms in one sleeve of the chest protector. I know guys in this league who wear player pants underneath their goalie pants. It’s nuts!” (And that’s an understatement.)
15. Then again the Devils’ Cory Schneider puts the same theme a lot more succinctly: “Let the talent win out.”
16. Another good line comes via the NHL’s Goalie Cop, Kay Whitmore: “We don’t want the puck just hitting guys.” By the way, Whitmore is threatening suspensions and a $25,000 fine for goalie equipment-cheaters next year.
17. You have to believe that Ilya (Rubles Ain’t What They Used To Be) Kovalchuk will try an NHL comeback. The fact is, he needs a job and he’s not too hot in Russia.
18. Then again, which team in Bettman, Inc. would want to gamble on one who is failing in the KHL? If you ask me, not even the eventual Las Vegas expansionists would bid for an ill-tempered Ilya.
19. The St. Louis Blues will be a better playoff team this season than last because of the following young studs: Vlad Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Jake Allen. “There’s more diversity in our lineup!” is the way coach Ken Hitchcock puts it.
20. Once expansion comes and teams will only be able to protect one goalie, some fairly good puck-stoppers will be available. They include Frederik Anderson, Mike Smith, Jimmy Howard and Marc-Andre Fleury.
21. Some folks are crediting Jonathan Quick with being the best American-born goaltender ever. Wrong. One can say that the Kings netminder is the best of this decade; that’s all.
22. Minnesota-born Frankie (Mister Zero) Brimsek of the Bruins, who won two Cups, ranks as my topper from the Original Six Era. And can’t forget my personal favorite, Mike Richter, who took the Rangers crease away from John Vanbiesbrouck.
23. The problem with picking an NHL “best” is that most of the selectors are too young to remember the pre-World War II greats or even those who starred before expansion.
24. How about this unexpected choice for the Hart Trophy as MVP — Joltin’ Joe Thornton who’s been better as Sharks assistant captain than when he wore the “C.” Or, this veteran of many hockey wars, Jaromir Jagr.
25. The Hockey News asked three of its editors to pick “The Best Clutch Shooter In The NHL.” One picked Patrick Kane, another Sidney Crosby and the third, Alex Ovechkin. My pick among the Locals is Cal Clutterbuck.
26. LETTERS: This from Patrick McCormack of East Rockaway on The Unsung Ranger: “Tanner Glass does not get the attention he deserves. The gritty forward has done everything Alain Vigneault has needed him to do since being recalled from Hartford. The Rangers fourth line has played well down the stretch and Glass has been a big part of it.”
27. Credit Where Credit Is Due Department. My Toronto Sun buddy, Steve Simmons, makes a good point about Washington’s success: “The Caps are the best regular season team in the NHL and all of its stars were brought to Washington by former GM George McPhee. The big move made after McPhee was fired and replaced by Brian MacLellan was the hiring of Barry Trotz.”
28. The longer it takes for the Lightning to sign Steven Stamkos — if that ever happens — the more teams are reported to be ready to ink the Tampa Bay ace. Buffalo, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are in the queue. None of that quartet will make the playoffs.
29. Gambling on a kid goalie in the Finish Line Rush isn’t the worst thing in the world. Best Examples:Ken Dryden, Sean Burke and Martin Brodeur are among many examples.
30. Out of character with his modesty, John (I Still Don’t Like Avery) Tortorella explains how it feels to be the first American-born mentor to coach 1,000 NHL games: “A thousand games means I have been given chances.” (He should have added LUCK. This is a guy who seamlessly bounced from the Blueshirts to a multi-million dollar deal in Vancouver and then to another multi-moneybags gig in Columbus.)
31. Sean Avery is writing a book. That’s where Torts’ luck stops!