1. The original baseball “Old Reliable” was the Yankees 1941 World Series hero, Tommy Henrich. The March 2016 “New Reliable” is the Islanders Cal (Clutch-Shooter) Clutterbuck, allegedly a “fourth-liner.”
2. What is this “fourth-liner” nonsense, anyhow? The Welland, Ontario native has 15 goals; nine of which Capable Cal has scored either in the third period or overtime. (Plus, he’s a good interview.)
3. Each night, in every way, Antti Raanta is looking every bit as good as Cam (No Longer A Backup) Talbot did last year for the Rangers. Long-range, Raanta – The Replacement – will be a better puck-stopper than Tabby.
4. It’s a bit early to project the Devils whiz-goalie, Scott (Whoa, Baby!) Wedgewood, as the second coming of Cup-winning Ken Dryden or even Jersey hero, Sean Burke. But, you never know, do you?
5. Then again, when Kid Wedgewood posts a shutout against the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Thursday and a night later at The Rock blanks Ovechkin’s Capitals over three periods-plus, he’s arresting my attention, big-time. Ditto for coach Happy Hynes, too. Well, he had to come down to Earth some time and that place was Raleigh on Sunday night. (Hey, nobody’s perfect.)
6. If New Jersey’s Andy (I’m Not) Greene isn’t — pound-for-pound — the most underrated NHL defenseman, I’d like to know who is; and don’t tell me Willie Mitchell because Willie, my favorite Panther, is hurting, big-time.
7. A few months ago, a couple of Rangers fans asked me why the Blueshirts bothered to elevate Tanner (Unbroken) Glass from Hartford to Seventh Avenue. My answer was that T.G. is A-OK and an asset to the club.
8. Glass has since demonstrated that he doesn’t crack easily — actually doesn’t break at all — and is an all-purpose grit guy with mesmerizing mitts.
9. Every day, in every way, Keith Yandle‘s play underlines one fact: It’s a darn good thing the high command didn’t unload this New Englander at the trade deadline.
10. That’s from Lesson 10 — priceless quote — from the graduating class of Hockey 101, “Some of the best moves are the trades that are not made.”
11. Those who keep insisting that hockey has become a big fellows game overlook the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Mats Zuccarello, Nathan Gerbe, Brian Gionta and kid brother Stephen, just to name a few pint-sized hustlers.
12. Quote Of The Week: My buddy, Rob Taub, asked Justin Williams how he feels about his nickname, “Mister Game 7.” The Caps ace shot back that he didn’t like it because hockey is a team game and he’s only one part of the club. Good answer – and still a worthy nickname.
13. A late season squeeze into the playoffs isn’t the worst thing in the world whether you’re the Islanders, Flyers or Red Wings. And, in some cases, it could be the best way to do it.
13A. On the other hand, the Capitals have peaked too soon and could wind up being ousted in the first post-season round. (I’m not kidding either. Too much Braden Holtby trying to break Marty Brodeur’s record.)
14. In 1949-50, the Rangers just barely made the last available post-season berth. The Blueshirts then knocked out the Canadiens in five games and took the Red Wings to double-overtime in Game Seven of the Final.
15. New York would have had a Cup-winner then, had Don (Bones) Raleigh’s first-overtime shot gone in rather than clank off the post.
16. Sean Avery is finishing his autobiography. His view of John Tortorella is insightful. “Torts has only one gear, and that’s to scream at people.”
17. There’s one $uperior reason why the potential Las Vegas franchise will get a better deal than previous expansion teams. That’s because the Nevada sugar daddies will be paying a record $500 million for their franchise.
18. Cory Schneider – wise beyond his years – has emerged as a very influential player in the goalie equipment controversy. Which explains why you’ll see “streamlined” — no cheating anymore, lads — net minders for the first time since Ed Giacomin.
19. Schneider explains the form-fitting, streamlining this way, “We should all be on the same playing field doing the same thing, and let the talent win out. If you’re talented, can move around the net and stop pucks, then those are the guys who should be in the league.”
20. LETTERS! Albert Van Horn, Jr. of Philadelphia believes the NHL is overlooking a key area in goalie protection: “What bothers me is the fact that the NHL allows skaters to use composite sticks with ‘metallic’ composition. Pucks shot with these sticks have the same effect as baseballs hit with aluminum bats, and that seems unfair to me. For the sake of goaltender safety, the NHL should do something about that.” (Maven says, “Good point.”)
21. Although the Devils may miss the playoffs, one – among many – pluses from the New Jersey season was the maturation of defenseman Adam Larsson.
22. When my pal Leo Scaglione, Jr. asked Larsson his theory on staying sharp while averaging more than 20-plus minutes a game, Adam explained, “When you’re out there for so long, you should think to not overdo stuff. That’s when you can get caught, especially if they have their first line out. You have to keep it simple and don’t overskate, Stay in front of the net – that’s the key.”
23. That said, I like the Washington Post comment by Dan Steinberg about Barry Trotz’s impressive sextet: “If you can’t enjoy this Capitals season, sports fandom isn’t for you.”
24. Or, as Jeremy Strauss writes from The Nation’s Capital, “We don’t know what will happen in April, May, or even June, if the Caps even get that far. But what kind of sports fans would we be if we didn’t allow ourselves to enjoy the ride and see where it takes us? Plus, and perhaps more importantly, this season has actually been unparalleled; that is to say, we haven’t seen this kind of regular season dominance in Washington.”
25. Members of Al Arbour’s dynasty Islanders will honor the memory of their beloved coach with a private get-together later this Spring. Or, as Chico Resch puts it: “Al was as close to perfect as a coach could be.”
26. If Arbour made one mistake, it was using Gord Dineen on defense in Game 3 of the 1983-84 Stanley Cup Finals against the Oilers in Edmonton. “Mark Messier broke that game when going around Dineen,” a Hall of Fame Islander told me recently. “If tough Gord Lane had been there, Messier would have been chopped down like a tree!”
27. Speaking of hurting the enemy, Elliotte Friedman has an interesting comment about Nashville captain Shea Weber. Friedman asked Ryan Johansen to name the most intimidating player in the league. Johansen shot back, “Shea Weber is like Sasquatch. He doesn’t win every battle, but he’s always competing, always giving everything he has.”
28. When a Devils fan, such as Dan Marsiglia of Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey touts a Ranger such as Ryan McDonagh for the Norris Trophy, that’s news. Come to think of it, Dangerous Dan makes sense as follows, “The Norris is about all-around play, and that’s what McDonagh gives the Rangers. The captain has been steady offensively and he’s Top-3 in plus-minus among defensemen — not to mention Top-10 overall.”
29. The Player Most Likely To (Physically) Hurt You Prize goes to (scary drum roll, maestro, please) Flyers defenseman Radko (Godzilla) Gudas.
30. This is one Broad Street Bully who never will win a Good Housekeeping Award. His Saturday night victim was Arizona’s Shane Doan, hammered by Goody Gudas’ mallet, disguised as an elbow.