1. Whatever you do, don’t believe any of the oddsmakers when it comes to picking Sunday night’s winner of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
2. Of course you could drive yourself crazy with analytics trying to figure why — after five games — the Sharks still have bite while being outplayed in every single one of the contests.
3. Granted that San Jose’s Martin Jones looked more like a skating double-octopus in front of his net than a two-legged two-armed goalie. Jones and the goal posts were the stars.
4. But, you tell me, can Martin replicate his last performance in Pittsburgh only this time before the home crowd at SAP Center? I don’t think so; although I sure hope so because I want this to be a seven-game series.
5. If you’re Sharks coach Peter DeBoer and your club has been dominated five-out-of-five contests, what do you do to tilt the balance in San Jose’s direction?
6. “I’m trying to get our game on the right track,” DeBoer explains. “I hope to get them out there with as much energy as possible and get our execution in the right place.”
7. Hope springs eternal in the human breast but how do the Sharks convert hope into the speed necessary to keep up with a younger, faster team that has measured M.P.H. better than its foe? That goes back to Jones stealing one more game.
8. Matt Murray has demonstrated that he never fails to bounce back from a loss in which his puck-stopping was mediocre. Game 6 will be the test of tests for that theory.
9. Ever-candid Mike Milbury takes a beating on social media but pays no attention to it. “If I did,” says the ex-Islanders coach-GM.-turned analyst, “it would be a lot of self-inflicted pain.”
10. Asked if he’s immune to criticism, Mad Mike shoots back, “I’m too old to give a (deleted.)” But Milbury’s sidekick, ex-Flyer Keith Jones, puts it best: “For Mike to be disliked is a positive thing. That’s what makes him good. He’s an equal opportunity hater. Every team gets it.”
11. A longtime Rangers fan cornered me today with questions about Henrik Lundqvist and The King’s ability to continue goaltending on a high level. No doubt, there was the suggestion of doubt in the man’s voice.
12. My counterattack is simple: With 20-20 hindsight, I would have played Henny in 55 rather than 65 games this past season. Antti Raanta would have been fine doing 35 rather than 25 starts.
13. Furthermore, Lundqvist was solid in the first period of Game 1 against Pitt. Then, the most unlikely event occurred — really a 1,000-to-1 shot. Marc Staal‘s stick blade found a way to invade Henrik’s mask and actually graze the goaltender’s eye. My call: That event changed the entire post-season (downward) for New York.
14. Unless the majority of media stories are all wet, Las Vegas will be admitted to the NHL as its 31st franchise before the city beaches officially open. And at a cost of merely $500,000,000.
15. Assuming that the $500 mil check won’t bounce, Nevada’s entry into the Major League Hockey fraternity will vacuum the dirty rumors about the Hurricanes moving from Raleigh to Vegas.
16. Overlooked in the Gordie Howe obituaries was the fact that the Rangers tried to produce a second Mister Hockey. As Gordie reached his prime, the Blueshirts signed his kid brother, Vic Howe, and assigned him to the Eastern League’s New York Rovers.
17. I remember Vic well and can tell you he sure was frustrating to watch. In practice, he looked exactly like his older brother; same smooth skating style, excellent wrist shot and big like big bro.
18. Alas, once the game began Vic never got out of practice mode and never came remotely close to being what Blueshirt management had hoped he’d be.
19. You can look it up: Over three NHL seasons — 1950-51 through 1954-55, the year I worked for the Rangers in publicity — Vic a total of 33 games. His production said it all: three goals, four assists and seven points. What a pity!
20. Another overlooked point about Gordie Howe: One incident turned his temperament from average to you’d-better-watch-out and sometimes downright vicious.
21. During Game 1 of the 1950 Toronto-Detroit semifinal playoffs. Howe went crashing head-first into the sideboards and nearly died as a result of the fractured skull. Doctors told him he’d never play hockey again.
22. But Gordie came back a season later and merely won the scoring title. The injury — some say it was because of a butt end from Toronto’s Ted Kennedy — created a figurative hit-first-ask-questions-later philosophy in Howe’s mind.
23. As a result, anyone who messed with Mister Hockey would pay a price. It helps explain why two Rangers — Brad Park and Lou Fontinato — found themselves with their right ears precariously hanging from their heads. Courtesy of Dr. Howe.
24. Although not a licensed surgeon, Gordie employed his hockey stick instead of a scalpel. It also moved his Hall of Fame son, Mark, to once assert that — if the mean spirit moved his Dad — Gordie could be one of the dirtiest players this side of Hall of Famer Eddie Shore.
25. I know harpoons that could have taken lessons from Howe’s sticks.
26. Fans have asked me how good a guy Mister Hockey was off the ice. I always said that he was as fabulous as he was on the rink. Every journalist who ever met Howe agrees.
27. One of them, ex-Newsday editor-columnist, Joe Dionisio, tells this story: “Howe not only was generous with his time, he was funny, humble and insightful. What stunned me was his unguarded demeanor.
28. Dionisio adds: “Never once did Howe make me feel like I was chatting up a Legend. Quite the converse. As he recounted tales of his Red Wings traveling by train to Original Six cities, he spoke to me as if we had been friends and teammates for 15 years. I have current friends who don’t behave as earnestly as Gordie did with me that day.”
29. Mike Sullivan has come up with several reasons why his Penguins should win the Cup in Game 6: “We carried the play for long stretches last game. Our power play was good. We respond the right way to adversity. Plus, our players are well aware of the situation and (goalie) Matt Murray has a quiet confidence about him.”
30. Phil Kessel’s failure in Toronto has been laid on the city’s voracious sports writers who — according to the accusers — virtually forced Phil’s trade to Pittsburgh. But Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons vehemently debunks that accusation.
31. Simmons puts it this way: “When Brendan Shanahan fired Randy Carlyle as coach he told his players show me you want to remain a Maple Leaf. That was the beginning and end of Kessel’s time in Toronto. It wasn’t media. It wasn’t fans. It was his absolute disregard for Shanahan’s words. Shanahan challenged Kessel and Kessel wilted. That was the end of the Toronto story.”
32. A sane comment from Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur after seeing the beards — carpets? — worn by Joe Thornton and Brent Burns: “It’s a disgrace to hockey.”
33. Hall of Fame ex-Rangers, ex-Leafs goalie Johnny Bower rated Gordie Howe and Jean Beliveau his best opponents. Ironically Bower and Howe were regular fishing partners in Saskatchewan in the off-season.
34. The Sharks-Penguins series is so gripping few realize that fights have been virtually forgotten.
35. Or, to put it a more pragmatic way; who needs a brawl to stir a team to action?
36. The same thing I keep hearing about Gordie Howe is what friends of John Tortorella have told me for years about Torts; away from the rink he’s the nicest guy in the world.
37. Once, just once, I’d like to see a significant game played without one shot blocked. Imagine how much fun that would be.
38. Matter of fact, I’d bet that goalies would prefer to see the puck more often that way.
39. If the Sharks win Game 6, I will consider it as miraculous as San Jose’s Game 5 triumph.
40. Maybe more!