Not to say I told you so because it’s too early to tell but it’s still worth noting that as predicted when Marty St. Louis demanded his way out of Tampa Bay, the veteran forward is realizing at least for now, that maybe things weren’t as bad as they seemed with the Lightning. Just as many in the NHL continue to do, St. Louis underestimated his former teammates who are now 5-1-2 since he left them hanging just as the stretch run got underway and would have home advantage in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs if they started Friday. Meanwhile, as the New York Rangers prepared to play the Columbus Blue Jackets Friday night in a pivotal game in the Eastern Conference playoff race, they were 4-3-1 since acquiring St. Louis at the March 5 deadline in exchange for forward Ryan Callahan, a 2015 first-round pick and a conditional second-round choice in 2014.
There’s still a solid chance that it may be the Rangers who finish ahead of the Lightning and/or advance further in the playoffs but when all is said and done here, the feeling is that St. Louis will have at least one regret for leaving the team he captained and held iconic status with and that is that he isn’t and will never play with Steven Stamkos again. There is no doubt that St. Louis mentored Stamkos and is one of the reasons Stamkos is the player and leader he is now, seamlessly taking over the ‘C’ for his mentor. But right now at least and the bet here is for the majority of whatever is left in the 38-year-old St. Louis’ career, he will miss Stamkos more than he may have envisioned and more than Stamkos will miss him. Since the trade, St. Louis has looked lost with just three assists and no goals in eight games with the Rangers heading into Friday night. Obviously it takes time for a player to get accustomed to a new team and new systems but during that same span and after being out with a broken fibula since November 11, Stamkos has seven points in eight games including a natural hat trick at Toronto this past Tuesday.
Hindsight is always 20/20 but St. Louis just may regret letting his pride get in the way and asking out of Tampa Bay because at this point the Lightning have just as much a chance at a playoff run as the Rangers do but more importantly, with the one of the best players in the game in Stamkos, they very well could be playing hockey the next few springs while St. Louis looks for the next tee time in Connecticut.
–Speaking of not getting enough respect and overlooked, are the Blue Jackets the perennial Rodney Dangerfield’s of the NHL? Heading into the crucial tilt with the Rangers and their former captain Rick Nash, the Blue Jackets were 7-2-1 in their last ten games and showing that last season’s electric stretch run was no fluke. They have the reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky playing like a Vezina winner again and also have one of the best kept secrets amongst rising stars in Ryan Johansen who scored a beauty to beat the Montreal Canadiens Thursday. Johansen and a cast of other rising stars and seasoned veterans have this team in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004 and also pull off a first round upset. Time to give the Blue Jacket’s some love!
–Mike Babcock gets plenty of love for winning a Stanley Cup and two gold medals but he has not felt that love when it comes time to vote on the Jack Adams trophy for Coach of the Year. Well if Babcock can miraculously get the battered Red Wings into the playoffs then he gets the nod for Jack Adams here. What he has been able to get out of basically an AHL team and overcome not just injuries but major injuries to star players like Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk is simply amazing.
—Randy Carlyle by no means should make his decisions based on what the general public or media thinks. But what in the name of Ed Belfour was Carlyle thinking calling out James Reimer after two valiant (one a win) efforts in relief of the injured Jonathan Bernier. If the Maple Leafs played with the heart that Reimer does every night they wouldn’t be watching their hold on a playoff spot slip away and if Reimer had any team defense in front of him he wouldn’t be “just OK” as Carlyle described him after a hard-fought 3-2 loss at Detroit last Tuesday. Let’s not forget that it was Reimer who after the Leafs tried to acquire Roberto Luongo and Miikka Kiprusoff at the deadline, led the Leafs into the playoffs and almost past the eventual Eastern Conference Champions the Boston Bruins. If Carlyle has forgotten or disregarded that he should at least know better than to fuel a fire in the always controversial Toronto market.
–The aforementioned Bruins took a ten-game win streak into Colorado Friday night and in the eyes of many media and fans are “peaking” at the right time. But as Justin Bourne of the Score.ca pointed out recently, the Bruins and other contenders catching fire right now aren’t exactly peaking, they’re just turning their game up a notch when they’re supposed to. That’s why this run that Boston is on right now isn’t happening too soon, it’s happening at the right time.
–Finally and even though it’s made it’s rounds on the internet this week, in case you didn’t see it, I dare you to watch this and not get teary eyed or moved. Classy move by the San Jose Sharks.
–And here’s our track of the week for the fine folks of Holyoke, MA on their St. Patrick’s Parade weekend!