Somewhere last night, Ken Dryden was smiling.
Dryden, the Hockey Hall of Famer, could appreciate more than most the circumstances and remarkable accomplishment of one Mr. John Gibson, goalie of the future (and present, apparently) for the Anaheim Ducks.
Way back in 1970-71, Dryden burst onto the NHL scene playing six regular season games for the Montreal Canadiens - winning them all! - and then led the Habs to the Stanley Cup championship with a Conn Smythe Trophy performance in the post-season. The gangly stopper completely befuddled the big, bad Boston Bruins along the way.
Dryden, who used to stand tall and lean his chin on the butt end of his goal stick and gloves in a statuesque pose during stoppages in play that remains a lasting imagine of him all these years later, posted a 12-8 record in the playoffs in what has become one of the most celebrated chapters in NHL history.
Having spent four years studying at Cornell, Dryden was 23 years old at the time of his spectacular debut.
Gibson, who hails from Pittsburgh, PA, and is just 20 years old, spent most of the season playing with Norfolk in the American Hockey League. The thought was if the Ducks could get by this season with Jonas Hiller and Frederik Andersen, then Gibson could step up and challenge for the starter's job next season. However, Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau has lost faith in Hiller and with Andersen injured, he rolled the dice on the kid who repaid him with a 2-0 shutout over the Kings in Los Angeles to square their Western Conference second round series at 2-2.
Time will tell how this one plays out, but given his own legacy, the intelligent and thoughtful Dryden, more than most others, could certainly appreciate Gibson's stunning NHL playoff debut.
Tough call for Rangers
The New York Rangers still have one compliance buyout available to them and one must assume they will decide in the off-season whether or not to use it to end the Broadway career of Brad Richards or Rick Nash.
Richards is 34 years old and has six years remaining on his contract that carries a cap hit of a little more than $6.6 million US a season. The final three years of the deal he'll earn just $1 million a season.
Nash, who is 29, has four years at $7.8 million remaining.
It would seem Richards' deal is the logical one to walk away from, except he is still somewhat productive. Richards is tied for the team lead in points in the playoffs with three goals and eight points in 12 games after scoring 20 goals and 51 points in 81 regular season games.
Nash has no goals and just five assists in 12 playoff games. He led the Rangers in goals in the regular season with 26 in 65 games, but has not come close to being the scoring stud he was when he broke into the NHL as an 18-year-old. In 28 career playoff games he has managed just two goals.
Incredibly, Nash leads the playoffs with 49 shots on goal.
A year after he was a healthy scratch during the playoffs, veteran left-winger Jussi Jokinen has been a pleasant surprise for the Pittsburgh Penguins scoring six goals and nine points in 11 games. His performance has helped ease the pain of Sidney Crosby managing just one goal in that stretch.
Fans of the Montreal Canadiens were delighted by the performance of trade deadline acquisition Thomas Vanek and hoped the team would be able to re-sign the impending unrestricted free agent.
In the playoffs, though, Vanek has been a little too quiet. He has two goals in the past eight games and they came in the same outing. Tomas Plekanec has one goal in six games while Rene Bourque, who started the playoffs with a boom, hasn't scored in four games.
The Habs deserve high marks for their strong showing against Boston, but if their top scorers aren't heard from soon, they are doomed.