A passel of rookies did big things during the first round of the playoffs
At no time in recent memory have rookies played such integral roles in Round 1 of the playoffs as this year. This season's crop of first-year players may not yield an individual performance as prolific as that of current Coyotes center Jeremy Roenick, who had 18 points in 20 games as a rookie with the Blackhawks in 1990, but newcomers contributed in spectacular fashion last week.
Flyers rookie center Simon Gagne scored the game-winning goal oh a backhander in a 3-2 victory over the Sabres in Game 1 and added another goal and three assists as the Flyers won the series in five games. Meanwhile, Philly goaltender Brian Boucher stopped .935 of the shots he faced to become the first rookie netminder to win a playoff round since Martin Brodeur led the Devils to the Eastern Conference finals in 1994.
Rookies also helped New Jersey beat the Panthers. In Game 1 of the Devils' sweep, center Scott Gomez, the Calder Trophy favorite, scored an unassisted game-winner. In a 2-1 victory in Game 2, center John Madden assisted on both goals, the first coming after he boldly burst down the left wing with New Jersey skating two men down. In Game 3, a blistering third-period slap shot from rookie defenseman Brian Rafalski gave the Devils a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish. "Part of me was thinking, This is for the Stanley Cup, so don't screw up," Madden says of his first postseason action, "but then instincts take over."
The Avalanche was aided in its five-game defeat of the Coyotes last week by rookie left wing Alex Tanguay, who says, "My legs were a little shaky for the first few shifts." Nonetheless, he calmly converted a rebound in Colorado's 6-3 victory in Game 1, and he snapped home another goal in the Avalanche's 3-1 win in Game 2. For the Blues, who through Sunday were tied with the Sharks at three games apiece, rookie center Jochen Hecht was the leading scorer, with 10 points.
Even the Capitals, who were upset in five games by the Penguins, could at least be happy about the dazzling play of rookie center Jeff Halpern, who scored a third-period goal to snap a 2-2 tie in Washington's win in Game 4. Afterward coach Ron Wilson said, "Our future lies with people like Jeff Halpern."
He was referring to the Capitals' future, but Wilson could have been speaking about the NHL as a whole.
Canadian Teams Dial for Dollars
When the Canadian government's plan to aid the country's financially struggling NHL teams earlier this year was shot down in the face of public outcry, those clubs began looking for new ways to create revenue. One potential windfall was created recently when the Canucks, the Flames and the Oilers filed for licenses to air games on pay-per-view TV. The filing was spearheaded by the Canucks, who in a trial run four years ago sold four regular-season games at $9.95 Canadian (about $7 U.S.) a pop, generating roughly $40,000 Canadian per match.
Currently, about 95% of the three teams' games are available on broadcast or cable TV, but a portion of those could go to pay-per-view as early as the 2001-02 season. David Cobb, president of Orca Bay Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Canucks, anticipates charging up to $12 Canadian (roughly $8 U.S.) a game. "It's simple," says Cobb. "As Canadian teams we need to find as many ways to generate revenue as possible."