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Nobody in Montreal could get too excited about sweeping BOSTON in last spring's playoffs. Montreal has beaten Boston in their last 18 postseason matchups. Bruins G.M. Harry Sinden is fed up, and he's not going to take it anymore. Sinden has said that this year he will favor youth—and he's got it in centers Tommy Lehmann and Bob Sweeney, and defenseman Glen Wesley—and take his lumps during the regular season, hoping it pays off in April.
Go on, laugh. BUFFALO's 28 wins last season was a league low. When coach Ted Sator arrived in December, replacing Scotty Bowman, the Sabres were 17 points behind fourth-place Quebec. By the first week of March, the teams were even. Sator can coach, and in Pierre Turgeon, the No. 1 pick in the draft, he has a player to build a dream on. Turgeon, a 6'1", 209-pound center, scored on the first shot of his first shift in his first NHL exhibition game.
Even pre-Turgeon, the Sabres were strong up the middle and now they could be strong in the net if erratic goalie Tom Barrasso returns to his rookie-year form. The Sabres need only pick up where they left off to exclude the Nordiques from the playoffs.
Last season. QUEBEC'S worst in seven, convinced the Nordique brass that a purge was in order. Ogrodnick was traded to the Rangers, and Hunter and Malarchuk went to Washington in return for good-but-not-great forwards Gaetan Duchesne and Alan Haworth.
Surprisingly, the Nordiques struggled to score last season. Pure scorer Michel Goulet was kept under 50 goals for the first time in five years. Hunter's exit, plus that of pugilist Basil McRae, will mean opposing thugs can pick on Nordique snipers with impunity.
Norris Division with defensemen like Whack and Hack (Lee Norwood and Gilbert Delorme)—just two in a pack of clutchers and grabbers—coach Jacques Demers's pesky DETROIT club reached the Campbell Conference finals last spring. "They play Australian-rules football," complains Toronto coach John Brophy. Now the entire division, Brophy included, seems intent on out-Demersing Demers.
The Red Wings will maintain their edge with classy centerman Steve Yzerman and the coming of age—Demers hopes—of young forwards Joe Murphy and Adam Graves. Talented tough guy Joey Kocur was suspended in the preseason for cussing out an assistant coach during a photo session, but he'll be dressed for the team's opener. More than anything, it is Demers's uncanny ability to wring wins from mediocrity that gets Detroit over the top. Besides, someone from this ugly division has to make it to the Stanley Cup semis. Little separates the other teams.
If they had done any better at all than 0-7-1 against the Red Wings last season, the MINNESOTA North Stars would not have been edged out of the playoffs by Toronto. And then G.M. Lou Nanne would not have felt pressured to hire hometown hero Herb Brooks as the team's sixth coach in 8½ years. Brooks's biggest job will be to unite a team badly divided over Nanne's treatment of coach Lorne Henning, who was fired with two games left in the season.
Under sharp young coach Jacques Martin, ST. LOUIS stole first place from Detroit on the last day of the regular season. But the Blues, who lost 361 man-games to injuries, were physically dominated by Toronto in the first round of the playoffs. So what did Martin and G.M. Ron Caron do in the off-season? If you said, "Beefed up," you win an evening with Doug Evans, the Blues wing who earned notoriety last season when he picked a fight with Gretzky.
Caron dealt for scoring threat Tony McKegny, the former Ranger, and signed last season's best collegiate player, Tony Hrkac (rhymes with circus), who had 116 points in 48 games for North Dakota last year.