Week In Review after the 41st Annual All-Star Game, played on Sunday, January 21st, 1990
January 21, 1990|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER
PITTSBURGH — Bernie Nicholls heard the trade rumors before.
He heard them last season. But he went out and scored 70 goals and figured he had done enough to be a King forever.
He heard them earlier this week swirling around himself and teammate Luc Robitaille. But Nicholls joked about them at first, even asking Robitaille when he was going to pack his bags.
There was no joking Saturday. Just shock and a chill down his spine. The joke was on him. The unthinkable became reality. The trade rumors became fact. Bernie Nicholls became a New York Ranger.
In a deal a Ranger official called the biggest in club history-- their Wayne Gretzky-level deal--the Rangers traded right wingers Tomas Sandstrom and Tony Granato to the Kings for Nicholls, the veteran center who last season became only the fifth player in NHL history to reach the 70-goal mark.
The deal ended an agonizing week of rumors and a tortuous day for Nicholls, who had to fend off an army of reporters in Pittsburgh for today's NHL All-Star game until he knew his fate.
Finally, at about 8 p.m., he was called to owner Bruce McNall's suite, given the word and put on the phone with General Manager Rogie Vachon, who was back in Los Angeles.
"He felt kind of bad," Nicholls said of Vachon. "He thought he was doing something for his team. But I told him I thought he got the raw end of the deal."
It seemed certain some deal would be made after the club managed only one win in 6 games during a stretch around Christmas time, falling back into the pack of the Smythe Division. After a loss to the Hartford Whalers last Saturday, McNall promised a big change.
But the one he delivered Saturday cut to the bone. He and Nicholls are friends and business partners. They went out together. They owned racehorses together.
"I had to weigh my own personal feelings," McNall said. "But as the owner, I have to take away the emotional feelings and consider what is best for the team. I hate doing it. There are great things about being the owner of a team. Wonderful things. But there are also some bad things like this.
"I have to weigh what 16,000 people (a full house at the Forum) want. The first thing is to win. The second has to do with individual players. This could be an unpopular decision. A lot of people are not going to like it."
Especially since the Kings' biggest need has been to shore up the defense. Scoring goals has not been a problem for the club, which has a 26-20-1 record. Preventing the other team from scoring has been another matter.
"As a team, we're brutal defensively," Vachon said. "We can bring in any kind of goaltender, any kind of defenseman. But if the forwards don't come back (and back-check), it won't matter."
"Bernie was a great playmaker," McNall said. "He was right up there with Wayne. But we still have Luc. We need players with speed, gut and fire. These players seem to make sense, age-wise and everything. They have the scoring ability, but they should also improve our defense because of their speed. We had too many of the same kind of players.
"When we came into the season, I felt we had a team with a tremendous shot at the (Stanley) Cup. I was wrong. We have an enormous amount of individual talent, but that doesn't necessarily make a team.
"If it turns out I was wrong again, we'll go back to the drawing board again."
Sandstrom is 25. A native of Finland, he is in his sixth NHL season. His best year was 1986-87, when he scored 40 goals and had 34 assists. Overall, before this season, he had played in 359 games and had 154 goals and 188 assists. This year, in 48 games, he has 13 goals and 19 of assists.
Granato, also 25, is in his second NHL season after playing on the 1988 U.S. Olympic hockey team. Third last season in voting for rookie of the year, Granato appeared in 78 games, getting 36 goals and 27 assists. This year, bothered recently by a groin injury, he has been in only 37 games, getting sixgoals and 8 assists.
The 28-year-old Nicholls, in his ninth season with the Kings, totaled 150 points last year, the second time he has been in triple figures. In 1984-85, he had 46 goals and 54 points for 100 points.
This season, despite nagging ankle and knee injuries, and a recent slump in which he has failed to score a goal in eight games, Nicholls is still sixth in the league in scoring with 17 goals and 51 assists. Only superstars Adam Oates, Wayne Gretzky, Patrik Sundstrom, and Steve Yzerman have done better.
"Bernie has been great for us," Vachon said. "This trade has nothing to do with Bernie Nicholls. The team is playing bad and we had to make a drastic change. If he was a bad player, we couldn't get two good players for him. He's a professional. I'm not ever going to say anything bad about Bernie."
The talks between the Rangers and Kings began a little more than a week ago at a general managers' meeting in Florida. Neil Smith, in his first season as New York's general manager, felt compelled to make a move after his club went through a recent 1-12-2 period.
Smith brought up Nicholls' name to Vachon.
The original deal proposed, it is believed, was Nicholls for Sandstrom and winger Ulf Dahlen. When the Kings insisted on Granato, they got him.
And so, Nicholls, who underwent minor bladder surgery Friday in Los Angeles, flew all night to get to Pittsburgh for the All-Star game, and then underwent grilling all day by the media, found himself at an evening news conference, trying on a Ranger jersey.
"I saw Wayne do this," he said, referring to Gretzky's news conference when he became a King a year and a half ago, "but I never thought it would happen to me."
Out of the glare of the camera lights came a question: How would he like to be introduced in today's All-Star game?
Nicholls, the man who wanted to be a King forever, never hesitated.
"As a New York Ranger," he said, "because that's what I am."
By LISA HARRIS UPI Sports Writer | Jan. 21, 1990
PITTSBURGH -- Even with the Mario Show taking place at the NHL All-Star Game Sunday, there was a lot of room for lesser lights.
Mario Lemieux scored what looked to be the decisive goal for the Wales Conference, but Wayne Gretzky and the Campbell Conference came back late to steal the game 7-6 in the All-Star Game’s first ever shootout.
Then there were the multiple-point games by Los Angeles’ Luc Robitaille, Winnipeg’s Doug Smail, Calgary’s Joe Nieuwendyk, Edmonton’s Kirk Muller, Buffalo’s Pierre Turgeon, and the Habs’ Stephane Richer.
Twenty Four players registered at least a point.
But in the highest-scoring game in All-Star history, Wayne Gretzky shined above them all, and extending his all-star game point streak to nine games.
'Mario played a great game and that's the way it should be,' said Gretzky, who last year had the fitting performance when he was the Most Valuable Player at his former arena in Edmonton in his return as a Los Angeles King.
'It's his rink, his game, it's wide-open and you know what he can do. I'm glad for him.'
Even through modest comments, Gretzky outshined Lemieux, scoring 3 points including a game-tying goal with 55 seconds remaining in regulation. The Great One also scored the lone goal in the shootout to claim MVP honors for the second straight all-star game.
'I tried to stay back quite a bit with him and (St. Louis right winger) Brett Hull,' Propp said. 'Our defense pinched at the right times too but Mario was hanging on to the puck so well that we could kind of move on to other things. However, you lose focus for one second and Gretzky will make you pay'
Gretzky admitted he was playing the game with a heavy heart, in the wake of Saturday the trade of his closest friend on the Kings, fellow All-Star Bernie Nicholls, to the New York Rangers.
'It's been a tough two days, honestly. Bernie and I were very good friends, in fact, we had dinner together last night. It's been a sad two days and for me, it's taken away from what the All-Star Game is supposed to be about.'
Lemieux, who at the All-Star Game last year collected one assist to Gretzky's three-point MVP performance, didn't seem to relish scoring a goal in his home arena.
Lemieux's Wales teammates, however, took more joy in the game by Gretzky.
'Wayne had his show last year, and continued it tonight' Muller said.
Boston defenseman Ray Bourque took pride that Gretzky was stopped while playing at times with his former Edmonton teammates Mark Messier and Jari Kurri -- 'three pretty good players,' Bourque said.
Pat LaFontaine of the Islanders was sympathetic: 'The All-Star Game is so much fun'
Pittsburgh fans, who defend Lemieux's stake as the game's best player against Gretzky's, were happy to see Lemieux not only shine, but were disappointed when Gretzky took over the game.
When Gretzky skated out for the skills competitions Saturday, many booed and they cheered when he was shut out by Montreal goaltender Patrick Roy in a rapid-fire drill.
Presumably, that was because Gretzky failed to attend practice Saturday morning, which many area fans paid to watch.
Gretzky, thinking of life on the Kings without Nicholls, had shorter vision.
'It's going to hit me Monday on the ice in Vancouver,' he said, the mention of the regular season being the surest sign that for Gretzky, this All-Star Game, another notch in his career could be quickly forgotten.
January 16th, 1990
LANDOVER, Md. — Bryan Murray, who had the longest tenure of any current coach in the NHL, was fired Monday by the Washington Capitals and replaced by his brother, Terry Murray.
Capital General Manager David Poile said there was a long pause on the telephone when he offered the job to Terry Murray.
"I'm sure he was hoping for a better time or better circumstances for when he was going to get the job," Poile said. "But he said to me, 'This is what I've been preparing my hockey career for and yes, I'll accept the job.' I know he is disappointed that he is replacing his brother. But I didn't get rid of Bryan because he was a bad person or a bad coach. I did it because the team needs a change."
Terry Murray, 39, has been coach of the Capitals' American Hockey League affiliate Baltimore Skipjacks for the past two seasons. He was with the Skipjacks in Ontario Monday night, but Poile said Terry would travel back to Maryland in time for the Capitals' practice today. Washington plays host to New Jersey tonight.
Bryan Murray had coached the Capitals since November of 1981, leading them to the playoffs seven times. The Capitals finished first in the Patrick Division last season with 92 points, but lost to Philadelphia in the division semifinals.
"I'm disappointed for myself," Bryan Murray said, "but I'm happy for Terry."
Poile said he told Bryan Murray of the decision at practice.
"The contributions of Bryan Murray to this organization have been as much or as many as any other person or player who has ever played or been a part of this organization," Poile said.
"There's no doubt in my mind that Bryan Murray will be a coach in the National Hockey League, and probably very soon," Poile said.
Bryan Murray's career record is 350-241-81. The move comes as a surprise because Washington has been playing at a high level. This season, the Capitals (25-19-2).
January 15th, 1990
HIGHLY TOUTED SOVIET PLAYERS HAVEN'T FARED VERY WELL IN THE NHL
BY JAY GREENBERG
Bob McCammon looks into Vladimir Krutov's eyes and tries to find some light, a glimmer, a sense of motivation. He finds only a wall. Krutov will open up only in his own time, at his own pace, if he ever does at all. "I ask him if he's happy," says McCammon, Krutov's coach with the Vancouver Canucks. "He says yes. I ask him if he wants to be here. He nods. That's about all I get. It's frustrating. We all have a lot of compassion for the guy."
Krutov, one of 10 Soviet pioneers in the NHL this season, spent the 1980s as the world's best left wing. Now, with his first NHL season halfway over, he's sputtering like a four-cylinder Lada. And he's not the only Soviet in a funk.
What gives? Krutov and the countrymen who migrated with him to North America were famous for their deft puck handling, slick skating and marvelous shooting. So far, though, they've delivered next to nichego. For all the hoopla surrounding their entry into the NHL, the grand experiment at this point has to be deemed a major disappointment.
Oh, sure, a couple of Soviets are playing a little above average, and more than enough time remains in the season for the others to raise their levels, but don't hold your breath. Most seem either too old, too heavy, too slow or too disoriented to wow the NHL. For all the money that the league is paying the players, and in most cases the Soviet Ice Hockey Federation, which gave them permission to emigrate (one of the players, right wing Alexander Mogilny of the Buffalo Sabres, defected), a number of guys at Moose Jaw could do at least as well for considerably fewer dollars.
Krutov is exhibit A of the Soviet malaise. Nicknamed the Tank because of his wide shoulders, the 5'9" Krutov was a picture of power, strength and speed back home. He had a scorching backhand shot, and he helped spur the Soviet National Team to two Olympic gold medals, seven world championships and an 8-1 rout of Canada's best NHL players in the 1981 Canada Cup final.
However, as of last Saturday, he had only seven goals and 10 assists for the Canucks. After a summer of sloth in Moscow, the Tank reported to Vancouver's training camp at 212 pounds, 15 above his usual weight in the U.S.S.R. Krutov is down to about 205 now and says, in one of his few attempts at English, that things are getting "better." But that's not apparent in his play.
According to McCammon, the other Canucks sympathize with the difficulties Krutov has faced trying to adjust to the NHL. But the money Vancouver is paying—$750,000 a season over three years, split equally between Krutov and the Soviet federation—and the Canucks' woeful record have not helped the atmosphere on the team. Vancouver won only two games in December as Krutov's hands, once among the most gifted in the game, continued to seem as if they were made of stone. Official expressions of tolerance aside, patience among the Canucks is running thin.
Krutov using his frame against Germany in the 1988 Olympics
"When we get traded," says Paul Reinhart, Vancouver's best defenseman, "we all believe we need time to get used to new teammates, new surroundings, new systems. Add language and lifestyle to that, and you understand what he is going through.
"At the same time, we're under the gun to win hockey games, and it's a lot easier to be patient when you win. Krutov is the typical Russian, not very emotional or talkative. If you accept that as a cultural difference, then fine, but there are guys on the team who don't understand that. They reach out to try to make him feel at home and after a while expect him to reach back. Nobody's turned away. But some are nearing that point."
The Canucks are one of three teams with at least two Soviets. In the Vancouver locker room, the cubicle next to Krutov's is occupied by Igor Larionov, who had been Krutov's center with the Central Red Army and Soviet national teams. As of last Saturday, Larionov had 8 goals and 17 assists.
Compared with Krutov's, Larionov's play has been satisfactory. "Everything different," he says. "Different life, different style on ice. Play is much more physical, much more difficult every night." He grins. "Everybody wants to hit the Russians."
The reason Larionov is playing better than Krutov and some other Soviets may lie in his better adjustment to life in North America. Unlike Krutov, who considered playing in Europe until Larionov persuaded him last summer to accompany him to Vancouver, Larionov, who has an easy smile and a growing command of English, campaigned for years for the opportunity to play in the NHL. His wife, Lena, a former figure skater who had traveled extensively outside the Soviet Union, is embracing all aspects of North American life. "It will be most difficult for me to go back to Russia," says Larionov when asked what he'll do when his three-year contract expires. "Here, there are no problems. There, there are many problems."
But here, in fact, most of the Soviets are finding problems in the style of play in the NHL. Europeans play a precise passing game, designed to keep players constantly circling in the offensive zone until one gets open in front of the net for a tap-in. The NHL features more banging, screening, shooting and up-and-down skating. The NHL way can be learned, but except for the 20-year-old Mogilny and 26-year-old right wing Sergei Priakin of the Calgary Flames, all the Soviet players are 28 or older.
At least three of them—Priakin; goaltender Sergei Mylnikov, 31, of the Quebec Nordiques; and right wing Helmut Balderis, 37, of the Minnesota North Stars—were never expected to make a big splash in the league. Priakin, the first player to enter the NHL with the blessing of the Soviet federation, skated for Calgary late last season to test the climate for others. A trial balloon without much air, he has dressed for only six games this season. Give him a D for his performance so far. Mylnikov, who has looked ordinary in international competition in recent years, plays a backed-up-in-the-net style that figured to back him right into Quebec coach Michel Bergeron's doghouse. It has; at week's end, Mylnikov has one win in six appearances for the defensively inept Nordiques and refusing attempts to send him to the minors. He too rates a D. Balderis, retired for four years when he joined the NHL, is a part-timer in Minnesota. He gets a C—.
Five other Soviets—Krutov, 29, Larionov, 29, Calgary right wing Sergei Makarov, 31, and New Jersey defensemen Viacheslav Fetisov, 31, and Alexei Kasatonov, 30—have long been considered among the top 15 talents in the world, but it may have been too much to expect them to become premier NHL players overnight. They performed together on practically every shift for the Red Army and national teams but now find themselves isolated, with new teammates. "We saw they could play well against NHL players," says New Jersey coach John Cunniff, "but how they would play with NHL players we just didn't know."
One thing the Soviets have to learn is how to chase the puck. When one of their plays is broken up in the attacking zone, their instinct is not to go after the puck but to drop back into the neutral zone and try to clog the lanes and intercept a pass. NHL teams approach the attacking blue line with the idea that unless a teammate is clearly open, the best ploy is to dump the puck deep into the opposition's zone and attempt to bang out turnovers and scoring chances. In short, the NHL is a more difficult school for the Soviets than they or anyone else had imagined. Here are the midterm grades for the Soviets who were expected to make the biggest impact.
•Makarov: B—. "He has to shoot more," says Flames coach Terry Crisp. "He'll back-pass three times on a breakaway." Calgary defensemen have learned that Makarov is rarely to be found in the standard North American outlet position along the boards. Makarov has shaken his head at his teammates when they make him reach a little ahead or behind for a pass. Still, Makarov has been a solid contributor on the Flames’ top line, and his passes are often spectacular, which explains why grinding left wing Gary Roberts has become a goal scorer.
•Krutov: D. He'll make a good tip pass and can still blister his shot, but on most shifts he looks bewildered. Almost every time he gets to the blue line with the puck, he slows up. Is he thinking about making a drop pass or having another hot dog? After years of living under 11-month training-camp conditions, Krutov is having trouble with self-discipline. Opponents, however, are having no problem rendering him useless.
•Larionov: C+. After playing for the perennial champion Red Army team for eight years, he's learning what it's like to get hammered night after night on a last-place club. "Many easy games in the Soviet Union," says Larionov. "No easy games here." The Canucks, who showed remarkable defensive improvement a year ago, thought they would move up in class by adding a couple of Soviets. That hasn't happened, although the fumbling of Larionov's inventive setups by his slumping, uptight teammates suggests that the fault does not lie only with him. Larionov's biggest difficulty may be that he has to play on the same line with Krutov.
•Fetisov: C—. As he holds on to the puck, waiting to begin the attack with a drop pass, the rest of the Devils head up-ice, leaving him alone to get creamed by a forechecker. Fetisov, who was not intimidated by a fistic beating administered by the Toronto Maple Leafs' Wendel Clark earlier in the season, rolls off checks nicely and threads outlet passes that 90% of NHL players make only in their dreams. But it may take more years than he has left as a player to get him to jump up into the play and put his wonderful offensive skills to work. On the power play, in which he figured to be deadly, he looks like a mannequin, standing idly by while his roommate, Bruce Driver, runs the offense from the point.
Defenseman Sergei Starikov came to New Jersey to keep Fetisov company but spent the summer power-eating his way from 212 pounds to 235. Starikov, 31, who was sent to the Devils' farm team in Utica, N.Y., on Dec. 26, merits a D—for his time with New Jersey. He was replaced by Kasatonov, Fetisov's longtime defensive partner with the Red Army and national teams. Kasatonov played superbly in his debut against the Sabres on Jan. 4—give him an I for incomplete—but he and Fetisov don't get along. When Fetisov and Larionov threatened strikes against tyrannical Soviet coach Viktor Tikhonov last year, thereby winning the right from the Soviet federation to finish their careers in North America, Kasatonov stayed loyal to his mentor and thus left the others exposed to criticism. "I'm not happy," says Fetisov of Kasatonov's signing. "The situation with the team may be tense."
•Mogilny: B—. Some of the Soviets may master the NHL game in two years, just in time for their marvelous skills to desert them. But by defecting at 20, Mogilny has time and perhaps the best set of legs in hockey on his side. After spending most of the first half of the season trying to beat people one-on-one, he is learning to use his teammates and showing signs of becoming a prolific scorer—he had ten goals and 14 assists through last Saturday. The moral of the Mogilny story is that the team that shopped at the black market by hiring a defector seems to have gotten the best deal.
January 17th, 1990
Edmonton Oilers forward Vladimir Ruzicka skates behind Winnipeg Jets goalie Bob Essensa during Ruzicka’s first NHL game at Northlands Coliseum in Edmonton on Jan. 17, 1990.
The Winnipeg Jets were the unwitting pawns as Vladimir Ruzicka and one of hockey’s biggest knights, Mark Messier, put on a show early for 16,664 curious spectators. The resilient Jets though had the last laugh.
The former Czech national team captain didn’t get a point but he got several points across in his first look at hockey life in the National Hockey League Wednesday.
“I think he’ll fit in rather nicely once he gets into the groove,” said Jets coach Bob Murdoch. “I did notice him . . . he’s big, strong, good on the faceoffs. You know he can play. He’s not old, he’s right in his prime.”
Murdoch liked what he saw in the 26-year-old Czech but winced when he eyeballed Ruzicka’s new mate, Messier.
The Edmonton Oiler captain had scored just 48 seconds into the game to lift the crowd and the Oilers early.
“I’d say he was a factor,” said Murdoch. “We read in the papers that everyone was disappointed by the Oilers performance thus far this season, and when that happens, Mark Messier takes things into his own hands.”
He had them at Winnipeg’s throat Wednesday as the Oilers tried to regain some ground in the Playoff race in the Smythe Division. It was all for naught though, as 3 unanswered Jet goals lifted Winnipeg to a 4-2 victory. There weren’t any happy faces in the Oiler dressing room as they get ready for the all-star break.
“I do not feel comfortable at all right now . . . 5 behind Vancouver and 6 behind the Jets,” said Oiler coach John Muckler.
Messier scored on a breakaway, on Bob Essensa’s doorstep and on a rebound — assisted by Jari Kurri and Craig Simpson. Glen Anderson also played a good game and could not convert, “Andy started to really go in the third against Detroit,” said Messier. “When he’s going like he was tonight he’s the most exciting winger in the game.” However, after scoring a powerplay goal 3:12 into the second period, Anderson was held scoreless as well, despite a number of chances on Essensa.
Nobody could tape Messier’s foot to the floor, though. “He looked like he could have played all night,” said Muckler. “He was awesome. He wanted the puck . . . he was the power forward. But you know what? Having Ruzicka out there really helped him.
“It took a lot of pressure off Mark. I think they’re really good for each other. Mark didn’t have to play as much. On the powerplay especially is where I noticed Ruzicka. He’s really good in the faceoff circle. We were able to control the puck because of it.”
Ruzicka only had one shot, in his first shift, but it almost beat Bob Essensa. He got tired and his shifts weren’t that long; but that was to be expected. It was his first game anywhere in almost two weeks.
“He’ll help us out a lot,” said Messier. “He’s played a lot of big games internationally and been a high scorer in the world championships and Canada Cups.
“Right now, the size of our rink is something he’ll have to get used to but for his first NHL game, he was excited. I know one thing: a guy that big (6-foot-3) creates a lot of room out there,” said Messier.
He speaks almost no English but he has Petr Klima to be his unnofficial wordsmith. “It helps him that I am here,” said Klima. “I speak both languages. When I went to Detroit nobody could speak to me.”
The National Hockey League Players Association named Bob Goodenow Sunday to take over for Alan Eagleson as the union's executive director, unanimously ratifying the search committee's recommendation.
Goodenow, 37, an attorney, will understudy Eagleson, who has been under fire to step down because of conflict of interest with his roles as agent and international negotiator for Canada.
Goodenow will serve as Eagleson's deputy until Dec. 31, 1991, and will spearhead collective bargaining negotiations at the expiration of the present contract, after the 1990-91 season.
The players' search committee was chaired by association President Bryan Trottier of the New York Islanders, with Bobby Smith of the Montreal Canadiens and Kevin Dineen of the Hartford Whalers also playing major roles.
By the end of the year, Goodenow will cease to represent more than 20 NHL players.
"We are facing a great challenge as hockey heads into the 1990s, with many changes coming. It will be up to us to see that the players enjoy themselves and make a good living," Goodenow said.
"We will prepare diligently in the two years we have before negotiations and will listen to everyone. I'm not saying there will be a strike, but there is always the possibility. Free agency is one of the issues. I'm hoping the atmosphere of respect both the league and players association has for each other will continue."
Poulin expected to join Bruins
BOSTON -- Center Dave Poulin, who had been reluctant to leave the Philadelphia area after being traded by the Flyers, agreed to join the Boston Bruins after being offered a multiyear contract, a published report said Monday.
Poulin, 31, the Flyers' former captain, was acquired by the Bruins last week in a trade for center Ken Linseman and was to sign a new contract in Boston on Monday, the Boston Herald said.
The newspaper said Poulin, a two-time All-Star and 1986-87 winner of the Selke Award, wanted assurances he fit into team's long-term plans.
Poulin was expected to be in uniform Tuesday for the Bruins' game against the Quebec Nordiques, the Herald said.
This week there was a major trade that sent a captain to an already strong Bruins team. That trade was overshadowed by a blockbuster that shook the NHL’s All-Star Saturday. The sixth-leading scorer in the league is headed to the Rangers as they attempt to bail themselves out of 5th place in the Patrick Division.
16- to Bruins:
18- to Rangers:
20- to Rangers:
Team Spotlight: The Norris Division-Leading St. Louis Blues
We have some clarity at the All-Star Break, but still plenty of time left with 339 league games remaining. The Pittsburgh Penguins are the team furthest out of a playoff spot, 20 points behind the New Jersey Devils for 4th place in the Patrick Division with 34 games remaining. Quebec is 18 points behind the Sabres for the final playoff spot in the Adams Division and things do not look good for the Nordiques. The Rangers, although ahead of Pittsburgh are still 13 points behind the Devils, but they hope the acquisition of the NHL’s 6th leading scorer Bernie Nicholls can be the catalyst for a surge in the standings.
The playoff picture in the Campbell Conference is not as clear. The Red Wings are 11 points behind Minnesota thanks to an 8 game winless streak and the North Stars losing only 1 time in their last 7. The Maple Leafs and Blackhawks are within striking distance of Minnesota. Edmonton still sits on the outside looking in, but playing good hockey. They are 5 points out of 4th place (Vancouver), but 8 points out of 2nd place (Los Angeles). John Muckler’s job is to keep the Oilers on task and wait for one of the teams in front to slip up.
At the top, we have the Bruins, leading the NHL with 64 points after winning a show-down with the Flames who are second with 62 points. The Bruins hold the Adams Division lead by 3 points ahead of Montreal (61), and amazingly are ahead of Hartford, who was at one time at the top of the NHL, by 6 points.
The Blues have emerged at the top of the Norris Division thanks to NHL’s leading scorer Adam Oates’ big week and a 14-4-1 Division record, and the Islanders jumped back into first in the Patrick after temporarily losing it to Washington last week.
Now on to the NHL’s league leaders through the All-Star Break, the NHL’s 15th week of action.
Adam Oates holds the scoring lead at the all-star break
POINTS PER GAME LEADERS
The Cavallini Brothers
PENALTY MINUTES LEADERS
Giles has been a solid #1 defenseman for Minnesota
FACEOFF PERCENTAGE LEADERS
WORST FACEOFF PERCENTAGE
Franceschetti is not a natural center and is called upon to take some tough draws on Toronto’s second penalty-killing unit
POWERPLAY GOALS LEADERS
GAME-WINNING GOALS LEADERS
The underrated and clutch Pat Elynuik is 5th in the NHL in Game-Winning Goals
SHORT-HANDED GOALS LEADERS
SHOTS ON GOAL
Nobody gets more shots than LaFontaine
SAVE PERCENTAGE LEADERS
The Whalers desperately need Liut to heal. Liut leads most major goaltending categories
GOALS AGAINST AVERAGE LEADERS
GOALIE RATING PERCENTAGE LEADERS
Don Beaupre has been steady as the Capitals are surging
Game of the Week:
41st NHL All-Star Game
After the dream come true of the Heroes of Hockey Game and Skills Competition, the NHL All Star Game was played on Saturday afternoon, broadcast coast to coast. The lineups were star-studded, but the home crowd was focused on #66 Mario Lemieux, and his “match up” with Wayne Gretzky, who the home crowd booed throughout the Skills Competition Friday night.
After a slow start, Al MacInnis opened the scoring for the Campbell Conference. The Campbell would take a 3-1 lead when Wayne Gretzky scored just over a minute into the second period. The Wales Conference stormed back to the delight of the sold out Pittsburgh Civic Arena, scoring 4 goals in less than 10 minutes, and as a result, held a 5-4 lead in the second intermission.
Halfway through the period, hometown hero Mario Lemieux made the crowd erupt, as he put his conference up 6-4. However, in the last 3:06, the Campbell Conference got a goal from each of Brett Hull and Gretzky (his second) to tie the game at 6.
Both Darren Puppa and Kirk McLean held strong through a 5-minute overtime that saw wide open hockey, with chances at both ends of the ice. For the first time ever, the NHL All-Star Game headed to a shootout.
Wayne Gretzky opened the shootout by beating Darren Puppa for his (unofficial) 3rd goal of the game to put the Campbell Conference in the lead off the bat. Both goalies were perfect the rest of the way, including Kirk McLean stopping Lemieux, and later, Stephane Richer to preserve the win for the Campbell Conference, 7-6.
MOLSON 3 STAR POINTS LEADERS
3 Stars of the Week:
Brian Mullen doing his best to resurrect the Rangers’ season
Brian Mullen takes the first star, scoring 2 game winning goals when they are most needed by the Rangers who are desperately looking to make up ground and get back into the playoff race. Mullen had 3 goals and 2 assists on the week in only 2 games.
Dale Hawerchuk had a busy week leading to the all-star game, playing 4 games, but he performed, scoring 7 points including 2 goals and a Game-Winning goal. He had a total of 16 shots on goal and 2 takeaways.
After (and during) Ray Bourque running through the NHL, Glen Wesley outperformed his defensive partner ever so slightly this week. Wesley had 2 goals and 3 assists, while adding 10 shots from the blue line. He took the puck away 8 times and he and Bourque as a pairing were a +5.
TEAM PP% RANKINGS
A large part of the Islanders’ unexpected success is the league’s best powerplay and 8th best penalty killing
TEAM SH RANKINGS
TEAM GOAL DIFFERENTIAL
Michel Bergeron vows to go back to the drawing board
TEAM FACEOFF PERCENTAGE
The Adams Division boasts the 4 most stingy teams, as well as the most porous
TEAM GOALS FOR
Minnesota North Stars fans are not fazed by relocation rumors
REPLAY VS. ACTUAL POINTS
This Week In the News
January 14th, 1990
AFC Championship Game: Denver Broncos beat Cleveland Browns 37-21
By Mike Peticca,
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The 1989 Cleveland Browns weren't as good as the 1986 and 1987 teams which had lost American Football Conference championship games to the Denver Broncos.
Browns fans were hopeful, though, that this team had an edge with its first-year head coach, Bud Carson. He had been the coordinator for the great Pittsburgh Steelers' defenses in their first two Super Bowl championship seasons, 1974 and 1975. Carson was the Los Angeles Rams' defensive coordinator when they lost the 1979 season Super Bowl to the Steelers.
Maybe, Carson could find a way to keep Denver quarterback John Elway from stopping the Browns a game short of the Super Bowl for the third time in four years.
Pro-Football-Reference.com details the 1989 Browns and the 1989 Broncos, and has the boxscore and statistics from their meeting in the AFC championship game.
Plain Dealer Browns beat writer Tony Grossi wrote about the game played at Mile High Stadium on Jan.14, 1990, won by Denver, 37-21. His complete Browns-Broncos game story on The Plain Dealer's Browns History Database.
Grossi wrote, in part:
Carson tried everything to get to Elway, but only Carl Hairston recorded a sack. Carson blitzed linebacker Clay Matthews or safety Thane Gash most of the first half. He nearly always had five defenders rushing. But Elway would simply scramble free and wait for his receivers to duck behind the Browns' secondary.
"You can't expect somebody to cover for 10 seconds," said Matthews.
"We flushed him, he ran, got rid of it, big play," said defensive end Andrew Stewart. "Elway's a gamebreaker. A couple times, Al Baker had him. He rolled out and before you knew it, it was a 40-yard gain."
"He kept putting points on the board and they got further and further away," said tackle Michael Dean Perry.
After Elway's last touchdown pass, the Broncos teed off on the ailing Kosar, who played the first half with a specially made rubber splint on his right index finger.
Kosar rebounded from a 7-of-23 first half and made the game close, thanks to Brennan's two touchdown catches, the latter one coming on a juggling grab as he landed on his right shoulder in the end zone.
The game was televised by NBC, with Dick Enberg doing the play-by-play and coaching legend Bill Walsh providing analysis.
NFC Championship Game: San Francisco 49ers beat Los Angeles Rams 30-3
January 15th, 1990
42 year old George Foreman KOs Gerry Cooney in 2 rounds in Atlantic City
By PHIL BERGER and SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK TIMES
The New York Times Archives
George Foreman, an evangelical preacher from Humble, Tex., smote an opponent tonight.
The unfortunate soul was Gerry Cooney, whom Foreman dropped twice in the second round of a scheduled 10-round heavyweight bout before Referee Joe Cortez stopped the bout at 1:57 without even bothering to count.
Foreman's explosive finish came after a first round in which Cooney got much the better of him. But when Foreman started landing, Cooney was through.
Foreman got Cooney in trouble when he nailed him with a left hook, then followed with a vicious one-two. The second punch of that combination, a right hand, turned the fight around.
''It wasn't the same Gerry after that,'' said Gil Clancy, Cooney's trainer.
Cooney was on shaky legs once the one-two landed, and Foreman dropped him with clubbing right hands.
Cooney fell backward, was up by the count of 6 and took the mandatory 8-count.
Foreman wasted no time in finishing him. A vicious left uppercut immobilized Cooney, and Foreman drove him to the canvas with a right.
Cooney fell face forward but rolled almost immediately onto his back. Cortez did not trouble to start the count, waving his arms to signal that the bout was over. Cooney did not move for about half a minute, but finally sat up and was helped onto his stool. By that time, the 41-year-old Foreman was rejoicing.
''People have gotten down on me because I haven't been finishing opponents cleanly,'' said Foreman, who has recorded 20 victories, 19 by knockout, since beginning his comeback in March 1987. '' I thought I'd come out throwing punches and get it over with.''
The bout's promoter, Bob Arum, was thrilled with Foreman's showing. At ringside, he was shouting to anyone who would listen: ''This guy beats Tyson'' - a reference to the heavyweight champion, Mike Tyson.
The quick ending before a crowd of 12,581 at the Convention Center seemed fated after the heavy licks both fighters got in in the first round. Foreman was the stalker, moving forward. Cooney would throw a left hook, then step to the side, moving out of range.
But Foreman kept advancing, parrying some of Cooney's punches by crossing his massive arms in front of his face. At one point he hit Cooney with two jabs and the second one knocked Cooney's mouthpiece out.
But Cooney was landing with enough of his left hooks to win the round on the scorecards of all three judges.
Between the first and second rounds, Clancy told Cooney: ''You're doing O.K. You're doing fine. You hurt him bad.''
Foreman did not dispute that assessment.
''His left hooks seemed like explosive bombs,'' Foreman said. ''I've never been hit that hard. Never ever. I really got nervous. He was such a devastating puncher I just could not play with him, or he would have taken me out like the same I did to him.''
'Great, Great Shot'
''I just got caught with a great, great shot,'' said Cooney, who announced afterward that this was his final comeback. ''He caught me with the bombs. He is such a strong fighter.''
With the victory, Foreman, who weighed 253 pounds, now has a 65-2 record with 61 knockouts.
The 33-year-old Cooney, who weighed 231, dropped to 28-3 with 24 knockouts.
''They'll be no more fighting for me,'' Cooney said. ''I gave it a shot. I've had a lot of ups and downs. What can you do? I've got to live my life now and move on. I have to stop thinking about yesterday and think about today and the future.''
Cooney said he planned to attend college and get a degree in ''something.''
As for Foreman, he heard Arum praise him as a man who not only would beat Tyson ''but knock him cold,'' and he reacted by saying: ''Those are powerful wolf tickets, but I'm ready to cash them in.''
Dave Stewart signs record $3,500,000 per year Oak A's contract
On January 21, 1990, at the Australian Open in Melbourne, American tennis player John McEnroe becomes the first player since 1963 to be disqualified from a Grand Slam tournament for misconduct.
A left-handed serve-and-volleyer with a masterful touch, McEnroe was a dominant force in professional tennis in the early 1980s, winning three Wimbledon and four U.S. Open titles between 1979 and 1984, against such formidable opponents as Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl. Over his career, he would win 17 total Grand Slams, including nine in men’s doubles and one in mixed doubles. His Davis Cup record was 41-8 in singles and 18-2 in doubles, and he helped the United States win five Cups. McEnroe’s masterful play was often overshadowed, however, by his explosive temper. Always a fan favorite, McEnroe was dubbed “Superbrat” by the British tabloids at the age of 20 and was famous on the tour for his constant arguments and badmouthing of umpires and linesmen.
At the 1990 Australian Open, the 30-year-old McEnroe was trying to win his first major tournament since the 1984 U.S. Open. On January 21, he took on Sweden’s Mikael Pernfors, a two-time National Collegiate Association of America (NCAA) champion, in the fourth round. McEnroe won the first set easily, but Pernfors lifted the level of his game to win the second set. After the players traded service breaks in the third, McEnroe led 2-1. During the changeover, he stopped in front of a lineswoman he thought had made a bad call, glaring at her while bouncing a ball on his racket. The chair umpire, Gerry Armstrong, gave McEnroe a conduct code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Bigger trouble began in the seventh game of the fourth set, with McEnroe leading overall 6-1, 4-6, 7-5, 2-4. Hitting a forehand wide to go down 15-30, McEnroe threw his racket to the ground, where it bounced on the court’s hard surface. Another wide McEnroe forehand prompted another racket smash, this one cracking the racket’s head. Armstrong called another code violation, for racket abuse, and McEnroe started swearing at him, demanding the intervention of Ken Farrar, the Grand Slam chief of supervisors. Farrar arrived and spoke with McEnroe, whose continued complaints and swears were audible to spectators and TV viewers. With Farrar’s authorization, Armstrong called a third and final code violation: “Default Mr. McEnroe. Game, set, match.” The crowd of 150,000 rose to their feet, booing and chanting their support for McEnroe, as McEnroe himself stood with his hands on his hips, stunned. The last player to be disqualified from a Grand Slam for misconduct had been Willie Alvarez of Spain, in the 1963 French Open, 17 years earlier.
In a press conference following the match, a subdued McEnroe explained that he had misunderstood the rules, and was unaware that the previous year’s four-step process to default had been changed to a new three-step rule: first a warning, then a point penalty, then a default.
On January 19th, Tremors was released to theaters.
January 21 – MTV's Unplugged is broadcast for the first time, on cable television, with British band Squeeze.
“How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” by Michael Bolton takes over #1 on the Billboard 100 music charts.