Week In Review after the games played on Saturday, January 27th, 1990
OH LA LA!
Pat LaFontaine is leading the feisty Islanders to their former heights in the NHL
By Austin Murphy
Jan. 22, 1990
David Chyzowski scored 56 goals for the Kamloops Blazers of the Western (Junior) Hockey League last season. Since then he has turned 18 and joined the New York Islanders. Chyzowski was put on this earth to create offense, not jack people's jaws. Yet there he was, on Jan. 10 at Maple Leaf Gardens, steaming across the ice and spoiling for a piece of Toronto defenseman Brian Curran, who, at 6'3" and 215 pounds, is on this earth—and the Maple Leafs' payroll—to jack people's jaws. Moments earlier, Curran had deposited New York center Pat LaFontaine on the seat of his drawers. As Chyzowski saw it, Curran was guilty of two offenses: failing to pick on someone his own size—LaFontaine is 5'10", 177 pounds—and endangering the Islanders' playoff hopes. LaFontaine has had a hand in 66 of his team's 182 goals this season. At all costs, he must be protected.
The linesmen never did let Chyzowski and Curran tangle. For their ill intentions, however, John Kordic and Chyzowski tangled. "All I did was bump him a little," Chyzowski grumbled.
Chyzowski's reaction to Curran's decking of LaFontaine reflected a team-wide trend. These Islanders fight back when they get sand kicked in their faces. That has helped them start another, more shocking trend: winning. New York went on to beat Toronto 6-4, and it capped an impressive record of 15-3-3 in 21 games for the Isles (since then, they have lost 6 of 8, losing their grip on 1st place in the Patrick Division).
While their newfound toughness is paying dividends, the principal reason for New York's resurgence is LaFontaine, who, at the age of 24, has ascended to the level of play that began to be predicted for him eight years ago, when he scored 175 goals in 79 games for the Detroit Compuware Midgets. His 32 goals at week's end put him five behind league leader Cam Neely of the Boston Bruins. LaFontaine's failure to score in the loss Saturday night against the Penguins extended LaFontaine’s goal-less streak to 8, which co-incides perfectly with the Islanders’ recent slide.
LaFontaine has not exactly sneaked up on anyone. He did, after all, score a total of 92 goals in 1987-88 and 1988-89. But by all accounts, he has found a higher gear. "He's reached another plateau so far this season," says Islander left wing Don Maloney. "Every time he touches the puck, we all sit up a little straighter and hold our breath."
"The premier players, like Gretzky, always seem to score when you need it," says Islander goaltender Glenn Healy. "They get important goals. Not goals that make a 5-1 game 5-2, but goals that tie games and win them. Those are the kinds of goals Patty is scoring for us this season."
Not coincidentally, LaFontaine kicked into overdrive around the time the Trade was made. That's how the Islanders refer to it: the Trade.
"Ever since the Trade, everyone on the team has been playing as if he's four inches taller and 25 pounds heavier," says left wing Randy Wood. Like most of the Islanders, Wood talks about the Trade the way New Yorkers refer to Manhattan as "the City" and tourists at Graceland discuss "the King"—as if the term is self-explanatory.
For those who haven't followed the Islanders' Jekyll-and-Hyde season, here are the particulars of the deal. On Nov. 29, general manager Bill Torrey sent right wing Mikko Makela to the Los Angeles Kings for defenseman Ken Baumgartner and checking center Hubie McDonough. The once-potent Makela had become an underachieving sulkmeister in New York; Baumgartner and McDonough had languished unused with the Kings.
Before the week of the Trade, the Islanders were 10-11-1 and working out a time-share arrangement with the Quebec Nordiquesand Pittsburgh Penguins for the NHL cellar. Post-Trade they were 17-9-3 through Sunday and in second place in the Patrick Division. Most important, unlike the Islanders of a year ago, this team is very much in the playoff hunt.
The Islanders see, along with the new feistiness and LaFontaine's contributions, four reasons for their U-turn:
•Keeping close to the other guys. Before the Trade, "We weren't as bad as our record indicated," they say. The Islanders seldom get blown out. When you throw out empty-net goals scored against them, 12 of their 20 defeats have been by a single goal. "When we had breakdowns," says LaFontaine, "they'd usually come late in the game, and they would cost us the game."
•The goalies. Healy and Mark Fitzpatrick, two of five former Kings on the roster, have sparkled since the Trade. Going into the Islanders' Nov. 30 game in Chicago—their first since the Trade-Fitzpatrick had was struggling with his confidence level. With McDonough scoring his first goal as an Islander and Baumgartner leveling every Blackhawk in sight, Fitzpatrick beat Chicago 6-4. In 12 games since the trade, he has won 9 times, including a shutout. The post-Trade Healy has been just as good.
•The Trade (addition by subtraction). Makela's departure "excised a cancer," says one Islander official. In contrast to his 36-goal 1987-88 season, Makela scored only five times in 20 games this season. His moping and chronic unhappiness had begun to infect the team.
•The Trade (addition). While McDonough has been a pleasant surprise, scrapping and checking and even chipping in with seven goals, Baumgartner, who at week's end has 2 assists as an Islander, has been even more useful. Ideally, intimidation would not be a part of the NHL, but the NHL is short on idealism. Baumgartner, it so happens, is an intimidators' intimidator, the most effective "cop" the Islanders have seen since Bobby Nystrom and Clark Gillies patrolled the rinks a decade ago. Of Baumgartner, LaFontaine says, "He's the kind of guy, you're just glad he's on your team."
Under Al Arbour, who took over behind the Islander bench on an interim basis in December 1988 (Arbour retired two years earlier after having guided New York to four consecutive Stanley Cups, from 1980 to '83), Baumgartner has learned to be more selective in the use of his ham-hock fists.
"He knows that if he takes three five-minute majors and spends 15 minutes in the penalty box, he's not doing us much good," says Healy. "He's become a mosquito. He bugs the other teams' snipers without drawing a penalty—kind of like a mosquito that lands in the middle of your back, where you can't reach it."
Baumgartner, who has his pride, takes exception to that simile. "Mosquito? Get serious," says Baumgartner. "I'm a Bengal tiger out there."
Mosquito, Bengal tiger, hammerhead, whatever—Baumgartner has lent his teammates courage in the NHL's tough arenas, and provided LaFontaine with precious extra room in which to work his magic.
This bonhomie is a recent development. In 1984, when LaFontaine arrived on Long Island in late season as a highly touted rookie, he was not welcomed with open arms. The Islanders were a close-knit dynasty. LaFontaine, a doe-eyed media darling, had won nothing but would probably end up taking someone's job, went the thinking. "There was a little bit of resentment, from guys who aren't here anymore," says center Brent Sutter. LaFontaine, who says nothing when he has nothing nice to say, will not admit that he felt ostracized, nor will he deny it. He does say, "Whatever happened that year, it never diminished the respect I had for those guys as players."
LaFontaine was so mindful of his elders that he had to fight the urge to address them as Mr. Trottier, Mr. Bossy, Mr. Gillies, Mr. Goring. For a long time, his deference showed up in his play. It was almost as if he was afraid of stealing the thunder of the men who had won all those Stanley Cups.
"Something always held him back," says Sutter. "I think he always had it in him, but he was a little nervous or unsure about letting it out. Nothing against Boss, but I think it's great for guys like Patty to break some of the records of the old guys. The past is the past. We're a new team with a new outlook."
To spare Islander newcomers what he went through, LaFontaine has become a self-appointed one-man welcome wagon. He and his wife, Marybeth, have barbecues in the off-season; all Islanders are invited. According to Chyzowski, he peppers rookies and recent acquisitions with concerned questions: "Is your apartment working out? Do you need some help finding a car?"
"He can't do enough for you," says McDonough.
The Islanders have become LaFontaine's team. New York finished strong last season, winning four of its final six games. Not long afterward, LaFontaine phoned Arbour, who was still the interim coach, and made a date for breakfast. Over coffee he asked Arbour to consider staying on as coach.
"I thought it over and decided, What the hell, I'll give it another whack," says Arbour, whose strengths—an endless store of patience and a gift for teaching—are perfectly suited to his youthful team. When Torrey asked him to return to coaching, after having fired Terry Simpson, Arbour admits he wanted nothing to do with it. All told, as a player and coach, he had won seven Stanley Cups. He was a lock to be elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. He was prepared to play out his string with the club in a less-stressful job as vice-president for player development.
Instead, he found himself back in Ulcerville, pushing the buttons for one of the league's worst teams—and liking it. While guiding New York to a 21-29-3 record last season, Arbour contracted the coaching bug again. "I get pleasure out of watching young players mature and grow," he says. On mornings after games, early arrivals to the Islander offices began finding Arbour already in his quarters, breaking down video.
Even when the Islanders got off to a slow start this season, they did not despair. They were a composed team. "Surprisingly, there was no sense of panic," says Maloney, a former New York Ranger. "Across town, guys used to be ready to jump off the roof when we lost two games in a row."
Through it all, Arbour preached the importance of winning "the little battles" along the boards and in the corners, and of "accountability to one another." Then Torrey pulled the trigger on the Trade, and the bigger victories began to come. "Now the game's fun again," says LaFontaine. "That's what it's supposed to be, right? I mean, this is a kid's game."
Did someone say "kids"? The Islanders went into their November 28th meeting with the New Jersey Devils with this incentive: If they won, the Islanders—for so long a tenant of the Patrick Division basement—would take over first place. In the visitors' dressing room after a decisive victory, an Islander was asked how it felt to be in first. “Ask us in March” he replied.
Yes, it was true, the Islanders were in 1st. The cry quickly went up all over: "Hey, we are 1st!" Nowhere was the news received so joyously as in the showers, where the whooping and hooting of grown-up kids soon drowned out all other noise.
January 22, 1990.
They asked Mike Vernon, the exasperated little goalie, when he knew he was in trouble.
And Vernon said, "When I heard the game was in Pittsburgh."
Good Call. Mario Lemieux, cavorting in his own building, before his own adoring fans, presided over the most entertaining all-star game in NHL history, electrifying the home crowd in the Igloo in Pittsburgh.
"Game Plan?" said Pat Burns, the flabbergasted Wales coach. "There's not too much of a game plan to have with No. 66 in front of you. You just let him play."
The Penguins center took his cue before an NBC television audience and a Civic Arena sellout of 16,236, scoring a big goal in the third period.
One of his most spectacular efforts came on a non-scoring play, when he circled the new with the puck, found no reasonable opening, and began to circle again until two embarrassed Campbellites ganged up and tipped it away.
"He's a God-given goal-scorer," said Campbell coach Terry Crisp. "I guess you appreciate it a little more when the best in the business are out there, and he's still doing his stuff."
For perspective, know that only two other players - Gretzky and Ted Lindsay - have scored All-Star hat tricks.
Lemieux won his first MVP award in his rookie season, 1984-1985, then duplicated his feat two years ago, when his three goals and All-Star record six points led the Wales to an overtime victory.
So, already, there is evidence that he is the greatest player in All-Star history. He ranks second on the all-time list, but Lemieux has achieved that total in just five games. Hall-of-Famer Gordie Howe is the leader with 19 points, but he played in 23 games.
Gretzky has 13 points in 10 All-Star games.
"You're talking about a guy who rises to the occasion, to the big game," said Eddie Johnston, the Penguins' former general manager. "The first time he was on the ice for s as a Penguin, he scored a goal. He score the winning goal in the Canada Cup. He got the first one out there today."
"When I saw that, I just shook my head. I said, 'Oh, boy. Look out.'"
Jaromir Jagr wants to break into the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990. And perhaps as a 44-year-old will become a bit of a journeyman since — going on to play in places such as Washington, New York, Czech Republic, Russia, Philadelphia, Dallas, Boston, New Jersey and Florida — it seems that Pittsburgh is really the only place he wanted to be as an 18-year-old rookie.
According to Craig Patrick, the Penguins general manager who will be given the opportunity to draft Jagr, the Czech winger is doing his best to manipulate the draft so that he could end up in Pittsburgh playing alongside Mario Lemieux. As one of the top prospects in the 1990 class, Patrick says that the Penguins, who currently and tentatively have the 3rd overall pick, will be surprised if Jagr was available when it was their turn to pick.
But, as it turns out, it may come down to more than just luck.
“I will find out out years later that when he was interviewed by teams ahead of us, he told them all that he wasn’t coming over [to the NHL] right away,” Patrick (someday will tell) reporters at a Penguins alumni golf outing. “When we asked him that question, he said ‘I’ll be there tomorrow if you draft me.’ I think other teams backed off because of that. We were happy he was there. We were surprised he was there, definitely.”
Jagr was reportedly willing to make more of a commitment to the Penguins than the two teams that are set before them — the Nordiques, Canucks and the Red Wings— because he “idolized” Lemieux.
Jagr seems like a guy who marches to the beat of his own drum, and apparently that started at a very young age. Most young kids just let the process play out and relish the opportunity to play professional hockey, regardless of what sweater they end up wearing.
You can call it manipulation or call it unfair, but it may work…and it work well. Jagr will not only get to join the Penguins and play with Mario, but they may possibly become a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, something to look forward to amidst a very forgettable season.
The Winnipeg Jets made a pair of deals this week, one including a goaltender, now that Bob Essensa has solidified the position. Daniel Berthiaume has played in 25 games for the Jets this season, posting a 15-8-2 record, posting a 2.99 Goals against average and a .899 save percentage. Ron Wilson has yet to play for the Jets yet, but is expected to crack the lineup in St. Louis down the stretch.
Winnipeg gets Doug Evans back, who did not register a point in 2 games this season in St. Louis. Evans suited up for the Jets in 2 of their 3 games this week and scored the game-winning goal Saturday night against his former team in St. Louis Arena. The revenge was served with 14 seconds remaining after Dale Hawerchuk tied it with the extra attacker 38 seconds earlier.
Doug Smith also makes his way to the Penguins via a cash transaction.
22- to Jets:
22- to Jets:
To North Stars:
26- to Penguins:
To Canucks: Cash
Team Spotlight: The Quietly Surprising Vancouver Canucks
The Adams Division race is a dead heat between the Bruins and Canadiens, who meet in a pivotal home and home series this week. The Whalers are slowly solidifying their 3rd place standing, while the Sabres are quietly amassing points. Quebec has the worst record in the league, and Adams Division rivals may start to clinch playoff positions in early February.
The Patrick Division is also competitive at the top between the Islanders and Capitals. Washington holds a 1 point lead in the division. New Jersey and Philadelphia also sit a point apart for 3rd place, as both teams keep trading places. That is bad news for the Rangers who have had a good week since Bernie Nicholls joined their first line, but have not made up much ground, still 12 points back. The Penguins are already looking to 1990-1991.
St. Louis has built a commanding 6 point lead in the Norris Division, over Chicago, Toronto, and Minnesota, who are still mired 1 point apart, in a Division that has not seen much separation all season long. Detroit sits 1 points out of a playoff spot, have an 8 game losing streak, 11 game winless streak, and like the Nordiques and Penguins, may be ready to make some moves to brighten their future.
The Smythe Division is becoming the most compelling in terms of a playoff chase. The Edmonton Oilers have all but eliminated their deficit and sit 2 points behind the Canucks for 4th place with a game in hand. The Kings and Jets are also battling it out for 2nd place, 1 point apart.
Now on to the NHL’s league leaders through the All-Star Break, the NHL’s 15th week of action.
Bernie Nicholls has moved into 3rd in the scoring race, thanks to a whirlwind week in the Big Apple following the trade
POINTS PER GAME LEADERS
Gretzky’s Steady 1.56 Points Per Game Pace puts him at the top of the NHL with 78 Points
The Capitals may play the best team game in the NHL
While 1989-1990 is a tough year, the future may be bright in Quebec
PENALTY MINUTES LEADERS
FACEOFF PERCENTAGE LEADERS
WORST FACEOFF PERCENTAGE
POWERPLAY GOALS LEADERS
Cam Neely leads the NHL in goals, powerplay goals, and game-winning goals
GAME-WINNING GOALS LEADERS
SHORT-HANDED GOALS LEADERS
SHOTS ON GOAL
SAVE PERCENTAGE LEADERS
GOALS AGAINST AVERAGE LEADERS
GOALIE RATING PERCENTAGE LEADERS
Hrudey gets the lions-share of the work in Los Angeles, and gets the lions-share of the wins
Game of the Week:
Winnipeg Stings the Blues Again!
On November 23rd, the Winnipeg Jets shocked the St. Louis Blues. When Paul macLean scored early in the third period, it looked like the Blues had the game well in hand, up 5-1. However, the Jets roared back, scoring 4 third period goals, capped by Dale Hawerchuk scoring the overtime stunner just 31 seconds in OT. The crushing loss sent the Blues into a slide, losing 5 in a row, and going on a 1-7-1 string. St. Louis has since righted the ship and has claimed a comfortable lead in the Norris Division, and hosted the Jets Saturday night.
The game felt similar to the bout in November. Steady play and solid goaltending by Vincent Riendeau built a 4-1 lead thanks to goals by Paul MacLean, two by Dave Lowry, Sergio Momesso. Halfway through the third period, it looked like the Blues were cruising. Dale Hawerchuk had brought the Jets within 1 earlier in the period, only to be matched by Lowry less than a minute later to re-claim a 3 goal lead.
That is where things fell apart. With Lowry in the box, Dave Ellett scored from the point to make it 4-2 with 8:20 remaining. Dave McLlwain scored 2 minutes later, his 14th to cut the lead to one and give the Blues flashbacks and the fans indigestion. With the goaltender pulled, Greg Paslawski stole the puck and set up Dale Hawerchuk, the hero of the previous game, to tie the game at 4 with 52 seconds left. Looking toward overtime proved to be a mistake. In the closing seconds, Doug Evans, recently acquired from the Blues, skated past defenseman Paul Cavallini to get in close and he beat Riendeau with a backhand. With 14 seconds left, the Jets capped an incredible comeback once again, stunning the Blues. This would be a great Campbell Conference Final.
MOLSON 3 STAR POINTS LEADERS
Gretzky Edges Cam Neely for the 3 Star Points Lead
3 Stars of the Week:
Bernie Nicholls has big week off the trade, as the Rangers have the 1st star of the week twice in a row
Bernie Nicholls has had a chip on his shoulder since his shocking trade to the big apple from Hollywood. This week for the Rangers, he scored 5 goals, an assist, and 16 shots in 3 games, leading the Rangers to their most encouraging week of the season and interjecting himself into the Hart conversation with his former teammate Wayne Gretzky. He was a plus 2 and one of his 5 goals was a game-winner.
The second star of the week goes to Mark Messier. Messier has led the Oilers in their chase for the Smythe Division playoffs. In 3 games, Messier had 4 goals and 4 assists, was a +4, had 5 takeaways and scored 2 game-winning goals.
Geoff Courtnall gets the third star of the week, scoring 4 goals and 4 assists in 3 games for the streaking Capitals. He was also a +7 on the wing of one of the NHL’s top lines. Washington went 2-0-1 this week as they hold the top spot in the Patrick Division race.
TEAM PP% RANKINGS
TEAM SH RANKINGS
TEAM GOAL DIFFERENTIAL
TEAM FACEOFF PERCENTAGE
Tenacious forechecking, and a stifling D fuel the NHL’s best shot differential as the Flames look to repeat
TEAM GOALS FOR
They’re being packed to the rafters in the Boston Garden, treated to the league’s best team
REPLAY VS. ACTUAL POINTS
Vancouver has taken care of business, and is the NHL’s surprise team
This Week In the News
January 25th, 1990
A Boeing 707 jet en route to Kennedy Airport with 158 people on board crashed last night in heavy fog and rain in an exclusive Long Island neighborhood on the shores of Oyster Bay.
Authorities reported at least 30 dead within a few hours of the 9:45 p.m. crash, and a Port Authority spokesman estimated as many as 100 people may have survived.
Early today, rescuers reported 15 persons still trapped in the wreckage.
LOW FUEL WAS MAIN CAUSE OF AVIANCA FLIGHT 52 CRASH
The jet, Avianca Airlines Flight 52, did not explode but split into at four pieces when it slammed into the deck of a house in the affluent village of Cove Neck, in Oyster Bay Township.
Nassau County Police Officer Peter Franzone said the aircraft came down on Tennis Court Road, never Cove Neck Road.
A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman reported that at 9:24 p.m., the plane, which was on an instrument landing because of the weather, missed an approach to Kennedy and attempted a second landing.
Port Authority Police Officer Phillip Montouri said that shortly before the crash, a flight member in the cockpit told the Kennedy Airport control tower, "We have made a mis-approach due to the weather."
He said the pilot was told to try another approach.
At 9:32 p.m., the pilot reported that "one of our engines conned," meaning it had failed, Montouri said.
The jet then disappeared from radar screens.
The flight, which originated in Bogota, Columbia, made a stop in the city of Medellin and took off for Kennedy.
Scores of ambulances, helicopters and emergency vehicles from surrounding Long island communities and New York City raced to the crash site as the alarm was sounded.
Rescue workers were hampered, however, by dimly lit roads and a steep hill leading to the crash site.
Vehicles parked on roadways had to be pushed out of the way by emergency vehicles.
Sea Cliff volunteer firefighter John Lyons said rescuers formed "a human chain and were passing passengers out as fast as they could be cut out. There are a lot of dead kids still strapped in their seats."
Lyons said a pair of feet severed from a body were "just laying by themselves near the 10th row."
Witness Peter Whitelaw, who lives near the crash site, said that the plane did not explode on impact and that the crash sounded like "more like a car crash."
Whitelaw said the cockpit and a wing came apart from the fuselage and one piece of the jet struck the corner of a home, knocking down power lines in the area.
There were no immediate reports of injuries of non-passenger.
Near McEnroe home
The crash site was several hundred feet from a home recently purchased by tennis star John McEnroe, who turned his house over to emergency workers.
Mark Cleary, 17, an area resident, was in his second-floor bedroom when he heard sirens.
He ran from his home and "saw the plane sitting on the side of a hill in pieces. The nose was at the top, then the fuselage and the rear was across Tennis Court Road."
Moving closer to the crash site, Cleary found himself stepping on oxygen masks and seat cushions.
"Then I saw eight or nine people on wooden stretchers," Cleary said. "One guy's back was twisted like a paper clip. He looked dead."
According to FAA sources, there were 142 adults passengers, seven children and nine crew members on board.
Authorities said that some passengers were able to walk away uninjured from the plane, and two women passengers actually waved to rescuers from the wreckage.
Eric Schaffer of the Syosset Fire Department, found one girl survivor in the wreckage. "She said 'mom' twice and I kept rocking her," Schaeffer said.
Key Johnson, also of the Syosset Fire Department, climbed into the plane on a ladder and went into the rear of the cabin where it had split.
"I helped pull out 12 people. One was dead but a number of kids came out smiling," he said.
Police said, however, many lifeless bodies were spotted inside the wreckage.
Carolyn Ritter, of Cove Neck Road, heard the plane come over her house.
"It came in very low, but then they usually do in bad weather," she said.
This time, however, the plane "sounded lower than usual, then I heard a loud bang."
Ritter's house lights blinked and then came back. She didn't realize a plane had crashed until she heard sirens and went outside.
At Kennedy Airport, the first-class lounge of Pan American's Worldport was turned into a waiting room for the awaiting the arrival of the flight.
A call was put out for Spanish-speaking clergymen to help out, and three priests from St. Anthony of Padua Church near their airport, a Protestant minister and a rabbi arrived.
Carlos Alzate, 18, of Manhasset, was waiting for cousin Alfredo Alzate, 25, who had been visiting Cali., Colombia, during the holiday season.
Alfredo Gonzalez, 20, of Queens. Both work as janitors in Great Neck, said Alzate.
"They went home to visit, they have family there," he said. "I'm worried."
The first injured passengers were brought by ambulance to Syosset Community and Glen Cove hospitals.
Most of the injured were taken by helicopter to Nassau County Medical Center, East Meadow.
Driving Miss Daisy takes over as the #1 movie in its 7th week of release
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 continues at #1 on the Billboard 100 music charts for the second consecutive week.