By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
2022, you’ve been a horrible three-plus months for Long Island. First you took Glark Gillies in January. Then you captured Jean Potvin in March. And now…now you’ve taken Mike Bossy in April. Enough already.
If you are a fan of the Islanders, or simply live on Long Island, 2022 has been filled with nothing but grief. The team and its fans worship the players who brought four straight Cups to Long Island from 1980-83. Now those pillars of the franchise’s history are being picked off one at a time.
Mike Bossy, who passed away last Friday (April 15, 2022) was inarguably one of the greatest players in NHL history and easily the purest goal-scorer. His battle with lung cancer started last October and crushed the spirits of those who knew him or had watched him play. Now he’s gone too soon.
As the hockey world continues to pay tribute to Bossy we hear more and more about the phenomenal player he was. We also hear about how wonderful of a person he was. The fact that we are now using past tense regarding the latter point is nothing short of painful.
I did not grow up watching Bossy play. I wasn’t born until six-years after he played his final game. At the time, there were rumors the Rangers were attempting to coax a couple members of the Isles dynasty out of retirement to come pursue a Stanley Cup on Broadway. That didn’t happen. But the fact the Blueshirts were even sniffing around the retired players is a testament to how great they had been.
As I just mentioned, I didn’t see Bossy play, but I did meet him a few times during the earliest parts of my career. I am reminded of one time in particular that showed just how terrific a person Bossy was.
In the Spring of 2018, while I was writing for MSGNetworks.com, I attended an event at The Tribeca Rooftop. Mike Richter and Adam Graves were being honored for their work in the community. Islanders’ Co-Owner Jon Ledecky was in attendance and he brought Bossy with him. At one point during the festivities, one of the speakers – in front of the entire audience – offered Bossy a custom made Rangers jersey. To this day I don’t know why anybody thought it was a good idea to even have that jersey made, but we can’t change the past. Bossy politely sidestepped the situation and afterwards joked with a few people about the situation.
Bossy wasn’t going to take the bait and give the internet a viral moment. He also knew Islanders fans would never forgive him if he put on the Rangers jersey; so he didn’t. To me, that was Bossy. Thoughtful. Funny. And deeply loyal.
I wish there were more moments in the future to look forward to but now we just have to lean on our memories. Good-bye Mike Bossy, you will be missed.
HIGHEST SCORING WEEKEND
For anybody who watched the NHL this past weekend, you witnessed a lot of goals. According to the NHL’s Public Relations Twitter account, it was the highest scoring weekend in NHL history. Considering the league is over 100-years-old, that’s quite the accomplishment.
The question I want answered is, why? Why has scoring been on the rise this season? If you look at the scoring stats for this season you’ll see the goals-per-game rate is 6.3. That’s the highest it’s been since the 1995-96 season.
That season saw Mario Lemieux pace the league in goals (69), assists (92) and points (161). In fact, 12 different players finished the season with 100 or more points; and two – Mark Messier and Petr Nedved – finished just shy of that plateau with 99 points each.
At the time of the writing of this column, five players this season have crossed the 100-point threshold. As many as five or six more could join them by the end of this season. So, what gives? Why is scoring up?
Some have speculated it’s because more goalies have gotten injured, thus leading to more appearances from backup netminders, who are obviously inferior to their starting brethren. That might be a factor but I don’t buy it as the only one.
We have seen an influx of so much young talent in the past couple years that the game has gotten faster than it has ever been. Players like Trevor Zegras in Anaheim are breaking out moves never before seen on the ice. And they’re doing it with such regularity that it’s becoming the norm.
That’s the more likely answer as to why scoring has increased so dramatically. The faster the game is played and the more skilled the players are, the more scoring is going to increase. We may just be entering a new golden age in the NHL and that should excite fans and those around the sport.
RACE FOR THE VEZINA
For many months it has been assumed Igor Shesterkin will win the Vezina Trophy for his outstanding goaltending this season. While that’s still the most likely outcome a familiar face is making a late season charge.
The Isles’ Ilya Sorokin and the Rangers’ Shesterkin have known each other for years, dating back to their time in the KHL. Both are all-world netminders and have each delivered more than their fair share of highlights this season.
Currently, Shesterkin leads the NHL with a 2.05 GAA. Sorokin is fourth at 2.31. Shesterkin leads the league with a .935 SV%. Sorokin is second with a .927 SV%. And lastly, Sorokin is second in the NHL with seven shutouts. Shesterkin is fourth, with five.
The difference between them is razor thin.
Shesterkin has shown some fatigue down the stretch while Sorokin has been the NHL’s best goalie over the past month. Will that allow the Isles’ goaltender to steal the crown at the 11th hour? Only time will tell.
One thing is certain though, we will be seeing these two battle over the Vezina for years to come.