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Gordo on the NHL: Maroon rallies Blues fans against Avalanche

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Rangers Lightning Hockey

Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Pat Maroon (14) passes the puck by New York Rangers defenseman Braden Schneider (45) during the second period in Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals, Saturday, June 11, 2022, in Tampa, Fla.

Blues fans have many reasons to cheer on the Tampa Bay Lightning as they battle the Colorado Avalanche for the Stanley Cup while trying to cement their standing as a unique modern day NHL dynasty.

Hometown hero Pat Maroon is gunning for his fourth Cup ring, which is astounding. That he remains one of the true good guys in sports only makes it easier to rally behind the Pride of Oakville.

"One (Cup) seems crazy to me," Maroon said. "Just to be a part of one is remarkable. There are guys that go years and play in the NHL 10, 12 years and don't even get to the Stanley Cup Final let alone get to the conference final. It's the hardest trophy to win in all sports, and to just win one is remarkable and crazy to me.”

Maroon has not turned his back on the STL since signing with the Lightning as a free agent. He demonstrated his allegiance by taking another shot at land-hoarding recluse Stan Kroenke for moving his Rams to SoCal – thus reminding Blues fans of another reason to cheer on Tampa Bay.

“I hate Stan Kroenke,” Maroon told the Pat McAfee Show. “I can't stand that guy because he took the Rams from St. Louis.”

Kroenke doesn’t own the Avalanche directly, or so says the franchise’s documentation. The NFL doesn’t allow cross-ownership, but in Stan’s case Roger Goodell looked the other way on the ‘Lanche’s paper transfer to Ann Kroenke – whose inherited Walmart fortune launched Stan’s business career -- after he gained full control of the Rams.

“The fans are truly passionate in St. Louis,” Maroon said. “I just can’t stand that guy for taking (the Rams) out of there.”

Beyond the Maroon and Kroenke angles, Blues fans are still motivated to boo the Avalanche over Nazem Kadri’s Bowling for Binnington maneuver which changed the course of the second-round series between the Blues and Avalanche.

Kadri crashed the net, creating a three-player with Blues defenseman Calle Rosen and goaltender Jordan Binnington. That play knocked the red-hot Binnington out of the series with a knee sprain and thrust back-up Ville Husso in way over his competitive head.

Also, Lightning coach Jon Cooper launched his career as a successful junior hockey coach with the late, great St. Louis Bandits. One of his team leaders was the aforementioned Maroon, who pumped in 40 goals for that Junior A team.

Cooper is another of the NHL’s good guys. Then again, so is classy Avalanche coach Jared Bednar – and can anybody think of anything bad to say about Colorado stars Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen?

But you have to pick sides in these things.

The Avalanche are formidable and they have the home-ice advantage. But the Lightning have a big edge in goal with Andrei Vasilevskiy and the team is getting injured No. 2 center Brayden Point at some point in the series.

And until somebody actually knocks the Lightning out of the playoffs, how can you really pick against them? The Bolts looked like a machine as they closed out the New York Rangers.

AROUND THE RINKS

Cashiered Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy wasn’t unemployed long. He quickly landed with the Vegas Golden Knights in what should be a good fit. Cassidy can get the most out of high-end players and that’s exactly what the star-driven Golden Knights need.

Cassidy also enforces solid defensive structure. One of the knocks on him in Boston was his not-so-nurturing handling of young players, but that is not an issue with the win-now Golden Knights.

NHL insider Kevin Weekes says the Philadelphia Flyers offered their heading coaching job to John Tortorella. That hiring would make lot sof sense, since the Flyers remain in win-now mode when the more prudent course would be a full rebuild. That team is stuck with some overpaid, underproductive veterans and taskmaster Torts could prod more production from them. And the Philly media would love him.

A number of teams are looking to get bigger and more rugged up front. That’s why the rebuilding Montreal Canadiens should listen to trade offers for winger Josh Anderson, who will carry a $5.5 million salary cap hit for the next five years.

In the face of hopeful speculation that the Calgary Flames have already signed Johnny Gaudreau to a contract extension to keep him out of free agency, agent Lewis Gross insisted that there is no deal in place. The Flames would be hard-pressed to lock in both Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk for the long haul, so Tkachuk-coveting Blues fans are following the situation.

Netminder Mikko Koskinen has signed to play in Europe and 900-year-old Mike Smith is at least pondering retirement. That would leave Stuart Skinner as the nominal No. 1 goaltender in Edmonton – and that’s why experts have connected the Oilers to potential Blues free agent Ville Husso.

Elsewhere on the goaltending front, John Gibson’s camp is trying to quell speculation that he wants out of Anaheim. The Ducks are just about to turn the corner on their rebuild and the Gibson may finally see some light at the end of the tunnel. He can certainly afford the Orange County lifestyle, so he may be in no hurry to leave the sunshine.

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