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Inside The NHL

A passel of rookies did big things during the first round of the

At no time in recent memory have rookies played such integral
roles in Round 1 of the playoffs as this year. This season's crop
of first-year players may not yield an individual performance as
prolific as that of current Coyotes center Jeremy Roenick, who
had 18 points in 20 games as a rookie with the Blackhawks in
1990, but newcomers contributed in spectacular fashion last week.

Flyers rookie center Simon Gagne scored the game-winning goal on
a backhander in a 3-2 victory over the Sabres in Game 1 and added
another goal and three assists as the Flyers won the series in
five games. Meanwhile, Philly goaltender Brian Boucher stopped
.935 of the shots he faced to become the first rookie netminder
to win a playoff round since Martin Brodeur led the Devils to the
Eastern Conference finals in 1994.

Rookies also helped New Jersey beat the Panthers. In Game 1 of
the Devils' sweep, center Scott Gomez, the Calder Trophy
favorite, scored an unassisted game-winner. In a 2-1 victory in
Game 2, center John Madden assisted on both goals, the first
coming after he boldly burst down the left wing with New Jersey
skating two men down. In Game 3, a blistering third-period slap
shot from rookie defenseman Brian Rafalski gave the Devils a 2-1
lead they would not relinquish. "Part of me was thinking, This
is for the Stanley Cup, so don't screw up," Madden says of his
first postseason action, "but then instincts take over."

The Avalanche was aided in its five-game defeat of the Coyotes
last week by rookie left wing Alex Tanguay, who says, "My legs
were a little shaky for the first few shifts." Nonetheless, he
calmly converted a rebound in Colorado's 6-3 victory in Game 1,
and he snapped home another goal in the Avalanche's 3-1 win in
Game 2. For the Blues, who through Sunday were tied with the
Sharks at three games apiece, rookie center Jochen Hecht was the
leading scorer, with 10 points.

Even the Capitals, who were upset in five games by the Penguins,
could at least be happy about the dazzling play of rookie center
Jeff Halpern, who scored a third-period goal to snap a 2-2 tie in
Washington's win in Game 4. Afterward coach Ron Wilson said, "Our
future lies with people like Jeff Halpern."

He was referring to the Capitals' future, but Wilson could have
been speaking about the NHL as a whole.

Pay-Per-View Games

When the Canadian government's plan to aid the country's
financially struggling NHL teams earlier this year was shot down
in the face of public outcry, those clubs began looking for new
ways to create revenue. One potential windfall was created
recently when the Canucks, the Flames and the Oilers filed for
licenses to air games on pay-per-view TV. The filing was
spearheaded by the Canucks, who in a trial run four years ago
sold four regular-season games at $9.95 Canadian (about $7 U.S.)
a pop, generating roughly $40,000 Canadian per match.

Currently, about 95% of the three teams' games are available on
broadcast or cable TV, but a portion of those could go to
pay-per-view as early as the 2001-02 season. David Cobb,
president of Orca Bay Sports & Entertainment, which owns the
Canucks, anticipates charging up to $12 Canadian (roughly $8
U.S.) a game. "It's simple," says Cobb. "As Canadian teams we
need to find as many ways to generate revenue as possible."

Bruins Coach Burns

Rumors of Bruins coach Pat Burns's imminent dismissal reached
such feverish levels last week that Boston's management held a
press conference to announce that Burns would return for his
fourth season with the Bruins. This is the best news Boston fans
have received since September, when the Bruins were regarded as
Stanley Cup contenders.

Burns is a brilliant motivator and a strong leader--he has earned
coach of the year honors three times--but he's coming off the most
disappointing season of his career, which includes four-year
stints with the Canadiens (1988-89 through '91-92) and the Maple
Leafs ('92-93 through '95-96). The Bruins limped home 24-39-19-6
under a cloud of speculation that Burns would get gassed, a
notion that surfaced in December when owner Jeremy Jacobs noted
that Boston was last in the NHL in penalty killing and told
reporters, "It's got to be the coaching."

The Bruins were already reeling from the effects of a contract
impasse with goalie Byron Dafoe, who missed the season's first 12
games and never shed his rustiness after rejoining the team. As
the season wore on, injuries limited star center Jason Allison to
37 games and outstanding left wing Anson Carter to 59. In
January, Burns clashed with recalcitrant winger Joe Murphy, who
was suspended for insubordination and then released. Next came
the infamous Feb. 21 game against the Canucks in which Burns sent
defenseman Marty McSorley onto the ice in the final minute, even
though McSorley clearly wanted to avenge an earlier beating at
the hands of Vancouver forward Donald Brashear. McSorley clubbed
Brashear across the head with his stick. "You don't think
something like that will happen," Burns said somberly the next

When Burns was summoned to general manager Harry Sinden's office
five days after the end of the regular season, the coach was, as
Sinden says, "somewhat apprehensive." Burns spent several hours
talking with Sinden and assistant general manager Mike O'Connell,
and when Burns voiced some of the same concerns that Sinden has
about the Bruins--that they desperately need to improve their
checking away from the puck, for example--Sinden said, "Come on

Despite Burns's notoriously punishing practices, most of his
players swear by him because he's fair. "Near the end of the year
we wanted to win some games for him," says Dafoe. Shortly before
former Boston captain Raymond Bourque was traded to the Avalanche
on March 6, he also pledged support for Burns by saying, "You can
bring anybody in here, and they're not going to do a better job
than Pat."

COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER Gagne, 19, had two goals and three assists in the Flyers' five-game defeat of the Sabres.

This Date in Playoff History

MAY 1, 1965

Jean Beliveau scored the winning goal to lead Montreal past
Chicago 4-0 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, at the Forum.
After the series Beliveau, who had eight goals and eight assists
in 13 postseason games, received the inaugural Conn Smythe Trophy
as the most valuable player in the playoffs. Goaltender Gump
Worsley, who had been acquired by the Canadiens in 1963, shut out
the Blackhawks twice in the first Cup finals of his 12-year