April 02, 2016

Paul Cavallini

In the 1980s Doug Wilson was a hard shooting defenseman with the Chicago Blackhawks. In an era where almost everyone was still using wooden sticks, Wilson and Al MacInnis had the NHL's most feared slappers.

How hard? Just ask Paul Cavallini of the St. Louis Blues.

On December 22, 1990 Wilson slap shot hit Cavallini on his gloved hand. Despite wearing the protective glove, the force of the puck severed the tip of one of Cavallini's fingers! Though they found the missing tip in Cavallini's glove, doctors were unable to reattach it. Cavallini would miss 13 games due to the bizarre and gruesome injury.

A steady second pairing defenceman who was able to chip in with some offense, Paul Cavallini and his brother Gino played together for the St. Louis Blues in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Drafted by the Washington Capitals in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft (205th overall), Paul would only play one season at Providence College (helping the Friars to the championship finale) before leaving school. He would skate with the Canadian national team program for a season before joining the Capitals organization.

Cavallini's play in a season of minor league hockey was so good that it was obvious he deserved a better chance to play in the NHL. The Caps were very deep on the blue line in those days, which meant someone would have to be moved. After a total of just 30 games played with the Caps, it was Cavallini who was traded to the Blues for a draft pick.

Cavallini, who was strong as an ox, would prove to be a very dependable defenseman in St. Louis over the next six seasons. His best season came in 1989-90 when he led the entire league in plus/minus and played in the 1990 mid-season All Star Game.

The key to Cavallini's game was his wonderful skating ability. He had good acceleration both forwards and backwards, but it was his balance and agility that really game him an edge. He used this skating ability combined with a strong read of the play to jump up into the rush or rush it out of his own zone himself.

His above average anticipation was equally well used when reading the defensive play. Despite his upper body strength he was much more likely to eliminate an attacker to the outside and pin them to the boards than to ever physically impose himself on them. And though he could occasionally look spectacularly bad when it did not work, he was an excellent poke checker.

Cavallini would return to Washington for a season in 1992 before joining Dallas for parts of three seasons.

In 564 NHL games, Cavallini scored 56 goals and 177 assists.

Cavallini returned to St. Louis after hanging up his skates and became a successful financial advisor.

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