NHL- MID-SEASON-THE GOOD-WESTERN CONFERENCE
2017-18 POPSICLE BROTHERS REPORT- #9
By Gary Norris Gray, – BASN NEWSROOM- Staff Reporter
OAKLAND, CA.-Mr. McClean, Mr. Ingram, and Mr. Gray aka “The MIG Line” take the ice again as the NHL comes to its midway point of the season with some great surprises and new competitive teams.
The biggest surprise comes from the city that what happens there, stays there; the Golden Knights might change that theme. The Knights have uplifted the city after the horrible mass shooting at the start of the season. Americans have always rallied around sports and this is just another example. The Golden Knights could set the record for most victories by an expansion team with their outstanding 19-3-2 home record and 13-9-2 on the road.
The Golden Knights are doing this with a mix of veterans and rookies. They also have two goalies that are still upset with their former team.
THE VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Vegas and their Golden Knights are winning. The Knights have overcome the multiple injuries starting five different goaltenders. This month will be the first time starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and Goal Brother Malcolm Subban. They are both healthy and on the ice at the same time. Fleury wants to prove to his former team the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins that he is still an All Star Goaltender, while Malcolm also wants to show his former team Boston Bruin that they too made a terrible mistake letting him go west. Malcolm has played and won more games in Vegas then in Boston (4-years) and Subban only been three and half months with the Knights.
This expansion team is like no other because of the way the Vegas executives looked at the expansion draft last year. They can allow their young stars in the minors to play every day and grow, centers Cody Glass, and Nick Suzuki along with defenseman, Erik Brannstrom are examples of this. These first rounders in Portland (Western Hockey League) are playing well while the parent club battles for the Pacific Division Title. Most expansion clubs would have thrown these kids to the wolfs. Meaning they would have to either sink or swim playing with seasoned opponents.
The Knights with Goal Brother Center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare from the Philadelphia Flyers has seven points and five goals. Bellemare and the Knights should make the playoffs this year but they will also be making NHL history with the most points by an expansion team. They will do this by beating the established hockey clubs in the west, The Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Winnipeg Jets, and Nashville Predators.
The Vegas Golden Knights are the example of how to build an expansion team through careful drafting. The Knights could be a force in the west for many years to come if they continue picking talented players.
Forward William Karlsson continue the Knights surge with two goals over the Columbus Blue Jackets and a 5-2 Vegas victory Tuesday night as the Golden Knights win their 32nd game of the year.
THE WINNIPEG JETS
The Winnipeg Jets are battling for first place with the Nashville Predators for the Central Division as they move two points ahead of the Preds with 5-4 overtime victory over the San Jose Sharks. The Jets are on the West Coast-California trip this month and will be in Anaheim this weekend. Forward Blake Wheeler has hit his stride with 54 points and leads the club with 40 assist. The Jets are a scoring machine with forward Patrik Laine scoring 21 goals. Goal Brother defenseman Dustin Byfuglien is working overtime as he is logging in over 24 minutes a game this year bouncing opposing forwards off the boards and off the puck.
The Jets may have finally found a goaltender in Connor Hellebuyck with 27 victories and four shutouts. This might be the glue to put Winnipeg into the second and third rounds. The Jets also can count on the two headed monster with Goaltender Steve Mason from the Philadelphia Flyers if Hellebuyck fails. Mason has not played since January 9th due to concussion syndrome and might not get into the lineup until mid February because this is his second one of this season, the Jets will be very careful with Mason entering the Winnipeg nets.
THE SAN JOSE SHARKS
The San Jose Sharks finally have put it together in the Pacific Division after a very slow start. Currently they are in second place behind the upstart Vegas Golden Knights.
The Sharks are still trying to win their first Stanley Cup after winning the President’s Cup twice and losing in the Finals . The Men of Teal made a major move sending center Patrick Marleau to the Toronto Maple Leafs and letting young goalie Aaron Dell stand in net backing up stalwart Martin Jones. The Sharks might have an advantage when the playoffs arrive with two solid goaltenders and the playoff experience
Goal Brother Center Joel Ward guides the second line could be playing his last year want another shot at Lord Stanley’s Cup. This team could be putting the pieces together at the right moment.
The Sharks have the best combination of a good penalty kill unit and very skilled power play unit. The Sharks have shutdown many teams’ power play units and that has kept them in many games this year.
The big line of Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, and Tomass Hertl with center Joe Thornton have to step up to get the Sharks to the Finals.
San Jose will have to wait at least 4-6 weeks for Thornton to return to the ice as he had orthopedic surgery on his knee.
When defenseman Brent Burns hit the ice with center Joe Thornton it looks like Robin Hood and his men have come back to San Jose with their huge beards.
The Sharks are re-tooling on the fly with young center Chris Tierney, forwards Melker Karlsson and Timo Meier. The Sharks will be challenging the Vegas Knights and fending off the Los Angeles Kings for the last few playoff spots.
THE NASHVILLE PREDATORS
The Predator fans are calling the gold and blue Smashville for the hit music in Tennessee. The Predator defense are also smashing opponents against the boards.
The Nashville Predators are now fighting for national press time with the Golden Knights and Winnipeg Jets winning. All Star Captain Defenseman Goal Brother P.K. Subban might have to drag and pull the Predators to the playoffs this year. The Western Conference like the NBA has become tougher so it has become difficult for Nashville to return to the Finals. Goaltender Pikka Rinne and P.K. Subban will play in this year’s All Star Game.
P.K. Subban will make history being the first Black player to be named captain of an All Star Team as he will head the Central Division.
The Predators can close the scoring door on any team in the league just ask the Pittsburgh Penguins and forward Sidney Crosby and they have one of the best power units with P.K. Subban at the point shooting laser shots at the goaltender.
One thing they have to fix, the team has taken too many penalties because they get lazy on defense leaning on Ellis, Subban, and Rinne backing them up. The Predators welcome defenseman Ryan Ellis back after six months with a knee injury. This should help Nashville in the defensive zone and give Subban needed relief before the playoffs start.
Love the productive scoring line of forwards Viktor Arvidsson, and Kevin Fiala with center Ryan Johnsen.
It’s going to be a wild finish in the Western Conference. This should be the final four in the west.
NEXT:- THE EASTERN CONFERENCE-MID SEASON-THE GOOD
Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian, Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston, Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove, Soul Tree Radio In The Raw, and The Batchelor Pad Network, Disabled Community Activist. Email Glcgray@gmail.com
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