Part II

Gary Norris Gray-BASN-Newsroom Staff Reporter

Could it be that we are witnessing the changing of the guard with all of the new teams entering the playoffs? The old guard Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins, winners of the last two Stanley Cups are defending their turf.  The pre-playoff favorites are the Penguins in the East and the Blackhawks in the West.

The New Kids on the Block; The Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Nashville Predators, and Columbus Blue Jackets will have plenty to say about this in the first round. There will be eight Goal Brothers (Black Players) on the ice this year and all eight will make an impact on this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

This is what the playoffs would look like under the old system. Many NHL old-timers do not like the new playoff system because teams will not play each other within their conferences. If the Washington Capitols and Pittsburgh Penguins win their first round series they will meet in the second round. This is not good for hockey having the number one and two seeds meeting in the second round.

Eastern Conference

  1. Washington vs. 8. Toronto
  2. Montreal vs. 7. Boston
  3. Pittsburgh vs. 6.Ottawa
  4. Columbus vs. 5. New York Rangers

Western Conference

  1. Chicago vs. 8. Nashville
  2. Anaheim vs. 7. Calgary
  3. Minnesota vs. 6. San Jose
  4. Edmonton vs. 5. St. Louis


Minnesota Wild vs. St Louis Blues

The Blues are just happy they are not facing the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round. The Hawks have put them out each year.

Everybody dismisses the Wild and Blues because they are both unknown. They do not pay attention to these teams because they are not in the glamour cities or glamour states.

Long time St. Louis Head coach Ken Hitchcock was relieved of his duties on Feb. 1, of this year and the Blues were blowing in the wind until Mike Yeo took control. Hitchcock’s firing was moved up four months after the Blues hit rock bottom

Goal Brother Ryan Reaves was drafted by St. Louis in 2005 in the 5th round. The big 6′ 1″ right winger has to get more time on the ice. This year he only missed one game that shows his durability.  

Goalie Jake Allen could be the downfall of the St. Louis Blues, he has not played well the last two months. Forwards Ryan Reaves and right winger Vladimir Tarasenko could be the key to Blues victory.

For Minnesota, Devan Dubnyk has to carry this team in net. He is still the unknown goalie and the Blues will find this out the next week.

The Wild are a collection of ex-eastern players and young stars. Ex-New Jersey Devil Zach Praise, Ex-New York Ranger Eric Staal, and Mikael Granlund have to carry the Wild offense. Goal Brother Chris Stewart will hit the ice again playing against his former team. Stewart will add pop to the Minnesota left side with 13 goals and 6 assist.

The St. Louis Blues have to stop center Mikko Koivu and left winger Nino Niederreiter or they will be heading home again.

Both teams use the same offensive systems so they will be looking in the mirror at themselves on the ice.

Take your pick.


Nashville Predators vs. Chicago Blackhawks

The Nashville Predators are not the same team as last year. They have the firebrand head coach Peter Laviolette who could fly off the handle at any time. The Blackhawks are counting on that.

The Preds have added a fiery sparkplug, Goal Brother P.K. Subban from the Montreal Canadiens. The Preds offense can bury teams in the first period. Subban changed the culture in Tennessee from “we should win” to “we will win.” 

Subban elevated the Preds this year to a real playoff contender.

Forward Viktor Arvidsson, center Ryan Johansen, and young left winger Filip Forsberg have confidences with Subban on the team; then you cannot forget the veterans Mike Fisher and James Neal who have been there before and will teach the young ones what to expect. The second line of right winger Craig Smith, Austin Watson, and Kevin Fiala could be the difference in this series.

Goaltender Pekka Rinne has had an up-and-down season and at 34 years old the clock is beginning to tick. Nashville’s defense has to help Rinne if he goes into playoff slump. Defensemen Mattias Ekholm, Ellis and Roman Josi are up for the job this year. Watch the blocked shots.

This will be the Nashville Predators third try to win a series.

The Western Conference Hockey royalty, The Chicago Blackhawks, are back again one year older. The Chicago Blackhawks got the number one seed in the west-AGAIN. This could be their fourth Stanley Cup in seven years if they get passed the determined Nashville Predators.

The Hawks plug in five rookies, and re-signed Goal Brother Johnny Oduya from the Dallas Stars who is a model stay-at- home defenseman. Oduya could teach the younger defensemen the tricks of the trade.

Chicago kept their core of forwards Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa with defensemen Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook. These guys are just a step slower than last year and this could be their last run at the Cup. Jordun Tooto adds bounce to the right side of the Hawk offence.

The Blackhawk’s weakest  point is goaltender Corey Crawford as teams are beginning to figure him out, shooting high to his glove side. As a former goalie, I find this very noticeable. The Hawks might install Scott Darling in net in games 3 and 4 to give Crawford rest on road playoff games.

The Chicago Blackhawks have the experience and could overwhelm the Nashville Predators; but this is where P.K. Subban and the Nashville determination could be the difference.

NASHVILLE IN SEVEN- the upset of 2017 playoffs

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

The Pittsburgh Penguins are called The Eastern Conference Team of Royalty. They have the longest playoff streak with 11 years. This team has not played well the past two weeks so it will be interesting to watch how the Penguins start this opening series. Injuries have been a major issue of why Pittsburgh has slipped the past two weeks. Center Evgeni Malkin will return to the team after recent injuries.  Left wingers Carl Hagelin, Chris Kunitz, and defenseman Zach Werenski are all expected to play in this opening series; again, the injury bug has hit them all.

Former Dallas Star and Chicago Blackhawk, Goal Brother, defenseman, Trevor Daley returns to the playoffs with the Penguins. Daley is the picture of consistency around the net and should help either Murray or Fleury around the net.

Veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury will be handing over the goal tending duties to young Matt Murray this year as we are witnessing the transition of power in the Penguin net.

The old horses will carry this team to the conference finals if they can get past their trips to the doctor’s office. Veterans right winger Phil Kessel, centers Sidney Crosby, and Bryan Rust, defensemen Trevor Daley and Kris Letang will protect Murray or Fleury around the net.

Super -brat Sidney Crosby has a target on his back and teams have done this all year. He has hit opponents low in the undercarriage a few times this year and teams are not in love with him. Expect the Columbus Blue Jackets to do the same as other teams, blanketing or shadowing number 87.

Columbus, New Jack City goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky had his best season in net and is a candidate for the Vezina Trophy-Best Goalie of the Year. He shed pounds during last summer to play this year and he has more mobile skills in the net.

Goal Brother Seth Jones might be on his way to Stanley Cup Finals with the Jackets. His stats are the best in 5 years with 12 goals and 30 assist. Jones has to score in order for New Jack City to move on to round two.

Defenseman Jack Johnson has to rock some Penguins off the boards to disrupt the Pittsburgh offense. The Jackets have to get an early lead in each game to be physical against Pittsburgh. Columbus cannot let Pittsburgh fly by them on an offensive rush or this series could end quickly.

Pittsburgh has the experience but the Columbus Blue Jackets have the will and the coach, John Tortorella. Tortorella can lose his temper at times and he must control himself in these playoffs.


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 at garyngray@blackathlete.com


©Copyrighted Gary Norris Gray @ Gray Leopard Prod



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