NHL- MID-SEASON-THE GOOD-EASTERN CONFERENCE
2017-18 POPSICLE BROTHERS REPORT- #10
By Gary Norris Gray, -BASN NEWSROOM- Staff Reporter
OAKLAND, CA.- The National Hockey League’s All Star Games passed with the showcase of emerging hockey stars in the Eastern Conference. The Atlantic and Metropolitan Divisions are now in a penguin march behind the Tampa Bay Lightning which has more wins and more goals than any team in the east. There is only one dominant team in this conference. The other organizations are packed so closely together that one victory on any night or one loss on any other night might be a ticket in or out of the post season. Just ask the New Jersey Devils who were in 8th place at the beginning of the week and are now in second place in the Metro Division. This is the way the Eastern Conference will be the rest of the year. Philadelphia, New Jersey, both New York metro teams and Carolina will fight for those wild card spots.
Mr. McClean, Mr. Ingram, and Mr. Gray aka “The MIG Line” moves east to check out the Eastern Conference.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
The Bolts are the Golden State Warriors on ice scoring from everywhere, and from every position on the rink. Tampa Bay is first in the league in scoring with forward Nikita Kucherov and center Brayton Point have 20 goals each and firebrand center Steve Stamkos could be the Draymond Green for the Bolts with his 40 assists along with Kucherov’s 37 assist. These guys know where each other is on the ice and can hit each other on the move.
The Big Four- Nikita Kucherov, Steve Stemkos, Brayden Point and forward Vladislav Namestnikov may carry Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup Finals.
The only question in Western Florida who would be their goaltender-Andrei Vasilevskiy or Peter Budaj? Can these two stop the opponents for the Cup?
The high flying Winnipeg Jets stopped the Lightning’s 4 game winning streak 3-1 Wednesday night Jan 30th with stingy Jet defense. This could be Tampa Bay’s weakest link.
Question, Where is Goal Brother J.T.Brown ? Is he being punished for raising his Black fist during the National Anthem?
This could be the last hurrah for the Washington Capitals as the veterans forwards T.J. Oshie, and Tom Wilson with All Star left winger Alex Ovechkin and Goal Brother Devante Smith-Pelly. At the start of this season scoring was so easy for this team in our nation’s capitol.
Number eight-Ovechkin went on a scoring tear with 30 goals at the halfway point and on the way to another 50 goal season. Is it enough to win the Stanley Cup?
The Caps do not want the Presidents Cup this year they want Lord Stanley’s Cup. The Washington Capitals have won the Presidents Cup twice but have never made it to the Finals. This year they have to beat the offensive machine in Florida or the re-surging Pittsburgh Penguins to reach the Finals.
Smith Pelly is having one of his better season with 14 points and 7 goals and playing in 46 of 50 games. He wants to end his career a winner.
Goaltender Braden Holtby is also having one of his better seasons and could get the Capitols to the finals. In the playoffs goaltending is everything and Holtby seems to fade at the end of the season and disappears during the playoffs.
Washington has to stop holding, slashing, tripping, and boarding to reach the finals, too many penalties right now and the team needs to clean up their act before moving forward.
Viewers must watch wingers T.J. Oshie and Jakub Vrana for the secondary scoring punch.
The Capitals will host the United Arab Emirates Women’s National Hockey Team this month before the Olympics in South Korea. The NHL continues to expand into the world markets and the Washington Capitals are leading the way.
The Boston Bruins will live in National Hockey League history being the first team to have a Black player on the ice. The Bruins celebrate hockey legend forward Willie O’Ree. This year will be 60 years that O’Ree broke the NHL color barrier. O’Ree made his debut for Boston in a 3-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens. The Gray Leopard Cove and Soul Tree Radio salute original Goal Brother Willie O’Ree.
At the midway point of the season the Boston Bruins are on fire as they have moved up 7 spots in 4 months with 1 2/2 months to go, but they still have to catch the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Baby Bears are a brick wall and will not let teams score. Defensman and Captain Zdeno Chara is carrying the Black and Gold into the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Bruins are number one in goals against and are a brick wall and with their penalty kill and power play units are very difficult to score against. Remember defense wins championships and the Boston Bruins are well on the way this year.
The Big Bruins bang players against the boards and make them give up the puck in their offensive zones.
The Boston second line of forward Jake DeBrusk, center David Krejci, and forward Ryan Spooner bring their own part to the Bruin game and score too.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
This is the home of the other Canadian Matrix Man Frederik Andersen, he may not be as cool as the original Matrix Man Ottawa Senator Craig Anderson but he gets the job done in the Leafs net.
At the beginning of the 2017-18 season the Leafs were the odds on favorite to win the Eastern Conference with their young stars center Auston Matthews, forwards Matt Martin and Zach Hyman. The Leafs have fallen to third place in the Atlantic Division but have righted the ship and are on a four game winning streak.
The addition of forward Patrick Marleau from the San Jose Sharks has put firepower in the Leafs front line. With his many years of playoff experience Marleau could instruct the young Leafs at crunch time.
This past week the Lightning blew out both New York teams beating the Islanders 5-0 on Wednesday night and then the next night shutting out the Rangers 4-0 Thursday night.
The two time defending champion were on the ropes at the beginning of this season and had some work to do. The Pens started slowly and ended up at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division in October, November, and early December before they started playing championship hockey.
The six foot 225 pound Goal Brother Ryan Reaves from the Saint Louis Blues organization fits right in with this rough bunch and he is assigned to defend Malkin and Crosby on Pittsburgh offensive rushes.
Matt Murray does not have to share the goal net with Marc Andre Flurey this year. Murray has the job all to himself and is beginning to show the Pittsburgh faithful why.
The Pens have moved to the top of the Metro Division through their number one power play unit. Veteran centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have pulled the Black and Gold into this year’s playoff picture with their power play goal scoring.
The Pittsburgh Penguins remind many of the old Wayne Grezky Edmonton Oiler teams, volatile deadly offense with no defense. They are currently third last in defending their goal and this could undo their 3 peat challenge in 2018 only goaltender Murray can reverse this trend.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
In October everybody in the east thought the Blue Jackets would make the playoffs. They started the year 9-4 and in first place in the Atlantic Division. Columbus is the youngest team in the NHL and it is beginning to show with sloppy defensive play in the third periods. The Jackets went into a tail spin in December losing 10 of 16 falling into a Wild Card position in the east.
Goal Brother defenseman Seth Jones continues to improve on the ice as his team continues to struggle to score goals.
Blue Jack City has put forwards Cam Atkinson and Brandon Dubinsky on the same line and they are beginning to score goals again and moving back up in standings.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
The Devils are in a very strange position with the trade deadline closing in. The team is on a roller coaster, up one week down the next. The New Jersey Devil brain trust has to make decisions whether to keep the kids or trade to make the playoffs this year. It’s been five years since New Jersey has played in April, this could be the year if they keep this team together.
Goalie Cory Schneider has the spot all to himself with the ghost of All Star-Hall of Fame Goalie Martin Brodeur banished from the Prudential Center. Young gun Keith Kinkaid is waiting in the wings in net and playing well behind Schneider.
Forward Taylor Hall is the super star on this team with 50 points and 18 goals. The Devils have to find more offense from somewhere to move into the second round of the playoffs. Centers Travis Zajac and Brian Boyle have to produce goals in the second half in order to make post season
I love feisty center Adam Henrique from the Anaheim Ducks who has 30 points and 15 goals. If forward Brian Gibbons gets hot look out Eastern Conference.
Goal Brother forward J.T. Brown moves from Tampa Bay to New Jersey. Brown moves away from the controversy of supporting Colin Kaepernick in the south and gets a new start with the New Jersey Devils.
Next question can Goal Brother Wayne Simmonds and the Flyers or the Carolina Hurricane make the mad dash to the playoffs the next two months. The Flyers need goalie Brian Elliott in net for them to make the playoffs goalie Michal Neuvirth is o.k. but Elliott is just better. The only good thing currently in the City of Brotherly Love, are the Philadelphia Eagles defense and the Flyers power play.
The reason why the Cains are where they are today is sloppy play in the offensive zone and committing too many penalties. Goalies Cam Ward and Scott Darling from the Chicago Blackhawks cannot not stop opponent’s power play.
Center Jordan Staal and forward Jeff Skinner cannot do it all for the black and red.
Look for the Cains to be in the trade market in the next three weeks.
This also could be a year that both the New York Rangers and New York Islanders do not make the playoffs, if that happens look for the Blueshirts to blow up the team in Madison Square Garden and the Islanders to move back to Long Island because of the lack of interest in Brooklyn.
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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