ROUND TWO -QUARTER FINALS
Gary Norris Gray- BASN Newsroom-Staff Reporter
All of the near missed shots and sloppy goaltenders have vacated the playoffs. Now it becomes a game of skill and grace. It now becomes a race for the Cup.
The Montreal Canadiens might be rethinking that monster trade a year ago sending the talented P.K. Subban to Nashville for the older, taller, defenseman Shea Weber. Many Canadian fans may never forgive the Montreal brain trust after the Habs lost to the New York Rangers in six games. The regenerated Nashville Predators moved on to the second round for the first time in their short history with P.K. Subban as their defensive leader. Montreal learned a lesson you can’t teach, it’s called heart. The Montreal Canadiens might have the best goalie on the planet (Carey Price) but P.K. Subban is the best defenseman in the National Hockey League.
The Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks, and Montreal Canadiens all went down hard and unexpected in the first round.
The Boston Bruins made too many mental errors early with delay of game penalties. The Ottawa Senators capitalized on those mistakes to take the series.
The Chicago Blackhawks were simply outscored 13-3 in four games. Despite this loss in Blackhawk land fans should be happy with their rebuilding program, as it points out the probable future success.
On the west coast, this could be the end of the Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, and Patrick Marleau era in San Jose as the Sharks made another early exit. This time as the young upstart Edmonton Oilers took them out. The Sharks might have problems in net as goalie Martin Jones was not impressive letting in 3 easy goals during this series. The new players of the Edmonton Oilers and the new Toronto Maple Leafs are the wave of the future.
Nashville vs. St. Louis
Edmonton vs. Anaheim
Ottawa vs. New York
Pittsburgh vs. Washington
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS VS. WASHINGTON CAPITALS
The National Hockey League blew this one. The number one team in the east will be playing the number two, instead of by conference. This matchup could happen again. It is not fair for the teams (Washington-Pittsburgh) that have worked hard all season to win their division and get these high seeds only to have face each other in the second round. The playoff system was cute to watch the first four years with close rivalries, but it is time to go back to the old 1 through 8 seeding in conference, not division.
That being stated the Washington Capitals should shake off the President’s Trophy Curse (Best record) and defeat the injury-rattled Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Penguins should be called the MASH unit of the NHL with Matt Murray, Chad Ruhwedel, Chris Kunitz, Carl Hagelin, and Kris Letang all on the injured reserve list.
The Penguins continue to use Marc-Andre Fleury in net when everybody knows that Matt Murray is the future net-minder. Murray will not play in this series.
Goal Brother Defenseman Trevor Daley had a good series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, initiating Pittsburgh rushes for scoring chances. Pens need Kris Letang in this series to help Pittsburgh’s defense.
The Washington Capitals might have finally found a way to win. The rested Braden Holtby in the Capitals net could be the key to victory for the men in red. Backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer really helped Washington during that mid-season run.
Kevin Shattenkirk stopped the speed of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the last series. Can he do it again against Pittsburgh?
Washington is number one this year in defense; they will need it against Pittsburgh. The two-headed monster in net will have to stop Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin AGAIN.
The Capital firepower will have to come from Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and T.J. Oshie. Justin Williams earned stardom with three critical goals in the Toronto series.
The Capitals are 1-8 vs. Pittsburgh so the odds are in favor of No. 8 Ovechkin and crew in our nation’s capitol.
Washington finally enters the conference final with upset victory over Pittsburgh. Caps find a way.
WASHINGTON CAPITALS IN SIX
NEW YORK RANGERS VS. OTTAWA SENATORS
The Original Six of Hockey are down to one, the orphan child, the New York Rangers who will play the upstart Ottawa Senators. This will be a knockdown drag-out defensive struggle with two great goalies; Mr. Craig Anderson for the Sens and the self-anointed King Henrik Lundqvist for the Blueshirts. If you like low-scoring games, this is the series to watch.
For those who don’t know, I call Craig Anderson “Mr. Anderson,” in reference to the 1990 movie “The Matrix.” The way he defends and moves in the net reminds me of Keanu Reeves mysterious character.
The Senators block teams at the blue line, disrupting the offensive flow, as the Boston Bruins found that out the hard way. The New York Rangers have to watch out for Ottawa’s LONG strong stretch-passing late in games, zipping the puck into the offensive zone creating scoring chances before the defensemen can react. The Bruins never found the answer and lost. The Rangers could be looking at the same fate if they don’t find a way to stop this.
The Senators are the New Jersey Devils twin. Ottawa employs the 1-3-1 zone just like New Jersey in their glory days. The League outlawed the left wing lock defense so this is the next best thing. The lock is a defensive strategy. This strategy is very much like New Jersey’s neutral zone trap.
This is when the puck changes possession and the left winger slides back with his two defensemen into their zone pushing the offense into the left side boards squeezing the team into a box or into a given area. This tactic also ended the odd man rush to the goalie. The Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils were masters at this and were defensive teams of the year many times. When the Devils played the Wings for the Cup in 1995 (strike shorten season) the league decided to change the rules because scoring had dropped 35 per cent. The 1-3-1 is now the modern version of the Left Wing Lock.
The Ottawa Senators might be scrambling to find offense and defense with the foot injury (hairline fracture) to defenseman Captain Erik Karlsson. This hurts Ottawa because he is the heart of the team.
The Ranger right wingers are on fire. Mats Zuccarello and Jesper Fast are playing well and center Rick Nash finally showed up to defeat the Montreal Canadiens.
My heart is with the Senators but my mind is with the Rangers.
NEW YORK RANGERS IN SIX
EDMONTON OILERS VS. ANAHEIM DUCKS
The Edmonton Oilers are in good hands with young center rookie Connor McDavid who has Mila Lucic on his left and Jordan Eberle on his right; it’s a speed skating scoring machine. McDavid is one of the fastest skaters I’ve seen in a while. Toronto’s Auston Matthews is another player as the new wave continues to change the landscape of the NHL. We cannot forget one of the first players of this new wave, Goal Brother Darnell Nurse, drafted in the first round by the Oilers in 2013. Nurse if given playing time could star on this team. He has to get off of the fourth line.
Goalie Cam Talbot played well against San Jose but this writer is not impressed with his play in the net, he could be the Oilers weakest link. The Anaheim Ducks will exploit this weakness because they will pressure the Edmonton defense. The two-headed Duck monster in the nets with Josh Gibson and Jonathan Bernier could stop the young Oilers.
The Ducks are powerful up the middle with centers Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler. The player to watch in this series would be right winger Patrick Eaves.
This series will come down to experience for the Anaheim Ducks vs. The young Oilers, this will be the first time in ten years for Edmonton in the playoffs.
Watch the Conner McDavid-Ryan Kesler matchup in this series.
ANAHEIM DUCKS IN SIX
ST. LOUIS BLUES VS. NASHVILLE PREDATORS
The St. Louis Blues are kind of “the new kid on the block” and are the first expansion team to make it to the Finals, four years in a row in the early 1970’s. Nashville is really the new version. The Blues played in the old Checker Dome but could not beat any of the Original Six. The past seven years they had to deal with another one of the Original Six, the Chicago Blackhawks. Some hockey fans are calling the Blues snake- bitten but this year they defeated the Minnesota Wild in the first round in a spirited series. They are just happy not to meet the red, black, and white of Chicago-AGAIN.
The Nashville Predators are part of the last NHL expansion package in 1998 with the Florida Panthers, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, the relocation of the Minnesota North Stars to Dallas to become the Stars, and the Quebec Nordiques to Colorado to become the Avalanche. The next season two more teams would move before the league finally settled down, the old Winnipeg Jets moved to Arizona to become the Phoenix Coyotes and the Hartford Whalers moved to North Carolina to become the Carolina Hurricanes.
The St. Louis Blues and the St. Louis Cardinals are the only two professional teams in town and they do not have to share the Gateway City fan base with the old St. Louis Rams. The Blues have the second best goalie in the mid-west Jake Allen, but Allen has to share the spotlight with Chicago’s Cory Crawford.
The first line for St. Louis is the key for victory. Right winger David Perron, Center Paul Stastny, and left winger Alexander Steen must produce. Right winger Goal Brother Ryan Reaves and center Patrik Berglund are the players to watch in this series.
Reaves is the de-facto enforcer because of his size and many teams respect his play on the ice.
For Nashville, this will be their first trip to the second round. Goal Brother defenseman P.K. Subban has changed the culture for the Predators. Subban gives the line in front of him the confidence and drive to make aggressive moves. If that line makes a mistake they know that P.K. will cover up for that mistake.
Left winger Filip Forsberg reminds me of another Forsberg, Peter who played with the Colorado Avalanche many moons ago. Filip carries the same swagger on the ice as Peter.
The Preds power line would be Right winger James Neal, Center Mike Fisher, and Left winger Kevin Fiala. The future success of this franchise lies in defensemen Ryan Ellis and Yannick Weber hands. This team can shut down any team with that strong defense.
Goaltender Pekka Rinne has become hot at the right time and could guide Nashville to the Western Conference Finals. A hot goaltender can carry a team to the Stanley Cup Finals; so far Rinne has been standing on his head the past month. For those who do not know what standing on his head means, it means the goalie is stopping every puck he sees.
NASHVILLE PREDATORS IN SIX
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 email@example.com
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