The Popsicle Brothers: NHL Playoffs: From Ashes to Dreams
By Gary Norris Gray, Staff Writer, and Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor – in – Chief
OAKLAND, CA and PHILADELPHIA, PA (www.basnnewsroom.com) The beginning of the season presented a script worthy of any Hollywood treatise…
An expansion team crosses the burning sands of the desert; to put the League’s elite teams on ice; while another team – a longstanding underachiever, finally fulfills its destiny at Center Ice for the last games of the season.
The possibility of the Vegas Golden Knights to even reach the Stanley Cup Final at the start of the season was 200 to 1; not to win, but show up. For an inaugural season, the Knights have been every long shot player’s dream.
While the Washington Capitals’ odds were considerably lower; the expectations for grinding through to a final – were even lower. As ace sniper Alexander Ovechkin had put in over a thousand games of work, either the goaltending or lack of clutch scoring would choke the Caps into submission.
THE WASHINGTON CAPITALS
While having won The Presidents’ Trophy (most points scored, regular season) three times over the past few years, that choking sensation hadn’t left D.C. for over a decade. Ovechkin has been there for those years, and has born the brunt of those defeats. Goalie Braden Holtby had to fight for his spot during injury as Philip Grubauer had filled in quite nicely…
Selecting Holtby, however, proved to be the difference as stubborn Pittsburgh and high – flying Tampa Bay were defeated, providing Ovechkin the opportunity to punctuate his career by having his name etched on Lord Stanley’s cup.
The X- Factor for Washington is forward is Devante Smith – Pelly. During the regular season in Chicago, a confrontation in the penalty box turned ugly between Smith – Pelly and some nearby assholes posing as Blackhawks’ fans; chanting “basketball, basketball” to him like he or any other Black player should have no business being on the ice.
How karmic would it be for Smith – Pelly, who has been a jack-of-all-trades during the post-season, to do a victory lap, screaming, “basketball, muthafuckas!” with the Cup?
THE VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
It has been about firsts for The Knights – first hockey expansion team ever with a winning record; first to win over 40 games; first to win over 50 games, and, while I could be wrong, the victory over Winnipeg which brought them to the final made it one more than the number of deaths in a hotel disaster prior to the season opener. In a classy move, the Knights retired the number 58 out of respect for those losing their lives in that incident.
Goalie Marc – Andre Fleury is one of several who want to make the ultimate “shoulda kept me” statement. His footwork has been the key to his reemergence as an elite net minder. Having seen enough of him during hostilities with my Flyers, his weakness was always high stick side; but (especially during the playoffs) Fleury is locked and squared up to face the shooter wherever the puck’s coming from.
Fleury’s athleticism and improved footwork not only helped the defense, but rewarded the offense in spurring them to action on those times Vegas has fell behind. One of the most important components to this team is Vegas’ ability to counterattack after being scored on. As a team they were shut out only three times during the regular season; and their team speed and overall depth due to the selections by general manager George McPhee and head coach Gerard Gallant have made the difference.
When it comes to our Goal Brothers, it is the best of all situations. For Vegas, forwards Pierre – Edouard Bellemare and Ryan Reaves (who gained a major measure of revenge against his hometown Winnipeg Jets) along with goalie Malcolm Subban (13-4 in net during the regular season) are the possible additions. Smith – Pelly will ‘cap’ the slate for Washington.
An amazing season will come down to these two teams – sit back, watch…and enjoy!
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