By Gary Norris Gray-Staff Reporter, and Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor – in – Chief BASN NEWSROOM
OAKLAND, CA.- The MIG-McClean-Ingram and Line will now examine the Atlantic and Metropolitan Divisions in the Eastern Conference which could be described as a penguin march. The Columbus Blue Jackets, Montreal Canadiens, and Carolina Hurricanes are all looking for that last bye in the east.
The Tampa Bay Lightning which has more wins and more goals than any team in the east seems to be the dominant team in the east leaving everybody behind with over 100 points.
Tampa Bay won the President’s Cup early but that has not helped teams in the past. There is only one dominant team in this conference and they wear a Lightning Bolt on the front of their jersey. 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 postseason.
This year was not good for the I-95 (north) corridor hockey fan base will be watching the playoffs on television as the Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils, and New York Rangers all missed the playoffs in 2019.
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. They are number one in the power plays and penalty kill. Other teams are still trying to find a weakness.
Not much has changed from last year with winger Nikita Kucherov 37 goals and center Brayton Point 40 goals and firebrand team captain center Steve Stamkos 39 goals.
Tampa Bay could have three 40 goal players on the same team. Kucherov could be the Draymond Green for the Bolts with his 83 assists along with centers Stamkos and Point with 50 assist each. These guys know where to push the puck on the ice and can hit each other on the move for goals.
The Big Three- Nikita Kucherov, Steve Stamkos, and Brayden Point may carry Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup Finals.
The only question in Western Florida would be can their goalies-Andrei Vasilevskiy or Louis Domingue. Can these two stop the opponents? Vasilevskiy has six shutouts and 49 victories.
Very disappointed in the Lightning organization shipping out Goal Brother, J.T.Brown last year. Question is Brown still being punished for raising his Black fist during National Anthem? He is currently playing for the playoff driving Minnesota Wild after being with the Anaheim Ducks in the 2017-18 season.
The Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals get no respect as the veterans forwards T.J. Oshie, and Tom Wilson with All-Star left winger Alex Ovechkin trying to win back to back Stanley Cups. At the start of this season, they started with a new head coach (Todd Reirden) with the burden of defending the Stanley Cup. Berry Trotz head coach left the team right after the 2018 Stanley Cup victory.
The Great Super Eight-Ovechkin will once again score 50 goals but is it enough to win the Stanley Cup again and defeat the powerhouse Tampa Bay Lighting?
The Caps are glad the Presidents Cup resides in Florida because they want a second Lord Stanley’s Cup. The Washington Capitals have won the Presidents Cup twice and can tell the men in silver and blue it is not a good trophy to have if you want the cup. This year they have to beat the offensive machine in western Florida or the surging Boston Bruins.
Goal Brother Devante Smith-Pelly is warming up on the AHL- American Hockey League Hershey Bears, the farm team in central Pennsylvania waiting for the big team to call him back to Washington. Smith- Pelly passed waivers and the trade deadline and now will be in competition with Carl Hagelin in our nation’s capital. The Capitals need veteran leadership on the bench to gain that second cup.
Goaltender Braden Holtby is also having one of his better seasons. In the playoffs goaltending is everything and Holtby did the job last year. This year he has shown signs of his past days of fading late in the game and losing. He cannot do this against Tampa Bay.
Washington continues to lead the league in holding, slashing, tripping, and boarding, too many penalties. The Caps also have to work on their horrible penalty kill unit which ranks in the mid-’20s because they are on the ice too long.
Viewers must watch wingers T.J. Oshie and Jakub Vrana for the secondary scoring punch. John Carlson has a swivel on his shoulders with 53 assists giving the puck to teammates Ovechkin, Vrana, and Oshie.
The Boston Bruins will live in National Hockey League history being the first team to have a Black player on the ice. The Bruins celebrated the hockey legend forward Willie O’Ree last year. O’Ree continues to be the ambassador of hockey in the inner city.
The Golden Baby Bears put it into third gear in January and February for the playoff run. Defensemen and Captain Zdeno Chara is once again carrying the Black and Gold into the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Bruins have one of the best power play units in the east and are very difficult to score against. Remember defense wins championships and the Boston Bruins are well on the way again this year.
The New Big Bad Bruins are like the Old Big Bad Bruins of the 1960s-1970s they bang opposing players against the boards making them give up the puck in their offensive zones.
The Boston second line of forward Jake DeBrusk, center David Krejci, mixing and matching the right side of the offense bring their own part to the Bruin game to score.
Goalie Tuukka Rask returned to his old self with the help of second string goalie Jaroslav Halak who would start on any other team. Rask gets the rest he needs and this makes the Bruins a better team.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
The new kids on the ice have finally made the league notice and should be a force in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. It is nice to see one of the original six, the Maple Leafs are back in the playoffs and a team that could win Lord Stanley’s Cup. It reminds many of the older hockey days in Canada.
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 season, the Leafs were off to a very hot start with the odds on favorite to win the Eastern Conference like last year. Their young stars center Auston Matthews forwards Matt Martin and Zach Hyman carried them early until the mid-December-January scoring slump.
The Leafs have fallen to third place in the Atlantic Division behind Tampa Bay and Boston but have righted the ship with their power play unit.
The addition of forward Patrick Marleau last year from the San Jose Sharks put firepower in the Leafs front line. With his many years of playoff experience in California Marleau could instruct the young Leafs at crunch time.
This team will be a tough out for Washington, Boston, Pittsburgh, or Tampa Bay.
The Penguins repeated last year’s slow start and ended up at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division in October, November, and early December before they started playing championship hockey. The Winter Classics woke them up in January; guess the Philadelphia Flyers have that effect on teams.
Goalie Matt Murray does not have to share the goal net with Marc Andre Fleury who went to Sin City last year and the Vegas Golden Knights. Murray has the job all to himself and he is beginning to show the Pittsburgh faithful why.
The Pens moved near the top of the Metro Division through their number one power play unit. Veteran centers Sidney Crosby and winger Evgeni Malkin have pulled the Black and Gold into this year’s playoff picture with their power play scoring.
The Pittsburgh Penguins remind many of the old Wayne Gretzky Edmonton Oilers, a volatile deadly offense with no defense. They are currently third last in defending their goal. This puts a lot of pressure on Murray in net and could prove to be their undoing in the playoffs because teams do not want a tired goalie.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
The Islanders moved back to Long Island and Nassau Country Coliseum and they put on new uniforms, the results getting into the playoffs and beating their cross-city rival New York Rangers. They also sign the Stanley Cup champion Barry Trotz ex-head coach of the Washington Capitals.
Trotz stepped in and started making changes in spring training. It has paid off with a playoff appearance this year. Trotz gave each Islander player responsibilities on the ice something the previous coaching staff either forgot or never intended to teach. The Islanders have already passed last year’s point total with ten more games left in this season.
The Islanders now have the burden of representing the whole northeast corridor region; they might do it having the number one defense in the east.
By the way, the New York Islanders have four Stanley Cup Championships the same number of championships by the New York Rangers but the Islanders just cannot get the respect in the City of New York.
Forward Matt Barzal should win the Calder Cup-Rookie of the Year and has put the Islanders on a younger path. They lost their star and fan favorite John Tavares to Toronto to free agency and just kept on moving. The Blue and Orange will be a force next year.
So glad to see the Habs back in the playoffs. Montreal still holds the record for Stanley Cup victories with 22. They must be doing it with smoke and mirrors because they are dead last in the power play but they make up for it with their penalty kill unit. This cannot and will not last long in the playoffs because the game speeds up.
The Canadiens are solid in net with two veterans with Carey Price who missed part of this season and Antti Niemi from the San Jose Sharks. If one of these goalies get hot The Habs could ride him to the Conference Finals.
The defense looks good with Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, and Jordie Benn. The power play unit has to stay off the ice for Petry, Benn, and Weber to win playoffs games.
Montreal has to find more firepower from their first two lines. The number one line center Max Domi, and wingers Tomas Tatar, Jonathan Drouin have done their job.
Keep your eyes on Brendan Gallagher as he sets up his teammates for scores.
Not many hockey fans in America know about this team because they are not one of the NHL star attractive teams because the American networks do not broadcast their games. The CBC Canadian Broadcasting Company put them on Hockey Night in Canada because they are a Canadian flagship team.
Next year should be very interesting in Montreal.
The Carolina Hurricanes are having fun again with their new jerseys and exuberant celebrations at the end of home game victories. Carolina did the Zumba, the Limbo, and basketball on the ice and the Carolina crowd loved it. Hall of Fame Canadian broadcaster Don Cherry does not like it and has called the team clowns on the ice on Canadian television. Cherry has nerve the way he dresses, with his Canadian Flag dress suit. The Canes are back in the playoffs after some time and it is good for the North Carolina area.
Their new star is center Sebastian Aho with 80 points and 30 goals will carry this team into the playoffs.
Center Jordan Staal, forwards Nino Niederreiter, and Justin Williams cannot do it all for the Black and Red; they have to have help from the defense. Defensemen Justin Faulk and Trevor Van Riemsdyk need to help goalie Petr Mrazek for them to advance to second round.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
In October everybody in the east thought the Blue Jackets would make the playoffs, they are currently on the outside looking in. Columbus is still the youngest team in the NHL and it is beginning to show on the ice with sloppy defensive play and bad passes in the third period.
Blue Jacket City went into a tailspin in February falling out of a Wild Card position in the east in 9th position two points behind the Montreal Canadiens with 10 games left.
Goal Brother defenseman Seth Jones continues to improve on the ice as his team continues to struggle to score goals. Jones with each passing year gets better at giving the puck to teammates.
Blue Jack City put forwards Cam Atkinson and Brandon Dubinsky on the same line last year and they are beginning to score goals again this year and moving back up in standings. Like last year, is this too little too late?
Love Blue Jack City but they have to work harder to win the Stanley Cup.
Mr. Gray picks Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Toronto Maple Leafs in a sky blue Eastern Conference Finals.
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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