POPSICLE BROTHERS EASTERN CONFERENCE REPORT (PART II)

By Gary Norris Gray, Staff Reporter

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The MIG line hits the ice for this year’s hockey season, a season of change in the Eastern Conference. The McClean, Ingram, and Gray Line will give you the information needed to watch the National Hockey League. The MIG line lands in the Atlantic Division first.

ATLANTIC DIVISION-

ATL. DIVISION

This will be a repeat of last year’s battle for 2nd place until somebody knocks off the scoring machine. The Atlantic Division Champion Tampa Bay Lightning have not changed much. The Bolts (nickname) should win the Stanley Cup this year.

This team wants to avenge the unforeseen exit in the first round last year. The Bolts won the President’s Trophy (The Kiss of Death in hockey) and had the most goals in a season but got swept by the eighth seeded Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round.

It aint gonna happen this year.

Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy has to have a repeat year in nets for the Bolts to raise the Cup in Western Florida. Defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk, Forward Nikita Kucherov, Center Brayden Point, and Forward Steven Stamkos will make goalies want to retire pounding the net for scores

Goal Brother Mathieu Joseph could be the changing face of the fast pace Lightning. Joseph is always around the net waiting to clean up teammates rebound shoots and has a big body to push defensemen around.

LEAFS LOGO

Can we all sing “Oh Canada” The Toronto Maple Leafs will try once again to bring the Cup back to Canada. This year might be Toronto’s best chance to defeat Tampa Bay. The Leafs became the team in 2019 with the longest time without winning the Cup since 1967.  Toronto has the second Matrix Man in Frederik Andersen, not as well as Ottawa’s Craig Anderson the original Matrix Man but will have to carry this team in the first quarter of the season.

The Michael Hutchinson goalie trade last year from the Florida Panthers can give Andersen rest on back to back game nights.

The Leafs have to survive and check the health of Auston Matthews after last year’s major injury. Toronto has a solid team up the middle with centers John Tavares and Jason Spezza and forward William Nylander on the wings.

Matthews has seven goals and defensemen Morgan Rielly has 11 assists so they have early start.

BOST BRUINS

The Boston Bruins started 2019 strong with 5-1 record on the road shutting out New Jersey 3-0 at home with big weekend ahead against Tampa Bay and Toronto if they split look out Atlantic, the Baby Bears could be a problem all year long. Boston lost the first match of home and home games with Toronto 4-3 in overtime. Next game in T.D. Gardens.

The Bruins should be fine in net with two of the best Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. Rask is currently number one but Halak can take over at any time and Bruins would not miss a beat in the nets.

The old guard should carry this team and defense should get them into playoff. Captain and defenseman Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, and the new kid Charlie McAvoy defending Rask.

Forward David Pastrnak became the player of the week with seven goal and three assists, Center Patrice Bergeron, Center David Krejci, and bad boy Forward Brad Marchand will try to bully opponents in the neutral zone for scores.

This is the team that everybody should be watching because they win in a stealth way, can’t find then and can’t hear them until it’s too late, no noise just hard work. If the Bruins make the playoffs beware because they ride streaks.

SABRES

The Buffalo Sabres could be the new power team in the east with a 7-1 start. They also might have found the winning goalie in Carter Hutton but he still has to prove it. Love the way this man plays in net.

Goal Brother forward Kyle Okposo will jump start this team on offense along with forward Vladimir Sobotka and center Jack Eichel. The Blue and Gold are on their way up in the Atlantic Division.

The Sabres have to avoid the late slump that happens to them every year goalie Carter Hutton might change that.

MONT CANADIENS

The Montreal Canadiens picked center Jesperi Kotkaniemi last year and is expected to make major contributions in 2019. Forward Brendan Gallagher is carrying this team early in the year with four goals and five assists.

The Habs are once again looking for All Star goalie Carey Price to hold the fort in net and hoping he can play at least 60 games for the team to make playoffs.

Forward Tomas Tatar may have found a home north of the boarder after playing with the Detroit Red Wings and Vegas Golden Knights

Montreal is very strong up the middle with Centers Phillip Danault, Max Domi, and Nate Thompson.

Rookie Forward Nick Suzuki should have a breakout year in 2019.  The Habs need to make the playoffs for the National Hockey League and Canada.

WINGS

The Detroit Red Wings are in complete rebuilding mold. Detroit has become Mid-West Goal Brother Heaven with three, Trevor Daley, Madison Bowey, and Andreas Athanasiou.

Gold Brother Trevor Daley has changed the Wings defense. Daley will be back in business after being on injured reserve the past few days; Daley has to regain his legs.

It is not as easy to score against goalie Jimmy Howard. Jonathan Bernier may take the job from Howard this year, time will tell.

Goal Brother Madison Bowey will join Alex Biega from Vancouver and Daley this year helping Howard in the defensive zone.

Center Goal Brother Andreas Athanasiou must get 2nd line moving if the Wings are to see playoffs again

The Wings are so bad that Arby’s have a giveaway if Detroit scores three goals at home.

Valtteri Filppula is the last forward from the old winning Detroit Red Wing teams. Center Dylan Larkin now has to take over and lead Wings into the future.

SENATORS

The Ottawa Senators are re-tooling AGAIN with their defense while the original Matrix Man- Mr. Craig Anderson in goal. Anderson may be coming to the end of his career in Ottawa. The Sens did not start the season well 1-7 with the problem of scoring.

Ottawa will be fighting just to stay above 500 this year. It is so bad they called up young center J.C. Beaudin. The Tampa Bay Lightning traded Forward Ryan Callahan to Sens for firepower. It backfired as Callahan injured his back in pre season.

The Ottawa Senators are fighting each other, too many kids, too many changes, and too many chiefs in the kitchen this year.

Goal Brother Forward Anthony Duclair headed north again to return to Ottawa and another chance to shine on the ice in Canada. He did very well last year after the trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets with 11 goals and 8 assist. He should help Sens anemic offense by starting scoring drives at the blue line

PANTHERSThe Florida Panthers are an organization in complete meltdown and have not been in the playoffs for years. Do not expect them to be there again this year either.  New Head Coach Joel Quenneville from the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks has to change the losing culture in South Florida. This is a major project with an inconsistent goalie.

Veteran goalie Roberto Luongo retired last year and the club is still looking for that replacement, for now it is Sergei Bobrovsky from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Bobrovsky has his streaks, hot and cold this drives coaches crazy. Question has he learned anything from his Philadelphia and Columbus days?

The Panthers defeated the New Jersey Devils 6-3 coming from behind last week which show signs of improvement and not giving up on games they are behind.

The Panthers are powerful up the middle with Forward Mike Hoffman and Center Jonathan Huberdeau and will make trouble for goalies all over the league.

Hoffman could be the only star in a Panther uniform in 2019. It’s going to be long season and fans will not be throwing too many toy rats on the ice this season.

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

©Copyrighted Gary Norris Gray @ Gray Leopard Prod

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