POPSICLE BROTHERS REPORT: EASTERN CONFERENCE (PART III)

By Gary Norris Gray, Staff Reporter

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The MIG (McClean,Ingram,Gray) line hits the ice for this year’s hockey season, a season of change in the Eastern Conference.

METRO STANDINGS

METROPOLITAN DIVISION 

The Washington Capitals will find out this year it is easier to chase the Stanley Cup then it is to defend Lord Stanley’s Cup. The Caps give the city their first Championship in sixty years. Every team in the NHL will be aiming at the Caps every night and that could get tuff for this older team. They are off to a good start at 6-2-1 and first place.

Goal Brother Devante Smith Pelly most likely will retire as defending champions of hockey. Pelly will be teaching the young Washington defensemen how to play the position. He would be a perfect defensive coach for any team in National Hockey League.

Alex Ovechkin, Super 8, finally gets his championship and now is chasing #99, Wayne Gretzky, for total goals scored. The number one line Forward Carl Hegelin, Center Nicklas Backstrom, Center Evgeny Kuznetsov and Forward T.J Oshie might run out of gas before the playoff start.

Forward Brendan Leipsic from the Vancouver Canucks is a welcome addition on the front lines.

The big question will be goalie Braden Holtby and his workload. Ilya Samsonov might have to play more games in net this year

ISLANDERS

The New York Islanders got a new puppy for the 2019 season but they need more than that to find solid goal tending, Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss are not it. Greiss continues to be inconsistent in net and it has cost the orange and blue the last three years.

Head Coach Barry Trotz has changed the mindset in New York not accepting losing or playing sloppy games. The Isles looked so much better last year now its time to take the next step.

Goal Brother Goalie Christopher Gibson might get his chance in net if these two guys fail. The Los Angeles Kings drafted Gibson in 2011 entry draft. The defense of Johnny Boychuck and Devon Toews should also help the men in net.

Forwards Cal Clutterbuck and Tom Kuhnhackl should put punch in the orange and blue offense. Center Brock Nelson has kick started the Isles offense with four goals and three assist in this young season

The Islanders still cannot decide which home they will stay, Long Island or Brooklyn driving the fan base crazy.

RANGERS

The Broadway Blueshirts are getting younger again with rookies Kaapo Kakko and Jack Hughes. The New York Rangers still have work to do. The Rangers are now hockey’s version of the Evil Empire. The Philadelphia Flyers won two Cups, The New York Islanders four Cups and the New Jersey Devils four Cups since 1940. The Rangers have only one cup in that same time period yet they rule the northeast corridor with their large fan base.

The King, Goalie Henrik Lundqvist will once again have to carry the Blueshirts, he is a year older and a bit slower. Would not rule out a trade if Rangers are out of race and other teams need a veteran goalie in net. The Rangers have to stay out of the penalty box and skate on the ice that is not good for the defense or Henrik.

Center/Forward Mika Zibanejad is the heart and soul of the New York Rangers with four goals and seven assist. Shut Mika down and the Rangers will not score.

DEVILS

The New Jersey Devils started slowly again in 2019 with the big trades for Goal Brothers Forward Wayne Simmonds from the Philadelphia Flyers and Goal Brother Defenseman P.K. Subban from the Nashville Predators. The Devs got tougher on defense in the corners and the boards with these two players.

New Jersey is changing their defensive system and it takes time for everybody to adapt and adjust to the new system.

Rookie Center Jack Hughes will join Forward Taylor Hall must step up big in Hughes first year and Hall’s second year because New Jersey still cannot score. The Devils still have problems getting the puck out of their own end; in order to score you have to do that.

Not impressed with Goalie Cory Schneider with his 0-3 record giving up 15 goals already. It’s going to be a very long season in the Meadowlands of New Jersey. The Devils need Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur in net to stop the bleeding.

CANES

The Carolina Hurricanes could be the next Stanley Cup Champions with their changing younger, stronger, bigger, lineup. The Canes might have also found a goalie in Petr Mrazek and that could be the key to victory in 2019. They also have a solid backup in James Reimer so they will be in the playoff hunt all season long.

The first line of Forward Teuvo Teravainen, Centers Sebastian Aho, and Jordan Staal, with Forward Nino Niederreiter must produce scores early to take the pressure of defense.

PITTS PENS

This could be it for the Pittsburgh Penguins as they enter 2019 as one of the oldest teams in the league. The Penguin run will be at year 20 in 2019. Matt Murray has not played well in net and with their slow defense this could spell disaster. Centers Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, with Forward Patric Hornqvist, and Defenseman Kris Letang are the memories of the past and Pittsburgh needs to start rebuilding. The Penguins have to move forward with these new stars.

JACKETS

There are high expectations for the Columbus Blue Jackets after their stunning upset of the Tampa Bay Lightning last year. Goal Brother Seth Jones made himself a name last year and continues this year with five goals and four assist. Jones will carry the defense but Blue Jack City cannot go through scoring droughts like last year because they do not have strong goal tending.

Center Boone Jenner who has one of the greatest hockey names ever and Center Riley Nash have to pick up the Blue Jack City offense, scoring for Jackets to win and move on to the second and third rounds.

FLYERS

Philadelphia Flyers

What is going on in Philadelphia? You can pay 35 dollars to destroy stuff with a baseball bat in a room called the Rage Room at Wells Fargo Center. Flyers fans are also writing in Gritty, the Flyers mascot to the All Star Game, REALLY?

GRITTY

Back to hockey the orange and black feel the loss of Goal Brother Wayne Simmonds around the boards because he could dig the puck out. Simmonds gave emotional lifts when the team was not winning and not going to their assigned position on the ice, Simmonds would put them back on track. Somebody has to take up the slack.

The Flyers may have found gold in net with Carter Hart and Brian Elliott a great one two punch but Philly has to score to capitalize on this goalie talent. The Fly guys had a great game against the New Jersey Devils 4-0 and they have to play that way all season long.

The wild veteran Centers Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier will carry the hot and cold offense. Forward James Van Riemsdyk is the sleeper skater of 2019. If Flyers can get consistency out of 2nd and 3rd lines watch out.

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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