Popsicle Brothers Report (Part 8)

By Gary Norris Gray and Michael-Louis Ingram, BASN Staff Reporters
Updated: June 19, 2009

CALIFORNIA (BASN) — Ladies and gentlemen, this year’s Stanley Cup Finals was the best nobody watched. This was due to the antics of Versus, The NHL, and NBC, who insisted on broadcasting specific teams and forgetting all the other members of the NHL.

What happened was that they missed the other great series on the west coast in the first and second rounds of the playoffs. They even missed Game Seven of the New Jersey-Carolina series.

Versus also missed Martin Brodeur’s playoff shutout which moved him closer to the record. They missed the second round and three Game Sevens (including the Devils-Canes finale) which meant we could not see this game on the west coast.

Just fitting the Versus mold with bad planning on the part of the League.

The major sports networks missed the outstanding ending of the regular season, which included late charges by Vancouver and St. Louis. This is the hallmark of any league’s quality of competition – a Game Seven – but alas, Versus missed the boat as it went out to sea.

The little darlings of the league won the Stanley Cup. Pittsburgh defeated Detroit Red Wings in seven games. It just seemed that the League and the networks wanted Sid Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to gain the cup this year and did not want a repeat from the champion Red Wings.

When Malkin in Game Two was caught tripping and later punched a Red Wing in the face — which is an automatic one game suspension due to the instigator rule — it was very obvious.

In spite of the referees getting it right (we usually trash the referees for getting it wrong, this time they got it right) but the league through Colin Campbell, Senior VP and Director of Hockey Operations (a.k.a.,”The Sheriff”) pulled the Malkin suspension off the board.

This decision allowed Malkin to be eligible for Game Three. He would go on to score two goals and an assist, which changed the whole timbre of the series. In the end, Malkin was also awarded the Conn Smythe trophy as the playoff’s MVP.

The ending made the NHL look more like the WWE, instead of a great revival of hockey in the United States. However, we should congratulate the men from Steeltown who are Stanley Cup champions just like the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

It looks like it is time for the National Hockey League commissioner Gary Betman to kowtow to the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network and get their product back on the ESPN airwaves. In order for the hockey fan base to expand to mainstream America, this has to happen.

There is hope this year with interesting draft choices that will be made next weekend. The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning will get the first chance at a new start.

Center John Tavares of London Knights (Ontario) and defensemen Victor Hedmen of the Swedish Hockey Club-Modo are most hockey expert’s first draft choices.

The young man we are waiting for is the big, strong speedster out of Vancouver, B.C., the newest Goal Brotha, Evander Kane, could be drafted by the Los Angeles Kings; he would be cool on a line with another Goal Brotha, Wayne Simmonds) or the Toronto Maple Leafs (can the Leafs handle it?), or Phoenix Coyotes (with ex – Vancouver Giant Nigel Dawes).

Wherever he goes the Popsicle brothers will follow…

The San Jose Sharks lose an assistant coach as Todd Richards moves on to become head coach of the Minnesota Wild. This should immediately change the Wild defense, which already invokes the New Jersey left wing lock system. The Wild’s major problem is that they can’t score!

The bankruptcy judge orders the Phoenix Coyotes to stay west. Most hockey experts expect this team to move to Northeast Canada before the start of next season, most likely in Hamilton, just 40 minutes down the 401 from Toronto.

The team cannot stay in Phoenix without major losses in revenue nor can they make profits in the desert. Here is another team like the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, who think the fans come to watch the coach instead of the team – wrong!

If you don’t win the fans will not spend money.

Let’s go back to round one of these fantastic playoffs. First it was exciting to see the Columbus Blue Jackets play in the first round in the Western Division. The enthusiasm and interest by the citizens of Ohio in BlueJackCity was outstanding.

They might have lost four games to one to the Detroit Red Wings but they were competitive every game except one, the game two 5-0 blowout. The NHL needs to invest in this franchise and guarantee it does not have to relocate anywhere.

The Blue Jackets’ organization should be what hockey imitates. There is one question that needs to be answered; why are the Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings in the Western Division? The same query was asked many years ago about the Toronto Maple Leafs being in the Western Conference.

How many readers can remember the first expansion in 1968-69? The Western Conference of the National Hockey League included the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, St. Louis Blues, and Oakland Seals which later became the California Golden Seals, and the home of one the best goaltenders of those early years, Gilles Meloche.

In the Eastern Conference

The rise of the New York Rangers with Brother Dawes (before he was shipped out west to the Phoenix Coyotes) and goalie Henrik Lundqvist kept the Blueshirts in the playoff hunt in a fierce first round battle with the Washington Capitals.

Next question: Will the Rangers keep the volatile Sean Avery another season?

The fans got what they wished, only it came a round earlier than expected. The Pens-Caps second round playoff was a classic. It was very clear that Pittsburgh had the better team, but Washington’s Alex Ovechkin was the better player. Now the question of who is the best player in the East was finally answered.

Alex stole the show, but the Penguins won the battle.

Our vote is Alex the Great from Washington. He has more speed and imagination on the ice than Crosby. Marc-Andre Fleury beat out Theodore/Varmalov behind the pipes. If the Washington Capitals expect to go to the Stanley Cup Finals they have to fix their goaltending problems next season.

Another shell shocker was Carolina’s stunning 10-second victory over the Atlantic Division winning Devils. The ‘Canes put two goals pass the Devils goalie, Martin Brodeur in game six, winning the series.

This event sent the Rock (Prudential) crowd home very upset as the ‘Canes moved on to the second round. The Jersey Devils let down their defense in the third period and it cost them another chance for an Eastern Conference title.

The Return of the Boston Bruins and the Montréal Canadians, two of the Original Six were locked in a stellar defensive struggle the first round battle. Only one of the original six, the Toronto Maple Leafs, did not make the playoffs this year. They are still having problems winning games.

We know the problem was goaltending; the bigger problem could be their solution – Ray Emery – who just signed a one year deal with the Philadelphia Flyers. You never appreciate what you have until it’s gone, is that right Ottawa?

In the second round the (kak-ka-laki) Carolina Hurricanes beat up on the Boston Bruins. It seemed like the Bruins forgot how to play hockey even after sweeping the Canadians four games straight. The ‘Canes played this series with fire in their eyes. Cam Ward outshined Tim Thomas in net, and Eric Staal outplayed Zdeno Chara.

In the conference championship, the Penguins shutout the Hurricanes four games straight. The Penguins simply outplayed the older ‘Canes. Pittsburgh returned to the Stanley Cup and faced the Detroit Red Wings, the same team they faced last year. However, there was a slight difference, a former teammate, Marian Hossa, was wearing red and white this year not black and gold.

In the West

One of the biggest disappointments of this season was the ousting of this year’s President’s Cup winner, the San Jose Sharks by the Anaheim Ducks. The Sharks now have to look at themselves in the mirror and ask, What happened?

San Jose wanted to avoid the nasty Ducks mainly because they knew each other’s style. The first game the Ducks physically took the Sharks out of their system and San Jose never recovered.

Jonas Hiller outshined Evgeni Nabokov in net and he single – handedly broke the back of the Sharks again. San Jose played too nice. They needed and still need an enforcer to scare other teams. Joe Thornton, Jeremy Roenick, and Claude Lemieux are not it. Looks like there will be a lot of changes on the San Jose bench next year.

The first round match-up between the Calgary Flames and the Chicago Black Hawks matched two of the prominent Black hockey players on ice, Goal Brothas Jarome Iginla and Dustin Byfuglien.

The Popsicle Bros. watched every game; In California many went to friends house that had satellite T.V. because they did not want to miss two of the outstanding brothers on the ice in the Western Conference. In one game, in a large scrum, Dustin and Jarome looked at one another, as if they knew what was going on and did nothing.

The look was significant because the Canadian Network feed that went through Versus television Network told of the constant chirping some of the Blackhawks’ players were tossing toward Iginla.

Canadian broadcasters were consistent with this all night, implying that some of the things said were racial – and it showed as Iginla, who will scrap if messed with, did not like what certain Blackhawk players were saying.

The gaze between Iginla and Byfuglien was one of the most poignant sport moments of the year. Two Goal Brothers knowing the score on the ice at that moment they were truly Goal Brothers with different uniforms.

In the second round, the Wings made sure the Ducks did not move into the Western Conference Finals with a late controversial game winning goal by Daniel Cleary in Game Seven. Meanwhile, the Chicago Black Hawks dismantled the Vancouver Canucks 4 games to 2.

Nikolai Khabibulin outplayed Roberto Luongo in net.

The Chicago Blackhawks played the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals. The Wing offense was too much for the ‘Bulin Wall’. The stellar play of Osgood in net in games one and two just hurt Chicago’s chances to defeat the defending champion Red Wings.

The older Wings schooled the younger Black Hawks in every aspect of the game.

The ‘Hawks made some untimely penalties, gave the Wings power play full reign on the ice. The Wings’ special teams beat Chicago’s special teams and that was the difference in this great lopsided series.

Hockey fans in the WindyCity have something to look forward to next season. We love their first two lines, because they are so young, and full of energy, with their defenseman Michael Eastwood, a player on the rise.

Hope all of you Popsicle brothers and sisters have a safe and joyous summer and see you on the ice this October!

Don’t board or cross check anybody too hard…unless you have to take one for the team!