Popsicle Brothers 2013 – 1

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Updated: January 29, 2013
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Popsicle Brothers Report # 2013 – 1:
The Flava of the National Hockey League in chill mode
by Gary Norris Gray & Michael-Louis Ingram ,
michaelingram@blackathlete.com and garyngray@blackathlete.com

 

OAKLAND CA & PHILADELPHIA (BASN) — The Popsicle Brothers are once again on a two-on-one breakaway with a goal in mind — Lord Stanley’s Cup!

 

The players step on the ice a little late; in January after a protracted lockout by the owners. This gives a distinct advantage to defensive minded teams. It takes time to create offensive plays and bond with teammates.

Hard core hockey fans are still asking, was it worth the trouble missing four months over the issue of revenue sharing? The effort to break another player’s union failed just as it failed with the NBA, NFL, and MLB. The arena vendors were the ones that really suffered during the lockout, the restaurant waiters, parking lots attendants, and ticket vendors were the ones that lost income the last four months. Downtown San Jose was a ghost town without the Men of Teal.

This year like 1986, and 1994 teams will not cross conferences except in the Stanley Cup Final. Expect some sloppy play the first three weeks because teams did not get a chance to tune up during spring training. Players had to return from The Russian (KHL) and other European Hockey Leagues to join their American and Canadian teams.

The National Hockey League has to address the issue of struggling teams i.e. The Carolina Hurricanes, Nashville Predators, the two Florida organizations, The Phoenix Coyotes, and the Columbus Blue Jackets which the lockout did not address.

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE

 

The New Jersey Devils made it very clear at the start of this season with a 3-1 record that they are still the team in contention to win the Atlantic Division. Greybeard Goalie Martin Brodeur, in his 21st year, is smiling because he will only play half of his usual 60 game – plus grind. He will be rested for the playoffs in April. The Devils traded star Zack Parise to the Minnesota Wild and will let last year’s rookies Right Wing/Center Stephen Gionta, Defensemen Mark Fayne, Center Jacob Josefson, and Center Adam Henrique take the helm in 2013.

 

Goal Brother and team Captain Bryce Salvador, Left Winger Patrik Elias, and Left Winger/Center Dainius Zubrus are the only ones left from the Championship teams. The Kids are going to have to look to these guys for guidance this year.

 

It looks like the Boston Bruins and New Jersey are on a collision course again for the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bruins and Devils play a defensive style and are well suited for a shortened season. Last season Martin Brodeur earned his 100th NHL regular-season shutout with a 27-save effort. He moved passed All Star and Hall of Fame Goalie Terry Sawchuk’s record.

 

Brodeur also moved passed his hero Patrick Roy (Montreal, Winnipeg, and Colorado) for career total victories. When number 30 hangs up his skates and puts his mask up on the shelf he no doubt will be heading to Canada’s Hockey Hall of Fame. Devil fans are very happy to see number 30 in net again at “The Rock”– Prudential Center.

 

The Devils have a solid backup with Johan Hedberg to push New Jersey into the playoffs again. Big Center Ilya Kovalchuk will take the scoring responsibilities this year.

 

The Boston Bruin style could be called the larger version of the New Jersey Devil defense. They were very disappointed with their early exit last year from the Stanley Cup playoffs. They have a new goalie tandem with veteran Tuukka Rask and youngster Anton Khudobin from Russia. Veterans Zdeno Chara, Chris Bourque, and Patrice Bergeron will once again carry the Baby Bears to the playoffs and another Northeast Division battle with the Ottawa Senators.

 

The New York Rangers last year’s Eastern Conference Champions got some fire power from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Center Rick Nash traded his Blue Jacket red, white, and blue for Ranger red, white, and blue. If you not careful one could confuse the two teams because they have similar uniforms. The Rangers did not start the year off correctly losing to the Boston Bruins 3-1 and the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-3. Head
coach John Tortorella entering his sixth year in New York and his team should battle New Jersey for the Atlantic Division. If nothing else a line of Nash and Marian Gaborik centered by Brad Richards could be a rebirth of the old GAG (Goal a Game) line of Jean Ratelle, Rod Gilbert and Vic Hadfield – and well worth the price of admission if they can get it crankin’.

 

The Broadway Blueshirts defense will help goalie Henrik Lundqvist returning to the Finals this year. The fans at Madison Square Garden don’t have to worry about malcontent Sean Avery since he departed MSG this past summer. Richards, Marian Gaborik, and Brian Boyle have to carry the Blueshirts this year. Marc Staal will help Lundqvist on defense relieving the pressure on the Rangers winning close games.

The Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins were the biggest disappointments in the Eastern Conference last year. Both suffered from the Hossa trades, one from Ottawa to Pittsburgh a year ago then the Pens traded Hossa to Detroit.

The Ottawa Senators could be called Jersey-North. They have the same defensive system, the same offensive style and they ever wear the same colors, Red, Black, and White. The Matrix Man, goalie Craig Anderson will return to the nets with Erik Karlsson shoring up the defense.

They have one of the biggest front lines in hockey history but they have not produced a championship. This could be the year for Right Winger Daniel Alfredsson and Center Jason Spezza.

The Pittsburgh Penguins could have the advantage over other teams because the majority of their players stayed in the United States during the lockout so they had a few extra days of practice. Centers Sid Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were very disappointed with their early exit last year from the Stanley Cup playoffs by those nasty Philadelphia Fly Guys. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury now has a backup he can trust with fellow veteran Tomas Vokoun. Right winger James Neal and Defenseman Kris Letang could be the key to the Penguins’ success.

 

 

The Philadelphia Flyers did not get off to a good start, losing to Pittsburgh 3-1 then Buffalo 5-2 and were shutout by cross state rival New Jersey 3-0, but things look bright with the wiry Goal Brother Right Winger Wayne Simmonds at the doorstep of the opponent’s goal. With the usually dependable forward Scott Hartnell out with a broken foot Simmonds (lined with Matt Read and captain Claude Giroux) must make their ice time count. Sean Couturier is going to be a future Selke candidate with his persnickety defense.

Philadelphia righted the ship beating the New York Rangers 2-1 and the Florida Panthers 7-1. The Flyers sore spot is still in net with Goalies Illya Bryzgalov and Michael Leighton mining the Black and Orange nets. If they want to see the Stanley Cup they must play defense to help Bryzgalov.

The Washington Capitals with Right Winger Alex Ovechkin may not make the playoffs because they do not play defense. It should be an interesting finish for the men in red. The Caps always start slow and this could cost them a playoff spot. The Washington Capitals will once again be the most disappointing team in the Eastern Conference. Until Number Eight, Right Winger, Alex Ovechkin becomes a team player the Capitals will not go far. Hockey is a team sport and Ovie has not received the message. Nicklas Backstrom will have to carry Washington all year. The Caps have issues with Goalies Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth they both need to take command of the game. The question remains who is number one in net.

In Tampa Bay the Lighting has the New French Connection clicking on all cylinders. Right Winger Martin St. Louis and Center Vincent Lecavalier are hot with three victories over the Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes and the Ottawa Senators. Center Steven Stamkos and the Black and Blue gang are going to prove that last year’s playoff drive was not a fluke. The question can they keep up the scoring machine that they had last year, only time will tell.

 

 

The Winnipeg Jets will be in their last year in the Eastern Conference as they are geographically in the west. The League has granted the permission for the organization to transfer from east to west. This will cut down on traveling times in 2014. The new Jets have two talented brothers with Goal Brother Left Winger Evander Kane, Goal Brother Dustin Byfuglien, along with a strong Defenseman in Mark Stuart. The Jets will have more offense with Center Olli Jokinen from the Ottawa Senators. Goalie Al Montoya might take over the duties in net. Last year Ondrej Pavelec was inconsistent and cost the Jets a playoff position this move might change the organization’s mental state.

The Montreal Canadiens finally sign Goal Brother Defenseman P.K. Subban to a two year contract. The Habs have solid defense with Josh Gorges, Andrei Markov and Francis Bouillion protecting goalies Carey Price and Peter Budai. Montreal has to decide which net minder will be number one and stick with him through thick or thin. Les Habitants du Montreal still have to find a way to score to get into the playoffs this year. Watch out for Center Ryan White – we love his playing style and he should be a star at the Bell Centre.

The New York Islanders could make some noise this year with their very young talent. This will be their last season on Long Island before they move to downtown Brooklyn and the Barclays Center. Goal Brother Right Winger Kyle Okposo, Center John Tavares, and Left Winger David Ullstrom should put more muscle in the Isles offense. It looks like goalie Evgeni Nabokov may have found a home on the Island. New York also has a solid backup in net with Rick DiPietro. The question is that enough to make the playoffs?
Still the Eastern Conference Final will be The New Jersey Devils and The Boston Bruins. The two dark horse teams in the East are last year’s Eastern Conference Champion New York Rangers and the always scrappy Philadelphia Flyers.

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

 

There could be a power shift in the Western Conference with the rise of the Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues, and San Jose Sharks. The fall of the Vancouver Canucks, Dallas Stars, and Detroit Red Wings who might not make the playoffs this year.

 

The San Jose Sharks started the season on fire, winning their first four games. They are doing something that they have never done before that’s scoring goals. Patrick Marleau scored two goals in each game tying a record in 1917. The first line of Marleau, Thornton, and Pavelski are on fire. The Men of Teal first line carried the team the first week of the year and could help goalies Antti Niemi and Thomas Greiss. The Sharks will use the two goalie system this year not putting pressure on either one. San Jose parted ways with Goalie Evgeni Nabokov. This year could be the charm as the Bay Area teams are turning things around. The Sharks have to shake the playoff blues to get to the Stanley Cup Finals.

 

 

The Chicago Blackhawks started out strong with a 5-0 record and should continue. They do not like the memories of their first round exit last year from the playoffs. Goalie Cory Crawford has to improve upon last year’s inconsistent performance in net. Still believe Chicago would win more games with Goal Brother Ray Emery in net. Chicago would move on to 2nd and 3rd rounds with two rested goalies.

Goal Brother Johnny Oduya, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook should help Emery and Crawford. Scoring power has always been a problem for the Hawks. Right Wingers Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, Center Jonathan Toews, and Left Winger Patrick Sharp have to light up the red light if the Blackhawks want to see Lord Stanley’s Cup.

The Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings have to prove something; that last year was not a fluke. The Kings have one of the best goalies in the league. Jonathan Quick who carried Los Angeles straight through the playoffs to gain last year’s crown. They did not start out right with loses to Chicago, Colorado, and Edmonton, finally winning their first game Saturday 4-2 against the Phoenix Coyotes. The key to the Kings success will be their depth up the middle with centers Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jarrett Stoll, and Colin Frazier. Staples Center could be party time even without the Los Angeles Lakers.

The most improved team in the league, The Minnesota Wild acquired Left Winger Zack Parise from the New Jersey Devils this summer. They have a strong forward tandem with ex San Jose Sharks Right Wingers Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi acquired a year ago. Minnesota has rebuilt their team to fit the free swinging Western Conference style.

With Veteran Center Mikko Koivu the Wild can score at will and should make their first Stanley Cup playoff appearance.

 

The St. Louis Blues will improve upon last year’s impressive season. Most hockey reporters are picking the Blue and Gold to come out of the Western Conference this year. In fact they got this season off to a positive beginning beating the Red Wings, Nashville-twice, Dallas, and Minnesota. Left Winger Goal Brother Chris Stewart is on fire with four goals early in the year. Center Andy McDonald and Right Winger Vladimir Sobotka should round out the Blue scoring line. Still believe Goalie Brian Elliott should start instead of Jaroslav Halak.

 

The Vancouver Canucks were the biggest disappointment of the 2012 season in the Western Conference. Goalie Roberto Luongo had another meltdown in the playoffs. The Sedin twins have to perform in the playoffs this year if they make it. Goalie Cory Schneider should be starting in net if Roberto cannot go the distance. The Canucks will not go far until they fix their defensive problems. Center Manny Malhotra has to step it up this year. The Canucks are a dysfunctional hockey team that overextends themselves year after year and somehow get into the playoffs.

It could be the end of an era in Motown as the Detroit Red Wings are changing the old guard. Center Nicklas Lindstrom retired and Center Henrik Zetterberg will take his place as captain and leader. Jimmy Howard is one year older in net and maybe slower. Howard stood on his head many games to get Detroit into the playoffs. The question is can he repeat the performance in 2013?  The Wings defense has never been a problem their system seems to work year in and year out. Left Wingers Pavel “Duck Soup” Datsyuk, Johan Franzen along with Center Valtteri Filppula and Right Winger Mikael Sammuelson might have to score more in Lindstrom’s absence.

The Best modern day Black hockey player is stuck in the Canadian Rockies with the Calgary Flames; and we only say ‘stuck’ because unless everyone skates their asses off one of hockey’s best ever won’t get to sip from the cup. The Flames started out slow losing to San Jose, Anaheim, and Vancouver and might not make the playoffs again. Goal Brother Number One, Right Winger Jarome Iginla last year became the Flames’ all time scoring leader, with his 400th goal and 834 point. Iginla will break all of Calgary’s scoring records before he retires if he stays in the Saddle Dome. Many true hockey fans want Jerome Iginla to be traded to a current contending team so he can leave the NHL a winner and a chance to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup. If Iggy can get through to the 6’4″, 225 pound Akim Aliu, the Flames might have a hot hand with his added size up front; it would surely help if Alex Tanguay or Curtis Glencross can manufacture enough points to assist the reliable glove hand of Miikka Kiprusoff.

 

In the Wild, Wild, West it should be just that with the Minnesota Wild and the San Jose Sharks and in the Conference Finals with the St.Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks as dark horses. Gary Norris Gray passes the puck back to Michael-Louis Ingram at the doorstep of Martin Brodeur can he put the biscuit in the basket?

Goal Ingram 3 (Gray) (pp) 1:22, third period:

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 on
Blogtalkradio.com Disabled Community Activist. Email at
garyngray@blackathlete.com
©Copyrighted Gary Norris Gray @ Gray Leopard Prod

Copyrighted c 2013 Michael – Louis Ingram all rights reserved.

 

 

4 Comments

  1. Eric Graham

    February 5, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Excellent piece, gentlemen!!!!

    • Michael Ingram

      February 5, 2013 at 6:01 pm

      Thanx, bro – love your work, Eric – and thanks for the tips re the photos…looking lots better!

  2. Ron

    April 3, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    Love it. Too few and far between. Can’t wait for your next article.

    • Michael Ingram

      April 5, 2013 at 2:43 am

      thanks Ron – we love hockey too – and we know we can do anything we put our minds and love to – ed.

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