By Professor Fred Whitted NORTH CAROLINA (BASN) — The title above...
POPSICLE BROTHERS’ 2015 REPORT – BASN’S NHL PLAYOFF PREVIEW
Popsicle Brothers Playoff Report
Gary Norris Gray and Michael-Louis Ingram
NEW YORK (BASN) As The Ice Turns…
The National Hockey League’s Second Season is about to drop the puck; and the Popsicle Brothers are ready to scrap!
Here’s how we see it…
Playoff Matchups Round One PART I
Montreal Canadiens vs. Ottawa Senators (Canadiens in seven)
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings (Tampa Bay in six)
New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (Rangers in five)
Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders (Islanders in seven)
St. Louis Blues vs. Minnesota Wild (Blues in four*)
Nashville Predators vs. Chicago Blackhawks (Nashville in six)
Anaheim Ducks vs. Winnipeg Jets (Ducks in six*)
Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames (Canucks in seven*)
The 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs start Wednesday April 15th and residents in the Great White North are very pleased. Last year only the Montreal Canadiens played for the Maple Leaf Nation. This year five teams will keep hockey interest (and profits) north of the border in the chase for Lord Stanley’s Cup. This is Canada’s game. Better keep awake because you might miss something with the speed of all the Eastern teams.
It’s too bad that two Canadians teams will be eliminated after the first round because the Montreal Canadiens play the Ottawa Senators and the Vancouver Canucks play the Calgary Flames.
THE CANADIAN SURGE
The Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs are the only teams North of the Border that did not join this year’s party. The Leafs started out strong in first place in the east but in mid-season had multiple injuries and major trades ended their season early. The Brendan Shanahan (president) experiment is still in progress. Shanahan’s first move was to hire young Kyle Dubas as the General Manager. Many in the organization did not agree because of his young age and he was shown the door. On Sunday April 12th the Leafs organization made another housecleaning relieving current GM Dave Nonis and interim coach Peter Horancheck. So the Toronto Maple Leafs are back at square one.
The Edmonton Oilers are going through their fourth rebuilding period since number 99 The Great One (Wayne Gretzky) left Alberta, Canada.
At the beginning of the year the Oilers traded Sam Gagner to Tampa Bay for Teddy Purcell. The Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Nugent -Hopkins line continues to grow as the Oilers continue their Kiddie Corps Crusade -part two.
General Manager Craig MacTavish promised a change at the beginning of the season if the Oilers did not improve. Look out Oiler fans the moving van started backing up at Oiler headquarters with this year’s last place finish. Coach Todd Nelson’s job could also be on the block because the last time Edmonton entered the playoffs was 2006 in the finals against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Montreal Canadiens: won the Atlantic Division beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 in an overtime shootout for their 50th win of the year. We feel Carey Price is the best goalie in the National Hockey League and should win the Vezina Trophy. Goal Brother All Star defenseman P.K. Subban will once again show America how great he is with his wicked slap shot from the point. Subban should be the Captain of this squad but that’s a point that will be discussed later.
Les Habs’ defense helps Price keep the puck out of the net most of the year and maintained as Montreal only had two marked losing streaks. Goal Brother right winger Devante Smith-Pelly moves from left coast (Ducks) to east and a chance to play against his old team for the Cup in the Finals; his physical game should be a welcome edition to a team who has been thumped on and worn out the past two post-seasons. Watch number 67 Max “The Knife” Pacioretty with 37 goals and center number 14 Tomas Plekanec with 26 goals. They could be placing another Coupe Stanley banner in the rafters soon.
The Ottawa Senators: are on fire ending the year winning 10 of 12 with a young goalie Andrew “The Hamburglar” Hammond and a 23-4-4 record. Hammond would have been rookie of the year if he did not come into the league late. This young man reminds the Popsicle Brothers of the former Buffalo Sabres goalie Dominick Hasek with his unorthodox style in net. The Senators accomplished something no other team has ever done, coming from 14 points down in February to enter the playoffs in April. Erick Karlsson led this team into the playoffs with 66 points. This will be Hammond’s first Stanley Cup; hope the nerves are steady because the Canadiens are ready.
The Sens are going to have to find a way to consistently slow down the Canadiens’ rush to stay in this series.
The Calgary Flames- The Flames return to the playoffs after six years absence. The Flames sent the Los Angeles Kings home and the Calgary fan base happy with 3-1 victory Friday night and their 97th point, that’s 20 points more than last year. Goalie Jonas Hiller has to take command in net to beat Vancouver. The new teams in the playoffs keep the sport alive. Still question the mid-season trade of Curtis Glencross by the Flames to the Washington Capitals. The Flames might be just one year and one player away from contention; but Johnny Gaudreau is the offensive building block the C of Red sorely needed. This year Calgary gets their feet wet against the veteran Canucks.
The Winnipeg Jets- The Jets made the playoffs without Goal Brother, right winger, Evander Kane who exited during the trade deadline to the Buffalo Sabres. Goal Brother Defensemen/forward Dustin Byfuglien is the only player with Stanley Cup experience. Big Buff came back the last game of the season from a four game suspension for a cross check. Byfuglien is putting together his best year, and his physicality and versatility is the X factor in a Winnipeg upset. The Jets are finally at home in Canada after their move from Atlanta, Georgia and the Thrasher era.
Goalie Ondrej Pavelec has not been stellar in net and it has cost the Jets a few games this season; if backup Ken Hutchinson has to come in, it’won’t necessarily be a bad thing. Pavelec has to step up in the first round or the Jets will be having an early vacation. Overall, the Jets are big, fast and deep – they will be a tough out in this tourney.
And last, The Vancouver Canucks- The Canucks are hockey version of the NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs or that pesky aunt or uncle that never wants to leave your house or you can’t get rid of. The Canucks also use the two headed monster in net with Ryan Miller and Eddie Lack. Miller had to contend with a knee injury at the end of the season. Miller will be the key to Vancouver’s advance. The Sedin (Daniel & Henrik) Brothers will be at it again this year. Watch number 17 right winger Radim Vrbata. He is enjoying playing in Northwest Canada with the twin brothers instead of Arizona and the last place Coyotes. The championship door is closing on this team to win the Stanley Cup but I keep saying that and they keep coming back. Perhaps the player having the most to say about Vancouver’s playoff fortunes, according to our scout Lia Foote, is Alex Burrows (#14)
Goal Brother Number One, Jarome Iginla, will have to wait another year to raise the Cup as the Colorado Avalanche did not make the playoffs in the west. The trade three years ago still has not rewarded Iginla with a Stanley Cup Championship.
The Anaheim Ducks dethroned the crosstown brethren Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings to take the Pacific Division and are the co-favorite to win the conference. The Los Angeles Kings are the 6th team to win the Stanley Cup and not able to make the playoffs the following year, the last team to achieve this penthouse/outhouse goal would be the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.
The Kings blew up the San Jose Sharks 4-1 in the last game of the season Saturday afternoon. There might be massive changes on both of these teams as they had an underachieving year. The Kings seemed snake bit with a 14-32 record in one goal games. Jonathan Quick did not have an outstanding year and the Kings suffered.
Last year’s President’s Cup Winner will also be watching the playoffs on television. The Boston Bruins needed help from the Buffalo Sabers to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins. It did not happen and hockey season ended early in the Hub City.
“The Rock”, will also be closed for another spring as the New Jersey Devils failed to make the playoffs for the fourth year in a row. The Martin Brodeur era is officially over.
The Battle of New York seems like old times again when the Broadway Blueshirts and upstart Islanders battled it out all season for the top spot in the newly created Metropolitan Division.
The New York Rangers not only won the Division but they won the President’s Cup (Most Points). The last time the Rangers won the President’s Cup they raised the trophy with a seven game thrilling victory over the Vancouver Canucks. New Jersey Devil fans like Brother Gray cannot forget that year because Stephan Matteau made it a nightmare in game six with his double overtime goal.
The high scoring Rangers will be a very difficult team to stop this year with their offensive power The trade for Rick Nash is finally paying off with 42 goals. Derek Stepan is the only right handed shot at center and the Rangers use him to change pace. Love that little speedy and scrappy Martin St. Louis. Tampa Bay never should have let him go because he can jump start a team. The Ranger defense centers around Marc Staal and Dan Boyle.
Veteran goalie King Henrik Lundqvist should be ready for the playoffs because he did not play 2 1/2 months with a neck injury. The Rangers got lucky finding young rookie net-minder Cam Talbot to substitute for Lundqvist with his 21-9-4 record. This allowed the team to give the King extra rest before playoffs. Last year the New York Rangers played the Los Angeles Kings in the Finals and lost. This year they want to parade The Cup over their heads on the Madison Square Garden ice; and a strong argument can be made for Talbot as the team’s MVP.
The New York Islanders are a breath of fresh air as they came in third place in the Metro Division. The Isles are hoping goalie Michal Neuvirth can help New York in playoffs. This was one of the best trades for the orange and blue clad Isles relieving Jaroslav Halak in March and April. Goal Brother right winger Kyle Okposo has stepped up this year before his injury a few months ago. Team leader center John Tavares scored 38 goals this year. This will also be the last year the Islanders will play in old Nassau Coliseum Long Island, the home of their four straight Stanley Cups before moving into the city.
The Pittsburgh Penguins- Where have we seen this picture before? The Pens are once again stumbling into the playoffs. Malkin and Crosby have played above average and have been injured on and off throughout the year. The claim that they are overrated keeps haunting both players. Pittsburgh could be in trouble winning only four of the last 15 games. The Black and Gold are not scoring which leaves goalie Marc-Andre Fleury under siege. The question remains which Fleury will we see in the playoffs? This team is not ready to meet the number one offense in the east. Don’t trust this team at all and a quick exit this year could be pending.
The Washington Capitals- When somebody figures out this team could you please give the Popsicle Brothers a call? Number 8 left winger Alex Ovechkin won the goal scoring title as he has done the past three years. Ovechkin and the Caps still have to play better on defense to advance. Goal Brother right winger Joel Ward understands this and will protect goalie Braden Holtby. Holtby will have to play over his head the first round to beat the New York Islanders. Brother Ward has the sweetest slap shot from the point the Pop Brothers ever seen. The other Russian center Evgeny Kuznetsov will give the Capital City team fire power, but it will not be enough.
Tampa Bay Lightning- This is Mr. Gray’s favorite Southern team because of their speed on the ice. Love big Ben Bishop in net for the Bolts with 39 victories and a 2.32 GAA. The Nabokov experiment did not last long because Tampa Bay wanted to win now. Steve Stamkos continues to be the leader of this squad with the help of Tyler Johnson, Palat, and Kucherov. Cannot forget ex-Ranger Ryan Callahan energy with lifts the team from time to time. The Red Wings will be the first test for this young team. J.T. Brown, making some headway after coming out of the University of Minnesota a couple years ago, should have a significant role in Tampa Bay’s playoff success.
Detroit Red Wings- The Wings have the longest current playoff streak standing at 25 this year. This might be the final year for the Wings to make the playoffs. Jimmy Howard has been in net forever and it seems like he has slowed down a step. Howard had a groin injury which sidelined him during the All Star Break. He has not returned to form and it hurt the Wings coming down the stretch. Substitute Goalie Petr Mrazek will now get playoff experience. Might see a two-headed monster in net.
Round up the usual suspects with Henrik Zetterburg the leader. Center Andersson, and left winger Tomas Tartar must step up and score. Center Pavel “Duck Soup” Datsyuk needs to be healthy in order for this team to move on to round two.
Western teams do not want to play the St. Louis Blues - Central Division Champions. They are the co-favorite to win the west title. They ended the season by beating the Minnesota Wild 4-2. The Blues seem to have command over the Wild winning four out of five games this season. The Blues use the two-headed monster in net with Jake Allen and Brian Elliot. Last year’s playoffs experience with the Blackhawks may prove to be a very valuable lesson. Ryan Reaves, son of former Canadian Football League star Willard Reaves, reps the Goal Brothers with a two – way presence on the ice.
Goal Brother Defensemen Johnny Oduya, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook will protect Crawford. The Hawks will go as far as goalie Corey Crawford will take them; but Kane’s late O.K. to play may make a significant difference. This team is inconsistent and that has been their Achilles heel this year.
The Anaheim Ducks won the Pacific Division for the second year in a row but cannot get respect because of their cross city rival Los Angeles Kings. The Ducks love to play the Jets because they have not lost a game this year. Ryan Getzlaf is the scoring leader but everyone is looking at the unknown goalie Frederik Anderson. Watch number 17, ex-Vancouver Canuck Ryan Kesler, who could be the main man for the Ducks in a short series.
Minnesota Wild- Another breath of fresh air for the NHL making Mid-westerners forget about the Minnesota North Stars. This will be the fourth year in a row in the playoffs.
The Wild struck gold with goalie Devan Dubnyk who won 39 games. Dubnyk put on the evergreen in January and the Wild have been flying high ever since. This could be the best series but the networks will not be broadcasting this one, hope you have TSN Network feeds because this is a must see.
Goal Brother right winger Chris Stewart was very pleased to leave the Buffalo Sabre organization to join a playoff team, Stewart scored 12 goals for the Wild; and a Revenge Alert is in effect against the organization who moved him to playoff purgatory in Buffalo! Center number 9 Mikko Koivu is Mr. Gray’s favorite Wild behind Goal Brother Stewart. Koivu scored 14 goals this year.
The Nashville Predators- This team could be called the Darth Vader’s of the west, the silent killers. The Peter Laviolette screaming show has not bothered the Predators yet, it’s still early. The new head coach did not blow a gasket when the Preds went into a losing streak late in the year. The league continues to try to hide second year Goal Brother number 3 – defensemen Seth Jones, who played well after the mid-season injury. He will protect All Star goalie Pekka Rinne in this playoff. Jones might have to leave Nashville to become a star in this league.
The Preds are going to have to get continued scoring from rookie right winger Filip Forsberg from Sweden who scored 26 goals and left winger James Neal with 23 goals. Nashville will ride the coattails of Pekka Rinne to the Stanley Cup Finals.
The reason why the Stanley Cup playoffs are the most popular could be that the best team will not always win. Underdogs have a better chance at winning the first round and there is not a dominant team unlike football, basketball, and baseball. Everybody has a chance to win the Cup and that’s the beauty of the sport. So when an eight seed-beats a one seed not many fans are surprised. When a goaltender gets hot and carries a team to the championship few take a second look.
We mentioned a Revenge Alert (*) – Mr. Ingram suggests there will be three: St. Louis not defining who their starter in net is will come back to bite ‘em in the ass against Minnesota; Jonas Hiller may steal one from Vancouver for Calgary – and the Winnipeg Jets will roast those nasty Ducks – in six.
Gray 1 (Ingram, McClean) (pp) 1:39, first period;
Ingram 1 (Foote) (sh) 11:38, first period;
Next NHL Playoffs Part II SECOND ROUND
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