Sunday, June 03, 2018
Vegas on Fire!!
The Vegas Golden Knights continue to roll along in the 2017-2018 NHL playoffs. It has become one of the greatest mysteries in sport.
The team was given a few guidelines to set up shop, and they drafted a few players to get their inaugural season underway. The other teams in the league were told they could protect several players, but that they might have to let a few good players go in a draft to Vegas. It appears that the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Florida Panthers were hurt the most in the Vegas draft. The Pens left Marc Andre Fleury unprotected, and the Panthers let Jonathan Marchessault fly the coop.
The Vegas team had to fork out $ 500 million to get into the league. They had to guarantee seat sales. They had to show that the city deserved a major league franchise. I am sure that league management worried about their decision to set up shop in Vegas. No need to worry any more.
The Golden Knights are for real, as they proved again on Monday night. They faced the Jets again in Winnipeg, and they knew they had to face that “Whiteout” crowd again. They were not phased. They stormed out to a 2-0 lead, and never looked back. The win tied the series at a game apiece, with five games remaining. The win put Vegas in the driver's seat for the series. They have a relatively small player to thank for their success.
His name is Jonathan Marchessault, and he hails from Quebec. He was born and raised there, and spent his entire Junior hockey career there. He credits his junior coach, Patrick Roy, for some of his success. Listed at 5' 9”, and tipping the scales at 175 pounds, Marchessault was never drafted in the NHL. He was signed as a free agent by Columbus, shipped off to Tampa Bay, then to the Panthers. The Panthers left him unprotected, and Vegas picked him up. He is in the second year of his contract, and he will make less than a million dollars this year.
That will change significantly next year, more than 5 times that amount, at the very least. He netted two markers last night, and now has 6 goals and 9 assists in the playoffs. He recorded 75 points in the regular season on 27 goals and 48 assists. Last season he led the Panthers with 30 goals, and added 21 assists.
Another part of the Marchessault mystery lies in the number of years that it took for him to gain this status. He bounced back and forth to the American Hockey League in his first attempts to crack an NHL lineup with stints in Connecticut, Springfield, and Syracuse. Imagine the frustration he felt from 2011 to 2015. All in the past. Now it's Vegas, baby!
The Canadian side of my brain is cheering for the Jets. Yet another part of my brain marvels at the accomplishments of the Golden Knights. When I met Marchessault in Florida a couple of years ago, he really struggled with English. In last night's interview he stated clearly, “We showed the hockey world that we deserve to be here.”
To sip from Lord Stanley's mug, the winner of the Western Series will have to get by the winner from the East. Would that be Tampa Bay or the Capitals? You and I both know that Ovechkin and company do not intend to get silver medals.
Ah, but all local eyes are now centered on Chilliwack, British Columbia, the site of the Royal Bank Cup. The Dukes won in overtime last night, almost guaranteeing a spot in the semi finals, at the very least.
For those of you who follow basketball, and the Toronto Raptors, the conclusion to this season was a dreadful disappointment. Again, as has been the case many times, the Raptors came up against the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James. The Raptors had nothing to stop James in his quest for another NBA crown. They swept the Raptors in four straight games. The score in the last game played Monday night? 128-93. As they say at the end of every Raptor season, there is work to be done.
Alexander Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals finally found a way to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins also on Monday night. It has been a long struggle for the Capitals in their quest to conquer the Pens. Sidney and his teammates raised the Stanley Cup the last two years, and they seemed prepared for this year's playoffs. But the big Russian bear and his fellow Caps put an end to that, abruptly, in overtime, earning the right to face the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Lightning appear to be the favourites in this Eastern Conference match up. Team guru Steve Yzerman has put together a team that is ready for almost any kind of play. The defensive corps is second to none, and offensively, they have Steven Stamkos. Teams focus on Stamkos to try to limit his play, and tend to forget about the other outstanding talent on the team.
I was thinking about writing the word “surprising” to describe the Las Vegas Golden Knights. At this point in time, there is very little about that team that could be construed as unknown. The team is well coached by Gerard Gallant, and it was put together carefully. Mind you, they picked up some pretty fine talent in their draft. The finest, of course, is Marc Andre Fleury, whom they plucked from the roster of the Penguins. He has been nothing short of spectacular, and seems to be enjoying the experience. The Knights now await the winner of the Nashville-Winnipeg series.
The Jets were all set to close the door on the Predators Monday night. Their fans packed the MTS Centre arena, and were impressive with their “white-out shirts and towels”. They blow the doors off with their noise, and can be very intimidating. All of that stuff did not phase the Predators. They waltzed out to a 4-0 shellacking of the Jets, and will meet in the seventh and deciding game on Wednesday night. The game will be played in Nashville. Belleville Bulls fans will follow the play of P. K. Subban in that game.
If the Predators do move on to face the Knights, Mr. and Mrs. Subban will be somewhat torn. P. K.'s younger brother Jordan is the backup goaltender to Fleury. The two did face each other in the regular season.
In a thrilling final game at the Dudley-Hewitt Cup, the Wellington Dukes emerged victorious, and they are now packing their bags to head to Chilliwack, British Columbia to contest the Royal Bank Cup. We went to watch one of the games at the DukeDome. It was great to see all the Dukes' fans there. But frankly, the television picture was horrendous, and we decided to rely on radio coverage. We locked into the Dryden radio station, naturally a little biased. We plan to do the same for the RBC.
Download the “Mixlr” app and search for the Chilliwack Chiefs. You do realize I got that information from my son, and I am not sure how well I could handle that. It is unfortunate that one of the local stations is not carrying the game. They did carry the broadcasts of previous visits of the Dukes to the Canadian finals. Hopefully, the Dukes will play in the final game which is usually picked up by TSN, The Highland Hall at the arena would be packed for that contest!!!