CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The Vegas Golden Knights open the Western Conference final on the road in Winnipeg tonight against a Jets team that earned more regular season points than the upstarts from Nevada but, as we've seen in the Stanley Cup playoffs, a home game is no guarantee of a victory.
The Knights are one of the best away teams in the NHL. In fact, they posted 22 road victories and only Tampa Bay and Nashville had more at 25 wins each.
At home, the Knights posted 29 wins, the same as Tampa Bay and Toronto. Only the Jets at 32 and Pittsburgh at 30 posted more wins in their own backyard than the Golden Knights, which suggests the Western Final will be a long, intense affair.
The Knights have a lot going in their favour and, like the other three teams still chasing the Stanley Cup, they have the three essentials for playoff success. They are:
• The team is good enough regardless of what format one uses, 109 regular season point tells us so;
• They are relatively healthy with no key injuries and
• They are getting a few breaks and calls, which all of the advancing teams have enjoyed.
In addition, they are playing a style most suited for playoff success with four solid lines, a relentless forechecking game, legitimate snipers in Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson mixed amongst a cast of players rescued from the NHL scrapheap. Add Gerard Gallant, the most resourceful and gifted coach in pro hockey, and his reliable assistant Mike Kelly to the mix and one gets the feeling that Vegas could win the 2018 Stanley Cup.
My New York Yankees are the toast of the baseball world and the class of the American League, having won 17 of their last 18 games before Thursday’s loss to Boston.
Gleyber Torres, the gifted second baseman and one of the top prospects in the Yankee farm system, has moved into the middle of the diamond with shortstop Didi Gregorius, giving the boys from Gotham a sensational keystone combo. The Yankees and Red Sox should be 1-2 in their division with the Toronto Blue Jays battling Tampa and Baltimore for third spot.
Ex-City Baseball League regular Cory Doucette lost money to The Prophet a few weeks ago and I haven't heard from him or Blue Jays followers ever since. The Jays are in good hands with manager Gibby calling the shots, and like the Maple Leafs and the Raptors, the Blue Jays aren't scaring real contenders.
The Halifax Hurricanes are up 2-1 in their best-of-seven National Basketball League of Canada final with the London Lightning. The Hurricanes won easily in Halifax before the scene shifted to London, Ont., where the Lightning won Game 3.
The Hurricanes are facing an Ontario club without the best player in the league and ex-NBA first-round pick Royce White. Mike Leslie, the Hurricanes head coach, who was the athletic director at Three Oaks Senior High School, has done a terrific job.
Former Canadian heavyweight boxing champ George Chuvalo, who went 15 rounds with the great Muhammad Ali, will be at the P.E.I. Brewing Company Thursday from 4-6 p.m. Chuvalo has spoken to high school students across Canada on the evils and dangers of drug use and has been on the Island many times. Adam Binkley, who has played a major role with the Boys and Girls Clubs, is responsible for the Chuvalo visit. Register your spot for this event at www.ssidebgclub.com.
It's been a tough week for the local harness racing and sporting community as we've lost a trio of well-known figures.
Wilma (Taylor) MacLure, who worked at the Charlottetown Driving Park (CDP) for 50 years, the last 38 as manager-hostess at the Top of the Park prior to her retirement, passed away last Saturday after a brief illness. Wilma was a fixture at the city track and she knew every Maritime horseman and looked after them accordingly, especially the visiting Gold Cup and Saucer folks.
She and her husband Stu, a senior hockey standout in the 1950s and 1960s with Sandys Royals, owned a number of horses, the most successful Graduate Boy. Wilma's daughter Sharon was the CDP photographer for many years and still fills in occasionally while another daughter Gaylene and her late husband Rory Beck were key players in local sports. Wilma's grandson Taylor, who now lives in Toronto is also an avid race fan.
Wilma also spent many hours at the ball park and hockey rinks watching her other grandsons Luke, Dillon and Jake Beck, the latter two pitchers with the Charlottetown senior Islanders.
Also, this past week, Linda (Myers) Ford, a longtime employee with The Guardian and a former horse owner with her husband Evan passed away after a long illness. Evan is a gifted caretaker-trainer and their son Bo is a race day in-house analyst at the city track and a horse owner as well.
Ralph (Farmer) Josey also passed away last week and the big fella was a colorful defenceman with Sandys Royals in the 1960s and early 1970s with defence corps that included Eustace Reeves, Stu MacLure, Paul MacGonnell and Earl Wood.
To all those connected to Wilma, Linda and Ralph, my condolences.
Live harness racing continues tonight with a 10-dash card beginning at 6 p.m.
The $2,500 feature goes in Race 9 with Czar Seelster on the outside and next to him Adkins Hanover, Elm Grove Kaboom, Mr Irresistible, Keep Coming and Euchred on the rail.
Mark MacDonald bagged five winners last Saturday night at Yonkers Raceway in New York, including the $40,000 top class with Western Fame in 1:52:2 and the back-up class with Sunfire Blue Chip in 1: 52:4.
Also last Saturday at Yonkers, Maritime-bred Rancousy (Western Paradise) won a $20,000 event in 1:53:3 while another local-bred All About Madi was sixth in 1:54:2. At The Meadowlands, Pappy Go Go was third by a neck in 1:53:2 in a $13,000 trot.
At Flamboro Sunday, the Confederation Cup eliminations will go in two divisions with Filibuster Hanover the likely favourite. Don MacRae, who co-owns Art Scene with Rene Allard, is in the same division as Filibuster Hanover. At Mohawk Raceway tonight, the $27,000 top class has attracted seven horses, including Physicallyinclined, Classy Dragon, American Virgin. Last week's top class $34,000 winner Easy Lover Hanover (Doug McNair) and Ellis Park (James MacDonald), who finished a neck apart in 1:48:1, were not in to go this week.
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Fred MacDonald's column appears every Saturday in The Guardian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org