July 1, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Blackhawks win Stanley Cup – Late in Game 6, it looked like the Stanley Cup Championship series was headed for a Game 7 just like the NBA Finals this year. With the Blackhawks holding a 3-2 series lead, the Bruins had a late 2-1 advantage in the game. But Chicago scored two goals over the final 1:16 left in regulation to stun the Bruins and win the cup. That second goal by Dave Bolland was the latest goal scored in regulation to ever clinch a Stanley Cup win. Simply an amazing end for what has been the best team in hockey this season.

Dave Bolland's last second goal clinched the Stanley Cup for the Blackhawks.

Aaron Hernandez charged with murder: Aaron Hernandez, a tight end with the New England Patriots, was charged with murder in the death of a former football player Odin Lloyd. The story’s been all over the news and we won’t rehash all of the details here, but it’s just a sad, sad debacle. Hernandez, understandably, was let go by the team as he awaits a trial.

Oregon lands on probation – The Oregon Ducks‘ football program was placed on probation by the NCAA for three years based on recent recruiting violations. While the move is a small blow to Oregon, the Ducks have to be happy that they won’t be banned from postseason play or stripped of any past achievements. A small loss in scholarships and recruiting visits are pretty minimal compared to what the Ducks could have ultimately faced. Postseason bans are among the worst things that can happen to a program that has to then sell recruits on playing with no chance of a bowl berth.

Roger Federer shoe ban – The All England Club has always been a stickler for rules about its all white attire. Still, it was mildly interesting that they banned the shoes of Roger Federer that he wore in his opening matchup at Wimbledon. Federer’s shoes were white, but the soles were orange. Note that Federer has won seven Wimbledon titles and is regarded by some as the sport’s greatest player. Seriously, could you see David Stern cracking down on Michael Jordan for a minor uniform violation? Not likely.

Bruins fan has lifelong tickets … for free - A great story found its way at the bottom of the headlines last week when after several years, a Boston Bruins fan mentioned that she had free tickets for life given to her by the club. The 77-year old woman, Marge Bishop, had to recently give up her front row tickets that she held since the 1960s because of the steep costs – $150.00 per ticket, per game. She had become friends with zamboni drivers and was known by many of the staff there. When told Bishop was no longer going to be purchasing the tickets, the club gave her an all access pass to come whenever she wanted free of charge. Teams can’t do this for everyone, but it’s nice to see years of loyalty rewarded.

Big East hires Val Ackerman as first Commissioner – Former WNBA president Val Ackerman was named the first commissioner of the new Big East last week. The new conference, which consists of basketball-heavy and non-FBS football schools will be a challenge for her. With Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, Butler, and others, the league will be a very good one for college hoops. But it will still be a challenge to try to keep up with other conferences where football is the primary revenue generator. For the conference to ultimately succeed, a few of the schools will have to make deep NCAA Tournament runs in order to make the league attractive to land sizable TV contracts in the future.

Brian Shaw new coach of the Nuggets – Brian Shaw was hired as the new coach of the Denver Nuggets – a move sure to cause more confusion among fans. The team axed George Karl who had done a reasonably good job there and has been a successful coach in the league. That’s not to say that Shaw can’t eventually be an upgrade, but expecting the team to do much more under him right away probably isn’t realistic. Karl was the league’s Coach of the Year after he won a franchise record 57 games and Shaw has a tough act to follow. Yeah, I’m pretty sure this will end badly.

ARod angers Yankees - The Alex Rodriguez situation took on a new twist when he tweeted that he had been cleared by a doctor to play again since rehabbing from hip surgery in January. That contradicted what the Yankees had previously said and GM Brian Cashman was none too pleased, telling reporters that the star needed to ’shut the (fill in your own creative word here) up.’ Rodriguez has had a rough offseason after seeking a woman’s phone number during a playoff game last year, having the surgery, and then being named in the PED scandal. The problem is a big one for the Yankees as he’s still owed a boatload of money from his mega contract several years ago and has been in a steady decline the past few years. Typically a team would trade a player causing them so many headaches, but the contract is a reason he’s not likely to go anywhere.

Metta World Peace still hanging out in L.A. – The Los Angeles Lakers got some good/bad news (depending on how you look at it) when forward Metta World Peace, aka Ron Artest, announced he wasn’t opting out of his deal and would instead return to play for the team. He was a decent player last year, but the Lakers would prefer not to pay him the $7.7 million he’s owed. They can either eat the salary and hope that he produces again next year or they could try to amnesty him. Under that situation, they’d still have to pay him after he’s released, but he wouldn’t count against the salary cap.

June 17, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Justin Rose wins U.S. Open: Justin Rose capped off a spectacular Sunday of golf winning the U.S. Open (+1) for his first major championship. He became the first British golfer to win the title since 1970 when Tony Jacklin did it. Just as big of a story was Phil Mickelson finishing as the bridesmaid yet again, as he finished in a tie for second at +3 with Jason Day. Mickelson’s eighth 2nd place finish ties him with Sam Snead, Greg Norman, and Tom Watson for the third most runner-ups in majors history. Jack Nicklaus leads the way in that category with 19.

Alex Ovechkin was the winner of this year's Hart Trophy over the weekend.

San Antonio Spurs take 3-2 series lead over Miami Heat: The San Antonio Spurs took a 3-2 series lead over the Miami Heat by way of their Game 5 win on Sunday night. That puts the Spurs in position to win a fifth ring for future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan … but it won’t be easy. San Antonio still needs to win one out of two games in Miami and the Heat just don’t lose very much at home. And with an NBA title on the line, you can bet the fans won’t be easy on the road team.

Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins tied 1-1 in Stanley Cup Finals: The NHL’s Stanley Cup Finals are tied at a game apiece with two exciting contests thus far. Andrew Shaw scored a goal in the third overtime of the Game 1 thriller to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 win. The Bruins won Game 2 in overtime behind Daniel Paille’s third goal. Even if you’re not a good hockey fan, two overtime games already should make you want to watch the rest of the series.

Chad Ochocinco Johnson heads to jail: Chad Johnson caught a break in his no-contest plea to battery charges against his then-wife when a court was ready to give him a community service/counseling deal to avoid jail time. But when Johnson smacked the butt of his attorney at excitement over the deal … well, let’s just say the judge wasn’t impressed. Judge Kathleen McHugh told Johnson it wasn’t a joke and promptly rejected his plea deal, sentencing him to 30 days in jail. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Seriously, though – what was Johnson thinking? I can understand being happy at the prospect of not heading to the clink, but he clearly should have showed a bit more restraint until he got out of the court.

Alex Ovechkin wins Hart Trophy: The Washington CapitalsAlex Ovechkin took home his third Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP over the weekend. The winger is only the eighth player in league history to win that many. Other players such as John Tavares and Sidney Crosby were also deserving, but Ovechin led the league with 32 goals and did so in a season where he moved to wing.

Tim Tebow signed by Patriots: The New England Patriots made a bit of a splash last week when they announced the signing of quarterback Tim Tebow. I don’t question that coaching guru Bill Belichick can find a way to utilize him in some way. What is surprising is that New England would bring him in with what should be a minimal impact. Unlike in New York, Tebow isn’t being brought in to challenge starter Tom Brady. So unless Brady goes down with an injury, Tebow’s impact at the position would be small. The talk is already about making Tebow a receiver or part of offensive packages as a skill player, but will he really be such an offensive difference-maker that it will make it worth all of the added attention and scrutiny of the team? Not likely.

Jason Kidd hired as Nets’ head coach: Last week I mentioned the possibility of the recently retired Jason Kidd becoming the Brooklyn Nets new coach. The Nets, who hadn’t previously had Kidd in mind, were convinced after his agent reached out to them and Kidd was hired last week. My opinion hasn’t really changed on this – a team with expectations so high shouldn’t be hiring a rookie head coach. He was a great player, but other greats such as Elgin Baylor, Magic Johnson, and Wes Unseld didn’t exactly make a successful transition from player to coach.

Dwight Howard and Chris Paul teammates?: ESPN reported last week that free agents Dwight Howard and Chris Paul may be exploring options to end up on the same team together. This move, of course, isn’t unprecedented with several players doing this in the past, including the Miami Heat’s ‘Big Three’ of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Howard and Paul are rumored to desire to play for the Los Angeles Clippers, but that would require a few things to happen. The team doesn’t have the cap space to sign Howard, so they’d need to do a sign and trade for him. And chances are that Blake Griffin would need to be included in such a deal.

Hall of Famer Lem Barney says football will soon end: Speaking at a football academy, Pro Football Hall of Famer Lem Barney declared that the game of football will end in 10-20 years because it is too dangerous. Barney’s not the only one to voice such an opinion with all of the talk of concussions lately, but I’m not sure the game ends anytime soon. After all – a sport like boxing where athletes take repeated shots to the head still exists. And when you consider that football is the most popular sport in the country, the guess here is that football continues to implement more safety measures rather than shut down entirely.

February 6, 2013

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Early Stanley Cup Contenders

By: Matt Bowen

The 2013 NHL season may be just a few weeks old, but in this abbreviated season every game, period and point are critical.

Which team will win the Stanley Cup in 2013?

Considering the season is nearly a quarter complete, the crystal ball is now beginning to clarify which teams are true Stanley Cup contenders. Some teams are in a familiar situation while others face a must-win season.

Here are the early season favorites to lift Lord Stanley at season’s end:

The Darkhorse Candidates: These teams are considered sleepers, who if they catch fire at the right moment could ride the lightning all the way to a championship. One of these such teams is the defending champion Los Angeles Kings, who had everything come together at the right time to steal the deal from the No. 8 seed last season. They were one of the favorites coming into the season, but they have been plagued by injuries early on. Not to be counted out quite yet, look for Kings to right the ship.

The Edmonton Oilers are another darkhorse contender. Given, they’ve been near the bottom of the standing for three consecutive years, but have hit the jackpot in recent draft history. Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov have all been the No. 1 overall selection over the past three NHL season and now all play for the Oilers. The team currently holds a playoff spot and will take their lumps as they learn the ropes of the NHL, but they’re building a winner in Edmonton.  There’s always a year when the perennial downtrodden turn the page and blossom into an unstoppable force—this is that year for the Oilers.

A team in the Eastern Conference that could go the distance is the Montreal Canadiens. The league’s most storied franchise are contenders once again. Behind all-world goaltender Carey Price, they have a real chance this season. There’s a perfect storm of youth and experience in Montreal right now, watch out for the Habs.

The Usual Suspects: To no surprise, these teams have thrown their hat into the ring—the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins look like they’ll all make deep runs in the playoffs.  Each team is well balanced and built for the long haul.

This Year’s Worst to First Contender: The Tampa Bay Lightning missed the playoffs last season, but they won’t this time around. With stars like Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, they have the skill needed to lead a franchise on the brink of greatness. They currently lead the league with a plus-18 goal differential and are scoring nearly five goals a game. Rookie Cory Conacher currently leads all first timers with 12 points and could end of the biggest surprise of the season.  He already has five games with multiple points.

Who doesn’t like a team who consistently lights the lamp?

The Lightning are simply electric this season.

The Team Facing the Most Pressure: Let’s cut to the chase—the San Jose Sharks are in a must-win situation this season. They may be somewhat forgotten about but they are stacked from top to bottom.

Thanks to the likes of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture, they can keep the opposition off balance and on edge for 60 minutes a night.

Together with Joe Pavelski, the fearsome foursome already has 10-plus points each.  Marleau is in the early running for MVP and the team’s defense is surrendering less than two goals a game.

The Sharks have been talked about early as contenders for many seasons now and without a Cup to show for it this season, the organization could decide to restructure. More than any team, they are in a do-or-die situation, but so far, they look up to the task.

April 12, 2012

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NHL Playoffs – Eastern Conference First Round Picks

By: Junior

The NHL playoffs begin tonight, considered by many to be the best playoff atmosphere of any sport. Each first round series has a compelling storyline and even the 8th seeds have a shot at advancing. So who will win each series? That is exactly what I will tell you in the following predictions. After breakind down the Western Conference yesterday (to read it, click here.), we take a look at the Eastern Conference.

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Which teams will advance past the first round on their quest for the Stanley Cup?

Eastern Conference

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(1)Rangers vs. (8)Senators

A 1vs.8 series should be a no-brainer, right? Wrong. Ottawa took 3 of 4 from the Rangers during the regular season. The Senators have a solid combination of young stars (Erik Karlsson) and veteran leadership (Daniel Alfredsson), which makes them a very dangerous 8 seed. The Rangers, though, have a great goalie in Henrik Lundqvist and that could be the deciding factor in this series.

Prediction: Rangers in 6.

 

(2)Bruins vs. (7)Capitals

I will point to goalies as the key in almost all of these breakdowns, and the Capitals goalie situation is in dire straits. With Thomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth out, the Capitals will be likely be relying on a rookie early on. The Capitals will get Nicklas Backstrom back to team with Alex Ovechkin, but with Tim Thomas in net and Zdeno Chara on defense, I like the Bruins to escape this series.

Prediction: Bruins in 5.

 

(3)Panthers vs. (6)Devils

The Devils are hot (no pun intended). They are on a six game winning streak and actually scored more points in the regular season than their higher seeded opponent. Add that with veteran goaltender Martin Brodeur and they are a dangerous team. The Panthers haven’t been to the playoffs since 2000, and will be looking to prove they belong back in the postseason. Unfortunately, they won’t get that chance this year.

Prediction: Devils in 6.

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(4)Penguins vs. (5) Flyers

For many, this is the series to watch during the first round. It is always great when in-state rivals go head to head in the playoffs and this series shouldn’t be an exception. This should be a very physical series and also be very high scoring. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will make things difficult for Ilya Bryzgalov and the Flyers, who are missing a lot of pieces heading into the playoffs. However, the Flyers have talented young players who, if they can step up, will make a big decision in this series. With so many “ifs” on the Flyers side, the Penguins seem to be in a better spot in this series.

Prediction: Penguins in 7.