July 31, 2013

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In Case You Missed It

By: Joe Williams

We all know about the Aaron Hernandez situation, Dwight Howard taking his talents to Houston and Ryan Braun getting suspended, but that’s not all the crazy stuff that happened in July. In case you actually have a life, here are a few stories that you may have missed.

Longtime New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur actually got to draft his son Anthony Brodeur for the Devils during the NHL draft.

During last week’s RBC Canadian Open, Hunter Mahan withdrew from the tournament to attend the birth of his first child. Mahan was leading the tournament and didn’t pull out until just before he was supposed to begin his third round, leaving his playing partner John Merrick playing in the final group by himself.

Not only did the Cincinnati Reds play a game in San Francisco as the home team, but during one of the  four-game series between the teams, the Giants grounds crew had a bit of trouble lining up the batter’s box. You shouldn’t have much trouble finding a photo of the screw up online.

When former Florida State offensive lineman Menelik Watson received his championship ring for the team’s win over Georgia Tech in the ACC title game, he was the only Seminoles player that got a ring that reads “2012 SEC Champions.” The rest of the team got rings with the correct conference inscribed on them.

The NCAA claimed that Twitter CEO Dick Costolo committed an NCAA violation when he tweeted “Welcome to the family” to a Class of 2015 wide receiver who recently committed to the University of Michigan.

“Call Me Maybe” singer Carly Rae Jepsen fired one of the worst first pitches I have ever seen. Video of that won’t be hard to find either.

A linebacker at the University of Florida was arrested for sticking his head in a police car and barking at a police dog.

One Cleveland Indians fan pulled off an incredible feat, catching four foul balls in the same game…the odds of which are about one in one trillion.

Another fan in Cleveland wasn’t so lucky. When Scott Entsminger passed away earlier this month, this ended up in his obituary…”A lifelong Cleveland Browns fan and season ticket holder, he also wrote a song each year and sent it to the Cleveland Browns as well as offering other advice on how to run the team. He respectfully requests six Cleveland Browns pall bearers so the Browns can let him down one last time.”

A battle royal erupted between two former Thai Olympic teammates during a doubles badminton match. They started trash-talking before the match even started and things continued to escalate until they fought from one end of the arena to the other. Both players received a black card.

And in the wildest story of the month former NBA player Baron Davis (the guy with the huge beard before James Harden) said that he was abducted by aliens while on a drive from Las Vegas to Los Angeles during a podcast interview. I’m not even going to go there on this one.

I can’t wait to see what happens in August as the NFL season approaches, and the baseball playoff races heat up.

March 7, 2013

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Will the Chicago Blackhawks Ever Lose?

By: Matt Bowen

What the Chicago Blackhawks are doing this season is nothing short of miraculous and the notion of them going undefeated isn’t far-fetched. Their 21-0-3 record is already an NHL record for most consecutive games to start the season with at least one point.

They are unblemished precisely halfway through the strike-shortened 48-game season. In a season where 60 points is considered to be a lock for the playoffs, Chicago already has 45. They currently lead the Western Conference’s Central Division by a massive 19 points over the Detroit Red Wings right now.

They are looking like one of the most dominant teams is sports history. A perfect blend of size, speed and grit has the Blackhawks looking unstoppable.

What are they missing? The answer is simple—nothing.

They have three superstars in Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, but that’s not why they’re so good. Its guys like unsung hero Patrick Sharpe, up-and-coming force Viktor Stalberg and young role players like Andrew Shaw and Nick Leddy who make all the difference.

Throw in a pair of all-world defensemen like Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook and the Blackhawks are the strongest team top to bottom in the entire NHL.

Oh, here’s the best part. The team has two cast-away goaltenders in Corey Crawford and Ray Emery who play like every second between the pipes could be their last in the NHL. The two have basically split time this year and both are perfect thus far. Crawford is currently 11-0-3 while Emery is 10-0-0. Most NHL teams have a definite No. 1 between the pipes who plays about 67 percent of the time. Not the Blackhawks, they came into the season searching for a No. 1 netminder and have found two.

So, why are the Blackhawks so good?

They’re 13-0-3 in one goal games. They’re latest streak of 11-0-0 is the best in franchise history. They’ve scored 78 times while only surrendering 46 goals.

Never mind their abundance of skill in every facet of the game; the Hawks have won big, small and most importantly ugly. That’s what makes a good team a great team.

There’s something different about the Hawks this year. They’re something special. Being in the presence of greatness certainly stirs the imagination. One can’t help but wonder what awe-inspiring feat the Blackhawks will eclipse next.

To think there is a team in the league that can beat them in a playoff series in absolutely absurd.

True poetry on ice, Chicago will end up as arguably the best team in league history.

When the season is complete, the great debate can then begin over what kind of numbers they would have racked up had an entire 82-game season been played.

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.

April 11, 2012

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NHL Playoffs – Western Conference First Round Predictions

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. We start with the Western Conference.

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

Western Conference

 

(1)Canucks vs. (8)Kings

These two teams split their season series, which is about how easy this pick is to make. The Kings have been one of the best defensive teams in hockey this season, and I am not a big fan of Roberto Luongo in the Playoffs. There are big injuries on both sides: Daniel Sedin may not be ready for the Canucks, while Jeff Carter might not go for the Kings. Both are key players for their teams and will impact this series greatly. The Canucks are the deeper team, and with injuries a big factor, I like them to advance.

Prediction: Canucks in 5.

 

(2)Blues vs. (7)Sharks

The Sharks have been one of the bets playoff teams in the NHL the past few seasons, and will look to continue that streak as an underdog this series. They might find that hard against the Blues, who swept the regular season series. The Blues allowed the fewest goals in the regular season and have two solid goalies ready to take the net. The Sharks were brutal on the penalty kill and will need Annti Niemi to step up big if they want to pull the upset.

Prediction: Blues in 6.

 

(3)Coyotes vs. (6)Blackhawks

Another weird 3vs.6 matchup where the 6 seed scored more points than the 3 seed. Regardless, the Coyotes have home-ice and a goalie who has been playing lights out lately in Mike Smith. The Blackhawks, on the other hand, are waiting to see if captain Jonathan Toews will be able to return to the ice for this series. The Blackhawks are the deeper team, yet Smith and the Coyotes have more of a chance than many people will give them credit for.

Prediction:  Blackhawks in 6.

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(4)Predators vs. (5)Red Wings

Jimmy Howard vs. Pekka Rinne. This series will test both these solid goaltenders and will rest heavily on their shoulders. The Predators have a lot of pressure to succeed after the moves they made this season. They can’t be excited to have to advance against the Red Wings, who are finally back healthy. A lot of people are picking the Predators to win, but while they have home ice, I think the Red Wings have a chip on their shoulders because of this sudden underdog role they are being cast in.

Prediction: Red Wings in 7.

(To read our Eastern Conference First Round predictions, click here.)

March 21, 2012

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Tight NHL Playoff Races

By: Matt Bowen

The 2011-12 NHL regular season is nearing an end, which means that the best part of the season is just beginning—the playoffs. While hockey fans know that the NHL playoffs bring an unmatched intensity from every team, just who those teams will be is the question at the moment.

Almost every team in the NHL can still make the playoffs for a shot at being the next Stanley Cup Champions

With 10 games to go for most teams, there are plenty of teams in contention. Conference standings are tight but what’s the most intriguing are the incredibly close divisional races right now. One thing this season promises is that fans won’t know the final playoff standing until the waning seconds of the season.

Here’s a look at the current conference and divisional standings:

Conference Standings

Divisional Standings

Wow! Fans are in for a treat over the next three weeks.

Eastern Conference Breakdown:

In the Atlantic Division, the New York Rangers have been on top most of the season, but thanks to some dazzling play from Evgeni Malkin and an added boost from Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins are red-hot. In fact, the Penguins are 9-0-1 in their last 10 games and Crosby has 21 points in just 12 games this season.  This is the strongest division in hockey as the Philadelphia Flyers have 92 points and the New Jersey Devils have 89 points at the moment. If I was a bettin’ man, I would have to say that this year’s Stanley Cup Champion will come from this division.

Believe it or not, the Northeast Division doesn’t belong to the Boston Bruins as many thought it would. The Ottawa Senators are hot on their heels down the stretch. With the Bruins struggling lately, fans are left to wonder if the defending champions have enough to fend off the Senators.

The Southeast Division will be a fight to the finish. Currently the Florida Panthers lead the way with 85 points, but the Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets and Carolina Hurricanes are battling for a spot in the   playoffs. The Panthers have separated themselves from the pack with five straight victories, but the dust won’t settle on this division until the final horn blows.

Western Conference Breakdown:

The Central Division is the best division in the conference with a surprising leader. The St. Louis Blues currently lead the entire conference with 100 points and are a league-best 29-4-4 at home this season. The Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks also currently reside in the playoffs—but things could change by the time it’s all said and done.

The Northwest division belongs to the Vancouver Canucks, which is no surprise. The division also has the Colorado Avalanche who are currently seventh in the conference with 85 points and the Calgary Flames, who are currently 11th with 82 points. That’s how close the bottom of the Western Conference is—three points separates five teams. Whoo! This is what fans love to see.  

The Pacific Division is by far the most tense. The Dallas Stars lead the division with 85 points and sit in third in the conference standing. Here’s the kicker—the San Jose Sharks currently sit fourth in the division and 10th in the conference with 82 points. It’s anyone’s ballgame down the stretch in the division. Who knows how it’ll end up? One thing is for certain, it sure will be exciting.

Here’s how close things actually are—in the entire NHL, as of March 21 only two teams have clinched a playoff berth(NY Rangers, St. Louis Blues)and only one team has technically been eliminated(Columbus Blue Jackets).

What’s not to love about that? The playoffs begin now.