April 30, 2013

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Bold Predictions for the 2013 NHL Playoffs

By: Matt Bowen

The 2013 NHL playoffs promise to be as fast paced as the abbreviated season. The strike-shortened season was roughly only 100 days long and the league carries plenty of momentum into the “second season.”

The league began the season with a black eye but with a jammed packed schedule that went down to the wire, the NHL recovered nicely from a near catastrophe.

With fans back on board the playoffs will be as captivating as ever. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks dominated their respective conferences this season, but that doesn’t mean they’re destined to meet in the Finals.

Remember, it was just last season when the Los Angeles Kings were the first team in history to win it all as a No. 8 seed.

Who will hoist the Stanley Cup in 2013?

If there’s one thing that’s for certain, expect the unexpected during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals Will be the Best Round 1 Matchup

As a hockey fan, one can’t help but lose sleep over this series. Coming into the season this was an all-or-nothing type of season for both sides. After a poor start, both teams rebounded well to finish the season on a strong note.

Now, two teams under the microscope will duke it out in a series that screams seven games. The CapitalsAlex Ovechkin finished the year with a league-best 32 goals and needs to continue that trend if his team is to advance.

The Rangers spent a ton of money in the offseason only to be seller’s at the trade deadline. What’s done is done and the team found a way to manage the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. New to New York, star Rick Nash led the team in goals with 21, now it’s his duty to lead his team to a Stanley Cup victory.

So, who will win the series?

Capitals in seven games

The Rangers may be facing an intense amount of pressure, but Ovechkin and the Capitals have their backs against the wall.

The Detroit Red Wings Will Upset the Anaheim Ducks in Round 1

The Detroit Red Wings didn’t play consistently good hockey until a week ago, but now they’re hot at the right time.

Spoiled by decades of success, Wings fans were looking lost until recently. The playoffs seemed like a mirage, but the good organizations always seem to get their way and the Wings are in as the No. 7 seed in the West.

Now, the Anaheim Ducks are the underdog in the series even though they are the No. 2 seed. The Wings took the season series 2-1 and have too much momentum right now for Corey Perry and company to stop. Wings stars Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are carrying their team nicely right now.

The Wings won four straight games to make the playoffs and in that time Zetterberg notched 10 points.

Red Wings in six games

The Wings are too hot to lose in the first round but will run out of gas shortly after.

One Not So Bold Pick–Sidney Crosby Will be Sidney Crosby

The Pittsburgh Penguins have been without their captain Sydney Crosby since March 30 due to a broken jaw, but he’ll be on the ice in the playoffs.

He may have missed the final 12 games of the season, but he scored 56 points in just 36 games. The Penguins should be considered great without him and with his presence on the ice they are the most dangerous team in the league.

It may take a game or two to get back into the groove, but Crosby is the best all-around player in the league. Even with missing the final 12 games, Crosby only lost out on the Art Ross Trophy (most points/season) by four points. Tampa Bay Lightning star Martin St. Louis took the trophy with 60 points. St. Louis was then followed by teammate Steven Stamkos’ 57 and then Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby with 56.

Crosby makes everyone better and knowing that Penguins acquisition Jarome Iginla has only played a total of :50 seconds with Crosby, the best is yet to come.

Crosby tallies 17 playoff points—6 goals, 11 assist

The Toronto Maple Leafs Will Win Their Series against the Boston Bruins

A classic Original Six matchup here, the Toronto Maple Leafs square off against the Boston Bruins in an instant classic.

These rivals won’t back down, but the Maple Leafs will surprise most when they survive and advance. The Maple Leafs haven’t made the playoffs since 2004 and although both teams stumbled to the finish line, the Leafs carry positive momentum because the city is buzzing.

The Bruins have looked incomplete of late and can’t seem to finish the game. They have dominated the series between the two of late, winning 9-of-10, but the tides will turn here.

The Leafs are well balanced across the score sheet. Expect Nazem Kadri, a 22-year-old center to get under the Bruins skin and light the lamp. In the end, the Bruins won’t know what hit them.

Maple Leafs in five games

Montreal Canadiens vs. Vancouver Canucks in the Finals

What?!

That’s correct, an all Canadian final is in store.

How?

The Montreal Canadiens are almost forgotten about but the finished second in the Eastern Conference. The have a goalie in Carey Price who is made for these moments and a perfect blend of toughness and finesse. They are the team that doesn’t have a scoring sensation but rather a group of guys who pitch in at the right moment. A number of players could get hot and spell disaster for their opponents.

The Vancouver Canucks are playoff tested and feel disrespected. They’re almost forgotten about at the moment. Don’t make a mistake by overlooking  them and consider them a “has been.” Remember, they have the Sedin twins. Last time I checked they have some weird twin thing going on that gets the puck to the back of the net with regularity.  The Canucks X-factor is Ryan Kesler. He’s a world-class player coming off of injury. With only 17 games played this year, he’s seen just enough ice time to make a big difference in the playoffs.

This series will be a slugfest. Plenty of grit combined with a series littered with scrappy goals will make for a memorable final.

Canadiens in six games

Carey Price wins the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP

April 2, 2013

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Why NHL Realignment Makes Sense

By: Tyler Vespa

With the NHL realignment approved for next season, the league will now feature four divisions instead of six. These would be the Midwest, the Pacific, the Central and the Atlantic. The Midwest and Pacific divisions would makeup the Western Conference, while the Central and the Atlantic divisions would make up the Eastern Conference. The Central and Atlantic divisions will have 8 teams each, while the Pacific and the Midwest will each have 7 teams.

The Red Wings will say goodbye to the Western Conference and move to the East nest season.

Here is what the NHL will look like next season:

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Midwest

Chicago Blackhawks

Colorado Avalanche

Dallas Stars

Minnesota Wild

Nashville Predators

St. Louis Blues

Winnipeg Jets

Pacific

Anaheim Ducks

Calgary Flames

Edmonton Oilers

Los Angeles Kings

Phoenix Coyotes

San Jose Sharks

Vancouver Canucks

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Central

Boston Bruins

Buffalo Sabres

Detroit Red Wings

Florida Panthers

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Tampa Bay Lightning

Toronto Maple Leafs

Atlantic

Carolina Hurricanes

Columbus Blue Jackets

New Jersey Devils

New York Islanders

New York Rangers

Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins

Washington Capitals

The playoffs will still feature 16 teams, eight from each conference, but will not be division based with a new wild-card feature. The top 3 teams from each division will make up the first 12 teams in the playoffs The final 4 places will be filled in by the next two highest placed teams in each conference, and will be based on regular season points, regardless of their division. This means one division could send 5 teams while another could only send three.

Regular season points will also determine the seeding of the teams. Meaning, the division winner with the most points will play the wild card team with the least points, and so forth.

This plan is exactly what the league needed after two lockouts in the past 8 seasons. Something needed to change. As you can see the only two teams changing conferences will be the Detroit Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets. Detroit has been crying for this move for years.

With that I give you 4 reasons this plan for realignment is a win-win for the league and everybody associated with it:

Geographic simplicity: We will see fewer issues with time zones and travel. Teams in the same conference will enjoy easier travel simply because they are now crossing over fewer time zones.

More Original 6 matchups: Detroit is now in the same division with 3 other teams from the Original 6: Boston, Montreal and Toronto. Also, the Red Wings and the New York Rangers are in the same conference.

New Playoff Format: With the imbalance of teams in each division, there is talk of a “Wild Card Format” being added to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This could mean a play-in game where two teams play one game to become the 8th seed in the Western Conference. Another win or go home game would be genius.

Dream for Television: The Eastern Conference would have a rivalry game almost every night. Teams in Canada will get awesome exposure, with a myriad of Canadian vs. Canadian rivalries. New rivalries and big matchups will be made out West such as with the 3 California teams; San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles. Even more Canadian exposure is bred with Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Winnipeg.

November 5, 2012

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Lakers off to rough start: The Los Angeles Lakers not only started the season 0-3, but lost starting point guard Steve Nash along the way. He suffered a small fracture to his fibula and will be out for at least a week according to early reports. Obviously not the start the franchise was hoping for after trading for Nash and Dwight Howard in the offseason. Los Angeles was once a trendy pick to reach the NBA Finals, but while it’s early, that’s looking like a pipe dream so far. Any chance General Manager Mitch Kupchak is frantically searching for Phil Jackson’s cell phone number? Maybe not just yet, but …

Mariano Rivera decides he’ll be back in 2013: After a season-ending injury in May, Yankees’ closer Mariano Rivera says he’s returning in 2013. At age 43, the thought was that he may retire, but as an all-time great, he should have the right to try to come back if he wants. Plus, with an ERA just over 2.00 last season, it looks like he still has something left in the tank.

Mariano Rivera will return to the Yankees in 2013.

Oregon and USC forget how to play defense: No. 4 Oregon defeated No. 17 USC, 62-51. With 113 combined points, even West Virginia thinks those defenses were bad.

NHL cancels Winter Classic: With the hockey season still on ice (see what I did there?), the NHL had little choice but to cancel its popular Winter Classic. This year’s event was to feature the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at the University of Michigan’s football stadium on January 1st, but with the current lockout, that’s just not feasible – even if the season gets underway before then. So much planning goes into that game and without even knowing if the lockout will end anytime soon, it had to be canceled. That’s really bad news for a sport that struggles to keep up with the other major leagues. The Winter Classic is one of the few times the league is in the spotlight and this is just another reason why hockey needs to get back to playing … quickly.

CM Punk defeated Ryback in the WWE’s pay-per-view main event: Punk has now held onto the belt for nearly a full year after defeating new sensation, Ryback, at WWE’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view. With a marred finish (the referee gave Ryback a cheap shot), the WWE played this perfectly. CM Punk keeps the belt, but helps Ryback maintain his momentum even as his unbeaten streak ends.

Division II St. Leo defeats Miami Hurricanes: When the Miami Hurricanes scheduled Division II St. Leo for a friendly exhibition basketball game, the thought of losing couldn’t possibly have crossed their mind. Yet, that’s exactly what happened as St. Leo won 69-67 over the ACC team. Miami’s Trey McKinney Jones said it best after the game when he declared “It’s embarrassing” (‘Yeah, pretty much’, I add parenthetically).

Rory McIlroy defeated Tiger Woods in golf exhibition: Tiger Woods lost to Rory McIlroy in a golf exhibition by one stroke in China. Even though it was only an exhibition, I’d personally like to see more of these types of matches in golf. Trying to follow dozens of players in a tournament is a bit mind-boggling. And even on the final day of a major, you can have a half dozen golfers in contention. But in a one-on-one stage, it turns golf into a bit more like the other sports. In a tournament, golfers are playing against a course. In a one-on-one match, while that still holds true, to a degree, there’s also direct competition with another player.

Alabama defeats LSU: The Crimson Tide defeated LSU in the top college football matchup of the week. With the Tigers suffering their second loss, it’s all but assured that the two teams won’t meet again in the national championship game as they did last year. Everyone outside of Alabama and Louisiana just breathed a massive sigh of relief.

San Francisco Giants snafu: And finally, presented without comment, a musician participating in the San Francisco Giants’ World Championship parade opened the stage show portion of the event by saying the “San Francisco 49ers swept the Detroit Tigers.”

Yeah, something like that.

February 8, 2012

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NHL Takes Center Stage with Hockey Day in Canada

By: Matt Bowen

Hockey Day in Canada is celebrating its 12th anniversary on February 11 as the entire country of Canada dedicates a holiday to its favorite pastime. This year the province of Prince Edward Island will be on display as their culture and love for the game will be shown to the world.

Hockey Day in Canada also means that all seven Canadian NHL teams will be in action throughout the day on CBC. With the NHL gaining momentum this season, HDIC is a great chance for hockey fans in the United States to check out every team north of the border. There are only around 30 games remaining for each team and this season’s playoff races promise to go down to the wire.

Here are some players to pay special attention to during Hockey Day in Canada:

Edmonton Oilers vs. Ottawa Senators:

The Oilers are absolutely loaded with young talent and they have a chance to dominate the entire NHL after they get some experience under their belt. Led by Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the Oilers are set with top-notch talent for the next decade.

Taylor Hall is one of the many up-and-comers on the Oilers.

Let’s not forget the sudden emergence of 22-year-old Sam Gagner, who’s put up ridiculous numbers since the All-Star Game. Although the Oilers are most likely out of the playoff hunt this year, they are a blast to watch and the future of hockey.

The Senators are holding onto a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference at the moment and should be commended for coming out of nowhere this season. Much of their success this season stems from the play of young defenseman Erik Karlsson.  He leads NHL defenseman in points thus far and is the prototype for the new-age NHL defenseman. His skating is impeccable and he can flat-out score. Expect to hear Karlsson’s name for years to come.

Winnipeg Jets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins:

Hockey is back in Winnipeg and life is good in Peg City. Led by captain Andrew Ladd, the Jets are in contention for a playoff spot. Just the fact that the NHL is back in the city is good enough for the Jets faithful at the moment.

The team has an up-and-coming superstar in 20-year-old Evander Kane, who unfortunately will have to miss Hockey Day in Canada due to a concussion. Be sure to keep your eye on Kane as he rises to stardom.

If the Jets pick up a scoring threat before the February 27 NHL trade deadline they have a legitimate chance at making the playoffs.

Montreal Canadians vs. Toronto Maple Leafs:

The Canadians may be the most storied team in NHL history, but they’re having a down year. Their opposition during Hockey Day in Canada, the Maple Leafs, are looking good and are in the thick of the playoff push.

Putting records aside, the upcoming match between the bitter rivals will be hockey at its finest. The Canadians will depend on goaltender Carey Price to work his magic against Toronto’s Phil Kessel and company. Carey is one of the league’s best net minders while Kessel is a pure goal-scorer.

No love will be lost when these two Original Six squads take the ice.

Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames:

In the nightcap of Hockey Day in Canada, the Canucks and Flames square-off at the Saddle Dome.

It’s no surprise that the Canucks are near the top of the Western conference after their Stanley Cup run last season. Although they came up just short of the ultimate goal, Roberto Luongo, Henrik and Daniel Sedin along with Ryan Kesler are still on the top of their game.

Watching the Sedin twins play is like watching poetry in motion. These guys can’t play forever, so catch them while you can.

As for the Flames, famed captain Jerome Iginla is trying to rally the troops at the moment and sneak into the playoffs. The team is currently on the outside looking in, but with a solid finish the Flames will make the playoffs.

Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff has now started the most games for a goalie in Flames history with 527 and will have to play out of his mind during the stretch if the team is to make the playoffs. Kiprusoff is dazzling between the pipes and a joy to watch. He’s currently sitting on 299 career victories and with a little luck he could celebrate No. 300 at home during HDIC.

The showdown in Cow Town will be the perfect ending to Hockey Day in Canada.