Monthly Archives: April 2011

2011 NFL Draft Round 1

It’s been less than 6 hours after the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft and the evaluating has already begun.

Thirty-two players were selected Thursday night and nobody knows how their careers will turn out. Nobody knows whether Patrick Peterson is the next Deion Sanders or if Cam Newton is the next JaMarcus Russel, only time will tell. Until then, we can entertain ourselves by analyzing each draft pick under a microscope and give our own opinion.

Here are my thoughts on the first round of the NFL Draft, broken up into 4 different categories:

Charlie Sheen’s Winners:

The title is self explanatory isn’t it? These teams were the winners of Day 1 and look to build onto their draft in the coming days.

Detroit Lions: Before last year it had been a while since winning and the Detroit Lions were mentioned together, but the Lions look to be putting together another solid draft. The addition of Nick Fairley to the defensive line should strike fear in all NFL quarterbacks. The Lions need to address their linebacker and cornerback issues if they want to take the next step into the playoffs.

New Orleans Saints: The Saints weren’t the same last year following their Super Bowl victory. They were struck by injuries and their defense struggled throughout the year. The Saints stole two remarkable talents in Cameron Jordan and Mark Ingram. Jordan should help provide pressure on the opposing quarterback while Ingram will have an immediate impact in the ground game.

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens addressed one of their weaknesses from last year with the drafting of DB Jimmy Smith. Smith’s talent and athletic ability has been compared to Nnamdi Asomugha but he has off-the-field issues that made teams hesitate on drafting him earlier. The Ravens have the perfect core group of guys to make sure Smith heads in the right direction.

The Royal Wedding Group:

I understand the Royal Wedding is a big deal. Although I think it is dumb, I can understand why some people want to get up in the morning to watch it. Most girls grow up wanting to become a princess and this is the closest that you will get to that fantasy. This group is picks that I don’t quite agree with, but I understand the logic.

Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons traded everything and the kitchen sink to get up to the 6th spot in the draft. They drafted Julio Jones which gives them another stud wide receiver to play opposite Roddy White. The Falcons definitely got better on offense but is that what they needed? They could have used the draft picks they threw away to shore up their defense which was thrashed by the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs last year. I understand getting better on offense, just not sure the juice was worth the squeeze.

New England Patriots: With two picks in the first round, many expected the Patriots to address their pass rush struggles and build on a defense that was less than average last year. Instead, the Patriots drafted OT Nate Solder and traded away their other first round pick instead of drafting Mark Ingram. I know it’s not wise to disagree with the man in the hoodie, but I question whether these decisions will work out. I understand compiling draft picks, but Ingram could’ve helped them.

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars seized the chance to draft Blaine Gabbert and traded up with the Washington Redskins to grab him. Gabbert is a highly regarded prospect but I don’t know if that’s what the Jaguars needed. David Garrard just came off one of his better seasons and the Jaguars have other holes that needed to be filled.

The Jump Over a Tennis Net Group:

This past weekend while playing tennis, I decided it would be a good idea to try to jump over a tennis net while trying to catch up to a ball that went out of bounds. At the time, it seemed like a good idea. After I failed to clear the net, ehhh not so much. This group is the picks that can make or break your franchise. You will either look like a genius by successfully hoping over the net, or look like a moron when you fall flat on your face. Good luck.

Carolina Panthers: With the first pick in the NFL Draft, the Panthers chose Cam Newton. I’ll admit, Newton is a rare talent and he could do great things in the NFL, but Newton could also be a huge bust. Adjusting to the NFL will be a huge learning process for Newton and I’m not sure he can succeed at this level.

Cleveland Browns: The Cleveland Browns had a chance to select a playmaker with the 6th pick but traded it to the Atlanta Falcons. The trade is beneficial to the Browns but only if the players they choose with those picks pan out. The move was a risky one and could burn the Browns, or it could turn the franchise around.

San Francisco 49ers: It is clear the 49ers had a massive brain freeze when they selected Alex Smith instead of Aaron Rodgers. A few years from now, will they be regretting this year’s draft as well? Instead of taking Blaine Gabbert or J.J. Watt, the 49ers chose DE Aldon Smith at 7th overall. Gabbert could’ve been their answer to a franchise quarterback. For now, the hopes of their season rest on the right arm of  Alex Smith, or tanking the season to draft Andrew Luck next year.

Matt Millen’s Losers:

This name should also be self explanatory but if not, this is BAD! These are picks that Matt Millen would make if he were trying to get your franchise to become the second team to go 0-16. Beware.

Tennessee Titans: The Titans drafting Jake Locker 8th overall was your first “WOW!” of the NFL Draft. After parting ways with Vince Young, it was obvious the Titans needed another franchise QB. Taking Locker at 8 was a stretch and it could backfire on the Titans.

Minnesota Vikings: Your second “WOW!” of the draft come only 4 picks after the first when the Vikings selected QB Christian Ponder 12th overall. Many experts gave Ponder a second round grade but the Vikings obviously felt extremely confident with him. With the talent still on the board at 12, Ponder needs to turn out to be an excellent franchise quarterback for the Vikings to avoid criticism.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks offensive line is poor and the fact that they won a playoff game last year is a mini-miracle in itself. This team has a ton of needs and drafting OG James Carpenter fills one of those needs. The problem is, Carpenter didn’t need to be drafted there. Carpenter  received a grade of 85 by ESPN, the lowest of any of first round draft pick. There were other viable options for the Seahawks who look to be headed for another subpar season.

Tomorrow should be another exciting day of the NFL Draft as rounds 2-3 will completed starting at 6 p.m. It shall be interesting to see who teams pick after having time to discuss the results of the first round. Good luck to all of your favorite teams. Click here for full NFL Draft coverage and results.



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Hockey, Basketball and Football, Oh My!

What. A. Week.

We just crossed over the “hump” and I’m already physically and emotionally exhausted. I’m like a defensive lineman returning a fumble 60 yards for a touchdown. Find me the oxygen tanks! ASAP! I’m not saying I’m as big as a defensive lineman, but you get the analogy.

This week has been beyond intense: My blood pressure has definitely gone up. My ability to focus on anything other than sports has been disabled. There have been multiple occasions of cheering in jubilation or screaming in disbelief, which leaves me surprised my neighbors haven’t complained yet.

Speaking of cheering/screaming, I was almost 100 percent sure the police where going to show up at my house when Landon Donovan scored the game-winning goal against Algeria in the 91st minute. Absolutely incredible. The World Cup has  to be one of the most exciting things in the world of sports. Another dramatic and electrifying event in sports? Game 7.

In the first round of the 2011 NHL Playoffs, 4 out of the 8 series were decided by a Game 7. Two of the 4 series that went to a Game 7 also needed overtime to see who would be heading on to the next round.

The effort, heart, will, passion and never-give-up attitude on display during the first round of the NHL Playoffs was extraordinary. The teams not fortunate to make it out of the first round should keep their heads held high, their efforts were commendable.

Note to the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins: Better luck next year. Enjoy the golf courses, you will not be missed.

In an effort to have this blog post remain a blog post and not a 5-page essay, I will do my best to be clear, concise and correct.

After going 6-2 in the first round of the NHL Playoffs we move on to the second round:

(Remember, I’ll try to keep these short)

Western Conference

1 Vancouver Canucks vs 5 Nashville Predators

Vancouver needed 7 games plus OT to knock of the Blackhawks. They have to be feeling the effects of the long series physically and mentally. The Predators are underrated and play great defense, They may surprise some people.

Canucks in 7

2 San Jose Sharks vs 3 Detroit Red Wings

Yes, the Detroit Red Wings are still in the playoffs in case you forgot about them, everyone else seemed to. The Sharks needed 3 OT wins to beat the Kings and Niemi didn’t look too solid. The Wings get healthy and are well rested for a tough match-up with the Sharks. Jimmy Howard’s play will be crucial this series.

Wings in 6

Eastern Conference

1 Washington Capitals vs 5 Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning, meet the Pittsburgh Penguins 2.0. The Capitals can defend and rough you up, while having the ability to finesse their way to some truly beautiful goals. Ovechkin is healthy and Stamkos was largely absent in the Pittsburgh series.

Capitals in 6

2 Philadelphia Flyers vs 3 Boston Bruins

They meet again. Last year, the Flyers came back from down 3-0 to win a Game 7 against the Bruins. The Flyers looked like their old self in Game 7 against Buffalo. The Bruins special teams was pathetic the whole series against the Canadiens and they were undisciplined. The Flyers seem to be regaining their confidence again.

Flyers in 6

Now that I’ve covered the main source of my exhaustion, let’s move on to basically everything else happening excluding baseball because it’s a 162-game season and there is a lot of time left to discuss baseball.

The NBA Playoffs have been somewhat entertaining this year. The Thunder look dangerous. The Lakers look lackadaisical . The Heat look like they may have figured it out. The Magic look lost. The Celtics dismantled the Knicks and the Grizzlies look to become the second 8 seed to knock off a 1 seed while Derrick Rose continues to prove he’s the MVP  The first round of the playoffs hasn’t been close to matching the intensity of the NHL Playoffs but the second round should provide the match-ups we’ve been hoping for.

When news broke about Jim Tressel and the trouble he was in I could not hold back my smile. My smile then turned to laughter and then I was struck with a fearful thought: Urban Meyer. Now, thanks to Urban’s daughter Nicki Meyer, I don’t have to worry about that. Nicki said on twitter, “Stop txting me abt my dad. HE IS NOT repeat NOT, GOING TO OHIO STATE. thanks.” The more trouble Tressel gets himself into, the more I am not surprised. It was bound to happen. Now I just hope the NCAA doesn’t shy away from a harsh punishment.

Finally, today marks Day 1 of the NFL Draft. I debated making a mock draft but decided it was silly. I’m a 20-year-old college student who loves sports. I don’t have connections to people in the NFL or NCAA. I don’t know what teams are thinking and who they are leaning towards. Instead of playing “eni meeni mini mo” with 4 different mock drafts to compile my own, I decided you could do that yourself. Instead, I am going to give my winners and losers after the first round. Granted, I’m not sure how accurate that will be, but it should be entertaining.

Kick back, relax, and take pleasure in an action-packed Thursday with the NHL Playoffs, NBA Playoffs and NFL Draft all set to make my brain explode by 10PM.

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Momentum Swings

The 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs have been spectacular and can be summed up in two words: Momentum swings.

What is momentum though? The dictionary defines momentum as the impetus and driving force gained by the development of a process or course of events. Although I have faith in the dictionary, momentum is much more than that.

Momentum is something that can’t be seen, only felt. It’s like a breeze on a hot sunny day. You can’t see the breeze, but you sure can feel it.

It can start with simple plays such as an elegant display of skill or a bone-crushing collision. Or it can come from staring elimination in the face and playing with a sense of urgency. It rises the fans from their seats followed by the “ooohhhs” and “aaahhss.” The chants of the home crowd grow throughout the arena. The fans feel it. The players feel it. Everyone feels it. The tide is turning.

As a player, I remember the indescribable feeling. It’s an adrenaline rush within a second. The cheers from the crowd give you an energy like none other. It’s these moments, within a game, a series, a season, that can make all the difference in the world.

In the 2011 NHL playoffs, three teams have captured these momentum swings and taken full advantage of that indescribable feeling. The San Jose Sharks, Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks have seized the moment and are riding the wave of momentum through the first round.

The Sharks looked to be in danger of getting blown out in Game 3 against the Los Angeles Kings and falling behind in the series 2-1. Down 4-0 in the second period, the Sharks dominated the Kings the rest of the game and won 6-5 in overtime. The Sharks used the momentum swing to their advantage and won Game 4 by the score of 6-3 to take a 3-1 series lead heading home to the Shark Tank.

The Bruins headed to Montreal for Game 3 being down 2-0 in the series after being swept at home. The Bruins turned the tide on the Canadiens and won Game 3 by the score of 4-2 and then won Game 4 in overtime, 5-4. The Bruins head home with the series tied 2-2 and look to continue to maintain momentum by winning a critical Game 5.

Momentum swings have been the microcosm of the Blackhawks season. After winning the Stanley Cup last year, they started the 2011 as a lock for the playoffs. The Blackhawks were once out of the playoff picture, then in by a hair, then all the way up to a 5 seed and then eventually squeaked in on the last day of the season. In danger of getting swept by the Vancouver Canucks, the Blackhawks played with a sense of urgency and won Game 4 convincingly, 7-2. The domination didn’t stop there. In Game 5, the Blackhawks won 5-0. The Blackhawks have all the momentum heading back to Chicago for Game 6 and look to continue their epic comeback.

A team with a ton of confidence and momentum that no one is talking about is the Detroit Red Wings. The team that many placed on “upset alert” in the Western Conference, swept the Phoenix Coyotes and are the only team to have moved on to the second round.

As a Red Wings fan, I would have only changed one thing in their series. Call me psychotic, insane, stupid and soft, but I wish the Red Wings would’ve won the series in 5 games, not 4.*

* I would have wanted the Coyotes win Game 4 only if it was a guarantee that the Wings would win Game 5 and there wouldn’t be any injuries to the Wings. I know that isn’t possible to guarantee, but hear me out.

There are three main reasons why I wish the Wings would’ve won in 5 games.

1. Close Out at Home:

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems the Red Wings never close out at home. They won the Stanley Cup on the ROAD. The next year, they lost the Stanley Cup at home. In 2010, they won Game 7 on the ROAD in the first round against the Phoenix Coyotes. In 2011, the Wings won Game 4 on the ROAD and advanced to the second round. I know I’m probably being silly, but it would be nice for the Wings to close out at home.

2. Bye Bye Momentum:

After dominating the Coyotes in 4 games, you just wish the Wings could continue to play playoff hockey, and sooner rather than later. The Wings have a certain swagger to them right now and they are playing well. With Chicago making the Vancouver match-up a series and the Ducks-Predators battling it out, we are already headed to two Game 6’s. If Los Angeles can steal Game 5 in San Jose, we will be headed to a third Game 6.

While all these teams are playing, the Wings are practicing. Granted, I know they are getting healthy, but having two less days of rest wouldn’t of killed them. Jimmy Howard seems focused and is playing well enough to give the Wings a chance to win the Stanley Cup. The last thing the Red Wings need is for anyone to lose focus. Whenever the Wings resume playing, they will have to come out sharp and ready to go. I’m just not sure a long layoff is what the doctor ordered.

3. The Phoenix Coyotes

This is where many of you will call me soft and wonder if I know anything about sports, that is, if you haven’t already reached that point. I wish the Red Wings would’ve lost Game 4 in Phoenix, for the sake of the Phoenix Coyotes. Many rumors concerning the future of the Coyotes have been swirling around and whether or not the Coyotes will stay in Phoenix is uncertain. I wish the Coyotes would have been able to win what might be their last home game. EVER.

Before you bash me, put yourself in their shoes. For me, that was difficult to accomplish. The sports teams of Detroit have never faced the threat of being re-located. I’ve never had to deal with having one my teams taken away from me. Even when the Lions struggled to make first downs, there was no thought of the Lions disappearing, as much as some of us would have liked them to.

The only thing I could vaguely relate to this situation is graduating high school. I was happy to be moving on to college, but sad to be leaving behind the sports aspect of high school. I had connected with the fans and the school. My teammates and I were all heading in different directions. I remember wanting nothing else except to win my last home game.

As fans, we try to relate to athletes. Because of what they do, they almost seem super-human. We try our best to make them “human”. As much as I dislike Shane Doan, I felt for him at the end of Game 4. You could see the emotion in his watering eyes. You could feel the disappointment in his body language. You could tell how badly he wanted to win through his play in the series. You could see how much he cared as he fought back tears skating off the ice. At that point, Shane Doan was a “human” again. I could relate to Shane Doan and I am sure he was not the only Coyote feeling that way. I feel for the fans of the Coyotes. The images of the fans holding signs that begged and pleaded for the Coyotes to remain in Phoenix were touching. If that is the last home game for the Phoenix Coyotes, it would’ve been nice for them to go out with a win.

Nevertheless, the Wings won Game 4, advance to round two, and can enjoy a nice, long lay-off to get healthy for their next opponent.

With all but one match-up still in progress, there is plenty of more hockey left to be played in the first round. Here are your updated match-ups:

Western Conference:

1 Canucks vs 8 Blackhawks: 3-2 Canucks

2 Sharks vs 7 Kings: 3-1 Sharks

3 Red Wings vs 6 Coyotes: 4-0 Wings advance

4 Ducks vs Predators: Tied 2-2

Eastern Conference:

1 Capitals vs 8 Rangers: 3-1 Capitals

2 Flyers vs 7 Sabres: Tied 2-2

3 Bruins vs 6 Canadiens: Tied 2-2

4 Penguins vs 5 Lightning: 3-1 Penguins

If you want to reference my picks, click here!  So far, they are doing well, but that can change with one swift breeze, one swing of momentum. Enjoy the end to round one and look ahead to the potential second round match-ups.

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2011 NBA Playoffs Preview

The NBA playoff teams were set a long time ago, but it came down to the last game of the season to finalize the first round match-ups.

In the West. the Lakers did just enough down the stretch to secure the 2-seed in the West and face a New Orleans team without David West. In the East, Chicago cruised after the All Star break and locked up the 1-seed in the NBA. Miami edged out Boston in a crucial head-to-head match-up to hold the 2-seed in the East.

The 2011 NBA playoffs should be one the most entertaining in recent years and could be as competitive as ever. This should sound familiar but, here are my first round picks:

Eastern Conference

1 Chicago Bulls vs 8 Indiana Pacers

Do you really think Derrick Rose will let his team go out in the first round? With home-court advantage? Didn’t think so. Rose and the Bulls take care of business and get some needed playoff experience.

Pick: Chicago in 5

2 Miami Heat vs 7 Philadelphia 76ers

Once again, do you think LeBron James AND Dwyane Wade will let their team bow out in the first round? As much as I hate “LePrince,” I think he gets the job done. James and Wade have taken worse teams deeper in the playoffs than the 2010-11 Miami Heat.

Pick: Miami in 5

3 Boston Celtics vs 6 New York Knicks

The “Big 3 Plus 1” vs the “Big 2 Plus 1.” This is the most star-studded series featuring Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rando, Ray Allen, Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billips and Amare Stoudemire. There is no doubt the Celtics haven’t been the same since the perplexing Kendrick Perkins trade but luckily for Boston, the Knicks don’t know how to play defense. Rondo should expose the Knicks and the Celtics should move on to the next round leaving the Knicks saying a far too familiar motto, “wait ‘til next year!”

Pick: Boston in 5

4 Orlando Magic vs 5 Atlanta Hawks

These two teams met in the second round last year and it wasn’t even a series. The Magic swept the Hawks and completely dominated them in every aspect of the game. The Magic are a dark horse in the Eastern Conference because of their ability to hit the three pointer. Dwight Howard needs to have a large impact on the series for the Magic to win.

Pick: Orlando in 6

Western Conference

1 San Antonio Spurs vs 8 Memphis Grizzlies

San Antonio jumped out to a historic start and many believed they would never look back. Well, they didn’t look back, they ran back. The Spurs are deadly when healthy but head into the playoffs with Manu Ginobili being banged up. The Grizzlies provide many match-ups problems and possess two shutdown defenders in Shane Battier and Tony Allen. Although the Spurs have the better coach, better team and more experience, I’m calling an upset. The Grizzlies shock the 1-seed in the West and move on to the next round. Knowing my luck, the Spurs will sweep the Grizzlies and I will look idiotic. Consider yourself warned.

Pick: Memphis in 7

2 Los Angeles Lakers vs 7 New Orleans Hornets

Who thinks Chris Paul can beat the Lakers all by himself? Anyone? For the Hornets to beat the Lakers, that’s what needs to happen. Losing David West to a torn ACL put the Hornets playoff hopes in the incinerator. The Lakers should win this series with ease, but their long-term playoff hopes rely on the health of Andrew Bynum and his unstable knees.

Pick: Lakers in 5

3 Dallas Mavericks vs 6 Portland Trail Blazers

Here is Upset #2. The Mavericks have gone on tears this season but come into the playoffs playing less than stellar basketball. The Trail Blazers cause many match-up problems and the evolution of LaMarcus Aldrige make the Trail Blazers a team many should look out for. The mid-season acquisition of Gerald Wallace pays dividends and the Trail Blazers send home the Mavericks early.

Pick: Trail Blazers in 6

4 Oklahoma City Thunder vs 5 Denver Nuggets

If I could choose one series to watch, it would be this one. The Nuggets have transformed into a legitimate threat to the Western Conference with the departure of Carmelo Anthony. Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton are quick and dangerous around the rim while Danilo Gallinari has the ability to create his own shot. The Thunder are just as lethal as the Nuggets. Between Russel Westbrook and Kevin Durant, they have two players who can beat you by themselves. The addition of Kendrick Perkins gives the Thunder ridiculous amounts of length and makes them tough around the rim. The Nuggest will give the Thunder a run for their money, but will ultimately miss the absence of a superstar.

Pick: Thunder in 6

Get ready for some intense, competitive basketball. As Dickie V would say, “IT’S GONNA BE AWESOME BABY!”

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2011 NHL Playoffs Preview

Now that Butler and UConn have closed out March Madness, we look towards a postseason filled April.

First up on our plates, is the NHL playoffs, which starts today! If this past month has taught us anything, it’s that the postseason is different. It’s an atmosphere like none other.

This postseason provides many interesting match-ups including an Original Six rivalry and a meeting between the 2011 President’s Trophy winner and the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals champion.

If the drama in the 2010-11 NHL regular season is any indication of what will occur this postseason, we are all in for a treat.

Anything can happen in the playoffs, but I will do my best to pick the team that will advance to the second round. Without further delay, here are your first round winners:

Western Conference

1 Vancouver Canucks vs 8 Chicago Blackhawks

After failing to beat the Red Wings on the last day of the season, the Blackhawks put their postseason hopes in the hands of the Minnesota Wild. Fortunately for the defending Stanley Cup Champions, Dallas wasn’t too interested in making the playoffs. The Canucks have been the best team in the West for the majority of the season and are the 2011 President’s Trophy winners. In a rematch of last year’s second round match-up, the Canucks will be seeking revenge. The Canucks get their revenge and advance to the second round through the stellar play of the Sedin twins.

Pick: Canucks in 6

2 San Jose Sharks vs 7 Los Angeles Kings

At one point in the season, the Sharks were flirting with missing the playoffs. Then, they were on an incredible tear trampling every team in their paths. Now, they head into the playoffs as the second seed in a ultra competitive Western Conference. On the last weekend of the season, the Los Angeles Kings were in a position to obtain home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Last season, the Kings pushed the Vancouver Canucks to six games. This season, a similar result is likely. Although the Sharks are infamous for early-round exits, they will escape the first round.

Pick: Sharks in 6

3 Detroit Red Wings vs 6 Phoenix Coyotes

Two familiar foes meet again. Last season, the Wings and Coyotes faced off in a first round match-up with Detroit eventually winning in seven games. The series was bizarre. The goal tending was absurd. The games were nerve racking and we shouldn’t expect less from this year’s series. The Wings are once again hampered by injuries, most notably Henrik Zetterberg suffering from a lower body injury. The series may be won in between the pipes, where Bryzgalov and Howard will have to be huge for their teams. The Wings get off to a quick start and rely on their veteran experience to close out the series while once again preventing the Coyotes from advancing to the next round.

Pick: Wings in 7

4 Anaheim Ducks vs 5 Nashville Predators

The teams atop the Western Conference standings were desperately hoping they would not draw the Ducks in the first round of the playoffs. Lucky for them, they won’t have to play the Ducks until the second round of the playoffs if the Ducks are able to advance. The Predators are always a tough out in the playoffs and last year took the eventual Stanley Cup Champions to six games and had a chance to win the series. The Predators could’ve caused damage in this year’s playoffs, but got a tough draw. The Ducks are just too big and too physical for the Predators to overcome.

Pick: Ducks in 6

Eastern Conference

1 Washington Capitals vs 8 New York Rangers

The Washington Capitals sit atop the Eastern Conference thanks to their dominating play down the stretch along with the faltering of the Philadelphia Flyers. The play of Alexander Ovechkin has improved as the playoffs approached which could mean bad news for the rest of the NHL. The Rangers battled their way into the playoffs and hold the regular season series lead over the Capitals, 3-1. The Rangers will be heaving dependent upon stud goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who has been their savior this year. The Rangers will be looking to accomplish what the Montreal Canadiens accomplished last year by knocking off the number-one seed Capitals. Last year was a humbling experience for the Capitals and they won’t let their mistakes repeat themselves.

Pick: Capitals in 5

2 Philadelphia Flyers vs 7 Buffalo Sabres

A month ago, if you would have asked anyone who they thought would represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals, nearly everyone would have said the Philadelphia Flyers. Now, people are unsure if they will make it out of the first round. The Buffalo Sabres come into the playoffs on a roll and are hoping to get Ryan Miller back in net. Something has to be said about playing your best hockey at the right time. After stumbling to the finish line, the Flyers’ confidence must be wavering. Fortunately for them, they will have a long offseason to think about their mistakes. The Sabres pull the upset and advance to the second round.

Pick: Sabres in 6

3 Boston Bruins vs 6 Montreal Canadiens

A heated rivalry. An Original Six match-up. In what should be a hard-hitting series, emotions will run high. The Bruins probably have the best goalie in the NHL with Tim Thomas in net while the Canadiens are hoping Carey Price finally steps up. The match-up of the physical play of the Bruins against the speed of quickness of the Canadiens will be a deciding factor in this series. After Zdeno Chara’s bone crushing hit on Max Pacioretty, the Canadiens sweet revenge will be sending the Bruins home early. Unfortunately, they fall just short, as the Bruins advance.

Pick: Bruins in 7

4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs 5 Tampa Bay Lightning

What a series this could have been. We could have had a Crosby vs Stamkos opening round series. The Lightning were in the number three spot in the Eastern Conference but faltered down the stretch. What the Penguins have accomplished this year without Crosby has been remarkable. Marc Andre Fleury will have to be sensational for the Penguins to advance, and even then, they may not be able to handle the offensive fire power of the Lightning.

Lightning in 6

Marvel at the talent and skill displayed on the ice. Appreciate the heart and passion the players put into the game. Most of all, enjoy this year’s playoffs, I know I certainly will, whether my picks are right or wrong.

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The Week and One Day in Review

“The answer to the question everyone wants to know, Justin, what’s your decision?”

“Umm, in this fall, man, this is very tough, umm, in this fall I’m going to take my talents to East Lansing, and umm, join the Michigan State Spartans.”

Sound familiar? Well it should, if not, click here to refresh your memory.

It’s official, I have decided to take my talents to East Lansing and attend Michigan State University. In the end, it was a tough decision for me. Having applied to only Michigan State, I felt the Spartans were the school that best suited me.

In case you were wondering, no I did not notify Oakland University before my decision to leave, and no I did not make any promises to bring a championship to the city of Rochester Hills, Michigan before my departure.

Comparing the two signings, I definitely believe Michigan State will benefit more than the Miami Heat in the long run. Just kidding…Maybe.

Why is this relevant to you? Well for one, you are reading MY blog and two, it has been over a week since my last blog post so I figured I would explain my absence.

Right now, I am in an interesting situation. I am just like a free agent in the NFL. Typically, there are three steps taken before a free agent joins a new team:

  1. Team X and Player A express mutual interest in one another.
  2. Team X and Player A meet, discuss and negotiate a contract.
  3. Pending a physical, Player A joins Team X. *
  • After signing the contract, if Player A gets injured or acts poorly, Team X can release Player A and that’s that.

I have currently just completed step three, and am trying to avoid being “released.” With the end of the semester approaching, professors are assigning truck loads of reading in preparation for final exams. Between the increase in homework, and my perfected procrastinating methods, I haven’t had too much time to write.

In the week plus one day since my last blog post, we have seen two epic chokes, letdowns, disappointments, collapses, meltdowns or any other word you can use to describe Butler’s National Championship game performance and Rory McIlroy’s Sunday at Augusta.

After watching the National Championship game I decided to put the 24-hour rule into effect. Basically, that means I needed 24 hours to reflect on what I did and didn’t see. Twenty four hours turned into 48 hours, which increased to 72 hours, and eventually, I decided words couldn’t describe what I had seen.

I feel for the Butler Bulldogs and not just the players. What Butler did was truly special. Going to back-to-back National Championship games as a 5-seed and 8-seed is no small feat.

Over the past two years, the Bulldogs captured America’s heart, and if not for the magical run by VCU, they would have been this year’s cinderella. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs will be remembered for playing one of the worst National Championship games ever.

The stats are difficult to look at. The game was brutal to watch. The effect it took on the players was the worst.

You could see the toll it was taking on them. Every lay up missed, every 18-footer left short, every three pointer bricked, slowly killed them on the inside. You could see it in their eyes, they were demoralized, confused and shocked. I was demoralized, confused and shocked.

If the basketball gods have any conscious, Butler will make it to the National Championship game again, soon, and hopefully they will be victorious.

He is the youngest player to lead after round one of the Masters. He was the leader after rounds one, two and three at Augusta. He shot a final round eight-over-par 80 to finish ten strokes behind eventual winner, Charl Schwartzel. Meet Rory McIlroy.

After shooting a one over on the front nine, McIlroy made the turn to the back nine and left his golf game somewhere on the course. Through the first three holes on the back nine, McIlroy was already six over par. With a triple on nine, a bogey on ten and a double on 11, McIlroy disappeared from the leader board.

McIlroy choked, no doubt about it. He was five-sixths of the way through his sandwich and lost his appetite. The last nine holes at Augusta, the last sixth of his sandwich proved to be too big for McIlroy and I have nothing but sympathy for him.

To me, the real story was not McIlroy’s performance on Sunday. The kid is extremely talented and I have no doubt he will learn and grow from this situation. He will be back.

The real story was the manner in which McIlroy handled himself Sunday. After collapsing on the last nine holes at Augusta, McIlroy had to have known the media was coming. He was a  wounded fish and the sharks could smell blood.

McIlroy handed the situation with nothing but class. He was cool, calm, collected and honest. He admitted it was rough out there. He admitted he didn’t play his best golf when it mattered most. He gave all the credit in the world to Charl Schwartzel after collapsing nine holes away from the finish line, which is hard to do. Between McIlroy’s display of class and sportsmanship, I hope nothing but the best for the 21-year-old from Northern Ireland.

The other emerging story that came out of Augusta on Sunday was the surge of Tiger Woods up the leader board. Entering the day seven strokes back, no one gave Tiger a chance. After all, Tiger had never won a major trailing after three rounds. Even though Tiger didn’t win, he showed encouraging signs he will be back. And Golf needs him back.

I won’t go into Tiger’s history. We know who he is. We know what he did, and those of us with a brain know what he did was wrong.

Tiger Woods is not a perfect human being. Forget about Tiger’s personal life and focus on the athlete. As a sports fan, I was hoping he would complete the epic comeback and accept the green jacket once again.

On four separate occasions, Woods missed putts by fractions of inches. The most crushing of these misses coming on the 15th hole where Woods had a chance to jump into the lead with an eagle putt under five feet. He ended up settling for a birdie.

If Woods makes two or three of those putts, the 2011 Masters most likely has a different ending. Instead of Adam Scott and Charl Schwartzel sprinting to the finish line, they would’ve stumbled. The intimidation Tiger Woods used to strike in his opponents would have returned. Heading into the home stretch and seeing Woods atop the leader board, it would have been hard to imagine Scott and Schwartzel not thinking “he’s back!

Those putts didn’t fall, and even if they had, there’s no definite way of knowing Woods would’ve won. What we do know, whether Woods is winning or losing, he is still the biggest story in golf.

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The Big Game!

The night we have all been waiting for is finally upon us.

The 2011 Men’s Basketball National Championship game is less than four hours away from tip-off and the anticipation is building.

The field of 68 has been dwindled down to two teams, the Connecticut Huskies and the Butler Bulldogs. The legacy of the Huskies and Bulldogs will be determined by one 40-minute game in Houston, Texas.

At the start of the year, if you would have told me UConn and Butler would play for a National Championship in April, I probably would have thought you were insane. Heck, if you would have told me that on Selection Sunday when the brackets were released, I still would have thought you were insane.

Apparently, there are numerous people out there that I would have deemed “insane.” The final of UConn-Butler was picked by 881 brackets out of a possible 5.9 million brackets submitted to ESPN’s Tournament Challenge.

To all 881 brackets that predicted a UConn-Butler final, I give you permission to pat yourselves on the back, but now on to the stuff that matters.

The 2011 National Championship game is your classic “Cinderella-Powerhouse” matchup that we all hope to see in college football some day. Here are three key match-ups that will influence the outcome of the game:

  1. Jim Calhoun vs Brad Stevens
  2. Kemba Walker vs Ronald Nored
  3. Shabazz Napier vs Shelvin Mack

Calhoun is your veteran coach who has been there, done that. Stevens is the youngest coach in NCAA history to take two teams to the Final Four. Both these coaches are extremely talented and respected nationwide. Basketball is a game of two halves, and the half-time adjustments made by Calhoun and Stevens could be crucial to their team’s success.

Kemba Walker is arguably the best scorer in the country. Ronald Nored is arguably the best on-ball defender in the country. Walker went to UConn to play for Calhoun and to win a National Championship. Nored turned down a scholarship to Harvard because he “wanted to be part of something special.” The two will go head-to-head tonight in what will be a very physical matchup.

Not many people know who Shabazz Napier or Shelvin Mack are, but they will likely be glued to each other tonight. Napier is UConn’s best perimeter defender and Shelvin Mack is Butler’s best perimeter shooter. In two games against Kentucky this year, Napier has shutdown Brandon Knight, one of the best freshman in the country. Mack is one of Butler’s most consistent scorers and has been exceptional throughout the tournament.

Both UConn and Butler have had incredible rides to the National Championship game, but the road ends here for one of them.

Unfortunately for UConn fans, Kemba Walker’s magic runs out one game short. In the 2011 tournament, Walker has played 384 out of a possible 405 minutes including every minute of the last three games. Walker is exhausted, evident by his 5-16 shooting against Kentucky on Saturday night.

Butler is one of the most physical and efficient teams on both sides of the ball. Many people under-estimate the toll physical play takes on an opponent. It wears you down, physically and mentally. After carrying his team nearly the entire tournament, Walker can’t take the final step.

Butler will capitalize on their second chance and finish the Cinderella story. I’ll take the team with the real dog mascot, Blue II, to come out on top 65-61.

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