Monday, January 03, 2011


The US is playing Canada in the semifinals of the 2011 World Junior Championship. The US won all 4 of their group stage games, by a combined score of 15-4. This is a rematch of last year's final, which the US won 6-5.

There's something extra entertaining about the Juniors, which feature players 20 years old and younger. These guys have the raw talent to all be NHL prospects. But they don't have the wisdom yet. Which means they're not the best defensive players in the world.

These guys skate. They're fast, aggressive, hungry. And they can all score. The games are wide open, back and forth, high-scoring affairs. You don't see shutouts. You don't see 2-1 or even 3-2 games.

So watch the US play Canada tonight at 7:30. It's on NHL Network. Don't know what channel that is? Search for "Ice Hockey," and you'll find it.


It's 2011, with bowl season peaking, and the NFL playoffs about to start, it truly is a great time of year. Here are my picks for this week's bowl games:

Monday - 8:30 PM - ESPN
Discover Orange Bowl - Miami, FL
#4 Stanford Cardinal vs. #13 Virginia Tech
The Pac-10 sent two teams to the BCS, but only four to bowl games. That's kind of odd. But Stanford deserves to be there, losing only to Oregon (in Eugene), and otherwise rolling through the soft Pac-10. 8th in scoring offense, 11th in defense. Virginia Tech comes out of the ACC, as their lone representative in the BCS. They won 11 straight after their 0-2 start, and are also very balanced. I have a back-of-the-mind feeling that VT might make some big special team plays and win this one, but I am picking Stanford.

Tuesday - 8:30 PM - ESPN
Allstate Sugar Bowl - New Orleans, LA
#6 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. #8 Arkansas Razorbacks
This is the 4th bowl game between SEC and Big Ten teams. OSU only lost to Wisconsin in Madison. Arkansas only lost to Alabama and Auburn. On paper, OSU is better. I'm hoping Arkansas can help the SEC embarrass the Big Ten, but I'm picking Ohio State to win.

Thursday - 8:00 PM - ESPN Bowl - Mobile, AL
Mid Tennessee Blue Raiders vs. Miami (OH) RedHawks
Miami won the MAC. Mid-Tenn finished 3rd in the Sun Belt. And Miami actually lost to some decent teams (at Florida, at Missouri). Miami should roll through the Red Raiders like Ben Roethlisberger through a Georgia bar.

Friday - 8:00 PM - Fox
AT&T Cotton Bowl - Arlington, TX
#11 LSU Tigers vs. #17 Texas A&M Aggies
It's kind of cool that the Cotton Bowl moved to a new time, and a new location. It's a nice game to have between the Sugar Bowl and the National Championship game. And it's nice that it's in a large, modern venue. LSU can't pass the ball, but they have a decent running game and a ferocious defense. They lost to Auburn and Arkansas, both on the road. And Baton Rouge is only 450 miles from Arlington. A&M's not great at one particular aspect of the game, but they're solid all around. They're playing close to home, and playing for Texas pride. A&M hasn't won a bowl since 2001, and have lost 5 straight in the Cotton Bowl. This is actually the 50th meeting between these two teams.

I'm picking the Aggies.

We'll have the last set of picks on Friday, including the National Championship Game.


For the first time in team history, 4 defensemen scored goals. It was part of a 6 goal night for the B's, and they still failed to leave Buffalo with two points.

Most of the blame can be focused on Tuukka Rask, who made some poor decisions trying to play the puck a few times, and also allowed some soft goals. Now, it was his first start in 16 days, so a little rust is excusable. But he flat out didn't have it Saturday night. I'll give Julien some credit for pulling him after the 1st.

Even though they led 3-1 at one point, it wasn't as if the Bruins were dominating the Sabres. They were taking shots from the point that were finding holes through Ryan Miller. Then the well dried up, and Buffalo scored their share of the fortunate goals. Everything was going in.

The Bruins took a 6-5 lead in the 3rd, and how they blew that really pissed me off. For 3 minutes, they were pinned in the defensive zone, icing the puck three times, desperately trying to survive. Then Buffalo pulled their goalie, and playing 5 on 6, both Savard and Recchi attacked the puck carrier at the point. This left 3 Bruins to defend against 5 Sabres.

When games get frantic, and other teams get desperate, the Bruins' positional discipline and situational awareness simply breaks down. Claude Julien receives a great deal of praise for the well organized defense the Bruins play. But maybe there's too much focus on careful and logical play. Maybe the players need to play with more instinct, and less contemplation. At least in those furious moments at the end of a close game.

As this road trip moves north, it's starting to turn south. Buffalo isn't a good team. And neither is Toronto, whom the Bruins play tonight. Anything short of 2 points tonight is inexcusable.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo


This game felt like the preseason. Even the weather was warm, at least for January. There was nothing at stake, a few players didn't even dress (Welker, Branch, Hernandez), and the starters weren't expected to play the full 60 minutes.

I approved of Bill Belichick's usage of Tom Brady and other key players in this game. The more worrisome Pats fans out there were concerned that there'd be a repeat of last year's Welker injury. But with a first round bye secured, it's kind of silly to sit players for 3 weeks.

I'm sure the practices weren't as rigorous this past week. And when Brady was in the game, the play-calling was run heavy, and there were few long passes. He got hit a few times. But survived.

Danny Woodhead may have suffered a concussion. He may not have. As of now, the Pats are only saying he has a "head injury."

BJG Ellis surpassed the 1,000 yard mark. I'm convinced that Belichick went for it on 4th & 16, just so Ellis could reach 1,000, then be pulled from the game. Ellis is the Pats' first 1,000 yard rusher since Corey Dillon in '04. His contributions this season have been invaluable.

There were many positives to take from this game, but much like after a big preseason win, it's important to keep things in perspective. Julian Edelman's afternoon, for instance, was world class. Will he do that against an elite team, that's playing an important game? It's difficult to gauge performances in a game like this.

The Patriots have 2 weeks off, and will host a Divisional Round game on Sunday the 16th, at 4:30 PM. They'll play either the Jets, Ravens, or Chiefs. Here are the scenarios:

The Patriots will play the Jets if the Jets beat the Colts on Saturday. No matter what happens in the other AFC playoff game. If the Jets win, they come up to Foxborough as the 6th seed. Simple as that.

If the Jets lose, then the Patriots will play the winner of the Ravens/Chiefs game, which will be played Sunday afternoon.

Photo Credits:
AP Photo