Wednesday, April 20, 2011


All 16 teams remain alive, though some are barely clinging to life. The quality of hockey seems to increase every game, and as teams start to face elimination, we're seeing that desperate ferocity that makes for really entertaining hockey.

Vancouver leads series 3-1
The Hawks staved off elimination with an offensive onslaught against a sluggish Vancouver team. Chicago's defensemen got involved in the offense, as both Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell scored. The Blackhawks power play, which helped propel them past Vancouver in last year's playoffs, also woke up, scoring 2 goals. This series hadn't been as brutally violent as last year's, until the 3rd period. 92 penalty minutes were issued in that frame, including six misconducts. Game 5 should be exciting.

San Jose leads series 2-1

44 seconds into the 2nd period, the Kings scored to make it 4-0. The Sharks pulled Niemi, and looked dead. But by the end of the period, it was 5-5. Devin Setoguchi scored the OT game-winner and the Sharks completed a monumental comeback, the likes of which has only happened 4 times in Stanley Cup history. That's why the NHL Playoffs are so exciting. One btilliant period of hockey could be the difference in this series. As the Sox are out West this week, do yourself a favor and watch bits of Game 4 of this series on Thursday night while the Sox game is in a commercial break.

Tonight's games:
7:00 PM - Capitals @ Rangers (Washington leads series 2-1) - Versus
7:00 PM - Penguins @ Lightning (Pittsburgh leads series 2-1)
7:30 PM - Flyers @ Sabres (Philadelphia leads series 2-1)
8:30 PM - Ducks @ Predators (Nashville leads series 2-1)
10:30 PM - Red Wings @ Coyotes (Detroit leads series 3-0) - Versus


Well John Lackey registered his first good start of the season. Not so surprising considering his record in Oakland and against AL West teams. Oakland also has a poor offense. It's just a shame that the Sox' batters and bullpen had to let such a fine start go to waste.

Is it me, or are 90% of starting pitchers lefthanded these days? It seems like every day the Sox are facing a southpaw. And therefore half the lineup is either on the bench or ineffective.

The Sox managed a mere 5 hits, all of them singles. They were 0 for 3 with runners in scoring position. We've seen them hit against Toronto's stable of forgettable pitchers, but against good arms, they're really struggling. When Lowrie and Pedroia aren't getting 3 hits a game, there's little chance for any scoring.

I don't understand why Lackey was lifted after only 93 pitches through 6 innings. Was it to save his confidence? Take him out of a game while he's doing well, instead of risking a confidence crushing collapse? I hope not. He was cruising. And the Sox' bullpen sucks. Wheeler did well, but then Okajima put the game out of reach.

The bullpen is still my biggest concern. All five starters have given at least one impressive performance. Except Buchholz, and he'll likely cut through Oakland's lineup this afternoon. And hitters like Youkilis and Crawford will assuredly raise their averages well over .200. But this bullpen... who knows? They might be this terrible for the duration of the season.

Buchholz faces Gio Gonzalez at 3:30 Eastern. Gio is 2-0 with a 0.47 ERA. And yes, he's a lefty.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo


In both these games, the Celtics and Knicks have been essentially equal for 47 minutes. Then in those final 60 seconds, the Celtics are clearly the superior team. And while I still have some concerns about the C's, both in this series and in any future series, they've proven to be far more clutch than the Knicks.

It was Ray Allen on Sunday. Last night it was Garnett. Having so many experienced, big game players is quite a luxury. One that most other teams don't have. KG's lead-taking shot, followed shortly by his game-winning steal was quite literally the difference in this game. The difference was clutchness.

We shouldn't dismiss the previous 47 minutes of play. Rajon Rondo deserves praise for his 30 points. And when Ray Allen got shots, he nailed them. On the other hand, there were some worrying aspects to this game.

The Knicks only got 18 minutes from Stoudemire, and still this game was evenly matched. Carmelo exploded for 42. And the Knicks collected 20 offensive rebounds. A huge chunk of their offense came from second chance baskets.

I don't see New York coming back from 2 games down. They'll win one or two in this series, but they're not poised or refined enough to do more than that. However, the Celtics long-term prospects aren't good unless Rondo continues to rampage, Allen continues to drain threes, the bench contributes more, and the overall defense improves.

Game 3 Friday night in New York.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo