Friday, March 30, 2012

Bruins Squeeze Out a Point

You have to admire the Bruins' resiliency in this game. It wasn't a pretty game, and the Bruins didn't play all that well, but they were able to score two late goals in the 3rd to tie it and earn a point.

It's the type of character that until recently was lacking with this team. About a week ago, if the Bruins fell 2-0 down, that was it. But now, they're able to make something out of nothing.

Hopefully Seidenberg will be back Saturday. Corvo just doesn't fit in. He's not a liability like Kaberle was. But he hasn't done anything to really be a Bruin.

McQuaid left the game in the 1st period. The Bruins are saying that he wasn't acting like himself. And that's worrisome. Hopefully he recovers today and does act like himself. The Bruins will need him in the playoffs.

Bruins play the Islanders on the road Saturday. They need 1 point to clinch a playoff spot.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Liam Neeson Attempting Comedy

NFL Changes Too Many Men Rule

In the Super Bowl, there was a play late in the game in which the Giants had 12 players on the field, and despite being penalized for this, the time that ran off the clock stayed off the clock.

So the NFL has made it a dead-ball penalty. It's now like a false start or a delay of game penalty.

I guess that's an improvement. I don't think the Giants purposely sent 12 men out there on that play. If they did, then it was diabolically brilliant. Good for them.

I wish they had made the rule so that any time run off the clock would be put back on (only in the last 2 minutes of a half). That would give the offense a free play. Then they could decide to decline the penalty and take the result of the play (including the time that ran off) or accept it, take the 5 yards, and move the clock back.

But this change will at least keep teams from trying to intentionally repeat the Giants' fortuitous accident.

The NFL has also decided to make all turnovers reviewed by the booth. Players receiving a crackblack block will be considered defenseless players and a 15 yard penalty will be assessed.

Also, the postseason OT rules will now apply to all regular season games as well. If the first team possessing the ball kicks a field goal, then the other team will have a chance to possess the ball and match the field goal, or win the game with a touchdown. The first team possessing the ball can also end the game with a touchdown. After each team has a possession, the game becomes sudden death.

Liverpool Coming to Fenway

On July 25th, the favorite son of the Fenway Sports Management family will play at Fenway Park. English soccer team Liverpool FC will play an exhibition game against AS Roma of Italy.

The match will be part of Liverpool's pre-season tour of the United States. No further dates have been announced, but the team will use Boston as a base throughout their American expedition. They'll be training at Harvard.

This isn't surprising news at all. Fenway has already hosted a match between Scotland's Celtic FC and Portugal's Sporting Lisbon. And we all know that Liverpool is the new favorite son of Fenway Sports Management.

The game is an opportunity to pocket a few Dollars/Pounds/Euros, promote Liverpool FC's brand in America, and promote the Fenway brand in Europe.

AS Roma is a clever choice for an opponent too. They're a reasonably popular team in the States, but they won't overshadow Liverpool who are much more popular. It's sort of like the Red Sox going to another country and playing the San Francisco Giants. Both teams are well-known and have good fanbases, but the Sox' is much larger. If Liverpool were playing Barcelona or Inter Milan, then they'd be the second-billed attraction. But with Roma, they are the main event.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Why You Choose Offense Over Defense at Short-Stop

Jose Iglesias is a defensively sound short-stop, but the Red Sox simply couldn't afford risking another hole in their lineup. They'll be breaking camp without Crawford, Cody Ross hit .240 last year, Saltalamacchia hit .235 in 2011 and is a career .244 hitter. So that's three holes in the lineup already. Also known as an easy inning.

Anyone who complains about the Sox "sacrificing defense for offense" is failing to see the larger picture that Iglesias would be hole #4 in that lineup.

And with the bottom of the rotation as shaky as it is, the Sox need to be able to have big innings and score runs in bunches. It can't just be Ellsbury-Pedroia-Youkilis-Gonzalez-Ortiz doing the production. There need to be hitters at the bottom of the order that can at least make an opposing pitcher work to get them out.

And if Iglesias is as great as some believe that he is, he'll do well enough in AAA to force his way onto the MLB roster. Playing time isn't given, it's earned.

Bruins 5, Stamkos 2

In this recent stretch of quality play, this was the first come-from-behind victory for the Bruins. Part of me needed to see that even when down a goal, this team would stick to the plan, be resilient, be tough to beat, and wind up prevailing.

What a night for Zdeno Chara. Honored for his 1,000th NHL game he factored in three of the Bruins goals. These weren't token assists either. Shawn Thornton technically scored the Bruins' first goal, but it was Chara's drive toward the net that caused the goal. Then having Chara and Seidenberg as the D-tandem when 4-on-4 is something every team in the NHL should be jealous of.

If not for Stamkos and a very good effort from Roloson, the Bruins would have won this game with ease. Stamkos is a goal scoring machine.

The Energy Line provided more than a little energy. Thornton scored and had 5 shots on goal. Campbell had 2, Caron had 1. 8 shots for the 4th line. Not bad.

The Power Play looks better. Peverley's return may be responsible for that. It's cleaner. There are less silly struggles with entry, less static formation passing around the outside. I can feel a big night coming for the PP unit.

Brian Rolston extended his point streak to 7 games with an assist on Pouliot's goal.

The Bruins are now 5 points ahead of Ottawa, who are idle until Saturday. The B's host the Capitals on Thursday. With a win, the Bruins will clinch a spot in the playoffs.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

PBS Documentary on Fenway's 100th Anniversary

Last night on PBS there was a documentary on the 100th Anniversary of Fenway Park. And for the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's tough to find new facts and new ways to talk about the old ballpark, but PBS did just that.

Using a day-in-the-life format of the park was a nice touch. The documentary starts with the 2:30am unloading of New York Yankees' equipment and progresses through the day as people work to get the park ready, the teams ready, and the equipment ready for the game. I particularly enjoyed seeing the perspectives of the groundscrew and a hot dog vendor. And the poor Red Sox employee who has to be the visiting team bat boy and don a Yankees uniform. I felt both envy and pity for that guy. That's a really cool job but it also must be kind of weird.

It does take an army of people to put on an event and this documentary emphasized that point nicely.

It also told the story of Fenway Park's history. Which has been told a few hundred times, so it's tough to find a fresh angle. I enjoyed the CGI of old Fenway Park as it evolved from 1912 to the 1926 fire to the massive renovations of the 1930s. I'm also glad the film didn't just glorify the Sox and Fenway. It pointed out the sad fact that Fenway was the last facility to be the home ballpark of a black player in the Majors. And that until recently, the place was a rundown, neglected, disintegrating building.

I enjoyed the film. It reminded me of how special Fenway seemed to me as a kid and how special it can still be.

I only wish Mike Barnacle weren't in it. The other interviewees featured were brilliant, especially ESPN's Howard Bryant. They called Barnacle a "Columnist," but I wish it had said "Mike Barnacle: Plagiarist." Barnacle, as was expected, spouted the same types of things that have been said about Fenway for ages. He brought no new perspective, no unique ideas.

He just sat there with his beady little eyes, looking and acting exactly like the carrion journalist that he is.

But apart from Barnacle and the odd appearance by Michael Dukakis, this was a splendid little documentary that I highly recommend to any and all Boston sports fans.

It will be re-aired tonight at 9 on WGBH, and numerous other times in the upcoming days.

Look for the Bruins sweater in Clay Buchholz's locker, stuffed between his Red Sox apparel.

Jose Iglesias to AAA Pawtucket

A day after the media suggested there was a rift between Sox manager Bobby Valentine and GM Ben Cherington, the Sox responded by sending Jose Iglesias to AAA Pawtucket. That was what Cherington wanted to do all along. And finally, it happened this morning.

Valentine added that there was never a debate about Iglesias. "We've had discussions, never a debate. I never knew what side he was taking, and I don't know if he knew what side I was taking."

That quote seems to suggest that Valentine and Cherington once had differing views on Iglesias' development. However, the manager did agree that Iglesias probably needed more time to work on his swing. Iglesias was 5 for 25 (.200) this spring. Valentine even said "I like to think it was partially my decision."

So while Valentine assures us that there is no conflict between he and Cherington, it does appear that Round 1 has gone to the GM. Iglesias' struggles in spring training certainly made it an easy argument to win.

It's the smart move. Iglesias needs confidence and needs consistency. He can get that in Pawtucket. Bringing him to the Majors at this tentative stage might shatter what little confidence he has left if he struggles.

Feuding between Valentine and Cherington is inevitable. Valentine doesn't just think he knows best, he's 100% certain he knows best. And only in cases like this one, with Iglesias clearly struggling, will he give up the fight.

So on your scorecards, give Round 1 to Cherington.

Single Elimination Baseball

I was originally opposed to the new MLB playoff system. The idea of a single-elimination game was problematic. A 162 game season ending with just 1 game? Wild Card teams with good records playing each other while inferior divisional winning teams rested their pitchers? The notion that one good starting pitching performance could determine an entire round of playoffs.

I've changed my mind. Now I like the idea. In fact, I think it should be expanded.

The calendar is responsible for this realization. It's March. The month of single-elimination excitement. The NCAA tournament and the conference tournaments that preceded it have reminded me how enjoyable it is to witness two teams playing one game to determine life and death.

I caught myself watching Colorado squeezing past Oregon in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament. I had no interest in either team, the game had no stakes for me, and I don't even like basketball that much. But I was glued to the game. Riveted. Captivated. Because one would advance. The other wouldn't.

That type of drama might be what baseball needs. We get 162 games of pitchers shrugging off signs, batters adjusting gloves, and managers arguing about foul balls. The excitement comes in the playoffs, in Game 7, when everything is on the line.

So why not start the series at Game 7? Why not have 2 Wild Card teams play each other for the right to live. Why stop at 2? Why not have 8 Wild Card teams play each other in a tournament? Wouldn't that be cool?

Some might argue that such a system would make the regular season meaningless. As if it had meaning now?

Such a glorious system will probably never be implemented. But anyway, I no longer mind the idea of single-elimination baseball. It'd be nice if they made a provision that division winning teams with less than 90 wins not be automatically rewarded a bye. But whatever.

And next year, lets add relegation to the mix. Demote the 5th place teams in each division to AAA and bring up 6 minor league teams to replace them. That will give us exciting races at the top and bottom of the standings.

Boston's Black Hole of Media Attention

A Black Hole is a cosmic phenomenon that has such a strong gravitational pull that not even light can escape its grasp. It's a focused and powerful concentration of unimaginable density that literally sucks in and absorbs everything around it. No matter what is going on, if a Black Hole is in the area, it becomes the center of attention. Black Holes are the Bobby Valentines of the Universe.

Every story that centers on or even remotely involves the Red Sox this season will ultimately be about Bobby Valentine. He's an egomaniac and an attention whore. He tries to control the entire sports media.

When was the last time that (in Spring Training) there was a very public spat between the Red Sox manager and the manager of another team? How about two spats? Valentine just had stand on his platform to voice his opinions on Ozzie Guillen a few weeks ago. And more recently he took a run at Joe Girardi for not wanting to take a Spring Training game into extra innings.

He enjoys creating these meaningless nothing stories.

The marriage of Bobby V and the Boston sports media is perfect. In theory. We have one of the hungriest medias in the country here, and Bobby Valentine will feed them three meals a day, plus snacks. The media is hungry and Bobby V loves to cook.

That marriage might need some counseling, though. After Chris Gasper pointed out differences of opinions between Valentine and GM Ben Cherington, Valentine lashed out at the media. He called it "lazy journalism."

And after he denied the rift about 3 times, that's when his denials became less and less believable.

What does Valentine expect? More fluff pieces about wrap sandwiches? More Girardi vs. Valentine crap that he initiates?

The thing about Black Holes is that they suck up everything around them, without the ability to pick and choose what it absorbs. Bobby V likes to control the media, to use it as a tool to motivate players, or even just to placate his own starving ego. Sometimes, however, the media actually does their job. They report that the egomaniacal manager is having disagreements with the inexperienced pawn of a GM.

Bobby Valentine loves a circus, so long as he's the Ring Leader. That's how he feels like life and the Universe should work, with him in the center, controlling everything.

For now, that's not a terrible thing for the Sox. He is drawing all the media's scrutiny. All the pressure from the press is falling on him. The Sox have Cody Ross as a starting outfielder, no idea who their short-stop will be, and can't seem to find a 4th or 5th starter.

Yet everyone is talking about Bobby Valentine.

His egomania is protecting the team. Today. When they play meaningful games, they'll have to fend for themselves. And Circus Ring Leader Bobby Valentine will find out that the media aren't his minions. They will be his assassins.

This Could Be a Big Week for the Bruins

Photo borrowed/stolen from Days of Y'Orr

The Bruins can clinch the Division by Saturday afternoon. And they don't need much help to do it. After beating Winnipeg 6-4 last night, the Senators are a mere 3 points behind the B's. However, the Bruins have 7 games left, and Ottawa has 5. The Bruins play twice before Ottawa plays their next game on Saturday.

Tonight the Bruins host Tampa Bay. The Lightning zapped the B's a few weeks ago. Vengeance is a powerful motivator. I think they'll dispose of the Lightning in convincing fashion.

Then Washington comes to town. That will be a tough one. The Caps are in playoff mode already. They're vying with Buffalo for the 8th spot. So every inch of ice and every loose puck will be fiercely contested. Thankfully, Washington is 14-20-4 on the road.

If the Bruins win these two games, they'll have a 7 point lead over Ottawa. These two games are the "games in hand" the Bruins have had for a few weeks now.

On Saturday, the Bruins will play the Islanders on the road. That's a shabby team that will be limping to the golf course. No excuse to lose to that bunch again.

And Ottawa will be in Philadelphia. The Senators haven't won a game in Philly since December 2009.

If the Bruins win tonight, Thursday, and Saturday, and Ottawa loses to Philly, the Bruins would have a 9 point lead. Both teams would have 4 games remaining, which means the Senators couldn't catch the Bruins and the B's would clinch the Northeast Division.

It'd be nice to get that over and done with as soon as possible.

Although I am going up to Ottawa to see the Bruins on April 5th. And part of me hopes that the game means something. A very small, childish, selfish part of me. I'd much rather the Bruins clinch the division on Saturday, have a chance to rest Thomas and Chara for a game or two and prepare themselves for the Playoffs.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Golf Balls

Disclaimer: This is an advertisement.

Golf is the only sport that the participant has their own personal golf ball. Think about it. Imagine if baseball allowed pitchers to bring their own ball to the park, or football allowed quarterbacks to bring their own pigskin. Think about how much an advantage it could be to bring a certain kind of ball. A fastball pitcher could bring a sleek, aerodynamic ball that sliced through the air. A finesse pitcher would bring an oddly shaped ball that darted around on its way to the plate.

Baseball doesn't allow you to bring your own type of ball. But golf does allow you to do that. So it makes sense to be selective about the type of ball you use. Why not take advantage of your ability to decide what to bring?

Let's say the strongest aspect of your game is driving. Then get yourself some distance golf balls that will soar through the air and get you to the green in a stroke. Or if driving is your weakness, acquiring distance golf balls can help cover your faults.

Golf is a unique game and there are unique ways to gain crucial advantages. It's a smart game that requires good decisions. And those decisions start before you get to the course, when your'e deciding what equipment to bring with you.

A baseball pitcher would kill for the ability to bring their own style of ball with them. A golfer should take advantage of their ability to bring premium balls that suit their game.

Inside Fenway Park: An Icon at 100

2012 marks the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, in case you haven't already heard. PBS will be airing a National Geographic documentary tonight at 10 (and tomorrow night at 9, and several other times during the week) about Fenway.

I'm told the documentary will tell the history of the ballpark and also show some of the behind-the-scenes operational aspects of the facility. I've worked in sporting venues for a few years now and I'm still impressed with how many people do so many things to make an event happen.

Matt Damon narrates the film. Which is a welcome change from the Denis Leary "I'm the angry Bostonian who smokes a lot" narrated Boston sports material. And Mike Barnacle will be appearing too. Unfortunately, PBS thinks Barnacle is the voice of the Boston sports fan. He was featured prominently in Ken Burns' "Tenth Inning."

The good thing about Barnacle is that he can speak with other people's voices and write with other people's words. That's kind of his problem. He tends to take other people's thoughts and words and pass them off as his own.

That aside, I am DVRing this documentary and am eager to watch it. Fenway's 100th anniversary on April 20th is one of the few things to look forward to this season for the Sox.

Goodbye Syracuse

Not since the 2004 Democratic National Convention have I been happier to see a rabble of out-of-towners depart the City of Boston. I am so happy that Syracuse and their fans have been sent packing, both out of Boston and out of the NCAA Tournament.

I haven't liked Syracuse for nearly a decade now. I went to school in Central NY State, embedded among annoying SU fans that thought their 22-10 basketball team was great, and their 4-8 football team would compete for a BCS bowl. And the same Syracuse fans who cursed Boston College for jumping to the ACC now gloat about joining the ACC, and leaving the likes of Georgetown and UConn to fend for themselves.

What's worse is that these delusional orange-bleeding morons wind up working for ESPN. They used to just overrate The Orange in their coverage of the team. Now they cover up the skeletons in Syracuse's closet.

So yes, I'm thrilled that Boston is rid of the Syracuse program and it's clingers-on. I'm giddy that SU is out of the tournament. Jim Boeheim runs a dirty program that doesn't report drug violations. What a great guy to be a mentor to young men as they prepare to enter the real world. And in his spare time, he insults victims of sexual abuse. Yet he remains uncriticized and untouched by the Cuse grads that run ESPN and the rest of the sports media.

Goodbye, Cuse.

BC, Minnesota, Union, and Ferris State Advance to Frozen Four

One of the reasons I love college hockey is the diversity of the successful teams. In this year's Frozen Four you have two state schools, two private schools. Two northeastern schools, two from the midwest. Two powerhouses in BC and Minnesota (9 titles between them, and over 50 Frozen Four appearances) and two underdogs in Union and Ferris State (first Frozen Four appearance for both programs).

Boston College advanced to the Frozen Four after back-to-back shutouts of Air Force and Minnesota-Duluth. The Eagles have won 17 straight. They've only allowed 1 goal in 3 games, 7 goals in their last 10 games, and only 16 goals in their last 16 games. Parker Milner has turned into a wall of a goaltender. BC has made the Frozen Four 15 of the last 17 years. This is just another great year for a great program under a great coach, Jerry York. They'll face Minnesota in the semifinals.

Minnesota got to the Frozen Four with convincing wins over BU and North Dakota. The Golden Gophers won the WCHA regular season title, and have strikingly similar numbers as BC. Both teams score about 3.5 goals per game, and allow under 2.3 goals per game.

Minnesota/BC is a meeting of Goliaths. Ferris State and Union is a meeting of Davids. Ferris State (which is in Grand Rapids, Michigan, by the way) won a pair of tight 2-1 games to earn their spot in the Frozen Four. They beat Denver, then outlasted Cornell, who had upset Michigan in the 1st round.

Union (located in Schenectady, NY, just outside of Albany) won the ECAC. The ECAC wasn't rated too highly, but here's Union in the Frozen Four, and fellow ECAC member Cornell knocked Michigan out. Union's strength is their goaltending in defense.

With the Frozen Four in Tampa, all of these teams will have to face the same travel strains. All four teams are from different conferences and no matter who wins the semifinals the Championship game will be between an historic powerhouse and a first time finalist.

The Frozen Four will start a week from Thursday. The Championship will be on Saturday April 7th.

Bobby Valentine's Strict Clubhouse Drinking Policies Cause Bobby Jenks DUI

That headline might be a little sensationalist, but since Bobby V takes credit for everything else in the world, and the Red Sox' Front Office think managers are responsible for their player's behavior, why not give credit to Mr. Valentine for Mr. Jenks' shenanigans?

One of Theo Epstein's biggest and fattest mistakes was arrested by the Lee County Sheriff's Office after being pulled over for driving erratically early Friday morning. He failed a field sobriety test. He told officers he had taken too many muscle relaxers.

Jenks, a married father of 4, had spent the night at Babe's, a strip club in Fort Myers. For some reason news reports are calling Babe's a "nightclub." referred to Babe's as a bar, then later mentioned that they "feature exotic dancers," as if the strippers were just an appetizer special featured at the bar between 6 and 8.

Babe's is a strip club. Let's call an apple an apple.

Jenks has posted bail. He admitted to police on the scene that he'd hit a car in the Babe's parking lot. Even if he didn't drink or wasn't drunk, he admitted to taking too many muscle relaxers then driving. So he's fucked. Maybe, just maybe, the Sox can get out of paying him the $6 million he's owed. He's being charged with 5 misdemeanors, 4 of them DUI related, 1 of them stemming from hitting another vehicle then driving away.

It seems like the more money Theo Epstein spent on an acquisition, the less success they had. Renteria, Drew, Lugo, Jenks, Matsuzaka. The thing about Theo is that he's too clever and maybe Cherington has the same tragic flaw. They use numerology and neo-Moneyball thinking to find undervalued guys like Bill Mueller and David Ortiz. Which is a great way to get good players for less money. But the big ticket free agents aren't hidden gems that need to be discovered. They're the obvious sluggers who hit 40 HRs, the pitchers who have 3 (and only 3) great pitches.

Theo tried to use the same cleverness that acquired David Ortiz for $1.25 million in 2004 to spend multi-millions on big acquisitions. That's like a stock broker analyzing Exxon-Mobil stocks the same way they look at Kevin's Gas & Auto Repair Station. It's just not the same. Theo finally seemed to get it when he acquired Adrian Gonzalez, a blatantly talented slugger.

Back to Jenks, when Bobby Valentine was approached by Red Sox media about the DUI, the smug Mr. Valentine replied "You guys must know a lot more than I do. I got a little text."

How long until we get sick of that level of smarminess from Mr. Valentine?

Ochocinco Restructures Contract

With the Patriots signing so many receivers, many people (myself included) thought that Chad Ochocinco would soon be cut by the Patriots. But no. He and the team have restructured his contract. Instead of being paid $3 million in 2012, he'll receive $1 million. Last year Ochocinco made $6 million, or $400,000 per catch (at that rate Welker would have made $48.8 million last year).

This move demonstrates that Ochocinco wants to remain a Patriot. Obviously. It means it will be less likely that he gets cut because of the salary cap. He might still get cut before the season, but it would be because of his performance on the field, not his paychecks.

This is what the WR position looks like at the moment:

Wes Welker
Deion Branch
Donte Stallworth
Chad Ochocinco
Anthony Gonzalez
Brandon Lloyd
Tiquan Underwood
Matthew Slater (not really a WR)
Julian Edelman
Britt Davis

Christopher Price on WEEI's "It Is What It Is" blog made a great point in this post about the restructuring. In 2012, the Patriots are treating WR like they treated the D-Line in 2011. They're acquiring a number of veterans who may or may not be productive. And hopefully one or two of them are.

Ochocinco does have a good chance to make the team. He'll have a full, not locked-out off-season to learn McDaniels' playbook. And while everyone is pointing out that the Patriots have 10 receivers on their roster, there's a significant dropoff in talent after the 6th name on that list. So don't be shocked to see Ochojohnson on this team in the fall.

Good California Weekend for Bruins

The Bruins hadn't won 4 of 5 since January 12th. That was the tail end of the Bruins' 24-4-1 run.

The last four Bruins' wins have been similar to the wins they recorded in that streak. Some were blowouts against clearly inferior teams (the 8-0 win against Toronto). Some were energy driven physical battles (the win over Philadelphia). Some were a little ugly (Anaheim). All featured outstanding goaltending.

It's nice to see that Turco can play. Last night he was sharp, decisive, and confident. Even after allowing a deflected goal, he never lost that confidence. And Tim Thomas was brilliant in LA. Maybe being around all those southern Cal liberals motivated him.

Brian Rolston hasn't just settled in as a Bruin, he's become a leader. He's riding a 6 game point streak, with 11 points in those games (3 goals, 8 assists). His goal last night was his biggest since he returned to Boston.

It was good to see Peverley back on the ice. He was clearly rusty, but that will fade. He is a key player that does so many different things for the team. His return should inject some fresh life to the lineup, and allow players to return to the roles they're more comfortable with.

I love how Jordan Caron plays the game. Paille was scratched last night which gave him an opportunity to dress. I like Caron better than Pouliot. Pouliot makes the occasional big play, like last night when had a goal and an assist, but Caron inflicts a physical game every shift. I'd rather see Caron on the 4th line, Paille on the 3rd line, and Pouliot scratched.

Speaking of scratches, the Bruins are 4-1 when Corvo doesn't dress.

Bruins host the Lightning Tuesday night. The Bruins now hold a 5 point lead over Ottawa with a game in hand. The Bruins also have 44 wins, which is the most Ottawa can finish the season with.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Disclaimer: This is an advertisement.

Golf is an unusual sport. You can be playing by yourself and still feel like you're winning or losing. The object of the game is to beat the game. It's a contest between The Player and The Game. The Game seems to have all of the advantages. It's relentless. It never tires. It presents you with changing conditions plus countless obstacles and hazards. And it never ever gets frustrated or loses focus or makes mistakes.

The Player's advantage lies is their choice of equipment. Quite simply, The Game can't make decisions. The Player can. The Player chooses which golf clubs to use in which situations. Should you use the golf wedges or stick with the irons? Choice is The Player's advantage.

Cleveland Golf provides The Player with a full choice of excellent equipment. When facing The Game, it's vital for The Player to utilize every advantage that's available. And Cleveland Golf can provide you with the choices to beat The Game.

Friday, March 23, 2012

NCAA Hockey Preview: Northeast Region

These games will be played in Worcester, and feature a pair of Hockey East teams. The last two NCAA Champions are in this region (Minnesota-Duluth and BC). So even though the matchups aren't very tantalizing, there are some interesting storylines.

Saturday 4:00pm - ESPNU
#1 Boston College Eagles vs. #4 Air Force Falcons
This really is a 1 seed against a 16 seed. Air Force secured an automatic bid by winning the AHA tournament. The Falcons are accustomed to traveling (most of the AHA is in the northeast), and accustomed to losing on the road. They were 8-7-4 on the road, including 2 losses to Holy Cross in Worcester. BC hasn't lost a game since January 21st. I'll take the Eagles in a laugher 6-1.

Saturday 7:30pm - ESPNU
#2 Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs vs. #3 Maine Black Bears
It's always good to see the Black Bears in the NCAA tournament. Maine made a deep run in the Hockey East tournament to get here. In fact, Maine has been good at winning big games. They won at Fenway Park, beat BC twice, and BU three times. Unfortunately for them, UMD is exceptionally good. They finished 2nd in the WCHA, and they're used to playing in big games far from home. Minnesota-Duluth wins 4-3.

That would give us a regional final of BC and Minnesota-Duluth. It's impossible for me to pick against BC at this point. 15 straight wins, a hot goalie, and a solid power play. BC has all the ingredients for another title run.

And they are my pick to win it all. BC will be your 2012 National Champions.

NCAA Hockey Preview: West Region

The West Region begins play in St. Paul, Minnesota on Saturday. This looks to be the toughest region in the 16 team tournament. North Dakota, Minnesota, and BU have combined for 17 NCAA titles. And Western Michigan are no slouches. They were 2nd in the CCHA regular season, and gave the Michigan Wolverines a good fight in the CCHA title game.

Saturday 1:30pm
#1 North Dakota Fighting Sioux vs. #4 Western Michigan Broncos
North Dakota didn't have an impressive regular season. They struggled to beat good teams, even at home, where they have one of the best home ice advantages in the country. Then they exploded in the WCHA tournament. Western Michigan did well in the CCHA tournament, so these teams can both play elimination hockey. I have a gut feeling WMU pulls off the upset, but my brain is reminding me that St. Paul is North Dakota's second home, they play very well there, so I think North Dakota wins a close one, 4-3.

Saturday 5:00pm
#2 Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. #3 Boston University Terriers
Minnesota won 20 games in the WCHA. No small achievement. BU's season was a roller coaster on the ice and off it. They've shown some character in their victories, and an ability to unravel in their losses. You really don't know which BU team will show up. It's very tough to pick against Minnesota in Minnesota. Golden Gophers win 3-1.

That would give an all WCHA Regional Final of North Dakota vs. Minnesota. These rivals have already met 5 times. Minnesota won 3 of those games. For that reason, I think they'll win their fourth and advance to Tampa Bay.

The West region final is Sunday at 5:30pm on ESPNU.

Patriots Keep Branch

Despite acquiring half the veteran receivers in the NFL, the Patriots decided to keep Deion Branch for another year, signing him to a one year extension. I imagine the deal was probably for a relatively small amount of money.

It makes sense to keep him on the roster. There are question marks still swirling around each of the WRs the Pats picked up. Branch caught 51 passes for 702 yards last year. And even if all the new guys work out, Branch will see the field. He and Brady click so easily, and Branch is a fantastic possession receiver.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sick of Saints Sympathy

Before we even knew about the bounties, I was already a little sick of the Saints. They seem to be everyone's second favorite team. And only lately. These people weren't saying "who dat" when Jeff Blake was slinging passes for the Saints. It's only since Drew Brees arrived and the Saints became good.

And now everyone feels bad for the "harsh" and "severe" punishments the NFL doled out. If a punishment isn't harsh or isn't severe, is it even a punishment? What's the point of an unharsh punishment?

The Saints broke the rules. Repeatedly. They violated the salary cap, they encouraged players to inflict injury, and when they were being investigated by the NFL, they continued to break the rules. These are not actions that merit sympathy.

Goodell is ruthless, but that's what his position entails. He isn't supposed to be just, or moral, or understanding, or sympathetic. He's supposed to be harsh, even tyrannical at times.

And the simple fact is, after yesterday, NO team in the NFL is going to tolerate these types of bounty payments anymore. Goodell's punishment of Sean Payton turned the other 31 coaches into 31 junior commissioners who will ensure that their teams do not engage in this type of behavior. This was a league-wide problem on Wednesday morning. By Wednesday night, the problem was solved.

NCAA Hockey Preview: Midwest Region

These games will be played in Green Bay.

Friday 5:30pm
#2 Ferris State Bulldogs vs. #3 Denver Pioneers
The Bulldogs won the CCHA regular season title then were quickly knocked out of the CCHA tournament. Denver made a dramatic run in the WCHA tournament, winning the first round in overtime, the quarterfinals in OT, and the semifinals in double OT before losing the finals to North Dakota. Both these teams can score, so this should be a shootout. Ferris State is good but they were 4-5-1 against the other CCHA teams that made the NCAA tournament. And they lost in the CCHA quarterfinals. I'll take the team that grinded their way through multiple elimination games. Denver wins 5-3.

Friday 9:00pm - ESPNU
#1 Michigan Wolverines vs. #4 Cornell Big Red
As someone who went to school in Ithaca, and as a passionate hater of the University and state of Michigan, I would love to see Big Red triumph over blue and maize. However, I don't see this as possible. Michigan scored 3.25 goals per game this season. Cornell didn't allow many goals, but the ECAC was an offense-poor league. Cornell can score a bit, but Michigan has goalie Shawn Hunwick (Matt's little brother. Very little brother. He's 5' 7"), a Hobey Baker (college hockey's Heisman) finalist. Michigan wins 5-2.

That would give us a Denver/Michigan regional final. And I think Denver would struggle to score on Hunwick, and wouldn't be able to keep up with Michigan's scoring. Michigan wins 4-2.

The Midwest finals will be Saturday at 9:00pm on ESPNU.


Author: Dorsey Velasquez

We are a very Christian family. We try our best to live our lives the way Christ has showed us to live. It is hard in this day and age to have strong morals, but it is what gets us through and keeps us close. At night we read the Bible together, and on Sundays we go to church. We also usually watch a sermon or two throughout the week on direct tv clarksville. Doing these things just help keep us focused on the way we want to live our lives, and act as reminders for our morals. I am thankful that we are able to go to such a great church. The church is really an extension of our family, helping each other out when in need, and offering support and encouragement to each other. Just last week, a woman had a baby and we all got together and came up with a schedule for bringing her meals for the next 4 weeks so she doesn’t have to worry about cooking.

NCAA Hockey Preview: East Region

The Other March Madness begins in Bridgeport, CT Friday afternoon. There are four New England teams in the 16 team NCAA Tournament. UMass-Lowell will be playing in Bridgeport, CT. BU will be in the St. Paul region. Maine and BC will be playing in Worcester.

Here's what the East Region in Bridgeport, CT looks like:

Friday 3:00pm - ESPNU
#1 Union College Dutchmen vs. #4 Michigan State Spartans
Union won the ECAC, which wasn't a very strong conference this year. However, MSU is having something of a down season. The Spartans can score, but Union allowed under 2 goals per game (1.82). That's probably because the ECAC doesn't score many goals in general. There were only 5.6 goals per game in the ECAC this year. That's very low, especially for college. Union aren't a strong #1 seed, but MSU isn't good enough to fully take advantage. Union escapes and advances 2-1.

Friday 6:30pm - ESPNU
#2 Miami RedHawks vs. #3 UMass-Lowell River Hawks
Miami is 1-6 all-time against Hockey East teams in the NCAA Tournament. However, UMass-Lowell have cooled off as the weather's warmed up. They lost in the Hockey East quarterfinals to lowly Providence College. They've been able to win games against BC and BU, but timing helped them. They beat BC in December, before BC really bears down and starts trying. I just don't think they can beat a quality team at this level. And Miami is a quality team. RedHawks win 4-2.

So that would give us a Union vs. Miami regional final. Miami allowed 2.05 goals per game, and that was mostly in the CCHA, which is a quality league. So it would be a defensive struggle, and Miami would prevail 2-1.

The East Regional final will be Saturday night at 6:30pm on ESPNU.

Anderson to Buffalo, Green-Ellis to Cincinnati

It was just a bit overshadowed yesterday in the NFL but the Buffalo Bills acquired former Patriots DE Mark Anderson. And the Bengals picked up RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

Anderson tied with Andre Carter for the team lead in sacks with 10 last year. Which was a pleasant surprise from the 28 year old, who had never accumulated more than 5 sacks in a season since his rookie year. The Bills reportedly signed him to a 4 year deal worth $27.5 million. As well as he did last year, I'm not sure he's worth close to $7 million a year.

The Bills now have two serious pass rushing threats. And I think that's a good plan. It's a passing League and the best way to stop an opponent passing is to stop the passer. They are building a team that will be problematic for the Patriots.

Win or lose, the Bills at least have a plan. Unlike the Jets who just have impulses and urges that they act on without thinking things through.

The Patriots also lost their leading rusher. Green-Ellis signed a 3 year deal with Cincinnati. He rushed for 11 TDs last year, and 667 yards. Platooning in the backfield, he had 41% of the Patriots carries. Most importantly, he never put the ball on the ground.

Only in New England could the home team lose its leading pass rusher and leading rusher, and everyone seem unfazed. Most fans would be irate.

Maybe we do place too much trust in Belichick to find replacements. Then again, he found Carter, and found Ellis. Neither of which were expected to lead an NFL team in anything. He'll find others.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Goodell Crucifies Saints

The punishments dispensed by the NFL seem harsh. Head Coach Sean Payton has been suspended without pay for the entire 2012 season. Saints' GM Mickey Loomis has been suspended for 8 games. Asisstant Joe Vitt has been suspended for 6 games. Former Saints' Defensive Coordinator (now working for the Rams) Gregg Williams has been suspended indefinitely. The Saints will forfeit their 2nd round picks in 2012 and 2013 (they do not have a 1st round pick this year). They've also been fined $500,000.

That seems intense. And I'm sure some will compare this to the NFL's lack of suspensions after SpyGate.

However, guys like Williams didn't cooperate with the investigation into this. And he's even admitted to attempting to obstruct it.

Furthermore, the Saints violated salary cap rules with these bounties. You can't do that. It's explicitly against the rules. There's no gray area, no need to send memos to remind the coaches. You can't give someone an under the table bonus for an interception. This isn't college football.

Finally, I think these bounties had more impact on games played on the field than tapes of opposing signal-callers that were viewed after the game was played. Call me crazy.

The punishments seem harsh. But do you think any team will allow such a bounty program to exist after today? Do you think any Head Coach will just shrug and move on with his business? This punishment is about deterring teams from doing this in the future. And I think in that respect, it will be very effective.

Big hits are part of the game. They're supposed to send messages. Goodell and the NFL sent a very loud, very clear message today.


Tim Tebow is going to the New York Jets. The Jets traded a 4th round pick to acquire the Denver QB. And I can't stop giggling.

The idea of Tim Tebow's religiously laced pep talks intertwined with Rex Ryan's overuse of profanity makes me wish the Jets were back on Hard Knocks. America's new odd couple. And they're in the New York market. How perfectly hilarious is that?

Will Tebow replace Sanchez? I don't know. We all know (thanks to the hyper-vocal Jets' lockerroom) that some of the Jets players question their QB. And as a Patriots fan, I really don't care if the Jets' crappy, overrated QB is Mark Sanchez or Tim Tebow. Neither one is very good.

A 4th round pick is not an expensive price to pay, though. And on the field the Jets have improved. They can utilize Tebow's athleticism in gadget plays and short yardage. But it still makes me giggle. Tim Tebow, in that locker room, with the likes of Antonio "Father of the year" Cromartie. Talk about a saint among sinners.

There are reports that the deal for Tebow also includes 6th and 7th round picks.

Tim Tebow Will Not Become a Patriot

It amazes me that people still don't get it. Every time a "versatile" player like Tim Tebow or Pat White becomes available, there are always murmurs and whispers that he'll wind up with the Patriots. "They love versatile players in New England."

It's true that Belichick and the Patriots do value players who can play multiple positions. What morons inside and outside of 495 fail to understand is that those "versatile" players must still be good at one primary position. Mike Vrabel, for instance, was not acquired for his pass-catching skills. He was a very good linebacker. So the Patriots acquired him to play linebacker. The 12 TD catches were a welcome bonus, but if he couldn't carry his weight on defense, he wouldn't have made the team.

Vrabel wasn't acquired for his versatility. He was acquired to play linebacker, and the Patriots took advantage of his ability to catch the ball.

Tim Tebow doesn't have the ability to start at any position for the Patriots. Even if you don't think he's a lousy quarterback (which he is), the Patriots are all set at that position. And at tight-end. And at wide receiver. What would Tebow's primary function be?

The closest player to Tim Tebow on the Patriots' roster is Julian Edelman. Edelman was a running QB in college, and was then converted to a receiver, and was then converted to a DB. Morons might argue that he's a guy that doesn't have a primary function on the team, he's just a versatile athlete that can contribute in multiple ways. Sort of like Tebow. Only Tebow is more athletic.

That's all true, but Edelman was acquired with a 7th round draft pick. His cap number is $635,295. I'm sure the Patriots would jump at the opportunity to get Tebow if they only needed a 7th round pick to trade for him and could pay him under $700k. Tebow's cap number is $2.7 million. And I think the Broncos will ask for more than a 7th rounder.

That's a lot to pay for a bench player that comes in for trick plays. Too much. Belichick could find ways to use Tebow's abilities, but not for that price.

Tebow is one hell of an athlete, but versatility alone doesn't get you a spot on the Patriots' roster. Players need to have a primary function on the team. And their value needs to exceed their cost.

That is why, thankfully, Tim Tebow will not be playing his home games in Foxborough.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Devils-Rangers Line Brawl to Start Game

This is like something out of Slap Shot

NHL linesmen are underpaid.

Bruins Extend Shawn Thornton's Contract

For the last few years the Bruins have actively tried to lock down key players before they reach free agency. It's been a refreshing departure from the old ways of the Bruins' front office. The B's extended Shawn Thornton's contract for 2 years, keeping the enforcer in black and gold until the 2013-14 season. The deal is worth $2.2 million.

$1.1 million a year is a good price for a guy like Thornton. He leads the NHL with 19 fighting majors this season, but he's not just a pugilist. He's a great fighter with his gloves off and a solid player with them on. He plays on a line that energizes the rest of the team, he plays smart yet physical, and he contributes positively in his 9:07 of ice time per game. He even scored 10 goals last year.

The Bruins were 13-5 in the playoffs when Thornton dressed. 3-4 when he didn't. He's known for his fists, but he also has two rings on those fists, and he does more than fight to earn them.

Jon Lester Named Opening Day Starter

Who starts Opening Day isn't really all that important when you think about it. Rotations get shuffled and reordered throughout the season. And who starts Game #1 in April isn't nearly as important as who starts Playoff Game #1 in October (or Game #163 in October). The only reason it's interesting to me is because the Red Sox don't have a true Ace.

Justin Verlander is starting for Detroit on April 5th. The Tigers didn't need a press release to tell us that. He'll be facing Jon Lester. Lester was last year's Opening Day starter. So Bobby Valentine's first managerial decision in a meaningful game shouldn't be too controversial.

Why Lester over Beckett? I think Lester's more consistent. Beckett also suggested to Valentine back in January that Lester start Opening Day. To be honest I don't think Bobby V deliberated much on the decision. Neither starter is an Ace. Lester is a consistent #2, and Beckett fluctuates between 1, 2, and 3, averaging out to another #2.

I'm really anticipating the start of the season. Much like I anticipate dentist appointments. You're worried that it might be painful. There's a slim hope it won't be. Either way you just want it to happen so you can get it over with.

Patriots Sign Donte Stallworth

The Pats added to their arsenal of offensive weaponry by signing Donte Stallworth to a 1 year deal. Stallworth only caught 22 passes for 209 yards last season and has not been very productive since his one year DUI/manslaughter ban in 2009. Even before that he hasn't been productive since he left the Patriots after the 2007 season.

Give me a second while I spin this discouraging fact into something extremely pro-Patriot...



So maybe having Tom Brady as a quarterback and Josh McDaniels as a coordinator could rejuvenate Stallworth's career. He caught 46 passes in '07 for 697 yards and 3 TDs. That's good considering he was Brady's #3 option. Welker and Moss combined to catch 210 passes for 2,668 yards (1.5 miles) and 31 touchdowns that year. In 2012, Stallworth will again have to compete for receptions with Welker, and now Gronkowski and Hernandez. But he has shown an ability to produce in such a situation.

And he will not struggle with McDaniels' playbook, which he absorbed well in 2007.

Stallworth provides a vertical threat. And along with Lloyd, the Patriots now have a diverse and problematic set of receivers. Last year, Patriots WRs not named Welker caught 74 total passes. 51 of those were Branch's. Even with Welker, WRs caught 196 of 402 team receptions. Less than half (48.8%). That's because Gronk and Hernandez caught 169 total passes. Which is a testament to their abilities, but it also means the Patriots' offense wasn't multidimensional. It was all Welker, Gronkowski, and Hernandez.

Brady will have more options in 2012. We saw in the Super Bowl what can happen when Gronkowski gets taken out of the game. With this stable of receivers, the Pats are hoping to resolve that vulnerability. None of these new receivers are thoroughbreds, but there are enough of them to keep a defense off balance.

And while the Patriots haven't done much to address their Swiss Cheese defense, they've improved their strongest area, and haven't spent much to do it. They've decided to perfect their strength, rather then spending a lot to try to raise their weakness to mediocrity.

It's sort of like a movie studio adding a cheap former star to a guaranteed blockbuster hit instead of spending tens of millions to put big stars in a crappy movie that will likely be a box office bomb.

I think it's a sound strategy. And in other breaking news, I once again agree with what Bill Belichick does.

Peyton Manning Taking His Talents to the Rocky Mountains

The Broncos acquiring Peyton Manning makes an absurd amount of sense for both parties. John Elway and the Broncos front office know that Tebow was actually one of their team's biggest weaknesses. They've always harbored doubts, even in the midst of Tebowmania. Manning gives the Broncos a legit QB, and nobody can argue that this isn't an improvement over Tebow. So the public outcry won't be overwhelming. And for Peyton, he stays in the AFC, and is on a playoff team. A team that actually won in the playoffs.

Not even the Archbishop of the Church of Tebow can argue that this isn't an improvement for the Broncos. Tebow, for as many games as he won for the Broncos, was also a prime culprit in their losses. He couldn't consistently drive the ball down the field and score. He couldn't even consistently get 1st downs. When the defense was able to give him a chance late in games, Tebow could win. But that winning was dependent on the defense. He could finish a victory started by his teammates. He wasn't, however, good enough to initiate victory.

Peyton is. At least he has been in the past. For every Tebowist who spouts "All Tebow does is win," Mr. Manning has about 140 more wins than Mr. Tebow. Manning has won games for team's with horrible defenses. He can survive in an offensive shootout. In fact he thrives in them.

Denver can provide Manning with a good offensive line. Not only does that protect Manning, it allows him to go through his progressions and find the open man. He is a great enough QB to turn mediocre receivers into good ones, good receivers into great ones, and great receivers into Hall of Famers. So I wouldn't worry about Denver's lack of household name WRs. He'll be on a playoff team in a soft division. He has some raw material to work with in Denver. There is plenty of room for improvement, but he's quite capable of improving it.

What do the Broncos do with Tebow? Manning certainly isn't the long-term solution at quarterback, and nobody is absolutely 100% certain if Manning can play, let alone play well. The Broncos could keep Tebow as insurance/QB-of-the-future. They could also trade him. Which makes this acquisition even smarter for them. How many teams dramatically improve themselves AND acquire additional draft picks with one move?

The NFL's schedules aren't set yet, but in addition to playing their AFC West rivals, the Broncos will host Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Houston, New Orleans, and Tampa Bay. They'll travel to Baltimore, Cincinnati, New England, Atlanta, and Carolina.

Not an easy schedule.

The Hibernating Bruins Have Awoken

Through two periods last night, the Bruins had 7 goals, the Leafs had 7 shots. That sums it up right there. The Bruins have put together 6 consecutive periods of quality hockey, and they hadn't done that since Thanksgiving. Winter is over. Spring is here. The hibernating bears have woken up. And they mauled Golidlocks (Kessel).

The B's kept up their good habits the whole game despite the lopsided lead. Playing well meant more to them than the two points which were already in their pockets. And that's very encouraging to see.

I'm glad Thomas stayed in net for the 3rd. The idea of resting him and putting in Turco is a bit silly. How much rest are you really giving Thomas? And what if Turco lets 4 go by him in 10 minutes, you have to bring Thomas back? And it's also good to let Thomas go out there in the 3rd and try for a shutout, his 5th of the season, and first since December 17th. He only needed to make 13 saves so it's not like that 3rd period taxed him much anyway.

Joe Corvo was scratched again. And that's very fine with me. 125 minutes without him and the Bruins have played 125 of their best minutes of the season.

On Saturday the defensemen initiated the physical battles against Philadelphia. Last night the forwards followed their example. Gregory Campbell fought 30 pounds above his weight-class and held his own against Luke Schenn. Komisarek made the mistake of taking on Lucic. And he should know better by now.

The crowd chanted "Thank you, Kessel" after Seguin scored to make it 8-0, and I think the differences between Kessel and Seguin emphasize the differences between the Maple Leafs and Bruins. Kessel has 35 goals and 40 assists. Seguin has 26 goals and 34 assists. Kessel is a threat to score 40 every season. Seguin might be that someday, but right now he isn't.

However, Seguin plays the whole game. He makes defensive plays and smart passes. He doesn't hurt his team. He is an elite talent playing the within team's system. Kessel is an elite talent but struggles in systems. Kessel plays Phil Kessel's game. That's partially why he is a -7, and Seguin is a +29.

Kessel is also probably a better golfer than Seguin. That's an individualistic game which suits Kessel's attitude better. And Kessel gets much more opportunity to sharpen his skills.

To be fair to Kessel, the Leafs don't have much of a system for him to play in. And last night they surrendered when they were down 4-0. No fire, no pride, no team mentality. Just 5 individuals skating around. It tends to happen when you build your team around guys like Phil Kessel.

Bruins head West to San Jose Thursday night. The Bruins are 3 points ahead of Ottawa with a game in hand. The Senators host New Jersey tonight.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Monday, March 19, 2012

Boston College Wins Hockey East... Again

Apart from those vomit colored uniforms, BC is looking good.

For the third straight year, the Eagles won the Hockey East Tournament. They survived an early scare from Providence in the semifinals, then poured it on to beat Maine 4-1. BC hasn't lost a game since January 21st. That's 15 straight wins for the Eagles.

At the start of the season, their Power Play was inconsistent, and there was a three way competition for the goaltending spot. Now the PP is firing on all cylinders and scoring timely goals (1/4 against PC, 1 of 3 against Maine), and Parker Milner is looking like he's always been a starting goalie.

This is BC's 3rd straight Hockey East Championship, their 5th in 6 years, 9th in 15 years, and 9th under Coach Jerry York. The consistent level of dominance that BC has attained under York is incredible. Especially considering how much competition there is in Hockey East with teams like BU, and Maine is back to relevance, and the rise of programs like Merrimack and UMass-Lowell.

BC earned a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and are the #1 overall seed. They'll be playing the Regional round in Worcester, opening up against Air Force on Saturday. Three other Hockey East teams made the NCAA field: Maine, BU, and UMass-Lowell.

We'll have a full preview of the NCAA tourney this week.

Photo Credit:
Steve Babineau

Patriots Make Multiple Moves

The Patriots went a bit nuts this weekend, signing just about everyone who was very good back in 2010. The big buy was Brandon Lloyd, the former Ram, former Bronco, former Bear, former Redskin. Lloyd had expressed a strong interest in reuniting with Josh McDaniels, and it appears as though that interest was mutual. In 2010 under McDaniels, Lloyd caught 77 passes for 1,448 yards and 11 TDs. Last year, split between Denver and St. Louis, Lloyd caught 60 passes for 966 yards and 5 scores.

Lloyd adds an outside receiver which the Patriots desperately needed to compliment Welker in the slot as well as the tight-ends. Now the Patriots can present even more matchup dilemmas for opposing defenses. Imagine the headaches that defensive coordinators will endure as they gameplan to cover Welker, Gronkowski, Lloyd, and Hernandez.

With Lloyd, Chad Ochojohnson is likely going to be issued his release, along with a map that has a very detailed walking route out of the Stadium and toward Route 1. We know he struggles with routes.

The Patriots also signed WR Anthony Gonzalez. The former Colt has been victimized by injuries just as he was becoming one of Peyton Manning's secondary options behind Wayne, Clark, and Collie. He hurt his right knee in '09, and his left PCL in 2010. He did play last year, he just didn't catch a pass.

This is a classic low-risk/medium-reward acquisition. Gonzalez can play the slot, maybe be a 3rd or 4th WR option in some formations. He can fill the role that we thought Julian Edelman might fill.

The Pats added to their defense as well. They signed Trevor Scott, an OLB/DE who tallied 7 sacks in 2009. He injured his ACL in 2010, but came back last year. He's good in pass-rushing situations. And like Gonzalez, he's a low-risk/medium-reward guy. The type of player that comes with a "but," and a few "ifs." He's good, but he's been injured, and if he's healthy he'll do well.

I'm excited about Lloyd. He wants to be here, he's proven to be successful under McDaniels, and he doesn't have to be a Pro Bowler to positively contribute to the offense. He's 30 years old and should have some solid years left. And since he's worked with a McDaniels playbook before, we don't need to have Ochocincophobia about him.

Gonzalez and Scott come with bad medical histories, but they're both 27, and they can both find productive roles on this team. The Patriots lacked depth at wide receiver and Gonzalez provides that. They needed an outside guy capable of applying QB pressure. Scott could be that guy.

Don't Wear Orange on St. Patrick's Day, Flyers

Maybe it was the well lubed St. Patrick's Day crowd. Maybe it was having the Flyers in town. Maybe the Bruins were literally sick of losing. I think all three of these factors played a part in Saturday's perfect storm of intensity. Plus the benching of Joe Corvo, who Claude Julien kindly said was "banged up."

This was how the Bruins won big games last year. It's not raw talent. It's not 40 goal scorers or French Canadian goalies with names that rhyme with Flew-Juan-Go. It's toughness, it's fighting battles, winning battles, making everything difficult for the opponent. Playing sound defense, making the opponent work hard when they're on defense.

There were some mistakes. Some turnovers. Sometimes the Bruins forget how fast certain opponents can close passing lanes. But the B's withstood the Flyers' surges. Thomas played out of his mind. Chara left a physical imprint on the game for the first time in a few weeks. McQuaid embarrassed Hartnell who didn't want to back up his words with fists, then was shepherded across half the ice by Chara. And Johnny Boychuk destroyed Maxime Talbot.

Not only did the Bruins' defensemen do their job on defense, they won the physical game. Chara played like a Captain and Joe Corvo was not missed.

The B's reminded all of us, and more importantly they reminded themselves of what they're capable of. They've got 11 more games in 3 weeks to lock up the Northeast Division. They needed to stop the bleeding. They've done that. They're still 1 point ahead of Ottawa with 2 games in hand.

They remembered how to play Boston Bruins hockey. Let's hope that unlike most Bostonians, they actually remember what they did on St. Patrick's Day and why they did it.

Phil Kessel and the Maple Leafs come to town tonight.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Friday, March 16, 2012

Hockey East Semifinals Preview

Tonight at the Garden, the other March Madness continues with the Hockey East semifinals.

5:00pm - NESN/NBC Sports
The Friars surprised UMass-Lowell last weekend to advance to their first Hockey East semifinals since 2001. however, BC has won 13 straight games. Two of those came against Providence (3-0, then 7-0). The Eagles are on fire. Their power play is clicking, and goalie Parker Milner has found a groove. BC will advance to their 3rd straight Hockey East Final, their 6th in the last 7 years.

8:00pm - NESN/NBC Sports
It's hard to pick against BU after their dramatic series against UNH. The Terriers have had so much self-inflicted adversity this season, but they've managed to persevere. Maine beat BU at Agganis twice in late January, but the Black Bears' season has been defined by inconsistency. I think BU grinds out a tough win, possibly in OT.

That would set up a classic BU/BC final. BU won the regular season series 2-1, but BC won the Beanpot. And as well as BC is playing right now, they'll be tough to stop. BC will win their 11th Hockey East Tournament Championship.

The Final will be Saturday night at 8:00pm, on NESN locally and NBC Sports nationally.

Bruins Sign Minor League Goalie

The Bruins signed 21 year old goalie Adam Morrison to a 3 year deal. Morrison had been playing for the Vancouver Giants of the WHL, the same Juniors team that produced Milan Lucic.

He was drafted by the Flyers in the 3rd round of the 2009 draft but became a free agent after two years when Philadelphia didn't sign him.

He was 34-16-3 with Vancouver, with a 2.73 GAA and a .901 SV%. He also played 2 games for the Saskatoon Blades before going to Vancouver.

I doubt you'll see him in a Boston Bruins uniform this season unless somebody gets injured, or Marty Turco gives up 10 goals in a period. He adds depth to the bottom of the Bruins' goaltending depth chart.

He's much better groomed than Gonzaga's Adam Morrison.

There Are Racists in Mississippi?

As Kansas State's Angel Rodriguez shot free throws, Southern Mississippi pep band members chanted "Where's your green card." What makes this instance of ignorance extra ignorant is that Rodriguez is Puerto Rican. Which means he's a natural born American citizen. So technically he doesn't have a green card.

Anyway, these weren't random Southern Miss fans, these were people whose trip to Pittsburgh was paid for by the school.

Bruins Retire in Florida

For the first time in a few weeks, the Bruins outdid their opponent in an aspect of the game. Unfortunately, that aspect of the game was which team was trying hardest to lose. The Panthers made so many mistakes, from giveaways in their own zone, to Theodore's trapezoid penalty. The Bruins failed to capitalize, and made more than a few mistakes on their own.

The difference between a clean breakout pass and a giveaway that results in a goal is just a foot or two. The Bruins have found ways to turn these simple plays into game-changing mistakes.

I'm tired of seeing Joe Corvo's name on the box score, I'm tired of seeing his screw ups on the ice, and I'm tired of hearing his name. He scored a goal last night, but he was on the ice for three Panther goals. One of his giveaways directly resulted in Florida's 3rd goal. His blue-line passes suck, his breakout passes suck, and I never see him make a big defensive play.

Corvo's not the only problem. Nobody on the Bruins is playing well. And if they do, it's just for one or two shifts per game. Right now, the Bruins best player is Shawn Thornton. No offense to #22, but that's sad.

Bruins host the Flyers Saturday afternoon. And if Ottawa beats Montreal tonight, the Bruins will be in 2nd place in the Division, and 7th in the Conference.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Nike's Irish Misstep

Nike decided to market their SB Dunk Low sneakers by nicknaming them "Black and Tans." Partially due to their color, and partially as a marketing ploy for St. Patrick's Day. Nike deployed advertisements that alluded to the drink, which is a mixture of a stout beer (like Guinness) poured on top of a pale ale (such as Bass).

The problem is "Black and Tans" was the nickname of a paramilitary group in 1920s Ireland that terrorized Catholics and Irish nationalists. They killed people, burnt towns, and once surrounded a village for a week to not let food in. In response to IRA attacks on British sponsored "police" units, the Black and Tans would indiscriminately kill civilians.

If you go to Ireland, don't order a "Black and Tan." Ask the bartender for Guinness poured on top of Smithwick's.

In 2006, Ben & Jerry's released an ice-cream flavor for St. Patrick's Day called "Black and Tan." Irish people didn't like it. Ben & Jerry's apologized.

And 6 years later, Nike's made the same mistake.

It's sort of like trying to pay homage to Polish people by calling a shoe "The SS Boot." Here's a drink/shoe/ice cream named after people who oppressed and murdered your ancestors. Enjoy!

Nike has apologized. And I'll admit it's an obscure historical reference to something that few people outside of Ireland are aware of. Then again, as one Irish politician asked, "Is there no one at Nike able to Google Black and Tan?"

Anyway, free advertising for Yuengling's Black and Tan, which is delicious, despite its name.

Obama's Final Four

President Barack Obama unveiled his NCAA Final Four picks: Kentucky, Ohio State, Missouri, and North Carolina. He selected UNC to win the Championship.

Obviously Kentucky is a standard pick to go deep. #1 team in the country, #1 overall seed. They do have Duke in their bracket. But the President is politically savvy enough to know that most people hate Duke. Obama did pick the Blue Devils last year. Then again, he didn't have to run for President last year. More voters hate Duke than like Duke.

Obama might have picked Ohio State because of Fab Melo's ineligibility hurting Syracuse. Or because Ohio has 20 electoral votes and is perhaps the most important swing state in the election. No Republican has ever been elected President without winning Ohio. In other words, Obama winning Ohio blocks the Republican road to the White House

The Missouri pick reflects one of the "sexy" picks to win the tournament. Mizzou's won 30 games and have a good shot to beat Michigan State in their region. Obama lost Missouri by 0.14% in November of 2008. 3,903 votes. The Mizzou Arena holds 15,061 fans. If Obama gets some Tiger fans to switch sides, he could win Missouri in 2012.

North Carolina is a good basketball pick. Obama probably wants to avoid Kansas, too, as he's picked the Jayhawks before and they've been disappointing in tournament play. This is also a good political pick. Obama won North Carolina in 2008, by 0.32%. His margin of victory was 14,177 votes in the usually Republican state. North Carolina will probably return to the GOP column in 2012, but with Obama picking the Tar Heels to win it all, perhaps the Republicans won't be able to cover the spread.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Horror, The Horror

The Lightning scored 4 goals in the 1st period. The Bruins took 2 shots.

That's all I really need to say about this game.

Hopefully this is rock bottom and the Bruins pull themselves up. Maybe this is the darkest moment before the start of the third act.

Let's not forget that this was just one night. It was a horrible night. But it was just one night. It was a horrible night in a series of bad nights. But it was just one night. The Bruins can change this trend in one game. Skate harder, work for loose pucks, stay within the system, play defense, forecheck, make good decisions.

It can turn around in one night. Hopefully that night comes soon.

Bruins at Panthers Thursday night.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tom Brady Caught at Lakers Game Not Wearing Celtics Jersey and Red Sox Hat Like He Should Be Wearing

I love when people's little worlds are shattered when they see their town's athlete from Sport A socializing with an "enemy" athlete from an enemy town from Sport B.

The jock sniffers on Obnoxious Sports Fan and Masshole Sports decided to give Brady fashion advice, even joking about Gisele dressing him. I'm sorry, but anyone whose idea of formal wear is their silver Patriots jersey shouldn't be giving attire advice to a guy married to a model.

And how dare he speak to Kobe Bryant. Doesn't Brady know that Kobe is the enemy?

Unfortunately, people don't want to realize that Tom Brady has more in common with Kobe Bryant than he does with any Celtics fan. Or any Patriots fan. Us paying hundreds to see these guys play doesn't make them like us more, it makes them less like us.

I'll stick to criticizing Brady for his mistakes on the field, not for any fashion faux pas or for chatting with a fellow millionaire athlete.

Hockey East Quarterfinals

BC grinded out two very physical games against UMass, winning their 12th and 13th straight games. BC also now has a 10 game winning streak in this tournament. The Minutemen are big and can skate, which forced BC to play out of their comfort level. UMass tried to keep the game along the boards, but they lacked the finishing touches on scoring chances. BC beat them 2-1 then 3-2. BC is in the semifinals for the 8th straight year.

BU needed 11 periods plus 8 minutes to beat UNH in a series that twice went into Double OT. It was a marathon series with 228 minutes of grueling hockey played. Kieran Millan made 68 saves in Game 3. At one point the Terriers were down 4-1, they tied it at 4-4 and the 3rd, and Alex Chiasson won it in the 2nd OT. The series was just the latest in a long series of dramatic events for the BU hockey program this season.

Maine likely eliminated Merrimack from the NCAA Tournament by beating them 2 of 3 up in Orono. The NCAAs only have 11 at-large bids and right now Merrimack is ranked 17th in the PairWise Comparison Rating. Maine solidified their standing, but could use a win against BU to really feel safe.

Providence advanced to the Hockey East semifinals for the first time since 2001 by upsetting UMass-Lowell. The Friars ended the regular season with two losses to UML, but were able to beat them Thursday and Sunday night. They'll play BC, who they lost to twice before losing to UMass-Lowell twice.

The semifinal round will be played Friday night at the TD Garden. The games will be on NESN.

5:00pm - #1 Boston College vs. #7 Providence
8:00pm - #2 Boston University vs. #4 Maine

The Championship game will be played Saturday at 8:00pm.

Also, Harvard beat Yale two out of three to advance to the ECAC semifinals in Atlantic City. They'll play Cornell on Friday.