Friday, April 27, 2012

Stanley Cup Preview: Predators vs. Coyotes*

Some NHL people are probably happy about this meeting. Two warm weather cities get to experience a deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I'm not pleased. While fans in Nashville have taken to their Predators, the fans in Phoenix are only now showing up to fill their rink. There might be a future for hockey in Tennessee. But in Arizona? I hope not.

Anyway, both these teams advanced thanks to their goalies. Mike Smith was a wall for the Coyotes. Pekka Rinne was Pekka Rinne for the Preds. So who is going to be the difference maker on offense that will separate these two teams?

His name is Shea Weber, or Zdeno Jr. as I call him. Big strong defenseman, powerful shot, he scored 19 goals this year. He's excellent on the Power Play and that is where the difference will be made. Nashville's Power Play is a weapon. Phoenix's did well in the first round, but it's not very consistent.

With the goaltending as good as it will be in this series, every little edge counts. The Predators have their Power Play, and they have Shea Weber.

Nashville in 6.

Series schedule:
1: Friday 4/27 - 9:00pm - NSH @ PHX - NBC Sports
2: Sunday 4/29 - 9:00pm - NSH @ PHX - NBC Sports
3: Wednesday 5/2 - 9:00pm - PHX @ NSH - CNBC
4: Friday 5/4 - 7:30pm - PHX @ NSH - NBC Sports
5: Monday 5/7 - 10:00pm - NSH @ PHX - NBC Sports
6: Wednesday 5/9 - tba - PHX @ NSH - tba
7: Friday 5/11 - tba - NSH @ PHX - tba

Another Story About the BCS Moving Toward a Playoff

Here comes the latest story of BCS bigwigs getting together and deciding that college football's postseason needs to be fixed. All the conference commissioners have agreed that there should be a four team, three game playoff at the end of the season. Now comes the tricky part: hammering out the details.

The first hurdle is taking the plan to the individual conferences. And each school at each conference will have their say.

Significant questions will be asked. Actually, the questions are basic but significant sums of money depend on the answers. When would the games be played? Where would the games be played?

Who would control the money from TV contracts, tickets, and sponsors? How would it be distributed? Would the 6 conference BCS still exist as an entity, or would conferences get cash rewards for sending teams to this 4 team playoff.

Would it be the top 4 ranked teams, regardless of conference? Would it be the top 4 conference champs?

What about the bowls? The conferences love them because they guarantee a consistent stream of money each year. But their luster is fading. Conference championship games are drawing funds from fans that would otherwise be spent on bowl games. And when smaller programs reach the top tier bowls, they struggle to fill their hotel allotment. UConn lost money when they went to the Fiesta Bowl.

The Rose Bowl is still stuck in the 1930's and wants their BigTen/Pac-12 matchup protected. So a compromise will have to be made there.

If the conferences are truly motivated to get this done, it'll get done. These are hurdles, not roadblocks.

I think we all want to see a playoff system. I think 8 teams would be perfect. I'd settle for 6. But for right now, I'll take a 4 team playoff.

I just hope that the scumbags that run the bowls and the old bastards that run some of the conferences don't ruin it.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Day 11*

The first round is over. The Champions are out. The President's Trophy winners are out. The top seed in the East was nearly knocked out. We have teams from Phoenix and Nashville, but also two teams in the New York metro area, along with Philadelphia.

RANGERS 2, SENATORS 1 - (Rangers win series 4-3)
Going to a hockey game with Spike Lee would be something to write an entire book about.

Alfredsson scored, and maybe had he participated in the entire series things would be different. But another Swede came through big for New York. Henrik Lundqvist allowed a mere 13 goals in the series. We all saw last year what a defensive minded team can do with a red hot goalie. Maybe the Rangers will be this year's Bruins.

They'll face the Capitals in the Conference semifinals.

DEVILS 3, PANTHERS 2 (2OT) - (Devils win series 4-3)
22 year old Adam Henrique hadn't scored in this series. He scored twice in Game 7, including the game-winner. Florida wasn't expected to make this an interesting series, but they did. And it was actually because of their Power Play which scored 9 of their 17 total goals in the series. New Jersey had the best PK in the NHL in the regular season.

The Devils will face Atlantic Division rival Philadelphia in the Conference semifinals.

Tonight's game:
9:00pm - Predators @ Coyotes

Red Sox Stay Perfect on the Road

The 9 runs that Philip Humber gave up last night were the most ever allowed by a pitcher in the start after pitching a perfect game. Credit the Elias Sports Bureau for unearthing that factoid.

How sweet would life be if the Sox could play in the AL Central? And why not also send the Tigers to the East in that trade. That'd be perfect.

Another double digit output of runs last night. Youkilis hit a Grand Slam and went 3 for 4. His numbers are steadily increasing as this road trip progresses. Aviles is hitting. Gonzalez, Ortiz, and Ross are knocking guys in. Everything is clicking on offense right now. Even when the manager fills out a lineup card incorrectly.

Which means all you need from Felix Doubront is 6 innings and 3 earned runs. And an old-fashioned 3 inning save from Tazawa.

This team is going to win and lose with its bats. And for the last 4 nights, they've been winning.

Daniel Bard is back to his starting role tonight. He faces John Danks. Danks is 2-2 with a 5.11 ERA. And someone tell Bobby V that Danks is a lefty.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Patriots Shock Everyone By Doing Exactly What Fans Wanted

Yesterday I wrote a lengthy preemptive explanation of how the Patriots draft. I was expecting the fans of New England to be pissed today, as they usually are the day after the Patriots' activities in the first round.

Instead, the fans are happy. I'm happy. And I think that the Mayan end-of-the-world prophecy is happy too.

When Roger Goodell announced that the Patriots had made a move up in the draft, he might as well have been opening the Fifth Seal of the Apocalypse.

The Pats sent their 27th overall pick, along with their 3rd round pick (93rd overall) to the Bengals for the 21st pick. And they selected DE Chandler Jones from Syracuse.

Jones is a big man (6' 5" and 265 pounds) that has a big frame he can grow into. He only played 7 games of his junior year due to a knee injury in the middle of the season. But he totaled 4.5 sacks, 38 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, and an interception. Which he returned for 32 yards.

He's an edge rusher. And if he lives up to his potential, the combination of him and Vince Wilfork could present opposing offensive lines with serious problems.

Minutes later, as the First Round zoomed by, the Patriots did it again. They made a deal with Denver, sending their 31st overall pick, along with their 4th rounder (126th overall) in exchange for the 25th pick.

With that, they drafted Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower.

Hightower is another large man. 6' 2" and 265. He can do just about everything that a linebacker could do. He can play in all defensive situations. That's something that Bill Belichick covets. And so does Nick Saban. Belichick loves drafting Saban coached players.

With Hightower's flexibility, he'll find a place in the Pats' LB corps. Which was already kind of good, if a little bit dull. Mayo is solid. Spikes showed some sparks last season.

The Pats like to mix up defensive formations, especially up front. Hightower's versatility enhances the Pats' ability to do that.

I'm not a huge fan of trading up. But the Patriots didn't give up much to move ahead. As Belichick noted in his post-draft press conference, they didn't give up any of their 2nd round picks to do so.

And I think these two particular players struck them as good fits. They didn't just get a pass rusher and a linebacker, they got two guys that they feel will excel in Foxborough.

So enjoy it, Pats fans. The Patriots did what you wanted.