Monday, April 30, 2012

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Day 14*

The second round is underway. The NHL is probably pleased with the mix of big market teams (New York, New Jersey, Philly, Los Angeles) and southern teams (Nashville, Washington, St. Louis, Phoenix).

RANGERS 3, CAPITALS 1 - (Rangers lead series 1-0)
BC alum Chris Kreider, who hasn't even played in a regular season game, scored a goal and added an assist. Braden Holtby only made 11 saves. And Lundqvist only saw 18 shots. Yup, those numbers are correct. Brad Richards also scored his 3rd of the playoffs. Unlike the Bruins, the Rangers' best forwards are producing goals.

Game 2 tonight at MSG.

KINGS 3, BLUES 1 - (Kings lead series 1-0)
Vezina nominee Jonathan Quick stopped 28 of 29 shots. LA's Matt Greene scored a shorthanded goal that turned out to be the game-winner. The Blues were also 0 for 3 on the Power Play, which was a major weapon for them against San Jose. Now that Power Play is at -1. Jonathan Quick might be able to carry this LA team very far.

Game 2 tonight in St. Louis.

FLYERS 4, DEVILS 3 (OT) - (Flyers lead series 1-0)
Danny Briere might be one of the best postseason performers in Stanley Cup history. He scored twice (has 7 already this postseason) in this game. In his 105 playoff games, he has 49 goals and 57 assists (106 points). He has an absurd 20.2% shooting percentage in the playoffs. Giroux also scored his 7th of the playoffs, on the Power Play. The Devils' relied heavily on their PK in the regular season. They've already allowed 10 PP goals in the postseason.

Game 2 Tuesday night in Philly.

COYOTES 5, PREDATORS 3 - (Coyotes lead series 2-0)
With Mike Smith facing Pekka Rinne, everyone thought this would be a low scoring series. That was 15 goals ago. Mike Smith was solid in this game, but Shane Doan was outstanding. This is his first taste of the 2nd round and he's making the most of it. He had a goal and an assist in this game. The Coyotes are simply making the plays, big and small, and Nashville needs to turn things around at home.

Game 3 Wednesday night in Tennessee.

Tonight's games:
7:30pm - Capitals @ Rangers - NBC Sports - NYR lead series 1-0
9:00pm - Kings @ Blues - CNBC - LAK lead series 1-0

Patriots Draft an Offensive Player With Their Last Pick

The Patriots took a receiver with their last pick. Jeremy Ebert out of Northwestern. He caught 75 passes his senior season, for 1,065 yards and 11 touchdowns. That's nothing to dismiss lightly. He might have trouble finding a roster spot considering how many people are vying for a spot on the WR list.

He's 5' 11" and 200 pounds, but this guy might just find his way on the roster in September.

I definitely give this pick two thumbs up (get it? because his name is Ebert). As I give to the whole draft. Exciting playmakers in the first round, a guy who seems like a reliable defensive back in the 2nd, an All-SEC pass rusher in the 3rd, then it got weird. A rugby player in the 6th, an alleged criminal in the 7th, then a guy with great numbers to end the 7th.

It's always tough to gauge the success of a draft before any of these players even get numbers assigned to them, let alone take the field, let alone play a game. But I think the Patriots have drastically improved the potential quality of their defense. And if just one or two of these guys work out, the Patriots' defensive unit will be much better in 2012.

Patriots Draft a Shutdown Corner/Accused Criminal

The Patriots drafted a project/accused criminal in the 7th round. Alfonzo Dennard has ridiculous talent, and was a shutdown corner in the Big Ten for Nebraska. But he ended his senior season with an ejection in the CapitalOne Bowl.

Then he had a disappointing combine.

Oh, and he was in jail as recently as last Monday for resisting being placed in custody and assaulting a police officer. The story is that he was being belligerent outside a bar, was asked twice by police to leave the area, and was later seen pushing and punching another person in the same area. Police tried to put him in custody, he resisted, more pushing and punching with the cops, and hence the arrest.

This is a first round talent taken in the 7th round. This guy might sound like a bit of a loser, but the Patriots can't lose on this pick.

I have no idea how well Belichick and the locker room leaders will do to help Dennard to get his act together. But if he doesn't, he won't get 3 chances like he did with the cops in Lincoln. He'll get 1.

In the entire NFL Draft, Dennard might have the biggest gap between his potential upside and his potential downside. He's talented enough to be in the Pro Bowl. He's also capable of winding up in prison. Belichick is probably thrilled with this pick. And so is whoever coaches football at the Correctional Institution in Walpole.

Pats Draft Rugby Player

The Patriots didn't have any 4th or 5th round picks. In the 6th, they took Nate Ebner, who didn't even play football in high school. He played rugby. And he walked on to the Ohio State football team and became a special teams specialist. He was drafted as a safety but only played three snaps at that position his senior year.

Ebner's true position is a special teams psycho. He claims to enjoy the "mayhem" of kickoff coverage most of all.

Rugby players are crazy.

In the 6th round, the odds are slim of drafting a guy who will make an impact in one of the 22 regular positions. So why not draft an insane rugby player and put him on special teams? You're much more likely to get a positive contribution from him than from a 6th round RB or offensive tackle.

And maybe if the Dolphins try to get clever with some sort of Wildcat 2.0 formation, or if the Jets use Tebow in the option, Ebner can use his rugby experience to counter that. Especially the option, which is very similar to rugby plays.

Patriots Add All-SEC Defensive End to Pass Rush

In the 3rd round, the Patriots took Jake Bequette, a defensive end from Arkansas. The all SEC pass rusher recorded 10 sacks his senior season. He's 6' 5" 271 pounds and can play as an OLB or a DE.

He missed 3 games because of a hamstring issue. And the word is he's not that great as an edge rusher. But I'll take an All-SEC defensive end with the 90th overall pick. That's fine. He seems like he has tremendous upside. And even if he doesn't fully reach that level, his versatility will help him find a role on the team.

Bequette finished his college career with 23 sacks, among the all-time leaders at Arkansas. He won the Defensive MVP award at the Cotton Bowl. And he knows what it's like to win. The Razorbacks have won 29 games the last 3 seasons.

I think this is a really good pick at 90th overall.

Who is Tavon Wilson?

The Patriots selected 7 players in the 2012 NFL Draft. And 6 of them play on the defensive side of the ball. Two linemen, a linebacker, and three defensive backs. Although one of those DBs is essentially a pure special teamer.

We know about Jones and Hightower. The fanbase seems pleased with that. But I'm sure they'll find something to bitch and moan about once Training Camp starts.

In the 2nd round, the Patriots drafted Tavon Wilson. Which shocked the experts who projected Wilson to go in the 6th or 7th round, if at all. Certainly not with the 48th overall pick in the draft. He wasn't even invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Wilson is strong and versatile. He's 6' 0" and 205 pounds. He started three years at Illinois and switched between safety and cornerback. He also plays special teams. The more you learn about him, the more he seems like the type of guy the Patriots want and need.

Last season, the Patriots' defensive backfield was a hodgepodge, to put it politely. The 8-15 yard curl in the flat was open on every down. The Pats' secondary focused on not allowing 40 yard TD passes, and didn't even bother to cover huge swaths of territory underneath that.

They need versatility. They need reliability. Wilson is not a shutdown corner. That type of guy would be great, but I don't know if that would be enough to solve the Patriots' problems. Huge holes in the zone would still be there.

Wilson seems like a smart player. One that's easy to coach. The Pats' DBs last season were not very savvy. The defense had to be simplified to suit their talents and their awareness.

This guy will find his way onto the field. He'll play special teams, obviously, and the Pats' DB depth chart presents an opportunity for any young player to work his way to a starting role.

Sox Annoyed by Floyd

The Red Sox went 6-1 in the Midwest, with Gavin Floyd spoiling a perfect 7-0 trip yesterday afternoon in Chicago. He took a no-hitter into the 7th inning. And even after that was broken up and the Red Sox chased him from the game, Chicago's bullpen was able to get the last 7 outs for him.

Beckett settled down after a 3 run 1st inning. In his remaining 5.2 innings, he only allowed 3 hits and struck out 7. The outing was certainly good enough to win on a normal day. But not when facing Gavin Floyd.

Beckett threw 126 pitches. And that's a day after Lester threw 122 pitches in his 1-0 win. That speaks to how unreliable the Sox' bullpen has been. But I don't think this will be a common trend throughout the season. Both Beckett and Lester will be making their next starts on 5 days rest. So why not take advantage of that?

The Red Sox should try to avoid Gavin Floyd in the future. He's now 7-0 in his career against Boston. I'm glad he pitches in the AL Central.

With all due respect to Floyd, the Red Sox' offense has been exceptionally inconsistent this season. The Red Sox have played in 21 games, and in 17 of those they've scored either 3 runs or less, or 9+ runs.

Youkilis missed the game with tightness in his back. He was just starting to get a few hits lately, but I'm concerned there might be a physical problem that's keeping him from hitting with consistency. Hopefully it's a problem that can be solved without an extensive absence from the lineup. However long it takes though, you don't want to have to deal with lingering back problems all season long. If something is wrong with Youkilis, he needs to get healthy now so he can contribute down the stretch.

Sox return home just 1 game under .500. They host the A's tonight. Buchholz opposes 3-1 Tommy Milone, who's coming off an 8 inning 3 hit win against the White Sox.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Celtics Bumped Off in Game 1

Up until the final 41 seconds of the game, I was actually feeling quite positive about the Celtics. They'd played below their capability, fell into a deep hole, yet nearly pulled themselves out of it. Rondo had been playing great (20 points, 11 assists), KG was hitting shots (after starting 1 for 9), and Pierce had just sunk a tough 17 footer that was vintage Paul Pierce.

Then Rajon Rondo acted stupid. He screamed into the ref's face, got a technical, then bumped the ref in the back and got ejected.

I don't know if he deserves to be suspended for the bump. He does deserve to be suspended for being a moron. Hopefully the NBA won't punish him for that. It puts the Ron Artest thing into perspective. If Rondo gets 1 game for a slight bump and Artest got 7 for a vicious elbow, what does that say about the NBA's disciplinary process?

Anyway, Rondo acted like an idiot. Whatever you may think about what punishment he may deserve, he put himself in the situation to be suspended.

It was an ugly game for most of the Celtics, well before the bumping incident. They didn't play defense in the 1st quarter. KG was useless until the 2nd half. They missed all 11 of their three-point attempts. Pierce was 5/19. Garnett was 10/18. The bench only scored 4 points.

Ray Allen was missed. Especially in that bench department, and the three-point department. When one of your best players is sidelined with injury, though, it's up to the other good players to step up. Garnett and Pierce didn't. Not until very late in the game.

Rondo was by far the Celtics' best shooter last night.

Atlanta didn't pull too far away. The C's were able to reel them in a few times. The Celtics outscored the Hawks 56-52 after the 1st quarter. So this was shaping to be a loss, but a promising loss. Until Rondo put himself at the mercy of David Stern.

Game 2 is Tuesday night. And without Rondo, the Celtics don't have much of a chance. He's that important to this team, which is why what he did was all the more moronic.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo