Wednesday, April 13, 2011

NHL Playoffs: Western Conference

Yesterday, I covered the Eastern Conference of the NHL playoffs. Mind you, I am no prognosticator but I will make an attempt to handicap the opening round of the Western Conference.

Here goes!

(1)Vancouver Canucks vs (8) Chicago Blackhawks

Is there any wonder why Vancouver was the NHL's best team during the regular season? The Canucks won 54 games, score goals by the boatload, defend solidly, and have superb goaltending.

Offensively, Vancouver is lead by the Sedin twins Daniel and Henrik. Daniel scored 41 times this past season while Henrik had a whopping 75 assists. On top of that, Ryan Kessler also had 41 markers for the Canucks and Alexandre Burrows had 26 to boot. Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff is a threat from the blue line tallying 14 goals.

Asides from Ehrhoff, back liners Kevin Bieska and Dan Hamhuis were +32 and +29 respectively.

Roberto Luongo once again had a stellar season minding the net for Vancouver. The Vezina Trophy candidate was victorious in 38 of 60 starts sporting a fantastic 2.11 Goals Against Average and a sparkling .928 save percentage. Luongo is truly one of the league's best.

Defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago had turned over a significant portion of it's roster during the off-season and struggled just to qualify for this post-season.

The Blackhawks still have firepower from forwards Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, and Marian Hossa. However, Chicago is not as good defensively as star defenseman Duncan Keith had an off year by his standards.

This season, the netminding will rest on the shoulders of young Corey Crawford. Crawford did a respectable job taking over for veteran Marty Turco by winning 33 games and posting a respectable 2.30 GAA. That being said, this is a question mark for the defending champs.

Dick Says: As hard as this is to believe, it appears as though the defending champion Blackhawks have little chance in beating Vancouver in a best-of-seven scenario. Too many weapons and superior in goal, Vancouver could make this easy.

Vancouver --- 5 Games

(2)San Jose Sharks vs. (7) Los Angeles Kings

San Jose has the gunslingers to match Vancouver as seven Sharks scored 20 or more goals led by All-Star Patrick Marleau's 37 and Logan Couture's 32 tallies. Three lines of offense is hard to stop unless hot goaltending comes along.

Antti Niemi defected from Stanley Cup champion Chicago to play in net for San Jose this season and didn't disappoint. With 35 victories, a 2.38 GAA and a .920 Save percentage, Niemi has the experience to help send the Sharks deep into the post-season.

Los Angeles will have a difficult time offensively without center Anze Kopitar who broke his ankle in late March and is out of commission. Dustin Brown, Justin Williams, and veteran Ryan Smyth are all capable but this may be too much to ask to replace the puck skills Kopitar possesses.

Jonathan Quick will again man the goal for the Kings. A winner of 35 games with a 2.24 GAA, Quick is more than capable of handling the pressure San Jose will apply.

I believe: San Jose will prove far too powerful for the undermanned Kings. Pure and simple.

San Jose --- 5 Games

(3)Detroit Red Wings vs. (6) Phoenix Coyotes

Detroit has plenty of goal scorers to go around as 13 players scored at least 10 goals during the regular season with Johan Franzen and Danny Cleary leading the way. Of course there always Henrik Zetterberg who will shoot the puck at any time.

While goalie Jimmy Howard won 37 games, he didn't play particularly well for most of the season. He must step up if the Wings are to make another run at Lord Stanley's Cup.

Phoenix has no one player that will scare the Wings offensively. Shane Doan was the only player with 20 goals and that an even 20 at that. Defenseman Keith Yandle provides a spark from the blue line but he needs help from the forwards.

The Coyotes have Ilya Bryzgalov holding down the fort in net. While Bryzgalov had a somewhat high 2.48 GAA, his .921 save percentage is a testament to his outstanding play as Phoenix gives up a ton of shots.

I Think: Detroit has many weapons that can score but Howard is questionable in goal. Phoenix lacks goal scoring capabilities but had an outstanding goalie. Who knows?

Detroit --- 7 Games

(4)Anaheim Ducks vs. (5) Nashville Predators

Anaheim has three players that can tickle the twine. Corey Perry was the NHL's leading goal scorer with 50 on the season. Perry also lead the league with 11 game winners and was 5th with 14 power play goals. Bobby Ryan had 34 shots go to the back of the net and the ageless Finn Teemu Selanne still showed his scoring touch potting 31 goals, including 16 on the power play, good for 3rd in the NHL. To boot, blue liner Lubomir Visnovsky had 18 markers to help the forwards.

With starting goalie Jonas Hiller still suffering the effects of vertigo, it will be up to Dan Ellis to guard the net for the Ducks. Should Ellis falter, Ray Emery will fill in but Anaheim is hoping Hiller can play if need be.

Nashville is playing tremendous hockey entering the playoffs. While not loaded on offense, goalie Pekka Rinne has been nothing short of fabulous of late.

Rinne posted 33 wins with a fantastic 2.12 GAA and a .930 save percentage, second only to Boston's Tim Thomas.

Dick Chimes: While Anaheim clearly is better offensively, the questions in goal could haunt them. Nashville could win this series if Rinne plays as advertised.

Nashville --- 7 Games

There is my view of the opening round in the Western Conference.

Enjoy the games!


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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

An Apology Then NHL Playoff Preview

Hello to my readers. I know it's been two months since my last post and I apologize for that. Many events have happened to me in that time period and I was unable to avoid any of a good friend of mine used to say “Feces occurs!”

But now I'm back and things have settled down. I'm ready to return to “My Thoughts on the World of Sports” in a better way.

Now on to the NHL playoffs!

Tonight, I begin my playoff preview with the Eastern Conference pairings which could produce exciting action. Now comes my time to spout off my feelings about the East.

(1)Washington Capitals vs. (8) New York Rangers

Washington's scoring punch was down a bit this season mainly due to Alex Ovechkin's off year as he scored “only” 32 goals. Alexander Semin had 28 tallies for the Caps and old reliable Mike Knuble chimed in with 24 goals.

Injuries have also hampered the Capitals and none was worse than defenseman Mike Green's concussion suffered on February 25th versus the Rangers. Green could be ready for game one as he has been skating regularly with the team.

Goaltending was much improved this season as Michal Neuvirth has taken the reins in net. Neuvirth finished the regular season with 27 wins, a 2.45 Goals Against Average and a .914 Save Percentage.

The Rangers had balanced scoring this season led by center Brandon Dubinsky's 24 goals Followed closely by Ryan Callahan with 23 twine ticklers. Marian Gaborik, Derek Stepan, and Brian Boyle also were 20 goal scorers for the “Blue Shirts”.

New York has been bitten by the injury bug as well. The aforementioned Ryan Callahan is till in a walking boot after breaking his right ankle. Without Callahan, the Rangers will lack some of the physical play needed to slow Washington's speed.

If there's one area where the Rangers are superior it's the play of goalie Henrik Lundqvist. “King Henrik” won 36 games, enjoyed a sparkling 2.28 GAA, a .923 Save Percentage, and 11 Shutouts. Lundqvist is very capable of stealing games in the series and is the main reason the Rangers won a playoff berth.

My Prediction: While Lundqvist can steal the series, Washington has too much firepower for the Rangers.

Washington --- 6 Games

(2)Philadelphia Flyers vs. (7) Buffalo Sabres

Let there be no argument, the Flyers can score as seven players scored more than 20 goals. Center Jeff Carter had 36 goals for the season while Danny Briere tallied 34 for Philly.

One key injury the Flyers must deal with is ageless defenseman Chris Pronger's right hand injury. While hopeful to play, he's doubtful for game 1 of the series.

Goaltending is a huge question mark for the Flyers. Twenty-two year old Sergei Bobrovsky will get the call for Philadelphia in game 1 versus Buffalo. We'll see how young Sergei will handle Stanley Cup playoff pressure for the first time. Should he fail, veteran Brian Boucher will fill the void in goal.

The Sabres are entering the playoffs playing their best hockey of the year. Buffalo has been scoring of late and goalie Ryan Miller has been playing his best hockey recently.

Offensively, Buffalo is led by Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford with 32 and 31 goals respectively while the rest of the scoring is well balanced.

The key to the Sabres playoff run rests on the shoulders of net minder Ryan Miller. Miller, a perennial all-star, is capable of winning a playoff series by himself and we all know that history often repeats itself.

I Say: It will come down to goaltending --- the experience of Miller versus the youth of Bobrovsky even with the Flyers firepower, I see an upset.

Buffalo --- 6 Games.

(3)Boston Bruins vs. (6) Montreal Canadiens

The Bruins style of play begins with defense and goaltending. Norris trophy candidate Zdeno Chara was a plus 33 while youngster Adam McQuaid was at plus 30 from the blue line. In goal, Vezina Trophy favorite Tim Thomas had a season to remember. Thomas had 35 victories, an even 2.00 GAA, 9 shutouts, and an NHL record .938 save percentage. If Thomas should fail, Boston would still be in good shape with backup goalie Tuukka Rask.

While the Bruins don't score a ton of goals, six players scored at least 18 goals. Milan Lucic led the way with 30 goals while Nathan Horton ended the regular season with 26 tallies.

While Montreal won't scare anyone with their offense, they did have three players with 20+ goals with Brian Gionta leading the way with 29 to the back of the net.

Carey Price will handle the load in goal for the Habs. Price had 38 wins this season, a 2.35 GAA,a .923 save percentage, and 8 shutouts.

What I Think: This rivalry will be fiercely played as both teams feel they have to prove themselves. The Bruins must play physical hockey to neutralize Montreal's skating ability While Carey Price must be superb to keep the Habs in the series.

Boston --- 7 games

(4)Pittsburgh Penguins vs (5) Tampa Bay Lightning

We know what the Penguins will probably struggle scoring goals without mega-stars Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. So where will the scoring come from? Pittsburgh hopes that Chris Kunitz, Tyler Kennedy, and James Neal can pick up the slack.

Also, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury must be at the top of his game if the Pens' are to survive. Fleury has played well this season as his 36 wins and 2.32 GAA suggests.

Tampa Bay has plenty of goal scoring capabilities to win any playoff series. Led by Steven Stamkos (45 Goals), Martin St. Louis (31), and Vincent Lecavalier (25), The Lightning are ready to prove that the regular season was no fluke.

Keeping pucks out of the net could be a problem for Tampa Bay. The Lightning will depend on veteran Dwayne Roloson to man the net. If Roloson isn't at peak performance, the Lightning would be in serious trouble.

My Opinion: Pittsburgh has found a way to win without Crosby and Malkin while Tampa Bay wins with offense as well. It comes down to the men between the pipes.

Pittsburgh --- 6 Games.

That's a breakdown of the Eastern Conference of the NHL.

Enjoy and thanks for reading!


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Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Bruins Prayer: Revisited

As the Boston Bruins make a run for a top three in the NHL's Eastern Conference, I thought this would be an appropriate time to revisit The Bruins Prayer.

The Bruins Prayer

"Our father who art in Boston. Hockey be thy name. Thy will be done. The cup will be won. On ice, as well as in the stands. Give us this day our hockey sticks. And forgive us our penalties, as we forgive those who cross-check against us, Lead us not into elimination. But deliver us to victory. In the name of the fans, Lord Stanley, and in the name of the Bruins. Amen."

I am going to add two little statements:

May "The Force" be with the Boston Bruins.

Beware The Bear!


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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Beware The Bear! The Boston Bruins Are Coming Out Of Hibernation

With the National Hockey League season at the All-Star break, teams are positioning themselves for the final push towards the Stanley Cup playoffs.

As the standings are as of this moment, the Vancouver Canucks, Detroit Red Wings and Dallas Stars are topping the Western Conference while defending champion Chicago Blackhawks are struggling a bit after making sweeping changes to their roster.

The Eastern Conference is a bit jumbled as the Philadelphia Flyers are in the top spot while the Tampa Bay Lightning continue to shock the NHL by leading the Southeast division by four points over the powerhouse Washington Capitals. The Pittsburgh Penguins are holding their own despite major injuries but perennial power New Jersey Devils are floundering in the NHL cellar.

The team I will focus on has been solid all season and seems to be poised to make a run at not only capturing their division but could make a deep run in the playoffs.

The team?

The Boston Bruins

At the break, the Bruins are the Northeast division leaders with a record of 28-15-7 for 63 points, four points ahead of the Montreal Canadiens and the number three seed in the Eastern Conference. By winning 7 of 10, Boston has shown the defensive prowess head coach Claude Julien's teams are noted for. In that stretch, the Bruins have increased their goal production which has been a sore spot for a few seasons.

Let's briefly break down the Bruins season to this point.

The core of this seasons' team is the defense and goal tending. In fact, the Bruins are the NHL's top defensive team yielding a mere 112 goals in 50 games, with a league leading 8 shutouts and an NHL best .939 save percentage. The defensive corps is lead by leading Norris Trophy candidate Zdeno Chara. The man with the leagues hardest shot leads Boston with a +22 plus/minus rating and has 10 goals from the blue line including 6 on the power play.

Also helping Chara are veteran defensemen Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ferrence, and surprising rookie Steven Kampfer. All are on the plus side of the plus/minus ledger and can play the physical game when necessary.

Goalie Tim Thomas is certainly at the top of his game. His 1.81 Goals Against Average is by far and away tops in the league as well as his .950 Save Percentage.... that's point NINE FIFTY! Just think, the Bruins were willing to peddle him away after off-season hip surgery.

Though challenged offensively, Boston has been scoring goals of late. Milan Lucic leads the B's with 20 goals, while Patrice Bergeron has 16 tallies within his team leading 40 points. More is expected from veterans Michael Ryder (14 goals), Nathan Horton (12), Blake Wheeler (10), and David Krejci (7). Youngster Brad Marchand has surprised by potting 13 goals and plays the defensive end superbly with a +21 rating.

Also, the Bruins don't lack for toughness. Resident tough guy Shawn Thornton backs away from nobody for a fight and Lucic, Gregory Campbell, and young blue liner Adam McQuaid will mix it up as well.

As I see it, the Boston Bruins are one goal scorer away from being a serious contender for Lord Stanley's Cup. Boston General Manager Peter Chiarelli isn't afraid to pull the trigger on such a deal and it would be both shocking and disappointing should he not add a sniper.

Beware the Bear!!!


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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Re-Post: Professional Hockey --- To Fight Or Not To Fight?

I've had this conversation many times in the past and I had it again today. Fighting in professional it necessary?

Instead of making a new post, I will re-post what I wrote nearly 11 months ago about my feelings towards fighting.


In my last post I mentioned that the Men's Ice Hockey Tournament was the best ever in Olympic history. We saw outstanding play but we also saw outstanding sportsmanship as well. Sure, there was pushing and shoving after whistles --- that's to be expected. However, there is one “aspect” of hockey that was not seen.

No fighting. It's not allowed in the international game nor is it permissible in college or high school. Should there be fights during those games, an automatic one game suspension is mandatory, without exception. Yet, in professional hockey and in juniors, fighting is very much allowed and considered by some a staple of the game.

My intention here is to briefly weigh the pros and cons of fighting and I will give my opinion on whether hockey should or should not be banned on all levels.

Pros ---

Traditionalists believe that fighting is a necessary evil in hockey. Fights are to inspire a team playing lethargically, show opponents that they will not be pushed around, or sometimes players fight just for the sake of fighting. It does happen. Many fans ( In this instance, I use “fans” loosely) go to games merely to see a fight. At one time, if the game was played with elbows, knees, and sticks were used as weapons, fights and the occasional bench clearing brawl would erupt as a way to control the game. In effect, players were policing themselves. Yes, there were times where brawls got out of hand and that was alright with many teams. That was a part of hockey years ago.

Cons ---

Fighting, according to many, disrupts the flow of hockey for no reason whatsoever. Two grown men dropping the gloves and removing helmets from their own heads just to see who is tougher is just plain stupid. Fisticuffs do nothing for the game and is just a sideshow with most fights involving players with little or no hockey talent. Fighting promotes violence in hockey and therefore must be banned.

Now that I have giving some examples as to why fighting is either necessary or unnecessary, my opinion is...

Fighting should NOT be banned. As a hockey fan since the late 1960's, I feel that there are benefits to fighting. I believe that fights can and do inspire teams playing poorly in a particular game. Although the National Hockey League, has done a very good job in limiting the number of fights by imposing the instigator rule, banning it would lead to more dangerous play especially an increase in the stick fouls of slashing and high sticking. Also, players would be more apt to take a run at players with reckless abandon, thus leading to more major injuries.

That's just one hockey fans opinion...what's yours?


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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Luck Stays, Harbaugh Goes, and Buckley Breaks His Chains

The last week or so has produced three interesting stories that have changed the landscapes of major college football, the NFL, and a sports columnist from Boston breaking free.

So without fanfare, I will present these stories along with my random thoughts.

Andrew Luck stays at Stanford ---

Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck has decided to return to school and forgo his eligibility for the 2011 NFL Draft. The red shirt sophomore wasted no time announcing his decision after the Cardinal routed Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

My thoughts:

I believe Luck made the proper decision to stay at Stanford for a number of reasons. By staying in school, Luck has a chance to win a national championship for the Cardinal next season. Also, Luck becomes the prohibitive favorite for the Heisman Trophy. Finally, why would Andrew want to play for the Carolina Panthers, a team that is in total disarray?

Some argue that Luck will miss out on being the number one overall draft choice and the money that goes with that distinction. Let's not for get that there is no Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and when one is hammered out, the rookie salary cap will be far less than the expiring CBA.

Jim Harbaugh accepts San Francisco 49'ers head coaching position ---

While young Mr. Luck stays at Stanford, His former head coach Jim Harbaugh will coach the 49'ers next season. Harbaugh's deal is reportedly for five seasons for $25 million.

My feeling?

This is a tremendous opportunity for both Jim Harbaugh and the 49'ers. Coach Harbaugh gets to stay home in the San Francisco Bay area and the team gets a man who is fiercely competitive. I believe Harbaugh can get San Francisco back to the playoffs soon rather than later once he can groom a quarterback to run the West Coast offense.

Boston Herald sports columnist Steve Buckley announces he's gay ---

Steve Buckley, a very well respected and longtime sports columnist of the Boston Herald wrote an article “Welcome to my coming-out party” about his disclosure of being gay.

What do I think?

While I don't read the Boston Herald, I do watch “The Baseball Show”, a Saturday morning call-in show about the Boston Red Sox during baseball season which Buckley is one of the hosts. Buckley's decades of journalism is a welcome addition to the program as he speaks of the team with candor and wit.

You know what? Had Buckley not written his article, I would have never known of his sexual preference. Or in other words...So what if Steve Buckley is gay? Doesn't matter one iota to this sports nut and amateur blogger. The man is a good writer --- PERIOD!


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Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Wishing all of my readers a Merry Christmas and I will post soon!