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Dirk Versus Kevin, Who Ya Got?

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While the match-up may be unexpected, that won’t stop the Western Conference Finals from starting tonight when Oklahoma City Thunder take on the Dallas Mavericks in their best-of-seven series. Granted, the absence of teams like the LA Lakers and San Antonio Spurs may be shocking to some, but these clearly are the two best teams playing currently for the Western Conference.

Sure, the Lakers might have had Phil, Kobe and Pau, but a lot of good that did while being unceremoniously swept out of the playoffs by the Mavericks.

KD or Dirk after the jump >>

Taj Gibson Gets the Conference Finals Started With a Bang


Specifically, Gibson banged all over the face, head and body of Dwyane Wade as Chicago stomped the Miami Heat in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals. While the Bulls’ defense told the story of the whipping, it was Gibson’s fantastic smash over Wade that set the tone. Twitter loved it, as did the rest of the Internet — save Heat fans, I’m sure.

Although, considering the bandwagon nature of at least some members of that stable, do their feelings count?

Joking aside, while Game One was indeed a dominate performance from the Bulls, it would be foolhardy to consider the Heat done. Surely the names “LeBron James” and the aforementioned Wade still resonate in the NBA, right? Expect Wade to be looking for some payback come Game Two. If he happens to smash on Gibson, all the better, no doubt.

As for the almighty Taj, his vicious destruction of Wade was not his only notable dunk of the night.

After the jump, Gibson’s second dunk and a nice freeze-frame >>

Conference Finals: 2011 Stanley Cup NHL Playoffs

NHL Playoffs Conference Finals, the east offers hockey fans a showdown between the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning. The west offers a battle between the Vancouver Canucks and the San Jose Sharks. After going 7-for-8 with my round one predictions, I managed a fair 3-for-4 to close out round two.  My NHL Playoffs 2nd-round predictions faltered only on the game between the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning.

The NHL Playoffs Eastern Conference round two games were a completely clean sweep, with the Boston Bruins brushing the hapless Philadelphia Flyers out the door in four games. The Tampa Bay Lightning similarly swept the Washington Capitifuls into a dust pan and unceremoniously dumped them into the off-season without a Stanley Cup bid. These games were hardly competitive, but I suppose that both of them resulting in sweeps were a merciful ending to a round that didn’t live up to the excitement of previous one in the 2011 NHL Playoffs.

The NHL Western Conference, on the other hand, lived up to my expectations. It took to Vancouver Canucks six games to dispatch the Nashville Predators. While Nashville faltered at home, losing all three of their games, they managed to put up a fight in Vancouver where they were 2-1. The Detroit Red Wings looked like they were going to be cut loose by the San Jose Sharks in short order before they surged back to tie the series at three games each before the Sharks knock-out punch in game 7.

The #3 seed Boston Bruins against the #5 seed Tampa Bay Lightning

These two teams have been waiting more than a week to get back to playing the NHL playoffs. If there is an advantage or disadvantage to a long layoff – well neither team has the upper hand in this contest.

Tim Thomas has continued to carry over his outstanding excellent regular season play into the post-season and is a sure to receive the Vezina Trophy for these NHL playoffs from what I’ve seen. Hopefully, my thoughts don’t become a kiss of death for his receiving that award. While Dwayne Roloson is no slouch, I’m giving the edge to Boston.

The Boston Bruins craptastic power play unit is going up against a formidable post-season penalty killing unit in the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are shutting down opponents at a shade over 94%. With Boston’s power play performing at a 5% success rate combined with the loss of Patrice Bergeron – means the special teams play favors the Lightning.

At even strength, I come down on the side of the Boston Bruins. The Tampa Bay Lightning were generally outscored at even strength in both previous series’. Yes, the Bruins did play against the goalie carousel in Philadelphia, but they do have talent and depth. On top of that – they’re tough. Tampa Bay shouldn’t be overlooked, with the likes of Stamkos, LeCavalier, and St. Louis. With Sean Bergenheim and Martin St. Louis in the NHL playoffs top 5 for goal scoring, they’re sure to test Thomas early and often in this one. Boston’s goal scoring has been spread around quite nicely and Roloson will have to have his head on a swivel as the shots come from Nathan Horton, David Krejci, Chris Kelly, and Brad Marchand.

The Boston Bruins are going to the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals in 6-games.

The #1 seed Vancouver Canucks against the #2 seed San Jose Sharks

Don’t look now but there is some very good goaltending going on way out west. Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo and – shocker – there’s that Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks on the brink of another chance to get his name etched on the Stanley Cup in his second consecutive NHL playoffs appearance. Luongo’s goals-against is nearly a full point better than Niemi’s while their save percentages are nearly identical at just over .900. While I’m one of the few who don’t disrespect Antti Niemi, I still am giving the edge to the Vancouver Canucks.

The special teams are a virtual deadlock. Both teams have demonstrated outstanding penalty killing skills. Further, the Vancouver Canucks never seem to take many penalties, either of the necessary or unnecessary kind.

At even strength, Joe Thornton, Dan Heatley, and Patrick Marleau lead the charge for the San Jose Sharks. Throw in Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture and the Vancouver Canucks are going to have their toughest tests of the 2011 post-season. For Vancouver, the spotlight seems to be shining brightly now on Ryan Kesler. In the mix are the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik. While Henrik hasn’t been producing as much as the Canucks fans would like, Daniel Sedin has put up six goal and four assists. Defensively, they need to play much better as both are a -8 to go with their 10-points each. I’m going to side with the San Jose Sharks here.

The play of both of these teams has been stellar which is why they are the top two seeds in the Western Conference. Still, I continue to believe that the Vancouver are on a Stanley Cup Finals mission this year and will manage to get there in six games.

Eastern Conference Round 2: 2011 NHL Playoffs

As far as my NHL Playoffs Eastern Conference Round 1 predictions go, I was 3-for-4. The Pittsburgh Penguins let me down and I finished the entire first round with an overall record of 7-1. The NHL Playoffs Eastern Conference quarterfinals didn’t lack for intensity and excitement, either. The Boston Bruins – Montreal Canadiens series was a 7-game thriller. The Philadelphia Flyers – Buffalo Sabres series was a 7-game thriller. Oh, and yes, the series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning went the full 7-games, too. The Washington Capitals dispatched the New York Rangers in 5-games. Onward we skate to the NHL Playoffs Round 2!

THE EASTERN CONFERENCE


See Tony’s predictions after the jump >>

Western Conference Round 2: 2011 NHL Playoffs

Announcement: I was 4-for-4 in my NHL Playoffs Western Conference predictions. The teams that have moved on include the Vancouver Canucks, Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings, and San Jose Sharks.

After the whirlwind of excitement that was the NHL Playoffs Western Conference quarterfinals round, which included an unbelievable game 7 between the Vancouver Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks, we’re set with the semi-finals match-ups beginning tonight with…

THE WESTERN CONFERENCE


See Tony’s predictions after the jump >>

Brandon Marshall Stabbed, Adam Schefter Buries Him

Brandon Marshall, wide receiver of the Miami Dolphins, was violently stabbed in the stomach with a kitchen knife by his wife during a domestic dispute. It’s clear now that Brandon Marshall is expected to make a full recovery. However, it’s even more clear that being stabbed in the stomach by your wife is cause for concern, alarm, even a little bit of sympathy. While details remain quite unclear, one thing is for certain – a man was reportedly in intensive care for a serious stab wound which required surgery.

When the report came over the airwaves, I was greeted with Adam Schefter’s effort, which left me speechless. Having read many articles on the subject that flood the internet when something this high-profile occurs, it was clear he wasn’t the only one who used this opportunity – not to express concern for another human being who had been stabbed in the stomach by a violent wife – but to bury Brandon Marshall before he was dead.

A-Dumb Schefter comments after the jump >>

NHL Playoff Game 7: Philadelphia Flyers – Buffalo Sabres

With mere hours before one of the most exciting sports events takes place – a Game 7 NHL Playoff Game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres – I’m forced to take a frustrated look at how the Flyers have limped to this point. When I took a look at this series through the rose-colored glasses the Flyers provided me for free about 2-months ago, it was hard to see them losing. However, that’s when what could turn into an epic collapse by a Flyers team that made the NHL Stanley Cup Finals just one year ago (losing to the Chicago Blackhawks).

More on game 7 after the jump >>

Early Thoughts on the 2011 MLB Season

We’re now two weeks into the 2011 Major League Baseball season. Here are your my top 5 story lines.

1. The Royals don’t suck. At least not yet. Before Thursday’s games Kansas City is 7-4 and just a half game out of first behind the also surprising Cleveland Indians. The rookie relievers have been nothing short of excellent, and the offense has far exceeded expectations. The Royals tied their own record early this season recording 4 straight walk-off victories. I already reserved my playoff tickets for Kauffman Stadium.

The Kila Monster celebrates his walkoff home run

2. Albert Pujols has been abducted by aliens.  Through Wednesday night he is hitting .229 with just 1 home run, 6 RBIs and an OPS of .609. To put into perspective how un-Pujols-like that is, his career OPS is 1.047. Keep this up Albert and you’re going to wish you’d signed that offer from the Cardinals. Or better yet, his stock will fall so far even the Royals could afford him.

Read more early 2011 MLB season thoughts >>