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Eastern Conference Round 1: NHL Playoffs 2011

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The Eastern Conference 1st-round of the NHL Playoffs offers me the opportunity to provide a quick-and-dirty review, preview, and prediction.  While a painfully long NHL regular season rolls into a painfully long NHL post-season, make no mistake about one thing – I’m a huge fan of all things hockey.  I can make it through a lot of hockey en route to the NHL Playoffs and then I’m hard pressed to miss a whole lot of it.

The Eastern Conference


#1 Seed Washington Capitals hosting the #8 Seed New York Rangers

The New York Rangers have enough fire power to hang with the Washington Capitals.  Don’t let the difference in seeding fool anyone here.  In terms of statistical comparisons, call it a draw.  The Rangers scored more goals during the regular season and the difference between them in goals against was exactly one.  Defense and goaltending rule the playoffs and these two teams have a near identical showing in each category.  Throw the seeds out the window in this contest because they simply confuse the issue.  These two teams are about as evenly matched as they get and a Rangers win would be the furthest thing from an “upset” as I will have witnessed in recent years.

Hot Spots: For the Rangers it has to be the 11-shutout goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist.  For the Capitals, it’s no surprise that it’s Alex Ovechkin that led the Caps to a sizzling close to the regular season as the Flyers fell back to the field.

I don’t see the Capitals choking two seasons in a row and pick them to win this series.

More on the Eastern Conference Round One after the jump >>

Western Conference Round 1: NHL Playoffs 2011

The Western Conference probably had the most exciting close to the regular season in terms of undecided NHL playoff implications. The field is tight. However, the field is led by this year’s runaway powerhouse – the Vancouver Canucks. Here’s the quick-and-dirty look at the Western Conference Round 1 match-ups for the 2011 NHL Playoffs.

Western Conference


#1 Seed Vancouver hosting the #8 Seed Chicago Blackhawks

While the defending Stanley Cup Champions from 2010, this team is a far cry from the Chicago Blackhawks from last year. And, they’re about to insert their collective heads into hockey’s equivalent of a wood chipper in the Vancouver Canucks. Wholesale changes have doomed the Blackhawks to a likely quick and embarrassing exit from this round of the playoffs. Long gone are Stanley Cup impact players including Annti Niemi, Dustin Byfuglien, and Andrew Ladd. You can’t jettison that many players from a Stanley Cup crew and expect to make your way back there the following year.

Vancouver was like a runaway freight train en route to the President’s Trophy for 2011 for the best record in the entire NHL with 56 wins. The Canucks don’t appear to have a single “chink” in their proverbial armor. Best in scoring, best in defense, best powerplay. They would have scored the “quadrifecta” if not for finishing a mere third in penalty-killing. If this isn’t an embarrassing broom-fest, I’ll be shocked.

Vancouver Canucks have already swept this series.

More on the Western Conference Round One after the jump >>

The Tradition. The Masters. The Green Jacket.

I’m not sure what day it was when I became my dad. One thing is for certain, it was probably when I started to enjoy watching golf on television. I don’t believe I am alone when I say that I grew up in a household with a father who never played golf but who inexplicably always watched it on television. The Masters.  Back in those days, there were about 5 channels you could actually watch.

As a child, I remember sitting there wondering how my father could possibly be enjoying The Masters or any other PGA golf tournament.  He was sleeping on the sofa! I could see why he enjoyed it. It was the 1970s equivalent of washing down a few Ambien with a bottle of Nyquil. Today, I enjoy watching golf while my children sit in wonderment about why I am a viewer. At least I speak to them about the game, The Masters, and just how difficult the game of golf is. I’m not sleeping.

More Masters tradition after the jump >>

NCAA Final Four: Kentucky, UConn, VCU, Butler

For this sports fan, few events offer a prolonged and sustained period of sports enjoyment than the NCAA Men’s Championship Basketball Tournament, affectionately referred to as “March Madness.”  As exciting as this annual pilgrimage through the brackets is, we usually find ourselves starting at fearsome foursome of at or near top seeds during the Final Four weekend.  Not so in 2011.  Salute the infiltration of the Mid-Majors to the Final Four.

This weekend’s games are comprised of the #4 seed Kentucky Wildcats playing the #3 seed Connecticut Huskies (Saturday, 6:09PM EST) and the #11 Virginia Commonwealth Rams playing the #8 Butler Bulldogs.  When I watch the tournament every year, after rooting for my local interests, I secondarily have a secret crush on the underdogs.  Yeah, I’m telling you that my ultimate wish would be to see four #16 seeds make it to the Final Four and set the bracket right on its ear.

Why VCU is taking the cake after the jump >>

So How’s That NFL Personal Conduct Policy Working for You?

The NFL has maintained that it will continue to enforce the personal conduct policy during the player lockout. Not that it would need to, because the players have been on their best behavior during negotiations. (NOT.)

Aqib Talib from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is the latest to go on the list of players who have been arrested. The Bucs said that they are “deeply troubled” by the charges but that “Due to current labor circumstances, we will withhold any further comment or action.”

After all, what can they say? Talib is now the sixth player arrested since the lockout began. There is a nice, tidy list at Fox that shows the arrests since the lockout. They include:

Chris Cook (Vikings) – for “brandishing a gun during a verbal altercation with a neighbor.”

Bryan McCann (Cowboys) – who was arrested after a “public intoxication” charge.

Johnny Jolly (Packers) – Yes, I’m biased and actually think the Packers have a great group of guys now. They seem… gentlemanly. But Jolly is the odd man out in that group because he was just busted for “allegedly possessing 600 grams of codeine syrup in his Cadillac Escalade.” He was gone all of last year (suspended) for personal conduct violations.

Then there are the two guys who just had to call attention to themselves by cranking their music super loud:

Jason Peters (Eagles) – arguably the least troublesome of offenders, who merely “violated the city’s loud music policy” in Shreveport. However, he did resist arrest. DOH!

Mario Henderson (Raiders) – apparently loud music is a problem with NFLers. Oh, that and driving around with guns that they don’t have permits for. (Which makes me suggest that if you are going to drive around with a gun in your car for which you do not have a permit, maybe you should call less attention to yourself and keep your music at a dull roar.)

Players have been arguing that the NFL owners are not treating them like equal business partners, but when you see arrests like this it just hurts their case. Business owners do not act like this, because if they do they are quickly put out of business.

Should Michael Vick’s Old High School Honor Him?

Seems like Michael Vick sparks controversy even when he isn’t doing anything wrong. The latest snit involving Vick centers around his jersey in Warwick High School. The school had proudly displayed Vick’s jersey right up until the dog fighting incident and conviction. The school decided then (2007) to take it down. No use highlighting a football star when he falls from grace, right?

I remember at the time of his conviction, people said he was done. No team would hire him and he’d never be back in the NFL. Of course, those people were wrong. Now, of course, Vick is back, and stronger than ever. He actually seems to have more respect from fans, coaches, and players than he did before, and how wowed people were with his talent before, that’s saying something.

More on Vick after the jump >>

Hardest Sports Tickets to Score

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Hardest Sports Tickets To Score

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Matt Cooke’s Latest Head Shot

The talk these days is on the NFL and the rules changes designed to protect players from head injuries, but let’s not forget the NHL, which is dealing with its own version of excessive play. Pittsburgh Penguins player Matt Cooke is no stranger to punishment, and just got his latest (and harshest) penalty on a hit to the New York Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh.

Hockey is known for fights and hard hits, but the head injuries some of these guys are suffering just aren’t worth it. Just how harsh was the hit on McDonagh? Judge for yourself:

I think what made this hit really bad was that McDonagh didn’t see it coming. He was focused on the puck. Besides that, there was no reason for Cooke to use the elbow to smack his head. Excessive.

More on his fines and suspension after the jump >>