Monday, June 10, 2013

Bruins v. Hawks: Predicting the Unpredictability of the Stanley Cup Finals

Ladies and gentlemen, it's finally time.

If I'm being honest, I would have never imagined being here and writing this article six months ago. I, like many others at the time, had lost any hope of a 2013 NHL season. But, as we know, the right people finally came to their senses, and here we are, just three days away from what promises to be a fantastic Stanley Cup final. Here's some keys to the series and how I see them playing out...

In case you haven't heard, Chicago has a few decent scorers on their team. Bryan Bickell, Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa have all proved that they can put the puck in the back of the net this postseason. Combine them with the potential of Jonathan Toews (1 G this postseason) catching fire or "Hatrick" Kane continuing where he left off in Game 5 against LA,  and Chicago has every reason to be confident that they can out-score Boston. Boston has never been a team to play amazing offensively, and it hasn't been a huge hindrance this postseason,  but it's hard to see a scenario where Boston doesn't have to attempt to run n' gun and outscore the Hawks at some point.
Verdict: Chicago Leads 1-0

Now we're playing Boston's game. The Bruins have only given up three or more goals three times this postseason, two of those occurrences coming way back in round one against Toronto. Boston is, and has been for years, led by their strong defensemen who always seem to be in the right place at the right time. However, Chicago is no slouch defensively either. With Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook leading the way, the Hawks have put together a strong group of six defensemen they can trust. Behind them, netminder Corey Crawford has played surprisingly stellar this entire season and has posted a save percentage of .935 this postseason. Crawford and the Hawks have been good, but not nearly as good as Bruins goalie Tukka Rask. Anyone who seen a single minute of the Bruins-Penguins series will attest to that.
Verdict: Series Tied 1-1

The Bruins and Blackhawks are both lead by Stanley Cup champions in Claude Julien and Joel Quennville. The Bruins have made the playoffs every year since 2007 when Julien arrived in Boston and have a record of 256-146-56. In 2009, Julien won the Jack Adams Award as the league's best coach. In Chicago, Coach Q has also enjoyed success since his arrival, making the playoffs in all four of his season is Chicago and posting a record of 222-106-44. Although both coaches have proven their worth as top coaches in the NHL, Quennville gets a slight edge do to experience. In 16 NHL season, a Quennville coached team has only missed the playoffs once when his Colorado Avalanche finished the 2006-07 season one point behind the eight seed Calgary Flames.
Verdict: Hawks Lead 2-1

The Bruins win this matchup. Boston finished the regular season with 140 more penalty minutes than Chicago. Just like Chicago likes to stretch the ice and play at an upbeat tempo, Boston likes to slow it down, jam the net, and mix it up occasionally. Oh, and it doesn't get a whole lot more gritty then having a player break his leg and refuse to leave the ice and continue to kill off a minute of a penalty.
Verdict: Series Tied 2-2

Whenever two original six teams meet in a Cup Final, you have to talk about the history each team brings to the table. Somewhat shockingly, this will be the first time the Bruins and Blackhawks play for Lord Stanley's Cup. The Bruins have won the Cup six times compared to Chicago's four. The Bruins have also won more divisional titles, conference championships, and have more retired jerseys then the Hawks.
Verdict: Bruins Lead 3-2

Home Ice Advantage
Both teams have taken advantage of home ice these playoffs with the Hawks going 7-1 at United Center and the Bruins 7-2 at TD Gardens. What may give Chicago an edge on home ice is how much talent the Hawks have invested in their bottom two lines. If coach Quennville can find the proper chemistry and pull the right cards, it's hard to believe that the Bruins will be able to match up line-for-line with the Hawks without eventually getting burned by a mismatch the Hawks take advantage of. The Bruins great goaltending and strong defense will minimize Quenville's opportunities to take advantage of mismatches, but it only takes one bad decision that could cost the Bruins a series that promises to be as hard fought as this one.
Verdict: Series Tied 3-3

To me, this is probably the single most intriguing question of this series: can anyone in the NHL party as hard and Kane? Hold on Blackhawk fans, hear me out. I know what you're thinking: how could anyone EVER out party this guy?

As hard as Kaner can party, the Bruins may have a set of challengers that will finally dethrone Kane. Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand. Although they are long-shots, never in history has Kaner been challenged with not one, but two of the heaviest partiers the NHL has to offer.... at the same time. As much as I would love to see another round of Kaner celebrating the win in downtown Chicago, I'm feeling an upset. Seguin, Marchand, and the Bruins have what it takes.
Final Verdict: Bruins win in 7

Thursday, June 6, 2013

You should want the Spurs to win the NBA Finals and here's why.

The 2007 NBA Finals was the first and only time that the Cleveland Cavaliers have been to the NBA Finals.  It was the fourth visit for the San Antonio Spurs, who ended up sweeping the Cavs and winning their fourth ring.  In all honesty, I hated the Spurs then.  Yes, I'm a Cleveland fan.  But I'm a true Cleveland fan.  I didn't keep rooting for LeBron to win or do well after he made "The Decision".  No, I stuck with my Cavaliers and it has been a very rough go.  I felt great when the Cavs beat Miami in the Q that first season though, and again when they won the first draft pick and then when they won the first draft pick again.  Now, Kyrie is taking over and I couldn't be happier as a Cleveland fan.   Well, maybe I could.  If the Spurs beat Miami in the Finals, they will have five rings in five visits and beating LeBron for two of them. I want the Spurs to win, not just to beat LeBron, but to finish the legacy.  The Spurs didn't get on a stage when their "Big 3" was formed and promise 7 or 8 championships.  Hell, I can't even remember when the Spurs had a true press conference.  They play with dignity, class, and modesty.  They are the model franchise in the NBA and that's why I would love the Spurs if they beat the Heat.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Super Bowl sites every sports fan wants to see.

Lambeau Field – Capacity 79,594

         Located in Titletown, USA, how can you not have a Super Bowl here?  The NFL has approved of one cold-weather Super Bowl and that will probably be the deciding factor for future Super Bowls in the cold.  A Super Bowl Lambeau leap though should really be enough incentive to have a Super Bowl in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  
      Average February temperature: 13-28

Arrowhead Stadium – Capacity 76,416

        Probably one of the most underrated stadiums in the NFL.  The fans at Arrowhead take advantage of the shape of the stadium, their cheers reverberating back and forth between the two sides of the field.  This is one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL and has drawn in more than 80,000 fans.  
      Average February temperature: 26-45

Sports Authority Field at Mile High – Capacity 76,125

        The air runs thin, you can see every breath you take, mountains on one side, downtown Denver on the other.  Does that not sound like a great Super Bowl could be played here?  Watching Peyton Manning and the Broncos play Joe Flacco and the Ravens in the AFC Championship last season felt like a Super Bowl environment.  
      Average February temperature: 18-49

CenturyLink Field – Capacity 67,000

        Quite possibly the loudest stadium ever built, ever.  Seahawks fans take pride in how loud they can get and the roof sections are to thank.  A beautiful city and a beautiful stadium, there is no reason that Seattle cannot host the Super Bowl.  
      Average February temperature: 37-50

Edward Jones Dome – Capacity 66,965

The name says it all, DOME.  Weather is not an issue, so the Super Bowl should have been played here by now.  The city of St. Louis has the Gateway Arch and truly is a magnificent city.  Every NFL city should host a Super Bowl; might as well start here.  Average February temperature: 70 
(The game is indoors!)

New Vikings Stadium – Capacity 65,000

There is no doubt in my mind that the NFL will grant Minneapolis a Super Bowl.  After all, who doesn’t like a brand new and sparkling stadium?  This might end up being one of the most beautiful stadiums not only in the NFL but in all of pro sports.  
Average February temperature: 13-29

Ohio Stadium – Capacity 102,329

As a Buckeye fan through and through, I cannot leave out the greatest college football stadium ever built.  Host to “The Game” every other November, The Horseshoe has no problems filling it’s seats and more in cold weather.  One of the largest capacity stadiums in the U.S.  
Average February temperature: 22-42

Michigan Stadium – Capacity 109,901
Begrudgingly, I put this stadium on the list.  I assure you, I am a Buckeye, but you cannot deny the mass amounts of people that collect here during TTUN home games.  This stadium is the largest in the U.S. and third in the world when it comes to capacity, probably why they call it The Big House.
      Average February temperature: 20-35

Yankee Stadium – Capacity 54,251
Most likely, this will never happen.  You have to give Yankee Stadium it’s props though.  It has hosted NCAA football games, will host NHL games, hosted a boxing match, and even some futbol.  The only thing that’s left is the Super Bowl, right?
      Average February temperature: 29-42

Busch Stadium – Capacity 46,861

Again, won’t happen, but here’s hoping.  One of the more beautiful stadiums in the MLB and will host a future NCAA football game.  Probably the better St. Louis option over the Edward Jones Dome too.
      Average February temperature: 28-45

Wrigley Field – Capacity 41,058
Will not ever happen, ever.  Wrigley is simply too small to play a real football game and does not have anywhere close to the seating capacity that the NFL wants for its most important game.  Oh well.
      Average February temperature: 22-36

Talladega Superspeedway – Capacity 175,000
A dream that will not be fulfilled.  The NFL wants to expand who views their games.  Why not have the Super Bowl in the heart of NASCAR country.  This will only happen if Ricky Bobby gives his approval.  Shake and bake!
      Average February temperature: 33-58

Bristol Motor Speedway – Capacity 160,000

Again, a lost dream.  Bristol actually was scheduled to host an NCAA football game between Tennessee and Virginia Tech in 2005, until both teams backed out.  Now, it seems Bristol has given up on trying to host a football game with the video tower sitting right where the 50 yard line would be.
      Average February temperature: 28-50