Archive | May, 2012

The Best of the Best Face-Off Tonight

30 May

If you would have asked most hockey fans in September or even in February, which teams would have been in this year’s Stanley Cup Finals, I doubt you would have received today’s answer. Tonight, the puck will drop between the #8 seeded Los Angeles Kings and the #6 seeded New Jersey Devils. Both of these teams have without a question shown that they deserve to be here. The question is, what happens now?

The 2012 Stanley Cup Finals feature 2 visibly different teams but if you take a closer look, they might just be a little similar.

Goalies. One young and one “old.” These goalies are not as opposite as they seem. They’re both 2 of the best in the NHL this year and their team’s success reflect their greatness. The Kings have Jonathan Quick, a pretty young goalie who has elevated his team’s play this postseason and is only averaging just 1.54 goals allowed. While the Devils have the legend himself, Martin Brodeur.   Brodeur is truly the best of the best. If you didn’t believe it when the Rangers/Devils series began, I’m sure you believe it now.

Push through the playoffs. When you think about it, both teams have really proved all of the NHL wrong this year. While the Kings are the bigger story having easily plowed their way through the playoffs by beating the top-seeded teams early and quickly, the Devils are pretty much in the same boat. Their series’ might have gone a little longer but they showed that they can beat the best as well.

Captains. Dustin Brown. Trade rumors about Brown started in the middle of the season but he has really stepped up his game and proven to be extremely important to the Kings. It really doesn’t look like anyone’s getting traded now. On the other side you have Zach Parise. He is also about to be a free agent and rumors are running rampant. Parise is just another important piece in this Devils team and has shown that each night of the playoffs. While both Brown and Parise want to keep the rumors out of the finals, they also need to play well and be motivators to their teams. Another interesting thing about Browne and Parise, whichever captain wins will be just the second American-born captain to win the Stanley Cup.

Another important factor…

The Fans. Los Angeles is the city that has always rallied around its sports teams but this time its hockey. Will the LA fans show up and root for their team? Now that the Lakers are out of the playoffs, the Kings are really the next best thing for Los Angeles. And then you have New Jersey. The Devils are really the only professional sports team that New Jersey has left. The fans have been vocal throughout the series with the Rangers and you can bet that they will show all of the state’s support in the finals.

Truthfully, I have zero idea who is going to win but I’m a Jersey girl so I’m going with the Devils. With Marty Brodeur on their side, can they really go wrong?

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10 Really Interesting 2012 Stanley Cup Facts

Can Anyone Beat LA?

25 May

No, this title has nothing to do with the NBA or the MLB, believe it or not, it has everything to do with the NHL. And while the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils are in the midst of a pretty heated Eastern Conference Series, the Los Angeles Kings are just sitting pretty while they wait to see who they will face in the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals. The Kings, a #8 seed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs have proven that they are clearly more than their #8 seed represents. They have knocked off #1 Vancouver, #2 St Louis, and #3 Phoenix. And the thing is, none of these series went to 7 games. In fact, the Kings have made playoff hockey look easy.

So while its still to early to look ahead to the Stanley Cup Finals, both NY and NJ fans should be a little wary. The Kings look unstoppable right now and seem to have all the weapons. Great goal-tending mixed with just the right amount of offense and defense. Regardless of who wins this “Battle for Hudson” can either of the teams actually beat the Los Angeles Kings?

Solely based on the many playoff series’ of the East and the West I’m going to say that there is definitely more parity in the East and they are definitely on the stronger side of the playoffs this year. However, the Kings are a #8 seed and they beat #1 Vancouver, easily. If everyone on the Kings plays well, including all-star goalie, Jonathan Quick, they are unstoppable.  The Kings are also averaging 36.3 hits per game and have been able to kill off almost every power play penalty that comes there way. They have also beaten their opponents so easily that they have been well-rested before starting each series and the Stanley Cup Finals will be no different. For now, they can enjoy watching 2 other teams fight it out to earn the right to play against them.

Either way, the Stanley Cup Final is most probably going to come down to the goalies. There will be no shortage of comparisons regardless of the opponent and that is for sure.

If you want to look at this past season, the Kings and Rangers have only played each other once, and the Devils only twice. All 3 games were in the first 3 weeks of the season. While the Kings beat the Rangers and the Devils beat the Kings, these games have really no indication of who will win now.

Being that I am from New Jersey, I will definitely be rooting for whichever team emerges from the East. But honestly, who wouldn’t want to see Los Angeles win? They are already on this improbably run and winning the Stanley Cup would finally earn their team some NHL respect.

But, let’s not look ahead anymore because we’ll have plenty of time to preview the 2012 Stanley Cup. If the Rangers/Devils rivalry is any indication of what is to come, then tonight’s game 6 match-up should be a good one. Here’s hoping it goes to a game 7.

An Epic Battle for the Hudson River Begins

14 May

Tonight starts the beginning of what could be the best series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Call me partial, but being that I’m from New Jersey and root for most New York/New Jersey teams, this is an epic series. Even casual hockey fans in the tri-state area are getting excited about this one.

First we have the New York Rangers, they have been the Eastern Conference’s best team all season but have almost let 2 series slip away. Its a tough feat to reach the Stanley Cup Finals after playing in a few 7 game series but they can definitely do it. The New York Rangers have all the right pieces but just need them to click at the same time.

Then on the other side of the Hudson River, in the state that only has one real major professional team to call their own, the New Jersey Devils are threatening at just the right time. After pulling upset after upset, the Devils look too good to stop right now. If you ask me, the people of New Jersey need this win for state pride.

One of the biggest stories in this series are the goalies. The Devils are anchored by their legend, Martin Brodeur. While Brodeur has been the star for the Devils for nearly 20 years, he is also getting old. No criticism here though, he has shown that he is probably one of the best NHL goalies ever. Plus, the Devils don’t rely on him as much as they used to so when he is performing well its a plus for the Devils. On the other side, Henrik Lundqvist (a personal favorite of mine) is proving he is among the NHL’s elite goalies as well. The Rangers definitely rely on his impeccable ability to catch that puck and if the last 2 series are any indication, Lundqvist can come through in the clutch.

Neither team would have this much success if it wasn’t for their other stars as well. The Captain of the Rangers, Ryan Callahan, together with Marian Gaborik, rookie Chris Kreider, and Brad Richards have proved incredibly important in the playoffs. Likewise, the Devils have their Captain, Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, David Clarkson, and another rookie Adam Henrique who have all proven to be keys to the Devils current success. Both teams are pretty even and I will be shocked if this series goes less than 7 games.

But wait, there is more. Aside from the players, there are also the fans. Anyone in New York or New Jersey would probably tell you that hockey fans are pretty much crazy. Take a New York hockey fan and put them in the same room as a New Jersey hockey fan and madness will no doubt ensue. If you are lucky enough to go to one of these playoff games, you should definitely watch your back.

Drama seems to always follow New York and New Jersey whenever they meet. The last time they met during the regular season on March 19th, there were 3 fights in the opening minutes of the game. Even the coaches got in on the excitement and exchanged some harsh words for each other. Two months ago, emotions were running high in just a regular season game and there was craziness.

And so the drama leading up to this series just keeps building. This almost never happens. The last time both teams faced each other in the Eastern Conference Finals was in 1994. That series also went to 7 games but the Rangers knocked off New Jersey in double overtime. Stephane Matteau was the star for the Rangers that year as they went on to win the Stanley Cup. 1994 was an epic season for the New York Rangers and Martin Brouder and his New Jersey Devils have not forgotten.

Here’s the thing about rivalries and battles between teams that are close in proximity, its not like everyone in New Jersey is a Devils fan and that’s probably the part that kills New Jersey the most. In fact there will probably be a large number of blue jerseys at the games in Newark, NJ just because a lot of people in the tri-state area root for New York. If you are a Rangers fan you are loyal to New York and if you are a Devils fan you are loyal to New Jersey. The Rangers and Devils don’t like each other. The fans pretty much hate each other. Sports are about team loyalty and this series will be no different.

The pressure is on for both the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils. And as a native New Jerseyan I cannot wait.

We, the hockey fans of the world are now left to wonder, wait, and watch. Who will be this series’ game changer? What kind of battle will ensue on the ice? Will history repeat itself? and most importantly, which team wins the Battle for the Hudson?

Josh Hamilton is a Pretty Big Deal

9 May

A home run in Major League Baseball is a pretty big deal. A few home runs in Major League Baseball is a pretty big deal. Hitting the most home runs in the 2008 Home Run Derby is a pretty big deal. Being the 2010 ALCS MVP is a pretty big deal. It comes as no surprise then, that hitting 4 home runs in one Major League Baseball game is a really big deal. Last night at the historical Camden Yards, in Baltimore, Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers hit 4 home runs in a single game and if you didn’t think he made the record books already, he definitely did with that performance.

4 home runs in a game doesn’t happen every day. Hamilton became just the 16th player to hit 4 home runs in a single game. I’m sure if you asked the Baltimore Orioles players and fans what the game was about they wouldn’t tell you the winner or the final score, J0sh Hamilton was the game. Josh Hamilton is really one of those professional athletes who everyone strives to be. Clearly, one of the Most Valuable Players in the MLB right now, he also leads the American league in home runs (10), RBIs (28) and slugging percentage (.691). He really is just that much of a big deal.

But, perhaps the best part about Josh Hamilton isn’t even his record setting baseball abilities as it is his life story. Everyone always knew he was good at baseball. Hamilton was the Number 1 overall pick by Tampa Bay in 1999 but wasn’t able to show the world his baseball prowess right away. Hamilton spent a significant amount of years in the minor leagues while battling with a drug and alcohol addiction. He failed numerous drug tests and lost three years in the minors to drug suspensions. It wasn’t until 2006 that he made a Major League Roster with the Cincinnati Reds. Things still weren’t easy for Hamilton as he was then traded to the Texas Rangers in 2007.

2008 was when the world was really introduced to Josh Hamilton and when he finally got the introduction he truly deserved.

A true victim of alcohol and drug addiction, Hamilton doesn’t deny his story and recognizes that its a struggle for him every single day.  Despite battling recent injuries, criticism, and drug addiction, Hamilton is the model athlete who also relies on his faith.

As a fan of baseball, I am truly happy for guys like Josh Hamilton who have made it this far. Watching him succeed makes me feel like I am successful. What’s so great about Hamilton, is we know he is not taking any performance enhancing drugs or breaking any rules of the game. Josh Hamilton is the reason we love sports.  He is another example of the greatness of the game of baseball. Each night, you never really know what is going to happen and Hamilton is that reminder. Josh Hamilton is a true athlete who is really just that good.

This is Why You Should Love Sports

3 May

I woke up this morning with 2 more reasons to love sports.

Last night, Jered Weaver of the Anaheim Angels did what most pitchers hope to do in a lifetime. Against the Minnesota Twins, Weaver threw a no-hitter and solidified his name among the Major League Baseball greats. Phil Humber of the Chicago White Sox threw a no-hitter just 2 weeks ago as well.

A few hour before, the New York Rangers defeated the Washington Capitals in a triple overtime playoff game. Regardless of the winner, this game was a playoff game for the ages. A true defensive game filled with all the pressure of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

These are the nights that sports fans live for.

The amazingness of a no-hitter in the MLB and the sweet victory and triumph of an NHL playoff win is a reminder that in today’s scandal filled world of sports, there is still the untouchable quality that makes sports what it really is today. While we are constantly faced with the harsh realities of a world in which bounty scandals, NCAA violations, and contract negotiations seem to take over, its the record breaking and hard work of the athletes that should be celebrated. The human interest stories about perseverance and determination is what really makes a sports fan love sports.

That being said, a true sports fan feels for the athletes and the teams. Ask any sports fan and they will tell you, with their team’s wins and losses, a fan really does feels the emotion.

Earlier in the afternoon, it was announced that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had signed a new free agent. Eric LeGrand, the defensive tackle from Rutgers University saw his dreams come true when he was signed to an NFL team. As a personal friend of mine, I am so proud and happy for Eric. Greg Schiano has illustrated another positive that can come out of the world of sports and for that I am grateful. Eric’s story is just beginning as he will no doubt continue to shock the world of sports with each passing day.

It can’t be denied that the sports world feels the great loss of someone like Junior Seau, a true superstar, model athlete, and NFL great. His death is one that the entire world of sports will feel and it just shows the harsh realities of the world we live in.

While there will always be down times of sadness and scandal in the world of sports, there will always be times of incredible highs and elation. As sports fans we should take notice of joy in moments like a professional league draft, the victories of the playoffs, and the triumphs of those who break records.

Obsessed with the East Coast NHL Playoffs

2 May

If you’re looking for me between the hours of 7:30-10:30pm this week, you’ll find me on the edge of my couch with eyes glued to the tv. I’m completely hooked. I don’t know if its the excitement that surrounds the 4 eastern conference teams, the complete madness of how they’ve made it to this round,  or the extreme likability of each of the players but I do know that the current Eastern Conference playoffs have not disappointed. Perhaps its because they are all so close in vicinity to each other or because the possibilities of the next round match up is even crazier to think about. Either way, I’m obsessed.

The 4 teams in the Eastern Conference Semis – The New York Rangers, The New Jersey Devils, The Philadelphia Flyers, and The Washington Capitals are lighting up the east coast as we speak.

Let’s visit the Rangers-Capitals series first.

The New York Rangers (my personal favorite) beat the Ottawa Senators in a 7 game series that I almost thought was going to slip away. The Senators were fast and exposed the Rangers weaknesses but with the help of Boston College rookie, Chris Kreider they pulled out a win. Then you have the Washington Capitals who beat the highly regarded Boston Bruins in another 7 game series that was close throughout. The Caps are really peaking at the right time and it shows. In the last game the Caps showed why they cannot be counted out.

All playoffs come with stars but this series really has it all. Henrik Lundqvist, the do it all goalie who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated and is single handedly one of the reasons the Rangers are in the playoffs. Chris Kreider, the lovable rookie who just turned 21 this week and continues to help the Rangers when he is most needed. Ryan Callahan, the captain who always seems to come through in the clutch. The Caps have Alex Ovechkin. While he hasn’t been as dominant as of late, he has the ability to heat up and really bring it.

Right now the series is tied 1-1 so its really anybody’s series to win.

Then just a few exits away on I-95 the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers are growing their rivalry with each game. They are also tied 1-1 and its anybody’s guess who will win this series. The Flyers were definitely the favorite going in because of the way they took out the Penguins in the first round but it doesn’t look like the Devils are backing down from a fight. After 2 periods of hockey last night the Devils looked like they had given up but whipped out 4 goals in the 3rd period to shock the Flyers. The Flyers looked like a team that lost their way in the last period of the game and for that I would be scared.

The Devils have their always reliable goalie in Martin Brodeur. Another rookie, 19 year old, Adam Larson is showing why he was a first round pick last year. The Flyers are doing it with their stars Claude Giroux and Danny Briere.

The winners of these series is anyone’s guess. I for one would love to see a NY/NJ or NY/Phila match-up. No more then 2 hours a part and probably the craziest and loudest fans anywhere.

As a person who really didn’t get into hockey until recently, this year’s playoffs have breathed new life into the world of NHL hockey. There is so much excitement that its contagious.

If the 1st four games of this week are any indication of what is to come in the rest of the series, then the east coast better be ready.

 

A little bit more about Kreider: http://nymag.com/daily/sports/2012/04/chris-kreiders-crazy-april.html