The NHL Playoffs are Here and You Should Be Watching

This is the prize that 16 NHL teams are vying for in the Stanley Cups.

This is the prize that 16 NHL teams are vying for in the Stanley Cups.

I’m not going to fabricate this; I love hockey but I don’t watch nearly as much of it as I would like. The exception is of course “playoff hockey.”

The National Hockey League Playoffs begin tonight and there is no better tournament in all of professional sports than these playoffs. That’s right, I said, “no better tournament.” You can tell me about the NBA Playoffs or the NFL Playoffs but neither of those has the consistent drama, aggression and spectacular play-making like the NHL Playoffs do.

If you aren’t a hockey fan then you don’t understand and I get that but I would encourage you to give it a try. Remember, these men aren’t racing up and down a court or field wearing shoes. They are on a sheet of ice with what amounts to a razor blade strapped to each foot. They run into each other at full speed, they take hard rubber pucks off of various body parts even when those pucks are traveling at upwards of 100 miles per hour.

They won’t just bang into each other either. They’ll also slam hard into walls and plexiglass. They’ll whack each other across the arms and wrists and ankles with their sticks in the hopes that one of the officials doesn’t see it.

There will be stitches mid-game and that player will return to the action because that’s what hockey players do. There will be teeth knocked out and there will be bumps and bruises and injuries that are described only as “upper body” or “lower body” injuries. Because that’s what hockey coaches do.

You’ll see coaches yelling at officials and coaches yelling at each other. There will be fans screaming, horns sounding and you’re going to see an octopus thrown on the ice in Detroit. in fact you’ll probably see several eight-legged creatures come flying from the rafters of Joe Louis Arena.

What you are also going to see is great play and overtime thrillers because that what happens in playoff hockey. There will be flukey goals and quirky bounces but there will be amazing saves and eye-hand coordination that will blow your mind.

That’s playoff hockey and that’s why you should be watching.

SY

Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman's team opens with the team he was a legendary player for in Detroit.

Here are my first-round picks.

Western Conference

Minnesota vs St. Louis, Wild in 7

Chicago vs Nashville, Blackhawks in 6

Anaheim vs Winnipeg, Ducks in 5

Vancouver vs Calgary, Canucks in 7

Semis – Blackhawks over Minnesota in 6, Ducks over Canucks in 5

Conference Finals – Blackhawks over Ducks in 7

Eastern Conference

Montreal vs Ottawa, Sens in 6

Tampa Bay vs Detroit, Lighting in 7

NY Rangers vs Pittsburgh, Rangers in 5

Washington vs NY Islanders, Caps in 5

Semis – Lightning Over Senators in 6,  Rangers over Capitals in 5

Conference Finals – Rangers over Lightning in 6

Stanley Cup Finals – Rangers over Blackhawks in 6

What you need to know:

A team from Canada has not hoisted the Stanley Cup since Montreal in 1993. Prior to that year, a Canadian team had won the Cup in seven of the previous nine seasons… There are five Canadian teams in this year’s playoffs… The Conn Smythe Award is given to the best player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It can and has been won by a player on the losing team. The last to do this was Anaheim goaltender Jean-Sebastian Giguere… There were no Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2005 due to the NHL Lockout…

 

 

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Sports in America Twenty Years From Now

Soccer
Soccer

Twenty years from now I see soccer becoming the dominant sport in America like it or not.

Welcome to 2035! Jump on board the time machine with me as I give you my thoughts on what sports in America will look like 20 years from now.

The biggest change overall will be the rise of soccer. If you read my column regularly then you know this just destroys me but it’s what I see happening. The world is a smaller place now because of technology and social media and the most recent World Cup proved just how crazy Americans are getting over soccer.

The vast majority of the fan base right now is kids, teens and twenty-somethings with smatterings of older adults thrown in here and there. If you advance things 20 years, that means the current fan base will be a prime mixture of fans in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.

Soccer has long been treated as a red-headed step-child in America but with the fear police assaulting football, I see it growing by leaps and bounds.

Speaking of football, I have a gut feeling participation nationally will continue to drop as parents keep their kids from playing for health reasons. Far be it from me to tell any parent how to rule over their child but I believe much of what has happened to “make the game safer” has largely been blown out of proportion.

I also believe that college football will actually become bigger than the National Football League. I feel this way because the NFL will continue to lose viewers. Recent polls have shown that men over 50 is the largest demographic that is no longer watching pro football.

That speaks volumes because if they stop watching then their kids will become less interested as well. The pro game in general has become a shell of its’ former self with the violence of the game all but removed and defense becoming an after-thought as everything favors offenses today.

If the NFL moves teams to Europe I also predict that will quicken the pace of its’ demise.

LeBron

The NBA will need to have more personalities twenty years from now as LeBron will be long gone from the court.

My crystal ball sees the National Basketball Association staying popular but it faces some challenges. First and foremost the game must have personable stars that provide the face of the league. LeBron James is clearly that face today but Michael Jordan set the bar so high I wonder if it is unreachable. I have yet to see a player with Jordan’s ability to be an assassin on the court and be friendly off it has been unmatched.

I also think the NBA will shorten its’ season. We are seeing a rise in star players spending more time on the bench for rest and for minor injuries. Fans will demand this going forward.

Major League Baseball will continue to see Latin players flood the rosters. This is not a bad thing in any way. MLB’s biggest issues will be keeping the games as short as possible as well how to deal with pitching injuries that are on the rise. Don’t be surprised if MLB contracts a few teams in an effort to keep competitive balance high.

I also see contraction in the National Hockey League where some teams just aren’t filling seats. The NHL will finally have some personalities and players that will draw fans in that haven’t normally been there in the past. The game itself is in good shape, but it will need to do more to draw in those fringe fans and I think it will once Gary Bettman is no longer the commissioner.

Al in all, sports will continue to dominate our lives but I see changes coming and for me personally I’m not real crazy about them.

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The Casino Review sportsbook blog provides news and analysis on the online sports betting industry, helping experienced and recreational bettors get the most out of their online betting experience.

Saturday Bullets for the First Weekend of 2015

Bryant
Bryant

Kobe Bryant's comments about AAU basketball are accurate and need to be heard.

How in the world do I settle on just one or two topics with so much going on? My bullets are back and it’s time to pull the trigger!

-Kobe Bryant recently ripped on the AAU basketball program saying that European players are more skillful than are kids who come from the American feeder system. ”Teach players the game at an early age and stop treating them like cash cows for everyone to profit off of,” he said. “That’s how you do that. You have to teach them the game. Give them instruction,” said Bryant. I could not agree more.

-Rajon Rondo returned to Boston for the first time since being traded to Dallas. He tossed in 29 points in the Mavs’ 119-101 win over the Celtics.

Kelly

Chip Kelly has more control of his players in a shake-up in Philadelphia.

-Following the Philadelphia Eagles’ late-season collapse, the team has re-structured the front office with Head Coach Chip Kelly gaining control of player personnel and General Manager Howie Roseman has been elevated to Executive Vice-President of Football Operations. Rarely do these situations work well when a coach is given so much power. Wonder if the team has an Assistant to the Traveling Secretary?

-As of right now, Oregon is a seven-point favorite over Ohio State in the National Championship Game and I like the Buckeyes getting those points. I just don’t see the Buckeyes making the same mistakes that Florida State did in the Rose Bowl and I think the OSU offense can be more dynamic than the Seminoles.’

-Speaking of the College Football Playoff I think there are a couple of important notes coming out of the first-ever semi-final games. The television numbers were outstanding for both games and I’ll get to the point on that in a second, but where the “powers that be” need to focus on is time. The Rose Bowl,which was a blowout, scored better ratings than the Sugar Bowl which was a highly competitive game. What this proves is that people just won’t stay up until 1am Eastern no matter how important or good the game.

-The second part of the CFB Playoff scenario is that it’s popularity across the country means that playoff expansion is coming. I think we are about five or six years away from an expansion to eight teams but the TV numbers were just too good not to discuss it. The one issue here is where to play the games. The Rose Bowl had trouble filling seats and I think an argument could be made to play these games on campus in the first-round at least.

-I had no idea former Buffalo Bills’ coach Doug Marrone was such a hot commodity. Days after opting out of his contract, he’s rumored to a favorite in several cities. His Bills took a step forward by going 9-7 this year behind an aggressive defense but the offense was really flat. Not sure what the draw is here.

-For all the dislike of Jameis Winston because of his off-field problems and immaturity, my concern about his potential pro career is his pocket presence and long delivery. Seems to me that he gets very discombobulated in the pocket when there’s any significant pressure and his throwing motion is not what I’d call “quick and efficient.” Almost reminds me of Byron Leftwich.

-One note on the National Hockey League’s Winter Classic… I think the NHL has to consider moving the game for two reasons. Number one is that it can’t compete if college football continues its’ playoff semi-finals on the same day. Also, the NHL should re-consider the start time as well to get a more optimum viewing audience. I love the Winter Classic but the NHL has to do a better job of making its’ stars available at better times.

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Christmas Wishes for Your Favorite Athletes and Teams

Woods
Woods

Maybe my Christmas wish will come true and Tiger will actually just admit he played poorly for once.

First of all, Merry Christmas to everyone! Hope your day is filled with all kinds of good food, family and fun. Today I’m giving you some Christmas wishes for any number of teams and athletes.

My Christmas wish is…

for Tony Romo to get at least one playoff win.

for Michigan to land a head football coach who wants to be there.

for Roger Goodell to resign.

for ESPN to cancel First Take and no longer allow Stephen A Smith and Skip Bayless on television.

for you to win every bet, on every game this coming year. (giggles a bit)

for Tiger Woods to walk off the course just one time and say, “I played like crap” rather than blame it on everything else.

for the Kansas City Royals not to be one-hit wonders.

for college football to immediately move to an eight-game playoff.

for high school athletes to enjoy being “high school athletes” and not be forced to specialize by club sports.

for ‘Mike and Mike’ to use more of my tweets.

for the National Basketball Association to become interesting again.

for Coach K to get one more title before he hangs up the whistle.

for soccer to go back to being a world sport and not an American one.

for Marshawn Lynch to actually give a decent interview after a game.

for Steelers’ Coach Mike Tomlin to drop a few of his cliches.

for MMQB’s Peter King to finally admit he’s just a shill for the NFL.

O'Bannon

Thanks Ed O'Bannon for ruining my family's favorite video game!

for the NCAA and EA Sports to find a way get the NCAA Football video game back for us.

for NFL people stop using the word “elite” when it comes to quarterbacks.

for Antonio Brown to go up against Richard Sherman in the Super Bowl.

for Peter Edward Rose to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

for all of us to just admit that college football and basketball is nothing more than a minor league for the pros.

for Mike Emrick to call every game in every sport for the rest of his life.

to never see another pro athlete charged with domestic violence.

for the Super Bowl to be a national holiday and everyone gets the next day off.

for the Atlanta Hawks to the NBA Title.

for the Detroit Tigers to win a World Series before owner Mike Ilitch dies. No one has been more important to Detroit sports than he has.

for group celebrations to be allowed after NFL touchdowns.

for a “Gretzky-like” figure to reappear in the National Hockey League.

for the Cleveland Cavaliers to lose in the NBA Finals. Let’s face it; it makes for more interesting sports talk.

for the Lakers and Celtics to continue being irrelevant.

for defensive backs so they can actually play defense again.

for Jerry Jones’ plastic surgeon who must be tired of seeing him walk through the door.

for Larry Fitzgerald to get a Super Bowl title before he retires.

for Al Michaels to narrate my life.

for someone in a Santa suit today at an NBA game to do something ridiculous.

for officials at all levels and in all sports to remember it isn’t about them, it’s about the game.

for Oregon to settle on a uniform or 50.

for Devon Still’s daughter to make a complete recovery.

for karma to show up at Jameis Winston’s door.

for the NFL Playoffs to be as great as ever.

for your favorite teams to do as well as they can!

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Sports Are Becoming a Real Flop

Wade
Wade

Dwyane Wade has become one of the NBA's finest "actors."

Flopping - “the act of pretending a foul has been committed in the hopes of fooling an official into blowing the whistle.”

The above is an actual definition that has suddenly become much more pertinent to the world of sports today than I ever dreamed it would. It has taken center stage because of the fact that the very sport where it originated is holding its’ premier event. But flopping has spread to other sports and it’s absolutely out of control.

One of the bigger issues of flopping is the discussion over whether or not it is an acceptable part of the game. There are those that define it as doing whatever it takes to win and if getting an official to blow the whistle on your opponent takes some acting then by all means do it. The other side is the more traditional side I suppose. Where is the honor? Where is the professionalism? Is this any way to play the game?

I honestly can see and understand the arguments from both sides but in my own personal opinion flopping has to stop. It has made its’ way into almost every sport we watch now and has gone from being a fairly unique circumstance to seeing it almost routinely.

The act of flopping has most of its’ origins in the game of soccer. With games that are typically highly competitive and usually very close in terms of score, players will do anything and everything in an effort to gain an advantage. Flopping has gone from a simple act of falling down or reacting as is if hit to a full-blown Oscar-worthy performance that would make Tom Hanks jealous.

Flop

This flop may have cost Croatia a shot at upsetting Brazil.

How appropriate and timely was yesterday’s World Cup opener? Host nation Brazil was tied 1-1 with Croatia in an extremely tight game. Knowing the host nation in the World Cup had never lost, the pressure was mounting on the Brazilians. That’s when a flop paid off…

Brazil was attacking in the Croatian end when a Brazilian player offered up his finest acting performance which drew a penalty resulting in a penalty shot which gave Brazil the 2-1 lead. It was a horrendous call and the kind of thing soccer is getting a bad rap for as Brazil went on to win 3-1.

Flopping has also become quite prevalent in the National Basketball Association as well. Miami’s Dwyane Wade was fined $5,000 for his top notch acting job in drawing a foul on Manu Ginobili. The sad part about what is happening in the NBA is that some of the game’s biggest stars are becoming the game’s biggest floppers.

Players like LeBron James and Blake Griffin have become notorious for their acting jobs. I can’t say they started the process because Bill Laimbeer was once a tremendous actor as well twenty-some years ago but today’s stars are perfecting it.

The National Hockey League has seen its’ share of flopping as well but it comes with a different set of rules. If you flop, there will be retaliation in almost each and every circumstance so that does limit it a bit but flopping still happens and the acting is pretty good if I may say so.

Even the National Football League sees flopping. Where you may ask? Ever seen a punter put on a Tony Award worthy performance as a defender comes within an arm’s reach? Ya, it happens there too.

Ultimately, the penalty for flopping must be enough to deter the action and so far it has not reached that level. As in the case with yesterday’s World Cup opener, flopping is affecting the game and sadly, it is affecting the outcome of games as well.

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Belmont Fallout Plus the Stanley Cup Finals

Coburn
Coburn

California Chrome Co-Owner Steve Coburn's rant wasn't sportsmanlike, but he was absolutely right.

California Chrome became the 13th horse in the last 38 years to fail to win the Triple Crown but the real story was not the horses but California Chrome’s co-owner Steve Coburn. Obviously upset in the moments following his horse’s failed attempt at glory, Coburn said of winner Tonalist that “it’s the coward’s way out.”

What Coburn was referring to was the fact that Tonalist did not race in either the Kentucky or the Preakness Stakes. Therefore he was clearly the fresher horse. While I agree that Coburn’s rant immediately following his horse’s loss made him look like a sore loser, I also believe he is 100% correct. California Chrome in recent weeks has been dubbed ‘America’s horse’ in large part due to the fact he was purchased for just $10,000. This is considered chump change in the high stakes word of horse racing.

Also part of the aura around the horse was the fact that his owners seemed to be ‘salt of the Earth’ people which appealed to the common folk among us. It’s in that vein that I understand Coburn’s passion and emotion. Could he have chosen a better venue and a more reserved style in airing his thoughts? Absolutely he could have, but then he wouldn’t have been himself and that was part of the appeal of who he is.

His point is true though. Horses who run the first two legs of the Triple Crown are at a decided disadvantage when compared to horses who run only one or none of them. People not familiar with horse racing often struggle to understand just how massive of a toll these races take on the individual horses. They are not like human beings who can recover after a few days. They need substantially more time.

Coburn’s point has not only scientific evidence behind it but also solid pieces of true sportsmanship as well. Despite the way things came off, I hope the people who run the sport strongly consider what Coburn is saying.

Lundqvist

The Rangers are down 0-2 but Henrik Lundqvist is the one guy who can bring them back.

Rangers Head East Down 0-2

You’d be extremely hard-pressed to find to opening games of any Stanley Cup Final as exciting as these two have been. In the opener, the Los Angeles Kings won 3-2 after falling behind 2-0 in the first period. As they climbed back into the game, the Kings peppered the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist repeatedly through the third period before they finally solved Lundqvist late in the final period.

In game two, the Rangers jumped to a 2-0 lead again and would actually have leads of 3-1 and 4-2 before finally dropping the contest in the second overtime period.

Entering this series I picked LA to win in six games. I felt their offensive firepower and a better than average Jonathan Quick would be enough to beat the Rangers despite Lundqvist being a notch above Quick. In reality, the series has been much closer than even I anticipated and I don’t think this series is over by a stretch.

I think the overwhelming athleticism by the Kings has been the difference but the Rangers have countered with speedsters Carl Hagelin and Mats Zuccarello creating great opportunities. If the Rangers can even things up in Madison Square Garden then I think it’s an absolute toss-up heading back to LA.

The major difference between hockey and all other sports is the goalie position. While Lundqvist cannot win this series on his own, he can make enough of a difference to keep his Rangers in it.

I still feel like the Kings will take home the Cup but look no further than 2011 when Boston was down 0-2 to Vancouver before they came back to win it.

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Why You Could Benefit From Some Great NHL and NBA Finals …

quick-lundqvist
quick-lundqvist

Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist could provide us a fantastic goalie duel in the Stanley Cup Finals.

If you call yourself a hockey fan then you darn well had better have been watching game seven of the Western Conference Finals Sunday night. Both the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks left every ounce of what they had in the tank on the ice before the Kings prevailed in overtime. It was great hockey that featured great saves, great passing and intense action.

The National Basketball Association didn’t need a game seven to establish its’ final between two-time defending champion Miami and the Western Conference Champion San Antonio Spurs. Both teams disposed of their opponents in six games and now face each other in NBA Finals for the second straight year. This hasn’t happened since the Bulls-Jazz match-ups in the 1990′s.

Both the Stanley Cup Finals and the NBA Finals could offer you some interesting opportunities to make some money.

In the NHL, you’ll need to determine whether the LA Kings are tired or whether they will ride a wave of energy and enthusiasm in the early going of the Cup Finals. The New York Rangers have had plenty of rest and normally I’d side with the Rangers in the first two games of the series but let’s consider what I think is a very key piece to this potential dilemma.

If the Kings were heading straight to New York to play the Rangers in games one and two in Madison Square Garden, I would give more credence to them being worn down by the series with the Blackhawks but I think this case is a bit different. LA gets to return home for the first two games and the Rangers have to travel across the continent to play the Kings.

Despite playing all 21 possible games in these Stanley Cup Playoffs, I think being at home will be a big boost for the Kings. Much like baseball momentum is dictated by tomorrow’s starting pitcher, hockey is often dictated by the men between the pipes and Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist could have one of the great duels in recent Cup Finals’ history.

You’ll need to do some homework on these two but the opportunities are there for you to win in this series.

LeBron

Lay your money on LeBron to lead the Heat in scoring in each game of the Finals.

In the NBA, you should have a great chance for success when it comes to prop bets. The series itself will be as tough as ever to make a call on. I’ve already seen many of the top NBA analysts calling this series for the Heat in six or seven or they like the Spurs in six or seven. It’s almost a total 50/50 split among guys on some of the top NBA sites.

Much like the NHL, you’ll need to do some serious homework in order to figure the game to game winners but let’s get back to those prop bets. If you like picking the leading scorer of each game then turn your attention to Miami. You can bank on LeBron James leading the Heat in scoring as he does almost every time the Heat take the floor.

The Spurs are a different story because of their balance and it could be even more so if Tony Parker can’t go due to the bad ankle. Anyone from Tim Duncan to Manu Ginobili to Danny Green could lead the Spurs so I’d steer clear of the Spurs in that area.

Most three-pointers is another area to take a chance because both teams can hit from downtown. I’d lean towards the Heat here because of Ray Allen but don’t for a second forget about the Spurs.

Make sure you look over all of the prop bets going off in this series and you can start over at bovada.lv.

 

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