Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round Drama

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By Greg Hudson

The first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs have been some of the most hard-fought series’ in recent memory, and three of the eight first-round matchups head to a 7th game, to be played Wednesday night. Let’s take a look at each matchup and predict a winner.
Rangers/Flyers
These two teams are the epitome of the multi-sport, across-the-board rivalry between New York and Philly. Both teams and both sets of fans absolutely despise the other side, and this carries into baseball, football, and if men’s beach volleyball had teams there, you know their fans would hate the other team too.
But this series has been full of more than cheap shots and power plays. It’s been a series of two good teams hungry for a chance at Cup glory, and just as in the regular season, the Rangers and Flyers have traded wins, the Rangers winning games one, three, and five, and the Flyers taking games two, four, and six.
The difference-maker in this series has been the replacement of Ray Emery with Steve Mason in the Philly goal after game three. Since then the Flyers have won two of three games, having lost two of the first three games.
But both of those wins came on home ice, and game seven is at Madison Square Garden, where the Rangers’ faithful will be full of noise and energy. Added to this, the Rangers have been here before, since their last two playoff series victories have been in game seven.
Prediction: Rangers win it 3-1 or 4-2.
Avalanche/Wild
Few would have predicted that a team with such low goal-scoring would last six games against the juggernaut Avalanche, but make no mistake: the Wild have more than held their own.
For me, as a neutral, this series has been the most fun to watch because the
games have been so close. Four of the six games played have been decided by a single goal, with three of those games ending in overtime.
The fact that the Avalanche have been pushed so hard by Minnesota seems to have rattled a few in the Colorado ranks, most notably their stalwart goaltender Semyon Varlomov, who has given up 3 or more goals in three of 6 games.
Meanwhile, the Wild came into this series taking nothing for granted, but also entirely unafraid of playing a team with better players. They’ve matched Colorado step for step in most major categories, and their composure has gotten them to an unlikely game seven. Composure in Denver tonight might well get them to the second round against Chicago.
Prediction: Wild win it, 4-3 in OT
Sharks/Kings
I’ll admit it. I went to bed after the first period in game two of this series having watched the Kings thorough outplay the Sharks en route to a 2-0 lead after the first 20 minutes, a brilliant response to their 6-3 thumping by San Jose the night before.
When I woke up and turned on Sports Center the next morning and saw the Kings didn’t score again and that the final score was 7-2 San Jose, I said to myself “That’s it, they’re finished.”
But the fact that they weren’t finished has been overshadowed by the fact that they are now the favorites to win it. The Sharks eased to a 2-0 lead in the series and then pushed the Kings to the brink of elimination with a 4-3 overtime win in game three, but that third loss seems to have sparked the Kings into life.
The L.A. boys have won the last three games, each by three goals: a 6-3 reversal of their game one defeat, a 3-0 shutout that has re-affirmed the Kings’ faith in stopper Jonathon Quick, who at times looked like an amateur in net in the first two games of the series, and a 4-1 game six win to send the series back up the coast to San Jose for game seven.
The pressure is now back on the Sharks, who looked to have this one in the bag and are desperately searching for answers in the hopes of keeping the Kings from becoming just the fifth team in the history of American sports to rally from 3-0 down to win a best-of-seven series.
Prediction: Kings take it 5-2.

 

 

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Money, Power and Respect

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By Stefan Anderson

Two #1 seeds nearly eliminated, almost every team playing in a overtime matchup we have been on journey as fans of the game. Shortly after witnessing some of the best first round basketball in the past few years, NBA fans have not been focusing on the great play of recent. With the recent drama that has unfolded between Donald Sterling and the Los Angeles Clippers organizations has sidetracked the playoffs this year.

The actions have led to all parties involved to make extreme, critical decisions.

 V. Stiviano, in her best Kerry Washington impression has created the entire controversy; from the way it panned out it looked like it was bound to happen. Being Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s mistress for throughout the past few months, took a photo with “The King of LA” and former Laker Magic Johnson that made Sterling irate. Following her infamous Instagram photo, she went on tape a private conversation between herself and Sterling that hit the World Wide Web and caused an uproar. After hearing Sterling’s prejudice comments on African Americans and how he feels about the race led to what would be a exciting episode of Scandal , but terrible for the NBA.

The Los Angeles Clippers, in their best season in franchise history were up 2-1 in series versus the Golden State Warriors, were looking edge up one game and continue their run to the promise land of a NBA championship. But after the news struck, the team appeared to be in disarray. After players planning to boycott and showing their own symbolism by turning their warm-ups inside to not have any affiliation with the franchise. The news even led on the most generous and humble people in the NBA, Doc Rivers in question about his job and working under such conditions. Following the distraction the Clips watched Stephen Curry and the Warriors hand them a terrible 118-97 loss on Sunday.

Adam Silver, three months into his new tenure as NBA commissioner, was faced with his first difficult task on the job. After thoroughly investigating the issues at hand, Silver came down with the unexpected and unprecedented judgment. Silver handed down a lifetime ban of Sterling from the NBA and any of its allying parties. Along with the lifetime ban Sterling was given a maximum fine under of NBA bylaws of $2.5 million dollars and depending of Board of Directors of ¾ will force the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Whether his privacy was violated or not, what Donald Sterling said cannot be justified in any matter. Sterling’s past actions and treatment towards minorities have been brushed under the rug for so long that his mess built up and came back to bite him this time. Despite all the amendments and the constitutions that were created for us, we continue to break one of the most important one, All Men Created Equal. No matter how much money or power you perceive to have it cannot outlaws human rights. I believe that this is just a slap in a fight that will continue to be a slug fest in today’s society, and will not be stopped until us as humans begin to change that. Until we figure out that no matter the skin color, race, orientation, social status or monetary status, we all have to respect for the world and humanity.

 The ban gives hope to the future and shows the NBA will be under great leadership under new commissioner Adam Silver, with conscious efforts to protect the integrity of the game. This also can bring a great deal of emotion for the Clippers as they go on their pursuit for the NBA title. As they say “controversy builds character”. Now that we can put this drama behind and continue to enjoy my favorite game and its most exciting moments as the NBA playoffs continue. 

Stanley Cup Playoff Second Round Preview: Bruins v Canadiens

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By Greg Hudson
 
There are few forms of hate more vicious than the hatred between the Habs and the Bruins, particularly when the teams meet in the playoffs, an occurrence which is fast becoming a mainstay in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The two teams will meet for their sixth postseason series in the past 11 seasons, and with the quality and temper on both benches, this matchup has explosive potential.
 
The Bruins impressed in their 4-1 series win over Detroit, with goaltender Tukka Rask earning special plaudits for his outstanding work in front of the net, allowing just 6 goals in the series. Milan Lucic netted three times, and stalwart defender Zdeno Chara chipped in with two goals of his own.
 
But Chara and his defensive partners will need to be on high-alert against a fast-paced Montreal team that made short work of the highly-touted Tampa Bay Lightning, shutting down star attacker Steven Stamkos for most of the series and finding a way to win close games en route to a 4-0 series sweep. Rene Borque and Brendan Gallagher each contributed three goals, while Dale Weise and Max Pacioretty provided late-game heroics with their only goals of the series.
 
The key matchup in this series is set to be between Rask and Habs ‘tender Carey Price. Rask is 3-10-3 in his career against Montreal, but Price allowed six third-period goals in the four games against Tampa, which could well play into Boston’s hands if they can maintain a solid fore check into the final 20 minutes of play.
 
Prediction: Boston in 6. Habs will be tough to beat in Montreal, but the B’s are just too much for Carey Price to handle over a 7-game series.

Sterling Silver

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By Maceo Lester 

If you haven’t heard the disgusting racist comments made by Los Angles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, you must be living under a rock. People of all ages and races have been stirred up by Sterling’s controversial remarks. A highly competitive and intense NBA post-season has been abruptly disrupted by offensive comments such as “Don’t bring black people to my games….don’t have black people on your Instagram.” Those statements were made during a recorded conversation between Sterling and his girlfriend, V. Stiviano [Maria Vanessa Perez.] Stiviano made a simple Instagram post as many of us frequently do in our spare time. Stiviano’s post just happened to be picture of her and NBA hall-of-famer Magic Johnson, someone who Stiviano says she “admires.” Sterling? Not so much, he doesn’t seem to favor Magic or any black people for that matter.

            “Why are taking pictures with minorities?,” Sterling ask. “There’s a culture, people feel certain things. Hispanics feel certain things towards Blacks, Blacks feel certain things towards other groups. It’s been that way historically, and it will always be that way.” With this type of mentality, it is easy to assume that Sterling has been raised or has grown to be segregated from other races. The irony of it all, he owns an NBA team. The NBA consists of the most African-American athletes out of all the four major sports. Los Angeles, California is highly populated with Blacks. Doc Rivers, the Clippers head coach oh yeah, he’s black too. Chris Paul, their starting point guard and president of the NBA Players Union, you guess it, he happens to be Black too. So let’s put this all in perspective, this man is willing to take part and have ownership in a nearly all-black league, allow black coaches on the staff, and black players on the team. Not to mention, ALL of the blacks who work for or within the franchise. Let’s not forget about the black fans, the backbone of your franchise Mr. Sterling, they might not all have floor seats but they’re ensuring sold out arenas.

           Enough with Sterling’s ill-advised statements, it’s evident that he has racist beliefs and prejudices.  He is afraid that his image or reputation will be tarnished if he is associated with, interacting with, or even taking pictures with Blacks if it’s not basketball-related or making him money. The focus now turns to NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver.  Silver is extremely new to his commissioner position, taking over the duties of his predecessor Donald Stern. Roughly three months into his tenure, Silver is faced with an extremely difficult task. Many players, and former players have let their voices be heard on this topic via social media, and sports media. It’s obvious that the NBA community and others desire harsh punishment for Sterling. Many believe he should be stripped from his team ownership, kicked out of the league. Several sponsors who partnered with the Clippers organization have already pulled the plug on their contracts. With such a controversial topic at hand, the discipline must be aggressive. If not, this will be an ongoing problem with hundreds of protestors taking to the streets.  This is bigger than basketball; it’s bigger than the NBA, bigger than the Clippers. In this monumental event, Silver must be tough, he must be strategic, Silver…must be gold. 

Must See TV

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By Kelsey Miller

 

The NFL schedule was released last week and the fans are once again, ready for some football. Take a look at my must see games for the 2014 season.

The historic matchup between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys in Week 17 will be one for the books. The Redskins are finally looking to have an elite offense compared to other teams in the competitive NFC East division. Redskins Quarterback RGIII, running back Alfred Morris, rising tight end Jordan Reed, and newly added receiver Desean Jackson will help the Redskins become more of a threat. The Dallas Cowboys, who parted ways with defensive anchorman DeMarcus Ware, will need more leaders to step up to the plate. Neither Tony Romo nor Dez Bryant is current top seeds in their positions which make a hard example for teammates to follow. These two teams always show up in full force to play each other at the end of the season. The classic rivalry has much more meaning than the ability of the players themselves.

My next pick will be America’s Game of The Week. The Week 1 match-up between the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos will certainly draw viewer attention. Peyton Manning ended the season with 55 touchdown passes and a quarterback rating of 115.1. DeMarcus Ware joins the Broncos this season and will benefit from having Von Miller playing on the same side as him. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has big shoes to fill and veteran receiver Hakeem Nicks has an opportunity to pair up with receiver Reggie Wayne and be offensive weapons.

The Super Bowl rematch will be better than the last time these two teams met. Last year’s game did not go well for the Broncos and the Seahawks defense made Peyton Manning look like a rookie. Besides the monstrous Seahawks defense, Russell Wilson is charging in as the leader of the team and coming to make a huge name for himself in the NFL. He continues to prove the critics wrong by being one of the shortest at his position and remain elite.

In Week 8, the Baltimore Ravens will face the Cincinnati Bengals. Baltimore needs to come out strong in their first game with a division opponent so far along in the season. They are coming off of a season shy of making the playoffs after winning the Super Bowl the year before. Cincinnati receiver AJ Greene is looking forward to having another great season after finishing last season with 11 TD, 98 catches, and 1400 plus receiving yards.

Last but not least, the New Orleans Saints will face off with the Carolina Panthers in Week 9. Quarterback Cam Newton is entering the season after his first playoff appearance and Luke Kuechly was named the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year. Without Darren Sproles in the backfield for New Orleans, the weight is going to be on Drew Brees shoulders to keep the offense afloat. This will be New Orleans second year back with Sean Payton following the bounty suspension. It’s safe to say, I cannot wait until the NFL show gets on the road.

Helping the Cause(s)

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How Fabio Borini’s Big Penalty Kick Helps Both His Clubs
By Greg Hudson
 
With 81 minutes on the clock and the score tied 1-1, Fabio Borini stepped up to the penalty spot Saturday at Stamford Bridge with a big opportunity to help his team.
 
Correction: both his teams.
 
In the only sport where clubs can loan players to other teams for the season and get them back afterwards, a loan spell for a young player at another club can be beneficial for both teams involved. And this weekend’s Premier League fixtures are the perfect illustration.
 
The young Italian forward signed for Liverpool in the summer of 2012, but a lackluster 2012/13 campaign was cut short due to injury, and he was deemed surplus to requirements by Brendan Rodgers during the summer and was snapped up by Sunderland on a season-long loan deal.
 
And it could be a move that pays dividends for both teams involved in seasons of stark contrast. Liverpool sit in first place in the league, in striking distance of their first league title since 1990, while the Black Cats endured a disastrous first half to their league campaign and have been fighting for Premier League survival with every match, trying desperately to avoid relegation.
 
Sunderland have gone lengths to helping that cause in the past week, and have given Borini’s parent club a big boost in the process, collecting a precious point Wednesday against Liverpool’s title rivals Manchester City, and they headed to Stamford Bridge on Saturday with a view of striking a blow to Chelsea in a game of two teams fighting two different battles: Chelsea fighting for Premier League glory, and Sunderland fighting for their lives.
 
After falling 1-0 behind early, Sunderland found a response through Connor Wickham, and when American striker Jozy Altidore went down in the penalty area under Cesar Azpilicueta’s challenge with 10 minutes to go, Borini stepped up with a chance to strike a blow for both his clubs.
 
He calmly slotted home past Petr Cech to clinch a massive victory for Sunderland, and essentially give an extra 3 points to Liverpool in the process. The Reds’ 3-2 win over Sunderland’s fellow relegation-fighters Norwich City, their 11th win on the bounce, gives them a five point lead over the Blues with three matches to play.
 
Liverpool’s last league defeat came in December against the Blues at Stamford Bridge. Since then, they have gone 16 games without a loss, including their current 11-game winning streak, while Chelsea have lost three of their last six, including Saturday’s shock loss to Sunderland.
 
Chelsea travel to Anfield to face Liverpool on Saturday, in a match Chelsea must win if they want to keep their fading title hopes alive, while a win for Liverpool would all but eliminate one of their principle rivals from the title race.

The Playoffs Are Upon Us: The Eastern Conference

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By Jazmine August

     On the Eve of the kickoff to the 2014 NBA Playoffs, the media outlets are buzzing with match-up predictions, potential upsets and possible title contenders. It is that special time of the year again and it sure feels like we are in for a special couple weeks. With the two-time defending champion Miami Heat on a quest for a three-peat, the aging but stacked San Antonio Spurs team seeking revenge after a devastating Game 6 loss and the runaway leader for the 2013-2014 NBA MVP award  Kevin Durant in search of his first title the excitement for this year’s tip-off is unparallel.

    So let’s take a brief look at our first round match-ups in. The number one seeded Indiana Pacers will face the eighth seeded Atlanta Hawks which has the potential to destroy some brackets. Since March 1, the Indiana Pacers have only won 12 of their last 25 games and in the month of April their All Star center Roy Hibbert has struggled; averaging 6 points 3 rebounds and 1 assist. It has been the total opposite with the Atlanta Hawks who turned it on late in the season to crush the playoffs hopes of the dismal New York Knicks. But I believe even with the Pacers limping into the playoffs mentally they will still come out the first round victorious but not without a good fight put up by the Hawks. Pacers in 6.

      The two/seven match-up between the Miami Heat and the Charlotte Bobcats will not end in any surprise. Although Al Jefferson has had an All Star caliber season, the suffocating defense of The Miami Heat paired with the strength and greatness of the reigning league MVP Lebron James will prove to be too much for the young Bobcats team and they will fall at the champion’s feet. Heat in 4.

The young and slightly underrated Toronto Raptors may just shock the veteran Brooklyn Nets in the first round. Experts may be under estimating the squad led by first time All Star Demar DeRozan; ability to get up and down the floor which can tire out the older Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The Raptors will pull off the upset of the East. Raptors in 7.

The mighty Bulls, led by the man with a heart of lion, Joakim Noah will face one of the best backcourts in the East with the Wizards John Wall and Bradley Beal. This match-up may be the most intriguing of the first round in the East. The Bulls at times struggle offensively and on conversely the Wizards excel in this area; this will prove to be a true war between offense and defense. Not to be cheesy and quote one of the best movies of all time, Love & Basketball; “offense sells tickets, defense wins games”. Nonetheless Bulls in 6.