Jays Take Second game- Rios Perfect!

May 31, 2009

By Louis “King of Roncesvalles” Pisano, Photo’s By James “The Lens” Patterson…

The Dome was finally open and there were seemingly as many Boston fans as there were Blue Jay fans within the crowd of 35,484 gathered at the Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays eventually, on the back of a great performance from the heart of the order, took the second game of this three game series 5-3.

Brian Tallet had a rough couple innings to start the game giving up four walks and a two run dinger to the light hitting Rocco Baldelli (2), trailing 3-1 after two, but settled down and pitched well going seven strong, leading to Brandon League having a 1-2-3 8th and closer Scott Downs getting done in the 9th for the save.

Alex Rios went 4-4, with two doubles, two singles, scored twice, and brought in two runs including the winning run in the seventh, after Marco Scutaro singled and then stole 2nd base on a bit of miff by the catcher Jason Varitek. Rios was quite involved in the outfield recording 9 outs and said “You’re in the game the whole time you’re active and that’s a good thing to be active it helps you get ready to bat.”

Hopefully the Jays are ready to bat as they face John Lester in the finale of this three game series, sending their good young rookie Ricky Romero to the mound Sunday at 1pm.

Nicolay Valuev Vs Ruslan Chagaev Rematch: Should We Just Ignore It?

May 31, 2009

By Stoker MacIntosh… To all of you great fight fans who may be a little feint of heart, please don’t be alarmed by the photo, the smaller man was left unharmed, and no need to phone the authorities, I assure you it’s not a recent ” Big-foot” sighting either.

It’s simply Heavyweight boxer Nikolay Valuev (50-1, 34 KOs) who is scheduled to square off in a highly (non-anticipated) rematch with Ruslan Chagaev (25-0, 17 KOs), this weekend at the Hartwell Arena in Helsinki, Finland.

The fight is supposed to determine which of these two Europeans is the true heavyweight title holder of one of the many worthless sanctioning bodies; which—for reasons I don’t care to disclose—I won’t bother wasting your time by naming.

After all, it is the opinion of most fans and also this writer—that The Bible Of Boxing, The Ring Championship belts—should be the only truly recognized titles in the world.

That being said, we still have to put up with antics from the alphabet boys, such as this Saturday nights “freak show” spectacle in the great boxing Mecca of Helsinki (sarcasm.)

At 7′1″ and nearly 300lbs, Nikolai Valuev’s boxing gloves fit him like a small child’s mittens; he once killed a wild Boar with his bare hands, and eats somewhere in the vicinity of a side of beef and 12 dozen eggs a week.

His 11th rd. win over Monte Barrett in 2006 was eloquently described by a fellow sports writer as resembling something similar to a large grizzly bear mauling a flailing camper.

I once thought that perhaps Valuev would be  good for the sport, a modern day Primo Carnera perhaps; he seemed to be involved in movies and books and shouldn’t we thank him for ridding us of Johnny Ruiz?

However, after witnessing Evander Holyfield—one of the all time greatest heavyweights—give the big Valuev a dominant trouncing and yet somehow emerge on the losing end, my opinion has taken a drastic turn to the left.

Another factor for my disdain, and one that I may as well get off my chest here and now, is that during my 35 years or so of being a hard core boxing fan, one thing has always remained constant; whenever Don King is involved in a match it is destined to be marred by some sort of controversial decision.

Valuevs fight with Holyfield was no different, Holy won every round on my unofficial score card, yet somehow Mr king managed to once again work his magic, and sway the judges to score it in favor of his fighter.

Carnera had his first fight in 1928, and by 1933, he had secured a title shot against Champion Jack Sharkey. The Championship date was the 29th of June, at New York’s Madison Square Garden; Carnera became World Champion by knocking out Sharkey in round six.
Primo Carnera would eventually lose the title to Max Baer, and then to a promising young contender who was waiting in line at the time named Joe Louis Barrow.
Valuev has lost to Chagaev once previous, in a—snooze-filled, man-hugger matchup back in April of 2007, maybe, if he beats him again this weekend, we can all move on with the true heavyweight championship, which will take place later this summer between Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye.
I won’t go into great detail regarding how bad his skills are however, you can watch the fight and see for yourself.

My honest opinion, for what it’s worth, is that the only existing possibility of Valuev scoring a knock-out victory over Klitschko or Haye in the unforeseen future, is if by chance he happens to fall on one of them.

Do you know Charlie Walser who has the farm east of Sanderson? Well, you know how they used to slaughter beeves, hit ‘em with a maul right here to stun ‘em… and then up and slit their throats? Well one day Charlie has one trussed up and he is all ready to drain him and the Bull comes to ! It starts thrashing around, six hundred pounds of very pissed-off livestock if you’ll pardon me…  Charlie grabs his gun there to shoot the damn thing in the head, but what with the swingin’ and twistin’ it’s a glance-shot and ricochets around and comes back hits ol’ Charlie in the shoulder. Charlie, still can’t reach up with his right hand to get his hat… Point bein’, that even in the contest between a man and a steer the issue is never certain. ( Tommy Lee Jones in No Country For Old Men)

and I don’t think the Penguins are ready to take a bullet in the head.

May 31, 2009

By Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter…

This time it was supposed to be different, this time the results were supposed to be in the Pittsburgh Penguins favor, but in the end, after 60 minutes of uninspired play, the Penguins fell victim to the Detroit Red Wings tough play and timely fortune.

When the puck dropped in Detroit last night every NHL fan expected a war, what they got was anything but. Sure their were a few scuffles after the whistle blew, but the game was void of big checks, tough battles in the corners and the kind of one on one battles that defines NHL playoff hockey. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were good, just not good enough to be a factor. Marc-Andre Fleury was unlucky, but then again, there are those out there that say good teams make their own good luck, and in that respect the Red Wings did just that.

The Penguins were spotted practicing how to deal with the way the puck comes off the boards behind the nets. They knew this could be a factor, they were very aware that the Red Wings had a number of set plays that took advantage of the way the puck came off the boards. So how does the first goal go in? The boards were a factor as Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart threw the puck at the net, had it play off the boards and watched as the puck found it’s way under Fleury’s pad. It was a frustrating moment, as the Penguins had played a decent road period. The Penguins fought back with a late goal in the first period courtesy of the surprising Ruslan Fedotenko, but it was short lived and you never got a sense that the Red Wings were ever in danger of letting the game slip away.

After the game Marc-Andre Fleury seemed frustrated at his bad luck, but he did try to see the good rather than all the bad stating, “I thought, outside of the rebounds, we played pretty well. We know we can win. We have to play better. But, we’re confident”. For his part Sidney Crosby seemed to take the loss in stride and when asked if he felt more confident this time around he responded, “ Yeah, definitely, we made a few mistakes and so did they. They got a few bounces. That’s what it came down to”. A few bounces indeed. If the Penguins are to get back in the series they will have to get a few lucky bounces themselves. Wings goalie Chris Osgood had another well controlled game, somehow, someway, Ozzy just seems to get the job done. Osgood’s rebound control was exceptional, he left very little if anything in front of the net, limiting the Penguins chance of netting “Garbage goals”.

A huge factor in the game was the Penguins inability to establish any pressure on the Power Play. The Red Wings Penalty Kill was fantastic, they continually held the Penguins to the perimeter and more often than not they were able to escape any danger by consistently hammering the puck down into the Pens zone. If the Penguins are to win this series they will have to take advantage of what little Power Play opportunities the Red Wings will give them. Failure to do so will be disastrous.

Game two is set for Sunday night at 8:p.m.. Many believe Pittsburgh’s young legs will respond favorably to having to play back-to-back games. For their part, the Penguins had better hope they bring their “A” game, if not, surely the Pens will be in a world of trouble.

Look for Penguin’s Head Coach Dan Blysma to look for a lot more energy from the likes of Bill Guerin and Miro Satan, who, for the most part anyways, were invisible. Sidney Crosby will likely be matched up against Henrik Zetterberg again, a matchup that worked in the Red Wings favor. Evgeni Malkin, who had completely dominated the boards against the carolina Hurricanes, looked very average in game one and must find a way to find some open ice. For their part, the detroit Red Wings will likely keep their lineup status quo. The Wings second and third lines matched up well against the Pens and their defense was stupendous. The Wings may have been lucky, but they did not allow the Penguins to penetrate the neutral zone with speed, which handicapped the Pens attack, again, good teams make their own good luck.

My thoughts? Game two will be a “Do or die” situation for the Penguins. Look for them to go all out with a much higher tempo game. If the Pens can take an early lead they can get the Detroit crowd settled down and go about their business. Give up the first goal and the Pens are in tough. Detroit knows how to win, don’t expect them to lie down for the Pens, make no mistake about it, the Wings want the title of “Dynasty”, a win tonight will go a long way to achieving that.

Quick Prediction: The Pens get things back on track, play a desperate game and finally solve Chris Osgood. As I said earlier, it’s “Do or die” and I don’t think the Penguins are ready to take a bullet in the head. Penguins 3- Detroit-2

Until next time,

Peace!

Toronto Maple Leafs’ Prospect Profile: Juraj Mikus

May 30, 2009

By Jack Porter… Juraj is virtually an unknown commodity when it comes to Maple Leafs prospects. The 20-year-old Slovak was selected in the fifth round—134th overall—in the 2007 draft by the Leafs.

Mikus is a towering 6′4″ defenseman with considerable offensive upside. In 2006-07, he tore up the Czech Junior League; he was plus-32 and added 24 points in 42 games. He represented Slovakia at the 2008 World Junior Hockey Championship, scoring a goal and two assists in six games.

What Mikus Could Bring the Leafs

Juraj is a big defenseman who has the vision and puck-moving ability to play the North American game. His biggest assets are his reach and point shot. Once he fills out his lanky frame (he’s only 186 lbs. now) he could become a solid fifth or sixth defenseman in the NHL.

Mikus Next Year

Juraj will continue to play in Europe, and once he fills out he could be playing in the AHL. He could graduate to the NHL a few years later.

2009 Stanley Cup Finals Rematch: Pittsburgh vs. Detroit, BT vs. Burgundy

May 29, 2009

By Bryan Thiel… It almost seems like poetic justice doesn’t it?

In the eyes of many, the Wings need to win back-to-back championships to cement themselves as a dynasty. They now have their chance to be the first repeating champions since they did so back in 1996-97 and 1997-98, and have done it by matching styles with their opponents and winning in many different ways along the way.

Now they’re facing the team they beat for last year’s championship.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are almost doomed until they win a championship: A player or team can have all the talent in the world, but in a time of vindication, nothing is solidified until a star wins a title.

If Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin aren’t able to win a Stanley Cup for a second-straight finals, would many start to wonder about their ability to “finish”, or would they just say that the kids are alright and there are more of these where the past two came from?

On top of that, there’s the Marian Hossa subplot—seeing the defending champs as a better shot to win the cup, he jumped ship in the offseason.

Common thought is that Hossa has made them better without the Wings having to take something away. Now the Pens have the opportunity to stick it to the star that spurned them before questions surround his offseason plans once again.

In other words: Something’s Gotta Give.

Ron Burgundy: What a bad movie reference. It’s indescribable, the reason you brought up that move.

BT: How come? It’s applicable. According the IMDB.com the plot centers around an aging swinger (the championship Red Wings) looking for another shot at glory, but falling for an accomplished older woman (Marian Hossa, who’s an accomplished scorer but just needs that ring).

The Pittsburgh Penguins also had an attraction to Hossa (much like the doctor in the movie), but they slipped up and watched the accomplished winger hitch-hike his way to HockeyTown.

How’s that for a comparison?

Burgundy: You know far more about this movie than any man ever should.

BT: It was all IMDB. I swear.

Burgundy: I bet. And Terry Bradshaw was just asking for those sexual advances from Champ Kind wasn’t he? And Harken’s son isn’t a deranged bow-and-arrow wielding acid-addict. Or thinking that punching a bear in the uvula works.

BT: Wasn’t that your idea, Ron?

Burgundy: The Human Torch was denied a bank loan.

BT: Ron?

Burgundy: The arsonist has oddly shaped feet.

BT: Looks like he’s ignoring us. We’ll try to get him back on track in the meantime.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pens’ offense certainly clicked into high gear against the Carolina Hurricanes. That is, if it wasn’t there already.

Against the ‘Canes, Pittsburgh scored 20 goals in just four games for a five goal-per-game average—a goal and a half more than they averaged against Washington and Philadelphia combined (3.46 goals per game in the 13 combined games).

The Penguins were only outshot once during the series (game four) and registered two 40-plus shot games in games two and three.

With the forwards, there are no surprises: Crosby and Malkin have been a wrecking ball of offense, putting up 28 points each, while Maxime Talbot found his stride in the Carolina series (four points in four games including the game-winning goal in game four).

Bill Guerin has been able to channel his youth with 14 points in 17 games while Chris Kunitz hasn’t been scoring goals (only one in the playoffs), bet he has set up 11 of them.

We all know Pittsburgh has a deadly offense—but what if I told you it was lacking something?

Even with those twenty goals scored by the Pens, only one came from the back end, off the stick of Phillippe Boucher. While that goal was on the power play, it was one of only two power-play points that Pittsburgh defenders got during the series (the other being a Sergei Gonchar assist), and one of seven points overall for the defense during the series.

The biggest problem in all of this though, is that Kris Letang (who had nine points in twelve games coming in to the series) was held scoreless. If the Pens want to win, they’re going to need that secondary scoring.

Burgundy: It’s precisely like if I were to sing “Afternoon Delight” simply as a solo. Can I do it? Indeed I can because my voice is as golden as Midas’ lute, but support is everything and this—

News Team (in Harmony): Afternoon delight!

Burgundy: Sounds better than a solo.

BT: After that musical interlude, Pittsburgh also did an excellent job of stemming Carolina’s offensive attack.

While not the most offensively-powerful team, the Hurricanes did have weapons, and those weapons were limited to two or fewer goals in three of the four games.

Marc-Andre Fleury finished the series with a .920 save percentage and looked good in behind the Pittsburgh defense. He’ll need more of that if he wants a different result from last year’s six-game loss in the finals, but a good starting point will be not tripping his way onto the ice.

Burgundy: The Penguins biggest problem will be if they get distracted by themselves.

Let’s face it: Detroit is grizzled and ugly, and while a moustache is a symbol of power and prestige, their beards and European-style long hair fly untamed as they waltz around the ice. They look like hobos.

The young faces of the Penguins are pristine—the faces that women fall for. If they keep themselves from getting distracted by their own good looks, they’ll be alright.

But they do have an advantage—they don’t look as good as me. That helps in the long run.

BT: Um…I’m going to be a little different here and stick with hockey. The Penguins need to find scoring from their defense, because just one goal and two power-play points won’t cut it against the Red Wings. They’ll need to capitalize on their opportunities and roll a full-fledged attack.

Marc-Andre Fleury will also need to remain at his best and keep his team in the games late, which is when Detroit really turns it on.

Burgundy: Real insight? Go eat cat poop.

Detroit Red Wings

There aren’t many holes on the Detroit Red Wings, and the ones that are apparent fill themselves fairly quickly.

Without Kris Draper, Pavel Datsyuk, and Nicklas Lidstrom in the lineup, the Wings were still able to capitalize on numerous power play opportunities and bury the ‘Hawks 6-1 in Game Four, and close out the series in Game Five.

Even without Datsyuk scoring these playoffs, the Wings have gotten contributions from up and down their lineup with the perennial playoff scoring of Johan Franzen, and the surprise appearance of Dan Cleary.

Aside from just the “premier scorers” of the playoffs, the Wings have gotten contributions from everywhere offensively. Mikael Samuelsson had two game-winning goals (games one and two) against Chicago, while Johan Franzen and Darren Helm had the other two for the Wings.

Brett Lebda had two assists in Game Five, Brian Rafalski was one of three players with three points in Game Four (all three were power-play assists), and three different defensemen had goals (Rafalski, Jonathan Ericsson, and Lidstrom) in the series for the Wings.

Justin Abdelkader may also be the re-incarnation of Darren Helm—which is interesting seeing as Helm is currently becoming a fan favorite during this playoff run.

Despite playing just two regular season games prior to the playoffs, Abdelkader has appeared in seven playoff games, only missing game three against Chicago (since showing up for game five against Anaheim). Although he’s only registered one point and is an even on the plus/minus scale, Abdelkader has done a great job at causing trouble down low for such a young, inexperienced (at the NHL level), forward.

Even if the Wings were to get into even deeper injury trouble though, they still have some untapped resources, and more valuable assets.

While Chris Chelios hadn’t played since game four against Anaheim, he was able to step into games four and five against Chicago and provide a veteran presence to a defense missing it’s leader (Lidstrom). Although at times Chelios did look like a 47-year old playing a 27-year old’s game, his quiet contributions both on and off the ice this season can’t go unnoticed.

The same can be said for Darren McCarty, who’s treated sitting on the sidelines this playoff run like a true professional, and can surely add some grit off the bench if Detroit feels they need it against Pittsburgh.

Burgundy: Detroit is like a good glass of Scotch. Everyone thinks that they’re man enough to handle it, so they’re all-too-willing to take a shot at them. Then, once they have a sip, they find out that only a true man can run with a strong glass of scotch because it is the drink of choice for the powerful and handsome.

BT: I drink scotch.

Burgundy: Maybe if it came in juice boxes, junior.

BT: Um…that aside, every player on the Wings’ roster knows just when to step up. I don’t have to tell you or show you any stats to know that Chris Osgood has been night and day during the post season compared to his regular season.

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ offense though will offer him a challenge, because they’re ability to move the puck quickly will force Osgood to prove he still has that extra step when he moves laterally. If he can’t do that, then the Penguins may have an advantage.

Burgundy: Zeus’ beard!

BT: What?

Burgundy: Not what, who. I just realized that Chris Chelios is not only as old as Zeus’ beard, but he was probably his barber too.

BT: Strange.

Anyways, for a final prediction, this is going to be a very interesting series.

For one, Pittsburgh has revenge on their mind. Not just because of the fact that they lost to Detroit last year, but because they lost both Marian Hossa and Ty Conklin to the Red Wings in the offseason.

Second of all, while Ty Conklin has played for all three teams that appeared in NHL Winter Classics, all three of those teams have played (or are about to play) in Stanley Cup Finals with him on the roster. The first two teams lost.

Detroit has done an excellent job of matching their opponent’s styles in these playoffs. They were able to methodically exploit holes in Chicago and Columbus, and do away with those two in a combined nine games, which was fairly painless (unless you’re on the other end of a Niklas Kronwall hit, or you’re Lidstrom, Datsyuk, or Draper).

Pittsburgh has the star power, and those stars (Malkin and Crosby) have been absolutely rolling every game. They have the depth up front, but they can’t be a one-dimensional scoring attack. If they are, Detroit can identify that and shut them down, so the defensemen need to keep moving the puck for Pittsburgh.

Detroit has thier own star power too though, and we don’t know how hurt those stars (Datsyuk and Lidstrom) actually are and what the rest has done for them.

If they’re healthy enough to play, two of Detroit’s biggest weapons will certainly be fresh, but not by coach Mike Babcock’s choice.

Burgundy: The Wings are number one, but many feel it’s time for a new number one—every so often you need a new number one. That’s why I’m a network anchor now.

There’s a reason Frank Vitchard had his arms eaten off by a bear.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will win in seven, and celebrate with champagne, three fingers of glenlivet with a little bit of pepper, and some cheese.

BT: Wow Ron, I guess we’re on different pages here. I think Pittsburgh gives them a run, but Detroit comes out on top (just barely) this year in seven games.

Burgundy: Go F$&^ yourself.

BT: That was really mature.

Burgundy: I don’t have to be mature. I’m famous.

BT: You smell like bad cheese and old meat.

Burgundy: Your teeth look like the Rocky Mountains.

BT: It wasn’t Baxter who pooped in your fridge. It was me.

Burgundy: If you were a man I’d punch you square in the mouth!

BT: (Confused)….Yea? Well your hair…

Burgundy: Say it…

BT: Looks….

Burgundy: I dare you….

BT: (Sighs) Fabulous.

Burgundy: That’s what I thought.

Roller Derby Rocks Toronto Saturday Night

May 29, 2009

By Louis “King of Roncesvalles” Pisano…

Roller Derby dates back to 1885 when six day bank track races were run, but the term was actually coined in 1922 by the Chicago Tribune while covering flat track races. A promoter, Leo Seltzer and a sportswriter Damon Runyon brought it around from the endurance races and swung it towards more of a contact sport. Roller Derby has had its fair share of ups and downs, with the business aspect as well as on the track, finally finding itself outside looking in during the mid 70s. Recently the sport has re-emerged and has found fans again around North America.

The Toronto Roller Derby League kicks off its season Saturday night at George Bell Arena with the Gore Gore Rollergirls facing the Chicks Ahoy, in a bout to be remembered. This will indeed be quite a battle with each team boasting a record of 4-1 from last year and obviously looking to start the season on a winning note. See ya down there for the wild action, details can be found at www.torontorollerderby.com

Birds Set To Battle It Out For The Stanley Cup Breaking Down The Matchup

May 29, 2009

By Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter…

And then there were two. After 82 games and three hard fought series the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins return for the second year in a row to battle it out for the Stanley Cup. The ride for both teams was not without a scare or two; both teams were stretched to the limit in round two by the likes of the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference and the Washington (We ain’t got no steroids) Capitals in the Eastern Conference, but in the end NHL fans got what they wanted, Pittsburgh and Detroit, young vs. old, good vs. evil, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin vs. Marian Hossa and Pavol Datsyuk, as Don Cherry says, this one is gonna be a “Beauty”….

A lot has changed since last season, Marian Hossa left the Igloo in Pittsburgh for Hockey town in Detroit, Malkin and Crosby are more dominant than ever, the Pens have a new coach behind the bench, Chris Osgood is playing well despite all the early cries that he’d be overmatched- Ok, some things have stayed the same! The reality is, for the most part anyways, the Red Wings are the same team they were last year, and that’s not a bad thing. Detroit added the most sought after free agent on the market in Marian Hossa, but other than that it is status quo for the Red Wings, “Just win baby!” On the other hand, the Pittsburgh Penguins went through huge changes in the off-season and at the trade deadline. Pittsburgh let the likes of Marian Hossa, Gary Roberts, Ryan Malone, Ryan Whitney, and Jarkko Ruutu move on in favor of Bill Guerin, Chris Kunitz, Ruslan Fedotenko, Matt Cooke and Mark Eaton. When you compare Hossa, Roberts, Malone, Whitney and Ruutu’s total of 55 points in last years playoffs to the likes of Guerin, Kunitz, Fedotenko, Cooke and Eaton’s 50 points in this years playoffs you would think that the Penguins would have regressed, nothing could be further from the truth. Fact is, what the Penguins lost in points they gained 10 fold in character, cohesion and most importantly a winning mentality. The Pens are tougher between the ears this year, some of that comes from the addition of Head Coach Dan Blysma, but in the end it is the players that solidify the culture of the team and the Pens are “Tight”.

Let’s take a closer look and breakdown these two teams more throughly, which team has the goods to go all the way and be the 2008/2009 Stanley Cup Champion?

Center-

Detroit has been getting it done down the middle with a limited offensive contribution from Pavol Datsyuk, Johan “The Mule” Franzen has been lights-out, Valtteri Filppula has been a nice surprise, Jiri Hudler has been good and Darren Helm has been a nice addition with 78 hits and a memorable overtime goal in game 5 of the Western Conference Championship. This a solid group that wins it’s fair share of face-offs and can D-up when need be.
With 28 points apiece, the Pittsburgh Penguins are ecstatic with the way Crosby and Malkin have performed down the middle. Maxim Talbot, Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy make up the rest of the depth here, all three capable of shutting down the opposition, especially Staal, who did a heck of a job shutting down his brother Eric in the eastern Conference Finals.

***The Skinny: With Crosby and Malkin Red Hot and Pavol Datsyuk injured, you have to give the advantage to the Penguins at this position. Advantage: PENS

Left Wing-

Henrik Zetterberg leads the way offensively for Detroit on the left side, they are also anchored by veterans Tomas Holmstrom, Kirk Maltby, who are two of the best defensive minded players in the League, while newcomers Justin Adelkader and Ville Leino have performed well in limited roles. Don’t underestimate the importance of Maltby and Holmstrom, they are key players for the Red Wings, they are there to shut the opposition down, not for their offense, or lack-thereof.

Trade deadline addition Chris Kunitz has brought some much needed Stanley Cup experience to the Penguins, he also leads the Pens in scoring from the Left side with 12 points. Joining him are Ruslan Fedotenko, who has an impressive 11 points thus far, Matt Cooke and Pasqual Dupuis. Much like Detroit’s Left side Cooke and Dupuis are there to shut down the opposition rather than contributing offensively, and they do it very well.

***The Skinny: This is a tough one, but when you consider how dominant Zetterberg can be and the shut-down capabilities of Maltby and Holmstrom I gave the edge to Detroit. Advantage: WINGS

Right Wing-

Marian Hossa finally showed up for the playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks, and just in time too. With Pavol Datsyuk out with an injury Hossa will be relied upon to step up in his absence. Daniel Cleary has been as good as anyone in this years playoffs, he has 14 points, numerous huge goals and is an astounding +16! Mikael Samuelsson has held his own with 9 points, while Tomas Kopecky, who will likely see very limited action in this series has been “Ok”.

***The Skinny: Pittsburgh’s right side features trade deadline acquisition Bill Guerin, NHL retread Miroslav Satan, Little-known Craig Adams and the unimpressive Petr Sykora. In case you haven’t figured it out, Right Wing is not Pittsburgh’s strongpoint! Advantage: WINGS

Defenseman-

The Red Wings top 6 defenseman are just about as good as it gets…when they are healthy. With Nik Lidstrom and Jonathan Ericsson currently on the shelf one has to be weary of Detroit’s D. Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart will need to step up their minutes if Lidstrom and Ericsson remain on the IR, as will Veteran/fossil Chris Chelios. If Lidstrom is out the Wings Power Play will suffer, which will be a key factor in this series.

Pittsburgh had to endure an extended injury to Sergei Gonchar in the regular season and performed admirably, so losing Gonchar for a game or two in the playoffs was no big deal. But, in a short series, as is the case with Detroit’s Nik Lidstrom, Gonchar’s importance will be magnified and the Pens will be in a world of trouble without him, fortunately for the Pens, Gonchar’s injury seems to be in check. The Pens defense also features Kris Letang, Mark Eaton, Brooks Orpik, Hal Gil and Rob Scuderi, all of whom have played well to date in the playoffs.

***The Skinny: Even If Lidstrom and Ericsson miss any games the sum of Detroit’s parts are better than the Penguins. Advantage: WINGS

Goaltending-

Perhaps the biggest question in everyone’s mind heading into the playoffs was weather or not Chris Osgood could raise his sub-par regular season game? Well, Ozzy has a record of 12-4 with a 2.06 Goals Against Average and a .925 Save Percentage. Any questions?

On the other hand, Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fluery has been very good for the Penguins, sporting a record of 12-5 with a 2.62 Goals Against Average and a .906 Save Percentage, not too shabby!

***The Skinny: This was an easy one, the numbers don’t lie, and even if they did Ozzy has a few Stanley Cup rings on his fingers, so Marc-Andre Fleury gets the short end of the stick here. Advantage: WINGS

Special Teams-

Detroit’s Power Play (3rd overall in the playoffs) has been great, their Penalty Kill (14th overall in the playoffs), not so good.

Pittsburgh’s Power Play could be better (7th overall in the playoffs), but their Penalty kill has been sharp (4th overall in the playoffs).

***The Skinny: Obviously each team will need to be very disciplined if they want to stay out of the penalty box. In the end I gave the advantage to Pittsburgh, whose overall Special Teams have been better than Detroit’s thus far. Advantage: PENS

Coaching-

Detroit’s Rob Babcock has been here before. He has a very deep roster from which he can put players in the position to be successful. Babcock will not bend under the pressure and his leadership and experience will be invaluable.

Pittsburgh’s Dan Blysma took a Penguins team that looked very ordinary and through sheer hard work and determination has transformed them into the team we see before us today, a Stanley Cup finalist. Blysma has this team believing in itself and the in-fighting has stopped, all positives heading into the rematch with the Wings.

***The Skinny: If Blysma was up against anyone else I would give him the nod, but Babcock’s resume is just too strong. Advantage: WINGS

The Results: When everything is said and done the Red Wings came out ahead at Left Wing, Right Wing, Defence and Coaching. The Penguins came out on top at Center and on Special Teams, keep in mind the Penguins were not far behind in many of these categories, so the results are not as one-sided as they seem. I know who I like as this years Stanley Cup Champion, but I will hold off until after Lou “King of Roncesvalles” Pisano and I lock it down on our Podcast. Be sure to look for it this weekend on this site.

Until next time,

Peace!

Home Sweet Home - So Jays Fans Hope

May 29, 2009

By Louis “King of Roncesvalles” Pisano…

The Toronto Blue Jays host the hated division rival Boston Red Sox for a three game series at the Rogers Centre starting Friday night. Previous to the road trip from hell they sat atop the AL, their bats were hot their young patch worked pitching staff was phenomenal and it seemed they could do no wrong.

Boston was the first stop on this nine game road trip and the first pitcher they faced was the knuckleballer Tim Wakefield who’s pitching style must have thrown off the timing of the Blue Jay’s offence because it dropped off severely, followed by the pitching and the great run to start the season.

The Jays have now lost nine in a row, three to Boston, three to Atlanta, and then three to Cleveland, and now sit half a game behind the surging New York Yankees and two games behind the AL East Leading Boston Red Sox. Hopefully this home stand (16-6 at home)will stop the bleeding with Casey Jansen going to the mound Friday, followed by Tallet Saturday and Romero Sunday.

The Blue Jay Way & What’s on the Horizon for the Team

May 29, 2009

By Brady Rynyk…

For the first time in franchise history, the Toronto Blue Jays dropped 9 straight away games after being swept by Boston, Baltimore and Atlanta in Interleague play. After coming off a 4 game sweep of their own against the Chicago White Sox, there were finally thoughts floating around The Bigs that the Jays might actually be for real and viable threat as a contender for The Fall Classic.  But oh how quickly sentiments can change in only nine short days.  After failing to cash in runners in scoring position on multiple occasions, is it possible that the team’s bats had actually been over achieving up to this point? Realistically is the Jays roster a squad surrounded by mediocrity with notions of diluted grandeur from the power stars in Wells, Rios, Rolen and Hill that could realistically be nothing more than an aberration of optimism?

After hanging star pitcher Roy Halladay out to dry in an extra innings loss to the Balitmore Orioles in there last game, it has become truly apparent that Doc cannot win by himself - unless he pitches a complete game every outing. The team’s ace left the game ahead of Baltimore 8-3 after pitching 7 full innings, only to have his days work completely squandered in a third of an inning by the bullpen. Facing only six hitters, pitcher Jesse Carlson gave up 5 runs, recording only one out. The rest of the supporting cast didn’t really fair much better, even after Aaron Hill blasted a two-run homer in extra innings. After Halladay exited the game, 10 different pitchers made the trip to the mound to face the American League East’s last place line-up.

One thing is for certain, in the toughest division, the team cannot afford to have 9 game slumps. The inabilities to close out games and continuously leave a multitude of runners on base can’t become the Blue Jay way if the team intends to compete for the pennant.

The rumour mil continues swirl as teams around the league look to add depth to their line-ups and improve their rosters.  With tight races in every division with the exception of the NL West, trade talks have begun floating around the league much earlier then in recent years.  Unfortunately, reports from Jeff Blair of the Globe & Mail suggest that the Jays GM, J.P. Ricciardi has no intentions of looking for arms to add to the roster, and will stick with his unproven homegrown talents to lead the way to the post season.  There has also been speculation that although the team is listening to offers, they do not intend to deal Double Play Overbay – who never seems to come through at the plate when the Jays need him. Considering some of the names that are be whispered through the air, it is surprising the Jays are not trying to stimulate the line-up with some needed offense or some shutdown arms that can actually give quality innings.

After the Jay s recent demise, it is incomprehensible to think that the team has no interest in acquiring a replacement for the struggling Snider who was reassigned to the minors.  Despite a no-trade clause, reports suggest that Astros slugger Carlos Lee might be looking to get out of cellar in Houston – left field for Toronto would seem to be a good fit. In addition, The Florida Marlins will likely do what they seem to do every year – unload productive rising stars.  This means quality players like Jorge Cantu, and possibly speedster Emilio Bonifacio or even long shot Hanley Ramirez might be available.

In terms of adding arms, it is now apparent that the only AL team Jake Peavy would consider going to would be the Angels, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other quality pitchers out there. Roy Oswalt is certainly grown weary of his current situation in Houston’s homerun friendly Minute Maid Park, and is looking from a change of scenery.

In retrospect, the Phillies are one team that seems to aggressively be in the hunt for arms in their rotation and have inquired about the possible acquisition of everyone from Brandon Webb to Erik Bedard and Cliff Lee to Aaron Harang – So why not the Blue Jays? The addition of any of those reliable hurlers would surly keep them in the post season race and add some much needed depth to the bullpen by sending Casey Janssen or Brian Tallet into relief situation.  In hindsight, the team would seem to still be on the cusp of contention if they didn’t drive Ted Lilly out of town or give up on Chris Carpenter so easily.

With the Jays returning home to Toronto to face the always-problematic Tim Wakefield and the Boston Red Sox, the only thing Jays fans may have to look forward to is this weekend’s All You Can Eat offer at the Rogers Centre.

Juan Manuel Marquez is Mexico’s Great White Hope

May 29, 2009

By Stoker MacIntosh… For hardcore boxing fans like myself, just the mention of Mexican born fighters conjures up visions of some of some of the toughest, and greatest fighters in boxing history.

Mexico, as a nation, has given birth to the likes of Salvador Sanchez, Ricardo Lopez, Carlos Zarate, Julio Cesar Chavez and more recently, Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera.

Antonio Margarito, Jorge Arce, and Oscar De La Hoya have all suffered set-backs of one form or another in recent times, however; so the pugilistic reputation of that once dominating breed of fighter may now rest solely on the shoulders of Juan Manuel Marquez.

The tough little man from Mexico City takes on one of the very best fighters in the business, Floyd Mayweather Jr, on July 18 in a highly anticipated mega-fight that has been billed as—Number One: Numero Uno.

A clear win over Mayweather this summer would propel Marquez into superstar status and undoubtedly regain his country’s faith in their proud boxing history.

The pound-for-pound numero uno title is currently held by Manny Pacquiao following his recent rise, culminating in the recent two-round dismantling of Ricky Hatton.

Marquez fought a draw and a loss with the Filipino, yet won 10 more rounds over the 24 boxed between the two.

Many fans—including myself feel Marquez beat the Filipino pound for pound sensation in both previous meetings, therefore the winner of the upcoming fight between Marquez and Mayweather will undoubtedly attempt to lay claim to Pacquiao’s pound-for-pound title, and rightfully so.

Marquez recently told ESPN that “It’s a great responsibility for me, because Mexican people love boxing and they will all be there, in my heart, and supporting me in this great fight.”

“They are very excited, so it’s a great opportunity for me and for all the Mexicans - around the world - supporting me. And all the people watching me.”

Further revealing the heart of a true Mexican warrior, the 35-year-old three-weight division world champion Marquez is moving up almost two full weight classes to face the undefeated Mayweather.

The fight will take place at a catch-weight of 144lbs, a full 10lbs heavier than his last fight against Juan Diaz three months ago, but again, it seems only to add to Marquez’s sense of challenge.

“I think this is a great chance for me to be numero uno, but I know I will have a hard fight,” he continued. It’s a big step up in weight, I am working on my muscle weight because I need weight, but not fat.”

When asked a question regarding an historic trilogy with Pacquiao, Marquez quickly dismissed it, at least until the fight with Mayweather is out of the way.

“My mind is focused on July 18,” he said. “Pacquiao is not ready to face me in the ring now, as far as I’m concerned, he’s in the past. ”The two fights are also in the past.

“Now it’s all about Mayweather, its all about July 18.” Marquez said.

The amount of pressure on Marquez will be mountainous, not only does he want it for himself, but he is also fighting in the name of his great country, and fighters that have came before him.

I’m expecting a long tough fight, with both punchers trading bombs from the opening bell; stopping short of making a prediction; my personal opinion however, is that Marquez could very well emerge as the patriotic victor.

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

George Bernard Shaw

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