Bruins, Habs Game 7 to Determine Better System of Universal Health Care

The first 6 months of the NHL calender – aka the regular season – are largely irrelevant. Injuries can change the season, you may end up in the half of the league that makes the playoffs… yes, half. The season is so long that little wrinkles, a win or loss there mean almost nothing. Teams will switch goalies mid-season, and as the Vancouver Canucks proved, maybe even mid-first round playoff series!

Playoff game sevens, however, are entirely different. Playoff hockey in general has an entirely different feel. Players skate faster, shoot harder, hit way harder. It is so exciting to watch for hockey fans and Americans alike. In game seven it is all or nothing, and in a game where one puck bounce will make the difference, players are extra focused and work extra hard. Imagine the USA v. Canada Olympic match every time they take the ice no matter the round.

Which brings me to what will likely be the greatest game 7 this year, between the Bruins and Les Habitants. Take it from me, Bruins fans represent a specific type of Masshole. I’ve only been to a handful of Bruins games, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a fight in the stands in every one. You get the impression that Bruins and Habs’ fans don’t care much for each other either. That bad blood radiates from the ice.

Lucic’s hit on Spacek last night certainly shows that there in no love lost between these two member of the Original Six. They are hitting hard this series, and tonight it is both teams’ last chance. It is cliche, but that is what drives excitement in an NHL game 7. The players exhibit tremendous skill and athleticism, but hockey games that are close will often come down to some random puck bounce, or an unpredictable goalie rebound. Watching the game you spend half the night trying to catch your breath.

Whichever side you root for, the new incarnation of the Big Bad Bruins, or the Le Bleu-Blanc-Rouge, tonight will be great to watch, that is if you can take the time to locate VS. on your channel menu.

5 Reasons Why the 2011 MLB Season Might not Suck

1) Phillies Rotation….Best Ever?

A lot has been said and written about this Phillies rotation: Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt. This group will go down in the annals as the best set of starters ever put together. The four combined last year for a 2.84 ERA, which is better than both the ’71 Orioles (Cueller, Dobson, Palmer, McNally, 2.89 ERA combined) and the ’93 Braves (Maddux, Glavine, Avery, Smoltz 3.14 ERA combined). Obviously they are currently only good on paper, and the big question mark of course is age, but if they can all stay healthy, they might go down as the best ever, especially in this hitter dominant age.

2) The Return of the Mustache

This has been going on for a while now, but last night watching the Blue Jays and seeing Travis Snider saunter to the plate with his stache made me smile. Baseball used to be all about moustaches, and certain players had some great ones. Don Mattingly, Wade Boggs, Goose Gossage, Rod Beck, Keith Hernandez – those were some great staches. Guys are bringing them back! This could be the best year for mustaches in a decade.

3) The Baltimore Orioles are Back (not just b/c Jon says so)

Don’t sleep on the O’s this year. It has been a long, long time since the Orioles did anything productive in an off-season, and it has been even longer since they have been a legitimate AL East threat. I believe this years Orioles will scare the other teams in their division who play with Monopoly money. One down year and people have forgotten that Nick Markakis is an excellent player. Adam Jones is getting better. Weiters is getting better. Matusz is legit. Add the power (and K) threat of Mark Reynolds and the still intimidating Vlad Guerrero and this team is for real. Even as a Red Sox fan I can say this is very good for baseball. Baltimore has good fans and they deserve a good team.

4) The Reinvigoration of Giants vs. Dodgers

It took the Giants returning to championship form, but one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports seems to be reinvigorated. These teams used to hate each other. Back when justice and disputes were resolved on the playing field these guys were the masters at sliding spikes first, throwing at the head, and charging the mound. Sal Maglie was a head-hunter, Jackie Robinson was never afraid of a scrap, and Duke Snider was as tough as the came. Many in this new generation of Giants and Dodgers are home grown, and I have to believe that they are learned in the rich history between the two franchises. They may have transplanted coasts, but I believe the bad blood is still coursing through the Giants’ and Dodgers’ veins.

5) Albert Pujols wins First Batting Triple Crown Since Yaz

It has been 44 years since it has been done, but I think Albert’s unique skill set, and pursuit of a contract extension, will combine with the alignment of the stars and he will finally lead the league in average, home runs, and RBI. What makes him the Elite among baseball’s superstars? A few things of note: he has an career contact rate of 89%, last year he had a fly ball rate of  44%, in 9 years he has never had fewer than 100 RBI, he is a career .331 hitter. The Cardinals are not strong offensively this year, and he may not see many pitches to swing at, but he rarely swings at balls anyway, so this will only improve his average. As long as some guys get on base in front of him, he will drive them in. It will take a lot, but it is time for Albert, at the ripe age of 31, with one big contract left in his career, to have one of the greatest hitting seasons ever.

View from Spring Training: 2011 Atlanta Braves

2011 Atlanta Braves

NFL Equivalent – Philadelphia Eagles: I think neither the Atlanta faithful or the Philly Phanatics will care much for this comparison, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Both teams have been very good in the past few years, always getting close to winning it all, but not quite getting the job done. The Braves and the Eagles have both done a fine job of blending veterans and young blood, always retooling without having to have a “rebuilding” period of failure. Both teams were also once known for staunch defenses and more recently are putting up gaudy offensive numbers with some real powerful offensive threats like WR DeSean Jackson and QB Mike Vick and the frightening OF Jason Heyward and now 2B Dan Uggla. By the way, Mike Vick can throw the ball really far and so can Alex Gonzalez.

Google Search: How underrated is Derek Lowe? The guy is starting another opening day, and a quick look at his numbers over the past few years shows you why. He’s pitched about 200 innings over the past three years, winning at least 14 games each year with an ERA around 4.00. Sure these numbers aren’t gaudy, but I can’t think of a team in the baseball that wouldn’t want a workhorse like that in the rotation.

Famous Movie Quote: I just dropped in to see how you boys was doing. Daniel Day Lewis from The Last of the Mohicans

Okay, this was a little cheap, I admit it. Braves. Native Americans. I know. But this is what I imagine new Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez saying while strolling into the Atlanta clubhouse for the first time since replacing the iconic Bobby Cox. Like, “I’m not sure I have anything to tell you guys, so hey, how is it going?” That said, I’m not so sure the Braves will need anyone to be a firm leader in the clubhouse. Chipper Jones is still around, as well as Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson. These guys are pretty strong clubhouse guys, and to be honest, do the Braves seem like they are interested in anything but getting business done? They are downright workmanlike in their approach. So sure, Fredi can saunter in every morning and just, see how the boys are doing. 2011 prediction, 87-75 2nd place NL East

view from Champion Stadium courtesy of @jcarlin

View from Spring Training: 2011 Boston Red Sox

2011 Boston Red Sox

NFL Equivalent – Pittsburgh Steelers: As a proud member of “The Nation”, and a huge Pats fan to boot, it pains me to compare the Steelers to the Sox but the similarities are there. Both are storied franchises with fervent fan bases who have each remained relevant, championship contending teams in the 21st century. Ignoring the detestable – and overrated – Ben Roethlisberger, to whom no one compares, there are some player similarities, with veterans WR Hines Ward and C Jason Varitek as team leaders, speedsters WR Mike Wallace and OF Carl Crawford, and some pirating, roving defenders like S Troy Polamalu and OF Jacoby Ellsbury.

Google Search: Nobody maid more off-season noise than the Red Sox. The major acquisitions of Crawford and 1B Adrian Gonzalez aside, the 2011 Sox got another player who might end up being more important to their offense this year, and he was already on the team! Two years ago, Jacoby Ellsbury was the next Ricky Hendersen. He danced around .300 while stealing a crap ton of bases while hitting more than his fair share of homers. After getting steam rolled by Adrian Beltre, and then whining about it in Arizona, he is back, he is healthy, he is happy about his return to center, and he is ready to ignite the powerful Sox offense. For Ellsbury, getting to first means taking second. He will set the table for an unmatched 2-3-4-5, however Tito Francona decides to arrange the hot bats of Pedroia, Crawford, Gonzalez and Youkilis. You heard it here, he’ll be healthy and starting the All-Star game in center field for the AL team with about 25 SB by mid season.

Famous Movie Quote: …people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray.  – James Earl Jones from Field of Dreams

Not that the Red Sox need any help with attendance, but lets not forget that Ray Cansella had to bring Terrence Mann to Fenway in order to find Moonlight Graham. Ignoring the loudmouths behind you, Fenway still has the most magic of any stadium in baseball. It is a time warp. You can imagine Foxx and Williams, and Yaz trotting during warm-ups. You can feel the rich history of what is still America’s most important game, if no longer its most popular. The Red Sox have put together an impressive team this year, reminiscent of the days before over-expansion diluted the game. The aggravatingly peace-less fans of Boston will breathe easy with every Sox win… and they will win. Tons. And people will come. 2011 prediction: 98-64, 1st place AL East

view from City of Palms Park courtesy of @stephbam

View From Spring Training: 2011 Chicago Cubs

2011 Chicago Cubs

NFL Equivalent – Dallas Cowboys: How can two high profile teams in major markets spend so much and produce so little? Mismanagement, that’s how. The Cubs and Cowboys have suffered of late from some gross mismanagement both on the field and in the front office. Carlos Zambrano use to be an effective starting pitcher until he took to fighting his teammates and the water cooler. And the Cowboys? Remember when the 2010 Cowboys team quit on their coach midseason? It’s also a problem when your owner, Jerry Jones, is the most recognizable face, albeit a reconstructed one at that, in the entire organization. America’s Team no more.

Google Search: I’m not high on Matt Garza. Sure he’s been a bit of a Sox killer down in Florida, but I am not convinced he is an Ace, or really has the makeup to be one. I think the Carlos Pena pick up will be nice for the Cubs, but there are still so many questions. Soriano is getting old in left and Highway to the Fukudome has been a perennial disappointment. The corners of the infield are secure with Ramirez and now Pena, but who are these guys up the middle? Castro and DeWitt are supposed to be major league starters? They are backups at best. If this were any other fan base I would say that Northsiders will turn on this 2011 team midseason. However, when the brightest attraction at the ballpark is getting hosed down in the bleachers by Ryan Dempster, we’re not exactly talking about fans with the highest of expectations.

Famous Movie Quote: Come on Cohaagen! You got what you want. Give those people air! – Douglas Quaid from Total Recall

Quade: Quaid. Close enough. And although Cubs manager Mike Quade bears no relation to Totall Recall protagonist Douglas Quaid, I figured any chance to run some kind of Schwarzenegger quote just go with it. And if you think about, the Cubs have been suffocating their fans since 1908. New Cubs manager Mike Quade could end up wishing this season were actually a dream created by a corporate biotechnological company selling drug induced fantasies about mars. Sure, they’ll beat up on the Pirates and the Astros, but after a while even that isn’t any fun anymore. On another note, in Total Recall, remember how gross Kuato was… . 2011 Record: 80-82, 4th AL Central

view from HoHoKam Stadium courtesy of @crlamberth94