13 April, 2010

The Boston Bruins Are Playoff Ready

Finally, the NHL playoffs are here, and the Boston Bruins have drawn the Northeast Division leading Buffalo Sabres in the quarter-final series that begins Thursday night at HSBC Arena.

On paper, this series looks like it will be a goalie-duel, pitting the number one and two Goals Against Averages during the regular season against each other.

Boston’s Tuukka Rask finished with a league best 1.97 GAA in 45 games played. Buffalo’s Ryan Miller, who is a favorite to win the Vezina trophy as the league's best goaltender, was close behind 23 year old Rask with a 2.22 GAA. Miller was between the pipes for 69 of the Sabres 82 games this season, as well as back-stopping Team USA to an Olympic Silver medal, bringing considerably more weight to his strong numbers.

The Bruins were able to defeat the Sabres in four of their six meetings this season, including a 3-1 victory last Thursday (4/8) at the TD Garden. Even though things look optimistic, with the B’s taking the season-series, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. With Miller in net for the Sabres, which he is sure to be every game, the teams split four games winning two each. Rask was the winning goal in all four of Boston’s victories. Boston did outscore Buffalo during the six meetings, 15-11, but produced a paltry 2-17 on the power-play, which will have to improve exponentially if the Bruins hope to advance deeper into these playoffs.

To have success, Boston will need continued production from their top scorers. Patrice Bergeron (19G, 33A) and David Krejci (17G, 35A) led the Bruins’ offense with 52 points each. B’s captain Zdeno Chara (7G, 37A) was third on the team’s list with 44 pts. His contributions, both on offense and defense, will be monumental in the Bruins’ success or failure this postseason.

In the other Eastern Conference match-ups are as follows: Washington Capitals/Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils/Philadelphia Flyers, and Pittsburgh Penguins/Ottawa Senators. In the West, the San Jose Sharks play the Colorado Avalanche, followed by the Chicago Blackhawks/Nashville Predators, Vancouver Canucks/LA Kings, and Phoenix Coyotes/Detroit Red Wings.

Let the quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup begin!

09 April, 2010

Mass. Schools For The Blind Face Off In Fencing Tournament

In a first of it's kind event, the Perkins School for th Blind in Watertown and the Carrol Center for the Blind in Newton faced off in a friendly fencing competition.

The teams of boys and girls were coached by Ceaser Morales, a former fencing coach at Brandeis University. The only accomodation for blind fencing participants is a carpet runner on the floor to help keep their feet properly oriented.

The Perkins School also offers rowing on the Charles River, bowling, ice skating, rock climbing, and martial arts.

For more on this outstanding story of overcoming the odds, read more at the Boston Herald or check out a video interview on ABC News.

30 March, 2010

Frozen Four Is Set To Take Over Motor City

March Madness is almost at its end, and it’s time to crown a National Champion. This isn’t another story about Duke, Butler, Michigan State and West Virginia though; I am talking about Wisconsin, RIT, Miami (OH) and BC. It’s time for the Frozen Four at Ford Field in Detroit.
The Boston College Eagles have found their way back into the national-semifinals, on April 8th, where they will be fighting for their second National Title in three years. The Miami (OH) Redhawks are trying to make it to the Title game for the second year in a row, after losing last year to Boston University in the games closing minute. These teams will face-off in the late game (8:30 p.m.)
The first semi-final (5 p.m.) pit’s the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers, in their first national tournament appearance, against the Wisconsin Badgers of the strong WCHA. RIT is a true Cinderella-story, playing in just their fifth season as a D1 program. The school awards no scholarships to athletes and no former Tiger has played even a minute in the NHL in the program’s 48-year history.
BC got to Detroit by defeating Alaska-Fairbanks, 3-1, and then winning a slugfest against Yale, 9-7, in the Northeast Region final. In the Midwest Region, Miami (OH) first beat Alabama-Huntsville, 2-1, then went on to win a hard fought double-overtime game against Michigan, 3-2.
Wisconsin took down the Vermont Catamounts, 3-2, and then St. Cloud State, 5-2, in the West Region. In the East Region, Rochester stunned the WCHA champ Denver Pioneers, 2-1, then ended the Hockey East regular-season champs season, beating the UNH Wildcats with apparent ease, 6-2.
There should be plenty of great hockey yet to come for the Division 1 Men, and I for one am rooting for the underdog Tigers to take the title home to New York. The National Title game will be played on Saturday, April 10, at 7 p.m.

29 March, 2010

Spurs Coach Popovich Mouths Off About ‘World Champ’ Banners In Boston

The San Antonio Spurs laid down a serious beating on the Boston Celtics Sunday night at the TD Bank Garden; the 94-73 loss was the C’s worst of the season and only the third time they have been beaten by 20 or more.

There was another story making headlines in Boston, though, other than the disgraceful loss. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich spoke with local media and had some interesting things to say about the 17 banners hanging from the Garden rafters.

“There are no World Champions in the NBA, so anybody that has the flag up that says world champions is not correct,” Popovich told a local Boston rag… I mean mag. Popvich went on to say “The world champions, I believe, are the Spanish team right now. USA is the Olympic champion. The Lakers are the NBA champion. It doesn’t make sense for an NBA team to call themselves world champions. I don’t remember anybody playing anybody outside our borders to get that tag. Isn’t that true? I keep waiting for somebody to tell me I’ve missed something.”

Though Pop comes off as an arrogant choad, he poses a valid argument. It is an argument that could also be posed about the so called ‘World’ Series champions in the MLB. To call yourself world champs you should have to prove yourself against the world.

“There’s a team in Canada. That’s true,” Popvich said. “The world’s bigger than North America. I know sometimes we as arrogant Americans don’t respond to the rest of the world, but it’s true. There’s a big world out there.”

I agree with Popovich on this one and I hope that everyone else sees his logic. I for one will be saying NBA and MLB champs from now on, unless these teams want to challenge the rest of the world in a tournament similar to the UEFA Champions League. Now that’s an idea that could be huge…

Bruins Fight For Playoff Life In Tight Eastern Conference Race

If the NHL regular-season ended today, the Boston Bruins would be in the playoffs; they currently sit in the 8th, and final, spot in the Eastern Conference. The season isn’t over, though, and with eight games left to play there is a lot that can happen.

Boston (80pts) barely leads the 9th place Atlanta Thrashers (78pts) and the 10th place NY Rangers (76pts), though the Black and Gold have a game in hand on both teams. They also only trail the 6th place Philadelphia Flyers (82pts) and 7th place Montreal Canadiens (82pts) by the slimmest of margins. Also, Boston holds two games on each of these squads.

Of the eight remaining games on the B’s schedule, five will be played against top-tier Eastern Conference teams. Boston plays 3rd place Buffalo twice (3/29, 4/8), 4th place NJ once (3/30), and the powerhouse Eastern Conference leading Washing Capitals twice (4/5, 4/11). Their other three games, though, are against the worst teams in the East: Florida (4/1), Toronto (4/3), and Carolina (4/10).

The Thrashers also have a tough road ahead of them, playing games against Carolina (3/29) and Toronto (3/30) before finishing the season with Washington twice (4/1, 4/9), Pittsburgh twice (4/3, 4/9), and NJ once (4/6). The Rangers have a seemingly easy schedule in comparison with Buffalo (4/3) being the only top-5 team they will face, though they do have to hold off the 11th place Islanders (3/30) and 12th place Lightning (4/2) as well as finishing the season with two games against the Flyers (4/9, 4/11) who are currently in 6th. Montreal’s only challenge seems to be a match-up against the Sabres (4/3), while Philadelphia is the only team in the picture to have a game against a Western Conference team; they have to face-off against the Detroit Red Wings on Easter Sunday (4/4).

To hold on to their playoff spot, or possibly climb in the Conference standings, Boston will have to earn some hard fought points; which will come down to them scoring key goals and continuing to play solid defense. They are currently second in the league with a 2.34 GAA and also stand at second in penalty-killing. Tonight’s opponent (Buffalo) has the number four GAA, at 2.41, and is third in the NHL in penalty-kills; tomorrows opponent (NJ) is the number one defensive team in the league, allowing only 174 goals so far this season. Boston has allowed just 177. It seems goals will be precious in the upcoming matches, and the weeks ahead should hold some exciting hockey, no matter what team you cheer for.

25 March, 2010

Welcome to 'Skate Sessions'

It just hit me one day, that urge somewhere deep in my brain that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I really wanted, no I needed, to skate.

There was a time, in my teens, when I spent whole days out ‘rolling’ with my friends. We were a solid crew of 6-8 kids, most of them younger and a couple of them older than me; we met at the park almost everyday.

We pushed each other to be better skaters. Seeing one of the guys land a new trick made me want to try it too. We brought each other progression, we brought each other support. We would all even pile into each others cars to make trips to other parks, or into Boston for some nighttime street skating.

But that was then and this is now.

Now, I find myself skating alone, or worse surrounded by bikes, boards and an unfathomable swarm of scooters. Aggressive skating was taken out of the X-Games back in 2005 and skating mags like Daily Bread and Box are gone and nearly forgotten. But that old urge stays with me, and it’s an itch that must be scratched.

So join me at Skate Sessions, and help me revive this dying art with Park Profiles, Recon Mission‘s to underground street spots, and general insight into the skating world; or just watch me ride out aggressive skating’s final days.

18 March, 2010

Justice Will Be Served: Bruins' Sights Set On Matt Cooke and Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins are in Boston tonight to face off against the Bruins at the TD Garden.

This is the first meeting between these clubs since Matt Cooke delivered a season ending head-hunter elbow to Bs star forward Marc Savard.

The obvious cheap shot (seen on the right side of the screen at :10 of this video ), which did not earn Cooke a penalty at the time, has been discussed by hockey fans on the Northeast, and across the country, since the March 7th game in Pittsburgh.

I don’t know what is more surprising; that there was no retaliation from the Bruins players during that game or that there was no suspension/fine issued by Colin Campbell , the NHL’s principal disciplinarian, after the game tapes were reviewed by him and his staff.

With Cooke and the Pens, coming to Causeway Street completely unpunished (either physically or judiciously), there is a unanimous belief that justice will be served on the Garden ice tonight.

Campbell himself will be in attendance and I am sure there will be plenty of action for him to punish before the night is through.

The question now is:

Do the Bruins go directly after Cooke for his transgressions? Or, do they target a Pittsburgh star with an "eye-for an-eye" strike?

Either way, something must be done and since the NHL took no action when it had the chance there is only one answer; old time hockey justice. Something that the once "Big, Bad Bruins" were known for.

So all eyes will be on Boston tonight. Puck drops at 7 pm EST. Gloves drop shortly after?

01 March, 2010

Mass. Schools Use Love of Sports to Teach Kids

Now that the Olympics are over and the Big, Bad boys in Black and Gold are heading back to Causeway Street, I'd like to take a minute to shine some light on a positive community outreach the Boston Bruins are involved in.

The B's have started a program called the “Bruins I.C.E. (I Can Excel) School," and it was featured in an article written for the Marblehead Reporter.

Follow the link below to read the article and learn more about how local Mass. schools are using the Bruins and hockey to teach children important lessons in the classroom.

Polish Skiing Star Wins Big in Vancouver

The 2010 Winter Olympic games were full of great stories of personal triumph and amazing athletic prowess. One such story that has gone greatly under reported is that of Polish cross-country skiing starlet Justyna Kowalczyk.

Kowalczyk’s gold medal performance in the 30km classical is only the second time Poland has placed an athlete on top of the podium; the first Polish gold was captured by Wojciech Fortuna in ski-jumping at the 1972 games in Sapporo, Japan. Fortuna’s medal was the only one earned by a Polish athlete that year.

Kowalczyk finished her Vancouver games with a full collection of Olympic hardware, winning one medal each of gold, silver and bronze. Preceding her first place finish in the 30km classical, she won a silver medal in the individual sprint and a bronze in the 15km pursuit. Her three medals comprise half of her country’s total 6 medals; Poland finished the 2010 games with 1 gold, 3 silver, and 2 bronze.

With her bronze medal in the 30km freestyle from the 2006 Turin games, her 4 medals make her the most decorated Winter Games athlete Poland has ever seen. Kowalczyk is truly a world-class athlete with extreme talent, and at 27 years of age there may be more Winter Olympic medals on the horizon for Poland as fans of this one of a kind tournament experience set their sights on Sochi, Russia and the XXII Winter Olympic Games in 2014.

28 February, 2010

Keeping an Eye on the Biased Media

As the Canadian's and the Americans prepare to once again face off for Olympic Ice Hockey gold, it's interesting to take a look back at how the media approached their coverage the last time these two teams met on the International stage.

As the 2002 Winter Olympics closed, the whole world witnessed the Canadian Men’s Ice Hockey Team defeat the Americans to capture the gold medal. As is expected, there are many different journalistic approaches to reporting the outcome of this game; three articles about it make these different approaches clear.

The first article, titled “After a 50 year wait, Canada has gold medal again,” appeared in the New York Times and seems to reflect the Americans view of the game. Starting with the title, which makes it a point to mention the 50 years since Canada’s last gold, the whole article is biased towards the Americans. The title is biased because it directly comments on the long span since Canada’s last gold medal in it’s national pastime. It is almost a shot at the Canadians, questioning their ability in the game they love. The article excuses the American team multiple times, which is made clear when the author says, “Defenseman Brian Rafalski fell with an apparent skate problem.” The way that the author presents this event shows his biased view of the game. The article also points out the fact that “Canada caught a break by facing Belarus, a weak opponent…” while it makes the excuse for the Americans by stating, “But the Americans had to play a later game against a stronger team from Russia…” It becomes obvious that he was a fan of the American team and was trying to make some excuses for them. By quoting US Captain Chris Chelios, “Yesterday, Mario’s quote said it was his game, or Canada’s game. We’ve listened to that. It might be the only game that they’re very good at, except for curling and a couple of other things. All kidding aside, they’re a proud group of players,” the author can give the article an American bias without coming out and saying it in his own words. The choice of this quote lets him present his own opinion of the game without saying, “I think…”

On the other side of this story, is the Canadians view on the outcome of the game. An article in The Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper, shows an entirely different view of this game. The headline reads, “Canada will look at ’02 as golden,” which is a more positive way to look at the Canadian victory than how the N.Y. Times portrayed it. Following the positive angle, the first paragraph gives Canada credit by saying, “a new date was added to the country’s long and enduring hockey history” The author then makes it a point to tell the readers “there were as many people cheering for the visiting Canadians as there were for the home side.” The Canadian bias shows through when the author mentions, “U.S. Coach Herb Brooks thought his team looked ‘more tired’ because it had a more difficult path to the final.” The author’s choice of this quote shows his bias, because he could have mentioned how the American’s clearly had a harder route to the finals on his own, but instead he chose to use Brooks’ words against himself, portraying him to the readers as the coach that makes excuses when his team loses.

Presenting a more unbiased view on this game, I chose and article titled “Young and old lead Canada to gold” from Espn.com. This article shows a broad view of the whole game and of the back-stories on both teams, not favoring either. The article mentions Canada’s “50 year wait” and the end to the U.S. team’s “70 year unbeaten streak” making it clear that both teams had a significant event occur due to the outcome of this game and not making one sound more important than the other. The author does mention that “Canada had an easy route to the final, beating only Germany, Finland and Belarus, while the Americans twice played bronze medallist Russia,” but unlike the other articles, this is presented as pure fact without the quote that would have given the article a biased towards either country.

27 February, 2010

Canadian Women Win Third Straight Ice Hockey Gold

The Canadian Women’s hockey team continued its dominance of the Olympic ice with a 2-0 win over their archrival US squad Thursday night in Vancouver.

Spurred by two first period goals from 18 year-old Marie-Philip Poulin, of Dawson College, Canada went on to win it’s third straight Olympic gold medal, following first place showings in both Salt Lake (2002) and Torino (2006).
Team USA is the only other Olympic squad to capture gold, finishing first in the inaugural Women’s ice hockey Olympic tournament at the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan. The US women finished second at the Salt Lake games and a very disappointing third in Torino four years ago.

Team Canada controlled play most of the night, even successfully holding off the US women during a 2-man advantage following consecutive delay-of-game minors at 2:35 and 2:58 of the 2nd period. The Canadians outscored their opponents 48-2 in the tournament, while the Americans finished scoring 40 goals and allowing only 4.

Canadian Meghan Agosta, a 23 year old law student at Mercyhurst College, led all scorers with 15 points (9 goals, 6 assists); right behind Agosta were teammates Caroline Ouellette and Canadian team captain Hayley Wickenheiser, who both recorded 11 pts totals (2G, 9A). Natalie Darwitz (4G, 7A) and Jenny Potter (6G, 5A) led the US women, also totaling 11 pts each. Wickenheiser is the all-time leading goal scorer in Women’s Olympic ice hockey history with 16.

Finland defeated Sweden in the perennial consolation game. This is the third bronze medal for the Finnish women.

16 February, 2010

Linus Omark Stick Tricks and the Worst NHL Shootouts Ever

The Olympic Games are in full swing, and I have been scouring the internet for some amazing hockey moments to share with all of you. This innovative shootout goal features Linas Omark, playing for the Swedish National team in a preliminary match at the World Championships, pulling the rug out from under a very unlucky Swiss goaltender.

If that didn't hook you onto this Dynamo Moscow left winger, who was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in 1997, then check out this nifty stick work.

After seeing those great finishes, you have to watch these not so great shootout attempts from the NHL.