Friday, April 30, 2010

April Baseball - The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (4/30/2010).....

Paul Lebowitz joins me to discuss the first month of the 2010 Major League Baseball season. Among our points of discussion are the Braves, Dodger & Red Sox slow starts, while the Mets, Rays & Padres have gotten out of the game quickly, and the massive contract extension that Ryan Howard received. Enjoy.

Paul on Twitter.
Paul's website.

The SportsFan Buzz: April 30, 2010 (right click to "save as target)

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Voice over talent provided by Morgan Thomas.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Capital Offense.....

Kudos to me for going 4 for 4 in picking the NHL Western Conference Quarterfinals after the Red Wings defeated the Coyotes in Game 7 of their series Tuesday night. I see no reason to change my picks concerning the Western Semifinals, even though some others are joining the Detroit bandwagon, and think we are headed for a Chicago / San Jose conference final.

As for the Eastern Quarterfinals, let's just say my picks will not win any awards, but I'm not sure anyone saw these results coming as the top 3 seeds were knocked out in the first round. The three regular division winners are gone and the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins are now in the position of home ice advantage for the next two rounds.

I picked Pittsburgh to come out of the east and I see no reason to change that pick and they will handle the upset minded Montreal Canadiens. As for the Boston / Philadelphia series, the most surprising stat to me coming into this matchup is that they have not faced each other in the playoffs since 1978. Both teams are playing like they were predicted to prior to the season starting, but I think the Bruins are a little better and have home ice, so I see Boston moving on to the conference finals.

But the real story so far of these playoffs is the collapse of the Washington Capitals against the eighth seeded Canadiens. Not only did the Presidents Trophy winner lose in the first round, but they became the first #1 seed to ever lose a first round matchup by squandering a three games to one lead in the series.

The hero for Montreal was goaltender Jaroslav Halak, but for as good as he was, the Capitals were just as bad. Some will point to their 1 for 33 performance on the power play in the series, but for me the change came after the first period in game 5 when the Capitals seemed to go from a team getting ready to advance, to one not looking to get upset.

Washington came into the fifth game after battering the Canadien goaltenders for 11 goals in the two games in Montreal, but after a first period where the Canadiens scored twice while the Capitals were stopped on all 15 shot attempts by Halak, they seemed to start getting nervous. Then after only one goal on their next 23 shots, the teams were going back to Canada and the Canadiens seemed to be given life.

Games six and seven were exhibitions of great goaltending by Halak and the squeezing of sticks by the Capitals. After each save, the Capitals seemed to grip their sticks tighter and tighter. When the dust had settled, Halak and Montreal were advancing and Washington was left to ask, "What went wrong?"

Most thought Washington had that burning to advance further in this year's playoffs after being ousted by the Penguins last year in a great series. Now, Sidney Crosby and the Penguins get the chance to not only defend The Cup, but in the process beat the team that upset the Capitals. Score another one for "Sid the Kid" over "Alexander the Great".

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lesson Learned.....

Last night, one "upstart" team had chance to take control of a playoff series, while another had the chance to win their series, but both played "veteran" teams with playoff experience. By the end of the night it was playoff experience or the "lack thereof" that was the key to both outcomes.

The games involved the Detroit Red Wings taking on the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 7 of their series, while out in Los Angeles, the Oklahoma City Thunder were facing the Lakers in Game 5 of their series which was tied at two games apiece. Both the Coyotes and Thunder were riding the momentum off their last games and both seemed ready to take full control their respective situations.

For me, I still thought the Red Wings could win their series, but I was having my doubts after they failed to put the Coyotes away on home ice in Game 6. As for the Thunder, I watched games two through four and thought they could be up 3 games to 1 on the Lakers, as Los Angeles just looked slow, beat up and old and ripe to be taken down by the "kids". Seemed like the Red Wings run up the standing during the season and the Lakers bumps and bruises were going to catch up to them. Both the Thunder and Coyotes must have certainly thought it was their time to take advantage of the situations. They and I were wrong, as the veterans showed what playoff experience and poise was all about.

I settled onto the couch for the 9pm drop of the puck from Phoenix, while 90 minutes later the Thunder and Lakers were to tip off. In the end, I really only needed about 20 minutes of viewing to see how both "teachers" showed the "students" that experience is power.

After a scoreless first period, Detroit scored 2 quick goals to start the second section, but the Coyotes came back with one of their own to bring the crowd back into the game. Then, "one day shy of his 40th birthday", Nicklas Lidstrom scored to put the Wings up 3-1, but the Coyotes kept fighting. Then with a little over 2 minutes left in the period, Brad Stuart took a penalty while Detroit was shorthanded to give the Coyotes over a minute of a 2 man advantage. Here was Phoenix's chance to possibly get back to even in the game going into the third period. Instead, a calm Red Wing team tightened up didn't allow a shot while down two men, and to add salt to the Coyote wound, Stuart gets out of the box, grabs the puck and scores before the period ends. Four to one Red Wings and it was time to say good night to Phoenix.

While in the middle of the hockey second period I had "paused" the Laker / Thunder game (got to love DirecTV's "DoublePlay" feature on their dvr) at tipoff, so I went over to it to watch from the start. After the last two games in Oklahoma City, I was ready to see if the Thunder could ride the wave from OC all the way to LA. Problem is that there is no water between the two for that ride. Less than 6 minutes into the game the Lakers were up by sixteen and it seemed like it was more. The Thunder couldn't make a shot and the fast break game that was the catalyst for tying the series was nonexistent. At the end of the third quarter it was a 28 point lead, and again it felt like it wasn't that close.

Just some subtle change in the Laker defense, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum deciding to play like the big men they are, and the memory of the last two games in Oklahoma had vanished.

Two old, established, veteran (take your pick) teams, seemingly on the ropes with their opponents and many "experts" getting ready to write them off.

In "real time" the tip off of the Laker game and their taking command of the game and the Red Wings killing the 2 man deficit happened in about 20 minutes, but the lessons they taught the Thunder and Coyotes must have seemed to last as long as having detention after school.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (4/24/2010).....

The NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament has expanded and found some new TV channels for games to be seen on. Plus the "new" NFL draft has been a success for football fans and the NFL teams. Also a look at the NBA and NHL playoffs. Enjoy.

The SportsFan Buzz: April 24, 2010 (right click to "save as target)

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Voice over talent provided by Morgan Thomas

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (4/22/2010).....

Busy time during this "off season" of the NFL as we are less than 24 hours away from the NFL draft, a day removed from the NFL releasing the 2010 schedule and Ben Roethlisberger is punished by the commissioner's office. Mike joins me to discuss those topics, a look at the first round of the NBA and NHL playoffs and what is going on in baseball's opening weeks. Enjoy.

Mike on Twitter

The SportsFan Buzz: April 22, 2010 (right click to "save as target)

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Voice over talent provided by Morgan Thomas

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (4/18/2010).....

A little bit of "This & That" on the podcast for this lazy Sunday, including a look at the first few days of the NHL Playoffs and the impressions made so far by the different teams. Some golfers got a gift from Phil Mickelson after last weekend's Masters win, and there are some people who really, really love their college football. Enjoy.

The SportsFan Buzz: April 18, 2010 (right click to "save as target)

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Voice over talent provided by Morgan Thomas

Friday, April 16, 2010

NBA Playoff Predictions.....

The NBA Playoffs kicks off this weekend and all eyes seemed to be focused on LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. They come into the post-season with the league's best record and the favorite to take home the Larry O'Brien championship trophy. Over in the west, Kobe and the Lakers are looking to defend their championship, but they will first have to escape a conference playoff where each team won at least 50 games.

Eastern Conference - First Round:
Cleveland Cavaliers (#1) over Chicago Bulls (#8) - Cleveland is too strong, while Chicago is a mess. Making the playoffs just delays the Vinny Del Negro firing until after the series is over.
Orlando Magic (#2) over Charlotte Bobcats (#7) - The defending Eastern Conference champions get the new kids and the Michael Jordan owned Bobcats. Michael is not expected to suit up, so this will be easy for the Magic.
Atlanta Hawks (#3) over Milwaukee Bucks (#6) - The Andrew Bogut is a huge loss for the Bucks, who really played well during the second half of the season. The Hawks move on to the second round.
Miami Heat (#5) over Boston Celtics (#4) - This one was very tough for me and it should be as this is a matchup of the #4 & #5 seeds. Neither team will probably get past the second round, but the Celtic age and injuries during the season makes me wary in picking them here. Maybe the Big Three can scrape together enough to win the series, but I'll take Dwyane Wade to lead the Heat to the next round.

Western Conference - First Round:
Los Angeles Lakers (#1) over Oklahoma City Thunder (#8) - The Thunder have NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant and a nice compliment of teammates, but it will not be enough to upset Kobe and the Lakers. Phil Jackson already tried to get into Durant's head with his referee/foul remarks (which ended up costing him $35K), but the kid shot back at the coach. Should be fun, but the Lakers move on.
Dallas Mavericks (#2) over San Antonio Spurs (#7) - It is hard for me to go against Tim Duncan and the Spurs, but the Mavericks come into the playoffs as perhaps the hottest team in the conference, along with the Phoenix Suns. It is a shame one of these teams will be losing in the first round, but the Mavs are just the better team, so it will be a short playoff for the Spurs.
Phoenix Suns (#3) over Portland Trail Blazers (#6) - This could have been the best series of the whole first round, but the injury to Brandon Roy now makes this possibly the biggest mismatch. Suns move on easily.
Utah Jazz (#5) over Denver Nuggets (#4) - A month ago I thought Denver could come out of the west, but the cancer diagnosis for Coach George Karl has really seemed to taken its toll on the team. The Jazz hope to have a healthy Carlos Boozer back and will move on to the next round.

Eastern Conference - Semi Finals:
Cleveland Cavaliers over Miami Heat - Too much LeBron and not enough Wade in this match up of great players. It will be fun watching these two on the court together. Now if Shaq was back on the Heat...
Orlando Magic over Atlanta Hawks - Orlando is a very talented team and while the Hawks are improved, it will not be enough to stop Dwight Howard and Magic.

Western Conference - Semi Finals:
Los Angeles Lakers over Utah Jazz - This probably goes the distance, but the Lakers have just a little too much with Kobe and will their way to the conference finals.
Phoenix Suns over Dallas Mavericks - This is another series that seems destined to go the full seven games. Ever since Amare Stoudemire's "non-trade" this team has seemed to take it up a notch. A hard fought series that could be comprised of seven great games.

Eastern Conference Finals:
Orlando Magic over Cleveland Cavaliers - Rematch of last year's conference finals and I think we get the same results. Shaq is supposed to neutralize Dwight Howard but I'm not sure that will be the case over a long series. LeBron needs his teammates to step up and not look to him to do it all, but so far in prior playoffs that has not happened and I think that might be the case again this year.

Western Conference Finals:
Phoenix Suns over Los Angeles Lakers - Kobe has seemed "old" at times and I think after the first two series that will happen again against Steve Nash and the Suns. Phoenix takes advantage of their quickness and I think Stoudemire is going to have a monster series against the Lakers' front line.

NBA Finals:
Phoenix Suns over Orlando Magic - The Magic will be the "bridesmaid" again this year as Nash and Stoudemire are just a bit better than Jameer Nelson and Howard and will bring the championship home to the desert. The series will allow the general public who don't follow the NBA too closely will get to see the true talent of Steve Nash and it will make many wonder what the Suns were doing in even thinking about trading Stoudemire.

Mike's NHL Playoff Picks.....

Here are the picks from Mike that came from our preview podcast.

Eastern Conference First Round:
Caps over Habs
Flyers over Devs
Pens over Sens
Sabres over Bruins

Eastern Conference Semi-Finals:
Caps over Flyers
Pens over Sabres

Eastern Conference Finals:
Caps over Pens

Western Conference First Round:
Sharks over Avs
Hawks over Preds
Canucks over Kings
Yotes over Wings

Western Conference Semi-Finals:
Yotes over Sharks
Canucks over Hawks

Western Conference Finals:
Canucks over Yotes

Stanley Cup
Caps over Canucks

Thursday, April 15, 2010

NHL Playoff Preview - The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (4/15/2010).....

The best of all the playoffs in sports is about to start as sixteen NHL teams start their quest for the Stanley Cup. Neither of our favorite NHL teams have made the playoffs this year, but that will not keep Mike and I from previewing the Quest for the Cup.

Will Washington cap its President's Trophy season by also hoisting the Cup? Will Chicago wins its first Stanley Cup since 1961? Is it possible we will see Detroit and Pittsburgh go at it again for the third time in a row? It's time for "playoff beards" and the best two months in sports. Enjoy.

Mike on Twitter.

The SportsFan Buzz: April 15, 2010 (right click to "save as target)

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Voice over talent provided by Morgan Thomas

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

NHL Playoff Preview.....

Mike and I will be recording our NHL Playoff podcast in the next day or so, but in the meantime let me put down my predictions on who will carry the Stanley Cup before the games begin.

Western Conference - Round 1:
San Jose Sharks (#1) over Colorado Avalanche (#8) in 5 games
Chicago Blackhawks (#2) over Nashville Predators (#7) in 6 games
Vancouver Canucks (#3) over Los Angeles Kings (#6) in 7 games
Detroit Red Wings (#5) over Phoenix Coyotes (#4) in 6 games

Eastern Conference - Round 1:
Washington Capitals (#1) over Montreal Canadiens (#8) in 5 games
New Jersey Devils (#2) over Philadelphia Flyers (#7) in 6 games
Buffalo Sabres (#3) over Boston Bruins (#6) in 6 games
Pittsburgh Penguins (#4) over Ottawa Senators (#5) in 6 games

Western Conference - Semi Finals:
San Jose Sharks over Detroit Red Wings in 5 games
Chicago Blackhawks over Vancouver Canucks in 6 games

Eastern Conference - Semi Finals:
Pittsburgh Penguins over Washington Capitals in 7 games
New Jersey Devils over Buffalo Sabres in 7 games

Conference Finals:
Chicago Blackhawks over San Jose Sharks in 6 games
Pittsburgh Penguins over New Jersey Devils in 6 games

Stanley Cup Finals:
Chicago Blackhawks over Pittsburgh Penguins in 7 games

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Master Phil.....

I openly admit that I am a Phil Mickelson fan and have been for a long time. Funny thing is, I can't tell you why or when I became Mickelson fan. Maybe it is because he is "Lefty" and I am a lefty, or maybe it was because he was a little out of shape, but still athletic. A couple of traits I am familiar with on a personal level. Looking back, what I think drew me to Phil was the fact that he was oh so close in the four golfing "majors", but never knew how to take his foot off the gas and coax his way to those elusive victories. Even after his first win in a "major" at the 2004 Masters, Phil still found some ways to lose (see 2006 US Open at Winged Foot), but I still found myself pulling for him.

Well, earlier today Phil Mickelson won his third Masters' green jacket and fourth overall golfing major championship. After sinking a birdie putt to wrap up a three stroke victory, Phil was congratulated by his caddie, golfer Lee Westwood, and Westwood's caddie.

After the sportsmanship, Phil went straight to his wife Amy and gave her a hug that I thought was going to go on forever. Amy was diagnosed last year with breast cancer (Phil's mother was also diagnosed with breast cancer only a short time after Amy's diagnosis) and has been in Augusta since Thursday, but didn't leave her bed until Sunday afternoon. They hugged, and because of the power of HD television, we could see tears streaming down Phil's eyes. Maybe, even through misty eyes of your own.

It was a week when the sports world focused on Augusta and was talking about that "other golfer" and the off the field problems that plagued him, and yes, that includes me. At the same time we were being told that a two time Super Bowl winning quarterback would possibly be facing sexual assault charges, while a NFL defensive lineman was arrested for carrying a loaded gun in an airport. It was enough to make you question your love for sports and those that play the games. I'm sure it is enough to make some question why I do and want to do all this "sports stuff".

Instead, Phil's victory and subsequent moment with Amy erased all of those negative thoughts and reinforced my love of sports and those who play the game. It is the reason I spent my time on these columns, the podcasts and why I hope and pray someone gives me a chance to do this for a living. Moments and stories like Phil and Amy's is why I love sports and do what I do.

Thank you Lefty.

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (4/11/2010).....

The past nine days have been great if you are a sports fan. We had two NCAA Basketball Champions crowned (both men and women), the final week of the NHL regular season, the start of the 2010 MLB season, and The Masters is underway. Plus we had an All-Pro quarterback traded to a team within the same division of his former team.

Mike Tricarico joins me to go over the past week and discuss the sports stories peaking our interest. Enjoy.

Mike on Twitter.

The SportsFan Buzz: April 11, 2010 (right click to "save as target)

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Voice over talent provided by Morgan Thomas

Saturday, April 10, 2010

MLB 2010 predictions.....

I gave my predictions for this upcoming baseball season on the last podcast, but let's get them in print so that all can ridicule them come October. Yes, it is more heart than brains in picking my Los Angeles Dodgers to win it all.

AL playoff teams:
Boston Red Sox
Chicago White Sox
Los Angeles Angels
Minnesota Twins (wild card)

NL playoff teams:
Philadelphia Phillies
St. Louis Cardinals
Los Angeles Dodgers
Atlanta Braves (wild card)

World Series: Dodgers over White Sox

Yes, there is no mention of the defending champion New York Yankees. For some reason their age keeps coming into my head and scaring me off of them. I am possibly completely off base with that fear, but it will hit them sooner than later and I just think it might happen in 2010.

The White Sox are my pick because I think they greatly improved their team last summer when they acquired Jake Peavy. I don't think Peavy is an "NL pitcher" and if healthy, will do real well this year being new to AL batters.

The Red Sox may not have the best offense, but their starting rotation is so deep they will not have prolonged skids during the year. The Angels have Mike Scoiscia managing them, and he will get them to the top of the division by the time August / September rolls around.

The Twins could be the "team" this year with the new ballpark, plus the signing of Joe Mauer, but the Joe Nathan injury scared me off from my early spring feeling that they would win it all. October baseball in Minnesota will be fun.

Injuries to Phillie pitchers should have made me pick the Braves or even the New York Mets to rule the NL East, but those teams have their own injury problems that concern me (hello Chipper "day to day" Jones). If the Braves stay healthy and Jason Heyward is steady in his rookie year, they could give manager Bobby Cox a nice retirement present.

The Cardinals are head and shoulders above the rest of the NL Central. Only a collapse by them, along with a great year by one of the other Central contenders could make this a race.

Oh, my Los Angeles Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley should be the anchors to the rotation and Jonathan Broxton in the closer role. While Matt Kemp, James Loney, Andre Ethier and Manny Ramirez are the bats for Joe Torre's lineup. I think Torre is able to get the most out of Manny this contract year and the two kids do step up to lead the pitchers. That combination will be enough to bring the World Series trophy to LA. We'll see.....

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The SportsFan Buzz (4/4/2010).....

Playing the Devils and losing on Easter weekend is probably not a good thing. The NHL is in its final week of play and the races are tight. Kobe Bryant re-signs for big bucks with the Lakers and it is Final Four weekend. Plus what are the Eagles thinking in having their top 2 QBs on the trade market, and I make my predictions for the upcoming MLB season. Enjoy.

The SportsFan Buzz: April 4, 2010 (right click to "save as target)

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Voice over talent provided by Morgan Thomas

Friday, April 2, 2010

MLB Preview - The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (4/2/2010).....

It is baseball time as the season kicks off this Sunday night with the Yankees visiting Boston to take on the Red Sox. Author Paul Lebowitz joins me to preview the 2010 season as we go through each division to see who will come out on top this October. Will the Yankees win championship #28? Does the divorce of the Dodger owners cause them trouble? Plus we look at other storylines that will make up the 2010 season. Enjoy.

Paul on Twitter.
Paul's website.
Paul's novel, Breaking Balls.
Paul's 2010 Baseball Guide

The SportsFan Buzz: April 2, 2010 (American League) (right click to "save as target)
The SportsFan Buzz: April 2, 2010 (National League) (right click to "save as target)

You can find and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.
You can subscribe to have The SportsFan Buzz delivered to your inbox.
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Voice over talent provided by Morgan Thomas