NHL: Early Playoff Picture, Which teams are the favorite to fall off?

Metropolitan Division:

New Jersey Devils(11-5-3)

Columbus Blue Jackets(12-7-1)

Pittsburgh Penguins(11-8-3)

Atlantic Division: 

Tampa Bay Lightning(15-3-2)

Toronto Maple Leafs(14-7-0

Detroit Red Wings(10-8-3)

Wild Card: New York Islanders(1), Washington Capitals(2)

Central Division:

St. Louis Blues(15-5-1)

Winnipeg Jets(12-4-3)

Nashville Predators(11-6-2)

Pacific Division: 

Los Angeles Kings(12-7-2)

Vegas Golden Knights(12-6-1)

Calgary Flames(11-8-0)

Wild Card: Chicago Blackhawks(1), Colorado Avalanche(2)

Ok, now we are 22 games into the season and some teams have remained atop their division since the start of the season. When it comes to playoff talk this early, it should be considered a crime, therefore I should be arrested and thrown in jail. But, I don’t care, this was of interest to me and I feel like this is a decent time to start throwing around some playoff prediction talk.

The Metropolitan will be shaken up a bit and I think we will see five teams come from that division, but as far as the top three go, at this moment the top three is weird and by no means do I see the Devils atop that division much longer, they are tied with the Blue Jackets and Penguins and currently have four teams within three points or less of them. The Devils will fall off, Islanders move into three, Rangers take the second wild-card spot.

Atlantic, yes Tampa Bay is pretty much set in stone to win that division, Toronto is a heavy favorite for second and the third spot is the next team up who will make the playoffs. If you don’t get a top three spot in the Atlantic, you’re not making the playoffs. And the team I think who takes that three spot is Ottawa. They are the most balanced team up and down the line up compared to Detroit and Boston.

Central, again St. Louis is going to be a top three team in this division, very well could fall off the top spot as they are only four points ahead of the Jets. I think this top three is what we will see all season, just some different teams in some different positions.

Pacific, no clue, holy crap. One thing I am sure of though is that Vegas won’t be a wildcard or top three team come January. I could very well see the Flames winning that division, Kings falling to three spot and Anaheim jumping to the two spot.  As far as wild card goes for this conference, I am thinking Chicago will be the first wild-card spot, if not expect major changes in Chicago. The second will fall to Edmonton, going out on a limb but this team needs to wake up and start stringing together a win streak. Talbot will have to be much better, which I think he will and this team will turn there season around.

My Prediction:

Eastern Conference:

  • Tampa Bay Lightning(1st Atlantic)
  • Toronto Maple Leafs(2nd Atlantic)
  • Ottawa Senators(3rd Atlantic)
  • Columbus Blue Jackets(1st Atlantic)
  • Pittsburgh Penguins(2nd Atlantic)
  • New York Islanders(3rd Atlantic)
  • Wild Card: Washington Capitals, New York Rangers

Western Conference: 

  • Winnipeg Jets(1st Central)
  • St. Louis Blues(2ns Central)
  • Nashville Predators(3rd Central)
  • Calgary Flames(1st Pacific)
  • Anaheim Ducks(2nd Pacific)
  • Los Angeles Kings(3rd Pacific)
  • Wild Card: Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers

 

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FREE NHL PICKS OF THE DAY; November 20, 2017

The FREE NHL picks format will be changed, I’m sorry but I am going to be devoting much of my time to graduate school and taking exams for graduate school. Not fun but it’s what needs to be done, therefore the major NHL nights free picks will be out. More than likely we are looking at three to four nights of free NHL picks. 

Calgary Flames(11-8-0) vs Washington Capitals(11-9-1) 

Saw something the other day about Johnny Gaudreau’s point streak, I believe it is something like 16 points in his last nine games. Absolutely ridiculous and this team would be nothing with Johnny hockey this year. He leads the team with 29 points and third in the NHL, just four points behind Nikita Kucherov. The Flames need to see some better performances out of Mike Smith, last week Smith struggled mightily and it resulted in the Flames having to score four-plus goals. The Capitals offense is deep and versatile, their power play is coming in at 20.8 percent and the Flames are a 20.6 percent. It all comes down to goaltending tonight. Braden Holtby vs Mike Smith who steps up and helps their team win. I got Washington, 4-2.

Winnipeg Jets(12-4-3) vs Nashville Predators(11-6-2)

Probably game of the night and the NHL should figure it out with television rights, how can you not air this game. Two top teams in the NHL right now, the red-hot Jets and the former cup contenders squaring off in Nashville. This game will be a great one, Connor Helleybuck able to hold off Nashville to two or fewer goals, Jets able to slot three or more on this Predators offense. This game comes down to those two factors. Helleybukc has been on a Cinderella story and riding high and the Jets have rallied around Helleybuck’s stellar start. Predators depth on offense and defense make them a scary team, and at home they are unstoppable, but Jets are the underdogs here and I like the sound of that. Slam it Jets, 5-3.

New Jersey Devils(11-5-3) vs Minnesota Wild(9-8-2)

The first of two meetings between the Wild and Devils kick off tonight on MSG plus. The Devils have dropped four of their last six games. And coming into a hot Minnesota team will not be an easy matchup. Jason Zucker’s red-hot streak looks to continue tonight and it will for sure, but the Devils need to get some confidence back and take a game and get back in the win column. The Devils offense has been filled with new players stepping up all season which is great but concerning at the same time, does it mean they are streaky or what. The Devils are a time that everyone is unsure of right now and we will know who this team really is come Christmas time. Tonight, I’m going Minnesota, 4-2.

Anaheim Ducks(9-7-3) vs San Jose Sharks(10-8-0)

The Ducks are coming off a win that probably should not have won as John Gibson turned away 50 of Florida’s 52 shots last night. The Ducks got outshot, 52 to 28 and they get ready for a mediocre San Jose team. The Sharks have dropped three of their last five games and the biggest concern has to be Brent Burn’s zero goals and awful start. Luckily the Sharks go up against a team that is hurting badly and sporting two centers in the top six, that do not belong there. We will need to see some key players for both teams step up but Anaheim’s defense will need to help Ryan Miller as he expected to get the nod after Gibson’s grueling start last night. I like Anaheim here in overtime, 3-2.

The two other games tonight are Columbus vs Buffalo, figure that one out on your own. I don’t care if Buffalo is home, you can do this one yourself, people. And even better Coyotes vs Leafs with Auston Mattews back. Yeah, we know how that is going to go.

Lundqvist shutout leads Rangers to sixth straight home win

The Rangers welcomed the Ottawa Senators to Madison Square Garden for a Sunday night tilt. A game that may not have many viewers, due to Sunday night football, was still of importance to the Rangers. As the Rangers were coming off a two-game losing streak it was imperative for them to get back in the win column as the season continues to go on and the Metropolitan stays tight.

The first period resulted in both teams being held to nothing, the Senators had their fair share of chances on the power play and off some Ranger’s defensive breakdowns but Lundqvist was able to turn away all eight Ottawa shots.

The second remained scoreless until Kevin Hayes was rewarded with a gift in the high slot, a wide-open Hayes buried the high wrister past Anderson for the first goal of the night. Hayes scored his fifth goal and ninth point of the season. The second would remain 1-0 Rangers and the shots would also be in favor for New York, 17-15.

Again five minutes into the third period, the Rangers struck again, this time off a point shot from Marc Staal which got deflected by Micahel Grabner for his ninth of the season and helped the Rangers extend the lead to 2-0. The rest of the third period would remain the same, back and fourth chances, but Ottawa was unable to score. The Senators eventually pulled Anderson with 3:19 left and the Rangers Mika Zibanejad was able to find the back of the empty net and seal the deal, for a Rangers 3-0 win.

Lundqvist picked up his first shutout of the season, turning away 20 shots. The Rangers went onto to win their sixth straight home win, and now get ready for the travel to Raleigh North Carolina before they return home for a three-game homestand. The Rangers are now 10-9-2 and take on the Carolina Hurricanes(9-6-4) Wednesday night.

IN THE REARVIEW: Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway

After 35 long weeks, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship came down to two Toyota teams who’ve run well all season long. On Sunday, Martin Truex, Jr. scored his eighth victory of 2017, and with it, the 2017 Monster Energy Cup Series championship. While Truex celebrated his accomplishments, NASCAR said goodbye to Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who will no longer drive full-time in NASCAR.

 

Stage One

As cars fired up and rolled off of the starting grid, every man and woman on every pit crew stood at the edge of their pit box and high-fived Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who made his final full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday. After getting off pit road, Dale Jr. was saluted by the fans as he followed a large “Thank You, Dale Jr.” flag being hauled by a truck.

After the salute to Dale Jr., the race started with polesitter Denny Hamlin starting at the front of the field. Before Hamlin could exit turn two, Martin Truex, Jr. had already stolen the lead. Kyle Busch, who was fighting Truex for the championship, also passed Hamlin, while Earnhardt, who started last, worked his way into 29th. On lap six, the first caution of the day occurred after Joey Gase hit the outside wall. Under the caution, drivers like Kyle Larson, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Brad Keselowski came down pit road and got off sequence with the leaders.

On the restart, the newer tires ate up the competition, and Kyle Larson, after restarting outside of the top five, quickly worked his way into the lead, followed by Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch.

The stage was calm after the first 20 laps, and the only noticeable problems in the stage were for Jimmie Johnson, who suffered from a flat tire two times in the stage. Kyle Larson dominated the stage and won it easily. Behind him, Brad Keselowski led the championship battle, but Truex, Kyle Busch, and Kevin Harvick were not far behind at all.

 

Stage Two

Kyle Larson continued to dominate after the start of stage two. Brad Keselowski, who was the championship leader at the time, was passed by Kevin Harvick early in the stage for the lead in the championship standings.

The championship battle continued to change, as Kyle Busch passed Harvick, taking the championship lead. Busch led that battle until the second cycle of green-flag pit stops, where Kevin Harvick cycled out to second in the race and first in the championship standings. It didn’t last long, however, because Kyle Busch ran Harvick back down and passed him again.

On lap 142, Danica Patrick hit the wall, and Kasey Kahne was collected, which prompted another caution.

When the race restarted, Kyle Larson once again, flew away from the rest of the leaders, and Martin Truex, Jr. passed Kyle Busch for the championship lead. Larson took the win in stage two, with Truex trailing. It set the stage for one last run to the finish, which would prove to be incredibly intense.

 

Stage Three

Martin Truex, Jr. took the lead with the help of his pit crew and restarted the race in the lead, but was overtaken by Kyle Busch. David Starr, however, hit the wall and brought out the caution soon after. When the race restarted, Kyle Busch hung onto the race and championship lead, but Truex fell back after Larson passed him. Brad Keselowski short-pitted, which dragged two of the other Championship 4 with him. The only one of the championship-eligible drivers who didn’t pit was leader Kyle Busch. When Kyle Busch did finally pit, Martin Truex, Jr. took the championship lead.

The caution came out, and it left the Championship 4 bunched together. On the restart, Truex was chased by Kyle Busch, and they were followed by Kyle Larson in third. Kyle Busch charged to Truex, but he was unable to complete the pass. Truex led to the finish, winning the race and the championship.

Behind the leaders, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was running in 15th, when he had a tire go down. He finished three laps down in 25th, but was grateful that he had finished the race in one piece.

While Truex didn’t dominate the race, he did dominate the season. He ends the season with eight wins, 19 top fives, 26 top-10s, three poles, and 2,253 laps led. It was a truly dominant season for Truex, and a championship well-deserved.

 

For a more in-depth look at the Ford EcoBoost 400, tune in to NASCAR Nation on 107.7 The Bronc FM WRRC Thursday, November 30th at 7 p.m. eastern time, hosted by the writer of this article, Joseph Passero.

Rangers return home ready to face Ottawa

This matchup brings back some memories for us all, whether you are a Rangers or Ottawa fan, the six-game series during the playoffs was a grueling and exciting series to watch. Let’s fast forward to the regular season though, we are 20 some odd games in and the Senators rank third in the Atlantic and the Rangers rank seventh in the Metropolitan.

Ottawa is sporting a tough overtime loss to one of the worst teams in hockey, but with an 8-4-6 record, the Senators look to get back in the win column and inch a little closer to Toronto. The Rangers went into Chicago on a  six-game win streak, saw that get snapped after losing 6-3, quickly turned the page and went into Columbus Friday night, where they lost 2-0. The Rangers are on a two-game losing streak and must get back in the win column to stay afloat in this competitive Metropolitan division.

Players to Watch Tonight: OTT VS NYR 

Some key players to watch tonight for Ottawa are Matt Duchene, who was recently acquired and has played four games for the club, recording zero points. Also, it is hard to take your eyes off Erik Karlsson, his dynamic two-way ability to puts him in a class of his own. But the real key to Ottawa’s success is having their two offensive guns, Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman producing tonight.

For the Rangers, with Rick Nash being moved to the first line, paired with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, the Rangers hope for Nash to explode on the offensive side of the puck and help the Rangers offense get back on track. Nash has 7 goals and 4 assists on the season. Also, we can look for Kevin Shattenkirk to continue to man this power play, leading the defensive side of things with 17 points and 9 power play points. In addition to that, Mika Zibanejad’s hot start will look to stay afloat vs his old team, Zibanejad has been the focal point of the Rangers offense all season and has 19 points(9 goals, 10 assists) in 20 games.

Goalie matchups for tonight have been confirmed and Ottawa is going to Craig Anderson and the Rangers turn to Henrik Lundqvist. Anderson is 7-4, 2.92 goals against and .898 save percentage on the year. Lundqvist is 8-6, 2.98 goals against and .908 save percentage on the year.

Rangers Keys to Success… 

The Rangers are coming off a days rest as Ottawa is going back-to-back. The travel from Ottawa to New York may play a factor in tonights match up. With the late travel and long game for Ottawa last night, the Rangers shall look to jump on them early, forecheck hard and throw pucks into the net. Keeping the game simple and not allowing Ottawa to create time and space is the key to the Rangers success.

Noteworthy news:

David Desharnais scratched, Paul Carey will replace him. 

Craig Anderson gets the start tonight. 

Nick Paul will replace Ben Harpur as Senators go with 12 forwards. 

Boston Celtics: A Team With A Bright Future

The Boston Celtics are 15-2 and hold the best record in the NBA.

Let me say that a little bit louder for the people in the back. The Boston Celtics, the same Image result for boston celticsteam that traded away Isiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Jae Crowder and let many others walks. A team that had a complete makeover to a roster that includes 4 new people in the starting line up. A roster that now includes Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Jayson Tatum. That same team that has lost Gordon Hayward for the year and also lost Kyrie for a game during a winning streak. Yes, this team is, by record, the best team in the NBA.

 

When the Celtics first signed Gordon Hayward, many thought they would definitely put up a good fight with the Cavaliers for the best team in the eastern conference. Many also wondered how the lineups would work with the abundance of wings they had at the time including Jaylen Brown, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and their rookie Jayson Tatum. They answered those questions quickly by making many trades that not only solved lineup issues but gave them draft picks as well. They traded away Jae Crowder and Isiah Thomas for Kyrie Irving after he requested a trade from the Cavs. They also traded away Avery Bradley and received Marcus Morris in return.

 

Now with a new big three in Irving, Hayward, and Horford, the Celtics were really Image result for boston celticsstarting to look like a threat in their starting lineup even if they let go of some of their depth on the bench. In the first game of the season, they already had their first test. At first, it was facing off against Lebron James and the Cavs, but really it became how can the team perform without their star Gordon Hayward. The answer to that is that they can do just fine without out him. And to add to that they even won a game without Kyrie against the Raptors. Besides the team winning without their stars the scariest thing is how young the team is.

 

The oldest player on the team is Al Horford, who is 31.Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum (0) and Jaylen Brown (7) celebrate after Tatum scored during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, in New York. The Celtics won 109-102.

Kyrie Irving is 25, Gordon Hayward is 27, Marcus Smart is 23, Jaylen Brown in 21 and
Jayson Tatum is 19. This team has a young core that is built to contend for years down the line. They are built to contend when the warriors are not a massive threat anymore. Truthfully Danny Ainge and the Celtics have built a young dynasty that in a few years can bring some championships to Boston. But it does not just stop at the players and the many future draft picks this team has.

 

The basketball mind of Brad Stevens has made the Celtics a better team right now then maybe what they should be. He makes players better. A perfect example would be looking at Kyrie Irving. For his entire career people have said he is an amazing offensive player but his defense is lacking. 16 games into his career with the Boston Celtics and you can see an improvement in his defense. A player like him works in Stevens defensive-minded scheme. Quick rotations around screens along with having defensive minded players on the court such as Marcus Smart make Kyrie better.

 

If the Boston Celtics win a championship within the next 5 years and the roster includes Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, with Brad Stevens as the coach still(and don’t forget all of those draft picks). We will look back on this day and talk about how smart Danny Ainge is for drafting and making a championship caliber team.

 

NFL Week 11 Injury Report: Who’s Out?

Offense:

 

QB-

Jameis Winston- TB

 

RB-

Dwayne Washington- DET

Ty Montgomery- GB

Aaron Jones- GB

Malcolm Brown- LAR

Mike Tolbert- BUF

Terrance West- BAL

Alfred Blue- HOU

 

WR-

Allen Hurns- JAX

Arrelious Ben- JAX

Will Fuller- HOU

Albert Wilson- KC

Terrelle Pryor Sr.- WAS

Brian Quick- WAS

Matthew Slater- NE

Chris Hogan- NE

Sterling Shepard- NYG

Breshad Perriman- BAL

Jordan Matthews- BUF

TE-

Jordan Reed- WAS

Jeff Heuerman- DEN

Dion Sims- CHI

 

Defense:

 

DE-

Ezekiel Ansah- DET

William Gholston- TB

Allen Bailey- KC

Brian Robison- MIN

Chris McCain- LAC

 

DT-

Corey Peters- ARI

Pat Sims- CIN

 

LB-

Dylan Cole- HOU

Tamba Hali- KC

Dee Ford- KC

B.J. Goodson- NYG

Kevin Minter- CIN

Sean Lee- DAL

Jalen Reeves-Maybin- DET

Danny Trevathan- CHI

Blair Brown- JAX

A.J. Klein- NO

 

CB-

Vernon Hargreaves- TB

Adam Jones- CIN

Bryce Callahan- CHI

Kevin King- GB

Quinton Dunbar- WAS

Eli Apple- NYG

 

S-

Morgan Burnett- GB

Andrew Sendejo- MIN

Kenny Vaccaro- NO