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2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round Preview / Predictions


BY BRETT MURDOCK, Couchsideshow.com senior blogger

 And just like that, the 2013 NHL season is over with. Quick, right? I know, but that’s what you get when a lockout threatens to cancel another season under the reign of commissioner Gary Bettman. But alas, there was a season played after all consisting of 48 games and after all the hubbub and chaos, the first round playoff match-ups are set. There are some good ones and of course there are some that will end horribly, and I am here to straighten them out for you and get you informed heading into the postseason. Let’s get to it…

Wait, a fun fact before we get started: This is the first time all “Original Six” teams qualified for the playoffs in the same season since a long time ago.

Carry on…

The Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks claimed the top two seeds in the Western Conference for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Photo by: Bridget Samuels / Flickr

The Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks claimed the top two seeds in the Western Conference for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Photo by: Bridget Samuels / Flickr

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (8) Minnesota Wild

The Blackhawks enter the playoffs as President’s Trophy winners after finishing with the highest point total through the season. They are a dangerous folk top-to-bottom with great players in all areas and have showed it throughout the year. They started off 21-0-3 and though they kind of went through a rough patch through the middle of the season, they regained their composure and come into the playoffs as the favorites to win it all.

Meanwhile, the Wild are one of those teams you look at and say “What is going on?” They acquired the two biggest prizes on the free agent market this past off season in forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter, they have a solid goaltender (Niklas Backstrom) and have a bunch of other talented pieces that should have made them a title favorite. But alas, they were as inconsistent as any playoff team in recent memory and limp into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth. They are not a confident group right now in my eyes and are staggering.

While both of these teams were prohibitive favorites entering the season, only one appears to be gelling at the right time and that’s Chicago. They score at will and shut down opposing teams with a ruthless defense, and those are bad signs for slumping Minnesota.

• WINNER: Blackhawks in 5 (more…)


Longest sellout streak in major pro sports comes to an end at Fenway Park


The Boston Red Sox sold out in a record 820 straight games at their famed Fenway Park. Photo by: Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau

The Boston Red Sox sold out in a record 820 straight games at their famed Fenway Park. Photo by: Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau

Feedcrossing.com syndication

There have been numerous boasts from professional sports teams across the world regarding sellout streaks. However, nobody really knew which ones were to be believed. One that was confirmed to be true was that of the Boston Red Sox of Major League Baseball. The ball team sold out 820 straight games at its home of Fenway Park before seeing that streak come to an end on April 10. It’s believed to be the longest sellout streak in major professional sports.

The streak didn’t end by just a few tickets though as the Red Sox saw it come to a conclusion with about 7,000 empty seats in the stands. The official capacity for evening games at the stadium is 37,493, but just 30,862 tickets were sold for their game against the Baltimore Orioles, which they dropped by a score of 8-5. The sellout streak started back in May of 2003 and it also included playoff games. The previous mark was set by the Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA. Portland managed to sell out 814 consecutive home games between 1977 and 1995.

When regular-season games only are taken into consideration, the Red Sox sold out 794 straight contests, which is also a major sports record. Boston demolished the old mark of 455 which the Cleveland Indians set between 1995 and 2001. John W. Henry, the owner of the Red Sox, said that the streak took place at the best ballpark in America and he thanks the Boston fans and players for it. He added that the franchise is looking forward to beginning a new streak and hopes fans in the area will also be able to enjoy their baseball at Fenway Park for generations tom come. (more…)


Preseason Position Power Rankings: Couch Side’s top five second basemen for 2013


BY CHUCK CONSTANTINO, Couchsideshow.com blogger

Editor’s note: Couch Side is very pleased to bring back its annual MLB preseason position power rankings. This year, we will offer two positions every Wednesday and Friday. Each blog ranks the top 10 players at each position and is written by some of Couch Side’s best bloggers. The following is part two of what will be a 12-part series. Enjoy!

Second base isn’t generally known as a power position, so in fantasy drafts second basemen tend to fall to the later rounds. However, there are plenty of second basemen who can bring something to the table in fantasy value.

Here is my list for the top second basemen in terms of fantasy baseball for the 2013-14 season:

5. Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers (.256 BA, 19 HR, 72 RBI, 2.0 WAR)

A virtual lock for a 25 home run and 25 steals season, Kinsler is a highly-coveted fantasy second baseman. After a down year, if Kinsler can stay healthy he’s a steal. The Rangers will be without Josh Hamilton this season, but have added Lance Berkman. His runs scored could be near 100, but the Rangers’ lineup is riddled with injury-prone players. Pick him and pray the Texas heat helps keep him healthy. Also, superstar in the making Jurickson Profar will be competing for the second base spot. Kinsler could be moved to first base or the outfield. If that is the case, look to grab Profar in your draft.
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Who’s to blame for Pirates post All-Star break collapse?


BY JASON HAVELKA, Feedcrossing.com syndication 

Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Neil Walker has been one of the only highlights for the Bucs during their second-half slump. Photo by: Natalie Litz / Flickr

I have heard all kinds of speculation about who is to blame regarding the Pittsburgh Pirate Collapse? Well, it’s not just the Bucs.   Lots of blame to go around, but here is something else to think about before we lay out the blame. The L.A. Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals also have struggled mightily. Not as much as the Pirates, but nearly. So there is lots of Collapse questions going around.

As far as the Pirates go, the front office and the coaching staff can not pitch, hit, steal bases, or play defense. The pitching staff is the easiest to blame and probably where it should go. James McDonald has not pitched the same as he did in the first part of the season. Erik Bedard fell off the map and now is not even on the team. Jeff Karstens, who pitched well when he came off the DL, is now injured again. Kevin Correia gives up four runs to whomever he pitches against, whether it is the Bad News Bears or the NY Yankees. And Finally, A.J. Burnett has struggled a bit the second half.

Let’s go a step further and say the bullpen has also pitched poorly the second half of the season. Joel Hanrahan has been disappointing in the second half of the season and Jason Grilli has been brutal lately. We can talk about the hitting all we want and the injuries that truly have not helped and the fact that Andrew McCutchen has struggled mightily the second half of the season. The fact is when the Bucs did score runs, like today, the pitching staff blew it. (more…)


MLB Trade Deadline recap


The Chicago Cubs traded starting pitcher Paul Maholm and Redd Johnson to the Atlanta Braves for some minor league players Wednesday afternoon Photo by: Elise Michelle.

BY BRANDON J. SMITH, Couchsideshow.com writer

Now that the trade deadline has passed, let’s see where the main movers and shakers currently stand. Most of the deals involved prospects, and since I’m no guru on that area, we’ll focus on the priced prizes that were recently moved, and give quick scores on the trades. There was no blockbuster 10/10 deal to be found (Cliff Lee or Josh Johnson) but there were lots of non-superstar level trades made that saw contenders addressing needs without giving away major prospects in return.

• Texas Rangers acquire RHP Ryan Dempster - the 36 year old is having a bit of a career year, which doesn’t make me think it’s likely to last at such a high level. Here are Ryan Dempster’s ERAs the past four seasons:

2009: 3.65

2010: 3.85

2011: 4.80

2012: 2.25

Dempster has kept the home runs down (9 in 104 IP) and a respectable 3:07 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but he isn’t a top of the rotation guy that his streak of excellence might lead some to believe.  That being said, the Rangers snatched a valuable commodity to give them rotation depth in the midst of Roy Oswalt struggling, and Colby Lewis lost for the season due to injury. I’ll give this transaction 7 out of 10 trade vetoes (inside joke for Braves fans).

• Atlanta Braves acquire LHP Paul Maholm and OF Reed Johnson - Don’t fret, Braves fans. You lost out on Dempster because he flat out chose not to accept a trade, but getting Paul Maholm (3.74 ERA) isn’t that low of a deduction. He’s another average pitcher having a slightly above average season to give your team rotation depth in the wake of yet another significant injury with this one being Tommy Hanson. Having a player like Reed Johnson allows manager Fredi Gonzalez to get him some at bats against lefties, and being a perfectly acceptable 4th outfielder going down the stretch. (more…)


From Ochocinco to Johnson again: Athletes playing the name game


The Ochocinco era is over after NFL wide receiver Chad Ochocinco legally changed his name back to Chad Johnson earlier this week. Photo by: Clay Seal / Flickr

BY WADE McMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor

When I read that a certain out spoken NFL wide receiver was changing his legal name back to Chad Johnson, I couldn’t resist doing a little research.

That’s right folks the Ochocinco era is officially over and perhaps the shenanigans that came with the name are coming to an end, too. Johnson made the name swap Monday morning so his brand new wife wouldn’t be burdened with any sort of silliness attached to the Ochocinco title, which proves that Johnson just might be growing up. Does that mean we should expect a new level of maturity from Johnson next season?

I won’t put my foot in my mouth and say Johnson will return to his old football form and his off-the-field antics will completely come to a screeching halt. But I have to believe we will see a new and improved Johnson next season. Consider what Johnson has been through for the past year. He had his worst season ever statistically and wasn’t exactly the most sought after wide receiver in the free agent market this offseason. In addition to those eye openers, Johnson also tied the knot with Basketball Wives star Evelyn Lozada. With the name change and what could be his final year to prove himself, I think we will see a Johnson that we’ve never seen before. 

Johnson definitely isn’t the only notable athlete to change his name, either. There are actually a surprising amount of  jocks that have re-identified themselves legally. Most did it because of religion while others — like Johnson — probably did it for attention. Johnson said he did it to honor Hispanic Heritage Month, but I’m certianly not buying that. So after finding some other more famous name changes, I have formulated an opinion about a chosen few that have nothing to do with religion. Here’s a look at those particular athletes:

• Dominic Williams aka Dominic Davis: This is actually a name change that is touching. The former Houston Texans running back did it to honor his mother. You also have to like the literation in his new name, which is also why I can’t argue this decision one bit. You’ve heard of people naming their children after their grandparents or even the popular junior, right? This is no different. (more…)


Couch Side Podcast Episode 21: All-Star Action


BY Couchsideshow.com staff

The Couch Side podcast comes at you a day earlier with the Fourth Of July coming up. Host Wade McMillin rolls solo to discuss the NBA offseason and break down the MLB All-Star teams’ rosters. The NBA offseason topics include Roy Hibbert joining the Portland Trailblazers, the Brooklyn Nets and where Steve Nash might land. In the Big Picutre, MLB All-Star edition, Wade closely examines almost every single player on the American and National League All-Star teams. Click below to stream, download or subscribe to the Couch Side podcast, which now also airs on 89.1 FM every Wednesday at 4 p.m. across the Big Horn Basin.

Click here to stream/download Couch Side Episode 21: All-Star Action  via iTunes

Click here to stream Couch Side Episode 21: All-Star Action via our host site, TalkShoe

Click here to download Couch Side Episode 21: All-Star Action via our host site TalkShoe


The Rockets should’ve, could’ve and would’ve on Draft Day


BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor

If you watched the NBA Draft on Thursday night, odds were you had to wake yourself up on a few different occasions.

There were no mega deals, veterans to new teams or huge surprises. It was just a basic, boring draft. Every year the NBA Draft usually has some sort of spunk, but 2012′s was a snoozer. And one team was especially quiet despite doing everything imaginable to make some noise prior to the draft.

Call me crazy, but weren’t the Houston Rockets supposed to turn themselves into the fantastic franchise they once were in the days of Hakeem Olajuwon? It seemed during the days approaching the draft the Rockets were geared up to do so and had the appropriate arsenal to rebuild in just one offseason. So what happened? Here’s a list of Houston’s mistakes during the NBA Draft and in the short-lived offseason, so far.

• Missing out on Howard

Despite their best efforts, the Houston Rockets couldn’t obtain Dwight Howard during the NBA Draft. Photo by: Kenyaboy7 / Flickr

I thought the reason the Rockets made trades for all of these picks was to obtain Dwight Howard. And hell, they probably could’ve had Superman. The only problem was that D12 doesn’t want to play for Houston, which probably spoiled a lot of the team’s plans for this season’s draft.

What boggles my mind is why Howard doesn’t want to play for the Rockets. This is a franchise that once was one of the greatest teams in the NBA and has tried just about everything to regain that image for the past two seasons. Houston can’t, however, because marquee players don’t want to play there for some reason. It seems to me that Houston is a basketball town. The days of Hakeen, Clyde the Glide and Charles Barkey are over, but lately the front office has made valiant efforts to land superstars — more than one.

Last season, the Rockets tried to obtain Pau Gasol and the trade fell through, mainly because NBA commisioner David Stern didn’t want Chris Paul to join the Lakers. So what how did the Rockets respond? They finished out the shortened 2012 campaign, missing the playoffs and decided to aim high, really high this offseason. (more…)


NHL Eastern Conference Playoffs: First Round Preview


BY BRETT MURDOCK, Couchsideshow.com writer

A couple of days ago, you witnessed the unveiling of my first round preview for the Western Conference playoffs. Now you have the grand opportunity to indulge in my Eastern Conference preview. Enjoy.

 (1) New York Rangers vs. (8) Ottawa Senators

 

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was in the NHL's top five for wins, save percentage and win percentage this season. Photo by: Gregory Manno / Flickr

The Rangers have looked like one of the NHL’s elite teams all season, and who could blame them? They have outstanding goaltending in Henrik Lundqvist, offensive firepower in Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan and a consistent blue line presence with Marc Staal and Dan Girardi. They are a solid team all around and have the “New York” aura around them.

The Senators, after missing the playoffs last year, are back and looking to play spoiler. Led by the always dangerous duo of Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa will always look to their mainstays to guide the team. Defensively, Erik Karlsson and Sergei Gonchar hold down the fort while goalie Craig Anderson has had a decent season in net (2.84 GAA, .913 save percentage).

In order for the Senators to at least stay competitive, they will need superb play from Anderson and have a point-per-game pace from their gunners, Alfredsson and Spezza, along with Milan Michalek. And that is just not happening. The Rangers are too good on all three fronts and should pepper Anderson with enough shots from all angles to make his head spin.

Rangers in 5

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NFL Draft: What ‘Best Player Available’ Actually Means


BY MM And P, Feedcrossing.com syndicated blog

We’re now in April and only weeks away from the NFL Draft, probably the most anticipated offseason event for NFL fans around the league. I have been taking a look at draft prospects for the Bears in my “Prospecting for Gold” series and there has been plenty of daily discussion around the blog about this guy and that guy. One of the biggest trends is the phrase ‘Best Player Available” (BPA) getting thrown around. The Bears are indeed in a position to take the BPA, and for some fans this is a foreign concept after the Jerry Angelo regime. I see people throw it out connected with a player, such as “Bears need to go Stephen Hill or BPA at 19″ well, it doesn’t quite work like that. I just wanted to go through exactly who the BPA are and break down which directions the Bears could go with BPA at 19 in the draft later this month.

Best player available is a pretty straightforward concept; take the best player, regardless of position on the board with your pick. It can be something the fans go nuts for, or it could be something that is, at the time, seen as a head-scratcher. One example is back in 2001 the Indianapolis Colts took Reggie Wayne when they already had Marvin Harrisonin his prime. The move worked out well and they had one of the best receiving tandems in the league for several years following. (more…)


Spring Training Teasers: Couch Side’s top five closers for 2012


BY CHUCK CONSTANTINO, Couchsideshow.com writer

No longer will the skipper climb out of the dugout, walk to the mound and signal for the closer in the seventh inning, heck, rarely will they call for him in the eighth. Most guys throw one inning, unless it is an important game, then the closer will get the next game or two off. Either way, closers are the guys who slam the door shut, or are the goat for the night. Here’s a few pitchers who I would call upon in the ninth innings this season.

5. John Axford, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers closer John Axford earned 40-plus saves during his first year as Milwaukee's go-to-guy in the ninth inning. Photo by: Steve Paluch / Flickr

Shoved into the closer role, Axford did not disappoint. He posted 46 saves, 86 strikeouts in 73.2 innings pitched and blew only two saves. He got stronger after the all-star break and cut down on his walks. His 49 percent ground ball rate helped him record an ERA of 1.95. Although he has Francisco Rodriguez behind him, Axford has proved to be composed. One thing that worries me is his 59 hits given up. He will need to get more swing and misses without the same lineup in Milwaukee. (more…)


Wyoming College Hoops Rant (1/20 — 2/3),


BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor

Just as I predicted, the Wyoming community college basketball season is catching fire with five of the Cowboy State’s six Div. I Juco teams still in the hunt for the Region IX regular season title. Wyoming’s squads may be beating each other up, but it sure doesn’t show in the standings. Five of Wyoming’s Juco eight teams currently boast at least 15 wins despite mainly playing inner-state matchups for about the past two months.

Sheridan College, Northwest College, Western Wyoming, Central Wyoming and Casper College are rolling right now, making this week’s top five poll very easy. It seems voters for the NJCAA men’s basketball top-20 poll don’t seem to think Wyoming is worth any praise, though. Western, Sheridan and Casper have all spent at least a week in the top-20 with the Mustangs topping out at No. 9. So it doesn’t make much sense when voters didn’t pick a single Wyoming squad for the top 20 in their latest poll on Jan. 31. In fact, not a single team from the Cowboy State even received a vote to join the club of the nation’s best.

Now don’t get me wrong. The top 20 is full of talented squads, ranging from No. 1 South Plains College (20-0) to No. 20 Sante Fe College (19-3). But at least Northwest College at 17-5 should receive a vote for in the top 20 or one earning at least one vote to be in the national poll. So I’ll take it upon myself and give these Wyoming schools some love:

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Why did Ovechkin voluntarily miss NHL All-Star Game?


BY JOHN SCOTT, Couchsideshow.com contributor

Washington Capitals left winger Alexander Ovechkin voluntarily sat out of the NHL All-Star game Sunday. Photo by: Capitalpowerplay / Flickr

Last year, Sidney Crosby said he was going to miss the NHL All-Star game to protest the league’s player safety policy. As time elapsed, it was his concussion problems that kept him out of the All-Star game.

Now, the other famous hockey star, Alexander Ovechkin, decided he would not participate in the most thrilling game of the NHL season. On Jan. 23, Brendan Shanahan (Senior Vice President Player Safety and Hockey Operations) announced that Ovechkin would be suspended three games after his hit on Pittsburg Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek. Shanahan said Ovechkin “launched” himself at Michalek, leaving his feet and made unnecessary head contact.

“The moment Ovechkin launches himself into the air prior to the hit he becomes responsible for any contact to the head,” was Shanahan’s explanation for suspending arguably the league’s most interesting player. Incidentally, the NHL’s All-Star game fell right between Ovechkin’s suspended games.

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