Couchsideshow.com is pleased to announce that bloggers Chuck Constantino, Trevor Gould and Brett Murdock earned their Bachelor’s degrees from the University of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, Ariz., last weekend.
Constantino, Murdock and Gould spent the past four years working for the Lumberjack, NAU’s weekly student newspaper. Constantino served as the Lumberjack’s sports editor for two of his four years at NAU while Murdock proved as a solid sports reporter. Gould also served on the Lumberjack staff, covering Arts & Entertainment as well as sports. The pair join other Couch Side bloggers, Stayson Isobe, Matthew Vinsko and myself as other NAU graduates on our staff. I would personally like to thank and congratulate Constantino, Murdock, who earned print journalism degrees, and Gould, who earned a public relations degree, for their work on this website and their accomplishments in the classroom. All of you can now be proud to call yourselves GRADUATES! You’ve earned it.
Here’s a closer look at my experiences with these bloggers: (more…)
Looking back on my first round NHL predictions, I got five out of the eight series correct in terms of the teams advancing (the Predators, Coyotes, Blues, Rangers and Devils). Out of those predictions, I only hit one on the head (Blues in 5) while I was barely off on the other four except maybe the Rangers, who I had winning in five but needed seven games. I was completely wrong on the Kings/Canucks, Flyers/Penguins and Capitals/Bruins.
But now looking at the second round match-ups, I can honestly say that I am still pleased with the outcomes. Not necessarily because of the games that will be provided, but because looking at the remaining teams gives me great joy because it upsets the established order that has come to define professional hockey in recent years. There are no Red Wings, no Blackhawks, no Penguins, no Bruins and no Canucks. Instead, viewers will get a nice, heavy dose of what people are not used to seeing, for the most part.
Heartbreak has come to define the Phoenix Coyotes in recent years. They have been plagued by ongoing ownership issues, tepid fan support and playoff disappointments. Just about when they seem ready to turn the page and start a new chapter in their history, they shut down the engine.
Well, its time to pick up the pen again as the Desert Dogs have advanced to the next round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 4-0 win against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Six of their series, winning the set 4-2. They now face-off with the Nashville Predators, which eliminated the Detroit Red Wings in five games. The Coyotes series win was the first since the team moved from Winnipeg in 1996, the first time in franchise history since 1987.
This is a team devoid of top talent, relying heavily on their goaltending and team defensive structure. There are no Sidney Crosbys or Alex Ovechkins on this club. No Zdeno Charas or Shea Webers (who Phoenix will meet in the next series). No Henrik Lundqvists or Pekka Rinnes (another Predator). Nobody could’ve ever guessed that a team with Mike Smith as its net minder, 39-year-old Ray Whitney as its best offensive weapon and 20-year-old Oliver Ekman-Larsson leading the defensive corps would get to the playoffs, let alone win their division. But they did it, and have overachieved more than any team in the NHL this season.
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
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
Its been said that the playoffs are the real season, when the men are separated from the boys and the regular season means nothing. Well, it is that time of the year for the NHL and after a grueling 82-game schedule, 16 teams are in and ready to battle for one of sports’ most recognizable trophies — the Stanley Cup. The following is a breakdown of the Western Conference first-round match-ups, with predictions provided below each series.
(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings
Last year’s Western Conference champs, the Canucks, were a dominant force from top to bottom and appear to be at least 95% of their selves from 2010-11. They are a high-powered offensive club who prides themselves on their name and location, providing an intimidating factor. They blew through the Northwest Division and are the only team from the division to make the playoffs.
The Kings on the other hand blew their chance at the Pacific Division crown but played well enough down the stretch to be considered an upset special. They have a Vezina Trophy caliber goaltender in Jonathan Quick and nice offensive weapons in Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards, but their defense is suspect.
All in all, this should be the most entertaining series to watch with the abundance of offensive talent but the Canucks are rolling into the postseason. They are the more physical team and should wear down LA on both ends.
Canucks in 5
BY MATTHEW VINSKO, Couchsideshow.com contributor & BRETT MURDOCK, Couchsideshow.com writer
Although it remains a sort of cultural taboo, no one can deny the buildup to WrestleMania.
And while it’s not on par with the Super Bowl or any other championship game (or series), WrestleMania one-ups its opponents with sheer star powers. For example, people may not know what the Royal Rumble is, but they’ve definitely heard names like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, and even Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
It’s only fitting then that The Rock is making his in-ring return to pro-wrestling this Sunday, April 1st for WrestleMania 28, emanating from Miami, Florida. The event is being dubbed as the biggest and best wrestling pay-per-view in history, so read on for a list of WrestleMania 28 predictions from Matthew Vinsko and Brett Murdock, two (sort of ashamed) wrestling fans:
Maria Menounos and Kelly Kelly vs. Beth Phoenix and Eve Torres
• Matt: Now I’m not saying this Divas match is going to open the show, but I figure we should get rid of it early in our predictions. Maria Menounos, host of TV’s Extra, is stepping in the ring for her first real match while teaming up with former Divas Champ, Kelly Kelly. Beth Phoenix has been on a roll lately, and Eve Torres’ recent heel (bad guy) turn makes this match more compelling than it should be, but considering Snooki competed, and won, at last year’s event, it’s hard to imagine the WWE bringing in a celebrity only to have them lose. Phoenix and Torres deserve better than this, but I doubt they’ll get it on “The Grandest Stage of them All.” Expect retribution come Monday Night Raw after a humiliating loss to a Diva with two first names and a current Dancing with the Stars competitor.
Winner: Kelly Kelly and Maria Menounous
• Brett: It’s unfortunate that the WWE is resorting to having the host of Extra step into the squared-circle, especially when it is going to overshadow the Divas champ in Phoenix. This is a fairly easy match to predict because at WrestleMania, celebrities will ALWAYS go over — just look at Snooki‘s appearance at last year‘s event. This will not be a technically-savvy match as those days are long gone with the current Divas division being more about looks and glamour than actual grappling. This match should occur in the middle of the event, so it is an opportunity to relieve your systems more than anything else. My hope is here is that after the match, Kharma — the new dominating force in the Divas division — comes out and destroys them all.
Winner: Kelly Kelly and Maria Menounos (more…)
BY Couchsideshow.com staff
With the Major League Baseball season just days away, Couchsideshow.com has complied all 13 of its player ranking blogs, putting them in one convenient post for an overall look at the best players in baseball. This is a great post for fantasy rankings and a great way to simply see our prediction of who will be the best of the best in 2012. Just think, you can even come back here maybe midway through the year and comment about how wrong we were. So without any further hold up, here’s the list of links to past blogs about the top players by position in the MLB:
Dear Kevin Kolb,
I’m sure you are aware of the news that your team, the Arizona Cardinals, are no longer in the running for the services of Peyton Manning. That revelation came to disappointment for many Red Birds fans alike, but probably came as a relief to you.
Take the news with a grain of salt, because it says something about you too.
Sure, you were injured for most of last season because your offensive line was like a swinging saloon door at the entrance to an Old West tavern. And yeah you had a miniscule off-season to learn, understand and execute a new offense.
But signing that massive contract extension put a target on your back to perform well when you were physically able to and you did not come through.
Now with this Manning frenzy, the Cardinals were thinking of cutting you if they were to land the future Hall of Famer. Well, they did not and Manning is down to two other teams.
Now is the time to get down to business and prove to the fan base that you are an NFL-caliber quarterback. Your 58 percent completion rate, nine touchdowns and 1955 yards in 2011 are not enough. Neither is your 3-6* record as a starter (the asterisk is because you were knocked out of one game very early and your team still won).
When you come up to training camp this summer, you better have a huge chip on your shoulder. (more…)
With the second basemen out of the way, its time to continue moving around the infield, this time stopping at the other middle infield position — shortstop. Here is writer Brett Murdock has to say about the position that is quickly turning into a hot commodity.
Hard to argue with this one, as the Colorado Rockies star is probably the most complete at his position in the big leagues. A powerful offensive weapon, ‘Tulo’ hit .302 last season with 30 long balls and 105 runs batted in, a new career high. For the past three years, he has finished in the Top 10 of MVP voting, finishing fifth twice (2009 and 2010) and has cut down on his strikeout totals tremendously. Injuries have hampered him as he has never played a full 162 games, but nobody really does anymore anyway. Additionally, Tulowitzki is a back-to-back Gold Glove winner and should be a strong MVP candidate again this year.
The Miami Marlins big free agent splash this winter came in the form of the Dominican speedster. Reyes won the National League batting crown last year, topping off at .337 for the season, a full 45 points better than his career average. Never known as a power hitter, Reyes relies on his other weapons, mainly his speed to get by. Injuries have stalled him in recent years but when healthy, he is one of the best base runners in the game. His fielding percentage is lower than what some might expect and his 18 errors last season tied a career high. But, he is a team’s offensive ignition and should be a good fit for the Marlins in a competitive NL East.
We are well into the 2012 spring training season and continuing with our theme of previewing each position in the big leagues, Brett Murdock turns his attention to the second basemen. Here is what he has to say about the spot.
The diminutive player out of Arizona State may be small in stature, but is possibly the Red Sox’s most important player. He does a little bit of everything and plays with a fiery passion. Pedroia won the AL MVP in only his second full year in the bigs and is also a 3-time All-Star. Last year, he finished with a .307 average with a career high 21 home runs and a .990 fielding percentage, committing only seven errors in 722 defensive chances. He is probably the most complete second basemen in the game.
BY BRETT MURDOCK, Couchsideshow.com contributor
They lost their franchise goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov, who signed an outrageous contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. They are still owned by the NHL and are always under the relocation cloud. And, they still did not have a marquee player to really put butts in the seats at Jobing.com Arena.
They attempted to more or less replace some lost pieces through the market, acquiring goaltender Mike Smith and fourth-line grinder Raffi Torres on the first day of free agency. Their ownership troubles still loomed but there are still interested parties, reportedly. And they acquired former Coyote and first-line center Daymond Langkow in a trade.
The 2011-12 season started off alright as the boys surprised everyone by jumping out of the gate quite nicely, but quickly simmered into something more resembling a team going through the motions than a franchise looking to prove that they weren’t just lucky or a fluke the past two years. Entering the recently completed All-Star break, they were mired in a pack of six teams vying for a playoff spot and did not look like they had the drive, or talent, to make it to the finish line.