Latest

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 Read the rest of this page »

True fan or band wagoner?


BY JESSICA WILLIAMS,Couchsideshow.com contributor
At the moment, I am laying in a hotel bed, in a city I’ve never been in before, researching College hockey teams.
Some people might think this is odd, but it is no different than a basketball fan looking up College basketball teams for the Final Four. Though many folks don’t know this, there is a hockey equivalent to the Final Four; it is known as the Frozen Four. The location of the Frozen Four is different every year, with different teams, and different fans attending the games. This year the tournament is held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I’ve begun to wonder if these people rooting for specific teams are actually fans, or just band-wagoners.
I say this because when you ask these people who they are rooting for, 80% of the time it is the #1 seed team in the tournament. If that just so happens to be their favorite team, then so be it, but usually the difference between a real fan and a bandwagon fan is easily recognizable. For instance, a real fan might know people on the team, or have all the fan attire supporting the team. If you ask one of these fans a question about their team, be prepared to have a conversation longer than an elevator ride.
On the other hand, bandwagon
fans might give you very short, to the point answers about their “favorite team”. Lesson being, when going to a sports tournament of any kind, make sure you do your research on the teams so you don’t get caught as the bandwagon fan.

Brian Wilson to the St Louis Cardinals?


For San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson is still recovering from Tommy John Surgery, but could find a new home sometime this season. Photo by: Danny Mac / Flickr

Former San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson is still recovering from Tommy John Surgery, but could find a new home sometime this season. Photo by: Danny Mac / Flickr

Feedcrossing.com syndication

The St. Louis Cardinals bullpen has been an utter disaster this season.  It’s not just one or two guys, it’s everyone.

The only two relievers with an ERA below 4.00 are Edward Mujica and Randy Choate.  Joe Kelly has seen little game time since his early struggles and lack of a need for relievers before the seventh inning due to the success by the starting rotation.  Fernando Salas looks like he could use a stint in the minors to figure out what he’s doing wrong as he looks completely lost on the mound.  Trevor Rosenthal still looks shaky on the mound despite working himself out of his own jam in the eighth inning on Monday.  Mitchell Boggs is likely to be relegated to low-leverage situations until his confidence is rebuilt and shows he can retire good hitters once again.  With Eduardo Sanchez on the DL, there are no appealing options in the Cardinals farm system.  It appears the Cardinals will have to either look outside the organization or hope Jason Motte recovers by May 1st, the date set to decide whether or not he will have Tommy John or will begin rehab.

That said, there are few options outside the organization that wouldn’t require GM John Mozeliak to give up quality prospects for a short term fix.  There is, however, one option that many believe the Cardinals could be interested in: signing Brian Wilson.  In case you have forgotten, Wilson is the original Giants “Fear the Beard” campaign closer who closed for the San Francisco Giants when they won the World Series in 2010.  He had his second Tommy John surgery last April when his arm gave way once again. Read the rest of this page »

Couch Side Podcast Episode 53: 2013 NFL Mock Draft


BY Couchsideshow.com staff

CLICK HERE TO START LISTENING: 

Listen to this week's podcast to prepare for the 2013 NFL Draft. Photo by: Ryan Lejbak / Flickr

Listen to this week’s podcast to prepare for the 2013 NFL Draft. Photo by: Ryan Lejbak / Flickr

The Couch Side podcast looks at a heap of first-year football pros, completing a pick-by-pick analysis of the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Join moderator Wade McMillin and guests Craig Paul and Sean Schoonover as the panel predicts the selections of all 32 picks in the opening round. The gang only overlooked one player, but was able to put the rest of the pieces together in this annual episode. If you’re looking for an inside look at this year’s event by the common fan, you won’t want to miss this week’s show. Live in Northwest Wyoming? Go ahead and tune your radio dials to 89.1 FM KNWT this Wednesday at 4 p.m. or again on Thursday at 9 a.m. to also listen to the show. Click below to start listening, download, stream or subscribe to the Couch Side Podcast! You can also scroll down to read our picks.

•  Click here to stream the Couch Side Podcast Episode 53: 2013 NFL Mock Draft, via our host site, TalkShoe

• Click here to download the Couch Side Podcast Episode 53: 2013 NFL Mock Draft, via our host site, TalkShoe

• Click here to stream, download or subscribe to the Couch Side Podcast Episode 53: 2013 NFL Mock Draft, via iTunes

Couch Side’s official 2013 NFL Mock Draft

1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joekel, OT, Texas A&M

2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dion Jordan, OLB / DE, Oregon

3. Oakland Raiders: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida

4. Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Fischer, OT, Central Michigan

5. Detroit Lions: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma Read the rest of this page »

The Beginning of the End: Predictions and a look at the NBA playoff picture


BY MATTHEW VISKO and BRETT MURDOCK, Couchsideshow.com senior bloggers

Editor’s note: The preview portions of this blog were written by Matthew Vinsko. Brett Murdock contributed predictions.

Basketball is my favorite sport and it has been for a long time. Unlike baseball, football, and hockey, basketball provides high scoring affairs that can captivate fans and casual viewers alike with quick plays that include dunks, alley-oops, and even well-timed blocks.

That’s why each postseason provides a bittersweet experience for this fan.  Yes, the level of play intensifies as we work to finally crown an NBA Champion, but at the cost of a four month hiatus to one of the world’s most popular sports.

This year’s postseason is ripe with storylines (Can James Harden stop his old team from reaching the second round?  How long can the Lakers last without Kobe Bryant?  Who will stop the juggernaut that is the Miami Heat?).  But the real goal of the first round of the playoffs isn’t so much to answer these questions, but rather separate pretenders from contenders as each team takes its first step to the Finals.

Read on for predictions from both myself and my longtime collaborator, Brett Murdock, as we break down the ins and outs of each matchup in the first round.

Will Russell Westbrook (left) and Kevin Durant have what it takes to win the NBA Finals this year? Photo by: Keith Allison / Flickr

Will Russell Westbrook (left) and Kevin Durant have what it takes to win the NBA Finals this year? Photo by: Keith Allison / Flickr

Western Conference

(1) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (8) Houston Rockets

This is one matchup that might be closer than you think because of both team’s ability to put the ball in the basket.

Houston finished second in the NBA in scoring this year at 106 points per game with James Harden leading the way at just over 25 points per game.  OKC finished third in scoring with 105 points per game, led by its MVP candidate, Kevin Durant, who finished with 28 points per game, second in the scoring title race behind Carmelo Anthony.

But as it’s come to be known in postseason basketball, defense wins championships, and the Thunder finished in the top ten of the league in points allowed at a shade over 95 points per game.  Houston, on the other hand, allowed over 102 points per game, which won’t help them against the high-scoring dynamic duo of Durant and Russell Westbrook (no respect to Kevin Martin either; the guy can flat out score).

Harden can score with the best of them, but unless Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin can score consistently, expect Houston to serve as practice for the Thunder’s defense on their journey back to the NBA Finals.

• Matt: Oklahoma City Thunder in 5 games

• Brett: Oklahoma City Thunder in 6 games Read the rest of this page »

Closers killing N.L. Central teams


BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor

Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher has a chance to lead his team in saves this year after he replaced John Axford at closer. Photo by: Steve Paluch

Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Jim Henderson has a chance to lead his team in saves this year after he replaced John Axford at closer. Photo by: Steve Paluch / Flickr

Like a good NFL quarterback battle, there’s always someone looking over the opening day closer’s shoulder in Major League Baseball. The young 2013 season has already seen a few teams make a switch at the position due to a lack of talent, while other clubs have been hindered by injuries to their late-inning men. Organizations look at their closing situations through a microscope and for a lot of teams, the leash isn’t long to keep the job. No other group of squads knows those facts as well as the five members of the National League Central.

The closer carousel is at full spin for the St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs. Before the season, it didn’t seem like Cincinnati and Pittsburgh had solidified the role with one clear option, either. There’s no question, just one month into the season, there’s been way too many late-inning blow ups from teams in the N.L. Central. In fact, the division leads the majors in blown saves by four with a total of 13. Furthermore, four closers in the National League have two blown saves (the American League has none) and of the four, three of them pitch for N.L. Central teams.

 

 

The solution for such a problem could be swapping the bad for the unproven or pitch the hot hands in the ninth. But the Central’s potential replacements for its troubled closers haven’t exactly proven themselves. Of the five teams, three squads have put at least two different hurlers in save situations and the result was a blown save. At the end of the day, my guess is that baseball fans will be seeing a lot of different players in the ninth inning for N.L. Central teams. Only the Cincinnati Reds seem like they have a permanent solution for the ninth inning in Aroldis Chapman. Perhaps the Pittsburgh Pirates do too with Jason Grilli, but as for the rest of the bunch, there is still a huge question mark looming over the heads of late relievers in their bullpens. Here’s a closer look and ranking (from worst to best) of each team’s current closer situation:

5. Chicago Cubs, tied for last place in MLB blown saves

• The Problem: The Cubs have the company of the St. Louis Cardinals in the blown saves department. The only difference is Chicago has used four players in save opportunities who ultimately blew the opportunity. Those pitchers are the likes of opening-day closer Carlos Marmol, MLB rookie Kyuji Fujikawa and veterans Shawn Camp and Michael Bowden. So what’s the problems with each of those players? Marmol has always been shaky and I was actually shocked he got the nod as Chicago’s opening day starter. Fujikawa has never seen MLB hitters before this year. And when it comes to Camp and Bowden, they’re simply just not closers. • The Solution: What I don’t understand is why the Cubs won’t give the big lefty James Russell a shot. He is clearly the best option out of Chicago’s bullpen right now, leading the teams relievers with a 0.00 ERA in just under five innings of work. Russell is clearly underused, which is a head scratcher because he was effective as the team’s temporary closer last year when he picked up a couple of saves and even recorded a 7-1 record as a late-inning reliever. Read the rest of this page »