Re-evaluating The Re-evaluation

When you sit down in the comfort of your own home and tune into an already-in-progress sporting event on television you expect a couple of things. For starters you expect to be entertained, enthralled, and emotionally invested. However, through the process of instant replay you can probably add confusion to the short list of expectations featured above.

How many times have you watched an NFL game and sarcastically joked with your friends or family “I guess I don’t know what pass interference is anymore”. Or in the NBA “I guess breathing on him is a foul now a days”. Well, begrudgingly I can now add the NHL to that less than fabled list, because I no longer know what is or is not a good goal anymore.

In the playoffs especially, the officials are there more as representations of the rule book, rather than the brute enforcers of the law. However, this may no longer be the case as the speed of the NHL playoffs and its bizarre relationship with the officiating have hit a fork in the road.

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Prior to the 2015-16 season a brand new rule was implemented, allowing the head coach to challenge whether or not a goal should count. Now, there’s criteria that needs to be met, the goal has to have resulted in a questionably offside play by the attacking team, or a missed goalie interference call.

Albeit their mind was in the right place. When you consider time and time again questionable goals from years prior didn’t receive the attention they deserved.

Exhibit A: Blatant goal tender interference.

Exhibit B: Famously textbook offside play goes uncalled, for whatever reason.

Now it should be noted that both of these situations are examples where having the ability to challenge the play would have paid off in spades. This is not always the case. In fact sometimes perfectly good goals are wiped off the board for an infraction that had nothing to do with the end result of the play. I am, of course referencing offside calls. Nothing, and I truly mean nothing brings a perfectly good game to a sketching halt more than an unnecessarily lengthy review searching for the slightest inkling of an offside infraction.

Exhibit C: Goals being taken away well after the infraction only hurt the game.unnamed

Furthermore with the years of experience that comes with being an NHL official, one that is presumably well versed in the updates that come with the rule book. Wouldn’t you be able to come to the conclusion that JG Pageau undeniably covers the puck in the crease preventing a goal in over time of a playoff game? Need I remind you, that is in fact frowned upon and should have resulted in the very least as a delay of game penalty not to mention a penalty shot.

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Apparently not, as neither of those calls came to fruition. This came after it was reviewed by the officials. Despite the lack of transparency one former official weighed in his take on the play.

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On top of that, Noel Acciari whom appeared to have scored to end the game earlier in overtime. Later he sat dumbfounded when the goal was taken away due to a fluky goaltender interference call. The review process lasted around 5 minutes.

I’ll admit this as dramatic an example as there is. Loopholes in the rule book can be found in rare situations in sports. But one must wonder has putting every play under a microscope helped or hindered hockey?

While there was plenty of good that came with the inception of this new rule, its also caused its fair share of  damage. Perhaps allowing a coach to possess too much power over the game. In return causing the officials to question their judgement and rely on the grace of instant replay far too heavily.

According to the NHL Public Relations twitter account on 4/30 we’ve had 19 games this playoffs that needed overtime to determine a winner through 50 games played. During the entirety of last seasons playoffs just 20 games needed overtime through 90 games played.

In a league whose major critique of themselves is a lack of offense, they appear to be doing a lot to maintain the status quo. Much attention needs to be diverted to this rule in the coming off season, to the benefit of the sport itself.

You cannot allow a questionably offside play, upwards of 30 seconds in the past rule out a perfectly good goal on the ice. Especially when the major concern of the league is finding a way to manufacture more offense.

The NHL dug themselves into this hole, it’s up to the to pull themselves back out again.

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Bruce Cassidy; Your New Bench Boss

While Sunday afternoon’s game 6 against the Ottawa Senators ended in heart breaking fashion, Boston rebounded hard Wednesday. The news came in the early morning hours that the “interim” tag on Bruce Cassidy had been lifted, becoming Boston’s 28th coach.

Shadowing Claude Julien until February 7th, when the club relieved the tenured bench boss of his duties and in turn promoted Cassidy. Whom made the Jacobs family look genius by going 18-8-1 down the final stretch, good enough to earn them a playoff spot.

Cassidy is anything but a one trick pony, after a solid playing career he’s been behind a bench since 1996. Twice prior coaching at the NHL level, but it was his efforts for the Providence Bruins that solidified his position. A familiarity with the core of younger players definitely doesn’t hurt.

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With the promotion comes a lot of responsibility. Defensively Boston needs to upgrade their staff, this includes whether or not an extension for long time captain Zdeno Chara. A task made all the more difficult when considering that this off season is the expansion draft. With the emergence of Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo there may be less of an incentive to hold on to the aging veteran.

While Boston’s exit from the playoffs wasn’t picture perfect we should expect many more trips in the future.

Saturday Night Fight

As the NBA and Stanley Cup Playoffs swing into full gear, boxing is coming in with consecutive weekends consisting of very good fights.  This Saturday’s fight features Shawn Porter (26-2-1) and Andre Berto (31-4-0).

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With Berto coming off a knockout victory over Victor Ortiz in his last fight, he looks to build momentum and try and gain relevance in his division again.  Prior to the Ortiz fight, Andre Berto fought Floyd Mayweather and narrowly lost in a fight which he was just out skilled.

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In Shawn Porter’s recent fight, he squared up with an undefeated Keith Thurman.  This fight went the distance and overall was an amazing fight. These two exchanged serious blows with each other, but ultimately, Thurman won the unanimous decision.  Prior to that, Porter also faced Adrien Broner which was a fight some considered him an underdog.  Porter controlled the entire fight and aside from being knocked down in the last round he still promisingly won on the score cards.

This fight is going to feature two fighters who have recent losses and desire to regain respect in their weight class.  I’d expect to see these two exchanging a lot of punches because they’re both aggressive fighters who are tough competitors.  This fight is highly anticipated and could get the attention of attracting maybe a big future fight with other big name fighters.  Both of these fighters have a lot to prove Saturday night, this is a big time fight.

Lynch’s Return

Marshawn Lynch agreed to terms with the Oakland Raiders last week to un-retire from the NFL and play once again.

This doesn’t necessarily mean anything will happen, as Seattle has to agree to trade Lynch away to Oakland while Oakland has to be okay with trading away assets for the aged star running back.

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For many in Oakland, seeing Lynch play in the Raiders’ black uniforms is like a dream come true.

Lynch’s role in Oakland would be much less than his in Seattle, as we saw in his last year he no longer can be the workhorse that he once was. Oakland, choosing not to sign running back Latavius Murray this off-season, opted to move to running back by committee instead of having a lead guy. So Lynch would have a much reduced role and still be able to carry the pride of a team as well as the city he is from.

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Expect Lynch to play a lot less snaps and rotate with Washington and the other Oakland running backs. Perhaps having veteran leadership in the backfield on a team without much veteran presence on offense (save Michael Crabtree perhaps) is a great idea. It’ll be much easier for stars like Carr and Cooper when they have an old head telling them what to do in tough situations both on and off the field.

For Lynch and the Raiders, this is a win-win. For Seattle, hopefully they can receive enough return that they will want to make this trade. Lynch returning to Seattle likely isn’t an option at this point. They could use help on the offensive line, an area where Oakland exceeds. Maybe a rotational lineman for a rotational running back would make sense here, it’s likely they don’t give away one of their star lineman.

Time will tell for Lynch and the Raiders if the hometown kid can be a hometown hero for the Raiders’ last few years in Oakland.

Boston’s College Hockey Products

College hockey is a sport like no other, where you can get drafted and return to your school. I’m looking at Charlie McAvoy of Boston University getting his shot at the big time. McAvoy was a top pick of the Bruins in last year’s NHL draft and has made an immediate impact on the Bruins.

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Boston, plagued by injuries, was forced to drain a year of the kids entry level deal. A move that was crushed by many has actually panned out. It’s truly unbelievable what this kid can do with the little pro experience he has.

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This has happened before actually with another Boston product. It previously occurred with Chris Krieder of B.C. when he debuted for the New York Rangers. Krieder, like Charlie, was an immediate player for the Rangers and made a splash in the playoffs against the Ottawa Senators.

Teams who have players like this cannot always take these chances. But to me, it shows that teams in the Boston area for college hockey really know how to groom their guys. Groom them to the point where in one year, they can get up to the next level and make a big impact.

This to me why other college sports could take note of this. Maybe these players, if given the opportunity, could stick around and gain the valuable experience needed to rise to the occasion at the pro level.

NBA Quarterfinals: Worst to First

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED???

The NBA Playoffs will get underway on Saturday, and hot off the press after last night’s action, we have a full slate of first round match-ups to sink our teeth into. While this particular writer is shedding a tear because the Philadelphia 76ers didn’t even come close to making it (again), this season’s playoffs promise to be one of the more entertaining ones in recent memory. The Boston Celtics were able to snag the 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time since their 2008 title run; a huge milestone in the Brad Stevens era and one that will likely raise the expectations of Boston fans as the playoffs get underway.

There are four teams in this year’s playoffs that didn’t make it in 2016: The Wizards, Bucks, Bulls and Jazz. The Wizards, Bucks and Bulls all made it back in 2015, but the Jazz haven’t made it since 2012 when they were swept by the Spurs in the first round. With all of the changes that happened last off-season, we’re in for one insane playoff stretch, and it all starts with the first round on Saturday. We took a look at all of the matchups and ranked them by interest level, so when you sit down in front of your T.V. on Saturday, you’ll know what to turn on. Without further ado, here is the 2017 NBA Playoffs first round match-ups, ranked from worst to first.

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  1. Toronto Raptors (3) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (6)

Meh.

The Toronto Raptors did pretty much what you’d expect them to during the 2017 season. They kept up with the Celtics and Cavaliers and contended for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, eventually finishing third and drawing a matchup with the Bucks. The Raptors do have some new faces this season that they can use to their advantage in this series; primarily Serge Ibaka.

The key for Toronto is going to be their ability to shut down the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo. The bigger guys on the Raptors’ roster are going to have a handful trying to defend Giannis, but if they’re able to slow him down and Kyle Lowry has a good series, there’s no reason why the Raptors can’t win this in 6 games. It could be one of the more competitive series in the first round, but aside from Antetokounmpo, there’s just not enough star power to make this an interesting series.

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  1. San Antonio Spurs (2) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (7)

This feels like a movie we’ve seen before. These two teams have squared off in a playoff series four out of the last seven seasons, and the tread on the old tire of interest is wearing a little thin.

The highlight in this match-up is the battle of the brothers. While Marc and Pau Gasol may have both passed their prime by a few years, it adds a little bit of intrigue to a series that will otherwise be overshadowed by a great Western Conference series that we’ll get into later. The Grizzlies upset the Spurs as the 8 seed back in 2011, however, and it would take a shocker like that to get us to turn our heads away from some of the other great action going on around the NBA.

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  1. Washington Wizards (4) vs. Atlanta Hawks (5)

Well, here we are again. Another year, another Hawks team that hovers in the middle of the playoff race and will be gone by the Conference Finals. Of course, the big difference this year is that they have Dwight Howard. I don’t see many people out there pushing the idea that Dwight Howard (of all people) is somehow going to push Atlanta over the hump, and this is a Wizards team that could be poised to knock them out early. After missing the playoffs last season, Washington is the four seed this year, earning home court advantage and a chance to knock off a very beatable Hawks team.

The Wizards went 3-1 against the Hawks during the regular season, the most recent of those being a thrilling 104-100 victory back on March 22. If Dwight Howard can somehow wake up from the five year nap he’s been taking and make a meaningful impact for this team in the playoffs, we might have something to talk about here for the Hawks. If not, it will be business as usual, and they can start making their tee times by the end of the month.

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  1. Boston Celtics (1) vs. Chicago Bulls (8)

The Chicago Bulls’ motley crew of Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo did enough to squeak in to the playoffs at the last second as the 8 seed. At different points in their career, all of these guys were dynamic players who could shift a playoff series just by stepping on the court. Butler is still that player, Rondo can impress occasionally, and Wade, when he’s not battling injuries, is a serviceable veteran player who can hit big shots when it matters.

The end result of all of these things is a team that is often inconsistent and frustrating, but if everything were to click at once, they could make this a series. That is going to mean slowing down Isaiah Thomas, however, and that is no easy task to say the least. Thomas is averaging 28.3 PPG in his last ten games, and the Celtics have a renewed sense of confidence after claiming the 1 seed in the east. Although it is a 1 vs. 8 matchup, these two teams split the regular season 2-2, so we could be in for at least a six game series if all goes well for the Bulls.

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  1. Cleveland Cavaliers (2) vs. Indiana Pacers (7)

If the Cavaliers had drawn a first-round match-up with the Bulls, this might be a little bit higher on the list. Of course, we’re always up for watching a great duel between LeBron James and Paul George, but this doesn’t appear to be more than a small roadblock for the Cavaliers. An interesting side note here, however, is that Lance Stephenson is back with the Pacers, and the last time he was in the playoffs, he was whispering sweet-nothings into LeBron’s ear. With that in mind, we ask Lance Stephenson please, give us more great theater like this. I want to turn on SportsCenter and see more of Stephenson trying to get under LeBron’s skin. Yes.

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  1. Golden State Warriors (1) vs. Portland Trailblazers (8)

For the casual NBA fan, the name Jusuf Nurkic might not ring a bell. Nurkic was drafted 16th overall by the Bulls in 2014, then traded to the Nuggets on draft night. Now, standing at 7ft 0in, he is the second tallest player on Portland’s roster, and he could play just enough of a role to make this more than a four game sweep for the Warriors. If Damian Lillard can also put the team on his back, we could be talking about a five or six game series, but don’t hold your breath. Golden State is just getting warmed up.

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  1. Los Angeles Clippers (4) vs. Utah Jazz (5)

The Los Angeles Clippers are in a weird spot. They have largely underachieved the past few seasons, but in a conference dominated by the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs, it’s not like they ever had much of a chance. They’ve been playing very well lately, however, and their starting five are as good as anybody’s in the top of the conference (ok, maybe not the Warriors, but who cares).

The Jazz, on the other hand, are a new product. They last made the playoffs in 2012, and the only holdovers from that team are Alec Burks, Derrick Favors, and Gordon Hayward. The Jazz were sneaky good this season, finishing with a record of 51-31. For comparison, that is the same record the Cavs and Raptors finished with this season. They might not be much compared to the powerhouses of the West, but they could become the little engine that could if they’re able to advance to the second round and steal a few games from the Warriors. Don’t sleep on the Utah Jazz, you heard it here first.

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  1. Houston Rockets (3) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (6)

Now here is the juiciest of juicy match-ups. Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden in what amounts to the MVP-Bowl of playoff series. It’s fun enough watching these two go at it for one game, but the possibility of 4,5,6, or perhaps even 7 make this must-see television for the first round. This is what everyone is going to be talking about. During the regular season series, Houston went 3-1, with both teams averaging well over 100 points in each of the four games (Houston averaged 115, while the Thunder averaged 111).

The fireworks, however, came in their final match-up of the regular season, when the two teams combined for 262 points in a 137-125 Houston victory. The interesting stat in that game? James Harden was Houston’s fourth leading scorer, while Westbrook dropped 39 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds. If they’re able to beat the Thunder and the ever-bucket-draining Westbrook in this series when Harden has a quiet night like they did on March 26th, there just isn’t much wiggle room for the Thunder to be able to take this series. Russ will have to play like a madman, and we’re assuming he will. Will it be enough? Who knows. That’s why they play the games.

 

Denver Ices Duluth In Frozen Final

The long forgotten Frozen Four was finished up over the weekend. The final four teams in this year’s hockey finale were Harvard, Notre Dame, Denver and Minnesota-Duluth. For us New Englanders, the team to watch was the Harvard Crimson coached by former Boston Bruin Ted Donato. The opener contest was scheduled for last Thursday, so let’s quickly look back at that.

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Harvard took on Minnesota-Duluth in a match-up of contrasting styles. The Crimson and the Bulldogs would match each other blow for blow, and would be tied until the final 26 seconds of the game. The boys from Duluth were able to squeak one by Harvard on a beautiful feed. The puck just squeaked through the legs of the Harvard goaltender. Harvard had chance late, but the goalies best friend (the post) was able to keep the game at 2-1 for Duluth.

Denver made sure there was no luck of the Irish. As the Pioneers blew out the Norte Dame 6-1, and let me say this quickly, this game was over at the end of the second period. The Pio’s lead 5-0, and as the number one ranked team, they don’t blow 5 goal leads. Thanks for coming, Notre Dame.

The final was set for Saturday night, Minnesota-Duluth and Denver. And one player would really be the scoring difference in this one.

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Denver’s Jarid Lukosevicius scored 3 second period goals, two of which came 16 seconds apart, and led the Pioneers to their 8th Natty Title. Denver won 3-2, and Lukosevicius’ hat trick was the difference in this one. He is the first player since his head coach Jim Montgomery did it back in the day for Lake Superior State in 1993, but he did that in a losing effort. So maybe it was good karma this time around.

The Olympic hero Troy Terry netted a duo of assists and goaltender Tanner Jaillet stopped 38 shots in the winning effort. Terry’s drive to the net for the second assist was one for the highlight film; this kid is going to be a big time pro one day. Good win for Denver, and great effort by Duluth, this was the third time the two had met this season.

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So now us college sports people turn our attention to the diamond and the field, as baseball and lacrosse will start to heat up. It will be great for these two sports to get recognition down the stretch.

Stay handsome to everyone out there!

We peaked in high school, so now we blog.