Captain selection change

After seeing how the recent change to the squad selection, and in particular the captaining button, was working we decided we needed to make an immediate change to how it worked.

We felt this change was so important that we released it this morning rather than waiting until Monday.

It is now "half way" between what it was before and what it became.  You can now, once again, drop people from the top squad display.  But there is an additional "C" button to select who your captain is.

The release also has a new "Help" tab in there, this is a work in progress that will get filled in Monday or Tuesday.  Its appearance is a side-effect of the unscheduled release this morning.

Let me know what you think.

Have fun!

Fall Release


Welcome to the new season!

Since the end of hockey season there have been tonnes of changes made. Here's the info on what is getting released next week and beyond. We have improved rival rankings, chat, and given you more ways to easily connect with your friends.


Here's one for the record books

A common question presented in the interactive InGamer chat area is who holds the records? Top game score, best quarter, top player are a few of the categories that generally carry the most discussion and if Scotty Mack isn't around to verify, they generally go unanswered. So, to end the debate and more importantly to have some fun, let's take a look at the current individual NFL & NHL InGamer high game score records with a brief description of what happened during the games they were set.
Writers note: These records are as of September 23rd, 2011.

NFL High Individual Game Score

It almost pains me to write this, and if not for a late game interception thrown by Miami's Chad Henne during week 1 Monday Night Shoot Out versus New England I would not have to, but InGamer's own Nic Sulsky is the current high game record holder. Nic scored an impressive 2904 points during November 15th 2010 Philadelphia Eagles victory over the Washington Redskins. So what happened in this particular contest? Well...Mike Vick accounted for 6 touchdowns leading the Eagles to a resounding 59 - 28 thumping of the Skins.

Top 5:
1. InGamer_Nic: 2904 15/11/2010 Philadelphia versus Washington
2. Myluckypicks: 2851 12/09/2011 New England versus Miami
3. Sue: 2764 12/09/2011 New England versus Miami
4. Playermaker4477: 2726 12/09/2011 New England versus Miami
5. Keesje_Ingamer: 2590 12/09/2011 New England versus Miami

NHL High Individual Game Score

It is a five way tie for the top NHL game score. On Saturday October 30th, 2010 Washington exploded for six second period goals en-route to a 7-2 thrashing of the Calgary Flames with Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green and Alex Semin combining for five goals and 8 assists. It was almost the perfect storm for setting a high game score....one of the NHL's most popular players along with his supporting cast going on a scoring rampage.

Top 5:
1. horseshoes: 1052
2. ssettle: 1052
3. travlorno: 1052
4. maroons: 1052
5. lsi750227: 1052

I'll continue to dive down the road of high scores as the season progresses and certainly see these records falling. Next week we will take a look at the all time best periods/quarters.

This Week in the CFL - Sep 12th


Edmonton @ Hamilton



Fred Stamps: Yes he had just two catches for 39 yards but the guy returned a couple weeks early from his abdominal injury. With an extra week of practice and recovery, expect big things from the Eskimos number one threat. On the flip side the Ti-Cats secondary is back to giving up big plays and really does not have an answer for Stamps.

Avon Cobourne: I’m calling for a massive bounce back game. Montreal got up so quickly on Hamilton; completely negating any semblance of a rushing attack. Cobourne is the definition of a workhorse back and will not repeat his pitiful five carry, two yard performance against an Edmonton squad that is last in average yards per rush allowed.


Toronto @ Saskatchewan


Steven Jyles: I’m sick and tired of picking Argonauts defensive players week in and week out. This may be a hero pick; but Jyles did rush for 47 yards against the Lions and the last time Jyles faced the Roughriders he did post a 116 QB Rating. Yeah I know I’m reaching a bit but at least you know he won’t be pulled for Dalton Bell.

Wes Cates: If you look at his last two games it is hard to be impressed with his yardage totals but remember Cates was going up against the Blue Bombers rush defence in both contests. This week he faces the Bizarro Blue Bombers D in Toronto who are last in league in rush defence, allowing nearly 123 yards a game.


BC @ Calgary


Khalif Mitchell: I’m curious to see what the Lions can do for an encore. Last week he managed three sacks and five tackles overall for a defence that has now gone 13 quarters without allowing a touchdown.

Brandon Smith: This is my hunch pick for the week. Brandon, one of the best corners on Calgary should have plenty of tackle opportunities facing a Lions squad that is 2nd in pass attempts and has the fewest yards rushing.


Winnipeg @ Montreal


Before I continue can I give a quick shout out to Buck Pierce? Five interceptions in one game! Are you kidding me? Maybe you really aren’t that good. Moving on...

Jonathan Hefney: I would have looked at one of the Blue Bombers wide outs but to be honest I have no idea who is going to be “The Man” on any given week. It’s like guessing the Patriots passing game, just infuriating. Hefney will be facing the best passing attack in the league so look for a high tackle total.

Chip Cox: Winnipeg quarterbacks were sacked three times and Buck had five interceptions against Saskatchewan how could I not look at Cox as an interesting pick? The guy is always making big plays and he’ll be facing an offence that is about as mistake prone as they come.


This Week in the CFL - Sep 5th


Calgary @ Edmonton


Keon Raymond: I have no idea what to expect from Calgary's offence after Henry Burris put up a four turnover stink bomb in Week 10. I do expect the defence to do a better job so no better player to Captain than the team's lynchpin on that side of the ball. Raymond is tied for the league lead in interceptions (4) and is the big play man for the Stampeders secondary.

Adarius Bowman: Bowman returned from injury with a solid 81-yard, one touchdown performance on Labour Day. With Fred Stamps and Jason Barnes both doubtful this week look for Ricky Ray to target Bowman early and often.


Toronto @ B.C.


Cleo Lemon: Oh yeah ... sorry about that.

Willie Pile: There's just no point placing the Captain tag on any offensive player. I would not be surprised to see the Lions race out to an early and large lead and then go conservative on offence. If that's the case you want a guy who can rack up high tackle numbers. Pile is healthy, consistent and finished with 10 tackles and a sack versus the Lions last week.

Oh, by the way; congratulations to Dalton Bell for putting up negative numbers on Labour Day. Of course not that it would have affected anyone, since no sane person would have Bell anywhere in their lineup.

Geroy Simon: After seeing Akeem Foster (8-144 yards last week) and Arland Bruce (15-180 yards, 2 TD's) have big games the last couple weeks I'm looking for Lulay to go back to his favourite target against one of the CFL's weaker secondary's. The numbers don't lie. Toronto is giving up the highest opponent completion percentage (71.7%), the most completions, and of course the most yards at a galling 303.8 yards a game. Bombs away!


Hamilton @ Montreal


Chris Williams: DB Dwight Anderson had no answer for Williams last week and with Mark Estelle out of the lineup, Williams will be a match-up nightmare for the Alouettes secondary.

Brendan Whitaker: A big mistake by the Alouettes was not running the ball more with their star back. Brendan put up 55 yards on just eight carries. Calvillo looked old and confused against the myriad of defensive fronts Hamilton threw at him. If Montreal wants to improve on their ZERO touchdown performance from last week I have one simple solution: give the ball to the CFL's leader in total yards!


Saskatchewan @ Winnipeg


Jerrell Freeman: Freeman was a man possessed last week racking up seven tackles, one sak, and even an interception. As you will see in a second, I have a feeling there will be a negative market correction going on with Saskatchewan's offence. Go safe, go defence.

Odell Willis: I know it was all happy good times for the Roughriders last week but I attribute a lot of that to an emotional one week bump with the return of Ken Miller. I expect Winnipeg's D to strike down with a great vengeance and furious anger upon the Green and White. So with that in mind, expect Willis to treat Durant the same way Jules Winnfield did on those kids who stole Marsellus Wallace's brief case.


This Week in the CFL - Aug 29th


B.C. @ Toronto


Now that he has been banished as the teams official holder maybe Copeland can go back to doing what he has done so well throughout his career, catching the freakin ball! Jermaine has stated its time for the offence to start going through him more. Let's see if this former all-pro can back up his words on Thursday night.


Arland Bruce III: Revenge is a dish best served in the end zone, I forget exactly what the line was about from Star Trek but I'm fairly certain they talking about this enigmatic wide-out. After putting up a mere 104 yards in four games for Hamilton Bruce was shipped off to the Lions. Not sure if it was the wake up call that he needed but in his last game Arland did scotch the Eskimos for 129 yards and two scores. Now Bruce gets to take on his "other" former team. I'm betting he'll be motivated to show all of Ontario he never should have been let go.


Winnipeg @ Saskatchewan


Greg Carr: Fantasy owners of Buck Pierce and Carr have been waiting for him to emerge. If you remember in his first game as a Bomber Carr went off for 185 yards and two scores and followed that up with a four game stretch of 22-457-3TD. Carr started the season injured and ineffective but last week we finally saw signs of life with 87 yards receiving against Hamilton. This week he takes on an even weaker secondary in Saskatchewan.
Darian Durant: This is the most important regular season game for Durant. The firing of Greg Marshall and Doug Berry had a lot to do with Durant's unhappiness with the offence and the coaching staff. Well Darian you got your old coach back, now show the world that you really are an elite quarterback.


Montreal @ Hamilton


Jamel Richardson: If you use basic fantasy scoring and apply it to the wide receivers you will find there is just a massive gap between the #1 and the #2 wideout in the CFL with Jamel being the undisputed king. Richardson has put up 160.3 points while the next highest has 124.9. Of course that player is Fred Stamps who has been out for a couple of weeks but if you take him out of the equation the production of Richardson compared to the rest of the elite wide outs is not even close. Richardson is putting up ridiculous numbers and he needs to be Captained every week.
Avon Cobounre: Really? You expected me to list any player other than Cobounre. I'm sure his trash talking will be far more tempered as opposed to the last time these teams met, but for him, this is a blood feud. Cobounre taking on Montreal has the feel of a bad movie trailer: Alouettes vs. Tiger-Cats: Part II ... This time it's Personal!"


Edmonton @ Calgary


Rod Williams: Leads the team with four interceptions and had his highest tackle total of 2011 the last time these teams met back in Week Four. You remember, back when Edmonton was good.


Henry Burris: Look up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's Captain Obvious! This is less of a pick and more of a public service announcement that Burris is the highest scorer in fantasy right now with 175.08 points. After a slow start no player is racking in the points quite like Burris. 


Good luck Edmonton.

This Week in the CFL - Aug 22nd


Hamilton @ Winnipeg

Simple rule for picking players that are about to face the Blue Bombers, do not Captain any skill positions. Now this is not to say that guys like Terrence Edwards or Fred Reid won't have a good day, they certainly could, but I recommend to play it safe and go with someone from the other side of the ball.
So with that in mind Captain Jamall Johnson and not just because he is the team's leading tackler. Consider just how stubborn the Winnipeg's coaching staff is. In the CFL it is rare for a running back to get 20 carries. The best in the league average 13-16 a game. Well in the team's 30-17 Week 7 win over B.C. Fred Reid ran the ball 20 times for just 26 yards. Clearly the running game wasn't working but that didn't deter Paul LaPolice or Jamie Barresi from continuing to give Reid the rock. If this is a close game look for Johnson to hit double digit tackles.
The other guy I really have enjoyed watching is defensive end Justin Hickman. A solid edge rusher taking on a quarterback that enjoys holding on to the ball. Feels win/win to me.
One of this weeks Terrence Edwards is going to have a statically break out game. I remember watching Edwards burn Hamilton to the tune of 5-191-2 last season against the Tiger-Cats secondary. Maybe this is the week.
Did you know that as I wrote this sentence Odell Willis just collected another sack on Kevin Glenn?


Montreal @ Calgary

Joffery Reynolds is one guy you automatically identify with when you think about Calgary. However no team has done a better job defending the run this year than Montreal. Your best bet is Henry Burris who has been trending up the last several games and torched the Alouettes for over 400 yards and four touchdowns in a game last season.
Romby Bryant and Nik Lewis get most of the attention in Calgary but don't sleep on Johnny Forzani who has had at least 55 yards in three of the team's last four games.
So who beyond Brandon Whitaker (CFL leader in Fantasy Points) should be looked at for this game? Well I'm glad you asked!
How about Chip Cox? No guy makes more plays, no guy seems to always be around the ball quite like Cox. He destroyed Saskatchewan two weeks ago registering two forced fumbles, two sacks and four tackles.
The other defender to select is Mark Estelle, the team's leading tackler and best cover man. This game should be a shoot-out so Estelle will be involved.

This Week in the CFL - Aug 15th

Saskatchewan @ Toronto

Weston Dressler:

Don't buy too much into all the yards Saskatchewan piled up last week against Calgary. The Stampeders were in control throughout this game and their was a ton of garbage yards all over the field for the Roughriders. But what you should buy into is the fact that no team is giving up more yards than Toronto. I know Ephrem Hill is the sexy pick after his 177 yard day last week, I'll go with the proven vet.

Jerrell Freeman:

Last year's breakout star in the playoffs had seven tackles against Calgary and is facing a team that should feature Cory Boyd early and often.

Cleo Lemon:

This may be the only time you will see this name in this column but Lemon put up 368 yards and three scores on the Tiger-Cats and over his last two games has thrown for 682 yards, five touchdowns against just one interception. No team has given up more points or total touchdowns than Saskatchewan and their secondary is allowing quarterbacks to complete 65.5% of their passes for an average of 8.2 yards per pass.

Willie Pile:

This is my hunch pick. Pile is second on the team in tackles and is due for an interception. I'd say his chances of getting his first pick are fairly good facing a quarterback, Darian Duran,t who leads the league in interceptions.

B.C. @ Edmonton

Solomon Elimimian:

I hate to repeat myself but with the way the Lions are playing it's hard for me not to select Solomon. To be honest it's hard to find any players on B.C. you can trust right now. Their second half against Winnipeg was just a mistake filled mess.

Geroy Simon:

I know, I get it, these picks for the Lions are not that smart or creative. Well neither is their coaching staff so let's just call it even.

Marcus Howard:

Okay this is my "hero" pick for the week. In case you don't know who he is and I don't blame you if you don't Howard signed on with the Eskimos on August 1st. He has played two games on the defensive line and managed to force one fumble and sack Anthony Calvillo twice last week.

Ricky Ray:

Time for a bounce back game for a quarterback facing a secondary that has given up a league high 293 yards a game.

This Week in the CFL - Aug 8th

Edmonton vs. Montreal
Jason Barnes: Barnes has two one-hundred yard games already on the season and with Fred Stamps out of the lineup, look for Ricky Ray to target Barnes early and often.

Brandon Whitaker: Safest Captain pick for the week. Whitaker is first in the league in yards from scrimmage and Edmonton is giving up a gaudy 6 yards per carry.

Calgary vs. Saskatchewan
Nic Lewis: Romby Bryant has more upside but Lewis is the heart and soul of Calgary's passing attack. Lewis finds a way to be involved in just about every touchdown drive this season. What makes this is a favourable match-up is that Lewis will be facing a Roughriders defence that is dead last in touchdowns allowed at 19.

Barrin Simpson: Call this my hunch pick. Henry Burris has been sacked more times than any other quarterback and I could see the Roughriders getting desperate and sending multiple blitzes at Burris all game long.

Toronto vs. Hamilton
Ejiro Kuale: Toronto is losing linebackers all over the field which will mean a boost in the tackling numbers for Kuale. I see Hamilton moving the ball for long extended drives; look for Kuale to be a busy man and will finish the game with double digit tackles.

Jamall Johnson: Look for at least 6-8 tackles and a couple of sacks as Johnson should be able to do what he pleases against Toronto's struggling offence.

Winnipeg vs. B.C.
Terrence Edwards: With Fred Stamps down I've got Edwards as the most dangerous wide out in the game. Even better he will be taking on a secondary that has surrendered the most passing touchdowns at 14.

Solomon Elimimian: Avoid most skill position players when facing Winnipeg. I say don't be a hero and pick an Arland Bruce. Go safe; go with Elimimian who is leading the league in tackles (43)

This Week in the CFL - Aug 1st

Montreal @ Toronto
Brandon Whitaker RB
214 yards and a touchdown, that was Whitaker’s numbers the last time these teams met. Against the Argonauts defence Montreal has no problems dinking and dunking against that secondary so expect at least five receptions for Whitaker. For as good as the Argonauts defence has been remember they are 2nd last in yards given up rushing.

Anthony Cannon LB
Keep an eye on the injury report! If Cannon is playing he is a good safe Captain bet. Cannon and Whitaker will again be good friends, remember back in Week Three cannon finished with 11 tackles.

Edmonton @ Winnipeg
Jonathan Hefney DB
I’m staying away from Edmonton’s skill positions against Winnipeg’s stingy defence. The easy case would be to pick pass rushing demon Odell Willis but I’m going with one of the league’s leading tackler instead.

Fred Reid RB
Chad Kackert ripped up Edmonton’s D for well over 100 yards last week against this D. You know they’ll feature Reed in attempt to keep Buck Pierce healthy and keep Fred Stamps off the field.

Saskatchewan @ B.C.
Darian Durant QB
The much embattled quarterback is taking a great deal of heat for his lackluster play but this is one of the few weeks to look at him as a serious start candidate. He looked fantastic against the Alouettes and the Lions have given up the most total yards and rushing yards so far this season. Now if someone on the Roughriders could call for more running plays for Durant ….

Travis Lulay QB
I’m calling for a shootout in this game. Guess who gives up the second the most yards through the air? Oh yeah it’s Saskatchewan who are still looking for someone to rush the passer. Yes the Lions are a dreadful 0-5 but the Lions are 3rd in yards passing.

Hamilton @ Calgary
Chris Williams WR
No more Arland Bruce, that says the team has a ton of faith in Williams to continue what we saw him do against the Lions.

Geoff Tisdale DB
The former Ti-Cat defensive back has two interceptions so far on the season and should be looking for pay back against his former team. Expect an inspired performance.

This Week in the CFL - July 25th

B.C. @ Winnipeg

WR Terrence Edwards
Had three drops against the Toronto Argonauts and yet still finished with 93 yards and a touchdown on just two receptions. Now he’s taking on a porous B.C. Lions defence that allowed Kevin Glenn to have his best game of the season. If WR Chris Williams can have 189 yards against this secondary just imagine what Edwards can do.

LB Solomon Elimimian
This is what you call your classic safe pick. You can captain the second year Elimimian and not worry about it coming back to haunt you. Solomon is 2nd in the CFL in tackles and should have plenty of opportunities going up against the leagues leading rusher, Fred Reid.

Montreal @ Hamilton

DB Bo Smith
Maybe the best defensive back after four weeks Smith shut down Chris Getzlaf and Geroy Simon the last two weeks. With either Anthony Calvillo not 100% or Adrian McPherson playing there should be plenty of interception opportunities.

S Chip Cox
Eight tackles last week vs. Saskatchewan and I could easily see him hitting double digits against a Hamilton team with a motivated Avon Cobourne.

Toronto @ Edmonton

RB Andre Durie
Yes Chad Kackert is producing but Andre Durie is a big play waiting to happen every time he touches the ball. With no Cory Boyd in the line-up and the team desperate for a win I see the Argonauts finding as many ways possible to get the ball in Durie’s hands.

WR Jason Barnes
Yes I know Jason had zero catches last week but with Adarius Bowman injured Ricky Ray will be targeting Barnes early and often. Playing along side Fred Stamps means a ton of one-on-one match-ups and remember Barnes did start off the season with 169 yards and two touchdowns the first two weeks.

Calgary @ Saskatchewan

QB Henry Burris
Eventually Burris and the offense is going to put it all together for a massive day. Saskatchewan is coming off of a big of a high after beating Montréal but remember this is a team without much of a pass rush so expect Burris to have at least three touchdowns this weekend.

RB Wes Cates
The Stampeders are without their best defender LB Juwan Simpson and the Roughriders got their first win with Cates receiving a season high 14 carries. Wes also comes into this game with three touchdowns in his first four games.

HNIC Star Selector - Stanley Cup Finals - Game 7! - Bruins vs Canucks

Game 7. Game SEVEN! GAME SEVEN!!!

There is NOTHING better in sports than a Game 7. Not an uncommon sentiment. But, this time, for this Game 7, there is one very unique storyline that adds to the tension & anticipation of this upcoming game. Has there ever been a high-profile, high-talent athlete in the prime of his career performing more inconsistently than Roberto Luongo?

Mr. Hot & Cold has turned this series into his own personal soap opera. It’s incredible ain’t it? Two shutouts and 3 blowouts…Unbelievable. This series has become defined by one man, and for all the wrong reasons.

Here it is: IF Luongo lets the in 1st goal of the game, within 10 minutes of the 1st period, Alain Vigneault HAS to pull him. He won’t, but he should. One goal, that’s all it will take for the world to come crashing down on his shoulders. There is too much at stake for one man’s mental shortcomings to destroy everything 30+ other guys have fought for all season long.

Luongo and Lebron should start a boy-band. But, they’d be lip-sync’ers wouldn’t they?

Regardless, I think Luongo does stand up. I have faith.

SO, put it all on the line and captain Luongo.

As far as the rest of the squad goes…the 1st period will likely be tense as the teams feel each other out. Expect a lot of long slap-shots and dump-ins. Once the 1st goal is scored things will open up a bit more. IF Boston scores that goal, and Schneider stays on the bench, the Canucks are doomed. BUT, I think Roberto wins the Cup tonight.

My ALL-Canuck 1st period squad:

Luongo – C
Bieksa
Edler
Kesler
Burrows

Have Fun Gang! It’s been a wild ride.

Just Be Cauz - A Look Back at the NBA Finals

When Lebron James decided to take his talents to South Beach I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t even watching that horror show on ESPN. I was at a Film Festival nerviously looking at my phone for a text to come in to tell me where Lebron’s geographical location would be next year. It was the first and only time I’ve had my phone on in a movie theatre.
So when I read “Miami” I wasn’t filled with rage, I was just bummed out.

My favourite player in the league had decided he didn’t want to be The Man anymore, he was going to supplement himself in an attempt to cheat the system and win a championship.

My anger towards Lebron and the Heat comes from a selfish place. I can admit that. I watched with interest Lebron’s first game, a 106-92 loss to Sacramento. Even at 18 you could tell just how special he already was and just how dominant he was going to be. On that night Lebron went off for 25 points, six rebounds and nine assists.
So yeah, I was invested in The King right from the start. I wanted Lebron to succeed. I wanted to see him build Cleveland into a champion. But here’s where I get selfish: I wanted him to do it the traditional way.

We all know that story arch. Superstar comes to a team down on its luck, experiences success and failure and through hard work and sacrifice they finally get to grasp the Larry O’Brien trophy, raise it up to the heavens and relish in the fact that they overcame a sea of hurdles to achieve the ultimate achievement.
That is the narrative that I wanted to see from Lebron in Cleveland.

Instead I got The Decision. I couldn’t believe the best player in the NBA had decided to opt for the quick fix, the just add water approach to winning a title.
For a lot of us, that is why we were filled with “Hate” towards Lebron and the Heat. We wanted Lebron to follow the road of Tim Duncan, Isiah Thomas, Larry Bird and so many others.
I can honesty say that I have never felt so much vitrol towards one team or one player like I have this past NBA season.
Thankfully all that negativity transformed into utter jubilation last night with Dallas winning their first NBA Championship.

Now I am not going to go over all the numbers or X’s & O’s of the game. I’m sure by now most of you have been gleefully reading every article about the game. I know I have.

So instead, a couple thoughts and interesting snap shots from the Mavericks 105-95 Game Six win.

(1) The first moment you could tell it was going to be another bad night for Lebron was at the 2:14 mark of the 2nd quarter.  Yes James started off strong hitting his first four shots, but the Mavs were fine if all Lebron was going to do was take jumpers. Back to 2:14. This was the first time that Lebron finally headed to unfamiliar territory, the free throw line. Miami was down by two, the momentum had swung back and fourth like a crazy tennis rally, and what does Lebron do? He misses both shots, badly. Looking at his body language between misses, Lebron just didn’t look like he was fully dialled in.

(2) 28 free throws in six games. How does a guy who is built like Karl Malone and moves like a point guard average less than five free throws per game? James was guarded one on one by Jason Kidd for much of the series?? Kidd is 38 years old! Let’s put that in context. By the time James was born, Kidd had already seen all three Star Wars films and could do long division. Out of everything that has occurred in the Finals, I will never be able to understand why Lebron refused to attack the basket.

(3) Here is my final Lebron James thought and I’ll do it in E-Mail Form:
TO: Lebron James
FROM: Common Sense
SUBJECT: Your Post Game

Hey Lebron. When you’re done blaming the media or reminding fans that your life is better than there’s, could you be a buddy and hit the gym this off season and work on your post game? You’ve been in the league for eight years, you can physically dominate every player not named “Dwight Howard”, yet you’ve never worked on how to score five feet from the basket.
I know you have that whole Global Icon thing to cultivate, but would it kill you to add that final weapon that would make you unstoppable?
The only thing uglier than your post game in Game 6 were those commercials for ‘Zoo Keeper’. Seriously who is going to want to watch Kevin James and a talking monkey? Who green lights that crap? All right I’m getting off track.
So before you hit the Delano for a round of Mojitos with the boys, why not schedule a little gym time instead?

Thanks King,

Common Sense

(4) It’s a good thing Dwayne Wade has a Playoff MVP on his resume or we’d be talking about his five turnovers and 10 missed shots a little more.

(5) -24! Really Lebron? In an elimination game you hang a -24 in the plus/minus column. I know I promised not to pick on you anymore but I was just looking at the box score and that number just jumped out at me. Wow.

(6) Yeah he missed a ton of shots, but give Dirk Nowitzki credit for not backing down. He kept shooting, scored late when it counted and didn’t pass the ball to inferior players because he was afraid of the moment like a certain player whose nickname infers royalty. (I’m sorry; it’s so hard to not go back to the LBJ well). I’m wracking my brain trying to think of a better individual performance in the playoffs in NBA history over the past 20-25 years, and I can’t think of anyone who accomplished more than Dirk. Through 21 playoff games opponents focused their entire defensive game plan to stopping Dirk and no one had an answer. Do you realize the degree of difficulty that Dirk faced? Rarely did Dirk have an open look, most of the time he had multiple hands in his face and two guys guarding him. Dirk has been a Hall of Fame player for years, but these playoffs have elevated his status, his legacy is set in stone.

(7) No way Dallas wins this game without Jason Terry. They probably lose by double digits. Nowitzki missed 10 shots in the first half and yet they led by two. Terry kept them in the game and allowed Dirk to eventually find his stroke.

(8) There is no statistical way to prove this, but didn’t every shot made by Jason Kidd seem important? He averaged just 9.3 PPG in the playoffs but every one of them was critical.

In the end, this was a good day for sports! Didn’t you feel better about The Game after Dallas won. It really was a battle of Good vs. Evil and, in this case, Good won the day. Yes, I understand that is a wildly biased opinion, but I love the game of basketball and I felt the Heat were trying to cheat the system. Barring a massive injury they will eventually win a title, but for at least this year the good guys won.

HNIC Star Selector - Stanley Cup Finals - Game 6 - Bruins vs Canucks

A few words that come to mind before game 6 in Boston:

1. Intimidation.  I never thought that a team could intimidate another so much on home ice as the Bruins have done in this Cup final.  I wonder what this series would have been like IF the Bruins had the better record, and therefore home ice. The Canucks seem timid in Boston and afraid of the corners.  The Gold and Black will be out in full force tonight, Luongo better bring ear muffs.

2. Save It.  Life has a funny way of coming full circle and sticking it's finger up your nose while asking you if you like it, when you get cocky and brash!  Luongo should know that could happen in this series, and that starting a war of words with the other goalie (when that other goalie has been superior in this series) is just a bad idea.  Goalies should be humble and quiet.  The magical hockey gods have found ways to punish those who have not walked the fine line and heeded the words of those before them.  Robby, go play the game and try not to give up more than 5 goals.  You should not be worried about Thomas, you should be worried about your own demons.

3. One Hit.  When I saw Horton glassy eyed on the ice, I thought the Bruins where done (see Krejci going down in Flyers series last year and the Bruins losing 4 straight). But, so far, the Bruins have stayed strong.  Rising above and having other players pick up the slack, the Bruins have put together 3 great games while outscoring the Canucks 12-2 since the hit.  I love that Rome has come out and said he is upset about the suspension.  Dude, Horton passed the puck, I got up and took a dump, grabbed a beer, called my Mom and THEN you delivered that hit!

4. 1 Win.  One is all the Canucks need, but they better come to win it tonight cause they do not want a game 7.  The Canucks will have shaky legs if that is the case.  Every game in Vancouver has been decided by 1 goal, while the games in Boston have been blow outs.  Boston travels well and plays the Canucks tough at home.

5. MVP.  I think if the Canucks win the cup tonight, the Conn Smyth needs to go to Burrows.  He has been amazing throughout the playoffs, scoring key goals and being the energy leader.  I know they want to give it to some big name player, but seriously it should go to Burrows, or frig maybe even Torres.  If Boston ends up taking it, it's Thomases and Thomas alone.

Start tonight for Star Selector?

Burrows
Torres
Ryder
Recchi
Luongo

HNIC Star Selector - Stanley Cup Finals - Game 4 - Bruins vs Canucks

In our last entry we offered up some by period strategy to assist with your selections.  Today, we are going to evolve this by conducting a player by player pro's & con's analysis of some of the more popular Star Selector athletes.

Let's get right to it:

Tim Thomas
Pro's:  How does a 13 - 8 record, 2.21 G.A.A and a .930 save percentage transfer in the Star Selector scoring system?  You guessed it, the playoff leading Star Selector.  Thomas is putting up big points and even contributed an additional 5 points for his hit Monday night.
Con's:  Vancouver's offence has been relatively quiet in the last few games and they are due for a breakout.  This still wouldn't deter me from starting or even captaining him.

Roberto Luongo
Pro's:  Up until Monday night's snowman Luongo was winning the battle of the goalies and a lock for any star selector starting lineup.
Con's:  There are some eerie similarities between Monday's game and the Chicago series.  A five minute major along with blow out loss makes Bobby Lou a risky choice tonight.  A better strategy might be to insert Luongo into your lineup after the flow of the game is established.

Ryan Kesler
Pro's:  Scores you star selector points on almost every shift he plays.  Hits, face-offs, blocked shots, goals, assists, this guy does it all.
Con's:  His health.  The extent of Kesler's injuries are unknown to anyone outside of the Canucks inner circle and there is speculation that he wouldn't be in the lineup if this was a regular season game.

Patrice Bergeron
Pro:  See Ryan Kesler.  He is dominant in the face off circle and now sits fourth in playoff star selector scoring.   Bergeron is a must start tonight.
Con:  If you can find a con with Bergeron's game please tweet what it is to @ingamersports.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin
Pro's:  There is a good chance that the NHL & their officials try to get control of this game tonight by unfortunately calling a lot of penalties translating into power play opportunities for the back to back Art Ross trophy winning brothers.
Con's:  The Sedin's do not kill penalties and increasing the number of Canuck trips to the box equates to bench time for the twins.  Henrik and Daniel are at their best when the play big minutes so long stretches on the bench impacts their ability to get in the flow of the game.

Milan Lucic
Pro's:  These are the type of games that you expect big things from the premier power forward in hockey.
Con's:  Lucic offensively has been quiet this postseason.  Case in point:  Boston scored 8 goals Monday night and Lucic still somehow managed to put up a goose egg (minus the PIM's) on the scoring ledger.

Alexandre Burrows
Pro's:  Scores big goals, plays with the Sedin's and is one of the leagues premier agitators.
Con's: Burrows produces a lot of points by going to the dirty areas of the ice and finishing off the work of Henrik & Daniel.  If the twins are quiet tonight there is a good chance Burrows will be too.

David Krejci
Pro's:  Extremely gifted offensively and is one of the most consistent point producers in the Bruins lineup.
Con's:  He just lost his line mate in Nathan Horton.  How he adjust to playing with Rich Peverley or Michael Ryder remains to be seen.

Mark Recchi
Pro's:  Has scored in consecutive games including a two goal performance Monday night.  He also has 2 Stanley Cup rings so there is no reason to question his ability to handle the pressure of tonights game.
Con's:  Has gone through some pointless stretches including a recent 8 game draught.

This isn't to suggest that your player selections should be limited to the above.  Zdeno Chara, Alex Edler and Kevin Bieksa are elite level defenseman contributing at both ends of the rinks warranting more than a little consideration.  So choose wisely tonight and enjoy what promises to be an exciting and physical contest.  Good luck with your picks and thanks for reading!

HNIC Star Selector - Stanley Cup Finals - Game 3 - Bruins vs Canucks

It has been awhile since we gave some solid Crown Royal Star Selector strategy advice, so with critical game 3 being only hours away and with fewer opportunities to surpass the 1004 grand prize total, tonight's article seemed like the perfect opportunity to share some insights.

I'm not going to tell you who to pick, but after playing over 100 games this season, I'm going to pass along how I think the game should be played.  Let's start by stating the obvious: Boston desperately needs to win tonight.  The Bruins are finally playing at home again and will undoubtedly get an emotional-energy lift from the Garden faithful.  For that reason, I would highly suggest loading up with Bruins to take advantage of the, dare i say "inevitable", first period surge. To balance that out, maybe round out your squad with Canuck goalie Roberto Luongo.  Luongo has been absolutely unflappable thus far in the Cup final. He has posted an 11 - 4 record with a staggering .940 save percentage since game 6 against Chicago.  From a Bruin perspective it is time for their star players to step up and step up quickly.  I firmly believe in situations like tonight's do-or-die game, that you have to rely on the players that got you there.  So for my starting lineup (alright I guess I lied a little earlier) I'm going to choose 3 players out of this group; David Krejci, Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron.  Why only 3?  I still need to leave a roster spot for Tim Thomas.  Thomas has been arguably the best player on the ice through the first two games and there is nothing to suggest that this will not continue.

So, what about the second period and working in some Vancouver Canuck players?  I have always viewed the second period in Star Selector as educated-guess player time. To steal a golf phrase, the 2nd is 'leader board moving day'.  What education?  Well, at this point the game flow is established, you get a feel for the officiating and you can see whose 'upper or lower body injury' is impacting them more than you were led to believe. And, if there are a lot of penalties being called make sure you are loading up on power play players and consider dropping a goalie.  Factor these things in and make your adjustments accordingly!

Third period player selection strategy should be dictated by a combination of the Star Selector and game scoreboards. Are you trailing in the Star Selector leader board and want to sky rocket up in the standings?  Consider the game score first before making your selections.  For example, if the game is within a goal (this is highly likely considering how close the two teams have been) and you feel like the trailing team is going to tie it up, then drop the opposing goalie and play a hunch on a less popular player selection to tie it up.  If you really want to make a move, then consider adding one of his linemates as well.  Conversely, if you feel like the leading team is going to hold on, then add some players that play a responsible two way style. These players are going to see more ice than strictly offensive players and you might just pick up a empty net goal.

Some additional thoughts:

Boston fans need to stop complaining about the Burrows bite. I'm sick of the argument that he should have been suspended for game 2.  If you use this logic, then you also believe that the NHL should have suspended Nathan Horton for spraying the Tampa Bay fan at the end of game 6.  Call it a wash Bruin faithful and move on.

To quote a friend of mine that has been with the Canucks throughout the entire playoffs, "Vancouver is Bat shit mental right now!".

Tyler Seguin has played 2 decent games this entire playoffs, but it would still be a little surprising if in fact Claude Julien replaces him in the lineup with Shawn Thornton for game 3 tonight.  Julien can not only leverage the last change for better match ups for the rookie, but he can also produce some much needed power play punch.

Love Alexandre Burrows post goal, 'arrow to the heavens' celebration tribute for fallen teammate Luc Bourdon.

Time for Milan Lucic to dominate an entire game.  He has carried the play in spurts, but Boston really needs him to be the most physically dominant player on the ice tonight.


Thanks for playing all and good luck with your picks tonight!

Habs Fan: An Ode to Boston

I despise Boston’s sports teams more than any other. WAY more. It’s not even close.
Case in point:

Football: I moved to Los Angeles from Montreal when I was 4. I’m a diehard Raiders fan. Tuck Rule.  I hate the Patriots.

Basketball: I grew up in LA during the Showtime Magic vs. Bird era. ‘Nuff said. Celtics suck.

Baseball: After the Expos died, my allegiance quickly fell to Toronto (my adopted hometown now). Being in the AL East means two things: The Yankees can bite me and, yes, the Red Sox can suck it.

Hockey: Habs fan for life. Bruins = Nemesis.

As a graduated historian, I like looking back. And as a Habs fan, I really like looking back at the first two Finals games. Yes, the Bruins beat the Habs in Game 7 of round one.  Yes Bruins fans, you got me there. Yes, the Habs have been on the golf course for the last month BUT you, my dear Clam-eating friends, have just had to swallow the most excruciating string of losses in the history of sports.

I have racked my brain (ok, maybe not racked, but spent as much time thinking about this as an entrepreneur father of a 3 yr. old can) thinking of any two-game string worse then this, and nothing even comes close.

Game 1 Loss: Raffi Torres scores with 18 seconds left in regulation in a 0-0 game. Ouch.
Game 2 Loss: Alexandre Burrows scores 11 seconds into OT. WOW.

Just thinking about the Bruins Fan’s heartache brings a demonic little smile to my face. I know this is just cruel…but isn’t this when Sports is the best? You WANT to root for a team. In order to really feel the power of sports you need to have a vested interest in the outcome of a game. (Sure, gambling helps, but that is fake emotion; it’s emotion fabricated by greed). Either you LOVE a team so much it hurts OR you loathe a team so much you NEED them to lose.

Yes, I want the Bruins to lose. Sure, the Canucks are alright, but I couldn’t care less who was playing the Bruins…as long as Boston loses. As a Habs fan, I couldn’t be happier with how Vancouver is giving me what I want, what I need….a painful, heart-wrenching Bruin’s defeat.

HNIC Star Selector - Stanley Cup Finals - Game 1 - Bruins vs Canucks

It is hard to believe that the Stanley Cup playoffs started on April 13th.  49 days, 14 teams and one Pizza franchise name change later (well this is somewhat more symbolic with Boston Pizza switching their name during the finals to Vancouver Pizza). AND now, we have the potential for one outstanding series.  Here are ten thoughts on the finals.

1. Mark Donnelly dominates Rene Rancourt in the battle of Anthem singers, even though Donnelly only sings half of the anthem.  Rancourt's fist pump is a little over the top for my liking.

2. 78% of game 1 winners go on to win the Stanley Cup.  This number improves to 86% if you are the home team.

3. Ryan Kesler will benefit from the extra time off between series, even though the eight game lay off is probably a little longer than Canuck management would have preferred.

4. Boston presents Vancouver with some unique matchup challenges.  High end goaltending along with a solid backend, lead by all-world Zdeno Chara, will make life difficult on the Sedin's.

5. There is nothing to suggest Boston's power play is any closer to improving.  If Boston has any hopes of winning, their penalty killing must limit Vancouver's power play advantage.  The team's have virtually the same penalty killing percentage (Vancouver 80.6%, Boston 79.4%) with the Canucks holding a 20.1% lead converting power play opportunities.

6.  Look for Vancouver native Milan Lucic to have a dominant Stanley Cup Finals.  Lucic has a history of playing well in front of his hometown crowd, including a Memorial Cup MVP winning performance when he led to Vancouver Giants to the title back in 2007.

7.  If the series goes the distance Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault should consider giving Nathan Horton some extra attention.  All Horton has done in his first taste of playoff hockey is lead his team in scoring (8 goals and 9 assists), including two game-seven, series winning tallies.

8.  Alain Vigneault and Claude Julien have a long history.  They played together in the 1981/82 season for the St. Louis Blues Central Hockey League affiliate in Salt Lake City.

9.  Manny Malholtra's recovery from his serious eye injury is nothing short of a medical miracle.  Malhotra is a fantastic penalty killer, a terrific face off man and a steady presence in the Canuck's dressing room.  It would be great to see him back in the lineup.

10.  The goaltending advantage in this series is too close to call.  Just take a look at their stats; Tim Thomas, 12 wins, 2 shutouts and a 2.29 goals against average and Roberto Luongo, 12 wins, 2 shutouts and, you guessed it, a 2.29 goals against average.  Both Luongo and Thomas have the ability to steal games and The Cup winner will be determined by who wins this match up.

Good luck Star Selectors and thanks for playing!  Oh, by the way, my call is Vancouver winning their first Stanley Cup...in six games!

HNIC Star Selector - Conference Finals - Game 7 Preview - Bruins vs Lightning

Loyal reader, I have been given a gift much like Johnny Smith in the DeadZone.  I recently put my hands on Bruins jersey and could see the potential Bruins future of this game, likewise with a Lightning jersey.  I share my visions with you...

Bruins Jersey... 

The Bruins will get an early jump with a 1st period even strength goal compliments of David Krejci around the 5 minutes mark.  My crystal jersey sees the Lightning defence unable to handle a savage fore check coughing up the puck in the high slot to Krejci who rips a high glove slapper past Dwayne Roloson.   Steve Downie, will follow this up a few minutes later by taking an undisciplined tripping penalty, upending Brad Marchand in the neutral zone and then compounding the issue with an extra 2 minutes for roughing up Zdeno Chara.  Tyler Seguin will capitalize by tipping in a Tomas Kaberle point shot (yes he will actually shoot the puck) to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead heading into the intermission.   

The 2nd period will be dominated by the goalies.  Tim Thomas' 12 period saves will be highlighted a pad stacking, highway robbery, partial breakaway stop on Martin St. Louis.   Dwayne Roloson's quick glove hand will keep his team in the game by denying a Nathan Horton's point blank one timer and keeping the score to a reachable 2 goal margin.

Not looking to sit on the lead the Bruins fore check forces a brutal give away by Viktor Hedman, allowing Michael Ryder to bury a quick wrister over Roloson right shoulder extending the lead to 3-0.  The Lightning answer right back on the power play, with Martin St. Louis sneaking a puck out of a scramble and roofing a backhander past Thomas. 3-1 Bruins.  The rest of the 3rd settles into the Bruins D shutting the door on the Lightning attack stacking the blue line with 4 wide.  The Lightning get their shot at getting back into the game on a power play with 6 minutes left, but all 5 shots are rejected dashing any hopes of a come back.  The Bruins advance to the finals with a 3-1 victory.  


Lightning Jersey...

The Lightning needing to take the crowd out of the game early come out pressing generating two solid scoring chances but are not able to bury anything.  Their best chance, a breakaway from Steven Stamkos is easily turned aside by Tim Thomas.  Tampa carries the majority of play but only lead the shot category (11-4) at the end of the first period.

Martin St. Louis capitalizes on a Brad Marchand's early second period hooking penalty on Teddy Purcell staking the Lightning to a 1-0 lead.  The Lightning strike again 1:40 later when Simon Gagne steals the puck on the low boards from Denis Seidenberg, takes two quick strides and slides one under Thomas for the 2-0 lead.  Five minutes later, the Bruins benefit from an icing call creating a long series in the Lightning end against a very tired group of Bolt players.  A cycled puck lands on the stick of hard shooting Zdeno Chara and his one time blast puts the Bruins back into the contest.  A massive Nathan Horton hit separates Eric Brewer from the puck allowing a rushing Tomas Kaberle to slap home the game tying goal with 3:30 left in the 2nd.

The 3rd period is loaded with drama and excitement.  The Lightning get things started with a down low rebound power play goal. Tim Thomas' initial point shot save finds its way on St. Louis stick who promptly sets up Teddy Purcell in front giving the Lightning a 3-2 advantage.  The Bruins shoot themselves in the foot giving up another power play after Milan Lucic receives 2 minutes for roughing on Downie.  The Lightning wasting no time, score on a fully screened Tim Thomas by a point shot from Bergeron.  With 11 minutes remaining Boston gets one goal back benefiting from a valiant Tyler Seguin effort.  Streaking through the middle, the rookie forward undresses both Lightning defenders and roofs it over Roloson for a 4-3 score.  But, this as close as the Bruins will get, as St. Louis  will gain control of the puck in the Lightning zone, muscle his way down the ice and seal things with an empty netter.  The Lightning's 5-3 win advances to the team to the Stanley Cup final.

Now that you know the future, Star Selector should be a breeze.  Pick the goal scorers and off you go!

HNIC Star Selector - Conference Finals - Game 6 - Bruins vs Lightning

Dear Vegas, thank you for the foggy memories.  Dear Blog faithful, sorry for the few game lapse...

Here we are at Game 6 and I have to sit and ponder... The Bruins are up 3-2?  Seriously?  Let's do a quick series recap.   Game 1 the Lightning looked totally in control and game 2 was heading in the exact same direction until Tampa collapsed. Tim Thomas posted a shut out in game 3 then stole game 5 with Mike Smith unexpectedly winning game 4.

But what has happened?

First, Tyler Seguin is reassuring the Bruin faithful that they are SET for the foreseeable future.  He has 6 points in 5 games despite averaging only 12 minutes of ice per night.  His unexpected production has forced the Lightning to readjust their game plan which is opening up space for Lucic and Horton to score more points.  Game 5 exemplified the 'Seguin' impact as the youngster was held off the score sheet but the big guns made key contributions.

Secondly, Dwayne Roloson has fallen back to earth a little.  I hesitate to say crashed because, as my Dad always said there are 5 mistakes before the puck get's to the goalie, but for every game Rolly has stolen in the first two rounds he has given back in the Conference Finals.  The team as a whole has loosened up and lost a little of their physical swagger but some pucks that are getting to the net should be turned aside.  His GAA has gone up .50 points due to this series alone, going from 2.01 to 2.51.

Finally Tim Thomas has decided to get serious and show why he dominated the Flyers in round 2.  Game 3 = shutout, Game 5 = one goal highlighted by one unbelievable stick save.  In every game he has faced more than 30 shots and has all 11 of the Bruins wins.  If Thomas stays focused and really keeps his angles along with not drifting to the shooters low on the sides, he will dominate once again.

I do see this series going 7 with the Bruins finishing off the Lightning at home but this game will be very physical and not short on beauty goals.

Star Select it Yo!  I had some solid picks ( Shout out to Keesje on
his killa picks too ) last week, make these my shoe ins of the week;

Michael Ryder - has been solid all playoffs and will continue to excel in game 6.
Martin St Louis - home game, conference finals, 2 goals, captain, werd
Tyler Seguin - always ride a winner and with the Lightning still focusing on Lucic causing the Segway to shine.
Eric Brewer - not sure why i feel this pick but i do, will be good for 2 points and some sort of tongue swallowing hit.
Simon Gagne - Like a silent assassin, he waits for times to kill, this game he shows up big time.

HNIC Star Selector - Conference Finals - Game 5 - Canucks vs Sharks

  Where should I start with this one?  Should I begin with discussing how Vancouver is one win away from returning to the Stanley Cup Finals?  I could write about how the majority of EA Sports NHL Hockey on line gaming community (let alone 95% of active players) do not have necessary skill set to mimic Hank Sedin's pass on the fourth Canuck goal Sunday night.  Or that Ryan Clowe should put forth more energy on the ice than he has in either the post game news conference or post whistle scrums?  All are decent topics worthy of article's unto themselves but given that this is our first post since game 2, I am going to use this forum instead to detail some of my thoughts about this series to date.

1.  Vancouver's scouting staff has played an intricate role in this years Stanley Cup run.   The Canucks have a tremendous amount of depth especially on the blue line and haven't missed a beat when losing starters Christian Erhoff and Aaron Rome.   Trade deadline acquisitions Chris Higgins (3 game winning goals) and Maxim Lapierre (second in hits with 58) have been extremely effective for the Canucks and minimized the impact of Manny Malholtra's season ending eye injury.

2.  Don't look now but Henrik Sedin is quietly leading the post season scoring race and his play has steadily improved this series.  I wonder how much this has to do with not matching up against the Keith/Seabrook or Weber/Shuter shutdown parings?

3.  There have been far too many power plays in the last two games which is taking away from this series flow and speed.

4.  San Jose can blame their special teams for losing this series especially game 4.  In a must win game, on home ice, you have to capitalize on any power play opportunities and going 0-5 to start the contest is totally unacceptable.

5.  Raffi Torres is extremely effective when he plays on the edge and he has been a physical force this series.  Great playoff beard as well!!

6.  Joe Thornton has erased any doubt about his ability to perform under pressure and has been far and away San Jose's best player.  He will play hurt tonight and my call is that he plays his heart out.  The same can't be said for Dany Heatley.  Heatley has been invisible this entire series mustering a measly one assist and 8 shots.

7.  I prefer the green men to the Vancouver flasher (it is a family show after all) but I do think that the spandex duo needs to start hitting a treadmill.  The playoffs is a haul and you can see the impact on their physique with each passing round.

8.  True Canuck fans could care a less that the rest of Canada isn't jumping on their bandwagon.

9.  Ryan Kesler wants you to play NHL 2K11.

10.  My Star Selector starting five tonight:  Henrik & Daniel Sedin, Roberto Luongo, Ryan Kesler and Patrick Marleau.

Thanks for reading and good luck with your Star Selector picks tonight oh and yes if you can't already tell Vancouver will close out this series tonight.  I'm calling for a 5 - 2 win!

HNIC Star Selector - Conference Finals - Canucks vs Sharks

It will be a completely different looking San Jose Shark team tonight when the puck drops for Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.  With an extra day of rest, some much needed preparation time, and a very effective up tempo practice yesterday San Jose is in a much better position to compete against the top seeded Vancouver Canucks.  San Jose appeared to run out of steam during the third period in their game 1 loss which isn't a surprise considering their tough seven game series against Detroit.  Given the importance of tonight's contest expect a very physical, emotionally charged effort led by centre, and best player, Joe Thornton.

Historically, game 2 has been Vancouver's playoffs Achilles heal.  Dating back to the 2002-03 season the Canucks have posted an underwhelming 4 - 7 game 2 series record including this years second round loss to Nashville.  Vancouver has the opportunity tonight to grab a stranglehold on the Western Conference Final and I expect them to play with a tremendous amount of energy and poise.  A key match up advantage for the Canucks comes from the lack of shut down defensemen on the San Jose roster and coincidentally the Sedin twins played their most effective playoff contests to date when not competing against the tandems of Seabrook & Keith or Weber & Suter.  Look for the back to back Art Ross trophy winning brothers to lead the Vancouver offensive attack.

Star Selector's should however look to load up with San Jose Sharks for the first period.  This isn't to suggest that I think the Sharks are going to win tonight (my call by the way is a 4 - 2 Vancouver) but rather my inclination that they will look to quiet the Rogers Centre Crowd with an aggressive first period effort.  Strategically, I would consider starting Roberto Luongo given the amount of shots I think he will face in the opening frame as well as adding a couple of multi star selector point producing players (those that do more than score points through goals and assists) to compliment Joe Thornton, my captain pick for tonight's game.  If and when Vancouver survives the first period adjust your roster accordingly by adding Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

Star Selector Starting Five:
Joe Thornton - Captain
Roberto Luongo
Ryan Clowe
Dan Boyle
Devin Setoguchi

Thanks for reading and I look forward to competing against you on Star Selector tonight!

HNIC Star Selector - Conference Finals - Game 2 - Bruins vs Lightning

Tampa Bay is for real... Not sure if you are still in denial like me, but they are FOR REAL.  They played the Penguins very tough coming back from a 3 - 1 deficit to win the series, they STEAMROLLED the Caps with a 4 game sweep, and in game one of the Conference Final turned the Bruins into a speedbump rather than a wall.

Look at the 3 Stars for the game last week. Dwayne Roloson, Brett Clark and Domenic Moore, uh WHO?  You look at this list and think they will crash to earth soon enough.  Well, I have to tell you Bruins fans, you better get nervous and FAST!  The Caps thought the same way and whoops, they are playing Bocce Ball for the rest of the summer.  As we are quickly learning in these playoffs, the Lightning are deep and can hurt you from any angle.  Whether it is Eric Brewer shutting down the top line, or Sean Bergenheim lighting the lamp, and while you are line matching against Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis... Steve Downie, Brett Clark and Steven Stamkos are sending you packing.  The Bruins need to start dominating the boards and winning the tough battles cause the confidence level for the Lightning is through the roof.

Star Selector for Game 2 looks like this for me.

1) If Tyler Seguin is in the line up, play him, especially in the 1st period.  He is the only chance on the PP and had lots of jump in game 1.
2) Sean Bergenheim is a must start, could be a captain... He has 8 goals so far and is playing against the weaker Bruin defensive pairing.
3) Nathan Horton is too good to be off the score sheet for long, start him and if you are feeling Bruins yellow tonight, captain him
4) Dwayne Roloson's GAA is 2.01, holy crap!  That is worth a look and a start.  The Bruins are weak on the PP so it will be mainly even strength chances which means lots of shots from the outside, great for a goalie who has superior angles coverage.
5) Martin St. Louis is a must start in the game in my opinion, he has not been silent, but he has not dominated.  Having to play against Zdeno Chara does not help but I see him getting 2 points tonight, a goal and a helper.

Best of luck, and we hope you can come play on http://hnic.starselector.cbc.ca.

HNIC Star Selector - Conference Finals - Game 1 Preview - Canucks vs Sharks

One Western Conference Final pre-series article dubbed this match up as the battle of the psyches insinuating that the Canucks and Sharks history of playoff collapses would somehow play into prominence over the course of the next seven games.  While no one can debate both franchise's have suffered through their fare share of stinging playoff defeats there is an argument to be made here that each organization has made a significant culture shift during the first two rounds of this years Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Both have rebounded from blowing a 3-0 series lead by winning game 7 against formable competition.  For Vancouver, defeating Chicago represents a playoff hurdle that Roberto Luongo equated to Team Canada's Gold medal victory during the 2010 Winter Olympics while in defeating Detroit San Jose finally rewarded the Shark tank faithful with a clutch performance in a must win atmosphere.  With all due respect to the Eastern Conference Finalists this series match up represents the most difficult opponent for each franchise in their Stanley Cup aspirations.  

Here are a few reasons why:

1. Vancouver and San Jose finished 1 - 2 respectively in the tough Western Conference regular season standings.
2. Strong home ice play.  The Canucks posted a 27-9-5 home record while San Jose wasn't too far behind at 25-11-5.
3. Deep down the middle.  Both have elite level centres highlighted by the much anticipated Joe Thornton versus Ryan Kesler match up.
4. Balanced scoring.  Coaches Todd McLellan and Alain Vigneault each enjoy the luxury of scoring beyond their first two lines.

From a Star Selector perspective this series is an InGamer's dream as there is a plethora of talent to choose from.  My best advice to you is stay engaged and do not fall in love with the same five players as there will be plenty of momentum shifts throughout the course of this series.  So let's beak down some player selections with the help of some 'Jaws' characters and quotes.

Quint, "This Shark, swallow you whole."
Much like the great white in Jaws there are a few stars that have emerged through the first two rounds that can strike instant fear into the opposition.  Vancouver's Ryan Kesler is the first to come to mind.  Not only is he the leading playoff scorer but by dominating the face-off circle and playing physical he scores you star selector points almost every time he steps on the ice.  Joe Thornton is playing a very similar style for San Jose and is playing his career best playoff hockey leading the Sharks to the Western Conference Finals.

Mayor Vaughn, "Fellows, let's be reasonable, huh? This is not the time or the place to perform some kind of a half-assed autopsy on a fish."
It is easy to get caught up in stat lines and start questioning whether or not to  include Daniel & Henrik Sedin, Dany Heatley or Patrick Marleau in your starting lineup.  Granted the aforementioned list of stars under performed during the first two rounds of this years playoffs but each has had a few days to refocus and prepare.  Keep in mind that everyone from this group sees a tremendous amount of power play minutes and all are way too talented not to elevate their respective game.  

Brody: "You're gonna need a bigger boat."
All right so this quote is a little bit of a stretch but come on I can't recite famous Jaws lines without including Brody's famous observation.  So in this spirit, I give some other players that must be considered for your starting five.  Goalies, Roberto Luongo & Antti Niemi, are both solid choices as goals in this series will be tough to come by.  Rookie Logan Couture, second in Shark's playoff scoring, is playing well beyond his experience level and Canucks defenceman, Alex Edler, anchors Vancouver's power play.  

This series is going to be a tough fought battle which will more than likely go the distance!  Good luck with your picks and thanks for playing Star Selector!

Top 10 Playoff Thoughts - HNIC Star Selector

With all Star Selector Hockey Night in Canada games on hiatus for a few days it has given me the chance to;  relinquish control of our TV remote control to my wife, catch up on some sleep and reflect on the playoffs to date.  I'll preface this by saying that while these thoughts are somewhat random in nature they all centre around this years Stanley Cup playoffs and are not listed in any particular order.

Here we go!

1.  Ryan Kesler has been without a doubt the best skater in this years playoffs and if the Canucks go on to win their first Stanley Cup in their franchises forty year history he will become just the second American born player and fifth non-Canadian player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy.  Can you name the other American and three European winners?

2.  Jim Hughson is far and away the best play by play man in the business.  

3.  Philadelphia is in desperate need of some stable goaltending.  You'll notice I didn't say a solid number 1 tender as that need is glaringly obvious but with 3 different starters and 6 in game changes I'm willing to bet Flyer fans will undoubtedly settle for stable first.  

4.  I really hope that the playoff energy in Smashville helps that organization turn the corner.  Nashville is an extremely fun town to visit and the rink is a stones throw away from Broadway Avenue making it a favorite destination for players, media and fans alike.  The NHL is better off with a team in Tennessee although I am not completely sold on the see of yellow quite yet.

5.  While HBO's 24/7 provided the NHL was some of the best PR hype they have had in years I get the feeling most teams will politely say, 'thanks but no thanks' if they are asked to be featured in upcoming seasons. The show will need a few more years to rival the dreaded Madden Curse (for you non EA Sports football enthusiasts the Madden curse happens to the cover player who either gets injured or has an off year directly after being featured on the games cover) but take a look at what happened to Pittsburgh and Washington's Stanley Cup aspirations after the show finished airing.  It might be too early to apply an HBO curse at this point but hockey players are notoriously superstitious so I wouldn't be surprised if some teams take a pass next year.

6.  Like a bear, Milan Lucic's playoff hibernation ended in game 4 against the Flyers.   Watch out Tampa Bay and good luck handling the premier power forward in hockey.  Lucic is going to play a major role in leading Boston into the Stanley Cup finals.

7.  P.K Subban is a superior hockey player when plays right on the edge of cockiness.  There were stretches during the regular season where the first year defenceman toned down his act a little and his play suffered.  During the playoffs, Subban played right on the edge and was extremely effective for the Habs.  His game 7 tying goal celebration said it all - a subtle shrug to quiet the Boston crown but nothing over the top.

8.  Roberto Luongo is playing a lot better than most critics and pundits are giving him credit for.   For whatever reason Luongo elite level status has been questioned consistently through most of this postseason but his stats are telling a different story.  8 wins, 2 shutouts, 2.25 goals against average and .917 save percentage and these include the Chicago blowout loses.  Name me one player on the Canucks roster with the exception of Ryan Kesler that played well during games 4 & 5 before you start hanging those games on Bobby Lou.

9.  The Joe Thornton vs Ryan Kesler matchup will not be one to miss.  My gut feeling is that the winner of this head to head battle will determine whose team moves on to the Stanley Cup winner.  You'll see my choice in the next point.

10.  It is going to be a Boston vs Vancouver Stanley Cup final with the Canucks winning in 6 games.  

By the way if you haven't figured out the answer to the question in my first thought the players are American - Brian Leetch and Europeans - Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Evgeni Malkin.

 
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