Burke’s Rebuild - On the Fly no More

Written by Keesje Kort @keesje_ingamer
I remember the first time I was at a Brian Burke event. It was at the ACC for the annual season ticket holders pancake breakfast and two things really stood out to me. The foodservice staff at the ACC ran out of maple syrup (who knew that pancakes and syrup went hand in hand) and Brian Burke will build a winner in Toronto. As a Toronto resident it is virtually impossible to pick up a paper, turn on a radio or surf any sport web page without some form of opinion on the Leaf’s rebuilding strategy shift that has occurred during the last couple of weeks. By jettisoning Francois Beauchemin, Kris Versteeg and most recently Tomas Kaberle out of town in exchange for a series of first round picks and high level prospects Burke has pulled a 180 from the on the fly rebuild. While some might criticize the strategy shift I am thankful that we have a leader in Toronto with the courage to hit, as Ron Wilson likes to call it, ‘the reset button’. In the last two weeks, Burke has added 2008 first rounders, center Joe Colborne, and smooth skating defenceman Jake Gardiner, along with two first round picks in this years entry draft. The on the fly rebuild wasn’t working but by hitting the breaks, adding draft picks and prospects, Brian Burke is creating a scenario where the youngest team in the league can learn and grow together and will in my opinion develop within a year into a very tough team to beat. While I like truculence and pugnacity, I’m also an admirer of size, speed and skill, traits the recent additions have an abundance of. Not loss in all of this has been the development of Nazem Kadri. Kadri is quietly developing into a top six forward and will benefit both from an extended stay under Dallas Eakins tutelage as well as a year to mature away from the constant glare of the Toronto Media. It will be interesting to see what occurs between now and Monday’s trade deadline but don’t be surprised if another transaction involving a player for draft picks happens. Dave Morrison and his team of amateur scouts will be a lot busier preparing for the 2011 Draft in St. Paul, Minnesota than they were in Hollywood last year. Burke promised the Leaf Nation a winner when he took command and a winner he is building. Patience Toronto, this is the right path.

Game Previews for Feb 26th

Star Selector Game Previews Saturday February 26th.

Written by Keesje Kort @keesje_ingamer

It is a busy night on Star Selector with four match ups featured on Hockey Night in Canada. The 7:00 pm est games features the resurgent Leafs hosting Pittsburgh, Carolina travels to Montreal, while the Eastern Conference Leaders from Philadelphia head to our nations Capital for a date with the Senators. The late game could be a potential Stanley Cup preview with cup contenders Bruins and Canucks squaring off at 10:00pm est.

Pens vs Leafs

Don’t look now Leaf Nation but your team is 8-2-2 since the all-star break, six points and two teams away from the eighth and final playoff spot. Phil Kessel has erased all memories of his 14 game goal scoring draught and is coming off a four point performance, and possibly his best as a Leaf, in Thursday’s victory over the Montreal Canadiens. James Reimer continues to provide steady goaltending and Tyler Bozak has finally ended his 15 game pointless streak. Even the schedule is working in the Leafs favor as they will be facing a Penguins team on the tail end of back to back road games. Pittsburgh has been active leading into Monday’s trade deadline by re-acquiring forwards Alex Kovalev from Ottawa and Oshawa native James Neal from Dallas. With no timetable for Sidney Crosby’s return and Evgeni Malkin lost for the season the Pens will be hoping their new acquisition boost their offensive production as they haven’t scored more than 3 goals in a game since January 18th.

My starting Star Selector lineup: Phil Kessel (have to ride the hot hand), James Reimer, Tyler Bozak, Marc Andre Fleury and Mikhail Grabovski. Yes, it might seem like I am a little but of a homer in my selections but by law of averages the Leafs are due for a break out HNIC performance and there is no reason to believe that it won’t happen Saturday night.

Hurricanes vs Canadiens

One positive element from the Canadiens Thursday nights loss to Toronto is that it got the tough home game after a Western road trip out of their system. Montreal has been struggling lately going 3-5-2 in their last 10 games but still remain firmly entrenched as the Eastern Conference’s 6th playoff seed. Carolina has a desperate hold on the eight and final playoff position and hoping that reacquisition of Cory Stillman provides the necessary spark to hold off Buffalo and Toronto. Like their rivals from Toronto, Montreal will benefit from the NHL scheduling makers as they will be facing a Canes team on the tail end of back to back contests. Carolina won the front end with a decisive 4 -1 victory over Pittsburgh but lost captain Eric Staal early in the second period to the dreaded ‘concussion like symptoms’. He is listed as questionable for tonight’s contest in Montreal. Michael Cammalleri’s goal and assist in Thursday nights loss to Toronto marked his first points since returning from his shoulder injury and his return to form should help the Canadiens improve their 2.54 goals per game average.

My starting star selector lineup: Cam Ward, Mike Cammalleri, James Wisniewski, Jeff Skinner and Carey Price.

Flyers vs Ottawa

There are a couple of certainties associated with this contest. The Flyers will dominate the Senators and Star Selector regulars, The Schizz and Jaxelin, will be playing this contest in the early games. Philadelphia is 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, leading the Eastern Conference and boast a +47 goal differential. Ottawa on the other hand is a league worst -58 and ranks 26th in goals against. Craig Anderson has played well since coming being traded from Colorado but everything is pointing to a Flyers blowout victory. This might just be the game to load up on high scoring Flyers and shoot for the Phase 2 high score.

Since Jaxelin is a die hard Flyers fan I am going to defer to her Flyers knowledge for a starting five recommendations: Claude Giroux, Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell, Ville Leino and Jeff Carter.

Bruins vs Canucks

What is not to like about this match up? Both teams rank in the top 5 for both goals for and against, feature elite goaltending and play up tempo styles. Vancouver native, Milan Lucic, will be a player to watch Saturday night as will recent blue line addition Tomas Kaberle. It is tough single out any one player from the league leading Canucks roster as they feature one of the deepest and most balanced teams in the NHL. Ryan Kesler, the star selector league leading scorer, has been relatively quiet lately scoring only 1 goal and 2 assists in his last 7 appearances but these high profile matchups are the type of games in which he excels. I like the Canucks in this one if only because they are playing at home and will be starting a well rested Roberto Luongo.

My Star Selector starting five: Milan Lucic, Hank Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler and Roberto Luongo.

See you all at Star Selector Saturday night: http://hnic.starselector.cbc.ca and good luck with your picks!

Habs Review - The Price of Victory

Written by Nic Sulsky

The Leafs beat the Habs last night. How did I know? The half-dozen emails/Fbook messages I received. Leafs nation rejoice! It’s amazing to me how influential one victory can be on my desperate collection of Toronto Hockey loving friends. How many Habs fans give a shit about winning one game against the Leafs; in February? Most importantly, what did the Canadian’s organization think about last nights matchup? 4 letters. A-U-L-D.

It was actually perfect timing for the point of a blog that I’ve been procrastinating on. The Habs are not a great team. They might not even be a good one. But the Habs do have one shot to make it far in the playoffs. I’m not going to quote stats or trends or historical evidence…I’m going to call the spade a spade. The Habs go as far as Carey Price will take them. They are not strong up the middle or extraordinarily fast or tough BUT they do have a goalie that has an air about him.

Ryan Miller & Dominik Hasek were playoff goalies that willed their team deep into the Playoffs. Goalies have not been as influential in recent years. Ironically, Halak was the closest last year. This might, just might, be the year another goalie steps to the forefront. If not the Hab’s chances are as good as the Leafs.

I like the addition of Dawes and Sopel. I like pieces, but the Habs have way to many holes and inconsistent players. Cammi needs to become the monster he was late last year and through the playoffs. Pacioretty & Subban need to continue developing and push production. Gomez needs to grow 4 inches and a set of stones. Somewhere, somehow by EOD Monday the Habs needs to find a tough defensive minded centre that can also put the puck in the net in the playoffs (like Dave Bolland did last year). Not gonna happen. One and only one thing gets the Habs to the Finals.

I also would like to point out how much joy I get from the yearly February/March Playoff hug & hope session Leaf Nation experiences. First of all, the Leafs are not making the playoffs (as per norm). Secondly, would it matter? Ya think you can pull a “Flyers” and take an 8th seeding all the way to the cup finals? Way too tempting….

Just Be Cauz' - Next Outdoor Game Will Be...???

Our new weekly column by the all knowing Matt Cauz...

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With the 2011 Heritage Classic now completely forgotten from every one's minds it's time to look ahead to 2012! Some basic rules I am sticking with mostly North American cities. This by the way has nothing to do with any latent Xenophobic feelings that may or maybe not festering inside of me, although I have never totally trusted New Zealand (shouldn't we know more about those guys beyond Peter Jackson, sheep and Sauvignon Blanc)? I just get tired of all the Sports Commissioners constantly pushing for eventual European expansion. It will never happen, yet they keep talking about it.

So here are my Top Ten places I would like to see the next Heritage Classic:

(1) Hamilton:
All right Hamilton this is your last chance to prove you are an actual sports town. The past year hasn't exactly been kind to you. There is no Labour Day Classic in 2011, you almost lost your CFL team to Oakville and you can't even get your act together to properly host the Pan Am Games. We're not talking about the Olympics here! The Pan Am Games are a glorified javelin contest yet no one in Southern Ontario believes you can pull it off!


(2) Mystery Alaska:
Just to right the wrongs that Russell Crowe and Burt Reynolds inflicted on hockey fans everywhere. Holy lord was that a bad movie and I think the Academy should take away one of Crowe's Oscars just for being in that abomination.

(3) New York:
New Yankee Stadium for the day game and New Meadowlands Stadium for the night game. If you are a hockey fan would you say no to a double header Heritage Classic?

(4) South Beach:
Yes I can't stand Lebron and the Miami Heat but have you ever had a Mojito at the Delano? Yeah its about 20 bucks a glass, but it is sooooo worth it. Plus if the Maple Leafs are playing maybe it will cause some sort of seizure in Chris Bosh as he has Nam flashbacks to his days in Toronto. Besides I want it somewhere warm just so that the media has to find original story lines instead of the usual puff pieces of how the fans had to "brave the harsh weather conditions" just to see the heroics of Rene Bourque. I want fresh and new angles like Lindsay Lohan seen partying with the San Jose Sharks outside Collins Avenue at 2am and throwing up all over Dan Boyle ... okay maybe that isn't original but it makes for a better visual than Flames fans in balaclavas.

(5) Monowi, Nebraska:
This is the first of my two part series of goofy American Cities! Now things may have changed in the past 24 hours since I sent this story over but as of Monday night Monowi had the smallest population in all of North America with just one remaining resident, Elsie Eiler. To be fair the TV ratings in Monowi would at least be as good as a typical Panthers game when a Canadian team isn't visiting.

(6) Quebec City:
Keeping with the theme of Canadian hockey fans travelling. I want to see the Heritage Classic in Quebec City just to give NY Islanders fans a chance for payback after being embarrassed when over 1000 fans from Quebec City showed up at an Islander home game in an attempt to sway the NHL to moving the Islanders back to the land of the Nordique. Yes I know the chances of Islander fans even being aware of such a game are remote but if 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull' can get a 77% on Rotten Tomatoes than just about anything is possible.

(7) Dallas:
Maybe they've learned their lesson that you can't use sand to deal with traffic and a snow storm. Cowboys Stadium is gorgeous and Jerry Jones would pull out all the stops just to continue to feed his massive ego. Besides at least the city of Dallas has won a Stanley Cup in the last 15 years. That's more than you can say for every other Canadian city.

(8) Detroit:
Comerica Park is beautiful, no team has more Cups in the past 20 years than the Red Wings and come on this city needs all the help they can get.

(9) Slaughterville, Oklahoma:
And were pack to Part II of funny American cities you've never heard of until right now. Forget next season, we need the Heritage Classic in Slaughterville on March 8th for the next Bruins / Canadiens game. Just think of the tag line: "The last time these teams met they racked up 14 goals and 192 penalty minutes of carnage and goonery. Now it's time for the sequel in Slaughterville Oklahoma. This time there are no rules!"

(10) Dubai:
You think Vegas can put on a crazy show, well I have two words for you: Oil Money! It's like hanging around crazy rich Russian billionaires except you can work on your tan. By the way am I the only one that wants a first class ticket on Emirates Airlines? Sure it costs more than my condo but I'm betting it's the only airline decadent enough to serve me Foie Gras soon after take off, First Growth Bordeaux to wash down my Kobe steak and throw in some lap dances just for kicks. I won't even care if the on flight movie was
'Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son.'

Heritage Classic - Starting 5

The puck will drop in the NHL’s sixth outdoor installment around 6:05 est time today when the Calgary Flames host the Montreal Canadiens in front of 40,000 fans in McMahon Stadium. Calgary, winners of 10 of their past 13 games, are right back in the middle of the Western Conference playoff race while Montreal is in the midst of a mini 2 game losing streak and have lost 5 or their last 6. The Habs will be looking for a boost from sniper Michael Cammalleri who is expected to make his return to the lineup Sunday afternoon.

Past Outdoor Game Results:
Historically the visiting team has fared well in the outdoor elements with only the Boston Bruins hosting and winning on ice guru Dan Craig’s makeshift arena’s.

Past results:
Nov. 22, 2003: Canadiens 4, Oilers 3 at Commonwealth Stadium
Jan. 1, 2008: Penguins 2, Sabres 1 (Shootout) at Ralph Wilson Stadium
Jan. 1, 2009: Red Wings 6, Blackhawks 4 at Wrigley Field
Jan. 1, 2010: Bruins 2, Flyers 1 (OT) at Fenway Park
Jan. 1, 2011: Capitals 3, Penguins 1 at Heinz Field

Star Selector Starting 5:
If you have ever been to a CFL game in McMahon Stadium you know how much of an impact wind can have on the contest and the NHL is prepared to have the teams switch ends at the 10 minute mark of the third period to insure a level playing field. The potential winds and expected -10 degree temperature screams out low scoring game so I will be starting both goalies, Carey Price (despite his scary Jacques Plante tribute mask) and Miikka Kiprusoff. Curtis Glencross, in the midst of a six game scoring streak, Jarome Iginla and Scott Gomez round out my starting five. Gomez might seem like an odd choice considering his recent struggles of late but I am banking that the Anchorage Alaska native adjusts well to the outdoor elements.

Key Injuries:
Montreal’s Defence is banged up. James Wisniewski, who took a Taylor Hall shot to the face on Thursday, is a game time decision but neither Jaroslav Spacek or Hal Gill are expected to play.

Eye Black Mascara - Superbowl Experience


Eye Black Mascara

*New Segment* - Each month we will hear from our new resident sports writer Kelly, who will provide a female prospective to our game, with player selections, game predictions and general sport observations.

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Written By Kelly Sweetman (@girlisageek)

My husband I share a couple of things in common: one is our love of watching sports and the other is our super competitive nature. Whether it’s playing ‘rock, paper scissors’ for the TV remote or seeing who can place the last piece of garbage in the can without the pile toppling over, we always manage to turn everything into a friendly competition.

We always enjoy the odd rivalry in our living room when we sit down to watch sports. As a solid hockey fan you can find me regularly tuning into Hockey Night in Canada hoping that my beloved Leafs will someday make a respectable run for the Stanley Cup. Since my better half is a rabid Philadelphia Flyers fan, our competitive sides usually show their teeth when these teams meet. The winner usually does an uncoordinated victory dance around the room and takes advantage of the bragging rights for the next few days. Needless to say, this rivalry between us makes the Leafs/Flyers games that much more exciting to watch.

Recently I noticed that he’s been captivated during games by playing InGamer. In the past he’s been into a lot of stats-heavy, keeper-pools with complicated rules for hockey and football so I didn’t think it would be something I’d be interested in. But he told me about InGamer’s simple, per-game concept and I was intrigued. So I picked the biggest game of the year to give it a whirl: Super Bowl XLV.

I was a little timid to start playing during the Super Bowl since I’ve never had a massive knowledge about the sport. I blame my limited football knowledge on the fact that I grew up in a small Northern Ontario town with no high school football team (don’t judge… we had four curling teams!). After the first quarter, however, I found myself in the running for top place, energized and rethinking my strategy for the next quarter. I also really dug the idea of interacting with the other InGamer participants in the real-time chat area. Now my friendly competition expanded from one person sitting next to me to over 200 other armchair coaches.

My picks continued to return good points for me and by the time the halftime show was beginning I was more interested in what the chat room was buzzing about than why the Black Eyed Peas had strobe lights highlighting their private areas. I then noticed that my husband was 78 positions behind me. I couldn’t help but gloat a little.

By the end of the game I wasn’t in first place. Heck, I wasn’t even in the top 10. Even so, my awkward and embarrassing victory dance still managed to make an appearance for my husband who finished well behind me. I could see that small, competitive spark in his eye when he suggested I play more during the hockey games. Yes, indeed. If anyone needs me I’ll be working on my cool new dance moves.


LeBron - Irrelevant in Miami, Kind Of


Written by Matt Cauz

This blog is all about selfishness. My selifshness to be exact.

I'm done ripping Lebron James for his classless, uber-ego decision to take part in ... The Decision. I'm done ripping Chris Bosh for being wishy-washy about his desire to stay in Toronto. More than enough people have criticized him for blindly following Lebron James like a love struck puppy. Lebron could have said he was going to play for the a team of convicts and Bosh's only concern was whether he was shirts or skins for the first practice.

The only thing that bothers me now is the realization that Lebron James, yes The King, is far more irrelevant now that he is in Miami. I understand, the dude has been on fire over the past two months and he should be one of the front runners for the MVP.

But does his individual excellence feel as significant as it did in years past?
I remember watching Lebron's Game-Five 48 point performance against the Pistons in the '07 Eastern Conference Finals. It was one of those games that made you made so happy you turned on the TV and didn't turn the channel. I'm sure a lot of you also watched that masterpiece.

Now imagine 2011 - If you could go back in time and tell you that Lebron James would eventually slink on his hands and knees to Dwayne Wade and join Wade's team for a chance to win a title. You would slap 2011 for proclaiming such hearsay.

The all-time NBA greats don't do that. They stick with one team, suffer playoff defeats along the way and eventually break through to win a Championship.

That is the classic story arch for just about all NBA Super-Stars. This isn't like other professional leagues, in the NBA one player has so much more power over the fate of his franchise.
Think Jordan, Bird, Johnson, Duncan, Olajuwon, Thomas ... the list goes on and on.

So when Lebron left Cleveland to go to Miami I felt robbed. My anger toward LBJ was all about my own selfish desire to watch and share James' journey from great player to one of the top five of all time. But in the end he took easy away out joining forces with a Top-Five player and a solid third banana.
If his actions were a book it would be called 'Winning an NBA Championship for Dummies.'

Step One: Quit on your team in the playoffs against the Celtics.
Step Two: Jerk around your fans and your teams front office.
Step Three: Go on television for a hubris filled hour of ego where at the end you basically ripped the hearts out of millions of devoted fans.
Step Four: Team up with a top five player and an over rated star basically guaranteeing you will win a title within three years,

On so many levels it is very difficult to blame him. The Cavaliers front office were like the casting agent for 'Point Break', they surrounded james with a mediocre cast. Also I think the idea of playing ball with your buddies in South Beach sounds pretty good. Have you tried a Mojito at the Delano? South Beach is freakin' awesome!

However in the end I wanted Lebron to follow the path of most NBA superstars, I wanted him to be the Alpha Dog of the NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers or even say the New York Knicks. I never thought he would be part of an excellent ensemble cast. Yes Lebron will eventually win a Championship but that does not mean he is a true "Champion."

Habs vs Oilers - Game Match Up

It is a special Thursday night HNIC broadcast with the Montreal Canadiens taking on the rebuilding Edmonton Oilers. Montreal is coming off a 10 round shoot out loss to the Buffalo Sabres while the Oilers ended their 5 game home losing streak with a 4 -1 victory over the suddenly struggling Dallas Stars. Edmonton has the best ice in the National Hockey League which bodes well for the high flying Canadiens squad.

Tactics: The Price will be right!

Starters:
Carey Price is a must start in this game. Edmonton ranks 28th in the 30 team NHL in goals per game average and Price is having an outstanding season. While I am never really an advocate of captaining goalies this might just be the matchup that I give this strategy a try. Do not hesitate to start back up goalie Alex Auld if the Habs decide to give Price the night off. Don’t let James Wisniewski’s -19 +/- rating scare you from inserting him on your starting five as the majority of his minuses came while he was patrolling the blue line for the lowly New York Islanders. Wisniewski quarterbacks the Canadiens powerplay and has a team leading 32 assists. Another player that I really like in this match up is Max Pacioretty. Pacioretty is riding a five game point scoring streak tallying 4 goals in 2 assists during this stretch. The 6’2 left winger has settled nicely into the Canadiens lineup since his mid season call up from the Hamilton Bulldogs. While it would be easy to insert Habs leading scorer Tomas Plekanec into my starting five I am going to take a flyer on speedy center David Desharnais. Edmonton has extremely fast ice and Desharnais can fly. My lone Edmonton Oiler starter is their first overall draft pick Taylor Hall. I really don’t like any of the Oilers in this matchup and am taking Hall for no other reason than I like watching him play.

First off the Bench:
Whenever you don’t start a teams leading scorer and they are playing the last place team you have to be ready to get Tomas Plekanec into your lineup. Needless to say Plekanec will be my first roster adjustment if I get off to a slow start. I’ll also be quick to add Oilers captain, Shawn Horcoff, if Edmonton’s compete level matches their opponents from Montreal.

Scratches:
I am staying as far away from whomever the Oilers start in goal Thursday and until Scott Gomez strings together more than a couple of good shifts I will be keeping him on the sidelines as well.

Starting Line up:
Carey Price (Alex Auld if the Habs give Price the night off)
James Wisniewski
Max Pacioretty
David Desharnais
Taylor Hall

Hockey Day in Canada - Leafs vs Habs Matchup

Whether or not you have an interest in Regina’s pond hockey tournament or how Daniel Briere’s son is performing at the historic Quebec PeeWee International there is no denying that CBC’s hockey day in Canada is fun celebration of the game. At Star Selector, it means a triple header of Canadian match ups with some great HNIC swag for the top game individual scorers, best third point total and for you die hards the best 3 game cumulative score. Let’s take a look at each match up with some insight into helping you pick your starting 5.

Montreal vs Toronto 7:00pm. Saturday evening, Hockey Night in Canada - Pappag’s beloved Habs vs the re-building Leafs. The perfect match up for CBC’s Hockey Day in Canada. Let me break down the match up with a line of sight to a starting 5 lineup.

Tactics: Take a chance on Kessel. He is due to break out sooner or later.

Starters:
Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta are both solid choices for your starting 5. They get power play time, throw body checks and are positive +/- players. Keep in mind that there are plenty of Star Selector points awarded for actions beyond goals and assists but in this case you will get those as well as both players usually find their way on the scorers sheet.
It would be irresponsible of me not to mention the Canadiens leading Star Selector, Carey Price, in any discussion concerning a starting lineup. Goalies are always a risk reward pick considering they get dinged with -25 for every goal against so buyers beware. I am personally taking a pass on Price Saturday for my starting 5 but he will be the first person of my bench if the Leafs come out flat.
Believe it or not but since February 1st the Leafs are a respectable 4 - 1- 1 with Nikolai Kulemin leading the offensive charge. Kulemin has 8 points during this span tallying 5 goals and 3 assists displaying no signs of slowing down. A solid player and a must have in your starting line up.

Bench Warmers:
I challenge you to find a Canadiens fan out there that is happy with the investment return on Scott Gomez. Gomez is in the midst of a terrible season and is coming off a 3rd period benching during Wednesday nights Beantown slug fest. Not only is he not scoring (2 points in his last 7 games) but his -15 rating and penchant for turnovers will have you going in the wrong direction. From a Leafs perspective the easy answer is Phil Kessel as his goal scoring slump has been well documented but Kessel is an extremely streaky scorer and is more then due to have a multi goal game. I like him in this match up and will have him in my starting five. The player that I am staying away from is Tyler Bozak. The second year pro is in the midst of an nine game pointless streak and with Kessel being moved off his wing do not see his stat line improving any time soon.

Wild Card:
PK Subban is a player that I would strongly consider for my starting lineup. Subban has a history of performing well in the spotlight and playing against his hometown Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada is just the kind of stage that fires this rookie up.
Joffrey Lupol made his Leafs debut in Thursday’s overtime loss to the Devils and as his 18 minutes of ice time indicates he will be given every opportunity to regain a top 6 forward status. Lupol will be one of the first guys to come off of my bench.

So who are my starting 5? See below with my captain’s pick in bold.

Nikolai Kulemin
Phil Kessel
Tomas Plekanec
Brian Gionta
PK Subban

Good luck with your picks Saturday night and thanks for playing Star Selector.

Tunrovers Kill! - Why We Score the Way We Do

Written by Nic Sulsky @nicsulsky

Admittedly I’m not the biggest Jesse Palmer fan, but dude hit the nail on the head here.

http://bit.ly/gADlM3

Turnovers are Total killers in NFL. Many InGamers have questioned why INTs and Fumbles Lost are SO penalized. Well…this is why. We pride ourselves on being the best and only game around that truly highlights the all-around player. We treasure and value players that are the most directly responsible for a team’s victory, and believe that If a player direcvtly contributes to their team losing then WE need to represent that too. We (especially I) have always believed that turnovers decide games on the field and MUST be reflected that way on the InGamer field too.

The team and I will be thinking about the -200 points given to turnovers, and I’m open to changing it BUT I want to see compelling reason why…Not just “man losing 200 pts sucks. It’s way too much.” My answer: Turnovers Kill.

Superbowl Breakdown by THE CAUZ! Part 2 - Hard Core Strategy

Part 2 of the "The Knowledge', this time The Cauz looks at the Defense.
Written by Matt Cauz

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Defensive Line:
We could almost skip this position all together. The Steelers down lineman are just there to occupy blockers so that James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons and James Farrior can wreck havoc. Unless we start giving out points for best/scariest beards I would avoid Brett "Next Unabomer" Keisel and the rest of the Steelers line.
As for Green Bay I am a big Cullen Jenkins fan. He is a streaky sack guy. Started the season with four sacks in four games and at this point no one trusts the Steelers offensive line. I rather have an expired, gas station vending machine condom protect me than what the Steelers got right now.
Avoid B.J. Raji. Yes we love the guy, who doesn't love the fat guy? George Wendt is still beloved but when was the last time you saw him in anything? Everyone is going to think that with Pouncy out Raji will have a monster day. Yes he will have a "monster" day, just not a great one statistically. There's a reason big fat lazy Albert Haynesworth didn't want to play the nose in a 3-4 in Washington, you don't put up any stats! (Plus on just about every play you're getting abused by 650 pounds of lineman). In three playoff games Raji has just five tackles. He will be a key piece for Green Bay to win but he won't do much to help you win.

Instead of the Love, Avoid, Sleeper gimmick for the linebackers I'm going to down shift into the easiest gimmick and every writers favourite crutch, The List! Here are my Top Five guys for each level of defence.

Linebackers:
(1) James Harrison: We all remember his interception return touchdown the last time he was in the Super Bowl. Well this time he will spend a great deal of the game lined up against rookie right tackle Bryan Bulaga. This is about as safe a pick as you can get.
(2) Clay Matthew: Has the speed and strength to do what the authorities couldn't do, take Roethlisberger down! (Come on, give me a B- for that one!). Other guys may get more tackles but his ability to make big plays gives him the edge over the other Packer LB's
(3) Lawrence Timmons: The leading playoff tackler from any team not named the Jets and finished the regular season with 135.
(4) Desmond Biship: Not a name guy like Hawk and Matthews but quietly puts up numbers that are every bit as good. Led the team in tackles in the NFC Championship Game.
(5) LaMarr Woodley: This position is so stacked I didn't even have room for AJ Hawk, his 122 regular & post season tackles, and his massive, massive forehead. That means I can't make my AJ Hawk looks like Phil Hartman playing Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer line. "Sometimes when I get messages on my fax machine, I wonder 'did little demons get inside and type these'? I don't know. My primitive mind just can't grasp these concepts." Oh yeah Woodley. Yes his tackle numbers won't blow you away but I always want a couple potential 2-3 sack guys on my roster.

Secondary:
(1) Nick Collins: Great pick if it is a close game throughout. Considering the spread is hovering around three it should be.
(2) Charles Woodson: Only reason he isn't number one is you don't get points for penalties.
(3) Ike Taylor: Green Bay's offence is all about Rodgers getting the ball into the hands of his wide receivers. Love the potential for a 10 tackle day from Taylor.
(4) Tramon Williams: Was shut out against the Bears, but had two interceptions and a touchdown against the Falcons. Led the team in interceptions during the regular season. Like Charles Woodson, Williams' value goes up if the Packers get up by double digits.
(5) Troy Polamalu: Listen if Carson Palmer was under centre for the Steelers I'd captain Polamalu in a heartbeat. But I feel the Packers staff and Rodgers are too smart to get the ball anywhere near where Troy is.

Superbowl Breakdown by THE CAUZ! Part 1 - Hard Core Strategy

The Cauz starts with the Offense and his hard core look at who is the right pick, and who to avoid!
Written by Matt Cauz

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Anyone who has a STRONG feeling about who's going to win this game is lying to you. In fact the next guy who is 100% confident about who will be crowned champion has 0 knowledge but there's a 100% chance the dude is a massive blow hard.
Well thankfully here at InGamer we don't have to guess the final score. Instead I'll do my best to forecast position by position guys you should take, players you should avoid and of course a couple hidden sleepers.

Quarterbacks:
All right this one is easy. Take both of them! Ben Roethlisberger burned the Packers for a Sega Genesis like 503 yards and three touchdowns the last time these teams met in 2009. Yes he had a lousy statistical game against the Jets, I just don't seeing him having two bad games in a row.
As for Aaron Rodgers, well there is very little for me to add here. Like a dry autumn day in North Tonawanda, the guy is on fire! There are two things I can guarantee. There will be more C- jokes like that in this article and Rodgers will get you at least 250 yards and two touchdowns. Ignore the two interceptions against the Bears, the team is back playing in a Dome, expect the numbers he put up against the Falcons.
Running Backs:
Maybe the biggest surprise of the Conference Championships was how well Rashard Mendenhall played against the Jets. Early in the game Pittsburgh's O-Line was ripping apart massive holes for Mendenhall, who exploited his good fortune to the tune of 95 yards in the first half alone. Now some people may be scared of about his second half drop off in production, just remember the Steelers dialled back their offence, played it fairly vanilla and the Jets stacked the line. I know the loss of Maurkice Pouncey is a big one, but you need to have Mendenhall in your line-up, especially in the first half. If the game swings to the Packers drop him to start the 4th quarter, but he is a guy you want after you've lost $100 bucks betting on Heads.
Speaking of flipping a coin (That's what we like to call in the business a 'seagway'!) that's what you should do when it comes to James Starks. Pro: Consistency. In the Packers three playoff games he's got 23, 25 and 22 carries respectively. Con: The Steelers D. You just don't want to mess with them. Personally I wait on Starks. I see the first quarter being pass heavy for the Packers offence.

Wide Receivers:
With some many to choose from let's break this down by handy bite size categories,

Two guys that I love:
(i) Greg Jennings: Captain Obvious strikes again! You want to make an argument against him? I'd love to see it.
(ii) None: Of course Mike Wallace is going to get a lot of consideration, and he should, dude averaged 21 yards a catch in the regular season. But I have a couple problems with Steelers wide outs in this game. The strength of the Packers is their secondary. They can throw a lot of talented DB's all over the field. Second the Steelers passing game is erratic, you just don't know who is going to be "the guy". This is not a slight against Roethlisberger, this is all about pass protection. When your line is doing it's job your offence can work in rhythm. That means the QB goes through his proper progressions which usually translates into a high number of targets for your best WR. Now with the Steelers just count how many times Roethlisberger makes something happen on a busted play after his offensive line has left him for dead. Their is no better quarterback on the move on 3rd and long than Big Ben. So when he's out there scrambling for his life, the offense is no longer about flow and timing but rather it's about who's going to get open, who will break off their pattern and help out. From that perspective I can't really claim any Steeler WR as a no doubt about it #1 target.

Two guys to avoid:
(i) Hines Ward: I promise to keep this quick. Love the guy, will argue vehemently he belongs in the Hall of Fame but the man has past his prime. Against "good teams" he disappears. If you don't believe just go look up his game log. Yes he has scored this post season but Ward has totalled just five receptions for 39 yards. I think the cast from 'Precious' could put up better numbers than Hines Ward. By the way for the sake of being Politically Correct please feel free to insert any Kevin James film in place of 'Precious'. By the way, will Vince Vaughn ever be skinny again? Go watch 'Swingers' you'll think they were different actors.
(ii) Jordy Nelson: I get it. Its fun to have to have the novelty white guy at WR to root for. It's the same as rooting for the short guy in a dunk competition. But I'd avoid Nelson like Vaughn ignores the treadmill or low starch foods. Don't get sucked in by his solid day against the tough Bears (4-67 yards, 5 targets) their is so much value on defense, don't waste it here.

Two sleepers to consider:
(i) Donald Driver: For two reasons. I'm tired of waiting for James Jones to "break out" and I got Driver killing the Steelers with slants all day.
(ii) Antonio Brown: Made the key catch against the Raven and this dude is so sleeper if you go to his player profile page on espn.com you'll notice they don't even have a picture of him! Now that ladies and gentleman is a sleeper. By the way, no picture, really? Worldwide Leader in Sports my ass!

Tight Ends:
I'm going to keep this one real simple, you take Heath Miller, and that's it. I don't want you even wasting a moment considering any of the losers the Pack trot out. We don't give points for chip blocking James Harrison. Miller got over a 100 yards in the 2009 shoot-out and the Packers have been vulnerable to the tight end. He may be a nice last pick for you.

To Win, Use Only Starters on Offense - General Strategy

Written by Keesje @keesje_ingamer

Does a good offense beat a good defense? Most traditionalists will always side with a good defense but for this weekends ‘Head Coach Challenge’ I thought it would be interesting to go with a more traditional fantasy approach and to start 6 offensive players. I made my picks simply on 2010 regular season performance and will be crossing my fingers that both defenses get off to a sluggish start on Sunday.

Here are my top 6 along with their regular season stats.

1. Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers was the 3rd rank QB passing for 28 touchdowns, 3922 yards, averaging 261.5 yards per game with only 11 interceptions. He has a hot right arm and has the opportunity to establish his own championship legacy.

2. Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben has big numbers considering he didn’t play until week 6. Ben threw for 17 touchdowns, 3200 total yards averaging 266.7 per game. I am hoping that he plays better than his late Wednesday night’s version of Piano Man. For more on that check out TMZ.com.

3. Rashard Mendenhall. RB - Mendenhall had a great season. 1273 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns and only 2 fumbles. Enough said!

4. Greg Jennings. WR - No one benefited more from Rodgers career season than the 5th year pro from Western Michigan. 76 receptions, 12 Td’s & 1265 receiving yards.

5. Mike Wallace WR - A solid year for Wallace especially considering the balanced Steelers offensive approach. 60 receptions, 10 Td’s & 1257 receiving yards.

6. Mason Crosby K - Crosby nailed 22 field goals and converted 46 extra points.

As a self proclaimed InGamer expert (please keep your comments to yourself @Smack) it would be irresponsible of me if I didn’t offer some key watch outs to the all-out offense strategy. Here are 3:

1. Dick Lebeau. What is more dangerous: Leaving your 17 year old home alone for Labour Day weekend or giving perhaps the best defensive coordinator of all time 2 weeks to create a game plan? From an expecting father’s perspective I have to side with the Hall-of-Fame coordinator; although this opinion might change in 17 years. Lebeau is a defensive genius and will create a game plan that will give the Packers fits. His Steelers are the number 1 ranked defense and Troy P is getting healthier every day.

2. Clay Matthews, Troy P & Charles Woodson. What do two of these three have in common? If you answered the NFL’s defensive player of the year winners, congrats, you win an all-inclusive trip to the Bud Bowl XXV (note airfare, hotel, spending money, actual tickets & Bud Lights are your responsibility). Troy P and ex-Raider Charles Woodson (sorry Nic) have won the honor in respective years with Clay Matthews finishing a close second in this year’s vote. All 3 have a history of making big plays at big times. So offensive buyers beware.

3. Maurkice Pouncey. As of today, Pouncey has still not been ruled out of Sunday’s game, but even if he does play how much mobility his injured ankle will have still remains a mystery. If you watched the bumbled snap exchanges between Ben and Doug Legursky in the second half of the AFC Championship, then you have every right to be concerned…and we haven’t even touched upon the impact to the Steeler blocking schemes and rushing attack.

So, still going ahead with the all-offensive line-up? If so, I applaud your “fly in the face of danger” attitude and if things don’t work out then at least you can call an audible and change your strategy for the 2nd Quarter. Good luck and I can’t wait for Sunday.

Only 3 days to go!

To Win, Captain a Defensive Player - General Strategy

Written by Nic @nicsulsky

D Up!

Firstly, I want to thank you for not only reading this but for thinking about playing the Head Coach Challenge during the Super Bowl. Now, one would think since I’ve been literally playing this longer then anyone, I would be the Muhammed Ali of InGamer…but I’m more like George Blanda. 26 years in the NFL. Craziness. Dude played in 4 decades.

I might not be the best out there, but I have serious experience…so ponder this nugget: Captain a Defensive player and you will increase your chances of winning ‘our’ Super Bowl.

Point 1: The Steelers and Packers D cause turnovers. And Turnovers are InGaming offensive player-killers.

Point 2: BOTH defensive coordinators (Lebeau and Capers) blitz. Oh yeah, two of the premier pass rushers are going to be on the field. There will be sacks in this game. And James Harrison & Clay Matthews won’t be the sack-star either (more to come).

Point 3: Both QBs have been known to take chances.

Point 4: MOST InGamers are going to captain an Offensive player. You captain a d-man and you have a better shot at separating from the field.

So…who am I going to Captain? Honestly still on the fence but here are the players I am still thinking about captaining.

Lamarr Woodley

He’s going to be lining up against a rookie (Bryan Bulaga) in the Super Bowl. Ya think rook will be feeling pressure? Seeing as most teams double Harrison more often, I’m starting to think Woodley is going to be the man this game.

Tramon Williams

He has been playing lights out this post season. He has made a ton of plays and without Pouncey in the line up (he is still questionable but I doubt he plays long even IF he makes it on the field), the Steelers are going to have to pass. He will get his fair share of tackles and a pick-6 is worth 600+ points for a captain. He also returns punts. Tempting

Desmond Bishop

The Steelers are weak up the middle and Capers has liked sending Bishop on blitzes this year. He will have 6+ tackles minimum and has a good shot at a sack and/or a turnover. SNEAKY pick here. I’m a fan.

Sam Shields

Keesje talked about him in an earlier blog post, and I agree with what he thinks on the rookie that stole the show against the Bears. Big Ben will take shots with Mike Wallace and Shields may be the CB placed on him due to his ability to keep up with the speed of Wallace. He will get his shot at making plays, yet again. Plus he returns kicks. Hmmm.

The Hair

Troy Polamalu makes plays. Period. But he doesn’t register a ton of tackles. He is the ultimate risk/reward pick this game…Feeling Lucky?

Harrison/Matthews

The two trendiest D picks for sure. Each guy could have a multiple sack game here and wreak havoc with a big turnover or two BUT I think each team is going to game plan specifically against each guy. That is why I think Woodley/Bishop will be better plays.

Note: I own a Charles Woodson Raiders jersey. I refuse to pick him on principal.

SO…you want a clearer path toward separation on Sunday. Go D.

See you Sunday!

Breaking Down the Goalies - NHL

Any given Saturday night on Star Selector we sit and wonder, is tonight the night I captain a goalie, or select one at all. So I decided to get inside the numbers and see if it makes sense, if in the end are the numbers high enough to warrant picking them. Cause I am sure most people sit and think like I do, is tonight the night the guy gets a shutout, or gets lit up.

What I have tried to provide here are a few things;

- Goalies GAA which provides some insight into the possible negatives

- Shutout % which are the number of shutouts per the number of games over his career. The chance tonight might be a the night

- Average shots per game

GAA

Shutout %

Average Shots per Game

Possible Points

Captain Points

Toronto

Giguere

2.82

6.93%

27.6

67.50

135.0

Buffalo

Miller

2.68

5.43%

29.8

82.00

164.0

Ottawa

Elliott

3.15

7.89%

29.7

69.75

139.5

NYI

Poulin

2.37

0.00%

36.8

124.75

249.5

Edmonton

Khabi

3.45

6.01%

30.5

66.25

132.5

Columbus

Mason

3.30

10.88%

29.1

63.00

126.0

Calgary

Kiprusoff

2.73

7.60%

27.3

68.25

136.5

LA

Quick

2.15

8.50%

26.8

80.25

160.5

Montreal

Price

2.35

4.60%

27.5

78.75

157.5

NYR

Lundqvist

2.31

8.10%

30.4

94.25

188.5

PS - I wish the NHL had more information on Shootout goals, saves and wins
 
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