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!
 
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