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2012 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions

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Monday, I cited seven games this week that would determine the final standings. I cited predictions from 10 days earlier being obsolete because of new trends around the league.

Friday, I posted new predictions for the final NHL standings only two weeks after my last ones. One of those predictions—the Washington Capitals finishing ahead of the Buffalo Sabres—was so precarious that a regulation road win by the latter over a great team and an overtime loss at home by the former against a non-playoff team has already changed my mind.

Buffalo has caught Washington and is only behind them in the tiebreak. They are hotter and have an easier schedule, so I now see them making up that one point. You might call it flip-flopping, but I call it reassessing the situation—more people should change their minds in the face of new evidence, especially when their original decision was so lacking in conviction.

With that one change now explained, here are my Stanley Cup playoff predictions:

The Pittsburgh Penguins should be favourites to recapture the Stanley Cup in 2012 (photo courtesy Sean's Ramblings blog)

Eastern Conference

  • Pittsburgh over Buffalo in six: Ryan Miller is going to be worn down before the series, much less after facing the best attack in the world. Buffalo is hot, but Pittsburgh may be hotter—Miller can steal one and the Sabres are good enough to win another, but that is all.
  • Boston over Ottawa in five: Ottawa may be the weakest team in the playoffs, “earning” a higher percentage of their points in overtime losses and shootout wins. Their goal differential is terrible. Boston knows what they are doing this time of year, and the only reason they lose one is division rivalry series favour the underdog.
  • New Jersey over Florida in six: Florida will be the softest winner from the softest division in the playoffs, also relying on three-point games for their “success.” New Jersey benefits from them, too, but has better forwards and goaltending, and will give everything they have for one more shot for Martin Brodeur.
  • New York over Philadelphia in seven: Ilya Bryzgalov has not had big-game success. Besides losing in the playoffs, he lost eight straight to the San Jose Sharks when his Phoenix Coyotes could have been division champions two years in a row had he gone merely .500. While he is playing better now, expecting him and his Flyers teammates to shake their playoff woes and beat a team as good in all phases as the Rangers is naive—they play well but fall short.
  • Pittsburgh over New Jersey in six: The Atlantic Division rivalry gives the Devils a win and Martin Brodeur (as well as those playing for him) gets them another, but there is no phase of this game that gives New Jersey an advantage.
  • New York over Boston in seven: The Bruins are not the same team as last season. Their goaltending is not as good and they are not as hungry as New York, who will also be better prepared (though more fatigued) from their first-round series.
  • Pittsburgh over New York in six: The Penguins will have caught the Rangers because they are better when they are fully-staffed. They also have more playoff success to draw from and home ice, more than making up for the “division rival” advantage to the underdog.

Western Conference

  • St. Louis over San Jose in six: St. Louis beat San Jose all four times this season, allowing just three goals. But this team has not been to the playoffs while the Sharks will be playing for their very jobs and are veterans of May hockey—too bad they will not get there this year, because that takes this from a sweep to a six-game series, tops.
  • Vancouver over Dallas in five: Dallas has marginal playoff-team talent while Vancouver may have the most talented team in the world. The #PeskyStars as they are billing themselves will find a way to win one, but no more unless the Canucks are complacent—something they were in every series last season (1-5 with a two-game lead, 2-6 with a one-game lead later than Game 2).
  • Los Angeles over Chicago in seven: Chicago played in a better division and finishes with a better record, but they are not a better team. After the trade for Jeff Carter, the Kings are a new team. They are stronger in net and are hungrier because they have not gotten past the first round in a decade.
  • Nashville over Detroit in six: Detroit is a mess right now, and only they know how much they may be recovered (and rested) from their injuries. Nashville may well be the strongest team in the Western Conference as the playoffs approach.
  • Nashville over St. Louis in six: Western Conference champions just do not get crowned without having been in the playoffs one of the two previous seasons. The Blues know they will be contenders for a long time, while Nashville may be going all-in for their one real chance this year.
  • Vancouver over L.A. in six: As well as the Kings are playing, they are not as deep and may be no better on the blue line after trading away Jack Johnson. Adding Carter certainly did not close the gap at forward, and even their edge in net is questionable. Their desperation was to get out of the first round, not to win the Stanley Cup that Vancouver is running out of time to capture.
  • Nashville over Vancouver in seven: The Preds need this, and they simply have more character than Vancouver (if you do not see character deficiencies in the Canucks, they are outlined at that link). They have been willing themselves to the playoffs every year with a tiny payroll, and will beats skill, especially when the skill is not a large margin.

Stanley Cup Final: Pittsburgh Penguins in six over Nashville Predators. Frankly, the Preds will be worn down enough to make taking two against a team that already knows how to win in June quite an accomplishment. Not only do they have to play 20 playoff games spread over three time zones to get there, but they spend hundreds more hours in the sky during the season. But more importantly, for all their improvements they are still not as talented as Pittsburgh—hunger can only carry a team so far.

MLB

Flyers Remove Statue of Kate Smith

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The Philadelphia Flyers have joined the New York Yankees in the removal of ties to singer Kate Smith, whose famous rendition of “God Bless America” was played at both Flyers and Yankees games.

Earlier this week, the Yankees decided to suspend the use of Smith’s rendition, which was played during the seventh-inning stretch, while they investigated allegations of racism against the later singer.

According to a report from the New York Daily News, there are conflicting claims about Smith’s 1939 song “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” which
originated in the 1931 Broadway revue “George White’s Scandals” and was considered satire but includes racist language, including the line;
“Someone had to pick the cotton. … That’s why darkies were born.”

The song was recorded by Smith and Paul Robeson, who was black.

The Flyers put out the following statement on Sunday (h/t ESPN):

“The Flyers have enjoyed a long and popular relationship with ‘God Bless America,’ as performed by the late Kate Smith, a woman who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor for her patriotic contributions to our nation.

“But in recent days, we learned that several of the songs Kate Smith performed in the 1930s include lyrics and sentiments that are incompatible with the values of our organization, and evoke painful and unacceptable themes.”

Smith, who was popular during the WWII era, recorded the offensive jingle, “Pickaninny Heaven,” which she directed at “colored children” who should fantasize about an amazing place with “great big watermelons,” among various other treats. 

Smith also endorsed the “Mammy Doll” back in 1939 which was based on a racist caricature of a black woman similar to Aunt Jemima.


“The Yankees have been made aware of a recording that had been previously unknown to us and decided to immediately and carefully review this new information,” a club spokesman said. “The Yankees take social, racial and cultural insensitivities very seriously. And while no final conclusions have been made, we are erring on the side of sensitivity.”

The odds aren’t good that Smith’s songs will return to their prominent places during sporting events such as they were with the Yankees and the Flyers.

There is a lot of cleaning up to do when it comes to racism in sports, and weeding out songs attached to artists with questionable, and controversial, backgrounds such as Smith’s, is important in pushing forward towards the future.

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The New World of Sports Betting in the United States

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Earlier this year a monumental breakthrough was achieved when the United States Supreme Court ruled against the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, known as PASPA, allowing each state in the nation to decide if it wants to allows legal sports betting or not.

That led the nation, and all of the states, on a new path, with a lot of lucrative opportunities in an industry that has operated underground for decades.

With casinos and eSports thriving, sports betting adds a brand new element to the gambling industry and presents one of the richest outlets for businesses, the government, and the nation.

There will likely be a boost in employment rates, a growth spike in business, and an influx of money that no longer has to be hidden from the eyes of the government.

As of now, a number of states have already started their journey, and another, Utah, has decided not to act on the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of sports betting, opting to maintain their stance on forbidding sports betting, at least for the time being.

As the world of sports, eSports, and gambling embark on this industry shifting journey, let’s take a deeper look at what has been going down so far, and what is in store for the sports betting industry, thanks to an info graphic from NJGames.org.

The info graphic will take a look into the impact that sports betting legalization is expected to make on the nation’s economy.

The info graphic takes into account that the United States’ gambling industry already generates around $28 billion. The legalization of ports betting legalization is expected to increase tat number dramatically.

Additionally, sports betting operations will also result in a higher number of jobs, and the info graphic will provide you with an estimated number of both direct and indirect jobs that will open with the introduction of sports betting.

As the fantasy football season is ready to kick off for many of you, we should start seeing a lot of changes to the sports betting landscape and it will be interesting to see just how companies in fantasy sports navigate through the implementation of these changes.

The future of the sports betting industry seems bright, and there seems to be quite the trickle down effect that will have an immediate benefit to numerous industries.

Whether you’re ready or not, legalized sports betting is on the way, if it hasn’t arrived in your state already, and big things are on the horizon.

 

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NHL

Capitals owner Ted Leonsis Pays for 200 Employees to go to Stanley Cup Final Games

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Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis is celebrating the team’s first trip to the Stanley Cup Final for the 1st time in 20 years in a special way.

According to the Washington Post, Leonsis surprised 200 employees of Monumental Sports & Entertainment with tickets and a chartered flight to Vegas for the first leg of the Stanley Cup Final.

The employees were chosen based off how closely they work with the Capitals, as well as seniority, and they received an email last week from a senior VP that had the subject line: “Let’s go to Vegas.”

The selected employees received tickets to Games 1 & 2.

“It’s truly amazing and out of this world,” Omar Castro, a guest relations manager, said.

“I never expected an owner of the company to do this. We get to share in this with them. … He’s thinking of us as part of a family, as part of the experience. There’s no reason for him to do it. All I can say is a big thanks to Ted and his family for the opportunity, and for truly making this into something memorable for all of us here in the company.”

Not only did Leonsis provide tickets, but he also organized two chartered flights and is putting the employees up at the Excalibur.

 

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