Archive for April 2012

2012 NBA Playoff Preview

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Western Conference

(1) San Antonio Spurs vs (8) Utah Jazz

What a season for the San Antonio Spurs. With the shortened season and games pretty much every other day, many thought the older Spurs may face some difficulties. But with great coaching from Gregg Popovich, and an incredible year from Tony Parker, they’re the best team in the Western Conference. However, they do face a dangerous team in the Utah Jazz who will be looking to build off great seasons from Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap, and Al Jefferson to give the Spurs some trouble. I wouldn’t expect the Spurs to get upset as they did last year, but I think Utah is going to give them some trouble in the paint, as Jefferson has been a beast down low this year, and Tim Duncan’s body is far from what it used to be. That being said, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli look as good as ever, so I see them moving on after a great first round series.

Prediction: Spurs in 6

(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (7) Dallas Mavericks

It seems like once again we’re going into the NBA playoffs not giving the Dallas Mavericks any respect. However, this is not the same team that won the championship last year, and unfortunately, they’re facing who are many people’s pick to make the finals in the Thunder. Dirk does look good once again after really struggling out the gate this season, but even as good as Dirk can be, this conference belongs to Kevin Durant – oh yeah, and Russell Westbrook’s pretty good too.

Last playoffs we saw a lot of controversy in the amount of shots Westbrook was taking in comparison to Durant. However, Westbrook looks to have matured quite a bit, and despite still shooting more than Durant, things seem just fine as they are averaging a combined 51.6 points per game. Dirk will be able to steal a game, but I think that might be it.

Prediction: Thunder in 5

(3) LA Lakers vs (6) Denver Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets don’t have any real superstars, but coach George Karl seems to have his team bought in as once again the Nuggets make the playoffs after a surprisingly solid season. On the other hand, the Lakers – who many counted out before the season began…cough cough Bill Simmons cough – have had a very respectable year with Kobe placing second in the scoring race, and Andrew Bynum playing like a beast for most games, and a bonehead for the rest. If Kobe shoots a bit less and feeds the beast that is Andrew Bynum, this will be a short series. But if he decides to take every shot…well, it’s Kobe, and I they’ll still probably win. Kobe doin’ work.

Prediction: Lakers in 5

(4) Memphis Grizzlies vs (5) LA Clippers

This series has the potential to be the most exciting series of the first round. From the moment the lockout ended until now, the Clippers have been one of the most talked about teams in the NBA. With the addition of Chris Paul to a team built on the freak talent that is Blake Griffin, there’s a lot to like about this team. And despite having a less than spectacular season with plenty of ups and downs, the Clippers are back in the playoffs.
Unfortunately for them, they face the Memphis Grizzlies who have only gotten better since their very respectable playoff run last season, and they look like one of the most dangerous teams in the league. In terms of depth, there may be no one deeper than the Grizz, and if their key bigs Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol play as dominant as they did last post-season, then this Clippers team is in trouble. However the Grizzlies need to get past one huge obstacle: Chris Paul. CP3 is a maniac in the playoffs and has shown that when he turns it on he can single-handedly beat any team in the league. Thankfully for the Grizzlies, they have arguably the best perimeter defender in the league in Tony Allen, and Ohio State alumni, Mike Conley Jr. has really started to come into his own on both ends of the floor and may be able to somewhat contain Paul when Allen is resting or in foul trouble. However, I still expect a few of those lights-out games from Chris Paul, but unfortunately I don’t think it will be enough.   

Prediction: Grizzlies in 7

Eastern Conference

(1) Chicago Bulls vs (8) Philadelphia 76ers

Last year, the Chicago Bulls were riding a lot of hype going into the playoffs. Derrick Rose was cruising towards his first MVP trophy, they finished with the best record in the NBA, and many had them as the favorite to win it all. Last year didn’t end up being everything they hoped for, but this year they’re going into the playoffs being looked at a bit differently. Even with Rose missing a large chunk of the season, the Bulls are tied with the Spurs for the best in the league. The difference is, nobody is really talking about them this time around. The Bulls are most likely enjoying their rare underdog status, however that won’t kick in until they potentially face the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. As for right now, they face the 76ers, who have stumbled into the playoffs after a great start to the season. The 76ers will be out matched in every aspect of this series, and I don’t expect them to do much damage to a Bulls team that will be playing with a championship-or-bust attitude in these playoffs.

Prediction: Bulls in 4

(2) Miami Heat vs (7) New York Knicks

There is so much to look forward to in this series that I desperately hope it isn’t a sweep. If you were to ask me (a Knicks fan) two months ago if the Knicks had a hope in winning even a game against this Heat team I would say “absolutely not.” But, there is no denying how good the Knicks have looked since Mike D’Antoni quit the team and Mike Woodson took over. Carmelo Anthony has been lights out, Iman Shumpert and Landry Fields have been playing great on both ends of the floor, and we’ve seen the emergence of the legend that is Steve Novak. Many thought that once Jeremy Lin went down, so would their playoff chances, but this team has adapted to change very well and looks like a brand new team. All that being said, the Heat will be playing with a chip on their shoulder from last year, and LeBron James has had one of the greatest statistical seasons of all time, so the Knicks will be in trouble. Unfortunately I expect LeBron to simply play too well for the Knicks to handle, and although they may be able to steal a couple of games, the Heat seem to once again be the team to beat this post-season.

Prediction: Heat in 6

(3) Indiana Pacers vs (6) Orlando Magic

Believe it or not, this might be the most lopsided match-up of the first round. The Pacers have had a great season and have played consistently well all season long. The Magic have been a nightmare, thanks entirely to Dwight Howard. Howard has reached LeBron James status in terms of being hated, and with the distraction he causes to his team I’m not sure if his season-ending back injury is a bad thing or a good thing for the Magic. But then I remember how good of a basketball player Howard is despite his boneheadedness, and it’s clear this is going to be rough for the Magic. They don’t have anyone who can create their own shots, and without Howard they don’t really have much of an identity. The Pacers are deep, and unlike the Magic, they play well as a team. This series says sweep all over it.

Prediction: Pacers in 4

(4) Boston Celtics vs (5) Atlanta Hawks

Over the past few seasons everyone seems to share two opinions about the NBA playoffs: The Celtics are too old, and the Hawks won’t make it past the first round. In this series, something’s gotta give. And with the way the Celtics have been playing (which has been very well), it looks like the Hawks won’t make it past the first round. Kevin Garnett has had a great year, especially defensively, and despite a Dirk-like start to the season (as in seemingly out of shape), Paul Pierce is playing like he should, as one of the best players in the league. Rajon Rondo still can’t shoot, but he’s still one of the most talented players in this league, and I would not be surprised to see a memorable triple-double from him at some point in this series. As for the Hawks, they’re still very dependent on the extremely overrated and overpaid Joe Johnson, so obviously things aren’t looking good for them.

Prediction: Celtics in 5

2012 First Round Western Conference Playoff Predictions

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(1) Vancouver Canucks vs (8) Los Angeles Kings

I hate the Vancouver Canucks. I’ve never disliked a hockey team more in my entire life. But unfortunately, they still have a good enough team to win the Presidents Trophy this season, and they still have a team who is a Stanley Cup contender. Their opponents, the Los Angeles Kings, have been one of the leagues biggest underachievers this season, finishing eighth with a team that should be atop the conference standings.  But, they made it to the playoffs, and as we’ve seen time and time again, anything can happen in the NHL post season. If the Kings can get their very talented forwards Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Anze Kopitar to step up and score goals, they have a chance. They also will be heavily relying on probable Vezina candidate in Jonathan Quick to stand on his head against the incredibly deep Canucks. And if we’ve learned anything about the Vancouver Canucks and their fan base, there will certainly be a goalie controversy by game five in this series. I hope I’m wrong, but the Canucks depth will prevail, but this has the makings to be a solid series.

Prediction: Canucks in 7

(2) St Louis Blues vs (7) San Jose Sharks

The St Louis Blues have been a great story this year. Led by their coach, Ken Hitchcock and great play from their goalie Brian Elliot, this young and fast team has managed to take the league by storm, grabbing the two seed in a solid Western Conference. The Sharks on the other hand, have been less than impressive, and it seems like they are on the verge of a retooling in the near future. However, with their very capable forwards Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Logan Couture, along with playoff performers such as Joe Pavelski, Ryan Clowe, and Antti Niemi, it looks like the Sharks still have one last run in them. They’ve never been able to get it done in the big games, but I think you will see the Sharks play with more urgency than ever before and take down the great story that is the St Louis Blues.

Prediction: Sharks in 6

(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs (6) Chicago Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks are a deceiving team. With players of the likes of Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook, you always want to pick them to win games. But when you really take a look at their team, that’s all they really have. No matter which way you swing it, this is not a deep team, and their opponents, the Phoenix Coyotes, have them beat in the depth department. They also have the advantage in goaltending with Mike Smith being the key reason why the Coyotes are where they are today. Goaltending can win or lose a series, and I think Smith will hold off the dynamic scorers on the Blackhawks in a tight and entertaining series.

Prediction: Coyotes in 6

(4) Nashville Predators vs (5) Detroit Red Wings

In what feels like the hardest series to predict, the division rivals Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators will be facing off in what surely will be a fun series to watch. Both teams have been great at home, especially Detroit who continues to make the Joe Louis Arena one of the most feared buildings in the league. However, it is the Predators who managed to take the forth seed and with it will come home ice advantage. The Predators are the same type of team they have been for the last ten years, with no major superstars on offence, but instead just players who have bought into a system, a defensive core worth bragging about, and very impressive goaltending. The Red Wings on the other hand, are very deep, and with two of the most complete players in the league in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg being healthy and playing well, they will be tough to beat. A couple hours ago I was picking Detroit, but I think without the home ice advantage, there will be room for the Preds to pull it out. This is the only pick of this first round where I’m using my heart instead of my head. I regret nothing.

Prediction: Predators in 7

2012 First Round Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions

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(1) New York Rangers vs (8) Ottawa Senators

After years of overpaying for free agents and trading for washed up superstars, the New York Rangers have finally put together a Stanley Cup contender. With the second best record in the league, the Rangers have been the most consistent team in the league this year, with the main reason being the play of ensuing Vezina candidate Henrik Lundqvist. The Sens on the other hand, have exceeded all expectations by even making the playoffs. And like they have all season, they will be relying on Jason Spezza to build off a stellar regular season to an equally solid playoff campaign. As great of a story the Sens have been, they are no match for Lundqvist and the strikingly deep Rangers.

Prediction: Rangers in 5

(2) Boston Bruins vs (7) Washington Capitals

Last year, the Boston Bruins out-muscled and out-matched their opponents to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1972. The Bruins were fast and tough, and they have essentially the same team as they did last season. The Capitals have kept a fairly similar line-up as well, but have vastly underachieved this year. The most notable of this underachievement is that of forward Alexander Ovechkin, who has looked like a shell of his old self despite scoring 38 goals this season. But he has been great lately, and if he can regain his former flare then this is going to be a great series. And I think he will. But unfortunately for the Caps, the Bruins are so deep. With Tyler Seguin emerging as an all-star this season, this Bruins team is a better team than last year. It won’t be a cakewalk, but I expect the Bruins to move on.

Prediction: Bruins in 7

(3) Florida Panthers vs (6) New Jersey Devils

In what looks like it will be the least exciting series of the playoffs, the superstar-less Southeast Division champion Florida Panthers take on the notoriously boring New Jersey Devils. Winnipeg Jets fans have seen a lot of the Panthers this year, and despite having any notable superstars, they’ve put together a respectable season. Lead by the ageless wonder Patrik Elias and a great second half from Ilya Kovalchuk, the Devils have more firepower than the Panthers, and it will show in this series.

Prediction: Devils in 6

(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs (5) Philadelphia Flyers

You don’t like hockey if you’re not excited for this series. The Flyers look a lot different this season with the additions of Ilya Bryzgalov, Wayne Simmonds, and the legendary Jaromir Jagr to name a few, but they also gave up their captain in Mike Richards, and one of their leading scorers in Jeff Carter. That being said, they’ve looked great this season, and would arguably have one of the best records in the league if it weren’t for the injuries they’ve had to endure to key players. It should also be noted that Flyers forward Claude Giroux has turned into one of the top players in the league with 93 points this season despite suffering a mid-season concussion. The Penguins on the other hand, have arguably the best two players in the league in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and when the two of them are healthy this is an extremely dangerous team. As much as I like these new look Flyers, the Penguins are so deep, and with Crosby playing the way he is right now, I don’t see how any team can knock them off. This is going to be fun. Oh yeah, and they did this last week…

Prediction: Penguins in 7

I assume some of you disagree with these picks, and that's fine. Let me know in the comments what you think. And stay tuned for when I post my Western Conference picks tomorrow. 


My Experience at "Dionysus in Stony Mountain" (CreComm Assignment)

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I love to be entertained. I watch a lot of television, I love movies, if you’ve been reading my blog you’ll know I like music, and lately I’ve even started to enjoy reading a good book. But ever since my days of drama class in high school, I’ve never really gotten back into enjoying theatre. Unfortunately after seeing Dionysus in Stony Mountain by Steven Ratzlaff, I’m not back on the wagon – but it’s not his or the actors fault.

The play had two acts: the first being a meeting between a prison psychiatrist named Heidi Prober (played by Sarah Constible) and her patient, James Hiebert (played by Ross McMillan), and the second being a conversation between Heidi and her uncle Eric who was also played by McMillan.

I will start out by saying that Constible and McMillian were incredibly impressive in this play. Both acts were extremely dialogue heavy containing extensive quotations of the famously complex Friedrich Nietzsche, as well as the Bible, and other lines filled with technical jargon and complicated pronunciations. I don’t understand how they were able to memorize as many lines as they did, and this play gave me a newfound respect for the brain capacity of actors in theatre. Not once did I notice either actor stumbling on any words or forgetting their lines for even a split second. And to top it off, their facial expressions were relevant and on point throughout, which means they knew exactly what their counterpart was saying as well.

This brings me to why I didn’t particularly like the play personally. It was not because it wasn’t well written, because it was. It wasn’t because the actors weren’t solid, because they were. It was simply because it was over my head. I tried very hard to keep up with the complexity of what was being thrown at me, but the only lines I was able to grab hold of were the biblical and Mennonite references from my personal experience. Unfortunately I wasn’t caught up with the context at that point so even a lot of that blew past me.

However, like I said, I do not fault anyone involved in the play for my confusion. I really don’t think I’m the target audience, and so it was difficult for me to relate. But, I think if I were to see it again I might catch on to more of it and it might be more engaging for me.

That being said, I do not give up on theatre. This play has actually given me a craving to see something else that would be more fitting to my interests, because it has really given me so much respect for the people who put on these shows.

So I guess although my experience was a confusing one, it was still relatively positive, and I certainly tip my hat to the people who put on Dionysus in Stony Mountain.

Sports Media Frenzy

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I'm not a journalist, but I could imagine that some days it's an incredibly hard job. Having to think of story ideas day in and day out feels like a nightmare to me. But I would also imagine that some days, the stories just come to you. And Thursday, April 5, was one of those days in sports journalism.

The whole New Orleans bounty story has been going on for weeks now, and has been one of the hottest NFL stories we've seen in a while. To make a long story short, former New Orleans Saints assistant coach, Gregg Williams, was accused of organizing a bounty system for his team which encouraged injuring their opponents for cash reward. He's been suspended indefinitely, and even the Saints head coach, Sean Payton, was suspended for the entire upcoming season. To add salt on to the wound that is Williams indefinite suspension, the following audio was released yesterday morning (Warning: the clip contains graphic and vulgar language):

For those of you following the NBA, Orlando Magic centre Dwight Howard, has been causing a stir amongst his team as he has been confiding in the media about whether or not he's going to be staying with his team or not when he becomes a free agent. Before the trade deadline there were dozens of rumours that had him going to several different teams, however the deadline came and went and Howard remains on the Orlando Magic. However, it was rumoured that Howard has asked  management to fire head coach Stan Van Gundy, and yesterday, Van Gundy confirmed to the media that these rumours were true. What followed that may very well be the most awkward interview I've ever seen.

Thursday evening seemed to be business as usual, that was until the Pittsburgh Penguins faced off against the New York Rangers. After Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik delivered a dirty knee-on-knee hit to the Rangers Derek Stepan, Rangers coach John Tortorella had a few choice words. But not for Orpik, but for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. This one isn't all that strange considering Tortorella's past, but a story all the same.

To top it off, at the end of the night San Jose Sharks forward, Ryane Clowe, did this:

Have I mentioned that I love sports?