THE BATTLE FOR THE CUP: SECOND ROUND PREDICTIONS

SCF2014What an end to the first round with three game sevens and the end of a beautiful, almost predictable, San Jose collapse – have the Sharks become the ultimate chokers in the playoffs, does this latest epic collapse put the crown on their heads? (Oops, too soon?).

With that said, how did we do in the first round?

We aced the Eastern Conference with the Bruins, Canadiens, Penguins and Rangers all winning, while we split the results in the Western Conference.

The Ducks and Blackhawks won, while the Wild and Kings upset our picks in Game 7 – we were within a MacKinnon goal and a 3-game collapse from a perfect first round.

And without further adieu, we’re onto the second round with the Bruins and Habs kicking things off on Thursday night.

Here are our picks for the second round:

 

 

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins v Montreal Canadiens

Nasty, ugly, brutal, crushing, gut-wrenching, heartbreaking – this second round matchup between North American sports’ most bitter rivals will be all that and so much more.

The playoff history is lopsided in the Habs favor, with them hold a 24-9 series record over their American rivals – but the tide has turned in recent memory, with the Bruins winning in the last two match-ups.

canadiensWe know the goalies are top notch, we know the usual suspects and we know that penalties galore are to be expected – for me, the key to winning could be in who doesn’t retaliate and who manages to keep their tempers under control.

Prediction: Montreal in 6

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Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers

Surviving scares, these two teams managed to make it into the second round but it could have easily been the Blue Jackets against the Flyers – with both teams digging deep to find a way to win.

The biggest difference between these two teams starts in net, with Henrik Lundqvist holding a clear advantage over the calamitous Marc-André Fleury – who single handily did as much as he could to give the Blue Jackets a series win.

All that aside, the Penguins have history on their side and have beaten the Rangers in ever series they’ve met. This time around, Rick Nash and rangerscompany will be looking to take advantage of sloppy defence and weak goaltending to break that goose egg.

For me, the glaring issues in net and the sloppiness will be too much with the Rangers taking advantage and running away with the series.

Prediction: Rangers in 6.

 

Western Conference

Chicago Blackhawks v Minnesota Wild

Balanced scoring and responsible play helped the Wild get past the Avalanche and to be fair, the same could help them sneak by the Blackhawks in the second round.

It may not be enough though, with the Chicago offence on fire after scoring 14 goals in the final four games of their series against the Blues, add in the fact that Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper is questionable and  Ilya Bryzgalov is not the most reliable of goalies, this series could be over before it begins.

hawksI give the Wild credit for knocking off Patrick Roy’s young, inexperience team, but for me the Chicago playoff experience and form make this an easy prediction.

Prediction: Chicago in 6

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Anaheim Ducks v LA Kings

Let’s all take a collective moment and let it out: WHAT THE HELL SAN JOSE!?

Okay, now that we’ve covered that – how about those Kings? Coming back from being down 0 – 3 in a series, the fourth team ever to do that by the way, and stealing the series from the Sharks was impressive – but can they take that momentum and turn it into a Western Final berth?

Anze Kopitar was stellar in the first round and the Kings will ask for more of the same, he’ll have to contend with the likes of Ryan Getzlaf in this round and that should be a fun battle to watch.

For me the big question for this matchup is pretty clear: Goaltending.

Jonathan Quick vs maybe a healthy Frederik Anderson, but perhaps a Jonas Hiller (Without confidence of course….) – Old Brucey will need to decide, but either way the Ducks need a 180 turn around on the goaltending scale.
Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 7.32.13 PMThis is easily the toughest series for me to predict, but I’m going to give the edge to the Kings – maybe it’s their amazing twitter account that wins me over?

Prediction: Kings in 7

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Henry writes about his two passions the Beautiful Game and the Brutal Game – whether you’re a die hard Soccer fan or passionate hockey fan, he’s got you covered. 

You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , where he live tweets about sports far too much.

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CHELSEA v ATLETICO MADRID: Predicting the Starting Lineups

Diego Simeone and Jose Mourinho have kept quiet about their starting lineups leading up to their Champions League semi-final match, while both managers know their magic lineups they both must wait on last minute fitness tests to key players.

For Atletico Madrid they await to hear whether Turan is fit to play, while Chelsea await word on talisman midfielder Eden Hazard, who faces a fitness battle after picking up an injury against Paris St-Germain in their quarterfinal clash.

Chelsea Starting XI

Expect a bit of a shuffle at the back as much maligned left-back Ashley Cole gets a rare start as Cesar Azpilicueta shifts to the right to cover for suspended Ivanovic.

While I fully expect Ramires to be dropped to the bench due to poor form and Luis/Lampard partner in the midfield. With Eden Hazard expected to miss the match, Andre Schurrle gets the nod in the starting lineup.

Up front it’s an easy choice to take Eto’o, despite Ba’s recent hot-streak, it is the Cameroonian striker who has led the line well for Chelsea, creating chances and finishing them off. Don’t be surprised if Ba comes off the bench, while Torres might get some action with a nod to his Atletico past.

 

Atletico Madrid Starting XIScreen Shot 2014-04-21 at 7.13.40 PM

Diego Simeone was worried all week about the health of star Diego Costa, but the coveted striker recovers from a nasty incident with the post to lead the line for Los Rojiblancos.

Costa wasn’t Atletico’s only worry, with influential winger Arda Turan battling a groin injury and missing Friday’s match – he’s expected to make the bench, but don’t expect him to be starting Tuesday. A handful of players can fill his role with Adrian and Garcia the likely few, but with Adrian playing well as of late expect him to get the nod.

The last fear for Simeone was for that of his starting keeper, but with UEFA deciding that Thibaut Courtois is cleared to play Atletico knows they can trust the man between the posts.

 

Henry writes about his two passions the Beautiful Game and the Brutal Game – whether you’re a die hard Soccer fan or passionate hockey fan, he’s got you covered. 

You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , where he live tweets about sports far too much.

MOYES OUT: Where do Manchester United turn next?

hqdefaultDavid Moyes Out?

Apparently the Chosen one is out, or rather soon will be unchosen. Reports coming through media today are that Manchester United’s billionaire owners have finally given up on the David Moyes adventure – looking to sack the Scot in the coming weeks.

Fergie’s chosen one has a woeful 52% winning percentage since taking over at United, winning just 27 games through his first 51 – unacceptable to the Glazers and United Chief Ed Woodward.

David Moyes signed Fellaini in the summer and added Spaniard Juan Mata in the January window, but still has been unable to pull off the results needed and the 2 – 0 loss against Everton this weekend has apparently sealed his fate.

Everyone from Jurgen Klopp to Carlo Ancelotti are linked to the team, maybe even flavour of the month Diego Simeone could be the answer to United’s woes – heck, even some fans are floating the idea of Ryan Giggs stepping away from the field and into the technical area.

Here are my three picks to succeed the unsuccessful successor to Ferguson;

Pep GuardiolaPep-Guardiola

Slim to none chance that the former Barcalona boss gives up on the German dream, on pace for Champions League glory, for non-Champions League football with United. That said, Pep would be a dream signing for United, someone who could inspire a lacklustre lineup and bring a big name behind the bench. Heck, the story lines are already writing themselves when you put the Spaniard up against former rival Mourinho.

What he’s won? La Liga  (3), Copa Del Rey (2), Bundesliga (1), UEFA Super Cup (3), Champions League (2), FIFA Club World Cup (2)

Former Clubs: Barcelona, Bayern Munich

Louis van Gaal LouisvanGaal_210183a

The Dutch coach has been long rumoured to replace Tim Sherwood at much maligned Tottenham, but a tempting move to United may be enough to hijack the Spurs replacement. This is a man who has won and excelled all over the world and could be a perfect manager to right the ship and balance things out before a long-term successor to Ferguson is found. He is the kind of manager United should have looked to in the Summer, someone who can guide the team through a transition.

What he’s won? Eredivisie (4), Champions League (1), La Liga (2), Bundesliga (1), UEFA Cup, UEFA Super Cup (2), Intercontinental Cup, Copa Del Ray

Former Clubs: Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands

Jurgen KloppScreen Shot 2014-04-21 at 9.50.25 AM

Last year’s flavour of the month, Klopp saw his stock rise dramatically last season with Borussia Dortmund’s Cinderella run to the Champions League final and while his side has seen less success this season, he’s seen as an astute tactician. With Bayern’s dominance in the League, I wouldn’t be surprised if he cashes in on a move to England and a chance to prove himself in a league that’s shown (A la Liverpool), that the right manager can turn a mid table side into a Champion.

What he’s won? Bundesliga (2), Champions League Runner Up (1)

Former Clubs: FSV Mainz 05, Borussia Dortmund

For me? Bring in Louis van Gaal for two to three years and transition, then take the time to line up the perfect long-term solution whether it be Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Roberto Martinez or whomever.

Whichever way the hammer falls for Manchester United, David Moyes is running borrowed time and it appears he’s no longer the Chosen One.

Henry writes about his two passions the Beautiful Game and the Brutal Game – whether you’re a die hard Soccer fan or passionate hockey fan, he’s got you covered. You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , where he live tweets about sports far too much.

We’re back!

Slightly drunk, slightly awkward but what a party.

Slightly drunk, slightly awkward but what a party.

A year, it’s been a whole year since I last posted here on The Ignorant Sports Fan.

Last year I was living in Halifax, breaking the Dalhousie Tigers Women’s Hockey hazing scandal and enjoying some love from Deadspin and others – fast forward a year and i’m living in Ontario, writing for Radio and watching it snow in April. Yeah, April.

Oh and somewhere in between I was in the Top 24 for Drafted, celebrated the Halifax Mooseheads win the Memorial Cup, got addicted to board games and went to Jamaica.

Well, i’m back and finally on the horse to get some articles pumping out plus i’m finally launching a podcast, which will be up on itunes shortly.

Here’s to bigger and better things moving forward!

– H

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Henry is a former  writer for Sportstream.ca  and Host of the The Sports Show on 88.1 in Halifax. Now residing in Ontario, You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , where he live tweets about sports far too much.

The Battle for the Cup: First Round Predictions

SCF2014Well, it’s that time of the year again – 16 teams get ready to battle for the ultimate prize in hockey, the Stanley Cup.

Things have returned to normal with a Maple Leafs epic collapse, the Flyers making a crazy signing (Andrew MacDonald six years, $30m? What the hell?) and Canada clinging to slim hopes of the Cup returning North of the border.

So without further adieu, here’s my look at the first round of the playoffs:

 

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins v Detroit Red Wings

Detroit switched over to the East, still makes the playoffs for a 23rd time – should provide a tough matchup for the Bruins? Not a chance. The Red Wings were plagued by injuries, sure they made the playoffs, but not sure Babcock can wizard up a series win against a championship calibre Bruins team.

bruinsIf there is an upset in the first round, it could be in this series – Detroit know how to win against the odds and they managed to do it all season missing key players (Read: Zetterburg, Datsyuk).

Prediction: Bruins win in 6

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Tampa Bay Lightning v Montreal Canadiens

It all starts at the back for the lightning and without Ben Bishop in the lineup, it’s going to be all up-hill against the Canadiens. Jon Cooper says the Bolts could have him back sometime in the series, but how much truth is in that? Price got the monkey off his back in Sochii, showing he can handle the pressure, he’s the difference maker in this series.

canadiensHeck, maybe it’s my blatant patriotism (Yes, Quebec is still part of Canada Folks), but i’m pulling for the Habs to knock back the bolts and head into the second round, after that all bets are off.

Prediction: Habs win in 7

– –

Pittsburgh Penguins v Columbus Blue Jackets

One Word: Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

Actually, if we’re honest, it’s a five game series because Fleury is due to throw up at least one duck in this series. Fedor Tyutin and James Wisniewski will have their hands full with the talent of the top six of Pittsburgh, while Sergei Bobrovsky would need to steal four games for the Blue Jackets to win this series.

penguinsBut it’s not all doom and gloom for Columbus, a team that is heavy on young talent and will look to take the most out of this post season experience.

Prediction: Penguins in 5

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New York v Philadelphia

So many story lines in this series from Alain Vigneault, to Brad Richards, to Vincent Lecavalier – where to start? This series could be a bloodbath and home ice advantage could be the edge as the Rangers have owned the Flyers at Madison Square Gardens. For Brad Richards it can’t possibly be worse than last year’s post season, right? Who ended the playoffs firmly scratched from the lineup. 

rangersSteve Mason is the biggest question mark for me, can he stand tall between the Flyers pipes, or will he get a master class from his opposing number in Henrik Lundqvist?

Prediction: Rangers in 7

 

Western Conference

Anaheim Ducks v Dallas Stars

Speed will be the straw that breaks the camels back in this series, with the camel being the Stars. The duo of Getzlaf and Perry tore up the Stars, while this is the final chance for Selanne to win the Cup, providing a dynamic catalyst for the Ducks this post-season.

I’ve always liked Bruce Boudreau’s shit-kicker attitude and this could be a fun team to watch in a very strong Western Conference (What else is new?). I just don’t see a way for the DucksStars to hang with the big boys in this one, they’ll be lucky to steal a game.

Prediction: Ducks in 5

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San Jose Sharks v LA Kings

Last year the Sharks and Kings battled it out in one of the most exciting playoff series’ (We’re not talking about that team from Toronto today), with Jonathan Quick being stellar and home ice being the winner after it was all said and done.

A physical massacre, everything left on the ice and a hobbled team moving forward for whoever wins, a shame really, with these two championship teams, that someone has to go sharkshome so early. The Sharks have been so close, so many years to really making a splash – for me – this is their year. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logon Couture and Joe Pavelski provide a high-powered offence, that hopefully Antti Niemi can hide behind.


Prediction:
Sharks win in 7.

– –

Colorado Avalanche v Minnesota Wild

There’s no secret that i’m a big fan of Nathan MacKinnon – but the Avs have struggled for consistency up front – and the rookie will need to step up in the playoffs alongside Gabriel Landeskog, Paul Stastny and Ryan O’Reilly, especially without offence catalyst Matt Duchene.

Bryzgalov has filled in nicely for Harding and will be expected to stand on his head to snuff out the Avs, but the Wild have offence if they can start firing – let’s not forget they have avalancheZach Parise, Matt Moulson, Mikko Koivu and veteran Jason Pominville tucked away in Minnesota. All that without mentioning Ryan Suter and Erik Johnson on the backend.

Prediction: Avs sneak this one in 6

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St. Louis Blues v Chicago Blackhawks

With Ryan Miller in net, more offensive power than last season and the highest wins in Franchise history, the Blues are hoping they can overcome injuries to get past the Blackhawks. TJ Oshie, Vladamir Sobotka, Brenden Morrow, Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Tarasenko and David Backes have all been hurt as of late and that doesn’t bode well for the Blues.

The Blackhawks will need their top two to set up, with Kane/Toews not having their usual standout seasons, but the defending Champions have kept their core together and are hawkslooking to repeat. Their biggest question mark remains between the pipes, will Corey Crawford return to his playoff form from last year?

Prediction: Blackhawks in 5.

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Henry is a former  writer for Sportstream.ca  and Host of the The Sports Show on 88.1 in Halifax. Now residing in Ontario, You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , where he live tweets about sports far too much.

Big Horns beat Trojans for Munro Cup

Screen shot 2013-03-10 at 8.51.53 AM

The Big Horns rode their luck late as they won their first Munro Cup Saturday night in three years, in front of a rowdy Residence Crowd.

Despite leading by two goals with less than two minutes to play, the Big Horns were forced to overtime and ultimately a shootout, where Haiden Goltz scored the winner for a 7 – 6 final over the Trojans.

The win snaps a two year losing streak and saw a wild on-ice celebration in front of the hundreds of Big Horns faithful that made the trek to the Halifax Forum.

The ultimate winner of the night was the IWK, who were presented a check for $16,000 by the Residence Charity Face-Off, an organization that has now raised over well over $100,000 through their annual fundraising initiatives.

The Trojans opened the scoring early with goals from Connor Hirtle and Alex Dawson, giving the visitors in Orange a 2 – 0 lead.

It was the last time the Trojans would lead however, as the Big Horns rallied back with four straight goals, including a highlight real goal from Haiden Goltz to make the score 4 – 2 after two periods.

Jonathan Sisokin clawed a goal back for the Trojans to start the 3rd period, but Max Starkman answered back less than 30 seconds later to restore the two goal lead at 5 – 3.

With David Taylor putting on a clinic in net for the Big Horns, Scott Stewart added a goal to make it 6 – 4 with 10:10 left in the game.

In breathtaking fashion Trojans Captain Allison snapped a shot past Taylor, giving his team a chance with just 1:16 left in the game.

Then with the net empty, Kyle Gardiner sent the game into overtime, tying the game up at 6 – 6.

Seemingly exhausted, both teams failed to make their chances count in overtime and the game was destined for a shootout.

In the shootout, the Trojans were unable to beat goaltender Taylor who stopped shots from JJ Allison, Alex Dawson and Connor Hirtle.

Goltz, who had just returned from serving a 10-minute misconduct, slotted the game winner past Spencer Aldred to give the night a spectacular end.

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Henry is a writer for Sportstream.ca  and Host of the The Sports Show on 88.1 CKDU  every Thursday Morning at 9am. You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , where he tweets about sports far too much.

CIS Final 8: Predictions

With Canada’s best University Basketball teams heading over to Ottawa this year to battle it out for National honours, we decided to put together some predictions (Why? Well, why not?).

Mavs Gillis, Henry Whitfield and guest Armaan Ahluwalia from North Pole Hoops threw down their predictions:

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Quarter-final #1: No. 7 Lakehead vs. No. 2 Cape Breton

Armaan: Even though Lakehead has the experience of making nationals for four years in a row they will be without Ryan Thompson due to a lower body injury. I think that even with CIS Defensive POY Greg Carter I think CBU pulls it out. This is the closest game to call in the opening round. CBU by 5

Henry: Jimmy Dorsey under the lights at Scotiabank Place, lots of respect to Lakehead but the Orange Army will put CBU over the top.

Mavs:

Quarter-final #2: No. 6 McGill vs. No. 3 Ottawa 

Armaan: Ottawa is starting to pick up steam and with their near beating of Carleton they can run with anyone in the country, Warren Ward and Johnny B are too much for RESQ champs McGill. Ottawa by 15.

Henry: Tough to look past Ottawa in this one, they should handle McGill and move onto the Semis without too much fuss.

Mavs:

Quarter-final #3:No. 5 Acadia vs. No. 4 UBC

Armaan: This could be the other close match of the day as they have both been in the top half of the rankings for most of the season. UBC led by 5th year guard Doug Plumb will give Acadia everything they can handle.  Acadia puts up a good fight but doesn’t make it past the first round, UBC by 5 points.

Henry:  Acadia has one of the deepest teams heading to Ottawa, look for Klassen to shine on the national stage. Acadia win this one by a single possession.

Mavs:

Quarter-final #4:No. 8 Victoria vs. No. 1 Carleton

Armaan: Carleton is playing like, well Carleton. Need I say anymore? This is however the one time in the tournament that is the best time to try and upset them before they start to build their momentum. Victoria will fight but watch Carleton lock them down as the game goes on. Carleton by 18

Henry: The Ravens are favourites once again, this could turn into a blowout pretty quickly. Carleton moves onto the Semifinals.

Mavs:

Semifinal #1: Winner Game 1 v Game 2

Armaan: No. 2 Cape Breton v No. 3 No. 3 Ottawa   – Yes CBU fans are starting to not like me right now. I think that Ottawa’s dynamic duo of Warren Ward and Johnny B will be fun to watch play against JD3 and company. CBU should have the advantage slightly down low but I think with the Ottawa faithful on hand they take it in a close one.

Henry: CBU v No. 3 Ottawa  – This is going to be a barn burner, but i’m looking at a magical CBU run this year, so Dorsey keeps it churning and CBU punches their ticket to the finals.

Mavs:

Semifinal #1: Winner Game 3 v Winner Game 4

Armaan: No. 4 UBC v No. 1 Carleton – Again Carleton is playing top basketball and once they make it to the semi’s it’s hard to stop them. UBC will throw everything at them but the Ravens will be too much and UBC will be playing for Bronze. Scrubb and Scrubb take over and march onto the final in their hometown.

Henry: No. 5 Acadia  v No. 1 Carleton – Acadia’s run comes to an end, Carleton is just too deep and they’ll be playing for another title Sunday.

Mavs:

Bronze Medal: Loser Semifinal 1 v Loser Semifinal 2

Armaan: No. 2 Cape Breton v No. 4 UBC – Doug Plumb and company push CBU to the bring pulling out a close victory. Cape Breton will make it close and this game is going either way by a basket. UBC takes it, but I think CBU has the fire power to answer back

Henry: No. 3 Ottawa  v No. 5 Acadia  – A medal for the hosts is how this one ends, Ottawa gets a third place finish over Acadia.

Mavs:

Gold Medal: Winner Semifinal 1 v Winner Semifinal 2

Armaan: No. 3 Ottawa  v No. 1 Carleton – This would be the dream final for Ottawa and would do wonders to the hype after all of the great games these teams have played together this season. #1 Carleton even with the crowd split beats their cross town rivals in an amazing game giving Dave Smart and company another McGee trophy, their trophy case might need some expanding.

Henry: No. 2 Cape Breton v No. 1 Carleton – Dave Smart gets another national Championship, picking up his third in a row

Mavs:

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Whichever way the games go, this weekend promises to be another great display of Canadian University Basketball.