Eastern Conference Preview- Pittsburgh vs. Boston

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Eastern Conference Final Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Boston Bruins

    As we come down the home stretch in the playoffs, the matchups are becoming much tighter and the stakes are much higher. Every team remaining in the postseason has won a Stanley Cup within the last four years, so the experience is there. On Saturday night, the Penguins and Bruins will face off in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final in Pittsburgh, and it should be one hell of a series. The big bad Bruins will try and impose their will on the skilled Penguins, and the Penguins will try and make the Bruins play defense constantly. Let’s take a look at some of the top storylines to watch in this series.

1. Style vs. Style

This is going to be a series of clashing styles, as the Bruins like to play a physical brand of hockey that sees them send a lot of traffic to the opposition’s net, while the Penguins play a puck possession game in which they want to spend as much time as possible making their opponents play in their defensive zone. Whichever team can establish the style of play that they want faster than the other will have a distinct advantage.

2. The Crosby Effect

It’s a widely accepted fact that the Penguins possess the best player on this planet in Sidney Crosby. Stopping Crosby is nearly impossible, so the best most teams can hope for is to slow him down, and the Bruins will look to do just that. The dilemma that the Bruins face will be how to do it. You can be assured that Zdeno Chara will be in between Crosby and Crosby’s shadow every shift. But Chara has looked tired and a step slow throughout these playoffs, so the Bruins will probably have perennial Selke contender Patrice Bergeron out against Crosby along with Chara on every shift. Enter the Crosby Effect:with your best defensive forward and defenseman out against Crosby, who will be matched up against James Neal,  Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla, and Kris Letang? The Bruins will have to “pick their poison” so to speak as to which line they want to take their chances with. If I were a betting man, I’d say Bergeron and Chara shadow Crosby, and the Bruins will be comfortable with the Nathan Horton-David Krejci-Milan Lucic line to outduel the Neal-Malkin-Iginla combo.

3. Keep Your Cool

Perhaps the biggest key to the series for both teams will be discipline. Because the Bruins like to play a physical brand of hockey, they may be able to goad the Penguins into taking some bad after-whistle and frustration penalties. Malkin and Neal both struggled with this during the regular season. Conversely, because of the skill and speed of the Penguins mixed with their ability to mix it up a little as well, the Bruins will have to watch the hooking and holding penalties. Both teams want to stay out of the box because both teams have been very good, if not great, on the power play this postseason, Likewise, neither team has been overwhelming on the penalty kill. Discipline is a sign of a well-coached team, and both coaches are in the top tier of coaches in this league. Limiting the opponents’ special teams play will also be important as both teams like to roll all four lines to get into the groove of the game. Chances are whoever scores the most special teams goals will win this series.

4. Goaltending, Goaltending, Goaltending

If you have read any hockey article on TheCover4, you’ll probably notice that we believe goaltending to be the biggest factor in any NHL game, and this series will be no different. Quietly, Tomas Vokoun has posted a 6-1 record in this year’s playoffs, with a .941 save percentage, trailing only Jonathan Quick in that department. However, many will give the goaltending advantage to the Bruins and Tuukka Rask. Like every other aspect of each of these two teams, it is very close. Rask has been very good for the Bruins all year, and it is clear that he is their guy between the pipes. On the other end of the rink, you have the aforementioned Vokoun, who took over for the embattled Cup-winning Marc-Andre Fleury midway through the Penguins’ first-round series against the Islanders. Vokoun has been good when called upon, but questions still remain about how long his leash is should he falter a bit. You know Fleury is biding his time and wants to get back in as soon as possible, but which Fleury will the Penguins get if that time comes? The Fleury of their ’09 Cup run? Or the Fleury of the ’12 Flyers series? Hopefully for Pittsburgh fans, they won’t have to find out, and Vokoun will keep up with his solid play.

5. Emotion

Hockey is a very emotional sport and there will be many emotions flowing throughout this series. Both Pittsburgh’s ConsolEnergyCenter and Boston’s TD Garden are tough venues for visiting teams. With Boston still recovering from the tragic Boston Marathon bombing and the subsequent craziness that ensued, the city has rallied behind the Bruins, and the Bruins have reflected the sentiment by wearing “Boston Strong” decals during games and police, fire and armed forces clothing in their postgame interviews. While I’m sure it is not their main motivation, never underestimate that little extra motivation. In addition to that, the Boston players will surely want to make Iginla see the error of his trade deadline choice to nix a trade to Boston, in order to be dealt to Pittsburgh where he felt was his best chance to meet Lord Stanley. In addition to Iginla seeking his first Cup, the Penguins also feature the likes of Neal, Douglas Murray, Brenden Morrow, Jussi Jokinen, Vokoun  and Brandon Sutter all looking for their first Cup victory, so the hunger will still be there for the Pens. Once we get into this series, I am sure you will see some very intense, emotional hockey played.

Who Ya Takin’?

From early into this season, many have been eyeing a Bruins-Penguins Eastern Conference Finals. They have been the two best teams all year in the East and have past experience to help them. Many picture this series going seven games. While at first glance it looks like an even match-up, the Penguins just seem to edge the Bruins in nearly every department: depth, speed, skill, scoring. But the two departments that the Bruins are at least their equal, if not superior, are goaltending and physicality. Luckily for the Bruins, those are two huge departments. As Ottawa showed against Pittsburgh, a good goalie can steal at least one game single handedly. Unfortunately for the Bruins, Craig Anderson in Ottawa is better than Rask, and Rask has yet to see an offensive dynamo like the Penguins. I just don’t think that the Bruins have the players to get it done. The Penguins skill and puck possession will be the difference in this series.

Penguins in 6.

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Pat

Pat Davis
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Your Quarterback is Which Actor?

Your Quarterback is Which Actor?

There are always comparisons between quarterbacks, ranging from Andrew Luck to Peyton Manning or RG3 to Cam Newton. It is quite popular to compare an incumbent to their contemporaries to paint a picture to the public for the future.

Are we going to do that here?  Nope.  In lieu of comparing current NFL quarterbacks to their predecessors, we are going to compare them to actors.  Yes, actors.

For a little appetizer, think of Jamarcus Russell like Lindsay Lohan with all the potential and tools, but caught up in out-of-work trouble. Purple Drink!

Here we go:

NFC East

Eli Manning – Joaquin Phoenix

Both are extremely eclectic people that find ways to put on great performances in crucial times.  They are recognized as the most important person in their biggest career moments.  In Gladiator, Phoenix supported the role of Russell Crowe, much like Manning managed the Giants to their first Super Bowl win.  Next, each person rose to the starring role with Manning guiding the Giants over the Patriots for a second time and Phoenix presenting a remarkable performance in Walk the Line.

Tony Romo – Mark Wahlberg

Ever see someone begin from nothing but, when given their first shot, show such immense potential? Much like Romo, Wahlberg began great with the Italian Job, and continued to show prominence in Invincible and Shooter, but follows up with Ted and The Other Guys.  It is head scratching as much as Tony Romo, but it is undeniable that both men expose themselves to seriously low moments in their career that make you question them.

Michael Vick & Nick Foles – Jackie Chan & Chris Tucker

We have a flashy stunt man, who really does not know how to hone or master his craft (whether it be either acting or quarterbacking).  Their counterpart is serviceable, by carrying the traditional acting techniques, and although either are unproven or average, both Tucker and Foles show flashes of having potential.  Ultimately, neither actor nor quarterback is taken seriously in their profession.

Robert Griffin III – Justin Timberlake

Each person was successful in the early phase of their career, and transferred that into the next level of exposure and immediately succeeded.  RG3 won the Heisman at Baylor and JT went from the front man of Nsync to a prominent solo music career.  At their transition phases, RG3 led his Redskins to the playoffs in his rookie year, and Justin hit the big screen with a splash in The Social Network.  Great things are still to come from these two.

NFC North

Aaron Rodgers – Leonardo DiCaprio

Both of these men are at the top of their respective profession right now and are a must see on the big screen or the football field.  Rodgers continues to get better and better playing the position at such a consistent high level.  Concurrently, Leo manages to remain in elevated form by rolling out Catch Me If You Can, The Departed and Inception just to name a few.

Jay Cutler – Robert Downey Jr.

The overall “I don’t give a $h*!” attitude resemblance between these two is very uncanny.  At the same time, when focused and motivated, Downey and Cutler can put together stretches of absolute brilliance that remind you they are formidable in their respective fields.

Christian Ponder – Josh Hartnett

Essentially, both of these men peaked way too early.  Ponder was drafted well before he should have ever been considered and Hartnett has been on a steady decline since Black Hawk Down.  However, they both have capabilities to present manageable performances with Ponder being efficient and Hartnett with 40 Days and 40 Nights.

Matthew Stafford – Ben Affleck

Affleck and Stafford flourish with talent around them and in the right setting.  Stafford has been fortunate to have Calvin Johnson and numerous weapons to generate his massive yardage seasons.  As much as Affleck has captured us with Good Will Hunting and The Town, he has released some big flops like Gigli and Daredevil, resembling the disgusting sidearm sling Matthew Stafford continually resorts to.

 NFC South

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Matt Ryan – Jeremy Renner

Matt Ryan revitalized a struggling franchise with his first NFL pass going for a touchdown and he has not looked back since.  The same can be said for Jeremy Renner, who really hit us with The Hurt Locker and continued to get better with The Town.  Each of these men is on the rise and aimed for greatness with their professions.

Cam Newton – Gerard Butler

Utterly mind-blowing physical specimens from their initial roles from 300 or Cam’s rookie year, but their dropoff cannot be argued.  It seems both get complacent with their initial success, and relies on their physical tools rather than developing their craft.

Drew Brees – Brad Pitt

Brees’ career began very prominent and flashy in San Diego, which is very reminiscent of Brad Pitt in Fight Club.  Although, each of them went through a dry spell or injury span, they both developed their potential into either a Super Bowl winner or hits with Benjamin Button and Inglorious Bastards.

Josh Freeman – Chris Hemsworth

The physical traits of both men naturally set them above the rest from the beginning. Additionally, they have displayed moments of brilliance in key moments.  Hemsworth separated himself from the bottom feeders of the comic remake world, and lined up multiple runs of Thor.  Freeman has shown to be more than clutch in critical moments leading the volatile Bucs to come from behind wins and fourth quarter drives.

 NFC West

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Alex Smith & Colin Kaepernick – Tobey Maguire & Jesse Eisenberg

Smith came in as a number one overall pick with the expectations to revive a franchise, but failed to do so.  The same result can be seen from Tobey Maguire’s attempt at the Spiderman series; an utter disaster.  Maguire was capable of carrying a movie throughout with Pleasantville or Seabiscuit, but failed to present anything spectacular.  Conversely, Colin Kaepernick has come in a thrived as an absolute star much like Eisenberg in The Social Network.  Look for both Kaepernick and Eisenberg to entertain us for the next generation of professionals.

Russell Wilson – Joseph Gordon Levitt

Levitt’s respectable beginning in TV started with 3rd Rock from the Sun and that can be comparable to Wilson’s stint in minor league baseball, but their adaptation to the professional level has better utterly amazing.  Whether it be Inception, Looper, or leading a Seahawks franchise to the playoffs with utter poise and composure; both of these future stars will be around for a long time to come.

Sam Bradford – Chris Pine Can

Chris Pine showed he was capable of supporting Denzel Washington in Unstoppable and left the public wanting more for the recreated Star Trek franchise.  Similar to Pine, when Bradford gets comfortable and gains weapons around him, the Rams will continue their positive direction to a reputable franchise again.

Kevin Kolb & Crew – Jon Heder, Jon Gries, Aaron Ruell

Coach put Uncle Rico in and we saw how that went….

 AFC East

Tom Brady – Denzel Washington

Thriving in roles with good looks and masterful performances symbolizes these two dynamic personalities perfectly.  Denzel began his career being acclaimed in a supporting role and prospered into a top leading man for an extended duration from Training Day to recently released Flight.  Brady stepped in for an injured Drew Bledsoe and never looked back creating a decade of dominance for the New England Patriots.

Ryan

Ryan Tannehill – Zac Efron

With a limited sample size with one year in college and a rookie NFL year, Ryan Tannehill has shown to have immense potential with absolutely no talent around him.  Looking past Efron’s High School Musical days, he has displayed some notable performances with 17 Again and Charlie St. Cloud by showing he can exceed expectations and carry a movie throughout.  It is early, but both Tannehill and Efron have shown glimpses of having a reputable future in their industries.  Plus have you seen their girl friends or wife?  Bonus points!

Ryan Fitzpatrick – Vince Vaughn

Vince Vaughn’s natural sarcastic humor resembles the intelligence of a Harvard graduate like Fitzpatrick.  Essentially both are serviceable in their industry with spotty high moments, but won’t produce anything award winning.

Mark Sanchez – Colin Farrell

They try so hard but it does not work.  We can equate SWAT to Sanchez’s early years with nice playoffs runs, but it has been a steep decline ever since.  Sanchez tried to be an efficient manager but failed.  Farrell tried to match Brad Pitt’s Troy with Alexander, but that was a disaster.  They will remain in their industries, but will never prevail to anything special.

 AFC North

JoeJoe Flacco – Matt Damon

Damon’s character in the Ocean’s Eleven series represents Flacco beyond a reasonable doubt.  Damon struggled to be acknowledged as a main contributor, but gradually was given more respect as each movie continued.  At the same time, Damon carried an entertaining Bourne series for almost a decade and, although it wasn’t award winning, it was very entertaining.  Flacco has shown utter moments of brilliance in big moments, much like Damon in Good Will Hunting and The Departed.

Andy

Andy Dalton – John Cho

You may know Cho has Harold from the Harold and Kumar series, but he quietly has strung together a few noteworthy performances with American Beauty and Star Trek.  He looks to still be a constant within the revitalized Star Trek series, resembling Dalton’s potential lengthy and serviceable NFL career.  It is hard to tell what each person will ultimately become, but each has shown potential that they can be taken seriously looking forward in their future.

Ben Roethlisberger – Christian Bale

Bale and Big Ben can cause some controversy outside the office, but when focused, they compete to be the best in their fields.  Bale transformed the Batman series and was outstanding in The Fighter, while Roethlisberger led the Steelers to Super Bowl appearances and a victories after years of Tommy Maddox and Kordell Stewart.

Brandon Weeden – David Caruso

This one may be self explanatory.  Both were given a shot at an older age and it may work out for Weeden, but if it does expect nothing more than a Lieutenant Horatio Caine performance in CSI: Miami.

AFC South

Matt Schaub – Alec Baldwin

Neither was intended to take on a leading role at the highest level.  Baldwin is perfect at 30 Rock and Schaub was an effective back-up for an injury prone Michael Vick in Atlanta.  Schaub has never quite lived up to a franchise starting quarterback, much like Baldwin in the main character role of a major motion picture.  Both have had memorable moments from big games to priceless lines in The Departed.

Andrew Luck – Tom Hardy

Luck and Hardy came in with all of the physical and mental tools to be successful from the beginning, and lived up to the hype.  Luck led a 2-14 Colts team to the playoffs and Hardy thrived inInception, Warrior and The Dark Knight Rises.  Future success exudes from both of these professionals in such a short sample size already.

Blaine Gabbert & Jake Locker – Taylor Lautner & Robert Pattinson

Gabbert & Locker have proved they are products of the combine hype and beneficiaries of tremendous arm strength, as their on-field product has not been worthy of first-round draft picks.  Translate the aforementioned sentence to motion pictures, and you have Twilight.  The CFL and ABC Family cannot wait for these guys.

AFC West

Peyton Manning – Tom Hanks

Starting as the number one pick in the NFL draft and winning best actor in a children’s movie just conveys the early success of the methodical and surgical (Trent Dilfer talk) careers for Peyton Manning and Tom Hanks.  Both men bring extremely dedicated and intellectual approaches to their roles transcending generations that made up for any physical deficiencies.

Phillip Rivers – Sam Worthington

Has anyone hit the big screen faster and harder than Sam Worthington?  In the blink of an eye, he starred in Terminator and Avatar, but then dramatically took steps down with Clash of the Titans and Man on a Ledge.  This sounds eerily similar to Chargers’ quarterback Phillip Rivers, with his tremendous start under Marty Schottenheimer to his most recent two season decline.  Both began to enter the “elite” conversation, but have quickly entered the above average.

Carson Palmer – Nicholas Cage

This is one of my favorites.  Cage showed some flashes of brilliance when next to Sean Connery in The Rock similar to Carson Palmer surrounded with weapons in Cincinnati.  Both of them believed themselves to be far more talented than what they really are, but show their true worth either in Oakland or anything Nicholas Cage does.  Cage is veteran garbage like Palmer.

Matt Cassel – Seann William Scott

Do you remember Steve Stiffler from the American Pie series?  He was barely in the first one, but his roles progressively grew in an entertaining fashion.  Unfortunately, Seann William Scott cannot be a lead actor. He was amazing in Role Models because he fed off of Paul Rudd.  The Chiefs gave Cassel the keys to the car and how did that turn out?

 Note from the Chief : I believe this to be one of the coolest and funniest articles I have ever seen. I would appreciate it if you would help us spread the word on this article more-so than others. With the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl upon us, this is a perfect time to bring some excitement to the game. Thank you

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Oh yeah, tell your friends too!

Long Island Sound
Sports Activist for The Cover 4
http://www.facebook.com/thecover4
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