Stanley Cup Final Preview – Boston Bruins vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Stanley Cup Final 2013 Boston Bruins vs. Chicago Blackhawksbruins-vs-blackhawks

  • Game 1-Wed June 12 Boston @ Chicago 8 p.m. (EST) NBC
  • Game 2-Sat June 15 Boston @ Chicago 8 p.m. (EST) NBCSN
  • Game 3-Mon June 17 Chicago @ Boston 8 p.m. (EST) NBCSN
  • Game 4-Wed June 19 Chicago @ Boston 8 p.m. (EST) NBC
  • Game 5-Sat June 22 Boston @ Chicago 8 p.m. (EST) NBC
  • Game 6-Mon June 24 Chicago @ Boston 8 p.m. (EST) NBC
  • Game 7-Wed June 26 Boston @ Chicago 8 p.m. (EST) NBC

Here we are hockey fans; the Series is upon us. Today, the Stanley Cup Final gets started in Chicago and, as hockey fans, we should be in for a treat. Both teams enter the series on incredible tears with Chicago going 7-1 in its last 8 games, and Boston boasting a 9-1 record in its last 10 contests. Both teams were top choices from the outset of the season to make it this far, but the paths have been very unique. Chicago is fresh off of a President’s Trophy-winning regular season, and is primed to cause damage to the scoreboard in the Final. Boston will have an idea of its own, fresh off its shockingly dominant sweep of the mighty Pittsburgh Penguins. Let’s take a look at some keys to this series and what to anticipate.

1. These Teams Are Good

Obviously at this point of the season it goes without saying that the two best teams are left standing. Both teams have been nearly unstoppable in the playoffs, and for good reason. They are both built to win now. Both teams feature great coaching in Claude Julien for Boston and Joel Quenneville for Chicago. Both coaches were the coaches for these teams the last time each won the Stanley Cup, so they are battle tested. Although neither team’s goaltender has won the Cup as a starter, both have been fantastic this year, and both will look to continue to excel in the Final. Also, both teams will roll four lines throughout the series, and rely on depth scoring to lift the silver challis at the end of the series.

2. The Bad Boys

Boston did a great job last series of using physical play, and the mental challenges that accompany it, to its advantage last round against Pittsburgh. Entering the series, one of the questions was how Pittsburgh’s stars would respond to the in-your-face physical style that the Bruins play, and the answer was loud and clear: two goals in four games for the mighty Penguins. Players like Shawn Thorton, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and Brad Marchand goaded the Pens into bad penalties and loss of focus at times, and you can believe they will look to do the same to Chicago’s stars. That is why the aforementioned players for the Bruins, and their counterparts in Chicago will be huge factors in the outcome of this series. Guys like Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw will have to walk that thin line that, as agitators, they always walk. The Penguins did not have an answer for the Bruins, but Chicago might. Shaw and Bickell will have to keep their cool and try and get under the big boys for Boston’s skin, without taking bad penalties. It should be one of the more interesting “game within the games” of this series.

3. Star Power vs. Team Power

Like the Penguins, Chicago boasts elite high end talent with the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp in the lineup, and like with the Penguins, Boston will have to have a direct gameplan to shut these guys down. The first key is to not put the star power on the power play, and when they do, if Boston can blank the Hawks on the PP as they did with Pittsburgh. That will go a long way to helping the B’s win. Boston may not lean on one particular player, but they certainly rely on a team and getting contributions from up and down the lineup. The Penguins and Rangers had no answer for the Lucic-David Krejci-Horton line, but the Bruins still relied on the likes of Patrice Bergeron, Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid to advance. Look for Boston to implement a similar game plan against Chicago to neutralize its stars.

4. Goaltending, Goaltending

At this point, I am not sure why we even talk about it, but it is too crucial to not mention. Both goalies have their name on the Stanley Cup already, but neither was the starting goalie when their respective teams won. Tuukka Rask would love to take over this series as some feel he did against Pittsburgh last round, but I feel that Boston’s defensive gameplan and execution were a bigger factor than Rask’s goaltending last series. There is no doubt he will have to be as good as he has been, if not better, to stop Chicago. Corey Crawford played behind Antti Niemi when Chicago won the Stanley Cup in 2010, and has had a sensational season this year, but many are claiming it is because of the team in front of him. This will be his moment to prove that he is The Man, especially with making a dominant Jonathan Quick look fairly pedestrian last series versus Los Angeles a not so distant memory. It will presumably be a close, tight checking series in which the first goal will be HUGE in every game. There will be no room for error for either netminder and this will nearly certainly be the difference maker in this series.

____________________________________________________________________________

Prediction:

Chicago is not the Pittsburgh Penguins, and are the President’s Trophy winners for a reason. Its speed, skill, and grit will be too much for the Bruins to handle. Chicago in six.

Stanley Cup Final Preview- Boston Bruins vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Stanley Cup Final 2013 Boston Bruins vs. Chicago Blackhawks

bruins vs blackhawks

  • Game 1-Wed June 12 Boston @ Chicago 8 p.m. (EST) NBC
  • Game 2-Sat June 15 Boston @ Chicago 8 p.m. (EST) NBCSN
  • Game 3-Mon June 17 Chicago @ Boston 8 p.m. (EST) NBCSN
  • Game 4-Wed June 19 Chicago @ Boston 8 p.m. (EST) NBC
  • Game 5-Sat June 22 Boston @ Chicago 8 p.m. (EST) NBC
  • Game 6-Mon June 24 Chicago @ Boston 8 p.m. (EST) NBC
  • Game 7-Wed June 26 Boston @ Chicago 8 p.m. (EST) NBC

Here we are hockey fans; the Series is upon us. Today, the Stanley Cup Final gets started in Chicago and, as hockey fans, we should be in for a treat. Both teams enter the series on incredible tears with Chicago going 7-1 in its last 8 games, and Boston boasting a 9-1 record in its last 10 contests. Both teams were top choices from the outset of the season to make it this far, but the paths have been very unique. Chicago is fresh off of a President’s Trophy-winning regular season, and is primed to cause damage to the scoreboard in the Final. Boston will have an idea of its own, fresh off its shockingly dominant sweep of the mighty Pittsburgh Penguins. Let’s take a look at some keys to this series and what to anticipate.

1. These Teams Are Good

Obviously at this point of the season it goes without saying that the two best teams are left standing. Both teams have been nearly unstoppable in the playoffs, and for good reason. They are both built to win now. Both teams feature great coaching in Claude Julien for Boston and Joel Quenneville for Chicago. Both coaches were the coaches for these teams the last time each won the Stanley Cup, so they are battle tested. Although neither team’s goaltender has won the Cup as a starter, both have been fantastic this year, and both will look to continue to excel in the Final. Also, both teams will roll four lines throughout the series, and rely on depth scoring to lift the silver challis at the end of the series.

2. The Bad Boys

Boston did a great job last series of using physical play, and the mental challenges that accompany it, to its advantage last round against Pittsburgh. Entering the series, one of the questions was how Pittsburgh’s stars would respond to the in-your-face physical style that the Bruins play, and the answer was loud and clear: two goals in four games for the mighty Penguins. Players like Shawn Thorton, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and Brad Marchand goaded the Pens into bad penalties and loss of focus at times, and you can believe they will look to do the same to Chicago’s stars. That is why the aforementioned players for the Bruins, and their counterparts in Chicago will be huge factors in the outcome of this series. Guys like Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw will have to walk that thin line that, as agitators, they always walk. The Penguins did not have an answer for the Bruins, but Chicago might. Shaw and Bickell will have to keep their cool and try and get under the big boys for Boston’s skin, without taking bad penalties. It should be one of the more interesting “game within the games” of this series.

3. Star Power vs. Team Power

Like the Penguins, Chicago boasts elite high end talent with the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp in the lineup, and like with the Penguins, Boston will have to have a direct gameplan to shut these guys down. The first key is to not put the star power on the power play, and when they do, if Boston can blank the Hawks on the PP as they did with Pittsburgh. That will go a long way to helping the B’s win. Boston may not lean on one particular player, but they certainly rely on a team and getting contributions from up and down the lineup. The Penguins and Rangers had no answer for the Lucic-David Krejci-Horton line, but the Bruins still relied on the likes of Patrice Bergeron, Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid to advance. Look for Boston to implement a similar game plan against Chicago to neutralize its stars.

4. Goaltending, Goaltending

At this point, I am not sure why we even talk about it, but it is too crucial to not mention. Both goalies have their name on the Stanley Cup already, but neither was the starting goalie when their respective teams won. Tuukka Rask would love to take over this series as some feel he did against Pittsburgh last round, but I feel that Boston’s defensive gameplan and execution were a bigger factor than Rask’s goaltending last series. There is no doubt he will have to be as good as he has been, if not better, to stop Chicago. Corey Crawford played behind Antti Niemi when Chicago won the Stanley Cup in 2010, and has had a sensational season this year, but many are claiming it is because of the team in front of him. This will be his moment to prove that he is The Man, especially with making a dominant Jonathan Quick look fairly pedestrian last series versus Los Angeles a not so distant memory. It will presumably be a close, tight checking series in which the first goal will be HUGE in every game. There will be no room for error for either netminder and this will nearly certainly be the difference maker in this series.

____________________________________________________________________________

Prediction:

Chicago is not the Pittsburgh Penguins, and are the President’s Trophy winners for a reason. Its speed, skill, and grit will be too much for the Bruins to handle. Chicago in six.

____________________________________________________________________________

Thank you for reading The Cover 4! Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook & Twitter.

Oh yeah, tell your friends too!

Pat

Pat Davis
Sports Activist for The Cover 4
http://www.facebook.com/thecover4
http://www.twitter.com/thecover4

ESPN – Blinded By The Light

ESPN

Why do we constantly talk about Tim Tebow?  Are LeBron James and Jay Cutler really such bad people?  Are the NFL personal foul calls that terrible?  These are just some of the questions that have been asked redundantly, skewed, or answered by ESPN and other sports networks in such a way that creates the image now perceived by the public.

The majority of the public does not recognize ESPN is owned by Disney, which is a business with the ultimate goal of making money. The purpose of this article is not to detract from ESPN’s success or prominence, but to enlighten viewers to their ulterior motives and recommend alternative outlets.

As most of us know, any television network’s success is driven by advertisements that are dependent on ratings.  ESPN is crafty in its way of creating ratings and the main technique it utilizes is creating controversy amongst all sports.  To enhance viewership, they present ruffles within the most highly watched sport at the most scrutinized position — the quarterback.  What other person to plug relentlessly than Tim Tebow?

Tim Tebow is a pop culture and  sports marketing god that carries a fan base similar to that of a boy band.  Try asking a diehard Backstreet Boys fan what they think of Nsync.  Tebow carries a following in person and on Twitter, similar to a cult. Daily, notorious ESPN troll Skip Bayless sets the controversial tone by shoving Tebow in your face, driving the pop culture icon to the front pages, causing unfair media questions and scrutiny upon his incumbent.  Theoretically, Tebow is Super Mario after eating the mushroom; however, those mushrooms are not permanent, and no one wants Tebow when his mushroom wears off.

Educated people within the NFL circle recognize the above, but still continue to publicly loathe the discussion.  How many times do you hear one of your friends say, “I can’t stand Skip Bayless!”?

Ever wonder why we think of LeBron and Jay Cutler the way we do?  Where is the origin of their disapproval?  First, LeBron held the most pompous press conference announcing his decision with one of the greatest lines in sports of the twenty-first century: “I’m taking my talents to South Beach.”  The event and phrase itself deserved at least a few months of scrutiny.  On top of the initial pressure of being the most highly touted player coming into the league in history, LeBron held his press conference creating ESPN’s dream scenario (insert conspiracy theory here).  Not only did ESPN cover this buzz relentlessly, but upon the start of training camp they ran a completely separate website for the Miami Heat titled the “Heat Index”.  Let me repeat, ESPN who covers the entire sporting WORLD, issued a webpage covering a SINGLE team in the NBA (http://espn.go.com/nba/truehoop/miamiheat/).  People wanted their insight on any down moment for LeBron, and ESPN presented every flaw, while creating buzz around the entire country.

Next, Smokin’ Jay Cutler has been considered one of the most controversial QBs in the NFL, and honestly, this can probably be traced back to two legitimate reasons for his troubling reputation.  The first and biggest reason was his decision to sit out of 2011 NFC playoff game with a knee injury. Some athletes, including Cardinals DE Darnell Dockett and Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew, took to Twitter to announce their disapproval, stating that they’d play with the knee injury. The next issue was Culter’s cross-field rant with Phillip Rivers back in 2007. It could be interpreted that Cutler was being incredibly immature in this incident because Rivers’ Chargers were rolling.  Honestly, being an avid sports fan, there is absolutely nothing that Cutler has done to deserve such harsh media scrutiny outside of having a semi-accurate canon of an arm with a back pedal as a drop back.  Is his posture not that of a leader?  Please, and Belichick’s is?  He happens to grab water after a mistake and walks by his boss.  Please enlighten me of a single person that does not get frustrated in his or her working environment.  Does he look mad after getting sacked 7 times in a game?  I ask you to face Jared Allen with the Bears’ left tackle twice a year.  Furthermore, the chatter of him being a below-average quarterback can entirely be put to rest after a week and a half of Jason Campbell.  ESPN has taken his minor altercations and created controversy with a guy who, until this season, has had zero weapons at receiver and still has no offensive line.  Want a controversy?  See Tom Jackson convey his Denver Broncos grudge on national television here:

Each of these aforementioned athletes has done absolutely nothing off the playing surface to trigger the criticism they receive.  Each of these people has conducted themselves in a manner that represents their organization with class, even donating to charities.  Kobe and Big Ben are the star children again, but what about during their little frisky incidents?  It is particularly interesting that those incidents have not surfaced again because that would detract from game views or result in ticket losses. These athletes are unfairly judged in their workplace in order to drive ratings benefitting the business plan of ESPN.

Tonight on this SportsCenter’s made-up headline, “LeBron and Heat slumping, Cutler moping, and is Tebow the short-term answer for the Jets– right now!”  A completely false headline, but extremely believable.  You are now hooked and SportsCenter just opened.

Lastly, there has been a tremendous amount of conversation regarding the new NFL rule changes and the amount of “defenseless receiver” and “roughing the passer” calls that have recently been made.  Every day, ESPN, FOX, NBC, and CBS present this topic of whether this is impeding into the game play, and all the analysts that were former players uniformly agree that it does.  Analysts acknowledge the fact the league is looking out for players’ safety, but they all consistently leave out one critical point. The NFL is currently facing BILLIONS of dollars in concussion negligence lawsuits from a multitude of former players.  If they were to budge on any kind of stance regarding these issues, they would lose a tremendous amount of legal leverage which would be detrimental to the league and ultimately us, the fans.

Hypothetical situation: you are the owner of a small business that is facing a sexual harassment lawsuit. During that time, you determine it would be smart to reevaluate the procedures for your employees and enforce them more strictly.   Now, the judge can be more lenient and realize you are a competent owner.  Smart, right?  I know.

Has that picture ever been painted to the public regarding the new NFL safety rules?  No.  Why?  It would come close to burying the story leaving Skip Bayless and ESPN’s NFL Live with nothing to stir up on a Wednesday other than more Tebow and Cutler talk.

It should be noted that sports entertainment and talk radio thrive on controversy, rankings and conflict.  Any show on ESPN or NBC would not be in business without analyzing or creating some sort of controversy.  I, along with all of the sports community, will continue to watch our favorite shows that help formulate our own opinions on issues.  To resolve this issue, I suggest that you diversify your media outlets.

If you only watch Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, your views are obviously leaning in one direction.  If your only sporting intake is Skip Bayless and Steven A. Smith, then you have been exposed to a finite size of information.   To enhance this on the sporting side, much like in finance, diversify your portfolio of sports knowledge each morning by taking in a portion of Colin Cowherd’s show and Dan Patrick’s show.  If you are a West Coast late riser and indulge in some lunchtime viewing, you can flip between ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption and CBS’ Jim Rome.  It can be quite enlightening to hear two completely different perspectives when one of those despises the “Mothership”.

We all remember the high school essays of compare and contrast, which forced us to comprehend all sides of an issue, but we tend to lose this perspective as we get older.  These foundational values of debating or becoming a knowledgeable person can be lost amid the opinions forced upon us, but there is always an alternative side to any story.  Although the most powerful outlet presents a certain perspective, it does not necessarily mean it should be your opinion, it is the correct opinion, or is the underlying issue of the topic (i.e. NFL concussions).

In short, I encourage all of you to continue to watch ESPN as much as I do, but please maintain perspective of the big picture while watching it.  If you get mad at Skip Bayless, take a breath, and realize that’s exactly what ESPN wants you to do, move on, and look for an alternative opinion.  If you do not like Jay Cutler, just gather yourself and recognize that your hatred is either driven by ESPN or merely a personal problem.  For future viewing, I recommend you to become more educated on the topic by opening yourself up to different sports information dispensaries rather than simply watching ESPN and immediately posting to Facebook or Twitter in outrage because you are only contributing to the irrational, uneducated audience in which ESPN is aiming.

____________________________________________________________________________
Thank you for reading The Cover 4! Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook & Twitter.

Oh yeah, tell your friends too!

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

Locked Out: The State of the NHL

The Cover 4 will feature a number of writers to cover a variety of topics. This article is by our very own Rick Davis, NHL insider.

As October passes and changes to November, the only thing that will be changing for hockey
fans is the page on their calendars. As we all know, the NHL is currently bogged down in its second
extended lockout in 8 years, the third since 1994, and the fourth lockout during Gary Bettman’s 19 year
stint as commissioner of the league. With each passing day, the glimmer of hope for a full 82 game
season(and any season at all for that matter) that briefly shined not long ago is fading fast.

As the news broke of the NHL’s offer to the Players Association on Oct. 16, hope spread
throughout the hockey world, and it seemed that there was a light appearing at the end of the dark,
dingy tunnel that this lockout has become. Sadly, the light wound up being a train, hitting hockey fans
head on. After expressing cautious optimism through their leader, Donald Fehr, the NHLPA presented a
trio of counter proposals that were quickly dismissed by the league and since then, all has been quiet.

Even as an avid hockey follower, the reasons for this lockout become distorted and muddled as
the NHL and the NHLPA spin the PR machine to increase their negotiating advantage. As sports fans, it is
in our nature to pick sides; Team vs. Team, Player vs. Player, or even Owners vs. Players, but in the case
of this lockout, it is really hard to pick a side.

I personally find it hard to pick a side because of one simple fact: I usually pick my “favorites”
based on what they represent. For example, most people’s favorite team is their favorite because they
represent their city, or in some cases, like those of the fans whose city does not have a team, the team
represents a storied history. Likewise, people grow found of certain players because of the individual
qualities that they represent, such as toughness, skill, perseverance, or selflessness. But the truth of the
matter of this lockout is that both sides are representing one thing: MONEY!

It’s that simple, and as passionate as hockey fans are, that is a bitter pill to swallow, but the fact
remains that the key issue in these Collective Bargaining negotiations is the division of Hockey Related
Revenues (HRR). Since the 2004-05 season was completely wiped out and the NHL was banished to the
Outdoor Life Network, the league has been on the comeback trail. Slowly but surely the league started
to regain its footing, and eventually made their way back into the mainstream, despite not having the
advantage that the other Big 4 sports leagues in America had; extensive national coverage on ESPN.

Before this lockout transitioned from threat to reality, the NHL was flying high, posting another
year of record revenues, roughly about $3.2 Billion, which was a $1 billion increase from the season
before, and in great position to continue their economic growth, having just signed a 10-year, $2 billion
television contract with NBC and Versus to continue broadcasting nationally (even though there were
serious negotiations at the time with ESPN, NBC presented the best deal for the league).

At the end of the day, the players and owners are both going to have to compromise on a deal
that splits HRR 50/50. That is going to be a very hard concept for the players to grasp, seeing as in the
last CBA, their split was 57%. The NHLPA, realistically, would have to consider any agreement that gives
the players more than 50% of the revenue split a massive success. Roughly translated, using last year’s
financial figures, the players’ share of HRR would be cut by $224 million if a 50/50 split were to be
enacted. Even to professional athletes, that is not chump change.

In addition, the owners also want to close salary cap loopholes, such as limiting term length of
contracts (therefore these absurd 15-year deals would not be around to lower the salary cap hit of a
front loaded contract), and pushing back the beginning of Unrestricted Free Agency from 28 years of
age to 30. There is also word that the owners would use salary roll-backs as a way of not honoring in
full, the massive contracts signed by players over the past couple of off seasons (see: Ryan Suter and
Zach Parise). The HRR split and the honoring of signed contracts are the key points that the players, as of
now, are refusing to budge on.

As we have all heard a million times when it comes to contracts and financial negotiations, at
the end of the day, this is a business. The owners own this business, and as a business owner, who puts
up the financial risk of fielding an NHL club, it would be bad business to not try and capitalize on the
sport’s soaring popularity and increasing your revenue. While much of the PR machine and some
media focus has, purposely or not, made the owners out to be soulless, money-grubbing monsters, the
fact remains that it is their time and money invested into these clubs, and they want the best return on
that investment that they can get. That sounds like good business to me; however they must make
concessions as well because no business at all is never good business.

So here we are hockey fans, fully engulfed in yet another lockout, with no end in sight for now,
having to watch old playoff series and notable games (with a ridiculously loose title of “classic” attached
to them) on the NHL Network to quench our hockey thirst. If you are like me, at first you were angry,
and wanted to do anything you could to get hockey back, such as heartfelt YouTube videos, threats of
boycotting the game upon its return, and wild notions of not giving ANY money to the teams once they
return, but now I have come to realize that there is, in reality, nothing we can do as fans. We wouldn’t
be fans if we boycotted after or didn’t invest our money into our clubs (ultimately that helps the teams
be competitive). So for now we just have to sit back, relax, keep our fingers crossed, and hope that NHL
13 can satisfy our hockey cravings for now.

Rick Davis

The Cover 4 Featured Sports Writer

http://www.facebook.com/patrick.d.riley.1?fref=ts

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