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NHL Round Three Predictions

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There’s a few things I’m going to wake away from the second round of the NHL playoffs

  • Dale Hunter did a pretty alright job and his exit isn’t a good thing for the Capitols. They went into the playoffs as a low seed and upset Boston in the opening round, in a pretty good seven game series. And then they took the Rangers – arguably the best team still in the playoffs – to seven games, including a gutty win in game six. They played a wildly different style of hockey than they had under Bruce Boudreau, a much slower game that kept Alex Ovechkin on the bench. An article I read over the weekend asked if this was the start of a new style of hockey: keeping the scorer on the bench until you need a goal. I’m leaning towards no, but I wonder of Ovechkin’s name will be tied to Hunter’s abrupt leave. Were there problems behind closed doors? Did Ovechkin pull a Dwight Howard – it’s either him or me, chief? I have no idea. But I’m curious to see what happens next for the Caps, and if they’ll go back to what worked for them in the regular season, if not the postseason.
  • The Devils continue to surprise me. Not just in a “now they play fast” sense, but in a “who saw this coming?” kind of way. And this is from someone who picked them to roar past the Flyers. Marty Brodeur is ancient at this point, but is putting up some of his best postseason numbers. His GAA of 2.04 is the lowest it’s been since before the lockout (and since the Devils championship run of 2003, actually) while his Save Percentage of .920 is better than it’s been in a while. Meanwhile Ilya Kovalchuk’s 12 points is second-best among all active playoff scorers. This isn’t a team to sleep on.
  • Speaking of goalies, Kings netminder Jonathan Quick is putting together one hell of a Conn Smythe resume: he leads all goalies with a 1.59 GAA, a .947 Save Percentage (not to mention nine wins, a product of me not posting this in time). These Kings are in interesting team to watch: they’ve blown away two very good teams in St. Louis and Vancouver, lead Phoenix one game to zip and remind me a lot of the 2006 Oilers, a team all but carried by Dwayne Roloson and Fernando Pisani to the seventh game of the finals (and would have won, I think, if Roloson didn’t get hurt).
There’s more I could write about: Phoenix looking really good against Nashville (does this mean Chicago was much better than I thought?; the Blues folding like a cheap card table; the Rangers were lucky to gut out a tough series; etc. It’s a testament to how good these playoffs have been that I could write more words than you’d want to read. I’ve certainly been enjoying them. Picks follow the jump.Eastern Conference Finals
(1) New York Rangers v. (6) New Jersey Devils
One thing I like about this series is how at least two games will be played in Madison Square Garden and tight playoffs games seem like they mean more there, maybe because New York is such a big media market stage. Other than that, there’s not a lot I like. The Rangers have not been an especially overpowering first seed, having gone seven games against both the Capitols and Senators. In the first round, they won two win-or-go-home games and their last round came with lucky OT wins (the three OT game three and the much-shorter OT game five), not to mention dropping a chance to close the series out in game six. Their goal differential of +3 isn’t inspiring, especially considering their opposition. 
But, as I wrote above, the Devils have looked very good. They’ve upset two teams, seen Brodeur play better than he has in years and have in Kovalchuk a top-notch scorer for the first time in a long time. I don’t think this series will be over in a hurry, but I don’t see the Devils slowing down, either. New Jersey in six.

Western Conference Finals
(3) Phoenix Coyotes v. (8) Los Angeles Kings
The Coyotes feel like two teams this postseason. They were a shaky and lucky team in the first round: late goals by the Blackhawks sent a few of their games to overtime, but Phoenix won three of their five OT matches. In the second round, they settled down, overpowering the Predators in five games. Only one overtime here, a game one win, but this was also a close series. Three of the five games were decided by a single goal and the remaining two were decided by two goals. As a team, they’ve scored just as many playoff goals as the Kings (31) but the difference lies in their goaltending: their differential is +6. The Kings is +15, by a wide margin the best among all playoff teams.
Part of that is from Quick’s goaltending, part is from timely scoring by Dustin Brown: his seven goals and 13 points are best among still-active players. Another part comes from collapses by teams that sank like a lead balloon: the Canucks fell apart pretty quickly (suddenly enough that Luongo seems like he’ll be traded) while the Blues just couldn’t score: six goals across all four games. The Kings, meanwhile, dropped five in game two alone. Is it asking a lot to assume Quick will continue playing at this pace? Maybe, but I’ve got this feeling in my gut that the Kings are just the better of the two teams here. Los Angeles in five
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Written by M.

May 14, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Twenty-nine thoughts, comments and predictions for the 2010-11 NHL Season

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With an afternoon game on a warm and sunny Wednesday afternoon, the NHL season kicked off. No weather can be described as more ‘hockey-like’, except for any kind of weather that occurs during the winter months.

It really seems like the season get longer and longer each year – wouldn’t it make more sense for the NHL to start after baseball ends? Or at least around the time the World Series starts? – but it’s something I’m resigned to. Why fight city hall, as it were.

While I can’t say I eagerly anticipate this day every year, it is nice to have hockey back. It’ll be nice to have stuff on TSN that isn’t a movie I’ve seen a million times, the day’s third broadcast of PTI or poker, the bane of any smart person’s existence.

So, to commemorate the day, here are 29 predictions, comments and general thoughts that all relate to the NHL. Why 29? To celebrate how last spring was the 20th anniversary of Felix Potvin’s joining the Leafs. The Cat, after all, was fuckin’ amazing. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by M.

October 11, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Handicapping the NBA’s MVP at Midseason

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With a little less then half of the NBA season left, it’s about time for lazy NBA writers – such as myself – bang out a column predicting awards.  Because after half a season, we all know who is likely win awards.

That’s the key word here: likely. It’s far too early to say for sure who is going to be the most valuable player in the league at the end of the season, but it’s not too early to make some educated guesses and handicap which player would be likely to win. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by M.

January 27, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Championship weekend – It’s gunna be a showdown

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It was an outcome that should have been obvious from the start – If indeed the Indianapolis Colts are to go to the Super Bowl, they would only have to go through their old nemesis the New England Patriots.

This whole season kind of makes sense now.

With both AFC teams upsetting their opponents last week – neither home team won – the stage is now set for what appears to be one of the biggest games in recent memory. The Colts, despite having a great offense, could barely manage to score last week and won by the skin of their teeth; conversely, the Patriots did score, coming back from being down 21-14 late in the game, and upsetting a team with maybe the best offense in the NFL.

It’ll be a showdown in Indy on Sunday – and for once, maybe the Colts will have the upper hand.

“Bad dreamer, what’s your name
Looks like we’re ridin’ on the same train
Looks as through there’ll be more pain
There’s gonna be a Showdown”
ELO – Showdown


AFC Championship: New England Patriots @ Indianapolis Colts
Vegas Sez: Colts (+3
)

This will be the third time that these two teams have met in the playoffs in recent memory. Both of those games were losses for the Colts – but both teams are in different stages now. The Patriots are in arguably their worst shape in years, having lost major contributors, from coordinators Charlie Weis and Eric Mangini to players like David Givens, Doug Gabriel and – and arguably most important – their clutch kicker Adam Vinitari.

You can see how losing key players such as those has effected the Patriots offense this season – Since posting close to 600 offensive yards (5722) and averaging 27 points per game in 2004 (their last Super Bowl win), their offense has dropped: just over 5600 yards/23 points per game in 2005 and 5300 yards/24 points per game this season.

Defensively, however, they have improved: for example, their yards allowed (on a per game basis) has dropped from 310 in 2004 to 330 last season – but has rose to 294 this year, the same as Chicago’s mighty defence allows. They rush defence has improved as well, going from 98 yards a game in 2004 to 94 yards this year (much better then Chicago). And against the pass they’ve gone from 212 yards/game to 200 – which could prove to be a hassle to the Colts, who are still a pass heavy team.

Speaking of the Colts, they are actually much better team then the one that lost to the Patriots on 2004. This year, with both Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne posting big numbers – Wayne has caught 9 TD this year and is averaging 15 yards a catch while Harrison has caught 12 touchdowns (second in the league) and is averaging 14 yards a catch – their offense is one of the most productive in the NFL (3rd in yards per game, 2nd in points per game and 2nd in passing yards).

But while both of their major receivers have caught for more then 1300 yards (Harrison is ranked #2 in the NFL, while Wayne is tied for third), their running game is lacking behind (18th in the NFL with just 110 yards per game).

It’s pretty much for that reason alone that I’m going to back the Patriots. Even though the Colts are at home; even though the Colts are playing much better; even though the Colts are the 3 point favorites… They are still playing the Patriots in January.

My pick: New England

*************************

NFC Championship: New Orleans Saints @ Chicago Bears
Vegas sez: Chicago (+ 2)

The Bears defence has been great this year – perhaps even superb, especially when it covers for Rex Grossman’s occasional bad game – and their offense isn’t too bad, either, ranking 15th in both total yards and rushing yards, thanks to the duo of Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson. Their passing game is somewhat better, ranking 14th, explaining why they score 26 points/game (higher then New Orleans, actually).

Which isn’t to say that New Orleans isn’t any good – they very much are. But while they have a great offense (they have the most total yards, most passing yards and are fifth in points scored per game), defensively they’re weak. They rank ranking 15th in total yards allowed (4917), 23rd in rushing yards allowed (2063) and 13th in points allowed per game (20.1). If they have one bright spot on their defense, it’s against the pass – they rank 3rd overall, with 174 yards a game.

Still, against a Chicago team that is more dangerous because of a powerhouse defense and a solid running game, the Saints have a bit of a chance – but not a big one. The Bears will win this one and play in their first Super Bowl since 1985.

My pick: The Bears

Written by M.

January 20, 2007 at 5:09 pm

Championship weekend – It’s gunna be a showdown

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It was an outcome that should have been obvious from the start – If indeed the Indianapolis Colts are to go to the Super Bowl, they would only have to go through their old nemesis the New England Patriots.

This whole season kind of makes sense now.

With both AFC teams upsetting their opponents last week – neither home team won – the stage is now set for what appears to be one of the biggest games in recent memory. The Colts, despite having a great offense, could barely manage to score last week and won by the skin of their teeth; conversely, the Patriots did score, coming back from being down 21-14 late in the game, and upsetting a team with maybe the best offense in the NFL.

It’ll be a showdown in Indy on Sunday – and for once, maybe the Colts will have the upper hand.

“Bad dreamer, what’s your name
Looks like we’re ridin’ on the same train
Looks as through there’ll be more pain
There’s gonna be a Showdown”
ELO – Showdown


AFC Championship: New England Patriots @ Indianapolis Colts
Vegas Sez: Colts (+3
)

This will be the third time that these two teams have met in the playoffs in recent memory. Both of those games were losses for the Colts – but both teams are in different stages now. The Patriots are in arguably their worst shape in years, having lost major contributors, from coordinators Charlie Weis and Eric Mangini to players like David Givens, Doug Gabriel and – and arguably most important – their clutch kicker Adam Vinitari.

You can see how losing key players such as those has effected the Patriots offense this season – Since posting close to 600 offensive yards (5722) and averaging 27 points per game in 2004 (their last Super Bowl win), their offense has dropped: just over 5600 yards/23 points per game in 2005 and 5300 yards/24 points per game this season.

Defensively, however, they have improved: for example, their yards allowed (on a per game basis) has dropped from 310 in 2004 to 330 last season – but has rose to 294 this year, the same as Chicago’s mighty defence allows. They rush defence has improved as well, going from 98 yards a game in 2004 to 94 yards this year (much better then Chicago). And against the pass they’ve gone from 212 yards/game to 200 – which could prove to be a hassle to the Colts, who are still a pass heavy team.

Speaking of the Colts, they are actually much better team then the one that lost to the Patriots on 2004. This year, with both Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne posting big numbers – Wayne has caught 9 TD this year and is averaging 15 yards a catch while Harrison has caught 12 touchdowns (second in the league) and is averaging 14 yards a catch – their offense is one of the most productive in the NFL (3rd in yards per game, 2nd in points per game and 2nd in passing yards).

But while both of their major receivers have caught for more then 1300 yards (Harrison is ranked #2 in the NFL, while Wayne is tied for third), their running game is lacking behind (18th in the NFL with just 110 yards per game).

It’s pretty much for that reason alone that I’m going to back the Patriots. Even though the Colts are at home; even though the Colts are playing much better; even though the Colts are the 3 point favorites… They are still playing the Patriots in January.

My pick: New England

*************************

NFC Championship: New Orleans Saints @ Chicago Bears
Vegas sez: Chicago (+ 2)

The Bears defence has been great this year – perhaps even superb, especially when it covers for Rex Grossman’s occasional bad game – and their offense isn’t too bad, either, ranking 15th in both total yards and rushing yards, thanks to the duo of Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson. Their passing game is somewhat better, ranking 14th, explaining why they score 26 points/game (higher then New Orleans, actually).

Which isn’t to say that New Orleans isn’t any good – they very much are. But while they have a great offense (they have the most total yards, most passing yards and are fifth in points scored per game), defensively they’re weak. They rank ranking 15th in total yards allowed (4917), 23rd in rushing yards allowed (2063) and 13th in points allowed per game (20.1). If they have one bright spot on their defense, it’s against the pass – they rank 3rd overall, with 174 yards a game.

Still, against a Chicago team that is more dangerous because of a powerhouse defense and a solid running game, the Saints have a bit of a chance – but not a big one. The Bears will win this one and play in their first Super Bowl since 1985.

My pick: The Bears

Written by M.

January 20, 2007 at 1:09 pm

Romo and the Boys / NFL Divisional predictions

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Stat of the Week No. 3: From the point Tony Romo was named to the Pro Bowl, Dallas lost all remaining games.
– Greg Esterbrook, ESPN.com, Jan. 9, 2007

As Tony Romo attempted to scramble into the end zone, the Cowboys season flashed before my eyes. I saw Drew Bledsoe choking; I saw Terrell Owens denying that he attempted suicide; I saw Keyshawn Johnson leaving under a cloud; I saw Tony Romo show flashes of brilliance between his flashes of incompetence.

And as he couldn’t make it into the end zone… Well, frankly, I wasn’t surprised. It seemed so typical of the Cowboys this year – to get so close, but finish just oh-so-short.

From their regular season when Bledsoe went down for the count and a young hotshot named Tony Romo, who despite having been in the NFL for a few years (could it be three already?) had never having taken a snap, came in and was fairly solid – even though my main memory will be of him making a pass that looked quite like Magic’s hook shot in game four of the ’87 Finals – and became something of a golden boy, a savior to a Cowboys team that looked ready to sink at any given moment.

And he saved them from sinking, at least for a little while. From the spats that coach Parcells had with Terrell Owens and Mike Vanderjact to a starting QB (Bledsoe) and one of their major off-season signings (Vanderjact) not working out to TO being, well, himself, it looked as if the Cowboys were going to have hard time going .500, at least for a while.

When Romo took over in week 6 the Cowboys were 3-2. In his next start, facing the Giants, the Cowboys lost – and then Romo started to click. He, and the Cowboys, won the next five out of six games. With him at the helm, the Cowboys went on a tear, cumulating with a 38-10 demolition of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where Romo threw for 5 touchdowns and over 300 yards.

But, looking back, that seems to be just where both he and Cowboys peaked. The next week, against the Giants, the Cowboys just squeeked past them, winning on a last second field goal; and while Romo passed for over 250 yards, he didn’t pass for a single TD and was picked off twice.

The next week the Cowboys lost to New Orleans, 42-17. Romo was picked off twice again and completed less then half his passes.

For all of his early wins, since that win over the Giants, Romo has passed for six touchdowns and has been picked off eight times. He’s lost more games then he’s won since he was named to the NFL Pro Bowl – and lost 3 of his last four games this season.

So, what does all this mean? Is Romo really that good – or is he really that much of a goat? I’m not sure, at least not yet. I do know, however, that any Cowboy fan can thank Romo for getting the Cowboys to the playoffs just as much as they can thank him for their early exit.

*********

NFL Divisional Playoff Predictions:

NFC
Philadelphia Eagles @ New Orleans Saints
My pick: The Saints

If there’s one thing that I’m sure about these days, it’s that I wouldn’t want to be coaching a team that’s on the road against a team like the New Orleans Saints. The Saints have won 5 out of 8 games at home this year. However, they have lost two of their last three at home (their last win being on December 3rd, over San Francisco). Still, they have a great offence (391 yards per game, 25.8 points per game) that’s facing a defence that allows over 320 yards and over 20 points a game. Even with all of the question marks that the Saints have, I just can’t see the Eagles upsetting them, even if the Eagles were at home.

Seattle Seahawks @ Chicago Bears
My pick: Dah Bears

And speaking of teams that are good at home, we have the Chicago Bears and their frozen Soldier Field vs. the Seahawks. Normally I’d go with the Bears just because of their home-field advantage and their defence. However, Rex Grossman, who has been looking better and better as the season goes on (his week 13 performance notwithstanding) is facing a Seattle defence that is, well, less then stellar. He’ll need a big game to beat the Seahawks, but I expect he’ll come through.

AFC
Indianapolis Colts @ Baltimore Ravens
My pick: The Colts

This is the first time that the Colts have been to Baltimore to play a postseason game in years – not since they left the city, in fact – and they won’t disappoint. For all of their question marks coming into the postseason – their run defence, for example – they have looked very good, especially in their shutdown of the Kansas City Chiefs last week. This is a trend that I expect to continue, as they should wallop the Ravens. Why? The Ravens are a team that’s been led by Steve McNair, who while rebounding from his last few seasons is still no match for the Colts defence. And as for their defence, led by Ray Lewis, the Colts are again more then a match – The Colts lead the AFC in yards per game (379) and are second in points per game (26). Receivers Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison have looked good lately (especially Harrison, who had six touchdown catches in his last three regular season games).

New England Patriots @ San Deigo Chargers
My pick: The Chargers

The Chargers are the mirror image of the Colts; they rank second in yards per game (365) and first in points per game (30). And they have the best player in the NFL, LaDainian Tomlinson, doing most of it: he runs for touchdowns, he catches for touchdowns – he even throws for touchdowns. Thanks to him, the Chargers have only lost two games – by a combined six points. The Patriots will have to pretty much focus their entire defence on LT to stop him – and by doing so, they open the door for quarterback Drew Rivers, who has thrown for 22 touchdowns this year, and Antonio Gates, who has caught nine of them. It’ll be tough to keep the Chargers from running away with this game, and I’m sure that Tom Brady will be more then game for it. He comes into this game having one of he better seasons: yardage is down, but his completion percentage is up. And he’s facing a defence that allows over 200 passing yards a game. Regardless, I think that San Diego will be able to eke this one out. However, it’ll be close.

Written by M.

January 11, 2007 at 4:23 pm

Romo and the Boys / NFL Divisional predictions

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Stat of the Week No. 3: From the point Tony Romo was named to the Pro Bowl, Dallas lost all remaining games.
– Greg Esterbrook, ESPN.com, Jan. 9, 2007

As Tony Romo attempted to scramble into the end zone, the Cowboys season flashed before my eyes. I saw Drew Bledsoe choking; I saw Terrell Owens denying that he attempted suicide; I saw Keyshawn Johnson leaving under a cloud; I saw Tony Romo show flashes of brilliance between his flashes of incompetence.

And as he couldn’t make it into the end zone… Well, frankly, I wasn’t surprised. It seemed so typical of the Cowboys this year – to get so close, but finish just oh-so-short.

From their regular season when Bledsoe went down for the count and a young hotshot named Tony Romo, who despite having been in the NFL for a few years (could it be three already?) had never having taken a snap, came in and was fairly solid – even though my main memory will be of him making a pass that looked quite like Magic’s hook shot in game four of the ’87 Finals – and became something of a golden boy, a savior to a Cowboys team that looked ready to sink at any given moment.

And he saved them from sinking, at least for a little while. From the spats that coach Parcells had with Terrell Owens and Mike Vanderjact to a starting QB (Bledsoe) and one of their major off-season signings (Vanderjact) not working out to TO being, well, himself, it looked as if the Cowboys were going to have hard time going .500, at least for a while.

When Romo took over in week 6 the Cowboys were 3-2. In his next start, facing the Giants, the Cowboys lost – and then Romo started to click. He, and the Cowboys, won the next five out of six games. With him at the helm, the Cowboys went on a tear, cumulating with a 38-10 demolition of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where Romo threw for 5 touchdowns and over 300 yards.

But, looking back, that seems to be just where both he and Cowboys peaked. The next week, against the Giants, the Cowboys just squeeked past them, winning on a last second field goal; and while Romo passed for over 250 yards, he didn’t pass for a single TD and was picked off twice.

The next week the Cowboys lost to New Orleans, 42-17. Romo was picked off twice again and completed less then half his passes.

For all of his early wins, since that win over the Giants, Romo has passed for six touchdowns and has been picked off eight times. He’s lost more games then he’s won since he was named to the NFL Pro Bowl – and lost 3 of his last four games this season.

So, what does all this mean? Is Romo really that good – or is he really that much of a goat? I’m not sure, at least not yet. I do know, however, that any Cowboy fan can thank Romo for getting the Cowboys to the playoffs just as much as they can thank him for their early exit.

*********

NFL Divisional Playoff Predictions:

NFC
Philadelphia Eagles @ New Orleans Saints
My pick: The Saints

If there’s one thing that I’m sure about these days, it’s that I wouldn’t want to be coaching a team that’s on the road against a team like the New Orleans Saints. The Saints have won 5 out of 8 games at home this year. However, they have lost two of their last three at home (their last win being on December 3rd, over San Francisco). Still, they have a great offence (391 yards per game, 25.8 points per game) that’s facing a defence that allows over 320 yards and over 20 points a game. Even with all of the question marks that the Saints have, I just can’t see the Eagles upsetting them, even if the Eagles were at home.

Seattle Seahawks @ Chicago Bears
My pick: Dah Bears

And speaking of teams that are good at home, we have the Chicago Bears and their frozen Soldier Field vs. the Seahawks. Normally I’d go with the Bears just because of their home-field advantage and their defence. However, Rex Grossman, who has been looking better and better as the season goes on (his week 13 performance notwithstanding) is facing a Seattle defence that is, well, less then stellar. He’ll need a big game to beat the Seahawks, but I expect he’ll come through.

AFC
Indianapolis Colts @ Baltimore Ravens
My pick: The Colts

This is the first time that the Colts have been to Baltimore to play a postseason game in years – not since they left the city, in fact – and they won’t disappoint. For all of their question marks coming into the postseason – their run defence, for example – they have looked very good, especially in their shutdown of the Kansas City Chiefs last week. This is a trend that I expect to continue, as they should wallop the Ravens. Why? The Ravens are a team that’s been led by Steve McNair, who while rebounding from his last few seasons is still no match for the Colts defence. And as for their defence, led by Ray Lewis, the Colts are again more then a match – The Colts lead the AFC in yards per game (379) and are second in points per game (26). Receivers Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison have looked good lately (especially Harrison, who had six touchdown catches in his last three regular season games).

New England Patriots @ San Deigo Chargers
My pick: The Chargers

The Chargers are the mirror image of the Colts; they rank second in yards per game (365) and first in points per game (30). And they have the best player in the NFL, LaDainian Tomlinson, doing most of it: he runs for touchdowns, he catches for touchdowns – he even throws for touchdowns. Thanks to him, the Chargers have only lost two games – by a combined six points. The Patriots will have to pretty much focus their entire defence on LT to stop him – and by doing so, they open the door for quarterback Drew Rivers, who has thrown for 22 touchdowns this year, and Antonio Gates, who has caught nine of them. It’ll be tough to keep the Chargers from running away with this game, and I’m sure that Tom Brady will be more then game for it. He comes into this game having one of he better seasons: yardage is down, but his completion percentage is up. And he’s facing a defence that allows over 200 passing yards a game. Regardless, I think that San Diego will be able to eke this one out. However, it’ll be close.

Written by M.

January 11, 2007 at 12:23 pm