This is How It All Got Started

According to WordPress, either last night or today celebrated the 1st anniversary of my blog, so I decided to do a post about how I started my blog.  Start a blog today and we can celebrate both our anniversaries together.  This year I had about 250 posts.  If you want to start a blog, not just about sports, but about anything you enjoy, read Find Your Talent: Start A Blog by Matt Anniss.  I couldn’t find a photo but you’ll find it if you try a library card catalog or online card catalog.  That book is what inspired me to get started after I took it out from the library.  Boy, did I find my talent from that great book.  Hopefully, you’ll find yours.  If you aren’t into blogging, check out the rest of the series.  Maybe something else is your talent.  All I know is I found mine.

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March Madness:Recap So Far

March Madness.  The upsets, the big wins, and the amazing comebacks.  The sweet 16 approaches today.  I’ll be recapping everything leading up to today.  I’m not rooting for any team, so my predicted winners are the teams I want to win.  See my ESPN bracket at http://games.espn.go.com/tournament-challenge-bracket/2015/en/entry?entryID=4442153                      

So it started with 68 teams, ant the first four.  I was off to a good start picking Ole Miss over BYU and Dayton over Boise State.  I did not however pick Hampton or Robert Morris in the first four.  Well, the real madness starts in the round of 64.  For the most part, things went as planned.  But a few upsets that didn’t happen and a few that did should be noted.  Butler defeated Texas, I predicted Texas in a big upset there.  Another busted upset was Ole Miss beating Xavier.  Xavier won, going on to play a team you wouldn’t believe.  Baylor suffered a big round of 64 upset to Georgia State.  I predicted the upset of Ohio State beating VCU correctly, and the UCLA upset over SMU.  But, I didn’t see UAB over Iowa State coming.  That was a big surprise, losing me the first of my elite eight.  Two more upsets to go.  I successfully picked Dayton over Providence.  But, I also predicted Wyoming over Northern Iowa, which was so far from actually happening.  I had done very well as we moved on to the round of 32.  Early on, I lost one of my final four as Wichita State upset Kansas.  I also predicted an upset which didn’t happen, Iowa over Gonzaga.  Then, I predicted a huge upset correctly.  Michigan State, who would supposedly be my alternate champion for Louisville if they win the elite eight match between them if it happens, which at this point it probably will, unless Oklahoma beats Michigan State, because North Carolina State cannot beat Louisville.  Oh, I almost forgot to mention, i couldn’t predict Villanova suffering an upset to North Carolina State.  Maybe they have another big upset knocking some of my best teams out.  Otherwise, any other matches where two teams I predicted to play played went as planned for the second time.  The Sweet 16 will consist of eight more match ups for me to hope my predicted winner will win.  Want to share your bracket?  Leave the link in comments, and I’ll be sure to check it out.  I’m expecting unlike myself, at least one third of the people I’ll see have picked Kentucky to win.  I think Kentucky has its weaknesses though, just like any other NCAA team.

Bruins Shutout Penguins For Fifth Straight Win

The Bruins shutout the Pittsburgh Penguins for the 5th Boston win in a row, making their record 36-22-10.  The Bruins have won 6 of their last 7 games getting at least one point per game since I went to the game on February 28, making them one of the hottest teams in hockey.  The Bruins would be the 7th seed playoff team if the season ended today.  In the game, Tuukka Rask got 30 saves.  Dennis Seidenberg had the first penalty, tripping against Chris Kunitz.  Then, the first of 2 Boston goals was scored.  Milan Lucic scored a goal assisted by David Pastrnak and Dougie Hamilton.  Soon after, Penguins player David Perron tripped Max Talbot.  The next penalty was on Loui Eriksson, hooking against Paul Martin.  The second period was quiet but penalty infested.  Patric Hornqvist was responsible for the first penalty, interference against Torey Krug.   the second and final 2nd period penalty was Chris Kelly’s hi-sticking penalty against Christian Ehrhoff.  The third period had a penalty about one fourth of the way in.  Ben Lovejoy was called for hooking against Brad Marchand.  With a few minutes left, Tuukka Rask made the save of the game.  He dived out of the net to grab the puck and get it into his glove.  Then, the Penguins took out their goalie, Thomas Greiss with about 40 seconds left.  Greiss is the backup goalie for Pittsburgh, who rested their starting goalie for today’s game.  He wasn’t a scratch, but he wasn’t in the net for the whole game.  Then, one of the best and longest shots I have ever seen for a goal that counted happened.  Zdeno Chara shot the puck all the way across the ice to get an empty net goal assisted by Gregory Campbell to make it 2-0 Bruins.  At the minute the goal was scored, Steve Downie of the Penguins got penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.  Some funny stuff happened in this final period as well.  At one point, the puck was stuck in Daniel Paille’s shorts, but he got up on his skates to see the puck drop out of his shorts.  Also, somebody shot on the goal but hit the post instead knocking the goalie net off its post.  Also, on a rebound from a Tuukka Rask save, the Penguins shot the puck and saw it go off a player’s leg and continue to bump against the boards.  The Bruins won 2-0.  In the game, Sidney Crosby, the Penguins’ best player was a last minute scratch.  Their next best player, Evgeni Malkin, barely played and did nothing due to an early game injury.  Still, it was still pretty impressive and good for the Bruins that they could shutout the Penguins in Pittsburgh, let alone defeat them in Pittsburgh or even beat them at all, visiting or not.  The Bruins were able to pull off an impressive shutout as visitors to one of the best teams in the entire NHL, but they were fortunate that Crosby and Malkin got injured before and early on in the game.  Either way, the Bruins had a good road win against a top NHL team.

Huge Week In NFL Free Agency Concludes

This week consisted of many key signings and trades in the NFL.  The Patriots were involved in this.  First, Darrelle Revis was a huge Patriots loss and will be a huge impact on the Jets defense.  Revis signed with the Jets and will be back with them this year after the Buccaneers signed him in the 2013 off season.   Devin McCourty also resigned with the Patriots this week.  McCourty will continue to be a key defensive factor.  The Pats also LOST Shane Vereen after he got signed by the Giants, and they may be saying their goodbyes to Stevan Ridley too.  They may be seeking a new running back signing like Reggie Bush of the Lions.  The Patriots had many off season moves this week.                                                                                                                                        But the Patriots weren’t the only active team this week.  The Eagles were also an active SIGNING team.  They traded away quarterback Nick Foles to the Rams for the Rams quarterback, Sam Bradford.  They also made a huge signing at running back.  DeMarco Murray signed a contract with the Philadlephia Eagles earning him over 8 million dollars.   The Jets also got hold of former Bears receiver Brandon Marshall.  That will hurt the Bears and probably weaken them, even with John Fox replacing Marc Trestman as Bears head coach.  Fox coached the Broncos, at times badly in 2014.  Otherwise, he was a great coach for Denver before the 2014 season.   The Ravens also resigned new star Justin Forsett for about 3 million bucks.  Jimmy Graham was also traded to the Seattle Seahawks for a draft pick.  That may cause the Saints to really begin to collapse after a shockingly disasterous 2014 season full of big injuries happening to key players like Mark Ingram.   The Jets may be better with their signings, but they still have a hole a quarterback.  However, they got their hands on Ryan Fitzpatrick.   At least he’s better than Geno Smith and Michael Vick.  Speaking of quarterback news, Matt Cassel is now with the Buffalo Bills after the retirement from the NFL  of Kyle Orton, the 2014 Bills starter from Week 5 on.  Brian Hoyer also got signed by the Texans, and he will fight Ryan Mallett and maybe even Tom Savage for the starting position.   That leaves the Browns with quarterback options of Johnny Manziel and Connor Shaw, and the Vikings are left with the option of Teddy Bridgewater, a second year player and Christian Ponder.  Another good defensive signing was Brian Orakpo to the Tennessee Titans.  Orakpo is a former Redskins defender.  The last and most recent signing was Percy Harvin, signed by the Bills after he visited them earlier this week.  Lots of big moves took place in the NFL this week.

Bruins Very Active at Trade Deadline, Acquiring Four Forwards In Three Trades

The Bruins were very active at the trade deadline.  They made three transactions.  They traded a second round draft pick for 2015 and 2016 away for forward Brett Connolly in return.  Personally, I think this was a fair trade that will help the Bruins in the NHL, but minor league could be a new concern after losing those draft picks.  They will get a first look at Connolly’s skills at TD Garden with the Calgary Flames coming to visit this Thursday.  I think Connolly will boost the Bruins offense.  That was the Bruins main need according to NESN’s fan poll at this past Saturday’s game.   Next, they traded Jordan Caron and a 2016 sixth round draft pick to the Colorado Avalanche for Maxime Talbot and Paul Carey, both forwards.  That brings more offensive depth to the team.  Finally, they traded Jared Knight to the Minnesota Wild for Zack Phillips, yet another forward, although they gave up one.  Talbot played 63 games with Colorado this season scoring 5 goals and 10 assists.  In past seasons he scored an additional 78 goals since 2006.  The trades made will bring a huge impact on the offensive side of things.

Bruins Treat Me to Greatest Sports Experience of my Life

Last night was a very special night for me. I got to sit in the press box because of getting noticed for my blog.  First, I’d like to thank all the Bruins press and TD Garden staff for getting this together for me. This was the greatest sports experience of my life. That says a lot when I’ve said play ball at Fenway Park and presented the Red Sox line-up on NESN.
To start my experience, I bought a new Bruins cap at the Pro Shop. I came back down to where I had entered to wait for Bruins Communications Specialist Erika Wentzell. Erika gave me a tour of the media areas of the TD Garden. Once I introduced myself and received my very own press pass, we got right in on the tour.

The press passes my Dad and I wore to have access to the press area
The press passes my Dad and I wore to have access to the press area

I first got to go in a huge elevator with supply carts for the game. I got off right in front of a goal waiting to be placed on the ice.

In the net before Tuukka was
In the net before Tuukka was

I then saw the ice and took a picture right in front of it.

In front of the ice before the game
In front of the ice before the game

I then saw the Zambonis waiting outside the area where you could see the ice.

In front of the Zambonis before the game
In front of the Zambonis before the game

We moved on to where the media was. I saw the room where the post-game press conference takes place. While I was there I met Jack Edwards, the Bruins TV announcer. Next, I saw a room where the press worked. I saw the locker room doors while the players were inside.

In front of the locker room before the game
In front of the locker room before the game

Across from the lockers I saw the room where I would meet and interview a player after the game. Then we went on up to the 9th floor press box. I got a tour of the press box including TV and radio announcer rooms. I got to sit in Andy Brickley’s chair while wearing his headphones.

Sitting in Andy Brickley’s NESN seat
Sitting in Andy Brickley’s NESN seat

Before we got to our seats, I got a look at the free food I would have access to including unlimited popcorn and soda. Then Erika walked us to our seats with a great view.

The view from our seats
The view from our seats

Before the game, I met many famous people. First, I met Caryn Switaj, the Bruins Digital Content Specialist. I met Dave Goucher, who remembered me from Play By Play Camps (http://playbyplaycamps.com/). I also met Comcast SportsNet’s Joe Haggerty during warm-ups. Shortly after he introduced me to Dave Goucher’s radio partner Bob Beers, former Bruins star, while getting popcorn and soda. Minutes before the game, I met Joe McDonald.

With ESPN’s Joe McDonald before the game
With ESPN’s Joe McDonald before the game

He tweeted my blog out which was very nice of him and I promised to do the same (https://twitter.com/espnjoeymac). They all told me to keep reading and writing and I plan to. I asked them to read my Boston SportsMania blog and gave them samples and the link (andrewr1008.wordpress.com).
Also before the game, I got game notes that only the press gets and saw my name on the media seating chart and a place card saving my seat at the left end of the press box. I also got lineups minutes before game time and stats before the game and at the end of each period.

Media Seating Chart
Media Seating Chart
Seating Assignments
Seating Assignments

The game started and I enjoyed great seats and free food that was delicious. I kept my own stats on the paper with the lineups. I also had the stats I got at the start of the game. After each period, they handed out updated stats which were very cool.
In the second period, I watched with Caryn Switaj, while watching her tweet out quick game updates to 700,000 followers of http://bruins.nhl.com/.

With Caryn Switaj in between periods
With Caryn Switaj in between periods

She was very nice and invited me to write this post. Joe McDonald also came by in between periods which made me feel special. Both Joe and Caryn taught me things about writing and also told me interesting facts like Zdeno Chara’s fastest shot in the game, 108 MPH! He scored to make it 4-0 Bruins.
As the third period went by I began to prepare to ask the first question to Claude Julien for the post-game press conference. The game ended with the Bruins winning 4-1 over the Arizona Coyotes.
After listening to a quick interview Caryn Switaj did, I left for the press conference. There, I asked Claude Julien, “Who do you think had a great performance in this game?” He answered, saying everyone did well, especially the young guys that were new additions to the lineup, like Ryan Spooner. He said that Milan Lucic was like a father figure to those players like Spooner, who scored his first career goal to win the Bruins the game in overtime on Friday night. Two sports writers complimented on how well I asked the first question and gave me high fives. I got to then practice for a question I would soon ask a player in the press dressing room.
Brad Marchand came in, and we introduced ourselves.

With Bruin Brad Marchand after the game with my Dad in the background taking the photo
With Bruin Brad Marchand after the game with my Dad in the background taking the photo

I asked him, “Thinking about how well you’ve done over the last four games, what do you think your playoff chances are right now?” He answered saying, if we keep playing the way we played tonight, I think we have a pretty good chance. After that, we said goodbye to Erika, and we started on our way home. This was the greatest sports experience of my life!