Dunkin’ Sends me to Cup Finals

IMG_1169.JPG

Back in April, I predicted the Bruins to go on a Stanley Cup run after gathering momentum in the final months of the regular season.  It’s amazing that now the Bruins are just 1 win away from winning the Cup.

I had really enjoyed watching the first first four games from home.  Playoff hockey, especially in the Stanley Cup Finals, is a different brand of hockey and watching your favorite team play is even more special.  Tickets to a game in the finals are so hard to get and I never expected the chance to watch a game at the TD Garden.  I had never even been to a playoff game for any professional sport.  I was in complete shock when I found out I would be going to Game 5 with my whole family thanks to Dunkin’ Boston.

6759ae04-0f84-4e34-88e2-07fb64dee68c

Even though the Bruins lost in a tight game with questionable calls, it was an amazing experience.  When I got home from school on game day, a package from Dunkin’ was waiting for me.  Inside?  Four tickets to the game along with a large assortment of Dunkin’ merchandise.

img_1503-1

Dunkin’ sent us in style in a Boston Chauffer SUV driven by Mark (pictured above).  Mark gave us a warm welcome, was very friendly, and even talked hockey with me and my family before the game.

634778f9-f2e1-4b7d-a18e-3db0ff3d76ab

We arrived at TD Garden around 6:30, so we had time to grab a a quick burger and fries from Tasty Burger and then head to Fan Fest.  I had the perfect dessert treat, a bag full of free Dunkin’ Munchkins.  We also took pictures with some passionately dressed fans and in front of the NESN and NHL Network pregame shows as they were broadcasting.  I even had the chance to shoot a puck on a mini rink set up in the middle of Fan Fest.

Before the game began, I also took a picture in front of the famous Bobby Orr statue.  While I was there, I ran into Joe McDonald, who I met in the Bruins press box back in 2015.  I also caught up with Blades on the way to our seats.

Blades

img_4431

After Fan Fest and getting our rally towels, we found our seats and the game began.  I’m especially thankful for the great seats from Dunkin’ in the Loge section behind the net in the Bruins offensive zone for the first and third periods.  Our view from the seats were perfect to see the action up close.

img_4433

The Bruins had control of the game in Period 1, but Blues goalie Jordan Binnington didn’t let up a single goal despite a Bruins power play.  This kept the game scoreless by the end of the period.

Despite going scoreless, I saw many great Bruins scoring opportunities and was thrilled to be at the Garden to cheer the B’s on along with the rest of the very loud and energetic crowd.  It felt surreal being at a Bruins game in June.  The exciting night continued when I visited the 98.5 the Sports Hub suite during intermission.  Adam Moscatel, a 98.5 employee, escorted us up to the 9th floor where the suite was, and I had the chance to catch up with Dan Alperin and Rob “Hardy” Poole of 98.5.

img_4434

But when I returned to my seat about a minute after intermission had ended, the score was 1-0 Blues.  St. Louis had gotten off to a quick start in the 2nd period, and I had just missed the Ryan O’Reilly goal that put St. Louis on the board first.

The rest of the period was dominated by St. Louis.  Even on a Boston power play, the Bruins failed to score, or even keep it in their offensive zone for more than a few seconds.  The Blues did not score any more goals thanks to strong goaltending by Tuukka Rask, but the Bruins no longer had momentum in their favor after this period.

During the 2nd intermission, my dad and I left our seats to buy some food, but on our way there, we ran into well-known sports reporter Sean McDonough and took pictures with him:

img_4439

Sean McDonough is the son of former Boston Globe writer Will McDonough, who the Sports Museum has named their Sports Writing Contest after.  I have received an honorable mention in that contest for two years in a row.  This year, I wrote about how I got into sports in the first place.  Last year, I won an honorable mention for my essay on the true meaning of Boston Strong based on my experience at the first Red Sox home game after the Boston Marathon bombings.  It was really cool to meet Will’s son Sean, who has also worked as a Boston sports reporter for many years.

We didn’t want to miss the 3rd period so we hurried back to our seats after grabbing a drink.  Early in the period, the Bruins were on a power play.  This time, they did keep control of the puck for the majority of the 2 minutes, but they once again failed to score their first goal.

With about 13 minutes left, Bruins right wing David Pastrnak shot in what looked to be a goal.  The play was reviewed, but in the end, it was not ruled a goal.  The call on the ice was no goal and even though the big screen replays looked to show the puck across the goal line, it was ruled no goal after the officials reviewed it.

The call that really angered the fans came when St. Louis scored their 2nd goal.  Before the Blues scored, their center, Tyler Bozak, blatantly tripped Noel Acciari just a few feet away from a referee on the ice.  However, with Acciari lying on the ice seemingly in pain from being upended from a leg whip from behind, no penalty was called.  Play continued and about 10 seconds later David Perron scored, as a quick pass intended for a wide open Bozak (with the B’s essentially down a man), bounced off the inside of Rask’s pads and in for a goal.  Fans all around the stadium began throwing their towels and water bottles in disgust over the non-call.  Game play was delayed several minutes as they swept up the ice to pick up all the thrown items as items were being thrown faster than the ice could be cleared.  The game eventually resumed, but with the Blues up 2-0 and with less than 10 minutes to go, a Bruins comeback seemed unlikely.  One could make an argument it should’ve still been 1-0 with the Bruins on a power play with hopes of tying the game.  Unbiased hockey fans would agree that the Blues 2nd goal should have never counted as the play should have been whistled dead for a tripping call.  Instead, they were down 2-0.

The Bruins did score one goal before the game ended, scored by Jake DeBrusk.  But the team ran out of time to tie the game and force overtime as Binnington shut them down with his best game of the series.  The Bruins ultimately came up short losing game 5 by a score of 2-1.

Even though they lost, the experience is one I will never forget as I had such an incredible time!

I’d like to thank Amy Righter & Dunkin’ Boston, Mark of Boston Chauffer, and the entire staff at 98.5 the Sports Hub for making my Stanley Cup experience very unique and incredibly memorable.

Fortunately the Bruins won Game 6, taking down the Blues 5-1 to force a Game 7.  The one remaining game to decide the Cup winner will be played in Boston with a crowd likely even more pumped up than the crowd from game 5.

The Blues are far from an easy opponent which is probably why this series has gone 7 games.  In fact, they might be the toughest opponent Boston has faced in for the entire 2019 playoffs.  Anything can happen and I think this game will be a close one.  But as they did against Toronto during this playoff run, the B’s can come back to win a series they trailed 3-2 after 5 games.

What do you think?  Will the Blues get revenge for the 1970 loss to the Bruins led by Bobby Orr to win their first ever Stanley Cup or will the Bruins hoist the Cup once again and parade around Boston this week for the 3rd Boston pro sports Championship in 12 months?

I can’t wait to watch and find out.  Go Bruins!

 

Advertisements

Bruins Secure Game 7 over Leafs after Strong Start

5 minutes into the game, it was scoreless.  The Bruins began the game out-shooting Toronto 4-0, but the Leafs got into Bruins territory.  By the time the Bruins had their next real chance to score, it was still scoreless, but the Leafs were out-shooting the Bruins 7-5.  Matt Grzelyck was stuck in traffic in the offensive zone, but he found Joakim Nordstrom  open, and just like that, the Bruins were up 1-0!

They went on to dominate Game 7, taking down the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-1.  They were led by a dominant fourth line and a 30-save game out of Tuukka Rask.  Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly, and Noel Acciari made up tonight’s fourth line, and the three of them combined for 2 goals and 3 assists.

The game did not have many penalties.  It consisted mostly of back and forth goalpost action.  The Leafs ended up out-shooting the Bruins 33-32, but the Bruins were far more successful in scoring.

Image result for marcus johansson bruins

This back and forth action continued through most of the rest of the 1st period, but Marcus Johansson scored Boston’s second goal unassisted soon before 1st intermission.  Johansson had possession behind the net and whipped around for the goal before Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen could do anything about it.

Image result for john tavares leafs bruins

Boston slowed down a bit during the 2nd period.  A quick offensive takeaway for Tyler Ennis (who assisted) led to a John Tavares goal to begin the period.  This made it 2-1 Bruins.  The back and forth play continued until Bruins defender Brandon Carlo was penalized for cross-checking Andreas Johnson.  The power play allowed Toronto some more chances to score, but Tuukka Rask and the defense stood strong, preventing all of them.  I had expected a back and forth high scoring game due to the recent defensive struggles of these two teams.  But the Bruins defense rose to the occasion tonight and was part of the reason why they made it out of Round 1.

Image result for tuukka rask vs toronto

After the strong Bruins defensive play, the Leafs didn’t really gain any more traction until late into the 2nd period.  But once again, Tuukka Rask stood strong and picked up 3 more saves.

Image result for nordstrom kuraly

The Bruins took control after 2nd intermission.  The 3rd period began in Boston territory, but the Bruins received the puck a couple minutes in, Sean Kuraly got out of a difficult situation, driving the puck all the way to the goal.  3-1 Bruins.  Once again, the 4th line stepped it up for the B’s.  About 5 minutes in, the Maple Leafs began another power play after the Bruins got caught with an extra man on the ice.  The results were much less the same as the first power play.

The Bruins were still up by 2 with 3 minutes to go, so the Leafs emptied their net.  Toronto kept the puck under control at first, but after Charlie Coyle’s offensive takeaway, there was nothing to stop a Bruins empty net goal.  Patrice Bergeron scored another empty netter at the last minute to make it 5-1 Bruins and secure the victory.

The Columbus Blue Jackets eliminated Tampa Bay, so the Bruins will be taking on Columbus in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.  Can they come up victorious and become one of the final four teams remaining in the Stanley Cup Playoffs?  Find out later this week.

NHL 2019 Playoff Predictions: Prepare for Madness

The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin today, and the Bruins will take on the Maple Leafs in Round 1 starting tomorrow, as they did last year. But will they go on to become Boston’s third championship team in the last year? I think they have a chance. They still own one of the best first lines in the league. They are also one of the league’s deepest teams. Defense and goaltending are slight concerns, but if the Bruins can score goals quickly, they should be able to put together a deep playoff run. My full bracket is below:

I have the Bruins taking down the Sharks in the Stanley Cup this year. The Sharks will be a tough opponent, led defensively by former Ottawa Senator Erik Karlsson and offensively by former Buffalo Sabre Evander Kane. Martin Jones may also outplay Bruins goalies Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. But I think the Bruins should be able to win in the end as long as the team gets into a rhythm and scores regularly.

It won’t be easy to get to the Stanley Cup either. The Bruins will not have an easy match-up in any round. The Maple Leafs provide significant offensive competition, the Lightning often dominate against the Bruins despite inconsistency, and the Penguins have never been an easy opponent for Boston.

I think Pittsburgh will make it over the Capitals, as they have historically tended to outplay the Capitals in the playoffs. The Caps went all the way to the Stanley Cup and finally came through in the playoffs last year, but I cannot see that happening again.

As for San Jose, the Flames are the league’s most improved 2018-19 team (as I predicted), and they may provide a challenge for the Sharks. The Predators won’t be so easy to take down either.

But in the end, it’ll be the Bruins taking down the Sharks in 6 or 7 games as they win their first Stanley Cup since 2011.

I think this could be an interesting series, as some of the current Bruins and Sharks including Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, and Brad Marchand played in the AHL several years back. At the time, the Sharks still had an AHL affiliate in Worcester, Massachusetts. The Worcester Sharks were a frequent opponent for the Bruins’ AHL affiliate in Providence. Who will win this series when the stakes are at their highest? Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

October Sports Mania: A Busy Month in Boston Sports

img_2155

If you’re a Boston sports fan, you may have noticed an unusual amount of Boston teams playing lately.  Right now, Boston is the only city with an MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL team that are all in season.  From October 16 to October 31, there could be 16 consecutive days of Boston sports (depending on how the Red Sox do in the World Series).  From October 3 to October 31, there could be as many as 39 Boston sports events.  If the Red Sox hadn’t defeated the Astros in 5, all four teams would have played in one weekend.  So far, it’s gone very well, as Boston sports teams have a 16-6-2 win-loss record this October.  I’m calling it October Sports Mania, and today, I will give an update on all 4 teams with my thoughts during this time of madness.

MLB: boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox

Regular Season Record: 108-54

Record in October: 7-2

Current Status: Won American League, Made World Series

Image result for red sox-dodgers

Context: For the first time in 5 years, the Red Sox have made the World Series!  They have made it three other times in the 21st century, and they haven’t lost in a 21st century World Series appearance.  This time, they take on the Dodgers in what could be one of the best World Series’ of the 21st century.  Game 1 went down October 23, as Chris Sale faced Clayton Kershaw and the Red Sox won in a surprising slugfest.  Who will win this exciting series?  I’m calling Red Sox in 6 or 7 games.  But considering that I have to get to school at 7:20 AM every day and the games start at 8:00 or 8:15 PM (some on school nights), I may not see every minute live like I would want to.

Note to commissioner: Please make World Series games start earlier.  A 6PM start, like the Super Bowl, would be nice.

October Schedule

Past Games

  • 10/5/2018 vs. new-york-yankees NYY: W, 5-4 (ALDS Game 1, BOS leads 1-0)
  • 10/6/2018 vs. new-york-yankees NYY: L, 6-2 (ALDS Game 2, series tied 1-1)
  • 10/8/2018 @ new-york-yankees NYY: W, 16-1 (ALDS Game 3, BOS leads 2-1)
  • 10/9/2018 @ new-york-yankees NYY: W, 4-3 (ALDS Game 4, BOS wins 3-1)
  • 10/13/2018 vs. houston-astros HOU, L, 7-2 (ALCS Game 1, HOU leads 1-0)
  • 10/14/2018 vs. houston-astros HOU, W, 7-5 (ALCS Game 2, series tied 1-1)
  • 10/16/2018 @ houston-astros HOU, W, 8-2 (ALCS Game 3, BOS leads 2-1)
  • 10/17/2018 @ houston-astros HOU, W, 8-6 (ALCS Game 4, BOS leads 3-1)
  • 10/18/2018 @ houston-astros HOU, W, 4-1 (ALCS Game 5, BOS wins 4-1)
  • 10/23/2018 vs. los-angeles-dodgers LAD, W, 8-4 (World Series Game 1, BOS leads 1-0)

Upcoming Games

  • 10/24/2018 vs. los-angeles-dodgers LAD (World Series Game 2)
  • 10/26/2018 @ los-angeles-dodgers LAD (World Series Game 3)
  • 10/30/2018 vs. los-angeles-dodgers LAD (World Series Game 6, if necessary)
  • 10/31/2018 vs. los-angeles-dodgers LAD (World Series Game 7, if necessary)

My Thoughts on Them So Far This Month

Image result for red sox-astros alcs

The Red Sox dominated all season after the addition of star hitter J.D. Martinez and manager Alex Cora.  But in both 2016 and 2017, they choked in the playoffs.  I had confidence in them against the Yankees in the ALDS, but that confidence was weaker due to these chokes and the fact that the Yankees were also a Top 3 MLB team this year.  The Sox also had regressed throughout the month of September.  But when they faced the Yankees in the ALDS, they returned to form.  The bullpen was clutch and the lineup had awoken.  They rode the momentum into the ALCS.  It wasn’t looking good after Game 1, but they easily defeated the stacked, defending champion Houston Astros in the final four games.  They have now advanced into an exciting World Series against the Dodgers.  This series could go either way.  Do you think the Sox take it all?

Predictions for the Rest of the Month

Image result for chris sale red sox-dodgers

This World Series will not be smooth sailing.  I didn’t even expect the ALCS to end in 5 games.  But I have confidence that the Red Sox will win.  As long as Chris Sale is good to go and the lineup keeps making fireworks, we should take this series in 6 or 7 games.

NFL: new_england_patriots New England Patriots

Regular Season Record: 5-2

Record in October: 3-0

Current Status: Riding Four Game Win Streak into MNF Division Duel

Image result for josh gordon patriots

Context: The Pats are riding a 4 game win streak, and they’ve scored at least 30 points in every game since WR Josh Gordon was activated.  They beat the Kansas City Chiefs, who arguably have the best offense in the league, 43-40.  Will they ride the momentum to a Super Bowl victory?  This dominant offensive performance will serve them well, but they nearly lost to the Chicago Bears because of bad defense.  Their defense is going to need to step up their game for a win on the big stage.

October Schedule

Past Games

  • 10/4/2018 vs. indianapolis-colts IND: W, 38-24
  • 10/14/2018 vs. kansas-city-chiefs-logo KC: W, 43-40
  • 10/21/2018 @ chicago-bears-logo CHI: W, 38-31

Upcoming Games

  • 10/29/2018 @ Buffalo_Bills BUF

My Thoughts on Them so far This Month

Image result for patriots-chiefs 2018

I was very impressed by the win against Kansas City.  The Chiefs may have one of the worst defenses in the league.  But the fact that the Pats also scored 30+ against the Chicago Bears and the Miami Dolphins shows that this offense is here to play.  They took down the 5-0 Chiefs, who had averaged 35 points per game and were riding the momentum to dominance.

Predictions for the Rest of the Month

The Patriots should be able to take down the 1-6 Bills easily with QB Josh Allen and RB LeSean McCoy banged-up.  But their next major test will come in Week 9 when they host QB Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.  They will need their best defense in that game.

NBA: Related image Boston Celtics

Regular Season Record: 2-2

October Record: 2-2

Current Status: Off to Slow Start, Hoping to Rebound for Big Year

Image result for celtics-76ers 2018

Context: The Celtics are off to a slow start.  They did take down the 76ers and Knicks, but they fell to the Kawhi Leonard-led Raptors in Toronto and suffered an embarrassing loss when hosting the Orlando Magic on Monday.  Will they pick up the pace and contend for a championship?

October Schedule

Past Games

  • 10/16/2018 vs. Image result for 76ers logo PHI, W, 105-87
  • 10/19/2018 @ Image result for raptors logo TOR, L, 113-101
  • 10/20/2018 @ Image result for knicks logo NYK, W, 103-101
  • 10/22/2018 vs. Image result for orlando magic logo blue ORL, L, 93-90

Upcoming Games

  • 10/25/2018 @ Image result for thunder logo OKC
  • 10/27/2018 @ Related image DET
  • 10/30/2018 vs. Related image DET

My Thoughts on Them so far This Month

Image result for celtics-76ers 2018

I’m not so worried about the Celtics despite a rough start.  They topped the 76ers (told you they would regress) by almost 20 and got past the Knicks in New York.  Their loss to Toronto is understandable.  The Raptors have only improved after the Kawhi Leonard trade and I did not expect the Celts to come to Toronto and win easily.  As for the loss to Orlando, it was a little disappointing.  But the Magic have a strong young core that could surprise a lot of people this year.  I would not be concerned if they struggle in Oklahoma City and Detroit, both of whom I see contending.  (Note: I’m pretty sure I was right about the Pistons in my NBA Predictions, Blake Griffin put up 50 against the Sixers).

Predictions for the Rest of the Month

Image result for celtics-pistons blake griffin

Expect them to split in two games against an improved Detroit Pistons squad.  I think their next game against Oklahoma City could go either way.  But even if they start 3-4, I think they’ll pull it together and contend for a title in the long run.

NHL: Image result for boston bruins logo yellow background Boston Bruins

Regular Season Record: 5-2-2 (12 PTS)

October Record: 5-2-2 (12 PTS)

Current Status: So-So in Canada, Come Home Thursday

Context: After a shaky four game road trip across Canada, the Bruins come home to face the Flyers and Canadiens.  Montreal has been off to a strong start, and Philly has been alright as well, so wins won’t come easy over these next couple games either.

October Schedule

Past Games

  • 10/3/2018 @ Image result for capitals logo WSH, L, 7-0
  • 10/4/2018 @ Related image BUF, W, 4-0
  • 10/8/2018 vs. Related image OTT, W, 6-3
  • 10/11/2018 vs. Related image EDM, W, 4-1
  • 10/13/2018 vs. Image result for red wings logo DET, W, 8-2
  • 10/17/2018 @ Related image CGY, L, 5-2
  • 10/18/2018 @ Related image EDM, OTL, 3-2
  • 10/20/2018 @ Image result for canucks logo VAN, OTL, 2-1
  • 10/23/2018 @ Related image OTT, W, 4-1

Upcoming Games

  • 10/25/2018 vs. Image result for flyers logo PHI
  • 10/27/2018 vs. Image result for canadiens logo MTL
  • 10/30/2018 @ Related image CAR

My Thoughts on them so far This Month

Image result for canucks-bruins 2018

The Bruins might not be top Stanley Cup contenders, but it seems that this young, talented team has picked up where they left off last year.  They are still a playoff team for sure and have appeared to be one of the better teams in the league.  I’m a little concerned about their losses to the Oilers and Canucks, but it’s early in the season, and they’ve been doing fine otherwise.

Predictions for the Rest of the Month

Image result for hurricanes-bruins

Look for more of the same heading into the end of the month.  I could see them taking down Philly and Montreal in close home games, and I would expect them to give the Hurricanes a wake-up call after their surprisingly strong start.  I had anticipated that the Hurricanes would start like this given their schedule, but trust me, it will not last that much longer.

That’s all for today.  I hope you enjoy the rest of this crazy month in sports, and stay tuned for more articles on all four teams soon.

 

 

 

 

2018 NFL Week 1 Picks and Previews: Every Win Counts

It’s that time of year again.  Football is finally back!  Today, I will share my predictions for each of the Week 1 games, and I have included a video preview for the Patriots game.   In the future, I may include 2-3 other game previews in addition to a Patriots preview.  I think the NFL is going to be especially competitive this year, so every win counts, even if it’s against a below average team.  Comment with your thoughts and I hope you’re all as excited as I am to watch some regular season football.

Lock of the Week

The Broncos are coming off a really strong draft that helped revamp their offense alongside the signing of QB Case Keenum.  I think the Broncos young pair of running backs will flourish against a declining Seahawks defense.  I don’t think Case Keenum will ever repeat his spectacular 2017, but I do see him having a strong game and taking advantage of the newfound WR depth in Denver.  In the 2017 draft, Denver finally found a third receiver to play alongside Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton, and I see him playing a significant role right off the bat.

This Broncos defense is also nearly as strong as it was last year.  Considering Seattle’s 2017 offensive struggles, I think Denver could easily hold the Seahawks under 20 points.  This will allow Denver to blow Seattle out and get revenge on Seattle for routing the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.

Upset of the Week (MNF)

I think this will be a close call, but I can’t see this stacked Raiders offense losing to the Rams in Oakland.  They have a trio of talented receivers, a good mix of long-time veterans and younger guys in the backfield, and a decent QB and tight end group.  They also have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.  The Rams are one of my two overrated teams of the year.  Sure, they made some exciting moves this off-season, but they lost a lot to free agency in the process.

The Raiders defense may not be looking so good after losing DE Khalil Mack, but their secondary isn’t as bad as it seems.  I see the secondary keeping QB Jared Goff’s receivers well covered, leaving Goff struggling to find open men.  Meanwhile, I don’t see the Raiders offense putting up 30+ points against a relatively strong Rams defense.  But I do see them getting by with just enough to pull off the upset in this one.

TNF (Posted on Twitter on Thursday – Actual Score: 18-12 Eagles)

QB Carson Wentz may be out, but backup QB Nick Foles can still lead teams to victory when it matters.  I don’t see Foles playing quite at Super Bowl level in this one, but competition motivates him.  I think Foles will throw for 2 touchdowns despite being slowed down by the Falcons front seven.  Look out for a big game out of WR Mike Wallace as well.  With WR Alshon Jeffery injured, coverage will be drawn towards TE Zach Ertz and WR Nelson Agholor, Philly’s next two best pass-catchers.  For the Falcons, I think veteran WR Julio Jones and rookie WR Calvin Ridley will have a strong week.  But it won’t be enough for a victory with QB Matt Ryan and Atlanta’s RB duo struggling against the Eagles defensive front.

Sunday’s Games

It’s sure to be an intense game with two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks facing off.  I think both QBs, Tom Brady and Deshaun Watson, will have strong games.  But they will be held back by their lack of wide receiver depth, especially Houston, who will be without WR Will Fuller (hamstring).  However, this opens up an opportunity for a strong game by WR DeAndre Hopkins.  I also see RB Lamar Miller having a strong game with sophomore RB D’Onta Foreman injured.  Meanwhile, as the Patriots typically do, expect Tom Brady to find creative ways to score despite the lack of WR depth with Julian Edelman suspended, and that will lead them to a Week 1 victory.

The Ravens have one of the stronger defensive fronts in the league, and I can’t see QB Nathan Peterman having a strong game against Baltimore after his regular season struggles in 2017.  I don’t see Joe Flacco doing much better, but I think veteran WR Michael Crabtree will find a way to produce against the strong Buffalo secondary, and I think WR John Brown will begin to look like his old self, leading the Ravens in receiving while Crabtree is facing heavier coverage.  I don’t think the Bills stellar run game will be enough to outdo the Ravens, but I do think they will force overtime.  From there Baltimore will secure the victory with strong defense and a well-crafted winning drive.

This will be an interesting game.  We have a match-up between two younger quarterbacks looking to take it to the next level.  I think both Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill and Titans QB Marcus Mariota will have promising showings in a close one.  Even without WR DeVante Parker, I think the Dolphins wide receivers will step it up in this game to make it close.  But I think the Titans receivers are ready to tear apart Miami’s secondary.  Expect a big game from veteran TE Delanie Walker, even against S Reshad Jones.  You also could see a very strong game out of WR Corey Davis.  This is only the beginning of what I think will be Corey Davis’ breakout year.  Walker and Davis will lead the Titans past Miami in a close one.

I think the Steelers will manage a victory here.  But the Browns will make it closer than we’ve seen in a game between these two teams in a long time, with a strong offensive showing.  I don’t think QB Tyrod Taylor will look that good against the Steelers D.  But I think he’ll manage to find open receivers such as WR Jarvis Landry and TE David Njoku for portions of the game.  With RB Le’Veon Bell likely out, expect RB James Conner and RB Stevan Ridley to step it up against the Browns D in Bell’s place.  I think the Steelers offense will just be too much for Cleveland’s rebuilding D, especially with a strong game from WR Antonio Brown and a strong debut from rookie WR James Washington.

Andrew Luck is finally back.  I think he’ll look like his old self, but I see him struggling to find reliable receivers.  Besides T.Y. Hilton, Luck doesn’t have many of them.  Meanwhile, I think the Bengals offense, led by WR A.J. Green will dominate a Colts defense that isn’t looking great.  I think Cincy’s defensive front will look good and shut down the Colts’ young run game.  But I don’t think the Bengals secondary will look much better than Indy’s without S George Iloka.  That will at least allow T.Y. Hilton to have a strong game and make this a little closer.

I don’t think Jaguars QB Blake Bortles will be especially strong against the Giants D, but he’ll find enough open receivers to edge out a victory.  Meanwhile, the Jaguars stellar defense will help secure Jacksonville’s lead by holding the Giants under 20 points and 2 touchdowns.  However, I see WR Odell Beckham Jr. outplaying Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey and scoring New York’s only TD in an epic WR-CB match-up.  But I think rookie RB Saquon Barkley and the Giants run game will be shut down by the strong Jacksonville front seven.

I think QB Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers receivers will have a decent game here.  But the Vikings defense will limit them significantly, allowing the Vikes to blowout the Niners with Minnesota’s offense outplaying a mediocre 49ers D.  I think QB Kirk Cousins will find plenty of open men to throw to in the end zone, and I expect a strong game out of the Vikings RB duo (Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray) with Cook healthy.  I think the one Vikings receiver that will struggle is Adam Thielen, who will likely be matched up against star corner Richard Sherman.  But Vikings WR Laquon Treadwell will show promise after a slow start to his NFL career and play a role in Minnesota’s victory.

This Buccaneers front seven is extremely underrated, and I don’t see the Saints run game thriving against them with RB Mark Ingram suspended.  But with Bucs QB Jameis Winston also suspended, I don’t think Tampa Bay will put up enough points to outdo the Saints in New Orleans.  The Saints are the other team I see as overrated, but I still cannot see them losing to a Winston-less Bucs offense at home.  I think the Saints defense will play well enough.  Offensively, Drew Brees and Michael Thomas will work together to secure the Saints a victory.

With QB Patrick Mahomes II starting for the Chiefs, I don’t think the offense will look as good as it did last year.  But I do think RB Kareem Hunt, WR Tyreek Hill, and TE Travis Kelce will help Mahomes and the Chiefs keep this game close.  However, I see the Chargers offense looking pretty good in this game.  WR Mike Williams will look strong at full health, and QB Philip Rivers and RB Melvin Gordon will also put up strong performances, leading the Chargers to victory despite sloppy defense by both teams.

The Panthers had a very strong pre-season, and I think they can carry the momentum into the regular season against the Cowboys.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Panthers QB Cam Newton throw 3-4 touchdowns in this one.  Cowboys QB Dak Prescott will keep this interesting as I expect him to throw at least 2 touchdowns.  However, I think RB Ezekiel Elliott will have a tough time against a really strong Panthers front seven.

I don’t think Cardinals QB Sam Bradford will quite look like his old self.  But I see him staying healthy and tossing a couple touchdowns in his first start since early last season.  I expect QB Alex Smith and RB Adrian Peterson to have strong days as well, making this close.  But I think the Cardinals win in the end, led by a dominant day for RB David Johnson in his return, and a strong performance by CB Patrick Peterson in man-to-man coverage against Redskins WR Jamison Crowder.

SNF

With QB Aaron Rodgers back at full speed, expect a strong game by the Packers offense.  I see Rodgers tossing at least 2 touchdowns, and TE Jimmy Graham having an especially strong day.  Graham was a great signing, and Rodgers and Graham will make for an amazing QB-TE combo.  Rodgers hasn’t had that for a long time.  The Bears offense will look strong in this game as well.  But I cannot see them putting up as many points as Green Bay does with Rodgers at full health, making the Pack victorious in Rodgers’ return.

MNF

I expect QB Matthew Stafford to look sharp in prime time against a mediocre Jets D.  His receivers should have a strong showing as well, with WR Kenny Golladay showing flashes of dominance, and veteran WR Golden Tate looking better than he was last year.  I also think RB Ameer Abdullah will step up his game this season, starting with this prime time match-up.  Meanwhile, the Jets offense will look revamped with WR Quincy Enunwa healthy and RB Isaiah Crowell and WR Terrelle Pryor Jr. on board.  But I still don’t think it is going to be enough.

That’s all for my NFL Week 1 picks and previews.  Be sure to comment with your thoughts, and enjoy the first Football Sunday of 2018.

Big Night For Boston: Sox, Bruins Win On Big Stage

Boston sports fans needed 2 TVs on Thursday night as the Red Sox battled the Yankees in the series rubber match and the Bruins kicked off their 2018 playoff hockey against a tough Toronto squad.  Most fans likely flipped back and forth and if they were lucky didn’t miss a run or goal and both teams dominated.  The Sox have now won three in a row after more dominance today and the Bruins are on tonight so no flipping is needed.

The Red Sox topped the Yankees 6-3, winning their first series of 2018 against New York.  The Sox looked very good throughout the series.  Although both teams are suffering numerous injuries, I think this is a good sign that the Red Sox may be ready to contend for a World Series title.  Some people believed the opposite before this series, as the Red Sox had faced only rebuilding teams before their series against the Yanks.  If they can do well against the 12-3 Los Angeles Angels and start next week’s west coast road trip off right, that will continue to solidify the Red Sox position as a true contender to win the AL East again and maybe go further.

While the Bruins limped into the playoffs losing 4 of their last 5 to miss a chance to lock down the #1 seed, they returned to midseason form Thursday and dominated in Game 1.  They blew out Toronto 5-1.  The Bruins refused to let injuries hold them back, and the depth of their roster helped them.  If the Bruins can bring the same intensity for the rest of the series, the Maple Leafs may struggle to win a game, let alone the series.  The top line of Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak played extremely well and their play really shined on the power play as the Bruins were 3 for 6, scoring one PP goal in each period.

Please read on for a few more details on the big night for the Sox and B’s.

Porcello Dominant, Red Sox Cruise to Victory 

Image result for rick porcello

The Red Sox came out aggressive fearing a rain-shortened game and put up 6 runs over the first 3 innings on their way to victory over the Yankees, 6-3.  Rick Porcello was dominant on the mound and had a no-hitter through six and finished with seven scoreless innings, giving up just two hits.  Porcello stayed warm waiting out a rain delay after five innings but Rick came back into the game showing no ill effects from the delay.  His no-hitter came to an end in the 7th inning when Yankees star hitter Aaron Judge doubled to break it up.

Image result for eduardo nunez red sox

The Red Sox grabbed hold of a lead early in the game.  Hanley Ramirez, who has been on fire of late, left the game in the 1st after being hit in the hand by Sonny Gray but that did not stop the Red Sox.  Eduardo Nunez led off in the next inning with a base hit.  The cold was giving him knee discomfort as he raced down the first base line but he decided to keep on playing.  JBJ walked to make it 1st and 2nd, and Sandy Leon drove in the run with a single.  Brock Holt got on base with another walk to load the bases, and all three runners advanced one base when Mookie Betts hit a deep sac fly, making it 2-0 Red Sox with men on 2nd and 3rd.  Andrew Benintendi then grounded to second base with the infield in.  The Yankees chose to throw home but the throw bounced in by Sanchez and allowed Leon to score.  Holt advanced to 3rd and Benny had time to advance to 2nd. Mitch Moreland, in off the bench for Hanley, drove in the fourth run with a single despite limited playing time this year.

The Sox scored again the 3rd.  Eduardo Nunez doubled to right, and JBJ hit a ground rule double to knock him in.  Sandy Leon struck out on a pitch in the dirt that got away.  Another bad defensive choice by the Yankees allowed Leon to reach as Gary Sanchez fired to 3rd but JBJ slid in safely.  Mookie Betts knocked him in with a ground ball to the right side, 6-0 Boston.  Betts ended up going 0 for 4 but he had 2 RBI on the night.

The Yankees did not score until the top of the 9th when reliever Marcus Walden gave up a bases-clearing double to Gary Sanchez with the bases loaded.  Craig Kimbrel came in to finish the job, and the Red Sox won 6-3.

Injury Update: Hanley Ramirez did suffer a wrist contusion but avoided a more serious injury.  He was out of the lineup Friday against Baltimore but returned today with a Home Run.

What’s Next: The Red Sox have taken the first 2 games against the Orioles in a 4-game Fenway series as Eduardo Rodriguez dominated again against his former team as he has struck out more batters against the Orioles than any other opponent in his career.  The Sox won easily 7-3.  Velazquez gave up just 2 runs in 5 strong innings as the Sox cruised to a 10-3 victory and weather permitting hope Sale can keep the strong pitching streak for Sox starters going.

Bruins Dominate vs. Leafs, Led By Power Play success

  

The Bruins dominated in Game 1 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  They topped a strong Toronto Maple Leafs squad, 5-1, with David Backes scoring one goal and being robbed of a second.  Rick Nash also made an impact returning after a long absence.  The Bruins dominated in their power plays, scoring a power-play goal in every period.  One PP goal was during a 5-minute major power play due to a gruesome hit Nazem Kadri put on Tommy Wingels, knocking him out of the game.  Kadri is suspended for the next 3 games of the series, and if the Bruins continue to dominate, he may not play another game this season.

Zach Hyman scored the only goal for Toronto when the Leafs tied it up in the 1st period. After that, the Leafs fell out of it due to 4 unanswered Bruins goals.

Injury Update: Wingels is out for Game 2 after being hit by Kadri. Riley Nash is doubtful with an ear laceration.  Donato is playing for Wingels.

What’s Next: The Bruins take on the Leafs at the TD Garden again tonight.  It is being aired on prime time on NBC.  The Bruins have jumped out to a 5-2 lead early in the 2nd period, going 2 for 2 on the power play and scoring another 4 unanswered goals to begin the game.

Stay tuned for more Red Sox and Bruins coverage soon, including my latest Red Sox Report.

My 2018 NHL Playoff Bracket

I have finished my predictions for the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Here is my bracket:

The Bruins have a very tough road ahead. They will face a tough Maple Leafs team in the first round, and will likely see the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, another tough team. Their defensive struggles will definitely hurt them in the later rounds, especially if they face the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, or the dominant Nashville Predators. I do think the Bruins will win in the end though. If they can stay healthy from here, they have a lot of talent that is capable of keeping the offense going. The defense should be alright without Brandon Carlo, especially if Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, and Torey Krug do well in the playoffs.

Here are some other notes about my bracket:

  • I have picked most of the higher seeds in the East besides the Bruins and Penguins. But in the West, I have picked several upsets. The Golden Knights were the league’s biggest surprise this year, but they are inexperienced in the playoffs, and regressed down the stretch after appearing to be the league’s best team in the early months. I think the Kings will give them a rude awakening and Vegas will struggle under pressure.
  • The Sharks will also go deep. I think they have a better roster than the Ducks and will outmatch them head to head. They will top the Kings, a lower seed after LA shocks the Golden Knights and advance to the Western Conference Finals. The Kings will win in Round 1, but do not expect them to go any further. But the Predators are too good for them. I also picked the Wilds over the Jets for similar reasons.
  • I think the Bruins would’ve been much easier off against the Devils. The Lightning will dominate in New Jersey. I think the Florida Panthers, who just missed the playoffs and a lot of other teams would have given their opponents a bigger challenge than the Devils.
  • In my opinion, although the higher seeds in the East will win in the 1st Round, lower seeds like the Maple Leafs, Flyers and Blue Jackets will give their opponents a good challenge. As I said earlier, I think the Devils will be the easiest first round opponent.

That’s all for my NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions. Stay tuned for more coverage.