It's time for the Stanley Cup Finals (past results). This seasons matchup will thrill hockey fans. The ageless and well seasoned Detroit Red Wings face off versus a young and inspired Pittsburgh Penguins club. Both teams feature top notch offenses and strong goalies.
Pittsburgh easily won the Eastern Conference Playoffs and appears more than ready to get this series underway. Chairman and former playing legend Mario Lemieux is Pittsburgh's saviour. As a player he led this franchise to back to back Championships in 1990-91 & 1991-92 seasons. As Chairman, he saved and rebuilt this proud Penguins organization which was once on the verge of collapsing.
Head Coach Michel Therrien's second season behind the bench was tremendous as he led this team to a 47 point turnaround from a season ago. Therrien is known for his passion, discipline and attention to detail. It shows. His high flying young team is skating on all cylinders this playoff season. Leading the attack has been Sydney Crosby (21 pts), Marian Hossa (19 pts) and Evgeni Malkin (19 pts) while goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (12-2, 1.70) has been outstanding. Fleury needs to continue his winning ways against Detroit's well seasoned attack.
Western Conference Champion Detroit Red Wings are no strangers to playoff hockey. They last won the Cup in 2002 but seem to be in the thick of things season after season. Head Coach Mike Babcock (3rd Red Wing season) is determined to bring the Cup back to Detroit. Leading playoff scorers Henrick Zetterberg (21 pts), Pavel Datsyuk (19 pts) and Johan Franzen (15 pts) have been finding the net often. Franzen's status for Game 1 is in question due to injury. Between the pipes has been veteran goalie Chris Osgood (10-2, 1.60) who's been as stingy as they come.
Both teams play hockey the way it's meant to be played. Fast skaters, crisp clean passing attacks, heavy blue line forechecking and superior defensive play. Both are well disciplined and rarely take bad penalties. This series seems even on paper heading into Saturday's opening face-off. Don't be surprised to see 2-1 and 1-0 scores ruling the day.
These teams are ready. It's tough to gauge which one holds an advantage. Will it be Pittsburgh's youth and thirsty determination? Or, Detroit's veteran expertise which proves decisive? This series will be worth watching every minute.
Prediction: Pittsburgh is red hot and on a mission. Each game will be an instant classic. Beware of the Penguins... Pittsburgh prevails in 6.
NBA's Western Conference matchup seems great on paper. Current league champion San Antonio takes on current league MVP Kobe Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers. San Antonio has won three of the past five Championships beginning in 2003. Los Angeles won three consecutive titles from 2000-02.
Kobe has averaged 33.3 points in 10 playoff games leading the Lakers into the West Finals. Paul Gasol has played huge averaging 20.0 on 56.8% shooting. Lamar Odom (15.6 PPG - 51.6%) and Derek Fisher (11.9 PPG - 51.4% - 58.6% 3PT) have made major contributions as LA has averaged 112.1 points. Phil Jackson's squad is ready for action every night. LA has been and will continue to play big... these guys are on a mission.
San Antonio is coming off a grueling seven game series vs New Orleans. The Hornets must be reflecting and wondering how they let the series get away. San Antonio showed what champions are made of by coming back from a two game to zero deficit... and also rallied when trailing in game seven. Tony Parker has had the steady hand nailing bigger than life shots to secure playoff victories (23.7 PPG). Manu Ginobili (20.0 PPG) and Tim Duncan (19.3) have led the offense which averaged 96.4 PPG in defensive oriented battles. Duncan has been surprisingly inconsistent and must step up his game if the Spurs want to be repeat champs. Coach Gregg Popovich needs to devise a gameplan to slow down Kobe and LA's high powered attack. SA has often appeared slow on offense and solid shot selection has been lacking.
Prediction: LA will recreate one of the NBA Final matchups which recently thrilled fans during the 80's Larry Bird - Magic Johnson era... and many head to head Final's of the 60's. Lakers in 6.
On July 9, 2007 thirteen year veteran NBA referee Tim Donaghy abruptly resigned from officiating prior to reports of being implicated by an ongoing FBI investigation involving gambling which included point shaving or erroneous calls affecting NBA game results.
Donaghy has been rumored to be cooperating with investigators and allegedly told of games being affected by relationships between players, coaches and officials. Apparently confidential information was also passed by an unnamed referee to an unidentified coach.
Donaghy is seeking a reduced sentence of probation for his past gambling activities. FBI investigators have been mum on how deep the scope of this investigation has run and no specific names or details have been made public. According to an ESPN ariticle written on 6/20/08, Donaghy's lawyer, John Lauro, "suggested that the NBA might have 'pressured' the (US District attourney Eastern District office) into 'shutting down this prosecution to avoid disclosure of information unrelated to Tim's conduct"
Right from the get go, NBA officials (most notably Commissioner Stern) claimed Donaghy was an isolated incident and flatly denied others were involved. Never once suggesting or making public statements of the "remote possibility" other officials, players or coaches could have been involved in point shaving or making bad calls to determine game results. This sham move was barely scrutinized by most sports journalists. Instead, it was promoted as an isolated incident with minimal coverage. This was on the heels of an illegal New Jersey gambling ring to which NHL coach Rich Tocchet, organized crime and State Police were attached. Perhaps, many faces were pre-occupied with George Mitchell's MLB report? Regardless, this event flew under the radar when it was screaming for attention.
The NBA, like most other leagues, rushes to deny knowledge or involvement implicating its' players. Time and time again, MLB denied steroid reports. NFL tried to hush Spygate. NHL and Tocchet and the list goes on. Common sense dictates a veteran of 772 regular season games as an official provides Donaghy to access of plenty of intel and personal communication between players, coaches and other officials. Why was the NBA so quick to offer denials during an active FBI investigation? Why is the NBA afraid to have others implicated and exposed? Are they too chicken to expose/suspend big league names, coaches and refs? Do they feel superior to prosecution and persecution? What gives? Could it be fear of decreased revenues? Probably since money seems to dictate everything when it comes to sports these days.
Now, if it's true the NBA pressured FBI and US attourney's office to circumventing their investigation then the league should be prosecuted for interfering in an ongoing investigation while those in charge get slammed as well. It is highly unlikely Donaghy acted alone. Highly unlikely is officiating crew didn't know something was up with this one time respected referee. Accusations of improper officiating was often leveled by players due to missed or phantom calls late in games. Most notably in games involving NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs (calls against). Unfortunately, these claims are most difficult to prove even under the best of circumstances. HOWEVER, it's rare that gambling actors act alone from those who control the puppets to those who do the actual game throwing/point shaving.
Commissioner David Stern, again today, denied the latest report filed by Donaghy's attourney. Dismissing it as an attempt by "a convicted felon" seeking a lesser sentence. Astonishing the NBA is taking such a bold attitude by refusing to conduct their own internal witch hunt. Those who point their noses high in the air often catch flies. There's something very wrong with this picture.
Only time will tell if others get taken down in this sordid tale. Hopefully, once the FBI presents its' case or goes public by naming persons involved outside of the game, we'll learn the truth. Until then, I'll just sit back believing there's a massive conspiracy, or cover-up, in play by the NBA. Time to scream FOUL!
The top two Eastern Conference teams are getting ready to do battle. Boston (66-16) and Detroit (59-23) are two of the leagues toughest teams. Detroit will be playing in their sixth consecutive conference final. Boston was a mainstay during the Larry Bird era and is determined to win it all.
During the regular season Boston bested Detroit 2 games to 1. Each was hard fought. Both teams have swarming defensive schemes attacking opponents from the perimeter to the boards. Boston's playoff offense (91.6 PPG) has been led by Kevin Garnett (20.3), Paul Pierce (18.7), Ray Allen (12.7) and Rajon Rando (11.7, 6.6 AST). Detroit's (92.3 PPG) main men have been Richard Hamilton (21.5), Tayshawun Prince (16.0), Chauncey Billups (15.8) and Rasheed Wallace (13.9).
Defense and smart shot selection will dictate this seven game series. All shots will be contested. Ball movement via crisp passes could be the difference. These teams are not friends either. Boston has been the leagues media darling this season during their remarkable turnaround from a year ago. Detroit's tough style of play garners few headlines... mostly due to their unflashy style of hard nosed play. Expect to see plenty of pushing and shoving as players battle for position in the paint. Tempers will flare and these teams will have plenty of verbal wars while bodies slam.
Boston is coming off 14 tough early round games while Detroit needed only 11 to advance. Doubtful the difference in games played will have any negative effects on either team and both should be well rested before Wednesday nights tip off.
Prediction: Boston advances to NBA Finals after and epic 7 game battle.
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Big Brown is galloping his way toward horse racing's historic and illusive Triple Crown. This strong Thoroughbred has won the first two Triple Crown races in dramatic style. He was the first horse since 1929 to win the Kentucky Derby starting in the 20th gate. In the Preakness Stakes, Big Brown (7th gate) won by 5 1/4 lengths and became the first horse to win both races while remaining undefeated.
The last Triple Crown winner was Affirmed back in 1979 who entered legendary status with 70's winners Secretariat (1973) and Seattle Slew (1977). Many have come close but none have since been successful. Big Brown seems to be ready to make history.
Prior to the Preakness, Big Brown's trainer admitted administering stanozolol on the 15th of every month. Stanozolol is an anabolic steroid banned in 10 states, but not by any where Triple Crown races run.
We'll find out on June 7, 2008 at the Belmont Stakes if Big Brown can get the job done in this 1.5 mile competition. This horse is on a mission and will not be denied. Go Big Brown!