Three is a Magic Number

Good for the NHL for changing up the overtime rules. Next season, OT will consist of five minutes of 3-on-3 hockey instead of 4-on-4. This should, and the key word is should, reduce the number of shootouts each season. It’s a good start, but if the NHL really wants to do away with shootouts (and I agree they should) they should think about making each regular season win count as three points instead of two.

The current point system in the NHL makes no sense. If you get a win, no matter when, you get two points. If you get to overtime and lose, no matter when, you get one point. So, some games see two points awarded and some see three points awarded. It’s and awkward way to handle games. International hockey figured this out a long time ago. Award three points in every game. If a team wins a game outright, they get all three. If it goes to overtime, the winning team gets two and the losing team gets one.

That makes sense and it also incentivizes teams to play for outright wins in regulation time. Currently, teams play a bit of a shutdown game when they are tied in the final minutes. They are content to get to OT and see what happens, rather than keep pushing for an outright win. Adding an extra point to the mix should change that dynamic. Teams, especially teams trying to make the playoffs, will grind it out until the final of regulation.

That would be great for fans and great for the NHL. Let’s hope they make that change soon.

LeBron Versus The World

I get it, for some people they will never be able to look at LeBron James and get past “The Decision”. It was a colossal mistake, an historic blunder, but it is your mistake if stops you from appreciating how great this guy is. The level of hate directed at LeBron makes no sense and it is time to simply sit back and enjoy what we are seeing.

DId you know that LeBron is the only non-Celtic in history to appear in five-straight NBA Finals? That’s a pretty amazing stat, but let’s talk about Sunday’s game. Consider the Cavaliers’ roster. It was built around a “Big Three” of LeBron, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving. Only LeBron is left standing at this point with the other two out for the season. This has forced Cleveland to adopt a somewhat unusual game plan. The ball gets inbounded to LeBron and he then figures it out. Last night wasn’t pretty, but he did it in a big way- 39 points, 16 rebounds, 11 assists and only three turnovers in 50 minutes of court time (50 minutes!) And don’t forget how good LeBron’s defense is.

Yes, the haters are right that even an average game from Curry sends this series back to Cleveland with the Cavs down 0-2, but that shouldn’t diminish what LeBron is doing. This is one of the greatest basketball players in history as an actual underdog. He will most likely fail. Golden State has way more talent and they are smartly trying to beat up LeBron as much as possible. But even if LeBron fails, this is glorious to watch. One man trying to will hit team to a championship. It’s the kind of story sports fans usually flock to. They just need to get past the hate.

Wake Up!

Hey did you know the NBA Finals start tonight? You probably forgot because the NBA hasn’t had a game in over a week. Thanks to a sweep and a 4-1 result, the Conference Finals ended on last Wednesday and we have been waiting for basketball to reappear since then.

I don’t really understand the delay. Why couldn’t the Finals have started Sunday? Or Monday? Or even Tuesday? (Wednesday was taken by the Stanley Cup, so I get that) Tuesday would have been an optimal date as they could have played Game 1 then, Game 2 tonight and Game 3 Sunday. (TV networks avoid Saturday night like the plague) The NBA released some sketchy statement about the impossibility of travel and hotel rooms.

It’s too bad because this is a compelling matchup. The Warriors with their magnificent team and great shooter versus LeBron trying to win Cleveland a championship for the first time in fifty-plus years. In fact, this matchup guarantees that we will have a tenth club join the list of NBA teams that have won a title since 1979. I’m excited, let’s get to it, but why did it take so damn long?

Bring Me A Frozen Envelope!

It’s somewhat eerie, but the Knicks are back where they were in the spring of 1985. The 1984-85 Knicks had a dynamic scorer who went down to surgery in season and not much else to root for. Those Knicks had a bunch of role players forced into starting roles. But two things are different.

1- The 84-85 Knicks won 24 games, seven more than these Knicks did.

2- The 1985 NBA Draft had one big prize and a big drop off. This draft has at least two prizes and maybe three.

And that’s the key thing for the Knicks and their fans to remember tonight. The Knicks want to win the lottery obviously, but they will be absolutely fine picking second. Personally, I would rather have Towns than Okafor, but Okafor would be a heck of a consolation prize. Even if they picked third, Russell looks like he will be a very, very good NBA guard. The Knicks could live with him.

The problem is, the Knicks have about a 55% chance of picking in the top-3 and that means they have a 45% chance of picking 4th or 5th. (They can’t pick lower than 5th) That’s where what looks like a sure-thing pick turns into more of a guess. That’s where fans will be right to worry about who they pick.

So let’s hope the fix is on tonight like it obviously was thirty years ago.

Wow

A 4-1 lead with under 15 in the third period turned into an absolute nail-biter. I’m still not sure how the Rangers pulled that off, but they did and now they have reached Game 7, which is in their home building. Momentum should be on their side, but considering how thoroughly dominated they were in the final 12 minutes of tonight’s game, I would argue it isn’t.

Game 7’s are incredible, but after 13-straight (13-STRAIGHT) Rangers playoff games decided by one goal, my nerves may not be up to it. Luckily, I have until Wednesday to get my heart rate down again.

We’ve Been Here Before

I take a bit of solace in the fact that the Rangers appeared dead after going down 3-1 against Pittsburgh last year. They overcame that deficit with only one home game. They certainly appear dead again, but this time they have two home games to get to the next round. That should be an advantage.

But, they are simply not playing well. Rick Nash has disappeared, though to be fair most of his teammates have as well. The defense is making too many dumb plays and the offense isn’t doing enough to overcome them.

Yet tonight is Game 5 and I still like their chances. I think they come out and take control of the game. They probably have to hold on tightly in the later stages, but I think they get back to Washington.

That’s when the real challenge will happen.

Four Down Twelve To Go

Let’s take a minute and appreciate what the Rangers did last night. The Rangers have made the conference finals two times in the last three years, but it took them seven games in the first round both times. In fact, it took them seven games in the second round too. That won’t be the case if they advance this year to the conference finals as they have dispatched the Penguins in five.

That could be huge as they will get a chance to rest a bit now. Depending on what happens tonight in Washington, the Rangers may be off until Wednesday. That’s valuable time as it will allow Kevin Klein more time to heal and Matt Zuccarello more time as well. The NHL playoffs are a grind and rest is always a good thing.

And while we wait, I am going to root for the Islanders to beat Washington tonight and Monday. I know it may be sacrilege for a Rangers’ fan to root for the Islanders, but I want to see them face each other in the playoffs again. It happened eight times from 1975 to 1994, but hasn’t happened since then. It’s time to see it again.

One More Win

The Rangers are leading the Penguins 3-1 in their playoff series and heading home for Game 5. It was almost exactly a year ago that Pittsburgh was leading the Rangers 3-1 in a playoff series and heading home for Game 5. It’s important to remember that as the Rangers haven’t won anything yet.

My biggest worry is that the Rangers keep showing up flat. They did it in Game 2 of this series and got beaten and they did it last night, but escaped after a brutal first period. Luckily for the Rangers, Pittsburgh didn’t take full advantage of a team that seemed to be skating in circles for the first 20 minutes. The Rangers somehow emerged from a period where they managed only two shots down 1-0.

I don’t think they will get that lucky again. Pittsburgh has way too much firepower, and if the Rangers come out flat tomorrow they will pay for it. And if they lose Game 5, Pittsburgh gets to go home and play for Game 7. And if they go to Game 7, all bets are off.

What’s Your Favorite Sports Day?

Some of my favorite sports days of the year have happened in the past few months. The opening day of March Madness with 16 games is a personal favorite. Opening Day of the baseball season, especially when it is combined with the end of March Madness like this year, is another. It got me thinking, what other days merit inclusion on this list?

For my list, I am including two rules. First, the day has to be a day. You can’t say the first week of the NFL season for example, or the World Series. Second, it has to be a national event. Patriots’ Day in Boston is cool, but it isn’t really known outside of Boston. Here are a few of my favorites.

Fathers’ Day- You get the final round of the U.S. Open and plenty of baseball.

The NFL conference championships- I prefer these games to the Super Bowl because there are two of them and they are usually better.

Belmont Stakes Day- Often you get a triple crown bid, but even without it you also have a NBA final or NHL final game to watch as well, plus plenty of baseball.

Thanksgiving- Turkey and plenty of football.

New Year’s Day 2015- This was awesome with the college football semis, but the powers that be won’t let us enjoy it again until 2018 because they are dumb.

How about you?

 

Dayton Saves The Day!

Thursday was upset central at the NCAA Tournament. Friday saw favorites dominate the action, winning the first 15 games until Dayton came along and prevented the first-ever 16-for-16 performance from the favorites on a single day since the tournament became a 64-team affair.

The tournament is halfway done from a games played standpoint. The strength and weakness of the opening two days is the proliferation of games. It normally provides some memorable upsets, but individual games often get drowned out in the noise of the overall experience.  Saturday we narrow things down to a more manageable number of games. Some of them should be great.

While it is hard to call UCLA a Cinderella, they are an 11-seed. But, they are facing a 14-seed in UAB in the opening matchup. This will be a lot of fun and enjoy this game because the winner is almost, almost, guaranteed to get destroyed by Kentucky next week.

That’s unless Cincinnati manages to beat Kentucky in Game 2 which would be the greatest second-round upset ever.

#10 Ohio State vs. #2 Arizona tips next and that could be a good game if Ohio State plays like it can.

The coach everyone is rooting for #14 Georgia Southern takes on #6 Xavier an hour later in another great matchup. This will be an enjoyable one.

The 6-0 ACC puts that streak on the line when #8 NC State plays #1 Villanova at 7:10. Wichita State (2014), Gonzaga (2013), Pittsburgh (2011), Kansas (2010) are all recent examples of #1 seeds that lost in the second round. History doesn’t have to repeat itself, but if you were going to pick from a list of Kentucky, Villanova, Duke, and Wisconsin to lose in the second round this year, which one would you pick?

The final three games are all 5-4 or 6-3 match ups.

Georgetown meets Utah.

UNC meets Arkansas

Butler meets Notre Dame

While wins by Utah, Arkansas, and Butler would be considered upsets, I don’t think they really are. All three games should be good ones.

I can’t wait.

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