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Dorsey’s Dugout- The First Edition

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Dorsey’s Dugout- The First Edition

Posted on 20 June 2014 by Nick Dorsey

 

This is the very first edition of my new weekly column that tackles all sorts of topics in the sports world today. I have opinions on all different kinds of events or sports that are going, so the new weekly column called “Dorsey’s Dugout” is where you can find my latest take on any hot topic.

There has been so much going on lately, including two of the big four sports seasons concluded with another major sporting event that comes around once every four years. So much to write about so now let the first edition of the new column kick off starting with the NBA Finals reflection.

NBA Finals

The Spurs-Heat rematch was what everyone wanted to see after the Heat miraculously came back in game six and won the series in seven games last season. It was their second championship in a row and Miami looked like the favorite to repeat. Despite being the “2-seed” in the East, everyone knew who the beast from the East truly was and were ready to see if they could three-peat against the team with the top record in the NBA during the regular season.

Last year’s finals was one to never forget with so much going on, including Danny Green’s historic three point shooting performance throughout the series and Ray Allen’s season saving three pointer from the corner. There was a bad taste that resonated with the Spurs after the loss and Tim Duncan made no secret of that before the rematch began.

Once the first two games in San Antonio came to a close with the series tied at one heading to Miami for another two games, I thought the Heat were in full control and ready to run away with the third trophy in four years. Lesson learned here, never underestimate the power of revenge.

San Antonio looked like a different team when they hit the floor in south beach. Greg Popovich outcoached Erik Spoelstra for the remaining duration of the series and fundamental basketball was at its absolute peak of excellence.

Throughout the regular season, many fans of the NBA always made the comment about how boring the Spurs were to watch. They do not have an explosive player like a LeBron James and their style of play is not all up and down the floor with flash, but this series was a display of excellent basketball all around. It was not just one player trying to get it done; it was a team effort all around.

If I were a basketball coach trying to teach the game, I would make my team watch the Spurs play from games three through five. The way the ball was moved around unselfishly and how every teammate was willing to make that extra pass, it may have been boring for some who watch the NBA, but I found it to be a beautiful display of basketball.

The Finals were won due to basketball being played fundamentally spectacular led by the winningest trio in NBA postseason history. Duncan now has his fifth ring and solidified his place in basketball history once again. In my eyes, he is the greatest power forward of all time.

How sweet was this victory for Manu Ginobli? Manu was one of the scapegoats in last year’s Finals due to his poor play, but  this year was a different story. Manu was just being Manu scoring over double-digit points in four of the five games.

There are plenty of support players that surround the long-tenured trio such as Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter and Patty Mills. There is not a player outside of that trio that had more of an impact on the series than Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.

It was remarkable what the 22 year old out of San Diego State accomplished this post-season. For Leonard to be that young and not full of experience in the NBA with the responsibility of guarding LeBron James one on one, it was astonishing.

When the series was tied at one, coach Popovich made it known they needed more from Leonard to take the next step in the series. With a combined 18 points in the first two games, Kawhi answered his coach’s request with three straight 20+ point performances, including a 29 point-performance in game three. Once Leonard took his game to the next level, the Heat were unable to catch up.

What came as the biggest surprise from this series besides the rise of Kawhi Leonard was how lopsided the Finals were. After a tremendous finish last season, this year could not have been more of a blowout unless Miami never captured game two.

No one could have seen a 4-1 Spurs win before the Finals began, it would have almost been deemed impossible. What we learned most from this series going forward is “teams” win championships and the Heat were not a good enough team throughout the lineup.

The Spurs starters were clicking on all cylinders and the bench came out providing a spark. On the other side of the floor, some of the Heat starters were inconsistent and struggling.

So now the off-season begins in the NBA and there are many storylines that will unfold within the next few months. Will the Spurs veterans call it a career riding out on top of the world or come back for more? Will LeBron James opt out and force us to watch another national televised “Decision” to see where he ends up? My thoughts on the James off-season will be coming later in another column. For now, the Spurs are the champions of the NBA. They are the best overall team in every possible aspect and deserved it this season.

Stanley Cup Playoffs

The NBA Finals was not the only championship series that took place during the beginning portion of the summer time. The Stanley Cup was the other major series that went on during the nights the NBA had off.

The Stanley Cup playoffs are the cream of the crop when it comes to post-season play in professional sports. There is absolutely no other major sport that can compare to what playoff hockey provides throughout its entirety.

The best way to sum up the Stanley Cup Playoffs is the following phrase that I continuously say to those who aren’t the biggest of hockey fans. It is the best playoffs in sports, playing for the best trophy in sports and commentated by the best in all of sports.

It takes so much to win the Stanley Cup and the trophy itself is a trophy unlike any other in sports. Lord Stanley continues to grow in size each season as more teams and players names are inscribed onto the trophy after each season. As for the final part of the phrase in regards to the commentating, there is nothing better in viewing sports than listening to Mike “Doc” Emrick commentate a hockey game.

Doc Emrick is a legend in the commentating world and listening to him work throughout the playoffs is more than a gift. The enthusiasm and excitement he brings to the network every night is truly spectacular. When one team in a game is down one goal with an empty net and down to its last breath, Doc Emrick calling the last two minutes or so of a game sounds similar to a horse race. It is absolutely gripping and consistently has the fans on the edge of their seats in their living rooms.

Now for the Stanley Cup playoffs that took place just recently, the team that was handed Lord Stanley on their home ice, goes down in the history books. The 2014 Los Angeles Kings are a historic hockey team that displayed resiliency that I have never seen out of a team in maybe all of sports in my short lifetime.

The Kings were 4-1 losers to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference finals last season, so they had aspirations of getting back to that position to avenge their loss. The Kings hit a brick wall during the first round against one of their fiercest rivals.

Los Angeles was dead in the water round one to the San Jose Sharks, as they were down three games to none. After a game three loss in overtime on their home ice, the Kings were on the verge of getting swept. It was a devastating loss and their leader in goal Jonathan Quick had given up 17 goals in three games.

A moment that will forever stand out in the Kings history is Quick acknowledging his teammates on the ice telling them he will play better and everything will be ok. He was the last man off the ice for the Kings, which is unusual for a goaltender.

After giving up 17 goals in his first three games, Quick only gave up five in the next four, which gave the Kings a golden chance to recapture the series. Jonathan Quick looked like the same goaltender that won the Conn Smythe in 2012.

The rest of the team did its part and came back from a three-game deficit to win the series in game seven. The Kings became only the fourth team in the history of hockey to come back from a 3-0 deficit and win a series. This is just the first bit of history that the Kings made throughout the playoffs.

After a first series that had the Kings fans sitting uncomfortably, the second series was another roller-coaster ride. Round two Los Angeles faced their other California rival, Anaheim. It was the first time that these two had ever met in the playoffs ever.

The Kings won the first two games on the road, but then allowed the Ducks to steal both games at home. The series was at 2 all when they went back to Anaheim for game five. The Ducks won game five and the Kings went back home for game six on the verge of elimination.

Los Angeles was once again in a situation with their backs against the wall, but they did not let the pressure get to them. They went on to win the next two games to advance to the Western Conference finals. After just the first two series, the Kings were 6-0 when facing elimination. A team that kept its composure no matter the circumstance, had its chance at sweet revenge the next round against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks won Lord Stanley the season before and were coming into the Western conference finals with a bit more rest than the Kings. Los Angeles had their Cup hopes crushed by Chicago last season, so they wanted to return the favor.

A team that had been battle tested and always climbing their way back into series’ consistently, the Kings fought their way for a 3-1 lead over Chicago. The Kings had always had their backs against the wall, but now were in full control. They had their chances to move on, but were unable to capitalize on the golden opportunity.

Chicago had tied up the series at three a piece and had a chance to move on to the finals for a second straight season. LA was once again in a familiar situation, on the brink of elimination despite the 3-1 lead they had. Game seven of these conference finals was as good as it gets in hockey.

LA went into the third period down one goal and looked as if Chicago was on their way to another Finals appearance. With just over seven minutes left in the third frame, Marian Gaborik scored on a rebound to even the game up at four. With the game tied at four and all sixty minutes had passed, an overtime period was needed to conclude the western conference finals.

The last time a conference final needed an overtime period to decide a game seven was twenty years ago when the Rangers eliminated the New Jersey Devils. It did not take long for the series to end as Alec Martinez threw a puck to the net with traffic in front. The puck went over and in behind Corey Crawford to send the Kings to the Stanley Cup.

The Stanley Cup Finals had a similar 4-1 series victory that the NBA Finals presented us with, but the Cup finals were not lopsided like the NBA Finals was. Three out of the five games featured overtime periods, two of which were double overtimes. The Stanley cup playoffs were hard fought, but the team that deserved it the most ended up being the last team standing on the ice.

Alec Martinez scored the game winning goal that sent the Kings to the Stanley Cup and it was Martinez who ended the long journey at home in double overtime. Game five was as intense of a hockey game as there could have been with amazing performances between the pipes from both Lundqvist and Quick.

The Los Angeles Kings won on home ice and the ride was one of the most historic runs I have ever witnessed in sports. Some of the marks that the Kings made in the history book are the following: Fourth team to ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series, first team to ever win three game sevens on the road on the way to a Stanley Cup, their 26th game played in one post-season ties for the most ever and their 64 playoff games played in last three seasons is an NHL record.

Watching the Kings for the duration of this past playoff run was a historic portrayal of resiliency. A team that consistently had their back against the wall with deficits in series leads and in games never quit and overcame those deficits.

Two Stanley Cup titles in the past three years begins to raise the constant discussions on whether they are on the verge of being an NHL dynasty. They are close to doing so, but will need to capture another title. For this team, winning another Cup is not too far fetched.

They have the best goalie in the world with Jonathan Quick, the best defenseman in Drew Doughty and they are deep within the corps of their forwards. The acquisition of Marian Gaborik sparked the Kings run this post-season, as he led everyone in the playoffs in goals. What an acquisition that was at the deadline.

The resiliency that was on display for the roller-coaster ride that was the Los Angeles Kings proves that there is nothing in the same league as playoff hockey. It is the hardest fought journey for the most storied trophy in sports with the top guy in the business calling the dramatic finish. I cannot wait until hockey is back for the next season. This past year was an amazing portrayal of how dramatic the Stanley Cup playoffs are year in and year out.

The Rest of the Sports World

With the NBA and NHL seasons wrapped up, there is still plenty going on in sports. The World Cup is in full blast, the NFL mini camps are about finished and the off-seasons are ahead for the other major sports. Here are some of the topics I would like to cover and my thoughts on each.

USA over Ghana

What a game it was this past Monday when the American squad finally captured three points over the arch rival Ghana. Clint Dempsey is the face of USA soccer now that Donovan was not brought back on the team and Dempsey got the nation going from the get go.

Dempsey scored just over thirty seconds into the match giving USA the one goal lead. It was an inbounds play from the sidelines and could it have been a more pretty display of futbol?

Great inbound pass, touch pass to Dempsey and an incredible individual effort the finish the play. It got the nation rocking from the start and the rest of the game had the Americans on the edge of their seat.

Ghana tied the game up near the matches end, but that was long overdue. They had dominated the game as USA just sat back and played a defensive style of game. Klinsmann’s crew failed to establish possession in the offensive side of the field consistently throughout the match and it led to a plethora of chances for Ghana.

I wrote a major piece above talking about resiliency in regards to the Kings, but the Americans had their own version of it. After giving up a goal that you could feel the devastation countrywide, USA responded with a converted corner to win the match.

Coach Klinsmann got a major win to start off the World Cup for team USA and it is a step in the right direction if they hope to make it out of the group of death. I had been on the record for bashing Klinsmann due to some off the wall comments he has made leading up to the games in Brazil, but he did an excellent job game one.

Team USA’s next match is this Sunday against Portugal. Portugal is desperate as they lost in their first game to Germany, so the Americans are going to need to bring their best effort Sunday. If they play the same way they did against Ghana, they will be wiped off the field.

NBA Draft Chatter

Joel Embiid, arguably the top talent in the NBA Draft, suffered a foot fracture and will be undergoing surgery in the near future. This injury puts the draft in a frenzy now just six days away from the night the first card is drawn.

Before the foot injury, I would say that Embiid is the best player in this draft. His potential is through the roof, especially if you watched him play at Kansas. From his first game as a Jayhawk to his last, his improvement on the floor is a worlds of difference.

He has so much room to grow as a player still, it is potentially scary how great he could be. His back injury was a concern and now the concerns grow with the foot fracture.

If I am a GM in the top five, I cannot risk taking a chance on Embiid despite the potential. His injury problems scare me away and we have seen this same theme so many times in the draft. As a Jayhawk fan, I have strong opinions on the two stars that are in this draft.

Andrew Wiggins is perceived as the man to get this year, but I am not fully on his bandwagon. Its not because he did not live up to the hype he was given during the pre-season because that was astronomical. It is because what I saw on the hardwood floor.

Wiggins has serious potential just like Embiid in some ways because Wiggin’s athleticism is top tier. When it comes to actual basketball on the floor, I saw flaws on a consistent basis.

The way teams found a way to slow down Wiggins during the season was going to a zone defense. It prevented him from using his stellar athleticism to attack the paint and get to the rim. It forced him into becoming a jump shooter and a three-point shooter. Wiggins struggled when he was forced to take jump shots because he could never get into rhythm.

Even when Wiggins got to the rim, he struggled to finish good opportunities. Where Andrew succeeded throughout his freshman year was on the defensive end. He is a good defender one on one and is a great rebounder. He often used his rebounding ability to finish second chance opportunities in the paint.

Wiggins is still extremely young and has plenty of time to grow, but I do not take him at one. I would take Parker with the first selection. The perfect situation in my eyes for Wiggins is at the third overall selection with the Sixers.

This concludes my first edition of Dorsey’s Dugout. It is my new weekly column that brings you into my corner and allows me to give out all my opinions on anything going on in sports. There is still plenty to cover going forward and will be back next week with still more to write about. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back next week.

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Bovada gives Capitals 33/1 odds to win 2015 Stanley Cup

Posted on 16 June 2014 by WNST Staff

Courtesy of Bovada, (www.Bovada.lv, Twitter: @BovadaLV)

Odds to win the 2015 Stanley Cup

Chicago Blackhawks                             7/1

Boston Bruins                                       8/1

Los Angeles Kings                                9/1

Pittsburgh Penguins                              10/1

St. Louis Blues                                      121

Anaheim Ducks                                     14/1

San Jose Sharks                                   14/1

New York Rangers                                 16/1

Colorado Avalanche                              18/1

Minnesota Wild                                     20/1

Montreal Canadiens                               20/1

Detroit Red Wings                                 22/1

Tampa Bay Lightning                             25/1

Vancouver Canucks                               25/1

Philadelphia Flyers                                28/1

Dallas Stars                                         33/1

Toronto Maple Leafs                             33/1

Washington Capitals                              33/1

Columbus Blue Jackets                         40/1

New Jersey Devils                                 40/1

Edmonton Oilers                                   50/1

Ottawa Senators                                    50/1

Phoenix Coyotes                                   50/1

Winnipeg Jets                                       50/1

Calgary Flames                                     66/1

Carolina Hurricanes                                66/1

Nashville Predators                               66/1

New York Islanders                                66/1

Florida Panthers                                    75/1

Buffalo Sabres                                      100/1

Odds to win 2015 NBA Championship   

Miami Heat                                            3/1

Oklahoma City Thunder                          6/1

San Antonio Spurs                                6/1

Los Angeles Clippers                            9/1

Chicago Bulls                                        12/1

Indiana Pacers                                      12/1

Houston Rockets                                  16/1

Golden State Warriors                           25/1

Portland Trailblazers                              25/1

Brooklyn Nets                                       28/1

Cleveland Cavaliers                               33/1

Dallas Mavericks                                   33/1

Memphis Grizzlies                                 33/1

Washington Wizards                              33/1

Los Angeles Lakers                               40/1

New York Knicks                                   40/1

Toronto Raptors                                    40/1

Boston Celtics                                      50/1

Denver Nuggets                                    50/1

Detroit Pistons                                      50/1

New Orleans Pelicans                            50/1

Minnesota Timberwolves                        66/1

Atlanta Hawks                                       75/1

Charlotte Hornets                                  75/1

Phoenix Suns                                        75/1

Orlando Magic                                      150/1

Sacramento Kings                                 150/1

Utah Jazz                                             150/1

Milwaukee Bucks                                   200/1

Philadelphia 76ers                                 200/1

 

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Caps Off-Season Ahead, Potential Buyouts for Washington?

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Caps Off-Season Ahead, Potential Buyouts for Washington?

Posted on 13 June 2014 by Nick Dorsey

The most strenuous part of the NHL off-season was taken care of for Caps owner Ted Leonsis when he filled in the vacant positions at the top of the organization. Barry Trotz is now behind the bench and Brian MacLellan is the guy responsible for bringing players in to fill the players bench. Now that a head coach is in place along with a general manager, what is next for the Washington organization as the Stanley Cup playoffs is near conclusion?

MacLellan has already dealt away pending UFA Jaroslav Halak and re-upped the franchises deal with the AHL affiliate Hershey Bears as interim GM, but that is only the tip of the ice berg. MacLellan has a lot on his plate this off-season and his time to shine begins in the near future.

The Caps have tough decisions to make on veteran players that have been around the organization for quite some time now as the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs is on the horizon. Some of those decisions are whether to buy out any of the veteran players that are currently on the roster.

The buyout period in the NHL begins 48 hours after the Stanley Cup comes to a close. So if the Kings close out the series tonight in Los Angeles, the buyout period would begin Sunday and would come to an end on the 30th of June. When this time begins, there are a few names that come to mind that could be potential buyout candidates.

Brooks Laich is the most common name as the top buyout candidate on the Capitals roster. Laich turns 31 this month and still has three years remaining on a six-year deal he signed in 2011 under former general manager George McPhee. Since signing that deal, Laich has not been consistently in the lineup to earn the kind of payday he was given.

When the NHL lockout occurred during the 2012-13 season, Laich suffered groin injuries playing overseas that have kept him in and out of the lineup for the past few seasons. During the past two seasons, Brooks has only played 60 out of the 130 games because of his groin difficulties. In his 51 games played this last year, Laich produced 15 total points (8 G, 7 A), which is not going to cut it as a top six forward.

So the first decision to make that comes to new general manager Brian MacLellan’s table is should the Caps buyout Brooks Laich? If I were to make a decision or have a word in the discussion, my answer would be yes. Washington needs to move on from Brooks Laich and here is why.

First of all, if MacLellan decides to make this move, the following would occur. A buyout for Laich would mean the Caps would need to pay him two- thirds of his current salary with double the length. Breaking that down thanks to Capgeek.com, that would mean Washington would owe Brooks $8.33 million total over a six-year period. With the financial aspect of Laich’s buyout covered, here is why it is a good hockey move.

Paying Laich the kind of money he now currently earns warrants him to be a top six forward. Producing only 15 points per 50+ games played is not the kind of production you want out of a top six forward. So, lack of production is one reason why a Brooks Laich buyout is reasonable, but there is more.

The top six can be viewed as crowded with the current Capitals roster and having Laich still in the lineup can be seen as problematic. Washington has promising young prospects that need to see more ice time and having a crowded top six lineup can cause valuable minutes to diminish. Young players such as Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson need to get within the top six rotation in order for them to grow and show what they can do at the highest level.

Kuznetsov showed a promising future last year in his small stint after coming over from the KHL in Russia. Tom Wilson also has shown great things over time playing amongst the third and fourth lines. Kuzy has his place in the top six already, but keeping Laich in the rotation keeps a guy like Wilson out of the six. Wilson is a physical player that is not afraid to hit or fight anyone on the ice and has shown glimpses of being a real good all around player.

With all that Wilson has shown, it is now time in the upcoming season to see what he can do within the first two lines. He needs to develop a better offensive game and surrounding him potentially with Ovechkin or Backstrom would do wonders for his development Increased ice time is the experience that Wilson needs and Laich could be preventing that from happening.

It doesn’t stop at Wilson and Kuznetsov as the Caps also have a promising prospect that could be trying to creep up into the roster for the upcoming season. Last years first round pick, Andre Burakovsky, is a player to watch out for.

Burakovsky spent his first year in the Caps organization playing for the Erie Otters. In the 57 regular season games that Andre got to play as left wing for the Otters, he recorded 87 points (41 G, 46 A). He also was productive in the 14-playoff games he played in Erie, finishing with 10 goals and 3 assists. This kind of offensive talent might need to find its way on to the major roster, especially for a team that struggled to score at even strength play on a consistent basis.

So with a crowded top six due to young and upcoming talent and a lack of production, it is time for the Caps to move on and buyout Brooks Laich. He is an aging player who has yet to prove he can stay on the ice consistently in the past few seasons. The young players need to be able to get on the ice and gain valuable experience that can bode well for the team in the future.

Another name that comes up as a potential buyout player is veteran defensemen Mike Green. Buying out Green would not be a good idea for the Caps due to their defense being the weakest unit on the team.

The Caps defensive rotation last year was a never-ending carousel with over double-digit defenders getting a chance to hit the ice. Green was not at his best throughout the season, but that is not all on him.

The top priority for MacLellan is to bring in another top four defensemen in the rotation. Adding a talented top four defensemen to pair with Green could help Green improve his play. Buying out a defender would leave another gaping hole for a unit that does not need any more holes.

Keeping Green is a necessity because not only brining in another top four-defensemen talent could rejuvenate Greens game, but also his presence in the offensive zone is imperative to this teams success. When Green is on the power play, he adds another element that many defenders on this team cannot. When Green is a threat to shoot from the point, it is another threat on the power play that helps free up Ovechkin. When Green is not on the ice, teams key on Ovechkin’s blast and prevent him from producing. The power play unit is a lot more lethal when teams have to account for Green as a potential shooter from the blue line.

So a Mike Green buyout is not a real good idea, especially when the depth at defense is an issue. Jack Hillen was hurt for almost the last season’s entirety and is still getting back to normal form. Dmitry Orlov has also sustained a wrist injury that he is still recovering from. So with defensive depth being an issue and with that limited depth in recovery mode, buying out Green should not be an option.

The first task at hand for the upcoming off-season for Brian MacLellan is coming in shortly and must be sorted out before the June 30th deadline. This is just the first of many decisions that “GMac” must make as the teams new general manager.

The logical move in my mind is for GMac to buyout Laich and keep Green. After that, the next move of interest is whether to keep Mikhail Grabovski in DC or let him walk in free agency. My thoughts on that move will come in a different column. Until then, it will be interesting to see what MacLellan decides to do once the Cup comes to a conclusion. Once the Cup is hoisted, Caps fans be alert because the time begins to tick on the buyout clock.

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 09 June 2014 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: Charm City Roller Girls (Saturday 6:30pm Gardens Ice House); WNBA: Phoenix Mercury @ Washington Mystics (Tuesday 7pm from Verizon Center live on Comcast SportsNet), Chicago Sky @ Washington Mystics (Friday 7pm from Verizon Center live on Comcast SportsNet), Atlanta Dream @ Washington Mystics (Sunday 4pm from Verizon Center live on Comcast SportsNet); MLL: Boston Cannons @ Chesapeake Bayhawks (Saturday 7:30pm from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium live on CBS Sports Network); Boxing: Ruslan Provodnikov vs. Chris Algieri (Saturday 10pm from Brooklyn live on HBO)

10. Frank Caliendo (Friday & Saturday Baltimore Comedy Factory); Pablo Francisco (Thursday-Saturday Magooby’s); Nick Offerman (Friday 8pm D.A.R. Constitution Hall); Honfest (Saturday & Sunday Hampden); Ray’s Summer Days (Friday & Saturday various locations); 22 Jump Street” and “How To Train Your Dragon 2” out in theaters (Friday); Non-Stop” and “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” available on Blu-Ray/DVD (Tuesday)

Caliendo will never stop being funny. Ever.

You know what? Just some more of this.

9. Rebelution (Sunday 6:30pm Pier Six Pavilion); Brad Paisley (Thursday 5pm Merriweather Post Pavilion), Willie Nelson/Alison Krauss & Union Station (Saturday 5pm Merriweather Post Pavilion); Tim McGraw (Saturday 7pm Jiffy Lube Live); Ringo Starr (Thursday 8pm Wolf Trap); Damon Albarn (Tuesday 8pm Rams Head Live); Playing For Change (Wednesday 8pm Rams Head on Stage); Rick Springfield (Thursday 6:30pm & 9:30pm Rams Head Center Stage); Lalah Hathaway/Ruben Studdard (Thursday 8pm Howard Theatre); MS MR (Tuesday 7pm 9:30 Club), Kelis (Sunday 7pm 9:30 Club); Bacon Brothers (Saturday-Monday 7:30pm Birchmere); Buddy Guy (Tuesday 7pm State Theatre), Leon Russell (Thursday 8:30pm State Theatre); Morrissey (Tuesday 8pm Meyerhoff Symphony Hall); Jeff Tweedy (Tuesday 6:30pm Lincoln Theatre); John Prine (Friday 8pm Strathmore); O.A.R. “The Rockville EP”, Jack White “Lazaretto” and Chrissie Hynde “Stockholm” available (Tuesday)

I would pay the same price of admission to see Willie Nelson OR Alison Krauss & Union Station.

This is perhaps the most significant song/video I’ve EVER HEARD/SEEN.

John Prine is better at making songs than Manny Machado is at throwing baseball bats.

Purchase O.A.R.’s new record with your cash or I.WILL.FIND.YOU.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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The Kings and I, a sports lovestory

Posted on 07 June 2014 by Tony Wisniewski

Once upon a time, I met a girl who didn’t understand a lick about football.

Or baseball.

Or basketball.  Or golf.  Or fantasy football.  Or beer.  Or funny movies.

Off-the-bat, we had nothing in common other than the fact that I love hot chicks and she was–definitely still is–a chick who is hot.

Though she failed my Diner-themed Baltimore sports assessment, I married her anyway.  It was our shining moment of compromise, due to the fact that I was apparently being held to some sort of standard as well–I failed her health requirements of long walks after dinner and proposed reduction of my caloric intake.

As the story goes, she’s taught me a little about eating vegetables and hot yoga; I’ve taught her what a Mike-Backer is.  She’s helped me understand “normal people portions” of wings and ice cream; I’ve helped her understand why and when Buck Showalter tinkles the game away by over-managing.

Recently, though, we’ve run into a conundrum of sorts.  She’s curious about hockey–and due to her childhood, she even has an idea of how the game is played.  Naturally, being a sports guy and now a writer for WNST, she took it for granted that I knew something about hockey.

It’s like one of those deep dark secrets that now, in the first year of marriage, is finally coming out.  The other night, when the Kings took game one, she asked me who their best player was, and my answer propelled the fertilizer to hit the fan:

“Wayne Gretzky.”  Yes, I said Wayne Gretzky.

All the cliches of people who don’t know sports started flooding my brain.  From the goons roaming Camden Yards once per year wondering when Cal Ripken is batting next, to the dummies who still think Matt Stover is booting field goals at The Bank, I’ve never been among the cretins of general sports knowledge–until I said “Wayne Gretzky.”

Of course I know Gretzky retired years ago.  But it was the only answer I had.  I shot back to the one-season-Saturday-morning-childhood-cartoon Pro Stars, that featured Gretzky teaming up with Michael Jordan and Bo Jackson to save the world.  I remembered he wore Kings garb.  It was all I had to go on.

Naturally, in my emasculated state of mind, I ate some raw ground beef and did what any manly sports man would do: I Googled things.  Let me take you through a little play-by-play:

  • Off-the-bat, I saw that there’s a puck–okay, cool, I knew that.  This is easy stuff.
  • I learned there’s a rule called “Butt-ending.” A penalty where a player jabs another with the end of his stick.  Ok, sounds kind of weird.
  • Next I stumbled on rules like “Checked from Behind,” “Spearing,” and “Hooking.”  Um, yea, maybe I should move away from the rules.

Next I started to look up things like “how to play hockey.”  Let me walk you through that one:

  • Ah, great, an article that will tell me how to play this foreign game.
  • First point “learn to skate properly, even if you’re a goalie.”  Okay, I might have started a little too far back.
  • Next “pass the puck,” and “get in good physical condition.”  Yea, this is worthless.

At least I can say I tried to learn hockey.  As for my wife, well, she’s still way ahead of me; she curbed my misguided disdain over the self-fabricated idea that the NHL sold the naming rights of The “Stanley” Cup to the Black and Decker guys.  Who knew?

She educated me on four specific reasons why I should root for the Kings heading into game-two of the Finals:

  1. They’re playing the Rangers, who are from New York, meaning that naturally, some Yankees fans will be susceptible to disappointment and heartbreak.  Sweet.
  2. They play in LA, meaning that naturally, some Clippers fans have a chance to feel good about something.  I’m cool with that.
  3. Wayne Gretzky was a member of the team.  I enjoyed his cartoon.
  4. Wayne Gretzky’s daughter, Paulina, is a hot chick.  I love hot chicks.

It all makes sense now.  Go Kings.

 

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Kings Will Win The Cup, But It Won’t Be Easy

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Kings Will Win The Cup, But It Won’t Be Easy

Posted on 03 June 2014 by Ed Frankovic

In a series that was the best I’ve ever seen in my lifetime, the Los Angeles Kings defeated the Chicago Blackhawks in overtime in game seven of the Western Conference Final to move on to face the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final.

The Western Conference, in terms of elite teams, is clearly the better side, but the way the Rangers are gelling, this is not going to be an easy series for the Kings. New York is playing with tremendous emotion, they have excellent speed, and Henrik Lundqvist is money in the cage. Los Angeles brings size, “deep” depth at forward, and a never say die mentality.

Let’s take a look at the match-up in terms of offense, defense, goaltending, coach, and intangibles.

Offense: The Kings lead the NHL in goals for per game in the post season, at 3.48 while New York is 8th at 2.70. Los Angeles has an excellent top six crew of forwards and the bottom six is as good, if not better, than any team in the league. Coach Darryl Sutter has a talented group of players that really filled its’ biggest need with the Marian Gaborik acquisition at the trade deadline (In a related story, Kings GM Dean Lombardi is wanted on felony robbery charges in the state of Ohio). Justin Williams, after the Kings won a thrilling series with the Blackhawks, called “Gabby” the missing piece for LA. He was dead on, since adding an offensive talent like #12 allowed Sutter to balance his lineup. The Kings survived a series of 0 goals from their best offensive player, Anze Kopitar, in the Western final, so that tells you how deep this crew of Kings forwards is. Mike Richards is mostly playing on the bottom two lines, and he’s a second line center on many NHL clubs. The Kings “That 70′s line” of Tyler Toffoli, Jeff Carter, and Tanner Pearson brings speed and energy. Carter was amazing in the series against the Blackhawks and is a big reason the Kings have a chance to win their 2nd Cup in three years. New York has not scored a lot of goals and Martin St. Louis is their points leader with 13 in 20 games. Chris Kreider has come in to give New York a shot in the arm on offense and he has 10 points in 10 games. The Rangers will rely heavily on his speed and that of guys like Carl Hagelin and Matt Zuccarello. Simply put, though, the Rangers don’t score a lot of goals. Their power play is operating at a 13+% level while Los Angeles is cruising at 25+%. In addition, the Kings can throw four interchangeable lines at you while the Rangers struggle to find a fourth unit. Advantage: Heavily for the Kings.

Defense: The Rangers have a very good top four defense in Ryan McDonough, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, and Anton Stralman. Their third pair of John Moore and Kevin Klein is solid too. New York’s deep defense allows Coach Alain Vigneualt to not worry alot about exposing one of his pairs to a major mismatch. Any of the three pairs can face high end talent. The question for New York is what pair do they put against the Kopitar line and which one gets the Carter line? I’d imagine we see 27 and 5 go against Kopitar, Gaborik and Brown while Staal and Stralman get the 70′s line, at least initially. As for the Kings, Drew Doughty is the best defensemen in the NHL and he’ll log a ton of minutes. Doughty will make some mistakes but he’ll more than make up for that with numerous “how’d he do that type of plays?” The questions, though, for LA come with the rest of their crew. The injury to Robyn Regehr has been huge and getting Willie Mitchell back in game two against Chicago was very important. Mitchell and Doughty are great penalty killers. Slava Voynov elevated his game in the Blackhawks series and along with Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez and Matt Greene, they are key to Los Angeles’ ability to win. Will the Rangers speed be too much for those guys? Somehow the Kings were able to overcome Chicago’s speed up front, but the Rangers are likely faster. However, the Rangers forwards don’t have the high end skill like Chicago had with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Sharp. The Kings, however, are one injury away from the slow footed Jeff Schultz being inserted in the lineup. Advantage: Rangers, because of their balance and depth.

Goaltending: Does it get any better than Jonathan Quick vs. Henrik Lundqvist? These are the best goalies in the NHL going head to head for Lord Stanley. Amazingly, they both play different styles. Quick is far more aggressive and moves around much more than King Henrik. Lundqvist is the ONLY goalie in the league who can pull off the “deep in the net” style that he employs. That allows him to rarely be out of position on shots. The Rangers defense knows how #30 is going to play and they are a solid defensive unit. The Rangers are 2nd in the playoffs in goals against yielding 2.25 a game while the Kings are more leaky, at 2.86 per contest (9th overall). But those stats speak more to the style of play and defense of the teams than the net minders. Los Angeles has run into issues when they turn the puck over in the neutral zone, and that has led to a lot of odd man rushes against. Sutter must limit those against a fast Rangers club. Both goalies have had strong outings and also some poor ones, mostly because the team in front of them has struggled, at times. Overall, the Rangers have been more consistent, but they haven’t played the high end talent that Los Angeles has faced in San Jose, Anaheim, and then the 2013 Cup Champion Blackhawks. Advantage: Neither team, goaltending is a dead heat.

Coaching: I was not a John Tortorella fan and when they canned the fiery bench boss and replaced him with Vigneault, I expected marked improvement from New York. Did I think it would translate into a Stanley Cup Final run? Absolutely not. But give credit to the new bench boss (and GM Glen Sather too for some “ballsy” moves behind the bench and with personnel). He managed to survive a terrible schedule early in the post season and rally from a 3-1 hole against Pittsburgh. He’s doing a super job. Sutter is in an elite coach. He maintains an even keel so his team doesn’t get too high or low emotionally and he is a master tactician. Most other coaches would be golfing by now after facing a 3-0 hole in the opening round, but Sutter, assistant coach John Stevens, and the rest of the staff found a way to turn it around, mostly by fixing their poor neutral zone play. Sutter has a keen sense of who has it rolling on a given night and who just doesn’t have it. That’s why guys will move up and down the line-up. He somehow was able to win against the Ducks with both Regehr and Mitchell out, that speaks volumes to the coaching given that that they won with a guy who played the entire season in the AHL in Schultz. Advantage: Los Angeles.

Intangibles: Ever since St. Louis’ mom passed away unexpectedly, the Rangers have been a different team. Anyone who has played hockey, at any level, knows that it is a team game that requires intensity and an emotional commitment. New York clearly has that and throw Dominic Moore’s personal situation into the mix as well. The Rangers are on a mission. On the other hand, the Kings have won three game seven’s on the road, a feat that has never been done before in NHL history. They came back from a three game hole in the first round and were down 3-2 against the Ducks and survived. They were losing 2-0 early in game seven against the Hawks and scraped out a W. One thing that favors LA is the travel schedule. While the Rangers sat for days waiting to figure out who they would play, once they finally did they had to fly cross country to California. So I think that negates any rest they received. Both teams have played a lot of hockey. Advantage: Slight edge to Kings due to home ice.

So I think this is going to be an excellent series, but it will be lower scoring. It will be hard to top the Chicago-LA Western Final, no doubt. Both teams could win this thing, especially if the Kings can’t get net presence on Lundqvist. But I think the Kings will find a way and overcome a Rangers team that seems to keep improving.

The Pick: Despite the fact that broadcaster Kenny Albert and Rangers assistant GM, Jim Schoenfeld, are some of my favorite people in hockey, it’s Los Angeles in 6.

 

 

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 26 May 2014 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: WNBA-New York Liberty @ Washington Mystics (Friday 7pm from Verizon Center live on Comcast SportsNet), Los Angeles Sparks @ Washington Mystics (Sunday 4pm from Verizon Center live on Comcast SportsNet); Golf: PGA Tour the Memorial Tournament (Thursday & Friday 2:30pm live on Golf Channel Saturday 12:30pm live on Golf Channel 3pm live on CBS Sunday 12pm live on Golf Channel 3pm live on CBS. All golf from Dublin, OH), Champions Tour Principal Charity Classic (Friday 7pm Saturday & Sunday 5pm from Des Moines, IA on Golf Channel), ShopRite LPGA Classic (Friday 12pm Saturday 2:30pm Sunday 2pm from Galloway, NJ live on Golf Channel); Boxing: Carl Froch vs. George Groves (Saturday 4pm from London live on HBO)

10. Bruce Bruce (Tuesday 8pm & 10pm Rams Head on Stage); Tim Meadows (Thursday-Saturday Baltimore Comedy Factory); Artie Lange (Friday & Saturday Magooby’s Joke House); Michael McDonald (Friday-Sunday DC Improv); Maryland Craft Beer Festival (Saturday Carroll Creek Park); Great Grapes Wine & Food Festival (Saturday & Sunday Oregon Ridge Park); Taste of Three Cities (Saturday 11am M&T Bank Stadium); A Million Ways to Die in the West” and “Maleficent” out in theaters (Friday)

I never went and saw Tim Meadows’ “Ladies Man” movie because it looked terrible to me. I have to admit however this made me chuckle.

I’m not proud.

9. Luke Bryan (Friday & Saturday 7pm Jiffy Lube Live), Journey & Steve Miller Band (Sunday 6:45pm Jiffy Lube Live); Foxy Shazam (Monday 8pm Baltimore Soundstage); Manchester Orchestra (Tuesday 7:30pm Fillmore Silver Spring), Ballyhoo! (Friday 8pm Fillmore Silver Spring); Rusted Root and The Wailers (Thursday 7pm 9:30 Club), Old 97′s (Saturday 8pm 9:30 Club); T-Pain (Sunday 8pm Howard Theatre); Matisyahu (Sunday 7pm Lisner Auditorium); Neil Young “A Letter Home” available (Tuesday)

I know ZERO about Luke Bryan. So here’s Luke Bryan playing an Adele song. I have absolutely nothing else to say.

There are people whose opinions about music I respect and they enjoy Manchester Orchestra. That’s what I’ve got for you.

I consider Rhett Miller from the Old 97′s a close personal friend after we hung out in Dallas a few years ago. I have no idea how he feels about the whole thing.

Matisyahu’s show down in DC is acoustic. This might be really good.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Capitals trade G Halak to Islanders for draft pick

Posted on 01 May 2014 by WNST Staff

ARLINGTON, VA. – The Washington Capitals have acquired a fourth-round draft pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft from the New York Islanders in exchange for the rights to goaltender Jaroslav Halak, assistant general manager Brian MacLellan announced today. The fourth-round selection was acquired by New York from Chicago.

Halak, 28, posted a 29-13-7 record with five shutouts, a 2.25 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage in 52 games with Washington and St. Louis this season. The Bratislava, Slovakia, native was acquired by the Capitals from Buffalo with a third-round choice in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft in exchange for Michal Neuvirth and Rostislav Klesla on March 5, 2014. Halak has registered a 144-85-29 record in his career with 30 shutouts, a 2.38 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage.

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This week’s #WNSTSweet16 will get you “ice’d”

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This week’s #WNSTSweet16 will get you “ice’d”

Posted on 21 April 2014 by Glenn Clark

We’ve been doing this for nearly four months now. I think you know how it works.

We’re celebrating our 16th year as Baltimore’s sports media leader here at WNST. We’re having some fun with our own Sweet 16 by tackling some “water cooler” topics that we’ve discussed during the course of the WNST era.

Oddly enough, this is the 16th week in our 16th year and we’re tackling our 16th topic. Also odd? My favorite actress is Molly Ringwald! Would you believe that?

If you missed any of our first 15 topics, here’s a look back.

(The “Sweet 16″ is driven by our friends at Jerry’s Automotive-Jerry’s Chevrolet & Jerry’s Toyota Scion!)

Week 15: Nestor Aparicio-Sweet 16 games we’ve been treated to
Week 14: Drew Forrester-Sweet 16 Masters moments of the last 30 years
Week 13: Luke Jones-Sweet 16 greatest pro wrestling moments in Baltimore history
Week 12: Luke Jones-Sweet 16 local sports goofballs/personalities
Week 11: Glenn Clark-Sweet 16 local sports saints-athletes who gave back
Week 10: Nestor Aparicio-Sweet 16 events a Baltimore sports fan must attend
Week 9: Drew Forrester-Sweet 16 greatest Baltimore college basketball players
Week 8: Luke Jones-Sweet 16 Orioles who didn’t live up to the hype
Week 7: Glenn Clark-Sweet 16 most underappreciated Maryland basketball players
Week 6: Drew Forrester-Sweet 16 local sports “Heartbreakers”
Week 5: Luke Jones-Sweet 16 local Olympic sport athletes
Week 4: Drew Forrester-Sweet 16 local athletes who deserved to win a championship but didn’t
Week 3: Nestor Aparicio-Sweet 16 local sports people who “had a dream”
Week 2: Luke Jones-Sweet 16 local sports playoff moments
Week 1: Glenn Clark-Sweet 16 “debuts” in local sports history

So we have to admit this didn’t really play out the way we had hoped it would up to this point. You see, when we cooked up these #WNSTSweet16 ideas we thought the Washington Capitals would be in the throws of a first round matchup in the NHL Playoffs. I mean, it’s been seven years since this has happened and all. We were pretty confident that hockey would be fresh on the minds of a number of Baltimore sports fans.

So can we just pretend like that actually happened? It will make this list a bit more relevant.

The NHL Playoffs have been GREAT thus far, with many overtimes allowing fans additional time to figure out where CNBC is on their cable package. Despite the Caps falling short of the postseason, this week’s list has a hockey twist.

Drew Forrester takes the reigns again for the #WNSTSweet16 this week, recognizing the Sweet 16 “Greatest Players in Washington Capitals history.”

You don’t necessarily HAVE to be a Caps fan to be able to get in on the fun-you simply have to have an opinion.

How does the team’s current MVP (Alex Ovechkin) rate against some of the franchise’s best ever-like Dale Hunter, Rod Langway, Yvon Labre or Mike Gartner? Where does Peter Bondra fall on this list? What about goaltenders like Olaf Kolzig or Jim Carey? Who else from the Ovechkin-era Capitals needs to be a part of the sixteen? Nicklas Backstrom? Mike Green? Alex Semin?

Drew cares about this type of stuff as much as anyone I know but he needs your help. As always, we’re not just trying to make Drew’s list, we’re trying to make something as close to an “official” list as we’re capable of.

Drew wants your ideas. Leave them here in the comments or email him via drew@wnst.net. We will be discussing the list throughout the day Monday on AM1570 WNST.net. We’d love to have you Tweet with us or discuss the topic via Facebook by using the hashtag #WNSTSweet16.

On Tuesday morning, Drew will unveil the “official” list here at WNST.net and then discuss it with Luke on “The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction” at 8am. He will then re-visit the list at 4pm Tuesday on “The Happy Hours” with Nestor Aparicio.

Consider this one final opportunity to enjoy Caps hockey for the season. And considering how things went, this will probably end up being much more enjoyable than anything else that happened during the course of the year. (As Drew and Ian Eagle might say: “It’s not a low blow, it’s just a fact.”)

This is your chance to make your voice heard. Who are the greatest players in the history of the Washington Capitals? Let Drew know!

-G

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B&B Rapid Fire on Puig, NHL Playoffs & NBA Age Limit

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B&B Rapid Fire on Puig, NHL Playoffs & NBA Age Limit

Posted on 19 April 2014 by Brett Dickinson

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