2013 Dead Pool

It’s that time again.  2012 was a pretty epic year for celeb deaths. With any luck, 2013 will be just as exciting.

Here’s a reminder of the rules:

Each player submits a numeric list of 10 celebrities they think will kick it in 2012. The order listed determines the points available.

ie:

1. Celeb A (10 points)
2. Celeb B (9 points)
3. Celeb C (8 points)
4. Celeb D (7 points)
5. Celeb E (6 points)
6. Celeb F (5 points)
7. Celeb G (4 points)
8. Celeb H (3 points)
9. Celeb I (2 points)
10. Celeb J (1 point)

If a celebrity on your list shuffles off, you may then replace them in the same numeric spot on the list with another name not already on your list. EJSIC is NOT responsible for replacement picks that go unpicked. All participants are responsible for giving a replacement pick in the comments section below or by sending capnwacky a personal message on the EJSIC message board once their pick requires a replacement.

As with last year, there will be an added 10 point bonus awarded for any correct pick made of celebrity under the age of 40 who actually dies. The bonus points will be given in addition to the points from one’s list.

All submissions need to be posted by 11:59:59pm on January 2, 2013. All picks at that time are final. Picks prior to that deadline can be edited. Play continues until the end of December. Player with the most points at the end of 2013 wins*.

Get out there and pick some winners!

* – Nothing.

The Entries

capnwacky (9 points)
1. Nelson Mandela
2. Bonnie Franklin, Hugo Chavez
3. Nancy Reagan
4. Billy Graham
5. Bob Barker
6. George H.W. Bush
7. Christopher Lee
8. Luise Rainer
9. Mickey Rooney
10. Ke$ha

Prophet (3 points)
1. Hosni Mubarak
2. George Beverly Shea
3. Luise Rainer
4. Carla Laemmle
5. Alicia Rhett
6. Eli Wallach
7. Zsa Zsa Gabor
8. Bonnie Franklin,
9. Bel Kaufman
10. “Professor” Irwin Corey

Flop Floppenhauffer (1 point)
1. George H.W. Bush
2. Harper Lee
3. Kirk Douglas
4. Billy Graham
5. George Wendt
6. Zsa Zsa Gabor
7. Nelson Mandela
8. Jake Lamotta
9. Stephen Hawking
10. Patty Andrews, Eli Wallach

BlueDog (0 points)
1. Erich Priebke
2. Harper Lee
3. Eli Wallach
4. Billy Graham
5. Fidel Castro
6. Herman Wouk
7. Olivia de Havilland
8. Kirk Douglas
9. Hugo Chavez
10. Hosni Mubarak

angryauton (0 points)
1. Abe Vigoda
2. Billy Graham
3. Hugo Chavez
4. Kirk Douglas
5. Dean Smith
6. Jerry Lewis
7. Bashar Al Assad
8. Nick Nolte
9. Muhammad Ali
10. Jimmy Carter

ttt (0 points)
1. Hugo Chavez
2. Clive James
3. Jerry Lewis
4. Fidel Castro
5. Bert Reynolds
6. Zsa Zsa Gabor
7. Harper Lee
8. Ronnie Biggs
9. Harold Camping
10. Kirk Douglas

zachroyse (0 points)
1. Harper Lee
2. George H.W. Bush
3. Kirk Douglas
4. Billy Graham
5. Zsa Zsa Gabor
6. Aretha Franklin
7. Nelson Mandela
8. Muhammad Ali
9. Bobby Bowden
10. PSY

EstebanBugatti (0 points)
1. George H.W. Bush
2. Lil Wayne
3. Fidel Castro
4. Ja Rule
5. Muhammad Ali
6. Benzino
7. Billy Graham
8. Stephen Hawking
9. Lindsay Lohan
10. Charlie Sheen

godzillabj (0 points)
1. Jack Pardee
2. Hugo Chavez
3. Nelson Mandela
4. Zsa Zsa Gabor
5. Penny Marshall
6. Bashar Al-Assad
7. Fidel Castro
8. Fred Phelps
9. Eli Wallach
10. Lindsay Lohan

wxgurl (0 points)
1. Queen Elizabeth II
2. Kirk Douglas
3. Zsa Zsa Gabor
4. Nelson Mandela
5. Margaret Thatcher
6. Harper Lee
7. Abe Vigoda
8. Don Rickles
9. Cloris Leachman
10. Barbara Bush

Beano (0 points)
1. Bernie Madoff
2. Bob Dole
3. Don Pardo
4. Michael Douglas
5. Walter Mondale
6. Richard Attenborough
7. Don Rickles
8. Stephen Hawking
9. George Jones
10. Tracy Morgan

AZCats1993 (0 points)
1. Nelson Mandela
2. Zsa Zsa Gabor
3. Roger Moore
4. Vin Scully
5. William “Fridge” Perry
6. Don Pardo
7. Cloris Leachman
8. Margaret Thatcher
9. Mary Kate Olsen
10. Hugh Hefner

accownsu (0 points)
1. Dean Smith
2. Zsa Zsa Gabor
3. Dick Cheney
4. Bernie Madoff
5. Nelson Mandela
6. Artie Lange
7. Fidel Castro
8. Chuck Berry
9. George H.W. Bush
10. Jerry Lewis

forsythal (0 points)
1. Olivia de Haviland
2. Eli Wallach
3. Maureen O’Hara
4. Reverend Sun Myung Moon
5. Abe Vigoda
6. Jonathan Winters
7. Helmut Schmidt
8. Christopher Plummer
9. George Jones
10. Rick Ross

Penny (0 points)
1. Zsa Zsa Gabor
2. George Wendt
3. Fidel Castro
4. Kirk Douglas
5. Abe Vigoda
6. Lindsay Lohan
7. Aretha Franklin
8. Merle Haggard
9. Ronnie Biggs
10. Macauley Culkin

josekortez (0 points)
1. Zsa Zsa Gabor
2. Kirk Douglas
3. John Madden
4. Lou Holtz
5. George H.W. Bush
6. Barbara Bush
7. Angela Landsbury
8. Betty White
9. Bob Dole
10. Larry King

cbatower (0 points)
1. Roger Ebert
2. Fidel Castro
3. Zsa Zsa Gabor
4. Jake LaMotta
5. Nelson Mandella
6. Kirk Douglas
7. Aretha Franklin
8. Lindsay Lohan
9. Merle Haggard
10. Frankie Muniz

ltaccfan (0 points)
1. Nancy Reagan
2. Kirk Douglas
3. Jerry Lewis
4. George H. W. Bush
5. Muhammad Ali
6. Queen Elizabeth II
7. Charlie Sheen
8. Pope Benedict XVI
9. Fidel Castro
10. Dick Cheney

rockchalk010 (0 points)
1. Phil Pressey
2. Tony Criswell
3. Corey Haith
4. Keion Bell
5. Dominique Bull
6. Frank Haith
7. Laurence Bowers
8. Earnest Ross
9. Alex Oriakhi
10. Jabari Brown

angryapple (0 points)
1. Larry King
2. Hugh Hefner
3. George H.W. Bush
4. Madeline Albright
5. Sepp Blatter
6. Gary Bettman
7. Snoop Dogg
8. Paris Hilton
9. Lindsay Lohan
10. Mario Ballotelli

UNC Men’s College Basketball Preview (sent to me by Dan Kane)

Despite my best efforts, UNC will be playing basketball this season. I have done everything I can, scouring PackPride for the latest rumors and gossip and seeking out classes where students wrote papers instead of taking exams for their final grade, to link the AFAM scandal and football player plagiarism directly to Roy Williams but so far I have not been successful. I remain hopeful, however, and refuse to let the matter die.

Don’t worry, folks, I’m taking the UNC basketball ship down!

So, unfortunately, UNC will take the court in the first game of the season with Roy still at the helm and no academic suspensions caused by my investigations this summer. The pressure will be on Reggie Bullock, Leslie McDonald and Dexter Stickland to be strong leaders on a very young team with players that will be question marks (and I don’t just mean about their eligibility). James Michael McAdoo, who by virtue of his last name stinks to high heaven of cheating, will have to step up and deliver on the promise he showed while filling in for John Henson after he was injured in the tournament.

P.J. Hairston continues not to dazzle, so it won’t be so bad for him when the season is vacated after I uncover that one of the classes he took last year did not have a text book, which is just another example of UNC’s long history of academic fraud. Whoever heard of a class without a textbook?

UNC is expecting big things from Marcus Paige, who I’m sure was paid $200,000 by UNC to attend because of some designer clothing I think I’ve seen him wear, but I just can’t prove it yet. UNC fans are also excited about J.P. Tokoto, who is being compared to that cheater Vince Carter, but I doubt he’ll get much playing time because he’s from Wisconsin, which is Big 10 country, a conference that features known cheaters Ohio State. I’m sure there’s a connection somewhere that will lead to his suspension midway through the season.

Final predictions: 0-28 (season will be vacated)
Vacated ACC tournament runner-up
Vacated 2nd round of NCAA tournament appearance

EJSIC College Football Top 25 – Week 8

This poll accounts for the games of week 8.

Look out Alabama: Both Florida and Kansas State leap-frogged Oregon into the 2 and 3 spots, respectively, and are closer to Alabama than anybody has been all year. the Tide, Gators, and Wildcats all play ranked teams this weekend, however, while Oregon gets Colorado at home. Watch ‘em hit 100…

Something’s Gotta Give: Only 1 tie in our poll this week, at #7. Notre Dame and Oklahoma each received 165 points. They most likely will not be tied in the next poll, as they play each other this weekend.

The Big Least?: Voters STILL are not showing confidence in the undefeated teams from the Big East, Rutgers and Louisville. They can’t seem to get above the #19 ranking. If they wonder why, they might take a look at their schedule…

As always, if you disagree, feel free to whine about it in the comments section.

WEEK 1  |  WEEK 3  |  WEEK 4  |  WEEK 5  |  WEEK 6  |  WEEK 8

1). Alabama (4)
214 pts…..7-0…[LW: 1]…SAT vs (11)Miss St.
2). Florida (2)
213………..7-0…[3]…….SAT @ (14)Georgia
3). Kansas St (2)
208………..7-0…[4]…SAT vs (12)Texas Tech
4). Oregon (1)
202………..7-0…[2]………..SAT vs Colorado
5). LSU
179………..7-1….[6]……………………..BYE
6). Oregon St
174………..6-0….[7]…….SAT @ Washington
T7). Notre Dame
165………..7-0…[5]…..SAT @ (T7)Oklahoma
T7). Oklahoma
165……….5-1…[8]…..SAT vs (T7) Notre Dame
9). USC
150……….6-1…[10]………….SAT @ Arizona
10). Ohio St
129……….8-0…[11]……SAT @ Penn State
11). Mississippi St
123……….7-0…[15]……..SAT @ (1)Alabama
12). Texas Tech
107……….6-1…[17]…….SAT @ (3)K-State
13). Florida St
105……….7-1…[12]…………..SAT vs Duke
14). Georgia
103……….6-1…[13]……..SAT vs (2)Florida
15). Clemson
95………….6-1…[14]….THU @ Wake Forest
16). Stanford
81…………..5-2…[21]……….SAT vs Wash St
17). South Carolina
79…………6-2…[9]…….SAT vs Tennessee
18). Texas A&M
69…………5-2…[16]…………Sat @ Auburn
19). Rutgers
64………….7-0…[22]……SAT vs Kent State
20). Louisville
61………….7-0…[19]……SAT vs Cincinnati
21). Ohio
43…………7-0…[24]…….SAT @ Miami(OH)
22). Michigan
39………..5-2…[25]…SAT @ (25)Nebraska
23). West Virginia
34………….5-2…[18]……………..BYE
24). Boise State
25………….6-1…[NR]…….SAT @ Wyoming
25). Nebraska
23………….5-2…[NR]..SAT vs (22)Michigan

Others receiving votes: Texas (18); Wisconsin (14); Arizona(10);
Toledo (8); Louisiana Tech (6); Cincinnati (5); Iowa State (5);
Northwestern (5); Arizona State (1); Penn State (1); TCU (1)
.

MLB Power Rankings Week 4

Will Matt Kemp hit 70HR? Will Yu Darvish go 22-0? Will Albert Pujols ever hit another HR? Can the Orioles keep pace in the AL East? 

Team Rec
1 Texas 17-6 SP Yu Darvish’s last 3 starts: 21.2IP, 13H, 9BB, 2ER, 24K, 3-0 record
2 LA Dodgers 16-7 CF Matt Kemp now has 12HRs – only 4 players have hit more in March/April in MLB history
3 Washington 14-8 SP Gio Gonzalez’s last 3 starts: 20IP, 0ER, 6H, 4BB, 21K
4 St. Louis 14-8 SP Lance Lynn has 32 swings and misses & opponents are hitting .119 against his fastball. Will he stay in the rotation when Chris Carpenter returns?
5 Tampa Bay 15-8 Rays have won 8 of their last 9, including series win at the Rangers
6 NY Yankees 13-9 Washed up? SS Derek Jeter is 1st Yankee in history to have 30+ hits in the team’s first 16 games
7 Atlanta 14-9 3B Chipper Jones is tied for the active lead in HR (5) hit on a players’ birthday. Jones hit one on his 40th last Wednesday
8 Baltimore 14-9 3B Wilson Betemit hit his 1st career walk-off HR against Oakland Sunday
9 Toronto 12-11 SP Brandon Morrow broke his 75-game start streak with at least 1BB. Was the longest active streak to start a career (23 is now longest)
10 NY Mets 13-10 C Josh Thole became the 327th player to homer of of Rockies SP Jamie Moyer – Moyer had given up 10 HR before Thole was born (October 1986)
11 Cleveland 11-9 SP Ubaldo Jiminez’s last 3 starts: 17IP, 21H, 11BB, 10ER, 10K
12 San Francisco 12-10 3B Pablo Sandoval’s 20-game hit streak to start the season was the 2nd longest since 1980 (Renteria – 23 in 1996)
13 Seattle 11-13 LF Chone Figgins already has 2HR – his first season since 2009 with more then 1
14 Cincinnati 11-11 Reds have won 3 straight series, but haven’t closed the gap on the 1st place Cardinals
15 Colorado 11-11 1B Todd Helton’s game-tying grand slam Sunday was his first as a pinch hitter since 1997
16 Arizona 12-11 Brandon Allen was 1st player to hit a walk-off HR in his 1st AB for a team since 1984
17 Oakland 11-13 SP Tommy Milone gave up his 1st HR to a left-handed batter Monday (2 to David Ortiz) in 31.2IP
18 Chicago Sox 11-11 DH Adam Dunn hit his 370th career home run Sunday, tying him with Gil Hodges for 70th all-time
19 Milwaukee 11-12 LF Ryan Braun is the first player (home or visitor) to have a 3-HR game at Petco Park
20 Boston 11-11 DH David Ortiz over the last week: .320 avg, 4HR
21 Detroit 11-11 Offense is struggling (9 straight games scoring 4 runs or less), and SP looks suspect behind ace Verlander
22 Philadelphia 11-12 3B Pete Orr hit his 1st HR since 2009 Monday – both were off of Chris Volstad
23 Pittsburgh 10-12 Only 1 player in Monday’s lineup had a homerun this season
24 Houston 9-14 Monday’s game vs the Mets was the1st time in MLB history that 7 different pitchers faced 7 consecutive batters
25 Miami 8-14 Marlins scored only 6 runs on 28 hits during 6-game losing streak
26 Kansas City 6-15 Royals catchers have a combined 10 doubles this season – most in the majors
27 LA Angels 8-15 The Angles are farther out of 3rd place then 14 other teams are out of 1st
28 San Diego 7-17 P Anthony Bass has already struck out more batters (27 to 24) then he did last season, in less innings pitched (48.1 to 27.1)
29 Minnesota 6-16 Twins’ -37 run differential is the worst in MLB
30 Chicago Cubs 8-15 Cubs are 5-4 over last 9 games since starting 3-11

MLB Power Rankings Week 2

We’ve completed the first full week of play, and some teams still have some major warts (Red Sox, anyone?).
Rank Team Record Comment
1 LA Dodgers 9-1 CF Matt Kemp is the early MVP favorite, hitting .487 w/ 6HR and 16RBI already
2 Texas 8-2 SP Matt Harrison’s 2.38 ground ball-to-fly ball is best in the majors
3 St. Louis 7-3 Cardinals lead the majors in runs scored (57), batting avg (.299), OBP (.359), and slugging (.504)
4 Detroit 7-3 Monday’s win against KC was the first time in 3 starts the Tigers scored 3+ for SP Justin Verlander
5 Arizona 7-3 CF Chris Young is making his case for MVP – .405 avg (.242 for career), 5HR, 13RBI
6 NY Mets 7-3 Mets have struggled after starting 0-4, but another whipping of the Braves Monday could get them back on track
7 Washington 7-3 RF Jayson Werth was the 1st player to hit a walk off HR on Fri the 13th in the 13th inning since 1963 when his grandfather did it
8 Philadelphia 4-4 After a terrible start, Phillies are rolling thanks to (surprise) their pitching. Offense is 27th in runs scored
9 Chicago Sox 5-4 Sox won 4 in a row before dropping last game of series vs. Detroit and getting whipped by Baltimore
10 Baltimore 6-4 Sweep at the hands of the Yankees brought them back to Earth, but then won series at Toronto
11 NY Yankees 5-5 Through Monday, Yankee 3-4-5 hitters had only 5RBI – only Pittsburgh has less
12 Cleveland 4-4 Had an inning of 5+ runs against Royals starters in each game of sweep at KC
13 San Francisco 4-6 SP Tim Lincecum has given up 8ER in the 1st inning so far – only gave up 7ER in the 1st last season
14 Seatlle 6-5 Mariners rank 20th or worst in most offensive categories
15 Toronto 5-4 RF Jose Bautista is batting .206 with just 1HR and 2RBI so far this season
16 Tampa Bay 5-5 Needed stellar outing from SP James Shields (8.1IP, 4H, 0ER, 5K) to avoid 4-game sweep at Boston
17 Boston 4-6 Definitely needed series win vs Rays, but is Valentine wearing out his welcome already?
18 Atlanta 5-5 Bounced back from sweep at the Mets win series at Houston and sweep of Brewers
19 Miami 4-6 Wll be interesting to see the crowd reaction to manager Ozzie Guillen’s return in Miami
20 Houston 4-6 LF J.D. Martinez has been the pleasant surprise early – .333avg, 3HR, 10RBI
21 Kansas City 3-7 The starting pitching that looked so great in LA and Oakland fell apart at home against Cleveland
22 LA Angels 4-6 1B Albert Pujols is still struggling – his longest start to a season without hitting a HR continues
23 Cincinnati 4-6 SS Zack Cozart is getting comfortable at the plate – .342BA, 8R, 2 doubles, 2 triples, 1 home run
24 Milwaukee 4-6 Thought to have one of the better rotations in baseball, Brewers rank 29th in ERA and BAA, and 30th in WHIP
25 Pittsburgh 3-7 So maybe the excitement was a TAD premature…
26 Colorado 4-6 Rockies need LF Carlos Gonzalez (0HR, 4RBI) to get healthy and start producing soon
27 Oakland 4-7 A’s have lost 3 in a row, scoring 3 total runs (shut out twice) during that span
28 Minnesota 3-7 1B Justin Morneau has 5HR in 11 games at New Yankees Stadium – he has 5HR in 80 games at Target Field
29 San Diego 3-8 Contributed to Dodgers fast start – got swept by LA, outscored 20-13
30 Chicago Cubs 3-7 When Bryan LaHair is leading you in home runs, you know you’re in trouble

Magic’s Stanley Cup Playoffs Predictions

Note from Al: It’s my honor and privilege to post the Stanley Cup Playoffs predictions made by the EJSIC message board’s very own rocket scientist, Magic. (Yes, I have resorted to posting the work of guest writers because I have been seized by writer’s block and am unable to write anything brilliant of my own. I blame the forward thinking granular jargonistic writing leveraged by my colleagues across all projects.)

Ah yes, the time has finally come for one of my absolute favorite sporting events: The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. And while I know that Gary Bettman has done his best to kill this sport off by putting this fantastic event on a television channel that all of about 3 people nationwide have access to, he can’t get rid of me that easily. So here it is, my preview of this year’s playoffs and my predictions.

Western Conference: 1st Round
(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings
The Vancouver Canucks have been the most talented team out West this year, but it was only a late season blistering hot streak that allowed them to lead the NHL in points. And oddly, after star and perennial crybaby and diver Daniel Sedin was lost for the rest of the season with a concussion from a vicious elbow, Vancouver has gotten even better. With an extremely talented offense, strong netminding, and decent defense, Vancouver has the makings of a team that could win the cup. The Los Angeles Kings, meanwhile, only made the playoffs because of their own late season hot streak. The Kings, who had struggled offensively most of the year, suddenly started finding the back of the net, and, considering how solid this team is on defense and in net, if they can get some consistent offense, they’re a very dangerous playoff team. When I think of goalies that can single-handedly win a series for a team out West, the first name that jumps to mind is Jonathan Quick and his 1.95 Goals Against and 92.9% Save Percentage. To win this series, L.A. is going to need Quick to steal them a few games and be able to put the puck in the net when they get their high-quality scoring chances. I don’t see Vancouver losing this series, but expect these games to be a lot closer than they would appear on paper.
Magic Prediction: Vancouver in 6

(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (7) San Jose Sharks
St. Louis has certainly been the surprise team out West, leading the incredibly strong Central division with some great defense, timely offense, and phenomenal goaltending in the form of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. And while they have 107pts, they enter the playoffs struggling, losing 7 of their last 10. Yes, this could just be complacency from wrapping up their division, but it is very tough to “flip the switch” in hockey come playoff time, especially if you aren’t a team with a whole heck of a lot of playoff experience and you’ll be considered a favorite. San Jose, meanwhile, has struggled mightily this season. They were expected to challenge for best record in the West and have really fallen short of those expectations. That said, they put a heck of a last two weeks together, playing some very good hockey, and “sneaking” into the playoffs. With Cup Winner Antti Niemi in net and playing much better hockey, and with San Jose having a lot of playoff experience on this roster, I really think the Sharks might just pull the shocker this year, especially because they will be a bit out of the spotlight for once. While St. Louis has only lost 6 games in regulation all season, and has a 4-0 record against San Joe in the regular season, I have a feeling they find themselves in an early hole this series, losing 1 or 2 at home and falling flat against a team playing much better hockey than them at the moment
Magic Prediction: Sharks in 6

(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (6) Chicago Blackhawks
The Phoenix Coyotes ended the season on a tear, winning the Pacific Divison from behind, catching the Dallas Stars, L.A. Kings, and San Jose Sharks in surprising fashion. Phoenix is a team that doesn’t really do a single thing in an impressive manner, but they do a lot of things well. Very balanced and consistent team with a good 1st line in Vrbata, Whitney, and Doan. The Hawks also come into the playoffs streaking, only losing 1 game in regulation in the past 10, but they have given up late leads in the past three games and that is a bit worrisome. The big question mark is will the Hawks get their captain back? Jonathan Toews has been sidelined with a concussion for a quarter of the season. The Hawks are optimistic they’ll get him back, but in what capacity? The Hawks when healthy are a very dangerous offensive team. Their problem has been special teams, goaltending, and defense. While they’ve made strides in the latter two, Power play and Penalty Kill have been a killer for them and could lead to an early exit. I just don’t see it happening against this team.
Magic Prediction: Hawks in 6

(4) Nashville Predators vs. (5) Detroit Red Wings
An incredible matchup pitting two of the best teams in all of hockey against one another. There’s the youngblood Nashville Predators, a team built on speed, the counter, getting to the net, and really punsihing teams for going to the penalty box. Then there’s the old guard Detroit Red Wings, a team with extremely skilled forwards with phenomenal net presence, and they’re extremely well disciplined to boot. The one thing really holding them back this year has been injuries. This should be an absolutely phenomenal series, and the Wings are used to long 7 game 1st Round Series. I really like the Preds, but I don’t think they’ll get over the hump if this series goes 7, even in their home arena. Shame these 2 Central teams have to meet so early in the playoffs
Magic Prediction: Red Wings in 7

Eastern Conference: 1st Round
(1) New York Rangers vs. (8) Ottawa Sentors
Similar to the Blues in the West, the Rangers in the East have been absolutely surprising this season, coming out of nowhere to lead the Eastern Conference standings. With extremely strong goaltending in Henrik Lundqvist, solid defense, and a great 1st line of Gaborik and Richards, this team is built for very consistent play. Ottawa also didn’t have all that much preseason buzz, but they had a good start to the season and with a strong final week road it to a playoff spot. Their play has certainly been spotty at times this season, especially on the defensive end where they have had problems all year keeping the puck out of the back of their net, but offensively with Spezza, Michalek, and Alfredsson they certainly can light the lamp. Problem is, in the NHL playoffs, great defense and toughness with a decent offense beats great offense and spotty defense almost every single time
Magic Prediction: Rangers in 5

(2) Boston Bruins vs. (7) Washington Capitals
Boston is as steady as they come. They have a great playoff goalie in Tim Thomas, a Stanley Cup caliber defense, and they have multiple lines that can score with no single offensive name jumping out at you. These are the types of teams that win Stanley Cups. One half expected a Stanley Cup layover for this team, but it just didn’t happen. And they will be an awful matchup for most in the playoffs. The Capitals have been a major disappointment this year, and the reason for that is that their team is the exact opposite of Boston’s. They have a player in Alex Ovechkin who, while phenomenal, overshadows his teammates and doesn’t play within the structure of their team. They have a defense that seems like they couldn’t care less some games and goaltenders in Neuvirth and Vokoun who don’t scare anyone. Washington might have a game or two where they put on a dazzling offensive display in this series, but it won’t get them anywhere.
Magic Prediction: Bruins in 6

(3) Florida Panthers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils
Similar to the weak Pacific division out West, the Panthers won the very weak Southeast to face an extremely dangerous team from the powerful Atlantic division in the New Jersey Devils. Florida stumbled and bumbled their way into the playoffs winning just 2 of their last 10 games and one has to think that at this point they are happy just to be there. New Jersey on the other hand has the likely immortal Martin Brodeur in net for his 60th or 70th Stanley Cup Playoffs and has great scorers in Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, and Petr Sykora and the strong Patrick Elias in center. The one worry for this team is their defense, but Brodeur, when on, could win a hockey game 1 on 6. Mainly because he’d keep it scoreless until everybody on the other team died of old age, pnuemonia, and dysentary. I almost never would predict a sweep in the NHL playoffs, but this might be it
Magic Prediction: Devils in 4

(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) Philadelphia Flyers
Just like Predators-Red Wings, this is an incredible matchup pitting two of the best teams in all of hockey against one another. It’s an absolute shame and almost a catastrophe that these teams have to meet in the first round as both teams are Stanley Cup caliber teams and one for sure won’t make it through the first week. In this case, there are the extremely flashy, highly potent Pittsburgh Penguins featuring numerous scoring lines, highly skilled players and the top offensive team in the NHL. Then there are the high scoring and physically nasty Philadelphia Flyers. Both teams have problems on the defensive end with the slight edge going to Pittsburgh and both teams are very questionable in goal with a Marc Andre Fleury who seems to struggle come playoff time in high pressure situations and an Ilya Bryzgalov who has struggled to find his game since he was on the Coyotes. Here’s the thing: In a series where you expect a ton of scoring and little goaltending, the team that has the most fight in them and gets the ugly goals is the team that will end up taking it. Whoever wins this series has a good chance to win the Stanley Cup. I just think it’ll be the Flyers who win out, sending the Penguins home early yet again.
Magic Prediction: Flyers in 7

Western Conference: Semifinals
(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (7) San Jose Sharks
The Sharks, after pulling the upset, will have to face a step up in competition, and Daniel Sedin or no Daniel Sedin, I see Vancouver moving forward rather easily in this one.
Magic Prediction: Vancouver in 5

(5) Detroit Red Wings vs. (6) Chicago Blackhawks
This made for a great regular season series with two very similar teams. If the Predators make it through the first round, I think they win this series, but since I have a feeling it’s Detroit, I see a very tough series unfolding where goaltending and defensive ability will be the key. Chicago has played fairly well against Detroit in recent years and with Jonathan Toews I think they win this series in 6. Without him they lose in 6 or 7. Either way, if this goes 7, I think Detroit takes it.
Magic Prediction: Blackhawks in 6

Eastern Conference: Semifinals
(1) New York Rangers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils
New York has had a tremendous season and a ton to be proud of. I know they’d like to add a Stanley Cup Finals appearance to that list, but I don’t see it happening as the Devils pepper the net and Brodeur does all the rest
Magic Prediction: Devils in 6

(2) Boston Bruins vs. (5) Philadelphia Flyers
This would make for a great great series with two physical teams going at. The winner of this series, I have a good feeling will be playing for the Stanley Cup. Boston is the far superior defensive team and has a much better goalie. But the Flyers just seem to know how to score bunches of ugly goals no matter the goalie. I see Philly beating the Bruins in an OT or double OT game in Game 7.
Magic Prediction: Flyers in 7

Western Conference: Finals
(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (6) Chicago Blackhawks
I’d have Chicago going out earlier especially because of their deficiencies on the power play and penalty kill, but I cannot possibly foresee a Stanley Cup Playoffs where these two teams don’t meet up for the fourth consecutive year. This series is extremely nasty with their most recent meeting resulting in Daniel Sedin getting T.K.O’d with a vicious Duncan Keith elbow. Both teams clearly hate each other. Vancouver is still a team of headcases. And if these two teams met again, I see Vancouver looking to “settle the score” and forgetting the game in hand, resulting in yet another year of Canada not bringing back home the Stanley Cup.
Magic Prediction: Blackhawks in 6

Eastern Conference: Finals
(5) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils
For the 5 vs. 6 matchup I’m projecting, what a great matchup this is. Two very solid teams and I could see each winning this one. That said, I think the Bruins, Penguins, and Flyers are all beter than the Devils, and Brodeur, while he certainly can steal a series will have trouble with the hard charging Flyers.
Magic Prediction: Flyers in 5

Stanley Cup Finals
(5) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (6) Chicago Blackhawks
Can you say rematch? I sure can. The talented Hawks facing the gritty Flyers would make for must see TV. And this time, I think Philly gets the best of the Hawks with timely goals, hard hitting, and good net presence
Magic Prediction: Flyers in 6

 

A “Big Hit” for the Future of Baseball?

March Madness. We love it. We live it. We breathe it. We drive our families and friends crazy with talk of brackets and upsets. For three weeks in March, it’s the ONLY thing that matters, until it’s over. At that point, the annual, “Oh no, what now?” feeling kicks in.

What’s next is baseball. Spring training is already in full swing. Opening day of the regular baseball season is just two weeks away and it’s time to start planning your fantasy league and dreaming of that breakout offensive season that no one else picked.

This year, there might be a LOT of increased offensive production if what I’m hearing about a new baseball bat is true. Baden Sports–you may be more familiar with their basketballs–has recently introduced a new baseball bat called the Axe. This is the first major change to the shape of a bat in over a century.

I spoke with the company and one of the first things they told me was that Ted Williams says in his book, “The Science of Hitting,” that swinging a baseball bat is like swinging an axe. Apparently, an axe handle guides your hand into a proper position that fits flush at the bottom and increases leverage through the swing–something that a traditional baseball bat doesn’t do.

Baden says: “The Axe bat promotes an ergonomically correct grip, a better fit, a less restricted swing and greater bat speed through the hitting zone.”

Who’s using it and what are the results?

Rollins hit a deep solo home run over the left field fence with the new Axe baseball bat from Baden. (AP/Kathy Willens)

Since this is such a new bat, big league players are just being introduced to it. It’s been approved for use in MLB games in 2012, so the company is currently working with players at spring training. They can’t “name names,” but they will say that players from every club are taking at least practice swings and becoming familiar with the bat.

Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies hit a monster home run–his first of the season—on March 12 against the Pirates with the Axe bat. He’d been practicing with it, and his first time to the plate with the Axe someone from the dugout yelled, “Let loose with that bat, Jimmy!” He did, and hit it DEEP over the left field wall.


That was the first “official” home run, but I’ve done some digging and found a reliable report that among others, Oakland As first baseman Brandon Allen enjoyed his first outing with the Axe. On opening day of spring training, Allen hit a grand slam, a two-run double and drove in the go-ahead run in the 9th … all with the Axe. 7 RBIs. Not bad.

So maybe there’s something to this new Axe baseball bat. Time will tell, but since my basketball team didn’t even make March Madness this year, my tears are close to drying and I’m getting a jump start on putting a miserable basketball season behind me.

Baseball will fill my sports cravings over the next 6 months, and I’m paying close attention to what’s happening with the Axe bat.