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Archive for April, 2015

The Bus Attempts To Preview The NHL’s Insane First Round Of Playoffs

Posted by Chris Bowen on April 15, 2015

yxrm83O7There’s nothing quite like the NHL playoffs. Baseball’s are at the end of a marathon and by the time they come, it’s turning cold and most everyone just wants to go home. Basketball is fun, but centered around too many superstars. Football is also great at playoff time, but it doesn’t take on the same cultural significance that hockey does to certain parts of the US and Canada. It’s one thing hearing a football stadium go nuts, but it’s another altogether to see 16,000 people in an enclosed arena going nuts while wearing all-white.

The best thing to say about the NHL playoffs is that they’re so awesome that even the NHL can’t screw them up.

To the NHL’s credit, they did their best to bring about a sense of rivalry with the move back to a divisional format, and this year’s playoffs comes with some ready-made hatred, particularly with the Canadian teams. This is a secondary subplot to the fact that the setups themselves are goofy when considering preseason predictions; both the defending champion Kings and defending President’s Trophy winning Bruins are out of the playoffs entirely. The first round is looking to be good; here, I’ll break them down and try to guess how they’ll play out.*

* – It’s important to note that I have *NO IDEA* what’s going to happen. This is going to be the equivalent of a monkey playing darts. The season was goofy, we have two teams carried in solely on the backs of their mediocre goaltenders getting white hot, and of the sixteen teams in the playoffs, there are about seven or eight legitimate contenders, of which five come from the same division. This season was bat shit. DO NOT make bets based on these predictions, because I have almost zero confidence on most of them.

1A: MONTREAL CANADIENS VS. 4W: OTTAWA SENATORS

Fans who like pretty numbers on the scoreboard might be a little bit disappointed in this series if things hold up the way they have in the season. On one side is Carey Price, who is almost surely going to win the Hart Trophy as the league’s overall MVP, let alone the Vezina. On the other is Andrew Hammond, the “Hamburglar” who got lit up in the minors, got called up to the NHL because Ottawa was literally running out of goaltenders, and then instantly became Ken Dryden in single-handedly carrying the Senators to the playoffs. Assuming he doesn’t become a pumpkin, the scoring will be low. Even better, these teams hate each other, and the last time they played, the series became a tire fire.

Ultimately, the Canadiens have a little bit too much for the young, relatively untested Senators. I don’t think Hammond will revert back to what he is – yet – but this is a bad matchup for Ottawa considering their strengths are the same as Montreal’s, and Montreal is better.

PREDICTION: CANADIENS IN 6



2A: TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING VS. 3A: DETROIT RED WINGS

The Red Wings might be the weakest team in the playoffs other than the Flames, on paper. Normally, that would carry water, but if this was about roster strength the Kings would be in the playoffs and the Jets would be home. Furthermore, the Red Wings are still the Red Wings; they keep winning, as they have for two decades.

I think this is the final nail in the Red Wings’ coffin, though. They’re just not that good, and I’m surprised they made the playoffs. Detroit’s defence is solid, but their goaltending’s spotty, and Tampa can light up anyone in the tournament.

Congratulations to 20 plus years of success, Detroit. Take your curtain call and begin your rebuild in earnest.

PREDICTION: LIGHTNING IN 5

2M: WASHINGTON CAPITALS VS. 3M: NEW YORK ISLANDERS

It’s great to see the Islanders in the playoffs for their final season at the Nassau Coliseum, reliving memories of the 80s, before most of their roster was born. 

Unfortunately, the Islanders have an atrocious penalty kill, and Washington has one of the best power plays in the league. I don’t trust Ovechkin in the playoffs because he can’t shake the additional attention, and I surely don’t trust Braydon Holtby, but I think the Caps have enough to take out the Islanders for good, ironically closing out Nassau with a home team loss. As nice as it would be for the Islanders to take on the Rangers in the playoffs, I don’t see it happening.

PREDICTION: CAPITALS IN 6

1M: NEW YORK RANGERS VS. 4W: PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

The Rangers are flying, having won the Presidents Trophy despite the lengthy absence of all-world goaltender Henrik Lundqvist; if anything, backup Cam Talbot solidified a solid contract from another team. Furthermore, they’re deep, and their younger players like JT Miller and Kevin Hayes have fit in well with established veterans like St. Louis. And the defence, while lacking in top-flight, Drew Doughty superstars, is deep from one to six, from Ryan McDonagh down to the criminally underrated Kevin Klein.

Pittsburgh has superstars, for sure, but their defence is beat up, their goaltending is inferior, and I just don’t see a lot of direction from this team. If they’re going to advance, their goaltender will have to steal some games, and Crosby is going to have to take over, something that’s really not in his DNA; he’s a facilitator, not a cheerleader. And even cheerleaders can’t do much when they’re picking the puck out of their net all the time. It won’t be a sweep, but it won’t be close.

PREDICTION: RANGERS IN 6

1P: ANAHEIM DUCKS VS. 4W: WINNIPEG JETS

For anyone who wasn’t alive for the last time the cit y of Winnipeg saw playoff hockey – a non-remote possibility considering it was 19 years ago – let me just say that the city goes absolutely batshit. They might not have invented the whole “dress the fans in one colour” tradition – that’s Calgary’s “C of Red” – but they’ve surely perfected it, and the Winnipeg White Out will be rocking once Game 3 hits. By the way, the team is also a blast; they can score, and if the two headed goaltending monster of Ondrej Pavelic and Michael Hutchinson can hold up, this is a very winnable series, because Anaheim has holes.

The Ducks’ first line is far superior to that of Winnipeg, for sure. But they’re not that deep, and their goaltending has been flaky all season. Josh Gibson is the goaltender of the future, but he’s been iffy all year. If there’s a major upset candidate in the West, this is it.

PREDICTION: JETS IN 7

2P: VANCOUVER CANUCKS VS. 3P: CALGARY FLAMES

There’s two ways of looking at this series. The first is that neither of these teams should be here. Vancouver’s old, slow, and unsettled in goal. Calgary was considered a frontrunner in the race for Connor McDavid, and their stats indicate they should be much worse than their record indicates. Basically, they’re this year’s Avalanche.

But on the other, it’s still the Canucks vs. the Flames, in the playoffs. Neither team cares that they’re not supposed to be here, and frankly, neither do the fans. This is going to be a bloodbath. These teams hate each other, their fans hate each other, and there’s a legitimate question as to how much is going to be left in the tank of whoever wins.

Vancouver’s goaltending situation is kind of silly – in one corner is Ryan Miller from Not!2010, in the other is Eddie “I’m The Better Goaltender” Lack – but it won’t matter in this series. Calgary is simply overmatched.

PREDICTION: CANUCKS IN 6

1C: ST. LOUIS BLUES VS. 4W: MINNESOTA WILD

Wait, this is the 1 v. 4 matchup!? These are two of the best teams in the NHL! Holy crap, the Central was brutal.

This is basically St. Louis’s punishment for not winning the Western Conference outright. Minnesota has been a completely and totally different team since acquiring Devan Dubnyk, who would be getting more attention if he had a fast food related nickname of his own. Dubnyk went from likely being exiled to Europe after being let go by the three different teams – two of whom were the 2nd and 3rd worst in the entire league – to potentially playing on a Cup contender. As for the Blues, they have an incredibly deep roster and solid goaltending. Now, it’s time to make them realize it; goaltending controversies have marked the past few seasons in St. Louis, when the answer should be clear-cut (hint: the answer is “ride Brian Elliott until he drops”).

Because of the uncertainty in net – one bad goal could see Jake Allen in net – I have to give the edge to Minnesota.

PREDICTION: WILD IN 7

2C: NASHVILLE PREDATORS VS. 3C: CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

Have I mentioned that the Central division is unreal? Because man alive.

Nashville was another team, not unlike Calgary, that was predicted to be near the bottom of the standings when the season started. But unlike the Flames, who have largely been opportunistic and lucky, the Predators have actually been good. They got the 2nd seed in the best division in hockey despite a below par season from Pekka Rinne, and are solid first to last.

But they’re not the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks are basically the Spurs of the NHL at this point, where the season is secondary to the playoffs, knowing they can turn it on. They’re stocked, they’re stronger than Nashville, Corey Crawford is tremendously underrated even with a ring, and they should be able to handle Nashville.

PREDICTION: BLACKHAWKS IN 6

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The Bus’s 2015 Major League Baseball Preview

Posted by Chris Bowen on April 8, 2015

1280px-Major_League_Baseball.svgMy Facebook page (which you should all like because it’s awesome and you all love me very much) is yelling at me because I haven’t updated in 11 days. Facebook cares not that I was in the middle of moving apartments and bring 35 years worth of crap with me in the process. Noooooooo! Sure, you’re in the middle of moving into a new condo with the love of your life, whatever, pay attention to meeeee!

Alright, Facebook. I will provide you with something I can crap out in my sleep: my thoughts on the upcoming 2015 MLB Season. An asterisk next to a team indicates a projected Wild Card pick.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST



1. Baltimore Orioles
2. Toronto Blue Jays *
3. Boston Red Sox
4. New York Yankees
5. Tampa Bay Rays

I don’t think Baltimore losing Nelson Cruz is going to hurt too much. He’s a strong hitter, but they have others, and his output is likely to be replaced just by Chris Davis coming back to form not that his medication is approved. I think the division will be close between them, the Blue Jays and the Red Sox. No one can pitch, but Baltimore’s pitching is somewhat less shitty than Boston’s and Toronto’s (Boston’s ace is Clay Buchholz, and he is, for lack of a better term, spineless). Taking up the rear are the Yankees, who will be good for back page fodder if nothing else, and the Rays, who will almost surely trade Longoria and are looking at heading back into another swoon. I almost guarantee this team will find a way to move within five years, and will finish last because of Joe Girardi’s brilliance.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

1. Cleveland Indians
2. Chicago White Sox
3. Detroit Tigers
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Minnesota Twins

I’m not quite as high on the Indians as Sports Illustrated is – they picked the Indians to win the whole damn thing – but they’ll be good. They’ll beat out the vastly improved White Sox. I’m not buying Detroit this year; they’re old, they’re injured, and Miggy Cabrera can’t do it all himself. The Royals were a wonderful story last year, but I don’t think they can keep it up; a lot had to go right for them last year. Minnesota is going to be terrible, but that’s by design at this point. Enjoy the Torii Hunter retirement tour, and buy your Byron Buxton jerseys now.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

1. Seattle Mariners
2. Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim*
3. Oakland Athletics
4. Texas Rangers
5. Houston Astros

As a Mariners fan, I am positively giddy for this upcoming season. A good rotation, a decent offence, no weaknesses, Seattle’s finally going back to the postseason. The Nelson Cruz signing will be ugly at the end of that contract, but it works for now. 2nd and 3rd will be close, but in the end, the Angels have Mike Trout and the A’s don’t. Both Texas and Houston will be bad, but at least the Astros have light at the end of their tunnel; in three years, everything we’re saying about the Nationals, we’re going to say about the Astros. Texas is in trouble, with injury, age and contract issues abound, but at least there’s help on the farm. No matter what, this looks to be the most exciting division in either league.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

1. Washington Nationals
2. Miami Marlins *
3. New York Mets
4. Atlanta Braves
5. Philadelphia Phillies

Words are being thrown around to describe Washington – words such as “prohibitive favourite” and “162 game victory lap” – that will make anything short of a sweep in the World Series into an upset on par with Kentucky Basketball losing their chance at 40-0. The rest of the division is bad enough to make them at least winning the East a foregone conclusion. Miami has talent, as painful as that is to admit, as well as the best hitter in baseball and one of the best young pitchers. No one else in this division projects to be .500. The Mets will come close, but the Braves (who are already selling off players) and the Phillies will be atrocious; Philly looks to be the worst team in the majors.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Pittsburgh Pirates*
3. Chicago Cubs

4. Cincinnati Reds
5. Milwaukee Brewers

I want to put the Pirates at the top here, but the Cardinals are too good. Pittsburgh’s pitching isn’t as good as St. Louis’s, and the Cardinals have no discernible weaknesses. I think the division goes down to the wire, with the loser hosting the Wild Card game. The Cubs are going to be a fun team to watch, but they’re a year away from seriously contending for a wild card spot. I think the Reds hold off just long enough to prevent them from going into full rebuild mode because their stars are really good, which is better than I can say about the Brewers, who aren’t good and won’t be getting good any time soon; they have one of the worst farm systems in baseball.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. San Francisco Giants
3. San Diego Padres
4. Colorado Rockies
5. Arizona Diamondbacks

The Dodgers will win this division almost by default; the Giants might be the defending world champions, but losing Sandoval really hurts a team that already don’t have much power in a spacious ballpark. That doesn’t mean I like the Dodgers, mind; Yasiel Puig will be fun to watch if only to see how the normally staid baseball world reacts to his antics, but they have the look of a 100 win team that folds in the NLDS to me. I think the Giants could make the Wild Card if the Marlins didn’t play so many games in the putrid NL East. The Padres made so many changes that I don’t know what to make of them; they have the smell of a .500 team, but I wouldn’t be surprised no matter what. They could finish in the wild card, they could lose 100 games. Both the Rockies and the Diamondbacks will be very, very bad, but at least Arizona will be entertaining to watch for people who like crooked numbers.

PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

The playoffs themselves are a crapshoot, as the 116 win 2001 Mariners found out. Predicting how they’ll play out in April could be accomplished just as easily with a dart board and a trained monkey. Just for giggles, I’ll predict how the playoffs would play out if everything above happened, though it should be noted my official playoff predictions are the same now as they will be in October, when we know who makes it: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

AL WILD CARD: Angels (H) over Blue Jays
NL WILD CARD: Pirates (H) over Marlins

ALDS: Mariners over Indians, Blue Jays over Orioles
NLDS: Nationals over Pirates, Cardinals over Dodgers

ALCS: Mariners over Blue Jays
NLCS: Nationals over Cardinals

WORLD SERIES: Nationals 4, Mariners 1. Welcome to your first World Series, Seattle! Unfortunately, Washington has a Cy Young candidate as their fifth pitcher (Doug Fister). Seattle doesn’t have the bats for that lineup.

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