IS ALEX SMITH FOR REAL

Provided is the link to my article on Alex Smith posted on NinerNoise.com.

Is Alex Smith For Real

Bringing the score to you,

Nick

 

LUONGO SHOWS NO CONSISTENCY

As soon as Roberto Luongo walked into the dressing room, he was surrounded; swarmed, really.  The reporters were on all sides, overflowing out the door and into the hallway.  Voice recorders pressed inches from his lips.  Boom mics almost brushed the bill of his cap.  TV cameras and spotlights pointed at his face, held high by men on stepstools, hoping to get a clear angle above the horde.  Luongo spoke for about three minutes.  He actually asked the key question.

“I’ve got to believe in myself, right?” he said.

Right there is the heart of this enigma; the Jekyll and Hyde of elite goaltenders; the guy who can get pulled and then pitch a shutout and then get pulled again in the Stanley Cup Final.  After another Luongo meltdown Monday night and a 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins, the Canucks’ dream season has been reduced to a Game 7 on Wednesday night in Vancouver.  It hinges on somebody who has bounced back before but always leaves you wondering if he can bounce back again and why he has to keep bouncing back like this at all.

As for the Canucks,  they are standing by their man.  Everyone from coach Alain Vigneault to backup goaltender Cory Schneider believes Roberto Luongo will deliver a Game 7 performance that is good enough to win them the Stanley Cup.  The No. 1 goaltender has bounced between great and gruesome in the championship series, surrendering three early goals before getting pulled in Monday’s 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 6.  Vigneault was quick to end any debate about who would get the start on Wednesday’s do-or-die game at Rogers Arena.

“I haven’t talked to him,” said Vigneault. “He knows he’s going back in next game. He’s going to be real good.”

“Probably the biggest pressure game he played all year was Game 7 against Chicago (in the first round),” said Schneider. “He had a lot riding on that game and he stepped up in the biggest way possible. He’s won a gold medal there, he’s won a lot of one-and-done games in that building and that means a lot.  We’re confident he’ll be there for us.”

In Luongo you have an Olympic gold medalist, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goaltender. When he is good, he’s among the best. In three home games in this series, he is 3-0 with a .979 save percentage and two shutouts.  Unfortunately Luongo has been terrible at times. He invites self-doubt and doubters, and when he self-destructs, he’s spectacular. In three road games in this series, he is 0-3 with a .773 save percentage and has been pulled twice.

Game 7 could be a defining moment for Luongo, but you wonder whether he has already defined himself, no matter what he does now.

Sources:  TSN, Yahoo Sports

Until the next puck drops,

Nick

CANUCKS QUEST

The Canucks sit one win away from their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.  Now all they have to do is figure out a way to win in Boston and the silverware will return to Canada for the first time since 1993.  The problem is, the Canucks have been terrible away from home so far in the Stanley Cup Final.  So, which Canucks team will emerge once the puck drops at TD Garden in Boston tonight for Game 6?  The Canucks have been dynamite at home, playing tight, defensive hockey and winning all three games by one-goal margins. The problem, however, is that the Bruins have had their way with them on home ice, outscoring the Canucks 12-1 in Games 3 and 4.  So, with the home team unbeaten so far in the final, will the Canucks be able to put up a fight in Beantown?  The Canucks are hoping they’ll be able to rebound and exorcise the demons of Games 3 and 4. They’ll try to look back to the killer instinct that allowed them to bury San Jose and Nashville with games to spare and do their best to get the job done in six.  Otherwise, they will allow Boston back into this series for a one-game playoff on Wednesday in Vancouver.  Consider this: the Canucks are 3-4 in potential series-winning games so far in these playoffs and have been outscored 24-15 in those games. The Canucks are 5-5 on the road so far, including the three road wins they garnered in Nashville.  The Bruins, meanwhile, are 2-2 in Games 6 and 7 in the post-season, with an even score line of 10-10 in those four games. They have not won a Game 6 yet in the playoffs, though both were played on the road. The Bruins are 9-3 at home in the playoffs, including dropping their first two games of the playoffs at home to the Canadiens.  So, can this Canucks team finally close out a series on its first opportunity? Or, will they be forced to go the distance and hope they can grind out a series victory in Game 7 like they did in Chicago in the first round?  Both teams have played a vastly different game at home than they have on the road. With the Cup on the line, which Vancouver team will show up?  The answer comes to you 8 p.m. tonight.

Sources:  TSN

Until the next puck drops,

Nick

LONG LIVE THE MADNESS, OOH YEAH!

The wrestling world lost a great one today; one of the greatest to ever step into the ring.  He was one of my favourites as a kid.  I used to imitate him a lot then; his “Oooh Yeah!” is one of the most famous lines in wrestling.  I thought I’d share a few great videos of him including his greatest moment when he became WWF champion for the first time.

You will be missed Macho Man Randy Savage.

Nick

WINNIPEG JETS SET TO RETURN?

Winnipeg’s mayor says it’s just “a matter of time” before a deal to move the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg is announced.  Sam Katz says the deal to bring an NHL team back to Winnipeg “is going to happen.”  He says there is an understanding the deal will move forward but nothing is signed, sealed and delivered yet.  No one is more anxious to officially learn the fate of the Atlanta Thrashers than members of the team.  The players have been given no indication one way or the other where they’ll be playing home games next season, according to goaltender Chris Mason.

“They’re not going to include us in any of the stuff and we shouldn’t be either,” Mason said Friday from his off-season home in Red Deer, Alberta. “We’ll know probably the same time or after everybody else knows, that’s the way it goes.  “We’re sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to see what’s going to happen, too.”  Mason has played in six different cities during his professional career and is facing the possibility of moving once again.  “That’s one of the very few things that is tough about the job,” said Mason. “I’m fortunate enough to be playing hockey and that’s one of the things that you just have to deal with.  It’s happened throughout a hockey player’s career and that’s just the way it goes.  We’ve done it before, we’ll do it again.”  Mason has mixed feeling about relocating from Atlanta to Winnipeg.  On one hand he feels bad about the fans and team employees that would be left behind in Atlanta but it would also give him a chance to live out a dream.  “There’s definitely things that would be really cool about it,” said Mason. “Playing in Canada, for me, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.  It would be really cool.  Just playing in front of a packed house every night would be awesome.”

All of this was started by an article yesterday by The Globe and Mail in Toronto stating the Thrashers’ agreement with True North was done and will be announced in Winnipeg on Tuesday.  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and True North Sports and Entertainment quickly denied the report Thursday that a deal has been reached to sell the team to True North, which would relocate the team to Winnipeg, Manitoba.  There are still obstacles to overcome, but it looks inevitable this time; hockey is back in Winnipeg and Canadians are celebrating across the country.  The Winnipeg Jets, as they should be called, should be soaring again this year after 16 plus years in the waiting.

Sources:  TSN, The Globe and Mail, Vancouver Sun

Until the next puck drops,

Nick

WELCOME BACK MR. SMITH?

So it looks as though Alex Smith will return to the 49ers for one more season.  I have been against this move from the beginning, but lately I’ve started to see the light.  With the lockout keeping free agents from signing, Smith might be the only option.  It is well known that 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh fully expects Smith to be back this season; Smith already has the new playbook.  So, love him or hate him, it looks like Smith will be back for one more stint as the 49ers starting quarterback.  Says Dan Brown of the Mercury News:

“Smith, 26, did not want to be quoted directly but told reporters from the Sacramento Bee and Comcast Sports Net Bay Area they could summarize the gist of his comments. In short, the feeling is mutual between Smith and coach Jim Harbaugh, who has spoken optimistically all offseason about the quarterback’s potential return.”

There is a different feeling this time around though.  When the 49ers drafted Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick last month, the message was clear; he would be the future and a bridge would be necessary.  So why can’t Smith be that bridge?  I’ll be the first to say I was ready to cut ties with Smith for good when the season was done and I stayed true to that up until the draft, until Kaepernick was drafted.  As long as this franchise is not depending on him to be the savior anymore, I believe he can be a nice quarterback for another season or two until Kaepernick is ready to take over.  Let’s face it, there aren’t many options out there much better than Smith right now. 

Smith’s career has been one dominated by inconsistency; whether it has been through his play or numerous coaching changes, Smith has had a difficult career.  He has been provided with numerous opportunities, but has yet to take advantage.  He did put up decent numbers in his last two seasons, when Singletary decided to open up his offense.  He can be a pretty good quarterback, when given time to throw, and has some good weapons to throw to.  He has arguably the NFL’s best tight end in Vernon Davis, a receiver with a great amount of potential in Michael Crabtree and a great running back in Frank Gore.  The strength of this team remains in the running game and though Harbaugh will throw much more passing into the mix, this will still be a running team.

The bottom line is Smith is good enough to keep this team competitive and with the right coaching combined with a weak division, this should be the year the 49ers are NFC West champions again.  All of us critics just need to ease up on him especially now that we need him in order to buy time for Kaepernick to develop.  Hopefully this lockout nonsense will be resolved and there is a season to watch this year. 

Sources:  Mercury News

Bringing the score to you,

Nick

BAALKE REACHES FOR THE STARS

Provided is the link to my detailed article on the 49ers draft.

Baalke Reaches for the Stars

Bringing the score to you,

Nick

OFFSIDE, PLAYOFF THOUGHTS

Well the refs really blew it now.  They were terrible with offside calls all game but this non-call really was costly.  The Boston overtime winner should never had counted.  They were offside as pointed out in the replay by CBC.  I know the game moves fast and mistakes can be made, but they really need to be careful when the game is on the line.  Not calling that play offside affected the outcome; it cost Montreal even more than a bad line change which is what led to the goal.  Not to take anything away from the Bruins effort; they overcame numerous deficits to win this game, coming back from two goals down in the second period and then down by a goal with less than seven minutes left they tied it again.  The problem is instead of a game which should have continued, you have a series tied at 2 games each.  It has been a great series so far, living up to all the hype, I just would have liked to have seen a legitimate goal win last night’s game.

Vancouver fans are really starting to get nervous now.  After a 3-0 series lead, the Canucks have been blown out by a combined score of 12-2 the last two games.  They have played terrible and are in real danger of Chicago taking this series away.  If this happens it would be the second time in as many years a team has come back down 3-0.  This has never happened before and though is supposed to be unlikely, after the last two games, it seems very possible unless Vancouver smartens up and fixes their game.  You have to give credit to Chicago though, they’ve played really well the last two games.  Vancouver had better finish this series in game 6 otherwise I’m predicting they will be eliminated in game 7 and we will see a repeat of last years Philadelphia / Boston series.

Until the next puck drops,

Nick

TO PONDER OR NOT TO PONDER

This post offers some insight as to which quarterback the 49ers should choose.  Check it out:

To Ponder or not to Ponder

Bringing the score to you,

Nick

CURTAIN CALL ON THE COYOTES

So is this it?  There is speculation this will be the last game played in Phoenix if Detroit wins tonight.  It’s kind of sad if you think about it.  Consider all of the people who will be out of a job; all the businesses folding once the Coyotes leave town.  It’s not a pretty scenario, but it seems very likely.  The same happened 15 years ago when Winnipeg lost the Jets to Phoenix.  The fitting saying is “what goes around, comes around”.  I’m not saying that it’s right to strip a city of its’ team and leave their workers unemployed, but the city of Phoenix had no business ever having an N.H.L. team.  Bettman has exhausted all possibilities to try to keep Phoenix from losing it’s team, but it doesn’t look like there will be a knight in shining armour this time.  No-one is going to rescue the Coyotes; it’s time they packed up and left for a hockey starved market waiting to cheer them on.  Sure some of the hockey players might prefer to stay in the warm weather of Phoenix, but let’s be real here, why keep a team where they have no support?  Why not go to a city which adores you; a city which will have a building near capacity every night.  I’m sure the players will enjoy the support they receive in Winnipeg much more than in Phoenix.

There’s a reason no-one has stepped up to make a significant attempt to buy the team and keep them in Phoenix; there’s a reason why the Goldwater Institute denied Hulsizer’s request to allow him to use the city of Glendale to contribute $100 million worth or proceeds from a municipal bond sale to help him buy the team for $170 million.  They too see hockey as a failing entity in Phoenix and refuse to risk any city funding to aid in keeping a team there.  Considering the rough state of Arizona during this recession, I don’t blame them.  If Hulsizer really wanted, or was fully able to buy the team, he wouldn’t ask for any city funding whatsoever.  Has he done this?  No.

So I’m going out on a limb here and saying the N.H.L. will make it official after the Coyotes are swept away in Phoenix tonight.  Where a few fans will be mourning the loss of their Coyotes, many fans in Winnipeg will be rejoicing the rebirth of hockey in Winnipeg.  There is no doubt the Winnipeg Jets, Manitoba Moose, or whatever they call the “new” team there, will receive a heroes welcome the minute they step on the ice and the first N.H.L. game is played there again.

It’s time to give the city of Winnipeg back its’ team which was taken from them so long ago.  It’s time for Shane Doan to don a jersey for Winnipeg as he did when he started his career; the last of the Winnipeg Jets he is, so how fitting would it be for him to be the first to bring hockey back to Winnipeg.

Until the next puck drops,

Nick

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