2012 NFCDG – Falcons beat Seahawks?

Finally… the monkey is off the collective backs of Matt Ryan and Mike Smith with a strong win over arguably the hottest team in the NFC in the Seattle Seahawks.

As the Falcons prepare for the upcoming game against the San Francisco 49ers though, I have more questions about this win than answers. More on that later.

For now, enjoy a montage of gif action, compiled by AF.com and TheScore.

Love this play… The Real Beast was Jacquizz Rodgers on this play running over Earl Thomas

The win was uncharacteristically sloppy in regards to penalties, expect Mike Smith to clean that up before the NFCCG.

One of my favorite sequences was this one, featuring Richard Sherman and Roddy.

This guy has talent, but he’s also got a huge mouth and zero class.

Sherman made a few key plays during the game, especially on the deflection on an early game Roddy White target in the endzone. Matt Ryan delivered the ball late, allowing Sherman to catch up to the play and deflect a sure touchdown.

Sherman let Roddy have it, talking trash the entire way until this play.

notice Sherman “falling down” as ball arrives…

Of course… Roddy being Roddy, made sure to tell Sherman that yes, indeed he had caught the ball.

Love it.. you are down 20-0 just gave up a huge touchdown and you do the golf clap. #dontgetit

Sherman didn’t impress me much, he was abused several times by Roddy White.

The 5 yard touchdown to Snelling. Notice the Julio Jones decoy.

A look at the 5 yard misdirection shovel pass by Ryan… I really do love the fact that DK uses Julio so effectively as a decoy, but maybe it’s time to use him a little more than that?

Gonzalez with the huge touchdown in the 1st quarter. So happy for TG.

Unfortunately, Abraham re-injured his ankle early in the second quarter and did not return. He’ll need to get healthy quick to help a subpar pass rush, although with Colin Kaepernick coming to town, pass rush may not be as important as it is with traditional pocket passers.

containing Kaepernick is crucial

I’ll be back later with more preview of Falcons – Niners, and hopefully the Falcons heading to NO for the Super Bowl.

Rise Up.

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NHL Playoffs 2012 : Five Reasons the Kings Sweep the Canucks

Canada’s lost sons, the Vancouver Canucks may be getting their leading scorer in Daniel Sedin back in the lineup after quite an absence. Having lost their last six playoff games, a seventh loss means the Canucks will be golfing a tad earlier than they had planned.

While the Canucks put up a great effort in Game 3, they were unable to solve Jonathan Quick or put the clamps down on either Mike Richards or Dustin Brown.

This team is still extremely talented, and figures to come out firing on all cylinders. Problem is, they are still going to be swept tonight, and here’s five reasons why.

5. Dustin Penner is alive

The last time I saw a Dustin Penner play this way in the playoffs was when he was wearing a Duck sweater. Let’s just stop talking there #badmemories.

mmmm.... pancakes.... OW MY BACK!!!

4. Roberto Luongo is still Alain Vigneault’s man.

Easy enough to figure out right? Lu is still the man for head coach Alain Vigneault, despite the fact that Schneider has been superior than the over-rated Luongo. Vigneault claims to have already made his decision, but is not ready to claim his starter as of noon Wednesday.

3. Ryan Kesler and Dustin Brown

After winning over some critics last year with his play in the postseason, Kesler has reverted back to the same whining, diving antics that often detracted from what tremendous skill he did have.

All the little things this guy does on the ice are no good when he’s flopping around and allowing his emotions dictate his actions. He’s been held without a goal for the last 16 games, and it’s clear the Kings are completely in his head.

Dustin Brown

I’ll admit, I’ve said my share fair of barbs when it comes to the Los Angeles captain. I’ve called him overrated, a poor leader, and a choker, but not this year. After being dangled at the trade deadline, GM Dean Lombardi has certainly lit a fire under the captain.

He’s had an up and down year so far, but is putting it together when it counts. With four goals in the series, he has the same amount of goals as the entire Canucks roster.

2. Special Teams and Defense

Once one of the strongest teams in the NHL, the Canucks just aren’t the same on defense and the power play / penalty kill anymore.

The Kings have racked up five of the team’s nine goals via special teams, which also includes two shorthanded scores.

Alex Edler has also made some horrible mistakes this series, just a small snapshot of what exactly is wrong with the Canucks blueline.

1. Jonathan Quick

And you were expecting???? Quick has quietly joined the elite ranks of NHL goaltending this year. In stark contrast to his performance against these very same Canucks two years ago, Quick looks dominant and in the zone.

He’s allowed four goals in three games, and with four in his last 11 games he’s got as good of an Conn Smythe argument as anyone in the NHL right now.

Best of all? the Canucks don’t seem like they believe they can solve Quick, especially after Game 3 where Vancouver clearly outplayed LA but failed to get the job done.

Yes, the fourth win is the hardest. Yes the Canucks will be fighting for their lives. Yes this is uncharted territory for the Kings.

No, none of this sways my pick of LA sweeping Vancouver out of the playoffs

If you own a business in Vancouver, now might be the time to sell.

 



NHL Playoffs 2012 : Raffi Torres to spin the NHL Wheel of Morality

We’ve all seen the signs, the disturbing hits and cheap shots that have seemed to ramp up lately in the NHL. Things that cross the line of competitive fire and balance, into an ugly gray area of dirty play, cheap shots and intent to injure.

It’s been a disturbing trend of declining respect among their peers for NHL skaters, but last night’s hit on Marian Hossa is one of the more disgusting plays I have ever witnessed on NHL ice, even for a dirtbag like Raffi Torres.

I hate Raffi Torres, with every fiber of my being despite the fact he no longer pulls the Canucks sweater over his head before games.

Early in Game 3 of the Blackhawk-Coyotes series, Raffi “Soul Patch” Torres left his feet, delivering his shoulder squarely into the face of Blackhawk forward Marian Hossa. Hossa was immobilized and taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Hossa was nowhere near the puck when the hit occurred.

With the cheapshot hit, Torres makes himself the next contestant to spin the NHL’s Wheel of Morality.

Problem is, the changes we were all promised last year with Colin Campbell’s resignation haven’t seemed to materialize.

Shana-ban has looked inconsistent with the surprisingly rough and tumble first round of the NHL playoffs.

In the first 22 playoff games, teams have racked up 804 penalty minutes, with the Flyers-Penguins series topping the charts in Game 3 with 158.

Shanahan has clearly missed on several opportunities so far, but this is the one clear chance for him to make Raffi Torres a shining example.

Make any excuse you wish for this hit, because it has no place in hockey. period.

Banning him for the rest of the postseason would be reasonable, the Hockey Files believes Torres should be gone for 10 days, but sadly I think that a repeat offender like Torres gets nothing but a slap on the wrist.

Here’s to hoping I’m wrong.

UPDATE : It looks as though Shanahan is serious about Torres, as the NHL just announced he’s been suspended indefinitely pending a hearing. As I’ve said before, this guy needs to be suspended for the duration of the playoffs as an example of his stupidity.

The hearing is set for Friday, April 20th.

http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=628445

2012 NHL Playoffs : Sharks Lay an Egg in Game 3, Lose Home Ice

With so much of the pregame chatter about how Game 2 ended, it was much to do about nothing as the Sharks limped through 60 minutes en route to a 4-3 loss.

The St Louis Blues now hold a dominant 2-1 edge over the Sharks in the opening round series, and they got plenty of help from the boys in teal.

Much like the Game 3 of the Penguins / Flyers series the Sharks allowed their emotions to rule the day, and paid the price via 3 power play goals that gave the Blues all the cushion they needed.

Most egregious of all was Captain Joe Thornton’s roughing minor with 2:35 left to play and the Sharks applying the pressure.

I’d say the lazy penalties, poor special teams and sloppy composure ruined the game, but to be honest the Sharks weren’t great at even strength either.

While I sat through the torturous swing of bad play and offensive zone turnovers that was the middle of the third quarter, I had to exercise every bit of restraint to stop myself from throwing my remote at my TV.

Not that I hate my poor TV who has taken the brunt of my often-hockey-fueled anger rampages, no my anger was directed at the supposed “hockey experts”.

No, not Ray “I should be following the Warriors” Ratto, I mean Bret Hedican and Drew Remenda who kept talking about how the Sharks 5 on 5 play was so much more superior.

three blind mice

What freaking game were they watching? Because by my count the Sharks had only 5 true scoring chances at even strength. When the team wasn’t turning the puck over, they were losing the battle in front and along the boards.

Getting pushed to the outside, horrible breakouts, not getting to rebounds, offensive zone turnovers and perimeter dominated shot selection downed the Sharks in Game 3.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Ken Hitchcock loves to coach against the Sharks, because he clearly outcoached, outchanged and dictated the tempo despite Todd McLellan being the home coach.

The team also showed no adjustments, from period 1 to the final buzzer and in fact didn’t show much urgency until Joe Thornton was escorted to the box late in the third period.

The team simply has to be better, and it starts with Todd McLellan on down. His system didn’t work in Game 3, and he showed little in the way of flexibilty and adjustment for the lack of success.

What Worked :

Joe Thornton : With 3 assists and 3 shots in almost 20 minutes of ice time, the Captain is leading the way. He had a “Shea Weber” moment, taking a poor roughing penalty with his team pushing for a score.

He needs to be better, and he knows that.

Brent Burns : With 1 goal and 3 shots, his true value is starting to show as Burnsie logged over 22 minutes last night and was defensively sound for the majority of the game.

What didn’t work :

Douglas Murray : I love the big man, but Crank has got to settle down and play within his game. Delivering the nasty hit, sticking up for teammates, clearing the crease are his strong suits.

Taking the puck on an end to end rush, and promptly turning it over 3 strides into the neutral zone isn’t.

Moore-Mitchell-Galiardi – After all the negative talk the Wellwood-Mitchell combo created in last year’s playoff ouster, GM Doug Wilson spoke about getting faster, bigger and meaner.

This line isn’t doing that, and at times looked physically incapable of taking the body against the Blues. The coaching staff needs to shake this line up.

It’s going to be an uphill battle, but we all knew this series wasn’t going to be over anytime soon. The Sharks will need to bring their A game for Game 4, hopefully the boys can get it into gear.

Go Sharks!

NHL Playoffs 2012 : Byron Bitz spins the NHL Wheel of Morality!!

Vancouver Canucks right wing Byron Bitz was suspended for two games today for his hard hit along the boards Wednesday night on Kings wing Kyle Clifford.

Yes, just 24 hours after their latest disciplinary gaffe, the NHL felt as though there wasn’t enough outrage or backlash to suffice. In order to restore balance to the universe and raise the fans’ level of scorn for the league and it’s haphazard method of discipline, the NHL sent Byron Bitz to the ever popular Wheel of Morality.

Wheel of Morality… turn turn turn

Here is the play in question : Bitz was given a 5 minute major and suspended for 2 games.

Let’s compare that to this play, where Shea Weber not only punched Zetterberg in the back of the head with a sucker punch, but grabbed his head and slammed it into the glass Hulk Hogan style.

Zetterberg avoided injury, although his visor was cracked from the hit and cheap shot from Weber. The fact that he was not injured was taken into account in the decision not to suspend Weber, said Brendan Shanahan, the league’s chief disciplinarian.

Clifford was wobbly after the Bitz hit, and was escorted off the ice, but was skating and had his wits about him just moments after the hit, whereas Zetterberg laid there crumpled to the ice for several moments.

I’d like to recall another dirty play from the playoffs a year ago, when Bobby Ryan was suspended for 2 games after stomping on the skate of Nashville defenseman Jonathan Blum.

Blum was not injured on this play, no penalty was called.

Let’s see… Weber called for penalty, no injury, no suspension. Bitz called for a major, no injury, 2 game suspension, Ryan not called for penalty, no injury, 2 game suspension.

Want more NHL disciplinary fail? Look here at an article I wrote a year ago following the Rule 48 implementation.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/585992-nhl-a-look-back-at-rule-481-at-the-all-star-break

I have a funny feeling I’ll be writing a few more of these kinds of blogs before this postseason is through. Stay tuned.

 

2012 NHL Playoffs : San Jose Sharks Win Game 1 in 2OT – Kicking it Old School

The San Jose Sharks snuck out of Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals with a double OT thiller in St. Louis, winning 3-2 on a Havlat slapshot Thursday night.

While the Sharks came away the the W, they were outplayed for the most part, and especially in the first period as well as the first OT frame.

Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock is no stranger to the Sharks, and was quite clear that his team had to work harder in Game 2. The Sharks had difficulty handling the Blues forecheck and got outshot 42-34, as well as actually LOSING the faceoff battle.

Martin Havlat had a wonderful game, and it’s clear he’s the hot hand right now. With our season long finishing issues and woeful shooting percentage, he needs to stay healthy and in the lineup for the Sharks to enjoy a deep run.

Antti Niemi had a strong game, turning in 40 saves for the Game 1 win. The Sharks must get things turned around quickly, because relying on Nemo to save the day as he did in Game 1 is not a favorable position.

Still though, as they did a year ago they got the job done, however ugly it was. And got it done against a team that had lost at home only six times in regulation this year.

It’s still going to be one hell of a series against a great opponent, but so long as the defense and goaltending holds up, the Sharks have the experience and scoring ability to get the job done in the Quarterfinals.

In honor of the 2000 playoff team, I am kicking it old school today at work a day after the Sharkies huge win in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

My Al Iafrate Practice Jersey

Can’t wait for Game 2.

Go Sharks!

San Jose Sharks Game Day #82 – Winning the Pacific Division. I said it.

It’s easy to spout out any number of sports clichés when you think about the magnitude of the last game of the season. It’s also incredibly predictable, so to spare you the trouble feel free to insert any “game of the season” clichés you wish.

It’s a game San Jose wants to win in order to avoid the daunting task of taking of the Canucks or Blues in the first round.

It’s a game against a rival that you have a long history against, especially a very recent one…..

Hahaha…sorry to those who are King’s fans.. sorta.

So against that kind of backdrop we look forward to Game #82 against the Kings in what is again the game of the season.

Or rather game of the postseason, because game #82 will go a long way in determining San Jose’s odds and lifting Lord Stanley’s chalice.

The win in LA was huge, and coming back from down 3-1 and the ensuring back and forth action made for tremendous hockey.

You couldn’t help but be happy about how the team played in Los Angeles, because that LA team is loaded with offensive talent. The first half was a complete onslaught with the Kings outshooting the Sharks and the boys stood in there and fought back for the crucial win.

I couldn’t help but compare this Kings team to the one the Sharks often had difficulty with in Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals a year ago.

Y’know…. the “ever-potent-Westgarth-Ponikaravsky-Lewis” line that dominated at stretches…. the horrible shot selection that made Quick look like he had a piece of plexiglass behind him?

Ponikarovsky?? really???

So when I say the Sharks are going to win the Pacific title, please understand I don’t mean to disrespect the Los Angeles Kings. I respect Dean Lombardi and Darryl Sutter what they did in San Jose, and they will be a tough out for someone else in the first round.

In many ways as a Shark fan, you can sit back and look at that team and wonder what could have or would have.

But I believe the San Jose Sharks will be winning their fifth Pacific title, and facing either the Blackhawks or Red Wings in the first round. The 2000 playoffs was an awesome time for any San Jose fan, but I remember how badly Halak owned the Capitals that year in the playoffs.

How Halak’s 52 save performance turned in the fourth best performance Montréal Canadiens history.

no thanks to facing this guy...

The Sharks want no part of that. Trust me.

Yes this team is without its flaws, I’ll be the first one to tell you that. I can go on and on about declining depth, stubborn personnel decisions, top heavy nature and often questionable shot selection can snowball into an angry poopball of maddeningly inconsistent and frustrating play that defines your fanhood.

But the game against the Kings showed just how this team knew how to rebound from adversity and rise to the occasion.

But still many points of the huge win are reasons for any Sharks fan to hope that maybe, just maybe this year would be the one when we’d actually get it done.

The adversity, the horrible officiating and fast pace of the game all faced the Sharks, and they rose up to meet the challenge. Continue that type of play and who knows where this team can go.

Here’s to coming home Saturday and winning the Pacific Division.

Let’s go Sharks.

What has to work :

A Fast Start – This key almost feels too old but if you are a Sharks fan, you know why. The Sharks must jump out to a fast start and dictate the pace and play their game of puck control.

The .111 winning percentage that the Kings own in the season series against the Sharks when being down by 1 doesn’t hurt either.

Be ready for Quick – As much as I like to tell you hate this guy, I really can’t because he’s just too damn good to hate. His stats and nine shutouts this season don’t begin to measure how important he is for the squad. You can expect him to come to HP looking for vengeance, add Ryane Clowe’s moment and you can bet the Kings will be ready to play.

The Sharks need to be smart about shot selection make sure that Quick knows they are there, stay in front of the net and pay the price to get the job done.

Anze Kopitar – Shark Killer Extraordinaire with 12 goals and 22 assists in just 38 games against the Tiburones. Containing him is always difficult, so we’ll need to be ready to put the clamps down.

Martin Havlat – He’s been a catalyst since his return from injury, showing his speed and tenacity not to mention a great set hands ( and dish passes! ). He needs to keep doing what he’s doing, or whatever he does just please Marty… stay healthy.

Possible X-Factors for the Game

San Jose Sharks – I really liked TJ Gagliardi‘s jump last game even though he failed to register a shot and rode the minus train (-1).

Los Angeles KingsJonathan Bernier, yes we’d love to see him.

Stay on Rob Scuderi – the veteran has a bad against the sharks this year, registering a -4 despite logging top pair minutes.