NHL Round 2 Preview: Western Conference Preview

thBy Kim Dunning

The Western Conference Semi-Finals begin on Wednesday Night. Four teams that vaulted their way into the series all in different ways.

Two teams swept their first round opponents. The other two pulled what some experts believe to be major upsets.

So without further ado, here is the Western Conference Round 2 Preview.

Western Conference

9778013-nhl-nashville-predators-at-st.-louis-bluesBlues vs Predators

The St. Louis Blues defeated the Minnesota Wild to seal their second round bid. Goal tender Jake Allan was on fire during the series.

The Nashville Predators pulled off the sweep of the favorite Chicago Blackhawks. They Predators held Chicago to three goals in four games.

Goaltending is definitely going to be the way of this series. Both Allan and Predators goalie, Pekka Rinne was lights out against the Hawks. The Hawks have a high powered offense.

This series will be low scoring and full of defensive battles. Actually, it will be a typical Western Conference playoff game. Expect lots of hitting, little scoring and goaltending to boot.

Should both these goaltenders play the way they did in Round 1, this will be a defensive battle. The nod should go to the Preds as they did knock off the favorite.

r202452_1296x729_16-9Ducks vs Oilers

The Aniheim Ducks swept the Calgary Flames to advance to the second round. The Oilers defeated the defending Western Conference Champion, San Jose Sharks, to advance.

Edmonton has a young but good team. They also have this kid named Conor McDavid who is something special. If you don’t watch this series for anything else watch it for him and admire the youth movement in the NHL.

The Ducks have experience and have been resting for longer than the Oilers. Sometimes rest can be bad for a team, but for the Ducks it gives their star player Cam Fowler time to heal.

If Edmonton can come out and play the Ducks like they did the Sharks, this could be a 7-game series. Otherwise, look for the Ducks to advance to the Western Conference Finals.

Playoff hockey is the best time of year. If you aren’t watching you should be! Anything can happen, as we saw in the first round. Enjoy the second round and good luck to your club.

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NHL Round 2 Preview: Eastern Conference Preview

thBy Kim Dunning

The NHL playoffs started on April 12, 2017 this year. It has been a wild ride. Round 1 was unforgettable this season. To the surprise of many hockey fans, some clubs did not move on as expected.

We started roughly about two weeks ago with 16-teams. We are down to eight left, all vying for the coveted title of Stanley Cup Champions.

The Chicago Blackhawks were the team to beat. After getting swept out of the first round, there is no clear cut favorites now, except Pittsburgh.

So without further ado, here is the Eastern Conference Round 2 Preview.

Eastern Conference
th (1)Rangers vs Senators

For only the second time in playoff history, The New York Rangers will play the Ottawa Senators. The last time these two teams played each other, New York won the series four games to three. Both teams defeated their opponents in the first round four games to two.

When you think of Ottawa you think of Erick Karlsson and his stellar defensive play. Karlsson played the first round with fractures in his foot. He still managed to get a lot of ice time and performed very well.

When you think of the Rangers, you think of their four line rotation. New York has added to their speed game during the off-season. They roll four lines well and do not have a true first line.

Goaltending for both clubs evenly matched. Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers has found his niche and played excellent in the first round. Craig Anderson also played well in the first round and has become an emotional leader to the club.

This series will come down to how well the Senators defense matches up to the Rangers four lines. The nod should go to the Rangers because they are playing well on the road. The Rangers are looking like the defending Champs last season.

9830438-nhl-washington-capitals-at-pittsburgh-penguins-850x560Penguins vs Capitals

This exciting series is a rematch from last season. The Penguins defeated the Capitals in six games to go on to win the Cup. This could be the most exciting series of round two, at least in the Eastern Conference.

For the tenth time, these two will meet in the playoffs. These two clubs are arguably the best two in the NHL.

In the first round, the Penguins advanced with a 4-1 series win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Capitals had a bit of trouble with a young Maple Leafs team and won their series 4-2.

Washington has a history of second round bounces, but they have a different feel to them. The Penguins have a history of beating the Capitals in the playoffs, having won 8 out of 9 meetings.

The Capitals are a dominate club building their team around beating the Penguins. The question is: Can Washington get over the mental block that seems to hit them when they play the Pens?

This series should go to seven games. This will be a hard fault battle between two good quality hockey clubs. The edge would go to Pittsburgh because this club has been there before. Washington seems to have a curse when it comes to the second round in the playoffs. Not to mention, they struggled with the speed and youth of the Leafs and Pittsburgh has the same type of club.

Should be an interesting match-up and the winner of this series will be the favorite for the Cup finals.

The Eastern Conference is shaping up to be a fun, interesting and exciting series. For those who have a horse in the race still, hang on to your seats and good luck to your club!

 

Stay tuned for the Western Conference preview.

 

NHL Round One Breakdown

nhl-stanley-cup-playoffsBy Kim Dunning

The National Hockey League finished up the regular season on Sunday.  There are 16 teams that are vying for the most coveted professional sports trophy: the Stanley Cup.

The fun thing about the NHL playoffs is that no matter who gets into the playoffs, you can pretty much guarantee, the winner of the Stanley Cup is usually the least likely suspect, unless it is the Chicago Blackhawks.

Last year, no Canadian team made it into the playoffs.  This is only the second time that has happened.  This year, all Canadian teams except two made it in.  These young Canadian teams are dangerous now but with the young talent they have, they will become even more dangerous as the years continue.

The first round starts on Wednesday night and airs on NBCSN and USA networks.   Let’s take a look at the teams who have made the playoffs, this year.

The Eastern Conference

The Eastern Conference boasted one of the most dominate divisions this year in the Metropolitan Division.  Four teams in the Metro had over 100 points.  Sadly, because of a flawed playoff system, at least one 100+ point’s team will have a first round exit.

joffreylupul-696x463The Washington Capitals once again took the President’s Trophy for having the most points in the NHL, they had this last year and were considered the favorite for the Stanley Cup.  This year, the Capitals will square off on Thursday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.  The Leafs are very lucky to have a playoff berth this year.  They clinched the final playoff spot with 1 game left to go in the season.  While most feel that the Caps will dominate the Leafs, there is a chance that these young kids like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner will step up big and pull an upset.  The thing about Toronto is they are a very young and unpredictable team.  If the Leafs pull an upset, it will be nothing unusual for Washington to have an early post-season exit after a dominating regular season.

041414_jacketspensOne of the more intriguing matchups of the first round is the Pittsburgh Penguins versus the Columbus Blue Jackets.  The Pens finished second, slightly ahead of the Jackets.  The Penguins are also the defending Stanley Cup Champions looking for a repeat for the first time since Detroit did it back in 1997/1998.  The Jackets are a very physical young team with a veteran coach in John Tortorella.   The Penguins are based upon speed, power plays and offense.  They have a young net minder in Matt Murray who has struggled at times during the playoffs.   This series could go either way.  Pittsburgh may have a slight edge with having home ice advantage, but Columbus isn’t a team to be taken lightly.  Columbus has playoff inexperience and Pittsburgh is the veteran team coming into this.  This game could quite possibly go to 7-games.

Lundqvist-PriceThe fourth and final Metropolitan team to start their first round is the New York Rangers.  The Rangers surprisingly have struggled at home and have become the “road warriors” of the NHL playoffs.  They will face the Atlantic Division winners, Montreal Canadians.   This match-up has two great goaltenders in Cary Price (for Montreal) and Henrik Lundqvist (for New York).  Both goalies can step it up and carry their team if need be.  The Canadians made a mid-season coaching change and that seems to have complimented their team more.  The Rangers have been bit in key positions with injuries.  Montreal can be hot and cold and with them having home ice, the nudge should go to the Rangers in this series.

167730536_slideThe final Eastern conference matchup features the Boston Bruins and the Ottawa Senators.  The Bruins are back in the playoffs after a brief hiatus and the Senators are the home ice favorites in this one.  The Bruins have the talent to keep up with Ottawa and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them take the series in less than 7-games.   The Senators swept the Bruins in the regular season, but the Bruins have talented veterans in David Backes, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand that can step it up when the playoffs call for.  This matchup seems kind of on the drab side, however this could be more exciting than the average hockey fan imagines.

The Western Conference

While the Western Conference during the regular season seemed to just coast along, there is a bigger difference than the Eastern Conference.  The Western conference did not have as many ties as the top teams in the East did.  The Western Conference road to the Stanley Cup is never boring nor is it ever disappointing.

ap_16365203189783The Chicago Blackhawks won the Central division and will play the Nashville Predators.  Every NHL fan that isn’t a Blackhawks fan wants this upset.  Chicago is a team that will coast through the regular season and turn it on hot when it comes to the post season.  With Chicago getting bounced out in the first round last year, they will be looking for redemption on their way to the Cup that you can almost feel sorry for the Preds.  The Predators aren’t a push-over team but they’ve been hot and cold all regular season.  They are also looking to get further after their second round out courtesy of the San Jose Sharks.

cc2c8d200c0c26568b8d180a4eb649beThe Minnesota Wild will start their first round quest against the St. Louis Blues.  The Blues were the team that everyone thought would go to the Stanley Cup final last year after they knocked off Chicago.  Both the Blues and Wild are looking to advance further than last year.  The history between Minnesota teams and the Blues is still ingrained in the minds of the Wild and Blue fans and these teams do not like each other.  Minnesota boast one of the top defenses in the league and the Blues came on strong after their fired their head coach.  Mike Yeo, the interim coach for the Blues, has ties to Minnesota as well.  So this series isn’t just for the advancement but maybe for bragging rights.  Minnesota should be able to handle the Blues but this is one of those series you shouldn’t bet money on.

calgary-flames-vs-anaheim-ducks-2015-stanley-cup-playoffs-game-3The Pacific Division winner Anaheim Ducks will face the Calgary Flames.  When these two teams met in their regular season finale, fireworks were everywhere.   Flames defenseman Mark Giodano’s knee-on-knee hit sidelined the Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler.  This may have a carry-over into the playoffs as each team will be running high on emotions.  The Flames have a younger group of guys that their veteran goaltender in Brian Elliott may have to pick up the slack for a game or two.  They also have the very dangerous rookie, Johnny Gaudreau, that when he gets the puck you never know what’s going to happen.   The Flames have struggled at the Honda Center, so with the Ducks having home ice advantage in this could spell a one and done for the Flames.

Edmonton-Oilers-vs-San-Jose-Sharks-Hockey-Prediction-3-24-16The final first round match-up is the defending Western Conference Champion, San Jose Sharks against the very young Edmonton Oilers.   This series is a must watch because Conor McDavid is really that exciting.  McDavid at only 20-years old won the Art Ross Trophy (for most points by a player in the entire NHL).  This series is the young versus the old.  San Jose is stacked with veterans who are hungry to go back and win the Cup that the Penguins stopped them from winning last year.  Edmonton is looking to get back to the “glory days” when Wayne Gretzky played for them and took them too many championships.   During the season, the Oilers owned the Sharks 3-1-1, and this again does not translate to the playoffs.  The Sharks are not only older but they have a few key injuries in Joe Thorton and Logan Couture.  This series may go to six or seven games but with the health and age of the Sharks, Edmonton could move on to the second round and once again have a very young, unpredictable team to watch.

The NHL playoffs are set for the first round.  This is the most exciting time in the NHL as they are presented on the bigger stage with NBC and their affiliates covering the entire playoffs.  Hockey playoffs are always non-stop action and so much can and will happen.  Happy Playoff Hockey and Good luck if your team happens to be one of the 16.

Coach Shipp: Man, on a Mission

By Kim Dunning 

Coach Shipp is a great man who has a single mission in life: to better our youths’ lives. Who is Coach Reginald Shipp? The answer is more complex than you might imagine.  

Coach Shipp is a father of five. Two of his daughters attend college at Shaw University and Mountain View Stat Junior College. His other two daughters are in high school and he has one son, who is four. He is married to a wonderful woman who is his best friend and support network. She understands that what he does for others takes him away from his family, and has a purpose. This is the man behind the scenes.

What is amazing about Coach Shipp is that he is a humble person who doesn’t like to talk about himself. If you ask him questions about his mentoring he will talk your ear off, as mentoring today’s youth is his main focus. Coach Shipp is a mentor to young men who do not necessarily come from the best situations in life. These young men have been dealt a bad hand in life and Coach is there to help them find a way, even with adversity, to become better men. This is a cause that is near and dear to his heart.

Coach Shipp did not come from the best of backgrounds. He grew up in two rough neighborhoods and he fought every day to survive. His mother was a drug addict and his father did not come into his life until he was older.

When he was six-years old, he met another young man by the name of Ellery Lundy. Mr. Lundy is a big reason why Coach Shipp could make his life better. He attributes his life to him. Ellery introduced Coach Shipp to football.  

Football became his saving grace and now he is paying that forward to the young men he coaches and mentors.  

Mr. Lundy now has a foundation called Broken Men’s Foundation, which helps men build resumes and community service skills, among other opportunities.  

According to Coach Shipp, if it wasn’t for Mr. Lundy, he may have ended up as just another statistic in the streets.

As a result of his background, he is a huge advocate of getting young men off the streets by getting them involved in football. This is Arena football and he is now the owner of the Capital City Reapers. Through the Reapers, he helps his players’ transition from outdoor football to indoor football.

Coach Shipp has an extensive resume. He has not only owned a team but he has played semi-pro football. He considers himself the Charles Woodson of his time. He played many positions: from wide receiver, defensive back, running back and quarterback. When asked, he said his bread and butter positions were running back and defensive back. He retired from playing at age 37 and became a community man. While he was invited to different camps, he never got any further than that. He did play in the European League.  

On his coaching resume, he became a full-time coach in 2010. He has coached the York Capitals to a 2015 undefeated season that ended with a Championship win. The Capitals are out of York, Pennsylvania. More recently, besides coaching for the Reapers, he is the Defensive Assistant and Defensive Backs coach for the Virginia Titans semi-pro team, along with his friend Terry Haynes. The Titans, owned by Lavar Matthews, another great friend of Coach Shipps’. Mr. Matthews provides men with the same opportunities as the Reapers but they are an outdoor football team.    

Earlier in his coaching career, he met a young woman by the name of Elle Locust out of Harrisonburg, Pennsylvania. As a result of working with her, he became an advocate for women in sports. Coach Shipp was impressed with Ms. Locusts’ knowledge and the way she handled the players. He has written her letters of recommendation for an internship with the NFL.

Most recently, Coach Shipp put out a call, on Facebook, for female coaches. This is a call Sports Elites’ own Tay Holloway answered.  

Coach Shipp coaches young men from the ages of 19 to 27. His oldest player has indoor football experience, but had an injury and now plays with the Reapers to sharpen his skills to move back up into the next level. None of his players receive compensation. He has also coached a developmental team.  

Out of the 30 players he had on his developmental team, eight of them went on to get paid positions and the team was able to send three of the young men to school.

Coach Shipp mentors men of all ages. He is involved with the We Care Organization, which was founded by Mr. C. J. Richardson. We care teaches life skills and teaches young men how to be humble no matter what their experience. We Care is also involved with helping out the homeless and sending kids to camp. Most recently, they had a block party to teach the children that all police officers aren’t bad and that there are bad seeds that happen to get the media attention.

When not coaching, playing or mentoring; Coach Shipp enjoys watching football, basketball, baseball and boxing. He is an avid Dallas Cowboys fan from back in the day when Danny White and Too Tall Jones played for them. He is a Lakers fan and a Washington Nationals fan. He loved boxing, but said it has become boring since Mayweather retired.

Coach Shipp is the humblest person I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking with. I asked him if he had one person that he has mentored or coached that he was proud of. His response was, all of them. His goal is to mentor young men to become better men so they can be better to their wives, girlfriends and eventually their children. He is all about the pay-it-forward motto.

His goal in life is quite simple and something we should all live by. If you can improve someone’s life, then you have lived your life with a purpose.  

Coach Shipp is an incredible man who has fulfilled and saved many young men from the streets. He is a man on a mission and has worked hard to continue to better not only his life, but everyone’s life he has touched.  

 

 

 

NHL Bye Week

nhl-logoBy Kim Dunning

The National Hockey League has implemented a new rule this season.  They are requiring each team to take a five-day break from playing.  This was so that the players would accept the new All-Star format.

The rules of the bye week are straight forward.  Each team from January 1 to February 28 are required to have five consecutive days off.  This means no team meetings, practices or team activities are allowed.  If a said team has a game on the 6th day, the players may practice but only after 4pm.

This year, the bye came in handy.  As much as fans have spoken their dislike of missing their favorite team for 5 days, the players deserve a much-needed break.  Especially those players who had a shorter than normal off-season with making the playoffs and then playing in the World Cup tournament in September.

Some of the interesting aspects of the bye week is finding out which players took a rest and which players practiced on their own time to keep in shape.

Another thing fans want to watch out for is to see if their team is hot when they go into the bye week and come out the same way.

The Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins were the first to take this bye week.  On Sunday, when they played, everyone was holding their breathe to see how this would affect the team.

The bye week did not seem to douse the momentum the Pens went into the bye week with before the New Year.  The standings did not change much nor did Pittsburgh lose any ground on teams they had on their heels when they went into the bye week.

All that happened were other teams in the Metropolitan Division could catch up on their games in hand and the Penguins players could get a much-needed break.

As other teams begin to take their bye weeks, it will be interested to see who’s a legitimate team and who is pretending right now.  The Bye week could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your team.

For right now, like or it not, it’s something we as NHL fans are going to have to get use too.

 

Team USA Wins Gold

cutBy Kim Dunning

The World Juniors tournament happened over the last two weeks.  For those that don’t know what this tournament is, it is put on by the IIHF each year.  To be eligible to play in the World Juniors you must be male, play for the country he represents, and must have been born between 1997 and 2002.

This year the tournament ran from December 26 to January 5.

This is played a lot like the World Cup was played earlier in the year.  You have a preliminary round, and the four best teams from each group of the preliminary round advance to the quarterfinals.

The last place team from Group A and Group B play each other to determine who get invited back to the tournament next year.

Once against Canada hosted the tournament in Montreal.

The Gold medal game came down to two very familiar foes.  Team Canada versus Team USA.

Canada started the game off strong and was up 4-2 at one point.  Team USA made a comeback and tied the game up 4-4.

The game ended up going into overtime, which is another 20-minute period.  Although both Canada and the US got closed to scoring the game-winning goal for their respective team, both goalies held firm and made some incredible saves.

The game ended up going to a shootout.  With such pride and gold on the line this has been a hot topic of debate.  In the shootout, only Team USA scored one goal out of five rounds.  Tyler Parsons, goalie for Team USA, did not allow a goal during the shootout.

As hard as these kids played during the games, the shootout was kind of a letdown.  Team USA won the gold and the bragging rights.  Much needed after not winning a game in the World Cup tournament earlier this year.

Congratulations to both Team Canada and Team USA on putting on one of the best hockey games anyone has seen in a long time.

Week 15 Review: Playoff Uncertainty

download-34By Kim Dunning

The NFL is slowly wrapping up it’s season, and for some fans these last few weeks are it.  As other teams are pushing for the playoffs, the remaining teams will be snuggling down for the best seat on the playoff couch.

Week 15 kicked off with another boring Thursday night football game between the Rams and the Seahawks.  No need to watch this game again if you have that ability, unless you are a Seahawks fan, as Seattle destroyed the Rams.  This game was over before it began.

The NFL had its first Saturday night game of the season between the Jets and Dolphins.  Again, it was better to watch hockey than this snooze fest, as the Dolphins won.

On Sunday, the blow out games included the Bills over the winless Browns, the Giants over the Lions, the Colts over the Vikings, the Falcons over the Niners, and the Patriots over the Broncos.

In other news, the Eagles with nothing to lose went for two for the win instead of one for the tie against the Ravens.  This was a good game if you missed it, the Eagles began making a comeback only to blow it with a bonehead decision.

The Bengals attempted to overthrow the division leading Steelers but fell short, as the Steelers finally scored a touchdown instead of relying on field goals.  This should make for a great game when the Steelers and Ravens square off this upcoming weekend for the division and a playoff spot.

The Packers have found their stride and did what they were supposed to, beat the struggling Bears without Jay Cutler.

The Titans outlasted the Chiefs and shifted them out of the division lead.

The Jags almost had a win but the Texans kept it close and exciting and won by one.

The Cardinals and Saints had no defense in a high scoring air out.  Brees and company outlasted the Cards by a score of 48-41.

The Raiders beat the Chargers to clinch their first playoff appearance in 12 years.  Raider Nation is over the moon about this.

The Sunday night game between the Cowboys and Bucs proved to be a good bounce back game for Dak Prescott.  After suffering his second loss of the season the week before, Dak and the Cowboys along with a Cowboys defense held on to win and opened to the door for the Redskins to win to maintain their wild card spot in the playoffs.

But then the Redskins happened.  The Redskins couldn’t get out of their own way offensively and Carolina could eat the defense alive and handed the Redskins a loss along with a boot out of the playoff picture.

393c2cab-f38b-4022-87b2-3ee63c356367-large16x9_nflGoing into Week 17 we still do not know much about who’s going to the playoffs and what seed they will have.  This should make for very exciting football over the holiday!