Bruins Top Panthers

The Bruins traveled to Sunrise, Florida yesterday, where hockey should be illegal just because of it’s name. They took on the Panthers and got out to yet another quick lead. Milan Lucic scored his 4th goal of the season 8 minutes in to put the B’s ahead. David Krejci recorded his team high 9th assist. Krejci has been playing spectacular and is the Boston Bruins v Florida Panthersteam leader with 12 points. A little while later, Chara made an unbelievable spin move and backhanded one into the back of the net. He looked like a figure skater on the play, which is hard to believe from someone who is 6”9 without skates. Marchand and Seguin got the assists on that one. The Panthers were able to put in one of their own before the end of the first period.

The Bruins finally scored on the Power Play a few minutes into the 2nd period when Daniel Paille assisted Chris Kelly for his first goal of the season.  Other than that, the game was pretty back and forth. There was no more scoring until Paille scored on an open net with 1 minute left, but it was definitely fun to watch. The Bruins were on a penalty in that last goal and the Panthers pulled their goalie so they scored even though they were playing 4 against 6. That marked the first time this season that Boston has had a 3 goal lead. Milan Lucic made things exciting when he went after a guy who clearly cross-checked him and didn’t get the call, so he was pinned with a 10 minute misconduct penalty for retaliating. Tuuka Rask played well for the Black & Gold with .34 saves. The Bruins improve to 11-2-2 and will take on the Islanders Tuesday night.

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Red Sox Spring Training 2013

As players continue to practice this week for the beginning of Spring Training at Fort Myers, FL, here’s a rundown of what to watch for and prospects to keep tabs on this year :

Pitching Could Be Promising: According to Red Sox Ace Jon Lester, the Sox pitching staff will be ready to prove last year was a fluke and that they will be better than advertised. Lester was quoted in an article from ESPN.com saying “We can sit there and talk about it every year,” Lester said. “It’s a matter of going out and doing it. As far as potential, as far as that possibility, it’s all there. It’s just a matter of going out and actually executing and doing what we’re supposed to do.”

According to ESPNBoston.com Lester, Clay Bucholz, newcomer Ryan Dempster, even John Lackey, all showed strides of improvement in their practices this week. Lackey reportedly shed some weight this offseason and appears to be in the best shape of his career. As I mentioned in my Red Sox preview this pitching staff can absolutely get the job done. Consistency will be the key for this group of hurlers. For now the jury is still out on the rotation. However, news that Lester and Co. are fired up for this season is always good news.

Prospects to Keep An Eye On: Spring Training not only allows the returning veterans and every day lineup guys to “get back into the swing of things” , it also allows for young prospects to have a shot at proving their potential. Here’s a list of players to watch according to bleacherreport.com and ESPN’/Scouts Inc’ Keith Law:

SS Xander Bogaerts: According to ESPN’s Keith Law, Bogaerts is the fifth best prospect in the MLB. In 2012 Bogaerts hit for a 307 average with 37 doubles, 20 HR 80 RBI and 71 runs splitting time with Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland. Bogaerts is considered by most to be “the” top prospect in the Bo-Sox farm system. He could very well find himself donning a Red Sox uniform in the near future, but for now we’ll see how this spring and the minors go.

 

OF Jackie Bradley Jr.: Bradley Jr. has been making a buzz in the Bo-Sox minor league system for his outstanding defensive abilities and his play at the plate is an attention grabber as well. In 2012 Bradley Jr. batted .315 with 42 doubles, nine HR, 63 RBI, and 90 runs splitting time between Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland like Bogaerts. Keith Law has Bradley Jr ranked as the 40th best prospect in the majors and 2nd among Red Sox prospects.

Bradley is expected to begin the season in Double-A Portland with a possible promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket by seasons end. Depending on the future of Jacoby Ellsbury (who is a free agent at seasons end) Bradley Jr. may be coming up faster than expected.

Photo courtesy news.soxprospects.com

SS Deven Marrero: Marrero is making history with the Red Sox, as it marks the first time since the 1991-1992 season in which the Sox invited Scott Hatteberg to Spring Training after drafting him the year before.

Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington, was quoted on the decision and said while they normally don’t invite recent draftee’s they felt given the scouting history with Marrero and watching him perform at multiple levels in the game, he wanted to get Marrero familiar with their major league staff.

Marrero hit .268 with 45 runs and 26 stolen bases in 64 games with Single-A Lowell last year. Marrero, of course, has a ways to go before being called up. Nevertheless, he is certainly a prospect to keep track of in the near future.

Other players to watch this Spring include: SS Jose Iglesias, INF Pedro Ciriaco, P Allen Webster, P Rubby De la Rosa, OF Daniel Nava (who has been fielding balls at 1B in practices), and C Ryan Lavarnway.

Nava, Lavarnway, Iglesias, and more recently (last year) Ciriaco have had success in platoon/backup roles for the Red Sox and could see more games this season. Webster and De la Rosa (both acquired in the Beckett, Crawford, Gonzalez deal with LA) could and should work their way into the starting rotation at some point in the season.

Side note on Iglesias: His timeframe for earning a starting role at SS or 2B is dwindling. With recently signed SS Stephen Drew being the Sox everyday guy, and  up and comers Xander Bogaerts and Deven Marrero in his rear view mirror, Iglesias is in a bit of a pressure cooker to perform.

Final Thoughts: Spring Training is always chock-full of interesting developments and has produced a plethora of players who have become household names today. It will be interesting to see how these and many other invitees perform for the Red Sox in the weeks to come. Who do you think will shine this Spring? Leave a comment below.

Boston Red Sox 2013 Season Preview

With pitchers and catchers meeting in Fort Myers, FL this Sunday (Feb.10th) baseball season is officially back!! Well alright, “technically” it’s not back until Feb. 21st when the Red Sox  play Northeastern in their first scheduled Spring Training game. Nevertheless, with the season, and spring, right around the corner; I thought I’d give the Fenway Faithful a preview of what 2013 should look like for the Bo-Sox.

Likely Lineups:

1.OF Shane Victorino

2. OF Jacoby Ellsbury

3. 2B Dustin Pedroia

4. DH David Ortiz

5. 1B Mike Napoli

6. OF Jonny Gomes

7. 3B Will Middlebrooks

8. SS Stephen Drew

9. C Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Granted this is just a rough draft of what the lineup “could look like”. Only John Farrell will truly be able to assemble a proper lineup when spring training is complete. For now, the above lineup is my take on where Farrell may go with the batting order.

The lineup could very well have Ellsbury and Napoli batting Cleanup at 3 and 4 which would then likely shift Dustin Pedroia to bat 2nd in front of Ellsbury and have Papi batting 5th after Napoli. Also, Farrell may choose to have a healthy Ellsbury be the lead-off hitter, which Ellsbury has certainly had success at in seasons past. However if Ellsbury puts up 2011 numbers this season, having him 2nd or 3rd could be more beneficial for the Red Sox as far as RBI production is concerned.

Lastly, the bottom of the order is subject to change as well. Middlebrooks, Gomes, and Drew could all bat lower or higher based on their spring training results. Salty will stay at the bottom of the order until he can prove he’s the switch hitting prodigy he was supposed to be. Only time will tell what the everyday batting order will eventually look like.

5 Man Rotation:

1. Jon Lester. 2. Ryan Dempster. 3. Clay Bucholz. 4. Felix Doubront. 5. John Lackey

While the pitching rotation isn’t exactly terrifying to many teams in the majors, this assembly of arms can get the job done for Boston. Lester and Bucholz will have to bounce back, Dempster will have to pitch more consistently than in seasons past, Felix Doubront will have to prove he wasn’t just a one year wonder baller, and John Lackey will have to return to his prime if the Sox want to get the most wins out of this group.

The rotation may change throughout the season, as it often does, as the Red Sox have options should one of these guys fold. Boston can bring up the likes of Rubby De la Rosa or Allen Webster from Triple-A Pawtucket if those two show they are primed for a big league day job.

Also, Boston could add to the Rotation if they choose to sign still-free-agent starting pitcher Kyle Lohse (formerly with the St. Louis Cardinals). Again like the lineup above, only time will tell what is working, and what needs to be worked out.

The Pen:

Relievers: 1. Andrew Bailey 2. Koji Uehara 3. Daniel Bard 4. Craig Breslow 5. Alfredo Aceves

Closer: Joel Hanrahan

The Red Sox Bullpen as it stands right now is the strongest weapon Boston has entering this season. While the 5-man rotation could use some re-tooling, and our lineup is still missing a big bat or two, the pen looks to have great promise in 2013.

Boston went out in the off-season and added the likes of relievers Koji Uehara and Craig Breslow, and new closer Joel Hanrahan to sure up the 7th,8th and 9th innings for this year. All of which were inexpensive upgrades that should ultimately pay off for the Red Sox.

Win-Loss/ Post-Season Projections:

Though I’m a die-hard Red Sox fan to my very core, I must blog with a sense of realism in making these next few predictions.

Win-Loss Record: 85-77 (I didn’t just come up with this record out of thin air just so you know. I went through the entire schedule and chose game by game what I thought were wins and losses for the Red Sox.)

AL East Finish: I sadly have the Red Sox finishing third this year just ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays by a few games. I see the Toronto Blue Jays meeting everyone’s expectations and winning the east with the Yankees somehow frustratingly finishing in 2nd place. The Orioles return to their usual spot, in the AL East’ cellar in last place.

Postseason: With the Sox finishing third by my count, there will be no post-season play for this Red Sox group. I have the Blue Jays clinching a spot with the division crown and the New York Yankees beating out Boston for the final of two Wild Card spots by a few games.

Final Thoughts: I whole heartedly hope I’m way wrong about my season predictions for the Red Sox. I hope some how, some way, the Red Sox can bring back some of that 2004 magic and sneak into the post-season. Realistically though, I only foresee a minor improvement for Boston as this is a rebuilding year. I look at it this way, ANY results this season should be better than last seasons 69-93 last place finish. How do you see the 2013 season going for Boston? Leave a comment below.

Day 1 – Sweet 16 Preview

#4 Wisconsin vs. #1 Syracuse

With the loss of Fab Melo, many people wondered if the Orange would even beat 16 seed UNC Asheville.  The Orange advanced after a tough fought game with the help of some questionable officiating.  In the round of 32, the Wildcats of Kansas State put up a fight against the Orange but the depth of the Orange proved to be too much in the end, as Dion Waiters and James Southerland combined for 33 points off the bench.  Despite these two victories, the Orange are still seen as the most vulnerable of the number one seeds.  Tonight’s matchup against Wisconsin will be a true test for the Orange.  The Badgers come into this game with the 4th ranked defense in the country and on paper, look to be a great matchup for Syracuse.  Wisconsin is very stingy with the basketball, coming into this game averaging the second fewest turnovers per possession in the nation, and this will truly prevent the Orange from capitalizing on turnovers and getting easy buckets off of fast breaks.  Syracuse will most likely have to score in their half-court offense which is not an easy task against the Badgers defense.  Expect this game to be a low scoring game, with Syracuse only scoring 70 points or better 4 times in their last 13 games and the Badgers only giving up and average of 53 points in their first two tournament games.

Keys to Success:

For the Orange, Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph are the two players that will need to step up if they are going to advance to the elite 8.  Both of these experienced players have played in big games and know what it takes to win in the NCAA tournament.  The Orange will be successful if they can produce good ball and player movement and not settle for jump shots, and their success starts from these two seniors.

For the Badgers, Jordan Taylor will have to have a big game and the defense will need to continue to be strong.  Although Taylor has not been as productive this season as he was in his junior season, with a .402 field goal percentage, .359 three point percentage, and a .785 free-throw percentage, the Badgers are in the same position as they were one year ago, the Sweet Sixteen.  If the Badgers continue to take care of the ball and keep the Orange’s offense in front of them, they will have a good chance of advancing to the Elite 8.

Prediction: Wisconsin

 

#4 Louisville vs. #1 Michigan State

                The Big East Champion Louisville Cardinals will face their biggest test yet as they come up against Michigan State number one seed Michigan State in the Sweet Sixteen.  The Spartans will enter the game minus an important role player in freshman guard Branden Dawson.  Dawson has been huge in piling up hustle points for the Spartans and his loss will provide an advantage for the Cardinals.  The player for the Spartans that has to step up in this game will be Draymond Green.  Green is averaging 20 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 8 assists in the tournament, leading the tournament in scoring.  The Spartans have been a second half team so far in the tournament shooting 64.2 percent in the second half in wins against LIU Brooklyn and Saint Louis, but the Cardinals may jump on the Spartans early if they get off to a slow start.  For Louisville to win this game it is going to have to come from the defensive end.  The Cardinals play as hard on defense as any team in the country with Gogui Deng being a force in the paint and great guard defense led by Peyton Siva.  On the offensive side of the ball, Siva has been averaging 9.2 points per game and 5.5 assists per game.  He will need to continue to get his team involved if the Cardinals are going to pull off the upset.

Prediction: Michigan State

 

#6 Cincinnati vs. #2 Ohio State

The Cincinnati Bearcats are coming off of a huge win over the ACC Tournament champion Florida State Seminoles and will need to continue with this momentum if they are going to upset Ohio State.  With Fab Melo out, The Buckeyes have quickly become the favorite to reach the Final Four from the East Region.  Cincinnati has played well as of late, reaching the finals in the Big East Tournament and defeating Texas and Florida State in the first two rounds of the tournament.  One of the most intriguing matchups in this game is going to be the matchup between Yancy Gates and Jared Sullinger.  Gates and Sullinger are averaging 9.2 and 9.3 rebounds per game respectively, and whoever wins this big man matchup is going to give their team a huge advantage to win the game.  I would give the edge to Sullinger in this battle.  Sullinger possesses a point scoring ability that Gates does not as he is leading his team and averaging 17.6 points per game.  He has flown under the radar for much of this season and is much better than people are currently giving him credit for.  Each of these teams has the chance to bring Ohio its first men’s basketball title since 1962.

Prediction: Ohio State

 

#7 Florida vs. #3 Marquette

In the round of 32, Marquette beat a very good Murray State team who did not get as much credit as they deserved.  Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder is one of the best duos in the country and they have shown this throughout the tournament.  Each of these players were finalists for the Big East player of the year, an award that Crowder won.  A key to the game for the Golden Eagles is not Johnson Odom’s offense, rather his defense.  Florida’s offense is run around ball screens and spacing along the three point line with very minimal post game.  Florida shoots more three point shots than most and for Marquette to slow down their offense Johnson Odom has to come up big defensively.  For Florida the key player is Kenny Boynton.  He is averaging 16.3 points per game and has been Florida’s most consistent player all season.  He will have to have a big offensive night if the Gators are going to beat Marquette.  Florida’s defense will also be a huge factor in determining their success.  The Gators have struggled at time this year when they were shooting poorly from behind the arc because they could not get stops or force turnovers.  However, in their two NCAA tournament wins so far they allowed their opponents to a .71 and .77 points per possession.  The Golden Eagles are very capable of scoring in bunches and the Gators will need to play tenacious defense once again to stay in this game.

Prediction: Marquette

Guest Writer: Matt Frags

Rivalry Week Round Up

Even though it was close early, #1 Kentucky proved to be a little bit too much to handle when they battled #7 Florida in an SEC conference game.  Forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 13 points and added 13 boards in the 20 point blowout. Doron Lamb added 18 and Anthony Davis added 16 and a few nice blocks and alley-oops.

#15 Creighton was upset by sub-par Evansville in a Missouri Valley Conference showdown. They have lost two straight now, and since they have not beaten any ranked teams, or even played any for that matter, they will most likely fall to the 22nd-25th rank, or just won’t make it at all.

#3 Ohio State was barely able to hang on against unranked Purdue. Senior Guard William Buford was able to drop 29 points and grab 7 rebounds while other star Jared Sullinger was able to score 18 points and grab 6 rebounds of his own.

Meyer Moves North

After week-long speculation about why he was taking time off from being an ESPN analyst, Urban Meyer accepted the Ohio State head coaching job. He will hope to turn the Buckeyes back around after all the controversy that haunted them after last season. Over 10 seasons of coaching, Meyer only has lost 23 games (of course he had Jesus-loving Tebow for a good amount of those years). He will make 40 million dollars over the next 7 years which begs the question, what am I doing with my life? This salary would put him at the top of the list with Alabama’s Nick Saban and Texas’ Mack Brown as the highest paid coaches in NCAA Football. Let’s see if this 40 million dollar man can turn Freshman Braxton Miller into a Tim Tebow-caliber player.

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