2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Semifinals Prospectus


2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Semifinals Prospectus
M.D. Wright
4.25.2019

The conference semis kick off tonight, and we’re going to jump right into it; fresh off back-to-back heart-racing Game 7s the past two nights.

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Carolina Hurricanes vs. New York Islanders
Game 1: Friday, April 26, 2019, 7 PM EDT

Carolina proved to the defending Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals, and others who do not regularly watch the Canes, what some have known all year: this team does not quit. And they are gelling (playoffs-wise, as they had a cohesive unit all season dating back to their summer workouts when head coach Rod Brind’Amour was promoted) at the right time. The Islanders present a different type of challenge; one that the Canes are very well equipped to handle.

All season, the Islanders have hung their hats on three-zone defence, forechecking and goaltending by Robin Lehner, who is justifying his once-lofty status as a 2nd Round pick and Calder Cup winning goalie in the American Hockey League in 2011. They were able to manhandle a relatively listless Pittsburgh Penguins team that was built for the regular season and nothing more.

That changes with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Carolina can do everything that the Islanders do well: forecheck, play well in all three zones, and man the nets with great precision. The Canes are probably the best-conditioned team in the NHL, as well; taking after their obsessive workout-centric head coach. It will show in this series. What Carolina possesses that the Islanders don’t is depth scoring. New York basically rolls out one line spearheaded by young phenom Mathew Barzal, and a bunch of 3rd and 4th liners on the rest of their lines. This will be problematic for the Islanders; particularly if the Canes are able to consistently get to their game (something they actually only managed to truly do for 2 1/2 of the 7 games vs. Washington).

These are not the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Call: Hurricanes in 6.

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Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Boston Bruins
Game 1: Thursday, April 25, 2019, 7 PM EDT

This is an intriguing series. Intriguing for a myriad of reasons.

Columbus is a hard-nosed, in-your-face, relentless team. They take on the persona of their head coach, John Tortorella. “Torts” has learned over the years to allow his captain and his players police one another, and that has ultimately led to the accountability that he has always demanded from his players wherever he’s been. This is a testament to Nick Foligno, who leads by example both on and off the ice. It has shown in their play since a very eye-openingly poor stretch after acquiring Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel in 11th hour trades.

The Blue Jackets will give the B’s fits.

However, this series goes both ways. Sergei Bobrovsky has exorcised some previous playoff demons to (by far) play his best playoff hockey since the “Oh boy, here we go again with this guy in the playoffs” first 10 minutes versus Tampa Bay in Game 1 of the 1st Round. Boston’s going to have to bring it for 60 minutes every game, because Columbus definitely will.

Tuukka Rask is beatable, and definitely more so than Toronto made him appear (as the Leafs’ top two lines were mostly invisible for long stretches in every single game). The Leafs let Boston and Rask off the hook.

That won’t happen here.

Call: Blue Jackets in 6.
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WESTERN CONFERENCE
Dallas Stars vs. St. Louis Blues
Game 1: Thursday, April 25, 2019, 9:30 PM EDT

This is a tough series to call. Dallas has found their game, and have established a strong presence down the middle among their centre rotation, with timely contributions from each of their wingers and blue liners. Rookie head coach Jim Montgomery has shuffled his lines in masterful fashion. He will need to continue to do so against the Columbus Blue Jackets of the Western Conference, the St. Louis Blues.

The goalie matchup is interesting, because the manner in which you beat Ben Bishop (real hockey fans know the two things that he struggles with most, and where he is virtually unbeatable), are the things the Blues do best. Jordan Binnington did not get the best from Winnipeg, who were stuck in third gear since the calendar changed to 2019. He will get it from Dallas.

With the way Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, Mats Zuccarello, Radek Faksa and Roope Hintz are skating, the Blues are going to have their hands full. However, the Blues are hard-charging with all four lines, as well. This series is almost certainly going 7.

Call: Stars in 7.
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Colorado Avalanche vs. San Jose Sharks
Game 1: Friday, April 26, 2019, 10 PM EDT

This might be the most fun and wide-open series of this round. It appears that way on paper, and the Avs will ensure that the series will be played that way. Whether or not San Jose can keep up is another story.

We don’t know what’s going on with Joe Pavelski. He, nor the Sharks never admitted that he was injured vs. St. Louis in the 2016 playoffs, which led to his substandard play in the 2016 Cup Final vs. Pittsburgh. If he’s in concussion protocol (likely) and has to miss more than one or two games, the Sharks are going to be missing their heart and soul. Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture have carried the Sharks offensively, while Evander Kane continues to provide a balanced mix of grit and scoring/playmaking touch to offset opposing teams who attempt to take liberties with their other star players. The same can be said for Timo Meier.

Joe Thornton looks like he’s skating with a piano on his back. One wonders if he can hold up for another grueling series (with altitude) against a team that actually hit its stride while two of their three top players missed a plethora of games down the stretch of the regular season (and when it sppeared that the Avs would slide right out of the playoff picture). JT Compher and Alex Kerfoot have stepped up in a major way, and now with their MGM Line (top line of (M)ikko Rantanen, (G)abriel Landeskog, and Nathan (M)acKinnon) back intact — a line that had been arguably the best in hockey before injuries beset them in the second half of the regular season — the Sharks will have to take full advantage of last change during the first two games in this series. Matchups will be everything. The Sharks cannot skate with the Avs for 60 minutes over a seven (or fewer) game series. They just cannot.

And one must question Martin Jones. Not all saves are created equal. On the surface, he appears to be in 2016 form (especially the playoffs that season), but he has been a sieve at times. Vegas had no finish at critical junctures.

That is not a problem the Avs currently have. Philipp Grubauer has been good to very good, and shut down the Calgary Flames (who appeared to be disinterested, outside of John Hockey and a couple of the depth players). This series will still be fun, but it will take a lot more than what we’ve seen for the Sharks to outlast the Avs here.

Call: Avs in 6.
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We’ll check back in prior to the beginning of the Conference Finals.

Stanley Cup Playoffs

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2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round Prospectus


2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round Prospectus
M.D. Wright
4/9/2019

It is that time of year again. The best time of the year in sports in general, and time for the best playoffs of all major sports. We have some fresh faces looking to make a name for themselves in a loud manner (Carolina) in the playoffs this year, and some who have made a return after a couple of years on hiatus (Dallas, Calgary). Others have been here year after year and looking to finally get to the mountaintop (Tampa, Nashville, San Jose), while the defending Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals look very much primed to make a legitimate run at a repeat championship.

Here are the First Round outlooks for each respective series:

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Columbus Blue Jackets (2nd Wild Card) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (1st, Atlantic; President’s Trophy)
Game 1: Wednesday, April 10, 2019, 7 PM EDT

Columbus was all-in to win it this year from the get-go, as they knew their two-time Vezina Trophy winning backstop Sergei Bobrovsky was heading into unrestricted free agency along with high flying winger Artemi Panarin this summer. The Blue Jackets were hovering around first place in the division for long stretches before a dip in play buried them among the Wild Card teams fighting for their playoff lives for much of the second half of the season. Trade deadline deals to acquire Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel have not paid off in spades as of yet, as Columbus has mostly maintained the same level of (in)consistency which plagued them all season. In particular, there were baffling, blowout, listless losses (Edmonton) to bad teams at times since the deadline.

However, the slate is clean and everyone is 0-0 as of today. The scary part about Columbus’ fate this year is that they could either be stuck overpaying for players who have never been winners (Duchene) or risk losing out on the draft compensation which was used to acquire him (along with Dzingel, Bobrovsky and Panarin) in free agency; especially if they have a quick playoff exit. While not entirely likely, it could very well happen against a Tampa team that plays a lot like their nickname indicates. Given Bobrovsky’s mediocre playoff performances over the years, and Columbus’ inability to still never win a series since its inception, the Blue Jackets must believe that even if they lose any or all of the aforementioned players this summer, that the pipeline (which is plentiful) is enough to sustain them for years to come. The odds are certainly against them while facing the league’s best team.

Call: Tampa in 5.
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Toronto Maple Leafs (3rd, Atlantic) vs. Boston Bruins (2nd, Atlantic)
Game 1: Thursday, April 11, 2019, 7 PM EDT

Just as the point was made about Columbus being 0-0 along with everyone else, Toronto must be relieved that the same applies to them when gearing up to face familiar (and formidable) foe, the Boston Bruins. The B’s have owned the Leafs for the most part in recent memory, and Toronto’s baffling play at times throughout the season, and longstanding concerns about their blue line do not put one at ease. The respective top lines might very well cancel out one another. Depth scoring and defence (along with goaltending) will win this series. Boston has the advantage on defence, while the respective bottom six are relatively a wash, as well.

However, Frederik Andersen has a long way to go in order to shed the label of playoff choker who puts up sterling regular season goals against and save percentage numbers. He tends to be cocky when he’s going well, flashing the leather in arrogant fashion, and then within the same series, giving up beach balls for goals — and in waves — when the stage gets brightest. This dates back to his days in Anaheim. Who can forget the multiple Game 7s that the Ducks lost while he was in goal, including losing Games 6 AND 7 in blowout fashion in the 2015 Western Conference Final against the eventual Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, who ambushed Andersen in both of those pivotal games, as the Ducks held a 3-2 series lead with home ice advantage? Never mind the past two seasons when Toronto exited the playoffs with a whimper and Andersen not doing much to help the struggling 18 who got manhandled by Washington and these same Bruins en route to early playoff exits.

Call: Bruins in 6.
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Carolina Hurricanes (1st Wild Card) vs. Washington Capitals (1st, Metropolitan)
Game 1: Thursday, April 11, 2019, 7:30 PM EDT

The Caps enter the playoffs looking a lot like they did in 2018; a so-so (but good) first 50+ games, then a very strong finish post-trade deadline and shoring up of forward lines and defence. Braden Holtby appeared shaky at times during the 2017-2018 regular season and finished with all-world playoff performances. He appeared shaky again at times this season (though overall very solid) and is primed to make another run himself. Alex Ovechkin has paced the Caps yet again with 51 goals (to Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl — who nearly matched that late in Game 82 — and his 50 goals), to secure his eighth Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophy as the league’s top goal scorer. Of note, head coach Todd Reirden has shuffled the lines in recent weeks, placing Nicklas Backstrom back in the middle for Ovechkin and Tom Wilson on the right wing. Last year, the shift by then head coach Barry Trotz to have Evgeni Kuznetsov centre the Ovechkin/Wilson combo truly propelled the Caps. Kuznetsov’s faceoffs and zone play have been questionable at times, and he may indeed be best served to skate with TJ Oshie and — it appears of late and henceforth — Carl Hagelin, who was acquired at the deadline. Hagelin began his tenure with the Caps on the 4th line, then moved up to the 3rd on the Lars Eller line. The Caps have found something with this line combo, as their bottom six looks to also repeat its stalwart performance of last year’s playoffs which truly put the Caps over the hump vs. Pittsburgh, Tampa and Vegas last spring.

Carolina makes their first appearance in the playoffs since 2009 (when they were whitewashed by the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins). Jordan Staal was on that Penguins squad, and is making his first playoff as a Cane. Justin Williams, a former Capital, has stabilized the Caps’ room, while electric young centre Sebastian Aho and powerful winger Andrei Svechnikov have helped Carolina make good of their last two top picks (Martin Necas — who is coming next season — has been great with the Charlotte Checkers, as he was the Canes’ #12 overall pick in 2017). Goaltending has been the biggest note for the Canes. We have known for several years now that they have had among the best blue lines in all of hockey, but the combination of wily veteran Curtis McElhinney (who has experienced a renaissance this season, after serving as a backup/journeyman for a decade) and former franchise hopeful with the Red Wings, Petr Mrazek, has placed Carolina in a very good position.

There will be no Storm Surges (most likely) if the Canes win at home, as their focus is on winning and not riling up a focused opponent. They did not look great in the back-to-back scenario versus Washington a couple of weeks ago. They do not appear to be ready to compete as a serious Cup Contender, but hockey is a slippery game and the Caps CAN be had when they are off their game and taking the league’s most stick-related penalties (which they continue to do). This series will be hard fought and closer than some who don’t watch either team with regularity (as we do here) might think.

Call (Hedging): Caps in 7.
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Pittsburgh Penguins (3rd, Metropolitan) vs. New York Islanders (2nd, Metropolitan)
Game 1: Wednesday, April 10, 2019, 7:30 PM EDT

Playoff hockey is often about special teams. You can get by with shot suppression and low-scoring games in the regular season. If your power play isn’t great (the Islanders’ isn’t, while the Pens’ is a constant — if not bafflingly inconsistent at times — threat) and your goalie is unproven in the playoffs (as is the case with Robin Lehner; in stark contrast to two-time Cup winner Matt Murray), you better get contributions from up and down your four lines and three defence pairs or you will not be around for long.

There’s not a lot to write here. The Isles have to do something they haven’t done all year and/or hope that they can contain the high-flying Sidney Crosby line, which has been producing points by the boatload while rounding into playoff form. The Isles are just glad to be here, which won’t be for long.

Call: Pens in 5.

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Dallas Stars (2nd Wild Card) vs. Nashville Predators (1st, Central)
* – Dallas is technically the second wild card due to not finishing within the top three in the Central Division, despite securing more points than the Colorado Avalanche, who finished fifth behind Dallas.

Game 1: Wednesday, April 10, 9:30 PM EDT

If there’s a team that can be had in the 1st Round among the #1 seeds, it is this Nashville Predators group. They have been stuck in third gear all season. Sure, Pekka Rinne and Jusse Saros have been their normal great Finnish selves in goal, but there is something functionally wrong with this team. Is it fatigue over the past three-plus seasons and deep playoff runs? Have injuries (notably Viktor Advisson, PK Subban and Filip Forsberg, and at the same time, for stretches) solely been the reason for a lack of chemistry? What is up with their power play, which has languished near or at the very bottom of the league all season?

Dallas enters the playoffs on fire. The addition and re-addition (after a month-long stint on IR) of Mats Zuccarello has ignited the Stars. Miro Heiskanen and John Klingberg pose major problems as puck rushers, distributors and scorers on the back end. Jason Dickinson has emerged, thereby taking off some of the pressure from Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn to score on every shift (which some seem to think they should do). Radek Faksa is a perfect third line centre, and Roope Hintz has been a major revelation, as well as being pivotal down the stretch as Dallas made its push. We’ll even go so far as to predict that Valeri Nichushkin will score his first goal in the NHL in three whole calendar years (though he spent the past two seasons prior to 2018-2019 in the KHL).

Ben Bishop has vast playoff experience to match Rinne’s, but if Nashville doesn’t awaken from their slumber (maybe they were just coasting until the playoffs, despite playing mediocre hockey over the final 65 games following a super-fast start to the season; yet still won the Central Division which features Winnipeg, a red-hot St. Louis team that had been among the best in the league since January 1 and these Stars), they might be going home. The last time Dallas was in the playoffs, Seguin and Benn weren’t great. They have more depth behind them now. It is difficult to pick against Nashville, and — however reluctantly — we won’t this time, but this is anything but a pick made out of strong conviction.

Call: Predators in 6.
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Winnipeg Jets (2nd, Central) vs. St. Louis Blues (3rd, Central)
Game 1: Wednesday, April 10, 2019, 9:30 PM EDT

Winnipeg has somewhat underachieved this season. Sure, 99 points isn’t anything to sneeze at, but many predicted they would be the Tampa Bay Lightning of the Western Conference this season. Patrik Laine learned that there is a lot more to hockey than emulating his idol, Alex Ovechkin (who does a lot more than stand on the left faceoff and fire one-timers on the power play, unlike what many think; two-thirds of Ovechkin’s goals were scored even-strength). Laine has yet to diversify his game. This led to long scoring droughts where he was not productive even in setting up teammates. This has also placed more stress on the Mark Scheifele (Wheeler, Connor) line to do more, which negatively impacted the team. Though the Jets’ bottom six has been steady, if Winnipeg is to go anywhere in the playoffs, they will need a complete game from Laine on a regular basis. The Blues aren’t a team to mess around with. Connor Hellebuyck has been good — not great — this season, though part of Winnipeg’s issues at times were injuries to Dustin Byfuglien and Josh Morrisey, both of whom appear ready to go to for the playoffs.

St. Louis has played great hockey since the year 2019 began. Ryan O’Reilly has provided head coach Craig Berube with stability in taking faceoffs in every zone and in all situations, which allowed for more in the way of puck possession. This sparked goal scoring from Vlad Tarasenko, who had his usual slow start to the season, before finishing with more commensurate and expected goal scoring from him as the second half of the season wore on. Jordan Binnington has been a godsend in goal for the Blues, among the Calder Trophy candidates (though Elias Pettersson will surely win it). Alex Pietrangelo got better with the season, as he was downright awful in October. The Blues have a complete team with Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, big man Oskar Sundqvist, and a hard working bottom six which mirrors the former style of play of their head coach.

This is a tough call, because the Jets have just buoyed for the past two months while the Blues have been on fire. Matchups are everything in hockey, and everything rests on how well the Jets can defend the Blues. If Laine begins to realize his massive potential during this series, it will be an even more difficult call to make. Right now, give me the Blues.

Call: Blues in 6.
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Calgary Flames (1st, Pacific/Western) vs. Colorado Avalanche (1st Wild Card)
Game 1: Thursday, April 11, 2019, 10:00 PM EDT

The Avs had to scratch and claw in order to make the playoffs, benefiting from a scrappy, young bunch of Arizona Coyotes who simply ran out of gas (and bodies) entering the home stretch of the regular season. The Flames have mostly been consistent all year (minus an eye-catching stretch immediately following the trade deadline). Anything is possible in hockey, but if the Avs don’t get a fully-ready-to-go Mikko Rantanen (he will play, but he has missed the past three weeks to date) in this season, not even the mercurial Nathan MacKinnon and Gabe Landeskog (the MGM Line) can overcome the Flames, whose lineup is littered with multiple 30-goal scorers (John Hockey, Matthew Tkachuk, Sean Monahan) and two others who were nearly a point per game for the season (Elias Lindholm and defenceman Mark Giordano — who should be a marked man when the chance arises for recklessly injuring Connor McDavid in a meaningless Game 82 days ago).

Philipp Grubauer will likely be in nets to start, as Semyon Varlamov has not been the same goalie he was four or five years ago. The Achilles Heel (potentially) for the Flames is that both Mike Smith and David Rittich have been woefully inconsistent to flat out BAD at times all season. It bears watching. The Flames are plenty talented enough of front to beat anyone. Including Tampa.

Call: Flames in 6.
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San Jose Sharks (2nd, Pacific) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (3rd, Pacific)
Game 1: Wednesday, April 10, 2019, 10:30 PM EDT

In short, Vegas owns San Jose. The Sharks can’t skate with Vegas, nor match the Golden Knights’ style of play. This isn’t to suggest that the Sharks can’t win a game or even the series itself, but several things must play in their favor in order to do so. The Sharks did get Joe Pavelski back just before the regular season ended. Pavelski, who suffered an awkward-looking injury weeks ago, is the heart and soul of the Sharks up front. Erik Karlsson, who has been in and out of the lineup over multiple stints due to injury and suspension, came back just before the regular season ended, as well. He will need to jump right back into it and neutralize the issues the Sharks have had in both generating offence from the blue line, as well as giving up eye-popping numbers against all opponents over the last month of the season. Martin Jones has not been great, and he’ll have to be the same Jones who the Sharks had tending goal for them during their 2016 Cup Final run, or they will get run out of the building again. Joe Thornton and Logan Couture are almost taken for granted, while Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier have been the guys who have given opposing teams fits all season. The Sharks will need Evander Kane’s entire game (scoring, playmaking, willingness to play on the edge — without engaging Ryan Reaves and being lost due to penalties), as well.

Vegas is rounding into form, after a slow start to the season. They found their game about two months ago and haven’t looked back. The biggest concern for Vegas isn’t up front. They are loaded, from Jonathan Marchessault, Wild Bill Karlsson, Paul Stastny, Gus Nyquist, newly acquired and extended Mark Stone, recently returned Max Pacioretty, Alex Tuch and a host of experienced defencemen. The concern is the health of Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury (“MAF”) has been out for weeks with a lower-body injury and his stand-in, Malcolm Subban (younger brother of Preds’ PK) has had his moments, but at other times been a sieve. If Vegas has a chink in their armor, it is all about the questions surrounding Fleury. If he is healthy and ready to go — which he appears to be — without hindrance, the Sharks are going to have their hands full; especially their third pair defence, which effectively doomed them vs. Pittsburgh in the 2016 Cup Final.

Call: Vegas in 5.
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We’ll reconvene at the beginning of the Conference Semifinals in about two weeks.

NOTE: The 2019 NHL Player Entry Draft Lottery is tonight, April 9, 2019, 8 PM EDT in Toronto.Stanley Cup Playoffs

BEST/WORST NHL LOCAL BROADCASTS


BEST/WORST NHL LOCAL BROADCASTS
*WORST (31) TO BEST (1)*
M.D. Wright
12.3.2018
 
As impartial as possible, after spending nearly four decades listening to multiple different broadcast teams over the years…
31. Pittsburgh.
The absolute worst homers in the league.
 
30. Boston.
Close second.
 
29. New Jersey.
Good Lord Cangialosi’s voice is like nails on a chalkboard, and Lurch can’t ever admit that the Devils have committed an actual penalty.
 
28. Islanders.
Butch Goring needs to be put out to pasture.
 
27. Buffalo.
Jeanneret is annoying. I don’t care HOW LONG he’s been there.
 
26. Vancouver.
Homers, but not the worst.
 
25. Colorado.
They have become annoying again like they used to be when Colorado was good years ago.
 
24. Minnesota.
They’re actually not bad, they’re just boring.
 
23. Chicago.
Foley is only good when drunk. Olczyk (when he’s there) is less annoying than he is on NBC.
 
22. Montreal.
I don’t need to explain this. Could have put them lower.
 
21. Calgary.
Garrett…
 
20. Ottawa.
No real problems with them.
 
19. Washington.
Beninati is real slick with his underhanded comments… usually implying when the refs are not giving the Caps calls. Laughlin used to annoy me, but he’s amusing more than anything now.
 
18. Philadelphia.
Keith Jones is one of my guys, so he saves them from being lower.
 
17. Arizona.
Just guys.
 
16. Columbus.
Same.
 
15. Toronto.
They feed into their fanbase’s massive delusion, but they really know the game and call it (mostly) down the middle.
 
14. St. Louis.
Darren Pang was good on ESPN back in the day, but I can see how he can rub some the wrong way.
 
13. Vegas.
Liked them last year, actually. They could be higher.
 
12. Dallas.
RIP Dave Strader.
 
11. Edmonton.
They aren’t as annoying as you might think they would be with McDavid being the best player in the world.
 
10. Winnipeg.
Only game in town,, can’t fault them for calling their games the way they do.
 
9. Detroit.
Mickey has been around so long, he doesn’t have time to sugarcoat it when the Wings are playing poorly (which they mostly have the past three years). Used to hate the Wings broadcast, not anymore.
 
8. Carolina.
Forslund is one of the best in all of hockey, and Tripp Tracy has been less annoying since his father went ill and ultimately passed away a week or so ago (RIP).
 
7. Tampa Bay.
Brian Engblom is great and fair as an analyst. He doesn’t overdo it, even though he could, given the team he broadcasts.
 
6. Florida.
Potvin doesn’t suck on air, though he sounds like he’s losing his fastball. Goldie is good.
 
5. Rangers.
Rangers fans know the deal with Sam Rosen bobbling names every now and then, and his legendary calls, but his quirky sense of humor and moans and grunts during the game paired with all-too-impartial (at times) Micheletti still make them one of the best.
 
4. Nashville.
Some hate their team, I don’t know why.
 
3. San Jose.
Professional calls. Hedican really hasn’t been away from the game that long, which lends him a bit more insight than some of those guys who are in their 50s and 60s (or older).
 
2. Los Angeles.
Maybe it’s because the Kings suck now, but they’ve really become much better since 2014.
 
1. Anaheim.
John Ahlers and Brian Hayward are great to listen to. Hayward is the farthest thing from a homer, and Ahlers has the smooth call of the game.

2018 OMW’s I-95 MOVING Adventures, Vol. IX


2018 OMW’s I-95 MOVING Adventures, Vol. IX
M.D. Wright
11.12.18

This… was a nightmare. But since I actually made it through (as did Craig), I can actually breathe, exhale and actually laugh at some of the things which took place as a result.

First of all, this was a culmination of a myriad of things that I saw coming down the pike as early as the first week of June of this year, and only my logistics experience and wise planning prevented this from becoming an out and out MESS in the end.

Back in June, I had begun looking at real estate options, so that I could get back into the game, and knew that with our townhouse lease expiring at the end of October, that I needed to begin planning what the next move would be.

I actually like my job and what I do, and had no intentions of leaving the company, so I advised my boss of what was likely going to happen in the subsequent three months (after I notified her around the first of August), so that there wouldn’t be any of the rushing and chaos that still ended up occurring in the end.

By the time I took a two week vacation at the end of August and went back to Jersey for a family gathering, I knew it was time to give my then-landlord a 60-day notice and start figuring out what we could work out. I knew I was NOT going above $2K to pay rent anymore, and said years ago when it got to that point that it was time to buy a house; even if that meant moving down south again. I am all but done with New York — the overrated morass that it has become — other than business. I’ll always love Harlem and always gonna be a Harlem cat, even if I never move back, but New York ain’t NEW YORK no more… really hasn’t been in years.

Add to the confusion was the fact that both Craig and I were both locked into ridiculous commutes, which limited social living, and the lack of anything below $2K rent-wise without remaining 25-30+ miles away from both our jobs, a very close relative having a recurrence of a previous illness — and the need for us to be closer — and the timing of it all, and it made for a dicey situation. I had to wait weeks before my company gave me the okay to relocate to Charlotte, where those who know me know I once lived — and loved it here — and that ended up being nearly two months from the point when I initially gave notice.

September goes by, nothing.

October goes by, nothing… until the 27th.

Our lease expired on the 31st.

I get the green light to relocate on November 1. I literally had to find a place in Charlotte, pack up my workstation and set it up later upon arrival in Charlotte myself, while packing a full, three story townhouse loaded with furniture and personal effects, all in three days’ time… while still having to work on November 2.

This wasn’t even the most annoying part.

Having been a broker for years, finding a place is easy, getting a deal done is easy (provided the other parties involved are on their game; or I have to put the hot poker to their asses to GET them on their game). I was able to do that in two days — though the place where I ended up moving to had an owner who treated every step of the process like a military extraction during wartime.

No, the biggest hurdle was packing, loading and hauling. And even though we were foolish enough to think that we had done enough by reserving a huge truck and a tow dolly for Craig’s car — since he was moving to another part of the state — of course, after spending Saturday arranging and packing up what we could, we show up at the rental location at 8 am thinking we would just pick up the truck and towing material and be on our way.

No.

And then the cost jumped another $50 for them inconveniencing US. The tow dolly that we reserved and were TOLD would be on site of our reserved pickup location was in Alexandria — a good 20 miles away — and took five hours to be transported to our location in Waldorf. We then went down to get the dolly and got home around 2 pm.

We literally packed, packed, packed and packed some more, while loading the heaviest stuff as we went along. We spent the rest of the literal day packing and loading. After Sunday Night Football concluded, I checked out for an hour and a half to get a nap and go right back up at 1 am to finish what was left.

Then the rain began. Copious, monsoonal, annoying ass SHEETS OF RAIN began. Of course this slowed down everything. Not only did I end up throwing out things (ranging from clothes to furniture, to equipment and random things) that I had spent THOUSANDS on over the years, much of my stuff got soaked, requiring me to do the wash for four straight days (and counting still, as I type this). Some things were broken. Some things were lost that were intended to be loaded onto the truck. Don’t know how, but it happens every time. Some of it important stuff that I now have to buy again, as if moving isn’t costly enough — to the tune of $5,000 and counting until I am settled in HOPEFULLY by the end of this week — but then we had issues in securing the tow dolly and Craig’s car onto the back of the truck.

Of course.

We had originally intended to leave around 2 am in order to avoid traffic.

We left at 6:30 am.

And it rained. Oh it rained. For most of the 250 miles of the first leg of the trip (Waldorf to Durham). The traffic was at a dead standstill from the time we left the house. It took two hours to even GET TO the Beltway. If this were not a portend of things to come, and a confirmation of things that had occurred to that point, then nothing would be.

And to confirm, yes, it was a portend of things to come even after we arrived in North Carolina.

We were bumper to bumper, barely moving from Waldorf all the way to Springfield (that’s 30 miles for those who are counting). The constant starting and stopping, and only getting an hour’s nap — you know as a strategist and a planner, my mind was racing so much that I couldn’t sleep anyway — that we both ended up pulling over at separate spots just to avoid falling asleep on the road. That lasted for about an hour, and by then, the rain was dissipating and we were on our way. The traffic wasn’t bad for the rest of the way, so there’s a silver lining for your ass.

We FINALLY get to Durham around 2:30 PM, unloaded and had to go up three flights of stairs. Of course my meniscus injury from years ago flares up after 48 hours of heavy duty, back-breaking work. My knees and feet hurt for a full three days after all this.

By 4:30 PM, we were finished, went to get food and latched up everything to finish the next leg of the trip. All this time, the owner was dragging her feet about approval, when there are the same number of red flags about me as you’ll find on Grape Street in Los Angeles.

For those who don’t get that reference: that means ABSOLUTELY NONE.

We find out at 6:30 PM that I was approved, about 30 minutes short of reaching Greensboro in order to stop by my parents’ house and they could ride down with us.

I had to pull over, docusign a plethora of documents and then find out on some Easter Egg hunt wave that I needed to scramble to get a money order in order to take care of first month’s and security, since it was after business hours. AND the truck had issues. Craig could have lost his car on the highway due to a malfunction in the tow dolly. Just unreal how fortunate we were despite all my complaining.

By 9:30 PM on Monday, 11/5, I had everything in hand, and had to race to get to the broker’s office. It only took me 45 minutes, of course. And this is from Lexington to downtownuptowndowntown Charlotte. Just my luck, I show up and she is fine as hell… and I’m soaked, looking like I just ran off from the gas station with 10 cartons of smokes and several cases of beer in hand, and can’t even TRY to say anything to her outside of getting this deal done.

We’re 90% complete by now, but still a lot of work to go. Thankfully, my parents came, or else it would have taken eight hours to unload the remainder of the truck. As it were, it still took us from about 11 PM until 1:30 PM to finish, AND I needed to check in at the office here, while Craig had to drive back to Durham, then Henderson, then back to Durham, then back to Henderson and THEN back to northern Virginia to work. I was up for another 46 of 48 hours myself during that same timeframe. It began to slow down by Thursday and by Friday, I decided to work from home, because I would be looking like a tornado hit my condo (and it still does) if I didn’t stay home all weekend.

I don’t plan on spending many weekends at home, now that I am in an area where there is something to DO again, and it doesn’t take an hour minimum to get everywhere like it did in the “DMV” (hate that term, and never use it, BTW).

I hate moving. But the owner accepted my terms to just do nine months here. Nine months of preparing everything so that I can buy a house. A new house. On the South Carolina side of the border, just across from where I am now (which is right on the line anyway). With lower prices. Lower property taxes. Easy appraisal and inspection, and fewer hurdles to cross.

And I’d be paying half of what I paid back in New York and even in suburban DC for a brand new $400K house here, versus a 1 bedroom BOX at $2K back in NYC. I am tired of renting. I hate that I passed up on the two houses that I would have had free and clear when I was 19. A homeowner. With no liens. No mortgage. No real costs. And I passed it up.

“I was young. I was naive. I was stupid.” (To Justin Piazza, notice Alex didn’t do the “sssschhh” back then like he does now?

All in all, it worked out. It was a headache, and it took a whole week to even become livable again, but the office here is quiet, accommodating, and easily got set up, so the job portion of the relocation was plug and play. It was having to uproot my whole life with three days’ notice and moving two states away that was the trouble.

Crisis averted and another growing experience as a result. I can do anything. With what I’ve endured over the past decade — and most of you have no idea, and the rest don’t even know the HALF, because I did most of it in solitude; which means you really don’t know anything about my path without my telling you. You can’t tell anything about me by just looking at my countenance. It belies my spirit and mindset. Get to know me or move along.

Another adventure in the books. Alive and sound, and $5K poorer.

For those who are truly in my circle, if you want the address in order to visit, or want to send gift cards (PLEASE LOL) in lieu of such, let me know. I obviously will not be posting that here; lest someone gets shot for showing up on my stoop unannounced.

Good day.

VA

2018 NFL Week 2 Powre Rankings


2018 NFL Week 2 Powre Rankings
M.D. Wright
9.19.2018

Doesn’t it seem like the NFL season just flies by even faster with each passing year? At any rate, with some pretty shoddy football (and place kicking) thus far this year, some teams’ fortunes are being marred before we even arrive in October. We’ll see who those teams are below:

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0).
Despite all the foolish talk about 35-year old Ryan Fitzpatrick being a revelation for the Bucs, the reality is that the entire coaching staff is coaching for their respective jobs (along with the general manager), and the offense, which was intentionally scaled back by the head coach in order to reign in Jameis Winston, is opened up now. It will bear watching for Tampa, when “Fitzmagic” inevitably turns into “Fitztragic,” and the team has to turn back to Winston; what the head coach and offensive coordinator’s response will be.  The assertion that Winston — whose first three years are unrivaled, statistically; despite the pronouncements of those who want to see him fail after they made up their minds about him following the false sexual assault accusation at Florida State — is a “problem” and not the playcalling, offensive line play, running game (which is still virtually non-existent), and injuries on both sides of the ball each year, reeks of agenda-driven tripe.

How Tampa weathers the Winston-Fitzpatrick dynamic will determine whether or not they remain in this spot, or how precipitously they may fall. But for now, they deserve this spot.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-0).
The Jags are the best team in the AFC, and only Kansas City is close.

3. Kansas City Chiefs (2-0).
Patrick Mahomes just does WHATEVERHEWANTS to defenses. We know it won’t last (regularly), so it will be key to watch how he performs under adversity. However, when the Steelers came back to tie the game in Week 2, Mahomes responded with two big touchdown drives, so the moxie that many had previously seen prior to 2018 has come to the fore, once again.

4. Denver Broncos (2-0).
They don’t look all that impressive, but they’re 2-0, nonetheless.

5. Los Angeles Rams (2-0).
They’ve done what they should have against the feckless Raiders and rudderless Cards. We’ll see what they’re made of over the next couple of games for sure.

6. Cincinnati Bengals (2-0).
They took apart the Ravens on Thursday night, but did not put them away as they should have. They’re up against it without Joe Mixon for the rest of September, but they have a chance to take a two game lead in the division if they finish the month strongly.

7. Miami Dolphins (2-0).
How?

8. Minnesota Vikings (1-0-1).
SEC Kickers.

9. Green Bay Packers (1-0-1).
How long will Aaron Rodgers’ knee hold up? Green Bay’s entire season rests on his sprained ligament.

10. Los Angeles Chargers (1-1).
Baffling team, even if the Chiefs look to be good, to lose Week 1. We did not learn anything from them in Week 2. They’ll need Joey Bosa back soon.

11. Atlanta Falcons (1-1).
How good are they, really? Difficult to get a good read on them just yet.

12. Baltimore Ravens (1-1).
Regression to the mean in Week 2? Or are the Bengals really that good? We knew the Ravens weren’t as good as Week 1 suggested to some, but still…

13. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1).
The Eagles aren’t more than an average team. 2017 is over with. Carson Wentz being back won’t change much.

14. New England Patriots (1-1).
They were only in the game because the officials attempted to swing the game in their favor in Jacksonville. Had it been the AFC Championship, the officials would have completed the act.

15. Carolina Panthers (1-1).
Their offensive line injuries (along with Greg Olsen) are going to be problematic this season…

16. Cleveland Browns (0-1-1).
The Browns should be 2-0, if not for their now dearly departed kicker.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1-1).
The Steelers offense puts up points, but the dynamic that Le’Veon Bell brings is missing. Plus they cannot defend even if their lives depended on it.

18. New Orleans Saints (1-1).
Like the Eagles, 2017 is over. This is an 8-8 team. MARK INGRAM ain’t changing that.

19. San Francisco 49ers (1-1).
Whatever.

20. Chicago Bears (1-1).
After the first 15 scripted plays, the Bears offense goes to absolute nothing. They’ll have to fix this. Even the hapless Seahawks managed to hang around until Russell Wilson began seeing ghosts and threw a back-breaking pick-six to close out the undecided portion of the game in Week 2.

21. Tennessee Titans (1-1).
What a dreadful team to watch.

22. Indianapolis Colts (1-1).
The Redskins aren’t any good, and their delusional fanbase and local sports announcers knew it both before and after the game.

23. New York Jets (1-1).
Stop crowning quarterbacks after one game.

24. Washington Redskins (1-1).
Reality struck after they beat an NCAA FCS team in Week 1.

25. Oakland Raiders (0-2).
They had their chances in Week 2, but came up short…

26. Detroit Lions (0-2).
Another season of missed playoffs on the way for Matthew Stafford.

27. Houston Texans (0-2).
The Texans will get their first win in Week 3. With relative ease.

28. Seattle Seahawks (0-2).
This team is BAD. Only Russell Wilson’s exploits keeps them close.

29. Dallas Cowboys (1-1).
Dallas isn’t any good, and Week 2 didn’t do anything to change that fact. Week 2 was all about how bad the Giants are, not how  Dallas (or Dak Prescott “accepted a challenge” that he didn’t meet).

30. New York Football Giants (0-2).
The Pat Shurmur Era seems a lot like a continuation of the Ben McAdoo Era, mixed in with some Willie Taggart (at Florida State) Era.

31. Arizona Cardinals (0-2).
They are the NFC’s equivalent to the Buffalo Bills (see below), until Josh Rosen plays, that is.

32. Buffalo Bills (0-2).
They’ll need a collective Slip & Fall act by an opposing team in order to win a game in 2018.