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Getting Ready for the NHL All-Star Game

By | Hockey, Major Sports | No Comments

Are you reading for the 2019 NHL All-Star Game? If not, start getting excited. The game’s happening on Saturday, January 26th in San Jose. A host of other all-star events are scheduled for that weekend as well.

How Does It Work?

Four teams, one for each of the NHL’s divisions, compete in the all-star game. It’s played in 3-on-3 tournament style. The Metropolitan and Atlantic Division will face off in the first 20-minute game, with a 20-minute match between the Central and Pacific Divisions following. The winner of those two games will then play another 20-minute match to determine the champion. The team that prevails splits a $1 million cash prize.

The NHL’s hockey operations chose the majority of the game’s 44 players using four main criteria — having one player from each team, the top 10 to 15 scorers at selection time, as many marketed stars as possible and multiple players from the host team. Fans got to choose each team’s captain, and for the first time, the “last man in” for each team. Each team has two goalies, three defensemen and six forwards.

Who’s Playing?

In late December, the four captains of the teams were announced. Auston Matthews of Toronto will be the captain of the Atlantic Division team, Nathan Mackinnon of Colorado will be the captain of the Central Division team, and Connor McDavid of Edmonton will be captain of the Pacific Division team. Fans chose Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals as the captain of the Metropolitan Division team. Ovechkin, however, informed the NHL that he plans to skip the game to recuperate before the second half of the season. He’ll face a one-game suspension for skipping the game, and the Metropolitan Division will have to choose a new captain.

The winners of the “last man in” votes were Jeff Skinner of Buffalo, Kris Letang of Pittsburgh, Gabriel Landeskog of Colorado and Leon Draisaitl of Edmonton.

The San Jose Sharks have three players in the game — forward Joe Pavelski and defensemen Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns. Karlsson’s status for the game is questionable, though, as he’s currently out with an injury. The Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning also have three players in the game.

For 13 players, this All-Star Game will be their first. Seven of the league’s top 10 scorers were chosen.

What Else Is Going On?

The game itself certainly isn’t the only all-star event happening the weekend of the 26th. The NHL All-Star Skills Competition will take place the night before the game, also at the SAP Center, the home of the San Jose Sharks. The event will consist of six individual competitions, and the winner of each contest will get $25,000. The competitions include:

  • Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater™
  • SAP NHL Hardest Shot™
  • Honda NHL Accuracy Shooting™
  • Ticketmaster NHL Save Streak™
  • Enterprise NHL Premier Passer™
  • Gatorade NHL Puck Control™

Fans can also attend the Fan Fair at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center from January 24-27. The headlining event of the fan fair is the fifth annual NHL Mascot Showdown™ in which 29 NHL Mascots™ will form two teams, one representing each of the league’s conferences, and face off in a game. The fair also includes a scavenger hunt, dodgeball game, dance competition and other activities.

GRAMMY-nominated singer and songwriter Bebe Rexha will perform during the All-Star Game’s second intermission.

How Can I Watch?

The game will air on NBC in the U.S. and on TVA Sports, Sportsnet and CBC in Canada. It will also be live-streamed on fuboTV. The game starts at 5 p.m. PT / 8 p.m. ET on January 26th.

The Strongest NFL Players

By | Football, Major Sports | No Comments

The common NFL player not only needs to possess the intelligence to learn a playbook and read the rival’s scheme on the fly, but they must retain the perfect balance of strength and athleticism to out hit, out block and out jump the opponent across from them. They treat their bodies like temples.

However, there is rare breed within the NFL that takes this to a whole new level. From employing personal chefs and acupuncture therapists to spending the wee hours of the morning in the weight room, some players don’t know when to quit. You may think there’s no way they find a way to fit these extra workouts and therapy sessions into their schedule during the actual football season, but they do.

Now, not all players on this list are visually ripped, but the strength remains. They realize their bodies provide for their family and it shows. Not to keep you on your toes for any longer, here are some of the strongest players in the NFL today.

James Harrison

Although the 40-year-old, James Harrison, retired from the NFL earlier this year, you can’t make an NFL’s strongest players list without including him. Harrison owes a lot of his success to the dedication he has to his body and the weight room — his intense workouts speak for themselves. The former undrafted linebacker out of Kent State turned two-time Super Bowl Champion and NFL Defensive Player of the Year played the same amount of snaps for the Steelers at age 28 as he did at age 38. His standards for in-season weight training resemble the lengths other players strive for to keep their bodies in peak shape all season long.

Myles Garrett

On the opposite side of the age spectrum, the 22-year-old Cleveland Browns outside linebacker is an absolute beast. At the NFL combine, two years ago, Garrett galloped his 6’4” – 272 lb. frame 40 yards in a mere 4.64 seconds while also possessing enough explosiveness to obtain a 41” vertical. To put that into perspective, Randy Moss’ vertical jump measured at 39” before being drafted. In regard to the strongest NFL players, Garrett also put up 33 reps during the 225 lb. bench press at the combine. His body outshines what most can do and will terrorize NFL offensive tackles for years to come.

Saquon Barkley

The former Penn State legend, now New York Giant savior, is cut from the same cloth as Myles Garrett. His body can accomplish what most cannot. It’s easy to get lost in the fact he can run a 4.38-second 40-yard dash and jump 41” at 222 pounds, but that would completely look past him breaking seemingly every school weightlifting record in existence while enrolled at PSU. While in Happy Valley reports state he benched 390 pounds, squatted 495 pounds for reps, and power cleaned 405 pounds. There isn’t much more left to be said.

JJ Watt

When looking at JJ Watt it’s sometimes hard to believe he actually plays football and not a star of the World’s Strongest Man Competition on ESPN Classic. When Watt’s not winning NFL Defensive Player of Year awards or helping raise $41.6M for Houston’s Hurricane Relief Fund, he’s in the weight room. While his athleticism doesn’t match up to that of Barkley or Garrett, he certainly outshines them in pure strength.

Watt put up big numbers at the NFL combine with 34 reps on the bench press. While that number is impressive, it’s important to know Watt never skips a leg day. JJ’s warm-up squat is a measly 600 pounds before squatting 700 pounds. That’s what many would call big boy weight, folks.

Strong Is an Understatement

Think you’re up for trying one of their workouts? From breaking records to ridiculous workouts, each of these NFL players pushes their bodies to the max granting them a spot on this list.

photos by USA today

Here’s All the Cussing in Drew Magary’s “Why Your Team Sucks” for the Top/Bottom 4 Teams

By | Football | No Comments

Drew Magary has a “popular” series on Deadspin that lists all the ways that every NFL team sucks. Similar to the past-gone Puck Daddy eulogies, some of these are amazing and some are just ok. But they have one thing in common: @%*(&#@.

I read these from time to time, and often wondered if the teams that are actually good get more cussing than the teams that are actually bad. I figured that the good teams would get more hate, both from people that hate them being good, and fans that hate them for being good but not good enough.

I was mostly right.

I thought about doing this for all 32 teams, but that is a LOT of Drew to read though, and lot of time spent for some pretty useless content. So here are the top and bottom 4.

Eagles Patriots Vikings Jags Browns Giants Colts Texans
Fuck 20 29 46 29 19 29 22 14
Shit 10 27 15 9 12 12 13 9
Ass 11 9 7 3 2 5 4 4
Damn 3 1 6 4 0 1 4 2
Dick 7 3 5 0 1 3 1 0

 

I included all variations of these, so fucking, fucks, shitface, asshole, goddamn, dickhole, and so forth were all counted. Oddly enough, the spiritual-damn was the only version used. Ass was the most difficult to track, since it appeared in words like pass, assistant, and assault. Assault was used so many times I considered looking into which team had more players who liked to commit crimes with their fists.

I started tracking “Sucks” as well but since “sucks” was in most of the titles (What’s new that sucks, what’s always sucked, etc) it wasn’t super relevant. The Browns had the most though, probably because they actually do suck the most.

Here’s the date in a line graph, because why not:

There we go.

 

 

Which MLB Teams Are Having the Most Surprising and Disappointing Seasons?

By | Baseball | No Comments

Every baseball season, some teams surprise their fans — whether that’s in a positive way or not. Some teams unexpectedly become viable contenders for a World Series title, while others with lofty preseason aspirations are disappointing.

Pleasant Surprises

In the 2018 MLB season so far, several teams are doing surprisingly well — here are three of them.

1.      Oakland Athletics

The top three teams in the AL West are all viable postseason contenders. The Houston Astros are unsurprisingly leading and likely locks to win the division, though the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics have already won 60 or more games. They are competing for the second Wild Card spot, right behind the Yankees.

The degree of success that Oakland and Seattle are having is surprising. Oakland’s offense wasn’t striking on paper before the year, though Jed Lowrie is having the best season of his career, while Matt Chapman and Matt Olson continue to provide power and contact. Blake Treinen has also emerged as one of the league’s best closers. They have done great so far, though questions remain as to whether their rotation is strong enough to hang around.

2.      Seattle Mariners

The other AL West surprise, the Seattle Mariners, was thrown into disarray upon the March news that star 2B Robinson Cano is suspended for 80 games. The Mariners, though, are one of the AL’s best teams, despite Cano’s absence and SP Felix Hernandez not contributing much.

Strong seasons by Mitch Haniger and Jean Segura are helping lead the offense, while SP James Paxton has emerged as one of the league’s most lights-out starters. Closer Edwin Diaz is also very effective, with a chance at the season record for saves. Like the Athletics, there are questions as to whether the Mariners can stick around — though they have certainly shown they are a viable Wild Card contender.

3.     Atlanta Braves

The Braves have the league’s best farm system, so while it’s not exactly surprising that their roster has talent, it is a bit shocking that their star prospects have arrived so soon. Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies are already contributing All Star-caliber numbers — so much for getting acclimated to the big leagues.

The success of their younger players is combining with an MVP candidate season from Freddie Freeman, an All-Star campaign from veteran Nick Markakis and a stellar catching duo of Kurt Suzuki and Tyler Flowers.

The Phillies, another relatively surprising success, will be competing with the Braves for a playoff spot deep into the season.

Disappointing Surprises

On the other end of the spectrum, a few teams have been disappointing fans — like these three.

1.      Washington Nationals

The Nationals have some of the best players in the world, like Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer, so their painfully mediocre start is a surprise.

Harper continues to hit for power, though his batting average is very low. Adam Eaton is hurt again, Anthony Rendon has often been injured and Strasburg is on and off the DL. Scherzer remains dominant and Harper will likely do better in the second half, though the Nationals seem to lack depth in general. It wasn’t expected that Harper would struggle so much and no other Nationals player would emerge.

2.      New York Mets

Although no one anticipated an extraordinarily great season from the Mets, a red-hot 11-1 start suggested the Mets may at least compete for a Wild Card. The team’s best start in franchise history, followed by a significantly forgettable season, is disappointing.

For a team that has two bonafide aces in Noah Syndergaard and Noah DeGrom, a capable closer in Jeurys Familia — before his trade to Oakland — and a core of young hitters like Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Nimmo that impress, it’s a disappointing surprise that the Mets are definitely among the worst teams this season. Mediocrity was the expectation, though failure is the rest so far.

3.      Colorado Rockies

The Rockies have a winning record, though there were expectations they would lead their division — or at least come close to it. Offensive stars like Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, in addition to a friendly home park and consistent rotation, make their start a fairly unexciting one. The team still has ample time to impress extensively, though so far, the results have been lower than expected.

Baseball fans look forward to seeing whether these disappointing teams will turn it around, as well as whether the pleasant surprises will continue their success.

7 Ways to Improve Your Golf Game

By | Golf | No Comments

Golfers can improve their game with a variety of tips and practices, enhancing their chipping, putting, form and general mental preparation. Golf is a game where intricacies matter, with every professional golfer on a constant quest to improve.

Take a look at these seven ways to improve your golf game:

1. Work on Your Weaknesses

Every golfer’s weaknesses are unique. As such, it’s crucial to identify yours by keeping simple statistics of your playing. Track your greens in regulation, fairway hits, total putts and other counting stats. There are even sites that help you electronically track golf data while providing a handicap for each part of your game. It’s easier to improve your golf game when you know which areas are of pressing importance.

2. Clubface Control

Clubface control often separates players regarding skill. You can work on this control by practicing form. Assume a standard grip, twist your bottom hand, so it’s facing away from you and then act as if you’re wiping your palm across a table. This form of practice will help you face toward the ball more quickly in the downswing.

3. Torso Rotation

Your torso is like an engine for your swing. Torso rotation plays a huge role in generating speed and power for the swing. A correct backswing requires establishing your spine angle by turning your torso away from the target. Position your left shoulder close to being over your right leg, maintaining this same posture throughout the backswing. When starting the downswing, rotate the torso toward your target, up until your right shoulder is closer to your left leg than the right. Keep these tips in mind to establish your torso as a major factor in generating speed and power.

4. Don’t Neglect the Short Game

As fun as it is to hit the driving range, some golfers neglect to refine their short game. As a practice of habit, start rolling a few putts before teeing. Before working on longer shots, dedicate yourself to picking up a putting drill and practicing the short game before or after every round. Even mini-golfing with the kids can help you practice your short game.

5. Enlist the Help of a Private Instructor

It’s possible to improve your golf game on your own, though it’s almost always better with a private instructor. Private golf instruction often can include single or multiple session options, with a PGA professional helping to guide golfers of all experience levels in a comfortable learning atmosphere. Private instructors are especially helpful if there’s a part of your golf game that isn’t getting better with personal practice.

6. Upgrade Your Equipment

Old equipment may be preventing you from getting the most out of your practice. For example, if golf grips are disintegrating into your hands, you will lack grip. In this case, it’s time to upgrade your equipment. Similarly, if the grooves on your wedges are worn down to the point of being invisible, it’s time for new equipment. If you can, it’s also a good idea to get fitted for clubs, so you can ensure your equipment fits your body and swing.

7. Study the Best Golfers

Watching golf, both in person and on television, is a great way to gain enthusiasm for the game of golf, as well as teaching you some things about form. Some professional golfers even have tutorial videos on YouTube that showcase form tips. Watch golf tournaments and seek out tutorials from experts to constantly improve your game.

 

Whether it’s on your own or with an instructor, improving your golf game is a rewarding endeavor, no matter your skill level or aspirations.

A Preview of the 2018/2019 NFL Season

By | Football, Major Sports, News | No Comments

The upcoming NFL season is ripe with exciting stories and players to watch. Last year’s NFL champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, host the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday, September 6th to kick off the 2018 NFL season.

The Favorites

With Tom Brady returning for yet another season alongside coach Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots remain the favorite to win the Super Bowl.

Although the Patriots lack wide receiver depth after trading Brandin Cooks and losing Julian Edelman to suspension for the first four games, a healthy Rob Gronkowski is still here. Chris Hogan has also proven to be an adept option for Brady, with new signing Kenny Britt and first-round draft pick Sony Michel looking to bolster the offense. Veteran Rex Burkhead remains a solid option for short downs. As for their defense, Bill Belichick remains a genius at coaching the defensive game, specifically.

While the Patriots are the favorite to win, other up-and-coming teams are not far behind. The Los Angeles Rams saw the ample growth of QB Jared Goff and RB Todd Gurley last year, with young head coach Sean McVay showing a knack for brilliant game planning. The Green Bay Packers, with Aaron Rodgers still at the helm, are another hyped team. The signing of TE Jimmy Graham looks to supplement an offensive attack that is now missing Jordy Nelson.

Of course, the Philadelphia Eagles will look to defend their championship and remain capable of doing so. Coach Doug Pederson shows great decision-making, putting his playmakers in the position to win. With QB Carson Wentz expected to be healthy, the Eagles are very comparable in strength and depth to last year, apart from losing TE Trey Burton to free agency.

A Year for Young QBs

If you enjoy watching young QBs with high upside, the upcoming NFL season will be a treat for you. The rookie QB class alone includes a bunch of high-upside, talented rookie QBs with avenues to playing time. Jets QB Sam Darnold and Bills QB Josh Allen will very likely start by mid-season, if not by week one. They are both talented, young QBs on teams starving for a franchise QB.

Although Baker Mayfield may not start in 2018 for the Cleveland Browns, with Tyrod Taylor showing more command of the offense presently, he remains an exciting player to watch. If Taylor suffers an injury or underperforms, it will be fun to watch Mayfield throw to the likes of Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry. There are also rumblings of the Browns considering signing WR Dez Bryant.

Ravens QB Lamar Jackson was taken in the late first round, though could very well impress more immediately than any other rookie QB. Joe Flacco remains the starter in Baltimore, though Jackson has drawn praise from the coaching staff for his talent and readiness. Jackson’s multi-dimensional game, with his running and throwing, present a threat to opposing defenses. He and these other young QBs will be worth watching in the preseason and throughout the entire NFL season.

Season Predictions

The NFL proves year in and year out that outcomes are unpredictable. Although some teams like the Patriots dominate their division every year and are likely to do so again this year, the rest of the league is open for competition.

The NFC West is likely to be a showdown between the Rams and 49ers. If 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo continues to excel, the 49ers’ young core can prevail. The Rams’ additions of Aqib Talib, Ndamukong Suh, Brandin Cooks and Marcus Peters in the offseason makes them a clear favorite, though.

The Packers and Vikings will compete in the NFC North, as Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins work with talented squads. The Packers’ additions of corners Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson should shore up their pass defense, a weak point last season.

The NFC South is likely to be competitive. The Saints, Panthers and Falcons all have teams with potential. The Eagles will likely lead the NFC East, though it will be interesting to watch the impact that Giants rookie RB Saquon Barkley has on his team. The AFC North will also be fun to watch, as the Steelers, Browns, Ravens and Bengals compete with fairly even-matched squads.

The upcoming NFL season looks to be a fun and competitive one.

Can the Washington Capitals Repeat?

By | Hockey, Major Sports | No Comments

The Washington Capitals’ 2018 Stanley Cup victory is one fans will remember for a long time. The 2017-2018 season was the first time the Capitals advanced beyond the second round in the playoffs since 1998.

Now that the victory parade is over, Capitals fans are looking forward to next season. However, they already know there will be changes to the roster and coaching staff during the offseason.

Plus, hockey fans are aware of how difficult it is to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Before the Pittsburgh Penguins reigning as champions in 2016 and 2017, the previous team to repeat was the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. A repeat tends to happen once per decade, though Capitals fans are hoping they will stray beyond the norm and repeat this past season’s success.

May 4, 2009: Washington Capitals semifinal playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins

A New Coach

It’s not common for a head coach in any sport to resign after winning a championship, especially when they are not retiring. This scenario is exactly what happened with former Capitals Head Coach Barry Trotz, who guided the team to the 2018 Stanley Cup.

On June 18, Caps GM Brian MacLellan announced Trotz was resigning his position, after serving in the head coaching role for the past four seasons. His Stanley Cup victory activated an automatic two-year extension, though the dollar amount was below market value. When Trotz and the Capitals were unable to reach an agreement on his contract extension, Trotz decided to leave the organization. Trotz signed with the New York Islanders as their head coach on June 21.

The identity of the Capitals’ next coach will play a big role in determining their chances to repeat their success. The current frontrunner is Todd Reirden, who spent the previous four seasons on Trotz’s coaching staff, honing the team’s defense. Throughout Reirden’s time with the team, the Capitals allowed 2.45 goals per game, lower than all teams in the NHL but one.

Although Reirden has never been a head coach, his successful track record on defense and familiarity with current Capitals players would make for a seamless transition. The Capitals promoted Reirden to associate coach in August 2016, and have been grooming him for head coach duties since that time. Although Trotz is an excellent coach, Reirden is unlikely to shake up the team’s defense-minded approach, making them a Cup contender in 2019 as long as their roster remains capable.

Next Season’s Roster

Capitals fans are happy with the recent news that elite defenseman John Carlson signed an eight-year extension with the Capitals, worth $64 million. Carlson led all defensemen in scoring with 68 points in 82 games during the 2017-2018 season. Carlson’s presence alongside a likely defense-first head coach ensures the Capitals’ D-corps will remain strong.

The Capitals are also still working on re-signing Devante Smith-Pelly, a 2018 playoffs standout with seven goals and one assist. Michal Kempny, a smart pickup for the Capitals at the trade deadline, has also received an offer from the Capitals, though is attracting interest from other teams. The Capitals are at work to improve their roster, with Carlson’s signing being a great start.

Chances of a Repeat

The Capitals are likely to secure another playoff berth in the 2018-2019 season. Their ability to repeat as Stanley Cup champs hinges on their roster strength, particularly who they re-sign in the coming months, as well as the effectiveness of their new coach.

Betting lines have the Capitals as the sixth likeliest team to win the Stanley Cup next season, behind the Golden Knights, Jets, Maple Leafs, Lightning, Predators and Bruins. Still, none of these teams are substantially ahead in terms of odds, meaning the Capitals are as similarly likely to repeat as the top teams are to win.

Either way, next season should be an exciting one for Capitals fans.