Ramble On Sports

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Archive for April, 2010

I’ll take the Philadelphia Flyers with a side of home-ice advantage please

Posted by bdowd625 on April 28, 2010

We here at Ramble On are big fans of Alexander Ovechkin. The guy loves to hit, skates hard on every shift and has a scoring touch that few players possess – all qualities that make him one of the most exciting talents in the NHL. Having said all that, I couldn’t have been happier watching Ovechkin and the top-seeded Washington Capitals get bounced from the playoffs by the Montreal Canadiens tonight in their win-or-go-home Game 7.

Not only is it fun to watch the underdog prevail – even though I despise the Canadiens like every other self-respecting Boston Bruins fan should – but the B’s now get to take on seventh-seeded Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Are you kidding me? If ever there was a dream matchup for the Bruins, this is it. And did I mention the B’s have home-ice advantage throughout this series? The Canadiens, meanwhile, square off with defending champion Pittsburgh, and you can be sure the Penguins have taken notice of the Habs’ play in the last three games.

Boston has a great chance to knock off the Flyers and advance to the conference finals. Can you imagine that? Everyone wrote them off midway through the regular season, and now we’re talking about them possibly being one of the final four teams playing. What’s even better is that Tuukka Rask is arguably the hottest goalie left in the playoffs, and whenever your netminder catches fire, good things happen. I’m picking the Bruins to win this series in six games just like I did for the last one. Let’s hope I’m right again so we can continue this awesome ride.

And on top of all the great hockey news, the Red sox got another gem of a pitching performance tonight – this time from Jon Lester – to sweep the lowly Toronto Blue Jays. Boy do the Jays suck. I think more people read this blog everyday than go to their home games, and that’s really saying something. Either way, the Sox are back to .500 and hopefully it’ll only get better from here.

It’s a good time to be a Boston sports fan, my friends.

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Ramble On Poll Question of the Day

Posted by bdowd625 on April 28, 2010

This post is a little random, I know, but I’m curious to see where Ramble On Nation weighs in on the debate. You see, during the last few weeks, there’s been a battle raging on in my mind over Chelsea Handler. Is she hot or not? I’ll stumble upon her show on E! every now and then and ask myself how I feel about her. Some nights, I’m a big fan. Others, I’m unfazed by her. I need a definitive answer dammit!

So I’m turning to our new poll feature to solve this mind-numbing riddle. Please vote one way or another so I can know for sure where the masses stand on Miss Handler.

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Five thoughts from Game 5 of Celtics/Heat

Posted by Bill Koch on April 27, 2010

Ray Allen

Bring on Cleveland?

Really? Is that what fans of the Boston Celtics really want?

We at Ramble On couldn’t agree more, mainly because to be a champion you have to beat everyone at some point anyway. Why not now? Why not face the Cavaliers while the Celtics are fresh off of their five-game demolition of the Miami Heat?

It sounds good to us. Boston’s 96-86 win over Miami on Tuesday night polished off a very impressive 4-1 win for the Celtics in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Here’s how Boston got it done.

*  The Celtics veterans lived up to their word. Maybe Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett didn’t say as much, but anybody who watched this team over the last two months of the season could tell that Boston was on cruise control. Pierce, Allen and Garnett were at their professional best by disposing of Miami in quick, clinical fashion.

*  Miami never found a way to deal with Rajon Rondo in this series, and he finished strong on Tuesday. Rondo played 46 minutes and just missed out on a triple-double by scoring 16 points, dishing out 12 assists and pulling down eight rebounds. Mo Williams had better bring his A-game in the next series, because Carlos Arroyo and Mario Chalmers certainly didn’t have enough to control Rondo. He’s playing his best basketball of the season right now, and it’s no surprise that Boston is following his lead.

*  Ray Allen looks like he’s turning back the clock. Boston’s 34-year-old shooting guard isn’t showing any rust in his game or wear on his legs late in his 13th season. He was 5-for-6 from 3-point land on Tuesday night on his way to a team-high 24 points, and the Celtics were plus-19 during his 41 minutes on the floor. Allen finished 19-for-36 from beyond the arc in the series, and his sweet stroke will go a long way toward disturbing Cleveland’s defensive system.

*  Dwyane Wade did everything he could to keep Miami in this series. We’ve said here before at Ramble On that we hope he moves on to greener pastures, and Tuesday showed why once again. Wade scored a game-high 31 points, piled up 10 assists and grabbed eight rebounds in 46 minutes. The only other Heat player to reach double figures was Chalmers, as the rookie came off the bench to pour in 20. The Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets must be salivating at the thought of being able to bid on Wade’s services coming off a performance like this.

*  Is this really the best team that Pat Riley could assemble? If so, he’s clearly not the personnel genius that everyone in the NBA seems to think he is. Riley surrounded Wade with Michael Beasley (0-for-3, two points), Jermaine O’Neal (3-for-10, seven points), Quentin Richardson (2-for-8, four points) and Arroyo (a team-worst minus-12 in 18 minutes) in Miami’s starting five. That’s hardly the kind of supporting cast that Wade deserves, and it could be the primary reason why he chooses to hit the road in the offseason.

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Ramble On Poll Question of the Day

Posted by bdowd625 on April 26, 2010

Is anyone watching the abortion of a baseball game that’s unfolding on NESN right now? I’m not sure if the Red Sox are trying to lose at this point or if the Blue Jays are just this bad. I’ve always been a Sox fan and I always will be, but I don’t know whether to root for this team or avert my eyes altogether. Either way, I’m glad the NHL and NBA playoffs are still on because this crap is just intolerable. Which leads me to today’s poll question:

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Five thoughts from Game 6 of Bruins/Sabres

Posted by bdowd625 on April 26, 2010

I’d like to thank the Bruins for making me look smart with my prediction for this series. I’d also like to thank them for giving me the worst heartburn and highest stress level of my life. A 4-3 victory over the Sabres in Game 6 has pushed Boston into the Eastern Conference semifinals, but it was anything but easy. I give Buffalo all the credit in the world for the fight they showed tonight, especially when it looked like it was going to slip away. All that is behind us now, though, so as Bruins fans, let’s just be thankful there’s more playoff hockey on the horizon. And now, onto my five thoughts from Game 6.

*  I’m fairly certain there were a handful of Bruins that wanted to lose the game tonight. Dennis Wideman was up to his old tricks – turning the puck over in his own end to spark Buffalo’s first goal – and Michael Ryder didn’t do his team any favors when he threw the puck to Nathan Gerbe for the Sabres’ second tally. I’m going to give Ryder a pass since he’s played out of his mind for most of this series, but Wideman is downright brutal. Whenever the announcers talk about him, they almost always use the word “can’t” immediately after his name. You know, things like, “Wideman can’t clear the puck from Boston’s zone.” “Wideman can’t stay on his feet as he gets burned for another goal.” And my personal favorite – “Wideman can’t believe Claude Julien is actually letting him dress for tonight’s game.”

*  And with everything Boston did wrong tonight, it still managed to pot four goals against All-World goaltender Ryan Miller. Miller’s dream season might be over, but I won’t soon forget what he did this year. His play in the Olympics showed non-hockey fans just how exciting the game can be, and I was scared to death all through the first round that he was going to shut the B’s out in every game. It’s been a pleasure, Mr. Miller.

*  Keeping Marc Savard sidelined tonight was a smart move. The Bruins managed to walk away with the series win without their top offensive playmaker, giving him even more time to get into game shape and bounce back from that disgusting concussion from earlier this year. Forcing him into action tonight was unnecessary and I’m glad the B’s recognized that too. On a personal note, I wanted to see him out there. But that’s just because he’s my Bruins man-crush.

*  I can’t take much more of Jack Edwards in the NESN broadcast booth. When the B’s finally won tonight, he dropped the following gem: “Snowball 1, Hell 0.” Jacko was trying to say that the Bruins didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting past the third-seeded Sabres, but he really just sounded like a hyperbolic asshole. Less is more, Jack. Less is more.

*  With Montreal’s win over Washington tonight, the B’s still don’t know who they’re playing in Round 2, as that series is now tied 3-3. But if the Habs find a way to beat the Caps in Game 7, the Bruins will face Philadelphia in the second round. Roll that around in your head for a while. Boston has a chance to take on the No. 7 seed – WITH HOME ICE ADVANTAGE – for the right to play in the Eastern Conference finals. I’m as shocked as you are.

I’m going to go try to calm down a little bit. Taking a few days off from the Bruins’ high-wire act should do me some good. And as always, go B’s!

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Patriots piece together 2010 draft class

Posted by Bill Koch on April 26, 2010

2010 NFL Draft

Don’t think for a second that we here at Ramble On forgot about the NFL Draft. Just because we don’t watch our blood pressure spike and start panting over 4.37 40s and 35 reps at 225 doesn’t mean that we weren’t paying attention to how the New England Patriots were continuing to rebuild their team on the fly.

Devin McCourty didn’t exactly make us warm and tingly, but New England improved as Thursday turned into Friday and Friday turned into Saturday. We’ll give the Patriots a solid B+ for their efforts, and we’ll break down some of their picks here.

Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers (1st round, 27th overall): He’s an excellent special teams player and kick returner, an area of need for New England, but excuse us if this pick doesn’t make us dread a repeat of the Chris Canty disaster in 1997. That’s not a reflection on McCourty – Canty was simply that bad during his two years in New England, and he ruined our perception of every other defensive back drafted by the Patriots. Defensive backs are handcuffed by current NFL rules which basically prohibit any sort of physical contact with wide receivers at any time. The quickest way for New England to improve its coverage is to make opposing quarterbacks look into the depths of hell thanks to an improved pass rush. The jury will stay out on this pick for the near future.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona (2nd round, 42nd overall): He comes with all the physical gifts that Daniel Graham and Ben Watson possessed – great hands, huge frame (6-foot-6, 265 pounds), surprising speed – but think about how those other two guys turned out. Were they as good as Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez or Dallas Clark? Did they have back surgery that cost them a full season of college? No and no. Still, Gronkowski appears to be a decent selection at a definite position of need.

Jermaine Cunningham, DE, Florida (2nd round, 53rd overall) and Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida (2nd round, 62nd overall): We’ll take the two Gators together, likely because New England views them as a package deal. Both were winners in college. Both played for Urban Meyer, a close friend of Bill Belichick’s who has turned Florida into the nation’s elite college program. The two men have talked strategy and philosophy on both sides of the ball, especially on defense, and Spikes in particular could end up being a steal while playing alongside fellow SEC star Jerod Mayo (Tennessee).

Aaron Hernandez, TE, Florida (4th round, 113th overall): That’s more like it. There’s no way that the Bristol, Conn., native should have been on the board at this point. Most draft experts gave Hernandez a grade that placed him somewhere in the middle of the second or start of the third round, and this is the type of value pick that the Patriots used to build their title winners. Hernandez is a matchup nightmare at a quick 250-pounds, a pure pass catcher, and will be used in the slot against overwhelmed safeties and nickel corners.

Zac Robinson, QB, Oklahoma State (7th round, 250th overall): The 6-foot-3, 218-pounder broke every Cowboys’ offensive record during his college days. He ran almost a carbon copy of the spread-influenced, empty backfield set that the Patriots employ when Kevin Faulk enters the game and New England empties all five eligible receivers into the pattern. Look for Robinson to push Brian Hoyer in the duel to replace Tom Brady when The Cover Boy finally decides to become a fulltime Earth Day spokesman.

The bottom line here is that the draft feels different in New England. The Patriots never do the sexy thing, and you’ll be waiting for the rest of your life if you want them to change the way they do things. They rarely make a splash by trading up into the top 10 or chasing a hot prospect that puts Mel Kiper’s hair out of place or brings a little color to Todd McShay’s sun-deprived cheeks. New England’s draft philosophy is a simple one – In Bill We Trust.

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Five thoughts from Game 4 of Celtics/Heat

Posted by Bill Koch on April 25, 2010

Dwyane Wade

Postpone the celebration that comes with playoff advancement for the Boston Celtics. The Miami Heat rallied to save some pride by winning Game 4 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, 101-92, on Sunday afternoon. Boston takes a healthy 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 matchup into Tuesday night’s Game 5, and the Celtics will be strong favorites to close things out at The Fake Garden. Here’s why it didn’t happen on Sunday:

*  With all due respect to Paul Pierce, Sunday should make it clear that Dwyane Wade is the best player in this series. Miami’s star poured in a game-high 46 points on an incredibly efficient 16-for-24 performance from the field, giving Heat fans a glimpse of what they’ll be missing next year if Wade does exercise his right to leave as a free agent. Sunday’s performance would be a fitting farewell if Wade decides that his toothless roster of hideous teammates in Miami isn’t going to be enough to help him win the second championship ring of his career.

*  For all its talk about trying to take care of business and sweep the Heat, the Celtics played like a team that had a 3-0 lead in the series during the opening 12 minutes on Sunday. Boston committed nine turnovers in the first quarter alone and found itself in an 18-point hole before halftime, an unfocused beginning for a team that was allegedly hoping to get things over with as soon as possible. The Celtics looked like they spent the 36 hours between Games 3 and 4 on South Beach instead of preparing to close out the Heat.

*  Speaking of focus, Boston’s miserable 16-for-27 showing at the foul line isn’t going to win any championships anytime soon. All you need to know is that Ray Allen, a career 89.4 percent shooter at the line, went 2-for-5 in the game and missed three straight in the fourth quarter with the Celtics trailing by five points. When Allen starts firing bricks down the stretch you would have to get the feeling that it’s not Boston’s day.

*  Doc Rivers continued to prove his incompetency with his random use of his bench. Big Baby Davis, who powered Boston in Game 2 with 23 points and eight rebounds in place of suspended Kevin Garnett, played just 16 minutes on Sunday and didn’t attempt a field goal. After his postseason performance last year and during the first three games of this series, Davis has to be a bigger part of the Celtics’ plans going forward. It’s clearly obvious to everyone but Rivers at this point.

*  And now we come to the obligatory part of the post where we point out what a disgraceful, overpaid, washed-up has-been Rasheed Wallace is: 1-for-5 from the field, five points, no rebounds, no assists and one personal foul in 11 minutes. The Celtics were minus-20 with the three-year, $20-million man on the floor. Thanks for that, Danny Ainge.

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Five thoughts from Game 3 of Celtics/Heat

Posted by Bill Koch on April 24, 2010

Paul Pierce

Well, well, well – look at who we have here. Are these the Boston Celtics? You’re damn right they are.

Boston’s 100-98 win over Miami in Friday night’s game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series was the Celtics’ best effort of the season. The key word there is effort – as in they made one. They gave a damn in a game where they could have gone ahead and not given a damn. Be afraid, NBA. Be very, very afraid.

*  Boston’s performance defined professionalism. Too often in the NBA, as we saw throughout the regular season from the Celtics, veteran teams mail it in. They take nights off. They don’t show up. Game 3 on the road with a 2-0 lead is a tailor-made scenario for such a letdown, but Boston refused to take the easy way out and try to steal Game 4 instead. Now the Celtics are in complete command and have both feet on Miami’s collective neck.

*  Paul Pierce is still an absolute killer. He poured in a team-high 32 points, grabbed eight rebounds and shed blood, sweat and tears for 44 minutes in a game that Boston didn’t need to win. A determined Pierce is one of the NBA’s most stubborn and unstoppable forces.

*  Dwyane Wade needs to be paroled from the jail that is the Miami roster. His teammates suck. Free agency and a trip back to his hometown of Chicago to play with the young, athletic, hungry Bulls can’t come soon enough. Wade’s prime years are being wasted surrounded by Udonis Haslem, Carlos Arroyo, The Artist Formerly Known as Jermaine O’Neal and that douchebag Quentin Richardson.

*  It took Doc Rivers 82 regular season games to realize that Rasheed Wallace is completely useless, but thank goodness he finally wised up. Less is more when it comes to Rasheed – just consider his line on Friday. He played 11 minutes, took one shot, and donated four personal fouls to Boston’s cause and the Celtics were plus-11 with him on the court. Stunning that Boston’s offense is better off when Mr. Man Boobs isn’t firing away from 26 feet.

*  The officiating in this game further reinforced why everyone thinks the fix is in. Cleveland couldn’t buy a call down the stretch during Game 3 of its series with Chicago and the same thing happened on Friday night in Miami. Boston was whistled for seven of the first eight fouls called in the fourth quarter. Were the Heat really that aggressive? Were the Celtics suddenly that hack-infested? It was borderline criminal what Bennett Salvatore and his crew of David Stern sycophants perpetrated. Boston should be ready for Dick Bavetta, Joey Crawford and another Stern stooge of choice for Game 4 to extend Wade’s time in the spotlight and ability to make the television ratings needle spike for just one more game.

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Yeah, that just happened!

Posted by bdowd625 on April 23, 2010

Paul Pierce for the win! Apparently the Celtics decided to show up for this series after all. Maybe they can just flip the switch and play well when they want to like they’ve said all season. I’m the last person that saw this coming, though. The Heat are toast, especially since Dwyane Wade’s injury didn’t look too good. Now bring on the Cavs!

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Five thoughts from Game 5 of Bruins/Sabres

Posted by bdowd625 on April 23, 2010

I guess I should’ve expected the Sabres to come out and bitchslap the Bruins tonight, but it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. Desperation is a powerful tool and Buffalo was certainly desperate tonight. The Sabres played like it, limiting the B’s to one meaningless goal in garbage time of a 4-1 victory. I’m still confident Boston can win this series, but it just got a lot more interesting. And now onto my five thoughts from Game 5.

*  Ryan Miller looked like the goalie we’ve all grown accustomed to this season. Not that the Bruins put any significant pressure on him, but when he was tested he was as good as ever. Sabres fans must be feeling pretty good now that their netminder is back in his groove.

*  It felt like the Sabres blocked about 100 shots tonight. I don’t remember the puck getting through to Miller until like the third period. Mike Grier took one right off the dome piece and returned to the ice minutes later. Now that’s badass.

*  How come goalies are considered untouchable during the flow of play, but when a fight breaks out they can mix it up and throw haymakers with everyone else? Either you’re tough enough to have someone skate into the crease and bump into you or you’re not. But don’t jump in when a fight breaks out and then expect the other team to get whistled for goaltender interference when you get a little ice shot up into your grill. And yes, I’m talking about Mr. Miller.

*  The Bruins’ power play is just atrocious. Not only do they not put enough shots on net, but they very rarely keep the puck in the other team’s end. Marc Savard can’t come back soon enough.

*  Correct me if I’m wrong, Sabres fans, but do they normally play Sweet Caroline at HSBC Arena at the end of games? Or was that just to stick it to the Bruins and their fans? I don’t even like that damn song, but can’t you come up with something better to taunt us with than the eighth-inning song from Fenway Park? You live in Buffalo for God’s sake – it’s not like you have anything else to do.

I’m already pumped up for Game 6, I just wish I didn’t have to wait until Monday. Oh well. Go B’s!!

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