For a game that has been rescheduled, the Bruins-Senators game at TD Garden tonight will not only determine who will win the Northeast Division, but it will also determine the other three series matchups in the Eastern Conference.
Of course, the game had to be rescheduled due to the tragedy at the Boston Marathon. For the Bruins, every game has been crucial to shake off the Montreal Canadiens and win the division with a tight schedule. After blowing a 2-0 lead to the Washington Capitals and falling in overtime 3-2, the Bruins moved back to the number four seed and the Habs took over the number two seed after easily beating the Maple Leafs in Toronto Saturday night.
For the Leafs and Canadiens and everyone in eastern Canada, it could be the first time since 1979 that these would meet in a playoff series. If that's the case, a Bruins win would create a four-five series between the two.
Not only will it determine whether these two meet in the postseason for the first time in over three decades, it will determine who the Penguins, Senators, and Islanders will play as well. The Penguins have had the number one see locked up for almost two weeks. All they could do during this final week of games was watch and see where everyone landed.
The only series in the East that has been set is the Capitals and Rangers. The other series will be determined by the following scenarios:
(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (8) Ottawa Senators
Happens if: Bruins win, Ottawa loses in regulation
(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (8) New York Islanders
Happens if: Ottawa wins in regulation, overtime or shootout
(2) Boston Bruins vs. (7) New York Islanders
Happens If: Boston wins in regulation, overtime or a shootout.
(2) Montreal Canadiens vs. (7) Ottawa Senators
Happens If: Ottawa wins. Even if Boston gets a point, they lose the tiebreaker.
(4) Montreal Canadiens vs. (5) Toronto Maple Leafs
Happens If: Boston wins
(4) Boston Bruins vs. (5) Toronto Maple Leafs
Happens If: Boston losses, even in overtime or a shootout.
If you are not tuned into the NBA Playoffs, then turn on NBC Sports Network for what should be a good game. The Senators will try to avoid playing Pittsburgh in the first round, and the Bruins want home ice for another round if they were to advance.
Forensic investigations, red scarfs, a columnist and his private area? All of this went down in Ottawa last night as the Pittsburgh Penguins walked into a circus at Scotiabank Place.
The crowd was ready to boo and verbally abuse Matt Cooke, whose accidental hit on Erik Karlsson resulted in a sliced achilles tendon. It was an atmosphere created by Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, who took it upon himself to go "CSI" on Cooke and prove his guilt through a forensic investigation. Yes, the owner. Canada's crazier version of Mark Cuban.
As the evening continued, the atmosphere seemed to affect everyone in the great white north's capital city.
You already had the "Red Scarf Union," a very intimidating fan club name that must make "The Black Hole" in Oakland shake in their boots, leading the charge of the hate fest.
Assistant captain Chris Neil, who took offense to what happened to Karlsson back in February, looked to reel Cooke into a fight. It didn't work and after Neil said hello to the Penguins resident goon Steve McIntyre and backed down, things began to calm down. The trumpet guy was an exception. Kept tooting his horn until the final one at the end of the game.
Chris Neil took what anyone would consider a cheap shot on Simon Despres. The Ottawa Senators twitter account didn't see it that way. They actually pronounced Neil a #LocalHero and decided to make train noses in their hashtags. Did Melynk hijack the account last night?
It took Ottawa a while to start playing as a team, but too little too late as they lost to the Penguins B-Team 3-1, in a game where it was critical to get two points. Instead the Senators bought into the hype that their owner created and in the end, they could find themselves having a harder road to the Stanley Cup, and most likely playing a healthy Penguins squad in the first round a week from now.
After the game, you would've thought the Matt Cooke shots would stop. Well, one Ottawa columnist, Don Brennan, thought it was appropriate to bring attention to an issue bothering him, regarding what Cooke had to say about his privates. You know, because we expect sports columnists to write about that. Then again, the Ottawa Sun is about as professional as The Enquirer. Anything to grab the readers attention and get us to click on the link. Which we did, and we are ashamed we gave their site a hit.
I think Josh Yohe, one of the Penguins beat writers, summed it up best as the day ended in Ottawa.
It was probably the Brennan column that tops off the "bizarre" day Yohe and other Penguin writers had in Ottawa.
So to sum it up. The Senators forgot about what was most important: Winning the game. Instead they bought into the Red Scarf Brigade and Eugene Melnyk's arranging of a "Matt Cooke Hate Fest." Of all the people in an organization, you would think that the owner would have one of the cooler heads in a situation that has been a scab Melnyk has picked at for over two months? Nope, instead he kept bringing it up.
If the Senators miss the playoffs, everyone will look back at this game from Monday and say that's where everything came apart in the final week. Melnyk won't take any heat. Bryan Murray and Paul MacLean will be there to take all the criticism for the Sens collapse if it were to happen.
When Eugene Melnyk gets the results back from the lab, tell him to give me a call. I'll be standing by with David Caruso.
Move over Ann Arbor, you're not the only town in North America that's having an outdoor game this season.
It's not two, not three, not four, but six outdoor games that will be played within a period between New Years Day thru March 2. The other five games will be played at Yankee Stadium, Dodger Stadium, Soldier Field and B.C. Place in Vancouver.
Adding more outdoor games will have it's positive impacts. I understand this. The local economies will enjoy the boost, especially New York, who will host two of the outdoor games and then the Super Bowl will be played at MetLife Stadium a few weeks later. Some of the teams playing in these games have already played in a Winter Classic game. The exposure should be a positive for the league. Hopefully NBC is smart to put these games on their main network, and not on the NBC Sports Network, where it will be lost in the mix of cable television. One of these games will be played on a Wednesday, so we'll see.
Now, I might be in the minority with this idea, but doesn't it seem like the NHL is pushing the outdoor game idea a little too much with this?
Since 2008, the idea of an annual outdoor regular season game was a gamble when Buffalo hosted Pittsburgh at Ralph Wilson Stadium in a cold, snowy game in front of a sellout crowd. The setting that everyone was hoping for. It even had a great ending, with Sidney Crosby scoring the game-winning shootout goal against Ryan Miller as the snow fell. Despite a few ice problems, the game received positive reception.
Every summer since, big hockey cities across the country hope to hear that their city will be the one to host the event. A sport with a regional following, big hockey cities like Pittsburgh, Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia have hosted the game. In ballparks and football stadium. In cold, snowy weather and mild, rainy conditions, the games ratings have gone up every year.
HBO's "24/7" series has followed the teams for a month leading up to the big event since the 2011 game. The series has offered positive and sometimes negative exposure for players and coaches on the different teams. Either way, the audience for hockey gets a little bigger.
The 2014 Winter Classic, which will be held at Michigan Stadium with Detroit taking on Toronto, will be the highlight game of the season and of the outdoor games, but if the NHL were to continue to play multiple outdoor games in 2015 and beyond, will it kill the excitement for what would have been the annual outdoor game on New Years Day?
They say that too much of a good thing could be a bad thing. While many will love the idea that more than two teams will get to play outside, especially playing a game at Dodger Stadium (maybe they can persuade to let Vin Scully do play-by-play), the annual event that is the Winter Classic might not mean the same to hockey fans and non traditional fans. Will HBO scrap the "24/7" documentary or will they make an extended series covering all these games?
Like back in the fall of 2007, the NHL is taking another chance at a big event. This time, they will put on six outdoor games, and not the one on New Years Day that they always hope will go off without any problems. All the games should sell out, and there will be a lot of buzz around them, especially since New York will make it a week long event.
Of course, they'll be under six times as much pressure to make it all work. Days leading up to the game in Los Angeles should be interesting. The ability to keep the ice conditions decent might be challenged if it rains on game day with temperatures in the sixties and maybe near seventy. Even the weather in Chicago in March is unpredictable.
I enjoy outdoor hockey games. I attended the Penguins-Capitals Winter Classic at Heinz Field back in 2011. My view was not that great, it rained for half the game and Crosby took a hit that would eventually sideline him for almost a year. Regardless, it was a great experience. Anyone who has been to an outdoor game will tell you that. I would have killed to have seen the games in person at Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. I've seen baseball games at these places, so I know I would love to see a hockey game there too.
Other than the lockout cancelling the 2013 game, the ability for the NHL to keep the Winter Classic going as an annual event has been an accomplishment.
The Heritage Classic game, first held in 2003 between the Oilers and Canadiens was the first modern day, regular season outdoor game. It did not become a yearly tradition in Canada and did not happen again until 2011 when Montreal played the Flames in Calgary in, like it is in Canada in February, bone-chilling cold, which is also rough on the ice conditions.
The inability to keep the Heritage Classic going as an annual event was disappointing. It would be disappointing to see the young tradition of the Winter Classic come to an end because the NHL scheduled too many outdoor games.
Everyone's heart went out to Louisville sophomore Kevin Ware after he suffered a horrific leg injury in the Elite Eight on Easter Sunday on national television. Ware was motivation for the Cardinals as they beat Duke and advanced to the Final Four. Ware was in attendance at the Georgia Dome, which everyone expected and no doubt it was a morale boost for his teammates as they came back from 12 points down in the second half to beat Wichita State.
The coverage of Kevin Ware during the game is what many people expected it to be. Those key moments, including the final minute of the game, when Ware could not bear to watch the final seconds as they hung on to win.
Some of you might say that I am being too hard on Kevin Ware and the coverage he is getting. There are a few things that other people have been doing that bothers me. Adidas had been making money off of Ware's injury until Friday when they stopped selling those t-shirts and realized it might not be a good idea. Since it was a nationally televised game, we all saw the injury live, on instant replay and on YouTube. The worst injury since Theisman broke his leg on Monday Night Football.
Every non-sports news TV program showed the video and discussed it. For columnists and members of the media, the number of interest stories escalated after his injury.
Now, Kevin Ware is not asking for this attention. He has actually been very reserved about it. They say that he is a shy kid, and that might be playing a role in how he has been over the past week.
So, do we put it on CBS and other media outlets for adding on to this story?
It's the same thing for any network and any sport that is being covered. CBS was guilty of Ray Lewis over-coverage throughout the Ravens playoff run earlier this year. You need a good story, and Kevin Ware has given you one for Louisville (other than Pitino).
You'll hear a lot about Pitino's great week, which includes an induction into the College Basketball Hall of Fame, his son getting the Minnesota job, and his horse making bank, but if the Cardinals win, they'll bring out a hydraulic scissor-lift to get Ware up to the basket to cut the net and it will be the end of a great story for Louisville. Pitino makes history and Ware's inspiration for his team has Hollywood writing up drafts for a movie.
Like I mentioned before, Ware at least is a humble person unlike Ray Lewis, who we had to watch preach and make a spectacle of himself in front of the camera round after round as the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII back in February. So I will feel good for Ware, Pitino and the Cardinals if they win.
It's a dream finish for the producers at CBS and every sports writer who covers college basketball. Louisville might have a "30 for 30" special made for them. But the biggest crime these producers and writers can be found guilty of is exploiting Ware's injury for ratings and readers.
Here's an activity for you to keep you alert during the game tonight. Count the number of times CBS mentions Kevin Ware and how many times they show him on camera. You hope that the coverage can be evenly split between Michigan and Louisville. Hours before tip-off, Pitino and Ware give the Cardinals an early lead in the coverage.
But I wish Ware the best in his rehabilitation and I hope that he is back ready for the start of the season.