There is a lot on the line this weekend in sports. Playoff series are in the balance, and a horse goes for history. Will the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors meet in the NBA Finals for the third year in a row? It sure looks like it. Always Dreaming will have stiff competition, but won’t have a lot of that Preakness Stakes. If he can fend off the competition he’ll be that much closer to accomplishing the goal of winning the Triple Crown.
Nashville Predators vs. Anaheim Ducks – Game 4 @ Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN, 5/18
The new kids on the block are taking over. The Nashville Predators have made their presence felt in the Western Conference Finals. Their back and forth affairs with the Anaheim Ducks has them leading the series 2-1, but they’ll like their chances in the raucous Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
The Preds are playing complete, complimentary hockey and as a result they are one of the toughest teams to beat right now. Trading for P.K. Subban in the offseason has proven to be one of the best moves of the year for any team in the NHL. Pekka Rinne had a few hiccups in Game 2, but he has been solid in net to round out the defensive effort for Nashville. The X-factor for the Predators is definitely their home crowd. The city has never experienced anything like this with their hockey team, and are embracing the experience fully. Even the Tennessee Titans made an appearance to support Nashville, showing the team that everyone is behind them. The deafening noise took Anaheim out of their game in Game 3, will the veterans respond tonight?
Stanley Cup Champions are not afraid of a little noise, right? Led by Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler and Corey Perry, the Ducks are the most experienced trio left in the playoffs. They are still playing at a high level in to their 30s, and will be up for the challenge tonight. They are also ushering in the next star in Anaheim. Jakob Silfverberg has already scored nine goals this postseason, and when the Ducks need a big play, they look for Silfverberg. His 13 points in 14 games is just more evidence that he will not shy away from the pressure that will be present in tonight’s game.
Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers – Game 2 @ TD Garden in Boston, MA, 5/19
Can the King be dethroned? LeBron James has had his fair share of career defining moments in the TD Garden. Some were negative, but others were some of the best games that the league has ever seen. The Boston Celtics franchise has been the biggest thorn in LeBron’s side, and any chance he gets to exact revenge on the team, he is keen on taking advantage of it.
Look no further than last night. LeBron put on another virtuoso performance going up against an emotionally drained Boston team. 38 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists later, the Cavs took an easy 117-104 win in Game 1. When James is on point he is all about attacking the rim. In the first quarter of Game 1, he went to the rim seven times and scored every time.
No matter the defender, James imposed his will and would not be denied. Kyrie Irving had a sub par game, but Kevin Love was there to step up in his place. Back to his sharpshooting ways, Love capitalized on numerous open looks, and shot 66% from 3-point range. He finished with 32 and 12, his best playoff performance in a Cavs uniform.
The Celtics will still have Game 2 at home, and they will be tasked with ratcheting up their intensity if they wish to stay in the series. Isaiah Thomas was undoubtedly frustrated. He will come out with a much more positive attitude in Game 2 as the leader of the team. As for his supporting cast it is all about making open shots. Al Horford had a forgettable game, but is more than capable of turning it around. Marcus Smart will need to keep his emotions in check as he fouled out of Game 1. Look for Gerald Green to step in to a bigger role for the Celtics on Friday night as well. His active defense and rhythm on offense gave the Celtics some hope late in the game, but it was already too far out of reach.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Golden State Warriors – Game 3 @ AT&T Center in San Antonio, TX, 5/20
Oh, how things have changed in the span of six quarters. During the first half of Game 1, the Spurs were humming on offense and defense. Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs were primed to steal Game 1 at the toughest building to play in the NBA. After building a 20-point lead at halftime, Leonard re injured his ankle at two various points in the second half. The NBA world has been buzzing about the supposed dirty play by Zaza Pachulia that took Kawhi out of Game 1 and kept him out of Game 2.
As a result, the Warriors made quick work of the Spurs without their leader in Game 2. The game itself, was never close and the Warriors protected home court with ease. The series shifts to San Antonio, and it is now time for the San Antonio home crowd to make their presence felt. With four days between games, Leonard will have plenty of time to come back healthy. Additionally, the role players for San Antonio need to step up to help protect home court. Patty Mills, Pau Gasol and Jonathan Simmons are capable of reaching a much higher level of play, but that is easier said than done against the Warriors.
If Kawhi can get back on track, the Spurs have the talent to right the ship. However, the avalanche of talent that the Warriors possess could easily propel them to a sweep. Tune in on Saturday night to see which way the momentum will swing.
Ottawa Senators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins – Game 4 @ Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Canada, 5/19
It is hard to call Game 4 of any series a must win, but with a trip to the Stanley Cup on the line the Pittsburgh Penguins could be in trouble. Down 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals, the defending champs have struggled against the Ottawa Senators. The Pens have been outscored 7-3 in this series. A goal a game is not going to cut it at this point in this season.
The trouble started early and often for Pittsburgh in Game 3. Marc Andre Fleury was quickly pulled in favor of Matt Murray after letting up four goals on nine shots. Although, it is almost impossible to come back from a four goal deficit, the Pens need to get better on offense as well. The leaders of the team have yet to step up. All-stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have been stifled by the team defense of the Senators. However, the star of the show has been Craig Anderson.
The Senators goalie has notched 80 saves through three games, and looks more like a brick wall than a goalie at this point. In front of him, Erik Karlsson and Dion Phaneuf have built a rapport on the defensive end. Kyle Turris led the team in scoring in the regular season, but offseason acquisition Bobby Ryan is finally coming in to his own just in time. The Senators cannot get complacent against a team as skilled
142nd Running of the Preakness Stakes @ Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, MD, 5/20
And they’re off! The second leg of the Triple Crown is going down this weekend at the Preakness Stakes. The stakes are only increasing for Always Dreaming, and all eyes will be on him at Pimlico Race Course.
His biggest competition will come from the horse to the right and left of him. Classic Empire was pegged as a favorite heading in to the Kentucky Derby, but faded early and was not heard from throughout the race. However, he comes in with 4-1 odds and will look to rebound. Hence is a horse that will be slotted in Post 3. These three horses should all be competing for breathing room out of the gates, and should be the early leaders if they want a chance to win. On the outside, Lookin At Lee has a favorable post and should have no trouble getting to the front from Post 9 to join the other three horses.
The track and the field in general are other obstacles that each horse will have to face. Pimlico is a much narrower and shorter track. Getting the outside lane on a turn is not always more beneficial because of this factor. Also, the home stretch is much shorter, making a late comeback harder to pull off.
The ten-horse field has its pros and cons for the favorite. Some will come in rested while Always Dreaming will have less competition as he tries to accomplish one of the hardest feats in sport. Tune in Saturday at 6:45 p.m. or find tickets here!