Last week, I previewed the NHL’s Eastern Conference. Today Ie’ll give you my playoff teams in the Western Conference, two divisions with seven teams each:
1. Chicago Blackhawks – The nucleus of the team, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Pat Sharp and top defenders Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, is all back. Solid goaltending in Corey Crawford and backup Nikolai Khabibulin. Young and talented.
2. St Louis Blues – Top goaltending in Jaraslov Halak and Brian Elliott. Jay Bouwmeester was a huge late season pickup and anchors a solid defence with Alex Pietrangelo. Veteran forwards Derek Roy and Brenden Morrow will fit nicely with Patrick Berglund, Vlad Sobotka, T.J. Oshie, Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko. A hungry hockey team.
3. Minnesota Wild – Enough talent to challenge for the top spot. Lots of skill in Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Dany Heatley and the addition of Jason Pominville. Goaltender Nik Backstrom is a good one and Ryan Suter leads a solid defence. Playoffs for sure.
4. Winnipeg Jets – The Jets just missed the playoffs, and this year they make post-season play. Solid goaltender in Ondrej Pavelec and a great corps in Evander Kane, Devin Setoguchi, Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler. Make the playoffs outright or a wild card.
Missing out – Colorado, Nashville and Dallas.
1. L.A. Kings – Best goalie in the conference in Jonathan Quick and a terrific cast of forwards in Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown plus top defenceman Drew Doughty. Tough division but should be in top spot.
2. San Jose Sharks – Another West Conference team with first-class goaltending in Antti Niemi and all-star defenceman in Dan Boyle. Defenceman Brent Burns has moved to the forward ranks, which also boasts Joe Thornton, Pat Marleau and Joe Pavelski. Youngsters Tomas Hertl, who has already scored six goals including four against the Rangers this week, and Boston U standout Matt Nieto has Sharks fans thinking Stanley Cup. No worse than second.
3. Anaheim Ducks – Goalie Jonas Hiller, forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry plus up-and-coming defenceman Cam Fowler are keys to a solid hockey club. Playoffs or a wild card.
4. Vancouver Canucks – Best days are behind the Canucks. On the down side of the mountain now. Unfortunately new coach John Tortorella believes his offensive stars should be blocking shots. Hard pressed to make the playoffs.
5. Edmonton Oilers – A lot of high draft picks, a terrible defence and a management team that still thinks after five years it knows what it is doing. On the outside looking in again.
Missing out – Phoenix and Calgary.
The World Series is just around the corner and the winner of the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers series will represent the National League against the American League winner which could be Boston Red Sox who are rested and waiting for Detroit.
The Tigers downed Oakland 3-0 Thursday night but had to use ace Justin Verlander, which means he gets only two starts against Boston if that.
In other baseball news, the Toronto Blue Jays fired batting coach Chad Mottola, who did such great work with Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus. If someone must go, why not the pitching coach or inept manager John Gibbons?
GM Alex Anthopoulos is going to rely on Gibbons to name the next batting coach. Isn’t that reassuring?
It’s Atlantic Breeders Crown weekend in Charlottetown so that means live harness racing today at 1 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at the city track.
Today there are 14 races and four are Breeders Crown $5,000 consolations for two- and three-year-old pacing colts and fillies. Sunday the Breeders Crown championship card starts at
1 p.m. with the following on the agenda: the two-year-old Breeders Crown trotters and the three-year-old trotters go for $7,000 while the two-year-old colts and fillies go for $22,000 each. The sophomore colts and fillies also race for $22,000.
In addition, the card also features the Meridian Farms-sponsored Island Pacing Championship at $10,700 and the open mares at $2,200. It is a terrific card, which will decide in some cases, year-end division honours.
Also, the Breeders Crown eliminations go at Pocono tonight which will be simulcast at Red Shores Charlottetown and Summerside. Bolt The Duer (Mark MacDonald) has drawn the outside nine-hole in the older horses division while Warrawee Needy (Jody Jamieson) has the rail.
Last week’s winner in the rain in Kentucky, Golden Receiver, leaves from Post 7. The first seven in the field return next week to meet Pet Rock for the championship. There should be lots of interest in the three-year-old elimination at Pocono where Vegas Vacation and Captain Treacherous are in together.
The Atlantic Classic yearling sale went Friday in Crapaud and, hopefully, it was a good sale for all consigners and breeders. Last week’s Lexington Sale was up 10 per cent. Casie Coleman collared six or so yearlings, including a pair by Sportswriter and a pair by Betters Delight, the sire of Jug winner Vegas Vacation.
The yearling sale in Truro is two weeks away. See you at the track.
Heading into Week 6 there are three unbeaten NFL teams, including the Kansas City Chiefs, and four winless teams, two of them New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Here are four picks I suggest you jump all over.
Indianapolis (4-1) at San Diego (2-3) – Just when you think the Chargers are for real, they come up with a stinker like last week at Oakland. Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck is a superstar and his team is for real. The Chargers are the Chargers, up and down, hot and cold. The spread is just 1.5 if you like the Colts, that spread is a gift.
Cincinnati (3-2) at Buffalo (2-3) – Here are two more inconsistent teams. The Bengals beat the New England Patriots last week and Cam Newton was less than inspiring. The Bills are without E.J. Manuel and Thad Lewis gets the start. Who is Thad Lewis? Maybe they mean Frank Lewis. Cincinnati wins by default, so take the seven points and jump aboard the Ohio team’s bandwagon.
Washington (1-3) at Dallas (2-3) – This should be a high-scoring game as neither team has done much defensively. The Cowboys scored 48 points and lost to Denver Broncos. Tony Romo has limited his turnovers, only two so far, and the Cowboys are dangerous for any team. They’ll score plenty against Washington and they’ll win by more than six points, which is the spread.
St Louis Rams (2-3) at Houston (2-3) – The Texans are a much, much, much better club than their record indicates. Quarterback Matt Schaub has had four picks returned for TDs in four straight games and badly needs a big rebound game. This is it. The Rams have a weak secondary, so time for the Texans to take advantage. This looks like the Sports Prophet’s four-for-four week.
As always, pay the mortgage first, the picks are for fun.
Fred MacDonald’s column appears every
Saturday in The Guardian. To comment,