Friday, May 22, 2009

Playoff thoughts - NBA, NHL, and AFC Champions League

The sports world grinds on and it looks like a rematch with Pittsburgh and Detroit in the NHL, while the NBA might actually have an upset or even two in the semi-finals. I'd love to see Denver and Orlando in the finals here, if only so I won't have to listed to any more Kobe vs. LeBron stuff, although I doubt it will happen as the NBA has a way of getting their favoured match-ups.

Go Nuggets

I saw the Nuggets play Oklahoma City back in April, and they won handily, but I wasn't impressed by their defense. I didn't think they'd make it this far, but they are now just 3 wins away from the finals, and I'm cheering for them. I think that they let up against the Thunder in what was essentially a meaningless game, and they put on an offensive show for the fans. But when the playoffs rolled around, they stepped it up. Obviously in a sport like basketball, you can't judge an entire team from one performance, and Denver fooled me. I hope that by publicly supporting them, I don't jinx the Nuggets like I did the Canucks (update: I did).

In the East, Cleveland lost a tough one to Orlando, although the ending of close basketball games is so anti-climatic with all the fouls and time-outs and commercials. I'll never understand the logic that a team should commit an infraction to increase their chances of coming from behind, to me it's the biggest flaw in basketball (except for the officiating). Sure, free-throw shooting is part of the game, but it just kills the flow of the game.

Oilers-Penguins comparison

Returning to the NHL, I heard an interesting stat on TSN's broadcast today (I love streaming!). No team that lost the Stanley Cup Finals has made it past the first round in the following season since Dallas in 2001. You have to go even further back to find a team that made it to the semi-finals after losing the Final the year before. That was in 1996, when Detroit lost to eventual champion Colorado a year after being swept by the Devils. The Red Wings recovered though and won the next two Stanley Cups. And it's been 25 years since a losing team returned to the finals - that was when the Edmonton Oilers avenged their defeat at the hands of the Islanders back in 1984, which started their 5-cup dynasty.

The similarities between the 2009 Penguins and 1984 Oilers are noticeable. A young superstar (Crosby/Gretzky), a scoring machine (Kurri/Malkin) playing with an incredibly talented nucleus who are changing the game. Their defense may be occasionally suspect as it was today against Carolina, but the offense seems capable of picking up the slack in any game.

If Pittsburgh faces Detroit in the finals, look for a lot of "Passing the Torch" stories comparing this year to the 25th anniversary of the Oilers wresting the Stanley Cup from the Islanders.

AFC Champions League

My adopted J League team, Kawasaki Frontale lost a tough game to Korean side Pohang Steelers on Tuesday, causing them to finish in second place in Group H. This means they have to play their first elimination game on the road, and they travel south to face fellow J Leaguers Gamba Osaka in what will be a tough match, to be played on June 24th. I'd like to go and make it a sports weekend in Kansai, but I'll be back in Ottawa visiting family at that time. But don't worry, I'll make sure to post the result here as I know everyone will be just dying to know what happens.



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