2012 MLB Predictions

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This post won’t be long. I just wanted to get a few predictions for the Major League Baseball season on record so I can seem super smart when they come true or pretend they didn’t happen when they don’t. Here’s my divisional predictions:

American League:

East: 1. Yankees, 2. Rays, 3. Red Sox, 4. Blue Jays, 5. Orioles

Central: 1. Tigers, 2. Indians, 3. White Sox, 4. Royals, 5. Twins

West: 1. Rangers, 2. Angels, 3. Mariners, 4. Athletics

Wild Card winners: Rays, Angels

MVP: Evan Longoria

Cy Young: David Price

Rookie of the Year: Jesus Montero

National League:

East: 1. Nationals, 2. Phillies, 3. Braves, 4. Marlins, 5. Mets

Central: 1. Cardinals, 2. Reds, 3. Brewers, 4. Cubs, 5. Pirates, 6. Astros

West: 1. Rockies, 2. Giants, 3. Diamondbacks, 4. Dodgers, 5. Padres

Wild Card winners: Phillies, Reds

MVP: Ryan Zimmerman

Cy Young: Zack Greinke

Rookie of the Year: Drew Pomeranz

World Series: Rays over Cardinals

A couple of other random thoughts:

-Of the two biggest divisional favorites, the Tigers and Phillies, at LEAST one won’t win their division. As you can see above, I’m picking the Phillies as that team. I’m high on Washington, but don’t sleep on the Indians in the AL Central, either.

-Every year there’s one or two “sleeper” teams that fail to live up to expectations. In the American League, it will be the Blue Jays, who are still a year away. In the National League, it will be the Marlins.

-Both the Cubs and White Sox will be better than people think. Both will be close enough to contention by July that it will make the trade deadline very, very interesting.

-I always buy into the Rockies and this year is no different. I think Tulo and CarGo stay healthy all year and the pitching staff has a lot of good, young talent.

-The Diamondbacks will be the division winner from last year that is the biggest disappointment. They’ll regress back to the means after overachieving last season.

-The race between the Rangers and Angels will be FAR more interesting than the AL East race. The Red Sox will finish closer in the standings to fourth-place Toronto than second-place New York.

-Mike Trout will be called up in Los Angeles by the end of June and do really, really well, contending for the AL Rookie of the Year award.

-Bryce Harper will be called up by Washington at some point and not perform incredibly well.

-Carlos Santana of Cleveland and Eric Hosmer of Kansas City will both have big enough seasons that they will garner MVP votes.

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Feeling underwhelmed: My Academy Awards predictions

I felt a lot like George Valentin does here while watching this year's Best Picture nominees.

(While I haven’t updated this blog in nine months, I found the need to get my opinions out about the upcoming Academy Awards for the approximately zero of you who care, and this is the only place I have to document them.  So here there are).

I love the Academy Awards and I don’t really know why.

I understand it’s mostly nonsense. I hate the Grammy’s. The Emmy’s always make me furious. And while the Academy Awards is largely no different than those two, I love it. Never mind that virtually every category is decided by rich, old white guys, the Oscar’s are no less exciting to me.

I don’t really remember when I started being such an Oscar’s nut. The first one I remember watching with a real knowledge of the nominated films was in 2005 when Million Dollar Baby beat out rightful winner Sideways in the final year of the Academy’s seemingly everlasting blowjob to Clint Eastwood (it has since ceased with the felating).

The following year was what really hooked me, however, as underdog Crash, which was my favorite film of the year and is still one of my favorite moves, upset Brokeback Mountain, while my favorite actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, beat the pants off of Joaquin Phoenix and his Johnny Cash impersonation to win best actor for his work in Capote. 

Yes, in 2006 all was right in the world of Oscar lunacy, at least in my eyes. And ever since I’ve taken it upon myself to see every major category nomination ahead of time regardless of the (maybe sometimes illegal?) measures I must take to do so.

What follows is my breakdown of what are considered the eight major Academy Awards categories. (Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Director, Adapted Screenplay and Original Screenplay). I’ll do a small (sometimes big) summary of each category followed by my predictions for who will win and who I think should win. Enjoy.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees:

Hugo
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Moneyball
The Descendants
The Ides of March

Best Adapted Screenplay has always been a strange category for me because I kind of feel like you need to have read the original work to rightfully be an expert on the subject, something I’m quite certain almost none of the Academy’s voters have done. (The only one I’ve read is Moneyball, and that was several years ago).

The Descendants comes in as a strong favorite (all betting odds courtesy of the Bovada sports book), and it makes sense considering the Academy has loved everything George Clooney has done over the past five years. Clooney was previously nominated for an original screenplay in 2006 for Good Night, and Good Luck, but this is the first time he’s nominated for adapting a screenplay (which he shares credit with Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon).

The only of the remaining four films that could contend is Moneyball, which has the names Steven Zaillian (won for Schindler’s List) and Aaron Sorkin (won for The Social Network) attached to it. Having read Moneyball, I remember being flabbergasted when I found out they were making a movie out of the book. It just didn’t seem to make any sense. Well, Zaillian and Sorkin somehow made sense of it.

Will win: The Descendants

Should win: Moneyball

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees:

The Artist
Margin Call

Bridesmaids
A Separation
Midnight in Paris

As a writer, this is always my favorite category because of the immense amount of creativity it takes to write a screenplay and because so few seem to have the talent to do so. Unfortunately, Charlie Kaufman is once again absent from this list as he has been every year since 2004 (although he should have been nominated in 2008 for Synecdoche, New York. Still bitter about this. But at least he has two projects currently in the works, according to his IMDb profile. OK, enough ranting).

I was thrilled to see my favorite move of the year, A Separation (more on this later), among the nominees, as well as the extremely funny Bridesmaids, extremely clever Midnight in Paris and extremely underrated Margin Call. (Yes, that’s THREE extremely’s).

Unfortunately, none of those movies stand a chance as I have a feeling Sunday night is going to be an all-out The Artist love-fest. (“It’s just so unique and original and new and different!”)

Sigh.

It’s highly unlikely a slapstick comedy or foreign film wins this award, and nobody besides me saw Margin Call, so the only chance of an upset in this category is with Midnight in Paris only because the Academy loves Woody Allen. Could it happen? Possibly. Will it? Not likely.

Will win: The Artist

Should win: A Separation

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees:

Bérénice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer, The Help

On paper, this appears to be Octavia Spencer’s award to lose as she is a heavy favorite over the other four. However, Jessica Chastain’s inclusion makes things a lot more interesting. While both performances in The Help were great and deserving of nominations, it’s not farfetched to think two nominees from the same film could result in a split vote, leaving the door open for Bérénice Bejo or, in a huge upset (think: Marisa Tomei for My Cousin Vinny), Melissa McCarthy, whose nomination is a victory in its own right for comedic performances.

But while that seems all fine and dandy in make-believe world, the truth is Spencer’s performance outshines the other four and it’s hard to imagine Chastain takes enough votes away from her to steal the title. Parade, meet rain.

Will win: Octavia Spencer

Should win: Spencer

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees:

Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Like Spencer, this award is Christopher Plummer’s to lose. Unlike Spencer, there’s no way in hell anyone pulls an upset. Grantland’s Mark Harris wrote in January that the character Plummer plays in Beginners — a dying gay dad — “For the Oscar’s, that like hitting BAR BAR BAR on the slots.”

He’s right, but aside from the sentimentality of his expected win, it’s also a far better performance than any of the other four nominees. While it’s awesome that the man who once played chess with death is nominated for an Oscar 55 years after that performance, Extremely Loud Bland & Incredibly Close Sappy wasn’t very good and von Sydow is barely on screen and doesn’t speak.

Will win: Christopher Plummer

Should win: Plummer

Best Actress

Nominees:

Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn

Best Actress is usually my least-favorite category to ponder because it usually has the least amount of drama. I always feel like either A) They struggle to find five performances good enough to fill out the ballot, B) There’s already a clear-cut favorite, C) Meryl Streep is going to win, or D) Both B and C.

This year couldn’t be more different.

While Streep is on the ballot (and deservingly so), there is no clear-cut favorite and all five performances were extraordinary. The complete opposite of the Best Actor category (more on that later).

From what the oddsmakers say, this race is between Streep and Viola Davis. The crazy thing is that you could make a legitimate argument  for any of the five nominees and I will attempt to do so now.

When breaking down acting performances there are two factors I weigh more heavily than anything else. One is how blown away by the performance I was when I first saw it. The other is the level of difficulty it took to play that character.

I will list the order in which I was blown away in descending order from least blown away by her performance to most blown away. (Get your mind out of the gutter).

5) Rooney Mara, 4) Glenn Close, 3) Viola Davis, 2) Meryl Streep, 1) Michelle Williams.

Here is the level of difficulty it took to play these characters, listed in the same way:

5) Close, 4) Davis, 3) Mara, 2) Williams, 1) Streep.

Now, if you add up the number in which I ranked them you get:

Close – 9
Mara – 8
Davis – 7
Williams – 3
Streep – 3

The difference between Streep and Williams and the other other three, of course, is that Streep and Williams played historical figures. That can affect their standings in the race both positively and negatively. Positively in that the level of difficulty goes up, but negatively in that it’s really hard to be believable to people who are incredibly familiar with either Margaret Thatcher or Marilyn Monroe.

In both Streep’s and Williams’ case, they succeeded in my eyes because they had me completely forgetting it was them on the screen and instead was immersed in the worlds of both Thatcher and Monroe, respectively.

But while the level of difficulty between these two is virtually identical, the tiebreaker for me is that I was completely blown away by Williams as Monroe, and while Streep was magnificent, it didn’t capture me in quite the same way.

I know this award is going to either Streep or Davis, but dammit if Williams doesn’t deserve it.

Will win: Viola Davis

Should win: Michelle Williams

Best Actor

Nominees:

Demián Bichir, A Better Life
George Clooney, The Descendants
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Remember a few paragraphs ago when I said that every single Best Actress performance blew me away? Well, the exact opposite happened from the Best Actor nominees. Gary Oldman was virtually invisible, Jean Dujardin didn’t talk and Brad Pitt was, well, Brad Pitt, only he happened to operate a baseball team.

Dujardin is the favorite hear with George Clooney coming in a close second and, all joking aside, Dujardin does a very serviceable job seeing as how he doesn’t speak. Clooney’s character had more depth and what The Descendants lacked was more on director Alexander Payne’s shoulders than Clooney’s.

Will win: Jean Dujardin

Should win: George Clooney

Best Director

Nominees:

Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo

Four directors whose work I have enjoyed tremendously over the past quarter of century are on this list and three of them fell way short of expectations. Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, while visually stunning, tried to be smarter than it was. Alexander Payne’s The Descendants was dull, predictable and lacked any true depth, and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo was nothing more than a history lesson and nostalgia trip.

Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris provides what we’ve come to expect out of Allen and I enjoyed it more than most, but Michel Hazanavicius is a huge favorite for The Artist and I’d be shocked if anyone else won.

Will win: Michel Hazanavicius

Should win: Woody Allen

Best Picture

Nominees:

The Tree of Life
The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
War Horse

Remember at the beginning of this post when I talked about how much I love the Academy Awards? Well, I lied when I said I didn’t know the reason. The real reason I love the Academy Awards so much is because I’m an incredibly competitive person and, when I have a horse in a specific race, I root extremely hard. That’s how I was with Crash and Philip Seymour Hoffman and that’s how I am most years. I pick out my favorites and I root ridiculously hard for them to win. I guess that’s the sports fan mentality coming out in me. Is it stupid and pointless to do so? Absolutely. But I don’t care.

The reason I bring this up is because this year, I don’t really have a horse (whether it’s a war horse or otherwise is irrelevant). I’ve combed through these nine nominees countless times and just can’t root for one. There are some that I enjoyed quite a bit (The Help, Moneyball), and others that I downright despised (War Horse, The Tree of Life). And I’ve been sitting here trying to think of which film to put in “Should win” and I just can’t figure one out.

Sure, there have been plenty of years where my favorite film doesn’t get a Best Picture nomination (Children of Men in 2007 comes to mind, most notably), but most years I can at least find a good reason to root for one of the nominees to win, and understand why the Academy has chosen the films they have. But not this year.

The favorite to win is The Artist. I enjoyed it quite a bit and it was fun to see a film made in such a way in the theaters. My problem with The Artist is the hyperbole being flung it’s way, more specifically the admiration people have for its originality.

To be clear, making a movie in black and white with no sound is NOT ORIGINAL. It’s something they did all the time in the early 20th century. Ya know, the era The Artist is set in? Making one 80 years later creates a good amount of nostalgia and it’s fun to look at it and think about how things were in the good ol’ days and all that nonsense, but is it really original? Hardly. Is it Best Picture worthy? Unlikely.

So what should win Best Picture, you ask? If it were up to me, that distinction would go to A Separation, an Iranian film that will likely take home the Best Foreign Language Film prize. A Separation is about a couple that is, you guessed it, getting separated. At least that’s what it’s about on the surface. In reality, it’s a thriller that brings about a number of moral dilemmas that simultaneously have you disagreeing with the characters while still understanding their actions. It’s about the difficulties of raising a child to stand on moral ground while having a hard time doing so yourself. It’s about the struggle some people have between serving their family while being able to abide by the rules your religion has set in place.

A Separation was fantastic. Other films were very enjoyable. Before I force myself to pick a winner from the list of nine Best Picture nominees, here are my top films of the year:

1. A Separation
2. Melancholia
3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
4. My Week with Marilyn
5. Beginners
6. Bridesmaids
7. The Help
8. Margin Call
9. Midnight in Paris

What will win Best Picture: The Artist

What should win Best Picture: The Help

Other predictions:

Best Animated Feature: Rango
Best Cinematography: Hugo
Best Art Direction: Hugo
Best Costume Design: The Artist
Best Documentary Feature: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Best Film Editing: The Artist
Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation
Best Makeup: The Iron Lady
Best Original Score: The Artist
Best Original Song: “Man or Muppets” from The Muppets
Best Sound Editing: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Best Sound Mixing: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Best Visual Effects: Hugo

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Something I Wanted to Write About Derrick Rose and LeBron James

I read something a few minutes ago that made my jaw drop.

For the past few months, I have been thinking about writing a post about the NBA MVP Award, Derrick Rose and LeBron James. Only I didn’t know how to write it properly, didn’t have the proper fuel, and my biases got in the way.

Eventually, I gave up the notion. I couldn’t do it for the aforementioned reasons, and now I’ve read something by my favorite sports writer in the planet that sums up every single tiny bit of how I felt.

Reading it astounded me. I was thrilled that I had the same mindset as the great Joe Posnanski. I was thrilled that I am now able to share these feelings I have with the rest of the world. And I was a little bit disappointed, because now I simply have to say: “Hey, read this,” instead of writing it myself.

It’s such a good post and I couldn’t agree with it more. Please read it, and if you disagree with what Posnanski has to say, I really, REALLY want to know why.

Here it is. Click this.

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Bulls: Cliches For All!

“This is what championship basketball teams do.”

“The bottom line is the better team won.”

“This is why he’s the MVP.”

“A win is a win.”

Wow. What a finish to the first NBA Playoffs game of the year, and the first playoff game in what is expected to be the anointment of Derrick Rose as a championship-caliber closer.

It’s games like this that bring out cliches from fans like you read above. It also brings out quotes like “That would’ve been impressive if it weren’t the Pacers,” and “Congrats, Bulls. It took you until the last minute to beat a sub-.500 team.” (Both quotes I read from non-Bulls fans immediately after the game finished.

The crazy thing? Both lines of thinking are absolutely correct. The cliches, as bland and uninventive as they may be, completely fit the situation. The Bulls are young, unproven and still getting their feet wet as playoff favorites. In many ways, squeaking out a win against a clearly inferior team playing its best basketball imaginable will be great in the long run.

Games like this will be popping up all playoffs long, and will happen more frequently the farther the Bulls make it.

So experiencing a test like this, where the Bulls are playing as poorly as we’ve seen practically all season, is great for the future. The Bulls got a crash course in playoff basketball and came up aces.

The flip side is correct as well. It is absolutely worrisome that Carlos Boozer was a liability not just in the fourth quarter, but throughout the entire game. He had more fouls than rebounds and continuously let Tyler Hansbrough knock down open jumpers.

Quick side tangent: More than any other college basketball player in my lifetime, I HATED Hansbrough when he was at North Carolina. More than ANYONE. I can’t really explain irrational sports hatred, but I couldn’t stand him. When he left North Carolina and was drafted by the Pacers, I was pleased because I was fairly confident that Hansbrough would never be relevant in my life again.

So thank you, Carlos Boozer, for bringing back haunting memories of “Psycho T.”

Anyway, Boozer’s lack of rebounding and defense is absolutely room for concern. Not that it’s anything new. Fans have known all season that he’s a putrid defensive player and streaky rebounder, but we can live with it when he’s scoring, which is something he wasn’t doing Saturday.

Likewise, Rose shouldn’t have to score nearly 40 points every game for the Bulls to win. Luol Deng and others absolutely have to show up. Deng was having troubles all game, and everyone on the second unit, particularly Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson, seemed terrified to take a shot.

That. Can’t. Happen.

I’m also wondering where Omer Asik went. Maybe I missed something and he got hurt or something, but he played three early minutes and than his second unit spot was filled by Kurt Thomas. Now, I have no problem with Thomas, but Tom Thibodeau said all season that he didn’t want to mess with his second unit of Watson-Korver-Gibson-Asik, yet when they entered the game, he was nowhere to be found. There has to be something more to that.

In the end, it didn’t matter, nor did any of the Bulls’ deficiencies. The bottom line is they won the game (yes, another cliche), and protected home-court advantage.

Is there reason to worry? Absolutely.

Should we expect things to get better?

Absolutely.

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Blackhawks: Dealing With Frustration, Not Quite Panicking

Last night’s 2-0 loss to Vancouver in Game 1 brought a small look at what this series could turn out to be.

Look, the Canucks are really, really good. Everybody knew that coming in. It’s also possible that this Canucks team is more confident than the team the Blackhawks dismantled the past two seasons. That factor is what should be terrifying to Hawks fans, given that there is no question the Canucks are the more talented team this season.

The frustrating aspect of last night’s game is that the Hawks had an abundance of chances. It seemed like the Hawks ran their offense quite well, giving themselves opportunity after opportunity to sneak one past Bob Luongo. But each occasion either resulted in a near-miss – a puck just out of the reach of someone’s stick like with Marian Hossa on the breakaway – or Luongo standing on his head to make a great save.

Defensively, the Canucks showed that speed kills. Duncan Keith had a mediocre regular season by most accounts and the Canuck forwards were just flat out faster than him, as well as the rest of the Hawks’ defenders. Too many times did we see the Canucks dump the puck into the Hawks zone only to outhustle Keith & Co. and regain control. It was yet another frustrating sight.

However, what makes the offensive missed chances and the defensive frustration easier to take is the fact that those factors mean Game 2 can’t possibly go the same way. (At least that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself).

I’m not going to sit here and say that Luongo can’t possibly be as good in Game 2 as he was in Game 1. The fact of the matter is that he can. Luongo is one of the best goaltenders in the league and we see ALL THE TIME goalies put together spectacular runs in the playoffs. How many times last year do you think opposing team’s fans said there is no way Antti Niemi can play that good again? Probably a lot. Luongo could easily just go nuts this series and completely shut down the Hawks.

The optimism I still have stems from the offensive chances. While Luongo was good, there were opportunities where he was either A) Out of position or B) The Hawks had a really good sequence that left the goal open. Those opportunities will present themselves a couple of times every game and I find it hard to believe the Hawks will continue to miss them game after game.

Game 1 was basically a worst-case scenario for the Hawks. The Canucks totally outplayed them, gained momentum and it gave the Sedin twins and Luongo confidence that they can beat this Hawks team. But remember, the Canucks took Game 1 last year, too.

So maybe my optimism is ridiculous, biased fan talk, and there’s still a good chance the Canucks just continue skating circles around the Hawks and win the series in 4 or 5 games. But one game is a small sample, and the series isn’t even close to over yet. I’m not giving up yet, but talk to me after Game 2.

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Blackhawks: Looking at Expert Predictions

By now you probably know that everyone and their brother is talking about how an 8 seed can very well beat a 1 seed in the NHL Playoffs. If you didn’t read what I had to say about it, you’ve likely read it somewhere. It happens semi-often in hockey, and a dangerous, defending championship team like the Blackhawks could become a trendy upset pick, given their playoff experience and recent domination of the Canucks.

But while a lot of people are talking the talk about the fact that the Blackhawks stand more than a chance, as I learned, very few are actually walking the walk. I searched around the internet a bit to look at how the many hockey experts around a variety of outlets are predictions the Vancouver-Chicago series to play out.

But first, a rant about my annoyance with the combination is sports, the internet and writing.

While doing research for this post, I did a simple Google search of “Stanley Cup playoff predictions.” Tons of articles came up and I scrolled through the first few pages, noticing a certain trend. At LEAST 75 percent of the articles that came up were written for the ever-popular sports writing fan outlet Bleacher Report.

You may or may not know this, but Bleacher Report is a site that allows anybody and their brother to sign up, write their sports writing “articles” and have them pimped out to the rest of the cyberverse. I had an account once upon a time, when I was in junior college looking to get my feet wet. But what bugs me about Bleacher Report is that it presents its articles like they are written by established professionals. You can achieve titles like “Featured Columnist” by getting so many article views, and somehow the numerous “articles” written by the random fans who sign up for the site show up at the forefront of Google searches. They even go so far as to post “job openings” on sites like JournalismJobs.com looking for “sports writing interns,” which basically just means they’re asking you to come to their site and sign up for an account.

My problems with Bleacher Report are well-documented on many levels, but what really bugs me is that, if I didn’t know what Bleacher Report was before my search, I very well could have clicked on any number of those links and taken what I read as being written by a real, established professional. I’m not saying people shouldn’t be able to use outlets such as Bleacher Report to express their opinions. That’s great, and it’s a nice way for young writers to get their feet wet and hone their writing skills. It’s the presentation of being professional that bugs me. That’s all I’m saying. And no, this rant had nothing to do with my predictions. I just had to get it off of my chest. Thank you.

Here’s a rundown of some of the predictions I found throughout my search. (Note: The Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times have not had its writers make predictions yet. As least not ones that I could find.

Over at the worldwide leader, I found three of its most-read pundits make predictions. Barry Melrose, who is their senior analyst and appears solely in front of the camera, picked the Canucks to win the series, stating: “I don’t think they have much of a chance” when asked about the Blackhawks. He did not say how many games he thought the series would go, but also predicted in the same segment that the Canucks would come out of the Western Conference. It should be noted that before last year’s playoffs began, Melrose predicted Chicago over Philadelphia in the Stanley Cup Finals.

E.J. Hradek, ESPN.com’s hockey insider, also predicted Vancouver in 6, stating: “Right now, the Hawks seem like a tired, banged-up group. The Canucks, on the other hand, seem fresh and ready for the Cup challenge.”

John Buccigross, a Sportscenter anchor who writes about hockey for ESPN.com, made it a perfect 3-for-3 from the worldwide leader, picking the Canucks in 6, stating that the Blackhawks have been “the shopping cart with that one wobbly wheel all year long.”

One interesting take I read was over at Hockey Prospectus. They calculate odds “based on teams’ records and goal differential – excluding shootout results – factoring in the difficulty of opponents they faced over the regular season and giving an increased weight to more recent results, which better reflect a teams’ current strengths.”

The Prospectus didn’t make any specific predictions on the series, but gave percentage odds for each round. They gave the Blackhawks a 36 percent chance of winning their first round series. They went further, saying the Blackhawks had a 17.7 percent chance of winning in the second round, a 9.4 percent chance to reach the Stanley Cup Finals and a 4.9 percent chance to win the whole thing.

Surprisingly, out of the 16 playoff teams the Blackhawks had the eighth best chance of winning the Stanley Cup (Vancouver was No. 1), and they wrote that the winner of the Vancouver-Chicago series has a 37.6 percent chance to win the title.

I don’t know anything about those calculations other than that they probably use a crazy amount of math and I semi-trust them solely because I’ve read a lot of Baseball Prospectus’ stuff and it’s pretty good. It’s just an interesting way to look at things.

Some other random predictions I found:

Dan Di Sciullo, a hockey columnist for The Sports Network writing in the Toronto Sun, predicted Vancouver in 6. Mark Whicker, a hockey columnist for The Orange County Register, predicted Vancouver in 5, and Cam Cole, the Vancouver Sun’s hockey columnist, said Vancouver in 7.

Over at NHL.com a staff of 7 made their first round predictions. Of the 7, three of them (Mike G. Morreale, Corey Masisak and Shawn P. Roarke) picked the Blackhawks to upset the Canucks.

What does all of this mean? Why, nothing, of course. It’s just interesting to look at predictions from people who clearly work in and cover hockey for a living. It’s also interesting to see that, while many are saying they wouldn’t be surprised to see a Blackhawks upset, few are actually predicting it to happen.

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The Best Sports Time Ever?

I don’t consider myself a “Chicago sports fan” it just so happens that a majority of my favorite teams play in Chicago.

That’s a fact not a lot of people understand. Even in Rockford, where I grew up (which is NOT a suburb of Chicago), the general population of sports fans considered themselves to be fans of Chicago sports and that was basically it. There’s even a restaurant in the city named “Old Chicago” that is decked out in Chicago sports memorabilia.

So most of the people I grew up around were Chicago sports fans. It was either Bears-Cubs-Bulls-Blackhawks, Bears-White Sox-Bulls-Blackhawks, or Bears-Cubs-Bulls-Idontcare (not a lot of hockey fans in the area until recently).

But, as I said before, I’m not a Chicago sports fan. I realized this even more a few months ago when I argued with one of the aforementioned Chicago sports fans over whether it was OK or not for Jack Skille to announce he was rooting for the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game.

Skille was more in Madison, Wis., and naturally grew up a Packers fan. The fan I argued with said that Skille should want the Bears to win because “the city” was behind the Blackhawks during their Stanley Cup run so he should do the same for the Bears’ Super Bowl run. I thought that was silly because A) It would make him a bad fan for neglecting the team he grew up rooting for and B) Who cares if he lives and works in Chicago? (People forget that what he does is a job).

The points ended up becoming moot. The Bears lost the game and Skille got traded (For reasons other than the fact that he liked the Packers, one would assume. Namely, he wasn’t very good at hockey).

But that disagreement made me realize I think quite a bit differently than city fans. There are quite a few people who think you should root for Chicago sports to win regardless, even some who think Cubs fans should root for the White Sox in the World Series and vice-versa. The idea of that seems unfathomable to me.

The reason I’m bringing all of this up is because, growing up and living around Chicago sports fans, I can’t imagine the excitement that is being felt right now. Let’s break things down:

1. The Chicago Bears just completed an incredible season in which they came within one game of reaching the Super Bowl.

2. The Chicago Blackhawks are (barely) back in the playoffs just 10 months after setting the city on fire by winning the Stanley Cup.

3. The Chicago Bulls are the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, have the presumptive NBA MVP and have suddenly become a heavy favorite to at LEAST make it to the NBA Finals.

4. The Cubs and White Sox, regardless of expectations, are playing at the beginning of the season with hope of making the playoffs.

OK, that last one wasn’t as exciting, but you get my point.

As I said before, I’m not a Chicago sports fan. The reason is because I’m a Green Bay Packers fan and I hate the Cubs with every fiber of my being. But I’m pretty darn close to one, and I can sense that the excitement level that city and its fans are feeling right now might be at an all-time high, or at least as high as it’s been in the past 20 years.

Of course, most of this excitement is because of the Bulls and Blackhawks, and upon doing some actual research, I was surprised to see that over the past 20 years, the two teams have actually been in the playoffs together twice, including the past two years.

However, a closer look shows that there was not a single time in those nine instances where BOTH teams had a ton of optimism. The 1991-92 season probably came the closest since the ‘Hawks made a surprising run to the NBA Finals while Jordan & Co., were tearing things up, but from what I understand, there was little optimism the ‘Hawks would stand a chance against Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

So why am I bringing this all up? Isn’t this year basically the same as those other nine instances. We have the favorite (Bulls), and the team that stumbled into the playoffs and many people expect to get bounced early (Blackhawks). Last year, those roles were reversed.

But don’t let seedings fool you. The Blackhawks may have snuck in and face a tough challenge with Vancouver, but there’s plenty of optimism, based around last year’s run and general playoff dominance against the Canucks, that another long run could be had.

Likewise, hockey is the one sport where seedings are basically irrelevant. Eight seeds beat one seeds WAY more often than in basketball. In fact, since the current playoff format was adopted in 1994, nine 8 seeds have won in the first round, that’s basically one-third of the time.

It happened last year, and last season’s Eastern Conference Finals even featured the 8 seed (Montreal) vs. the 7 seed (Philadelphia).

Chicago fans know this and they’re perhaps more confident than any 8 seed’s fans have ever been. But it’s with good reason. They know the history.

The Madhouse on Madison is going to be absolutely rocking over the next two months, as both teams can hopefully make long runs. It’s one of those rare instances I’ve written about so many times that we need to enjoy. Optimism in Chicago is unthinkably high, and we may be experiencing a sports high in this city that will never happen again.

Can you imagine what the United Center will be like if it’s hosting NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Finals games around virtually the same time?

I can. And I can’t wait to see if it happens.

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