SportsNet - May 2013
What a difference a year makes.
Exactly a year to the day after winning their first Premier League title in 44 years, Manchester City sacked Manager Roberto Mancini following a season of disappointment culminating in their embarrassing 1-0 defeat at the hands of relegated Wigan Athletic in Saturday's F.A Cup final. The writing appears to have been on the wall for some time, given Mancini's disillusioned demeanor during Interviews and there have been strong rumours circulating for some time now that Manchester City have actively been looking for a replacement behind the back of the current Manager. Hardly the best way to do business, but this is the exact same situation Mancini himself walked into when he agreed terms on a contract when then Manager Mark Hughes was still at the helm.
So, where did it all go wrong?
Since the conclusion of the Boston Celtics’ season the hype from veteran reporters and bloggers alike has been to blow up the Celtics by trading Kevin Garnett and either waiving, trading or using the amnesty clause to remove Paul Pierce from the team. The thought process being that by trading Garnett and Pierce the Celtics would receive younger players who in return would fill the rebounding and scoring void needed to pave the way to the Celtics 18th NBA title.
There has been speculation, none of which has been corroborated by the Celtics organization, that in February the Celtics rejected offers for both players. The Los Angeles Clippers supposedly offered center DeAndre Jordan and point guard Eric Bledsoe for Kevin Garnett and the Brooklyn Nets presented the Celtics with an offer of forward Kris Humphries, guard MarShon Brooks and a first round pick for Pierce. More recently, it was reported that the Clippers would like to give the Celtics Matt Barnes and Carron Butler for Pierce.
In the first round, I didn't predict either of these teams correctly, but for very different reasons. I thought the Wild could have won at least two games and perhaps a third, but after they lost their starting goalie in the warmup all bets were off. They put up the best fight they could given the circumstances and who knows if a healthy Backstrom would have made a difference or not. For the Wings, Datsyuk and Zetterberg stepped up in the clutch moments and outperformed the big guns on Anaheim. Given the depth on the Ducks roster, there is no excuse for letting Detroit win that series.
Now we have an original six match-up and this is where Detroit's cinderella season comes to an abrupt end.
Unlike the Ducks, the Hawks have big name players who actually perform in the clutch. Toews, Hossa, Sharp, and Kane is as good as it gets in hockey. But the fun doesn't stop there. They now have a dynamic rookie in Saad added to the mix, and proven playoff performers like Stalberg, Bickell, and Shaw in their ranks.
When I look back on my round one predictions for these two teams, I correctly predicted both series, and got them both wrong at the same time. I picked the Sharks to beat the Canucks, but did anybody think it would be a sweep? I also thought the Blues would put up a much better fight this time around and come out on top. They did put up a great fight and were very close to leaving L.A. with a 3-1 series lead before it all fell apart. Now we have a battle of California and given how well these two matchup against each other, it's anyone's guess who will skate away victorious. Though, from a betting perspective, there is only one clear choice.
There were a lot of surprises in the first round of the NHL playoffs this year, but not when it came to these two teams. The Penguins goaltending was clearly a front and center topic heading into round one and it became an even bigger story when Vokoun supplanted Fleury for the number one spot. I suspected the Islanders could snatch a couple victories from them and they almost did more than that. Meanwhile, the Senators used their 2012 playoff experience wisely and quickly took care of a Montreal team that wasn't quite ready for prime-time. So what happens when these two square off tonight in Pittsburgh?