Saturday, June 25, 2011

#210: Serena, Serena

---SSL Broadcast #47---

While it's not a Pittsburgh sports story, I am forced to shake my head at a complaint that U.S. tennis star Serena Williams made this past week. She was assigned a second round match at Court Two at Wimbledon, which must be a low-capacity venue because she inferred that only Centre Court or Court One would suffice.

She argued that Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovich (the top-two ranked men currently) wouldn't have to play on Court Two.

Attention, Serena. Blame the foot injury that cost you months of tournaments and about 20 spots in the women's rankings. True, you're a four-time Wimbledon champ and a serious contender yet again, but there are other young ladies who are ranked ahead of you right now and would enjoy an opportunity to play on a more "prestigious" court. In time, when you're in the quarter- and semi- finals, you'll be on one of the two "favored" courts. Despite all your accomplishments, you still need to work your way back up.

That's the breaks.

Actually, what's most startling here is that the Women's Tennis Association backs Serena on this. Must be a marketing thing.

Aside from tennis, this week's show consists of -

- The resilient Pirates above .500 as we approach July.

- The Penguins and Jaromir Jagr are still talking, although it appears Jagr might be pursuing the Pens more than they're pursuing him.

- Could either Tiki Barber or Plaxico Burress be playing in Pittsburgh (if there's a season?)

- Snippits from around the rest of Pittsburgh's sports.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

#209: All-Century High

---SSL Broadcast #46---

The Pittsburgh Pirates (or, as I affectionaly refer to them in print, the Pixburgh P'arts) are having their best season - to this point - in 12 years. I don't talk about it on the show much (I probably should), but the kid in me who loves the Pirates is enjoying this ride. The adult in me who thinks this moderate success can only help keep the club in the clutches of its cheapskate owner even longer.

This week's show's contents -

- Good Samaritans come to Chris Snyder and his wife's rescue.

- The NHL and the NBA crowned their champions this week. Neither winner features a player named "LeBron."

- Snippits from around the rest of Pittsburgh's sports.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

#208: Bucs Will Battle Longer

---SSL Broadcast #45---

The Bucs actually took the player I preferred in the draft. I guess they can deal with Scott Boras once every three years or so on a top pick. Who knew?

This week's show's contents -

- Talk about Plaxico Burress and what are the odds he could return as a Steeler.

- The Pirates hit 30-30 after 60 games for the first time since 2005. Some statistics from both teams for comparison's sake that seems to indicate this year's Pirates won't fold like paper as the '05 squad did.

- The division-leading Pittsburgh Power travel to Tampa to take on the AFL team that used to call Pittsburgh home.

- I stumble and stammer more than Vinnie Richichi.


Saturday, June 04, 2011

#207: To B (as in "Boras") or Not To B

---SSL Broadcast #44---

The Pirates are not an embarrassment to talk about this year, but they're also not the most interesting thing to Pittsburgh sports fans. They might get closer, though as the weekend runs down. They have a chance to sweep the Philadelphia Phillies and get back to .500, and then on Monday they have the first overall draft pick of 2011. Will they go with my preferred pick, Gerrit Cole? Or will they avoid Scott Boras altogether and go with who I think they'll pick, Danny Huetzel?

We'll know soon enough.

This week's show -

- Jason Cole from Yahoo! Sports joins us to talk about NFL rule changes and how they might impact the Steelers, and also how the lockout situation is progressing (or not).

- Talk about the MLB draft, and the pros and cons of going pitcher or hitter.

- The Pittsburgh Power win a shootout in Dallas before taking on Cleveland for first place in the division.

- Sidney Crosby is cleared for off-season workouts.


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

#206: Stanley Cup Final 2011

---System Gets Pwned---

This is an off-year for hockey.

Not only did my "vaunted" system have its worst year (regardless of what it predicts in the final round), but many of the experts were correct in picking their Stanley Cup Finalists.

That almost never happens (the latter, more so than the former).

For the Conference Finals round, the System and the Experiment were at odds in both contests, and the Experiment ended up being correct in both cases. The System is an abysmal 7-7, and the Experiment is 11-3 in predicting winners.

I think during the offseason, I'll have to go back and run the Experiment series by series and see what it comes up with for the last few seasons.

The San Jose Sharks, this blog's projected Cup winner since Round 1 went out pretty much with a whimper (and say what you will about Vancouver's alleged diving).

The Tampa Bay Lightning, meanwhile, nearly was able to finish the job, but taking another series to a 7th game on the road still made the system's pick look bona fide.

What happened?

Western Conference

#1 Vancouver vs. #2 San Jose

Well, statistically for the series, San Jose held an average of over 7 shots more per game than the Canucks, although Vancouver won that battle in each of the first two games. The last two games (Canuck wins 3 and 4 of the series), however, was half Sharks goalie Antti Niemi buckling too easily and half Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo being amazing.

In Game 4, Niemi allowed four goals on 13 shots. While it's true that three of the goals came when Vancouver had a two-man advantage, that was a situation where a championship goalie needs to rise. On at least two of those occasions.

In Game 5, San Jose hammered Luongo with 56 shots in 4-plus periods and could only put two past him.

Apparently, an earlier prediction about San Jose and Detroit destroying each other in advance of a showdown witn Vancouver was more accurate than the system.

Moving on...

Eastern Conference

#3 Boston vs. #5 Tampa Bay

Once again, statistically, the advantage in the Shots-on-Goal department went to Tampa (+3.6, on average, for the series). In fact, they won the shots battle in every game but the final one. And, despite Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson's best effort, they were unable to generate any offense on the other end in the final game.

Tampa also seemed to catch goaltender Tim Thomas off guard for much of the series, hanging five goals on him four times (winning three) - but only scoring one goal in the remaining games combined.

Roloson blinked in Game 2, when a 5-goal output by his offense would have been enough to win just about any night, and the complete game the Bruins put together in the series finale was enough to get the job done.

Now, to the future...

Stanley Cup Final

#1 Vancouver vs. #3 Boston

According to one source, in the past 20 years or so, no team has won the Stanley Cup when they give up an average of 30 shots or more per game in the regular season.

This trend was officially bucked when both the Canucks and the Bruins advanced to the Final to become the last teams standing.

At first glance, Vancouver appears to have a slight edge. Boston shoots the puck, just slightly more per game than Vancouver, but they gave up two more shots per game on average. That would make Vancouver the System's pick.

But, as with the Boston/Tampa series, this will likely come down to goaltending. Much of the focus in the run-up to this Final has been Canada vs. one of the Original Six.

I prefer to look at it as a duel between fellow Vezina Trophy candidates Thomas and Luongo. For the season, Thomas has the better save percentage. That would likely make Boston the Experiment pick.

Either way, this series looks like it's going to be a lengthy one. Boston's size and presence in the offensive zone vs. Vancouver's finesse and quick strike ability.

On a recent radio show, I said this series would probably be pretty boring, but after looking at these numbers, this might be the best Final that hockey fans will have seen in a long time.

At least the champion will have gone at least a generation without having won one...

Here's the results of the final math.

System says Vancouver in 6 (official pick - gotta stick with it this postseason)

Experiment says Boston in 7 (will likely use this system next year if the past few seasons also reflect a strong corrolation)


FYI, the fight statistic here in the postseason - in 82 games, there have been 10 fights. There was one fight in each of the conference finals. Several misconducts assessed, but only two fights (12.2% for the postseason). While it could be better, that's a favorable percentage for my taste.

Your comments are always welcome.