I hardly have time to care too much about the National Hockey League. There’s just too many other things going on in the world of sports to consume my attention.
But now we’re down to the final four teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That’s reason enough to start paying attention, right?
What’s interesting about the upcoming matchups this weekend is that there’s no hard feelings stemming from previous postseason clashes to help get the excitement brewing. Instead we’ve got one team in the mist of a marginally lengthy Stanley Cup drought and, in comparison, three others still cleaning up confetti from recent triumphs.
On Saturday it’s the top-seeded New York Rangers and the No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning meeting in the Eastern Conference. Sunday it’ll be the No. 1 Anaheim Ducks hosting the No. 3 Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference.
I’m not even sure how to pronounce his name. Guess I’ll learn soon enough though after spending Tuesday’s release day listening to the San Francisco native’s impressive new Moonlight album.
It’s the third release for Hanni El Khatib since debuting with Will The Guns Come Out in 2011. Head in the Dirt followed two years later with an assist from Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, so you can imagine what some of these new songs might sound like: bluesy guitar-driven grooves accompanied by boastful drum sounds that carry a shadowy mood throughout.
Having never heard either of those previous albums I had no preconceived notions before giving this one my full attention. And after having had my fill of Auerbach and the Keys over the years I can say I was hardly surprised when I read about their connection after spinning through this for the first time. Moonlight possesses some of the signature sounds of The Black Keys but comes to an end before drowning in that style.
Standouts include the title track, “The Teeth,” “Chasin’,” “Mexico,” “Servant,” and “Two Brothers.” But don’t just settle for the official album. Be sure to check out the Moonlight album mixtape by J.Rocc for a different twist that’ll keep you going until the sun comes up.
The regular season is in the books and the National Football League’s Wild Card weekend will be here before we know it. Or in other words, before we can fully recover from our New Year’s festivities.
The New England Patriots (12-4) and Denver Broncos (12-4) finished the regular season by claiming the top spots in the AFC while the Seattle Seahawks (12-4) and Green Bay Packers (12-4) hold those same positions in the NFC.
On Saturday it’s Arizona at Carolina and Baltimore at Pittsburgh followed by Cincinnati at Indianapolis and Detroit at Dallas on Sunday in matchups that’ll advance winners to the divisional round.
Below is a breakdown of the wild card games this weekend. My predictions are included at the conclusion of each summary.
The Orlando City Soccer Club played its final USL PRO regular season game Saturday, winning 1-0 over Richmond on a goal by Kevin Molino in the 23rd minute.
The win improves the Lions to 45-4-10 all-time in league matches at home, setting them up in good position for a run at their third championship in four years with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
I talked to Orlando City Soccer Club’s Kevin Molino and a couple of his teammates who’ve played alongside him over the past four years for a feature on the midfielder for the Orlando Sentinel.
Molino, who set a new USL PRO single-season record for goals scored last Saturday, is one of five current players looking to wrap up their third title in four years with the Lions when the playoffs open next month.
As much as I’ve already written about Molino this season, it turns out there was even more to be expressed. Not all of the quotes I gathered from Molino, Orlando City coach Adrian Heath, goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo and defender Rob Valentino could fit into the story. So I’ve provided them below. Enjoy.
Congrats goes out to the Arizona Rattlers for wrapping up an ArenaBowl three-peat on Saturday while simultaneously crushing the hearts of 18,404 rabid, title-hungry sports fans in Cleveland. In the first ArenaBowl I ever paid attention to (while at a laundromat in 2002, of all places) the Rattlers were badly beaten 52-14 by the rival San Jose SaberCats.
On Saturday, Arizona ravaged the Gladiators to the tune of 72-32 to claim their third ArenaBowl title in a row. It’s the fourth consecutive appearance in the ArenaBowl for the Rattlers since the AFL relaunched in 2010.
It’s partially why I’m pleading for someone (anyone!) to please save the Arena Football League.
Never mind the constant chatter alleging the abuse of the paltry salary structure by teams with kickbacks to players, or that an owner once told me he’d fix games so home teams won every time if he could. Forget about all of that, I’m just concerned with two particular tweaks that would help make the league feel a little more legit again.
The Colorado Rockies were on the wrong end of a historic night Wednesday. Clayton Kershaw struck out a career-high 15 batters for the Los Angeles Dodgers to record the first no-hitter of his career in an 8-0 win.
Kershaw, who didn’t allow a walk but missed out on a perfect game on a throwing error in the seventh by Hanley Ramirez, celebrated the second no-hitter thrown by a Dodger this season with teammates as they rushed the field afterwards. Josh Beckett no-hit the Philadelphia Phillies on May 25 in a game that also ended in an 8-0 Los Angeles win. Beckett struck out six in that game.
It’s the sixth no-hitter thrown in the National League over the past two years. Three no-hitters were tossed in the NL in 2012, which is the last time the American League had a no-hitter when four were thrown in the AL that season.
Last year the USL PRO’s Orlando City Soccer Club advanced to the quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup before losing to Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire in the round of eight. The Lions got an early start on matching their deep run of 2013 on Wednesday by scoring a 4-1 win over the USL Premier Development League’s Ocala Stampede in the second round.
Orlando City will play its next five matches at home beginning May 21. The defending champion Lions are currently unbeaten on the season and atop the league table with a 6-0-3 (21 points) record. The last time Orlando City was at home they won their fifth in a row against the Oklahoma City Energy on May 4.
The Orlando City Soccer Club and Charleston Battery have won each of the past four USL Pro titles, with the Lions claiming championships in their inaugural season (2011) and again in 2013.
But the rivalry hasn’t been as close on paper as it appears on the pitch.
Orlando City’s 1-0 win on Saturday gives the Lions a 9-1-3 record in the all-time series, including a 7-0-0 mark at home. Major League Soccer loanee Brian “Cobi” Span of FC Dallas scored in the 73rd minute on an assist from Adama Mbengue.