Underachievers and Overachievers

I’m lucky enough to be in sunny Bahamas right now. No one here knows what hockey is although I was able to insult a few Yankees fans so that was rewarding. Speaking of the Yankees, the Sox-Yankees clash this weekend and should be a good early test for both as much as you can be tested in April.

It’s playoff time in the NHL and NBA and Boston might not have an entry in either.

In the NBA’s dreadful Eastern Conference, six teams ranging in record from 38-40 to 33-45 are fighting for the final three playoff spots. Western Conference teams Phoenix and either New Orleans or Oklahoma City, who won’t make it in the West, would make it over any of these six teams in the East and Utah would still be in the mix. The Celtics are playing the best out of the group, but have the hardest schedule. Indiana could do it because they just got Paul George back. Milwaukee should get one spot simply because they would have to completely fall apart although they are currently in the front of the line and Charlotte is unlikely because too many teams have to still lose. Brooklyn and Miami are 50-50. And surprise surprise, the defending champion San Antonio Spurs are now interested since the playoffs are drawing near, and have won nine in a row and shockingly have pulled into a tie with the Clippers and within one game of the number two seed behind the Rockets and Grizzlies.

As the NHL season winds down, the Pittsburgh Penguins are once again one of the biggest disappointments in the NHL although this time they are wearing that label in the regular season and usually wait until the playoffs. In a must-win game this past Tuesday in Ottawa, they blew a 3-0 lead and lost in overtime 4-3. Thanks to the inept and underachieving play of the Boston Bruins, all the Penguins have to do is secure two points over the final two games against the Islanders and Buffalo to secure a spot. But how the heck do the Penguins need to play to the final game to make the playoffs. What is shocking about this is they have the second and third leading scorers, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, over the past eight years. Here is how playoff success or lack thereof has looked since Crosby and Malkin have taken the NHL by storm eight years ago. One asterisk here is they both missed the playoffs in the 2010-11 season. In the other seven years, they have lost in the first round twice, the second round twice, the Eastern Conference Finals twice, the Stanley Cup once and did win one Stanley Cup. Teams are hard-pressed to find one player of Crosby and Malkin’s ilk, never mind two.  And did I mention that during those eight years, Pittsburgh’s goalie Marc Andre Fleury, who was the number one overall pick in the 2003 draft, has been so disappointing in the playoffs that only two of his eight playoff performances have resulted in a GAA of 2.40 or less. Three players who are elite at their positions and all selected in the first two picks in the draft. One Stanley Cup and only two Stanley Cup appearances with that trio is almost akin to having a rotation of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery and winning one World Series.

Ovechkin is the leading scorer in hockey with 696 points over that span and it might surprise you that Henrik Sedin is fourth. By the way, the first Bruin to appear on the list is David Krejci who is 44th.

On the flip side, the defending Stanley Cup champion and typically overachieving LA Kings will miss the playoffs as they have struggled from a championship hangover and to be consistent all year. The Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets will make it in the West instead and provide some fresh competition. By the way, Winnipeg and the Minnesota Wild, who have been on fire since acquiring goalie Devan Dubnyk won’t be an easy out for anybody. The best first round series is shaping up to be surprising Nashville and the Chicago Blackhawks with the Predators having home ice.

Was thinking about all the praise and adulation Scott Boras gets from his clients for making them so much money. Not a lot is made when he advises his clients poorly, but one example could be New York Mets ace Matt Harvey. Harvey was drafted in 2007 originally by the Los Angeles Angels but was insulted by the signing bonus and instead opted to play at UNC for the next three seasons. Harvey was then drafted by the New York Mets in 2010. After coming up midseason in 2012, Harvey dominated in 2013 including starting the all-star game for the National League, but then approximately one year ago he blew out his arm and missed all of last season. The three years he chose to play college baseball could have been earning years for him. He was great his first start in 2015 and if he stays injury free and bounces back well, then this becomes a moot point, but otherwise not pitching those three years in the majors could have cost him millions of dollars.

I can’t say I am a huge fan of women’s college basketball, but how about those UConn Lady Huskies. They won their third straight national championship and 10th of coach Geno Auriemma’s career. The following are video game numbers. Since the 1999-00 season, not only has Auriemma guided the Huskies to nine championships, three of those seasons were UNDEFEATED and his record since that season is 544-40. Yes you read that correctly. Not remembering the last time I uttered anyone, any team or anything that was 504 games over .500.

Kudos to West Virginia’s Daxter Miles Jr. who became yet another moronic athlete of any age to guarantee victory. He did this prior to playing Kentucky and after the Mountaineers were soundly demolished in the NCAA tournament, Miles hid in the bathroom after the game to avoid talking to the media until an assistant coach forced him to face the music. I wish there was a stat keeping track of how many times athletes guaranteed victory and it backfired . More to the point, not sure if everyone else feels this way, but if a Boston athlete guaranteed victory (which I can’t remember happening since Larry Bird, who incidentally always backed it up) I would be annoyed and when a player from another team does it, I am guaranteed to root against him.

Interesting to see Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger both restructure their contract to save their respective teams money under the cap. Looks like they felt some peer pressure from colleague Tom Brady. Maybe Drew Brees should be the next to follow suit and correct his 26.4 million dollar cap number.

I have always been a huge fan of sports nicknames especially with the heavy influence of ESPN’s Chris Berman. I mean who didn’t like Bert “Be Home” Blyleven or Bruce “Two Minutes for” Ruffin. But I think I have finally heard one of my all-time favorites. Utah Jazz emerging star shot-blocking center Rudy Gobert is French and nicknamed “The Stifle Tower”.

I end with a trivia question and no cheating by googling the answer. There have been four players in NBA history who have 13,000 points, 9000 rebounds, 3,0000 assists, 1200 steals and 1600 blocked shots – Kareem Abdul Jabaar, Hakeem Olajuwon, Kevin Garnett and who is the fourth? Leave your guess in the blog comment section. The winner gets to go cliff diving with Tom Brady.