You don’t necessarily have to be a hockey fan to be impressed by the incredible run that the Chicago Blackhawks have been on from the start of the season.
As of this writing, the Stanley Cup champs of two years ago look well on their way to another title thanks to a 19-0-3 record out of the gates. Yes, that would be 22 games without a loss – an NHL record.
And it’s not like they haven’t had their fair share of injuries in the lockout-shortened season. They’ve just had guys step up whenever needed to get the job done.
Hopefully I haven’t just jinxed ‘em but hey, even if that is the case, it’s impossible not to marvel at what they’ve done to this point.
Here’s a good read from Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune:
Good news: You can’t pick one win that sums up Hawks
It was about as close as it could get. But the 49ers inability to punch it in during the final two minutes of the Super Bowl means San Francisco doesn’t have the ultimate bragging rights – a World Series and a Super Bowl champion in the same season.
Instead, the team that was on the verge of being ousted in their first playoff game before a miracle in Denver, rained on the San Francisco parade and instead assured one of their own. With the Baltimore Orioles making the playoffs for the first time in ages last October, the city of Baltimore did quite well for itself on the sporting scene with the Ravens taking the NFL title.
Much has been said about those final moments of the Super Bowl, and the game itself, around the web. Here are a few worth a read:
Harbaugh won’t second-guess play calls (San Francisco Chronicle)
The Moral of Super Bowl XLVII: Pay Attention to Special Teams (The Atlantic)
Pivotal plays: Super Bowl’s top five (ESPN blog)
The sting of last season’s AFC Title Game loss still reverberates through the Ravens locker room.
And now, they get a chance to put that nightmare in the rear view mirror and advance to the Super Bowl for a potential Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh coaching matchup.
Last year, in the same spot, the Ravens folded. A dropped TD by Lee Evans and a chip shot field goal missed by Billy Cundiff in the final seconds ruined a great opportunity to beat the Patriots in New England.
It seemed a chance for redemption was lost last week in Denver. But the Ravens pulled off a miracle and left the Broncos to wonder what could have been after Peyton Manning and company let what looked to be a sure win turn into an excruciating double overtime loss.
So now, it’s the Ravens visiting New England once again for the AFC Conference title.
For a great rundown of this intriguing matchup, check out Michael Silver’s article on Yahoo Sports:
Baltimore Ravens eager to shake memories of last year’s AFC title game loss
While the Boston Red Sox seem to be throwing big money at players well past their prime, the Toronto Blue Jays have been making bold moves that should bring an end to five straight years of finishing 4th in the AL East.
After completing a blockbuster deal on Monday that brings the 2012 NL Cy Young winner, R. A. Dickey, to Toronto, the Blue Jays have put the final touches on an off season full of activity.
There’s no doubt that Toronto gave up some prime young prospects to get Dickey. But in a division with the Yankees and Red Sox, the Jays’ brass clearly felt it was necessary to compete now.
“We’re just so close to contention,” Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said. “It’s not just about one season. This allows us to put what we feel is a contending team together for an extended run, for a three- to five-year period.”
(CTV News article)
The Blue Jays haven’t had much trouble scoring runs in recent years. The problem has been that they just didn’t have the pitching to battle for the entire season. Promising starts invariably faded by the time September rolled around. That shouldn’t be the case in 2013.
The rotation now has added a 1-2 punch of Dickey and Mark Buerhle, plus Josh Johnson (like Buerhle, acquired in a November deal with Miami). Combined with returners Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero, that’s a formidable starting five with the potential to be tops in the division.
The bullpen is reasonably good, featuring a solid closer in Casey Janssen (0.86 WHIP in 2012). Look for Janssen to put up monster numbers in 2013.
The offensive lineup, already a strength, should be markedly improved as well.
A healthy Jose Bautista could very well return to 50+ home run territory with all the weapons now surrounding him in the lineup. Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind, J.P. Arencibia and local hero Brett Lawrie anchor the returnees. But it’s the addition of shortstop Jose Reyes, outfielder Melky Cabrera, and infielder Maicer Izturis that has the fans in Toronto excited. There may not be a better combination of speed and power in baseball.
The AL East is going to be fun to watch, for sure. If the Blue Jays live up to expectations, 2013 may be the first season in 20 years that both the Red Sox and Yankees are left out of the postseason.
If that happens, wait till we see the spending next season!
As the 2012 NFL season winds down, it’s time to take a look at one of the most intriguing awards – Comeback Player of the Year.
This one appears to be a two horse race, as the saying goes. And it’s between two of the all-time greats – Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson.
Both have returned to form after devastating injuries. Who would have thought that Manning could bounce back after a debilitating neck injury forced him to miss the entire 2012 season? Or how about Peterson returning in less than a year after a brutal torn ACL and looking better than ever?
The stats don’t lie for either of these guys.
Peterson is well ahead of everyone in rushing yards with an astonishing 6.2 yards per carry and a total of 1446 yards on the ground through 12 weeks. Those numbers are a key reason why the Vikings are very much in the playoff race when little was expected of the team going into 2012. And with Percy Harvin now officially out for the rest of the season, Peterson is bound to take on even more of the offensive load in the stretch run.
For Manning, he has made Denver Bronco fans forget about Tim Tebow in a hurry. Remember after last season’s surprise win over the Steelers how popular Tebow was with the Denver fan base? Well, John Elway apparently knew what he was doing. Manning is having one of his best seasons in a stellar career – limiting interceptions (9) while throwing for 29 touchdowns through 12 weeks. He’s shown the ability to take a hit without any sign that the injury that jeopardized his career is a problem.
Either guy is deserving of the award. Given Denver’s success on the field, already having wrapped up the AFC West title, Manning likely has a slight edge at this point. But if Peterson leads Minnesota into the playoffs with an impressive final four games, who knows?
All I know is it’s great to see two NFL legends bounce back with outstanding seasons in 2012.