Jake’s Take: Summer Preview

Well, here it is. This is the moment we’ve all been dreading. Once we began this year, we all knew that is must come to an end, as do all good things in this world. Sadly, this is my last Jake’s Take of the 2014-15 school year. Get all of your tears out now because you’re in for a story that’s jam-packed with predictions, recaps and good ol’ fashioned fun. Now, strap into your seat belts and get ready for one last hurrah. I’m going out with a bang in this story. Stay tuned because you are not going to want to miss a single word my overview of the four major sports in the great United States of America.

NHL Playoffs

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are already deep into their reign, and only four teams remain. In the Eastern Conference, the New York Rangers and the Tampa Bay Lightning are facing off for the opportunity to represent their conference in the Stanley Cup Final. New York won Game 1 at home by a score of 2-1. Game 2 is Monday, May 18 again in New York. This series is going to be all about scoring. Coming into this series, the Lightning were averaging an even four goals per game through their first two series. The Rangers, on the other hand, come into this series averaging just two goals per game in the 12 games they’ve played this postseason, and they’ve played four overtime games. The Rangers have not been the dominating team that they usually are in these playoffs, but they’ve done just enough to get it done. This is all forgetting that a team doesn’t need to score much when they have Henrik Lundqvist in the goal. In this postseason against the best teams in the NHL, Lundqvist has has allowed just 1.56 goals per game, and he’s saved 94.5 percent of the shots taken at him. Even if it is solely because of Henrik Lundqvist and his ability to act as a wall when guarding the goal, the New York Rangers will win this series and advance to their second consecutive Stanley Cup Final.

The Western Conference Final features the Chicago Blackhawks and the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks rocked the Blackhawks 4-1 in Game 1, and they will play Game 2 in Anaheim on Tuesday, May 19. This is going to be an even more high-scoring series than the Rangers-Lightning matchup. Corey Perry has been melting the ice beneath his skate with how hot he’s been. He has scored seven goals this postseason to go along with eight assists for an NHL-leading 15 points. Patrick Kane has been the Blackhawks best offensive player with seven goals and six assists for 13 points. Now, I’m not taking away anything from Frederik Andersen or Scott Darling, the goalkeepers for the Ducks and the Blackhawks respectively, but I just cannot envision either of them stopping the onslaught of fearless offensive play that fuels both of these teams. The team that I think will be able to keep the fire going longer is the Anaheim Ducks. They were my pick to win the Western Conference last year, and I’m sticking with them. This Disney team is going to complete its fairytale and advance to its first championship bout since they took home Lord Stanley’s Cup in 2007.

NBA Playoffs

Speaking of playoffs, the NBA Playoffs are in full swing, and, like the NBA, are down to four teams. Beginning with the Eastern Conference again, my second-round picks proved to be good with the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. Game 1 is slated for Wednesday, May 20 in Atlanta, and this series is shaping up to be everything we could have hoped for as fans. On the Cavaliers, the best player in the world, Mr. LeBron James, is playing as good as he has ever played. He’s averaging 26.5 points per game and 7.9 assists per game in the first two series, good for third and second respectively among active players in this postseason. While Cleveland may be the LeBron James show, Atlanta is a much different story. The Hawks are the best at playing as a cohesive unit in the NBA, and it has really shown so far in the playoffs. Of the four remaining teams, they are first in steals per game with 9.2, and they are first in assists per game with 25.4. The value of teamwork to the Hawks cannot be overstated. Everyone on that team knows the value of making the extra pass to turn a good shot into a great shot, and it shows in their 43.4 percent team field goal percentage. Because of this, I am going to say that the Atlanta Hawks will put an end to LeBron’s quest for a fifth consecutive NBA Finals appearance. The value of teamwork is invaluable in the NBA, and it is just this that will carry the Hawks soaring over the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Western Conference Finals are a bit more intriguing. Both the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets are very good offensive teams; they are both well above-average defensively; and they are both coached by good, young, offensive-minded coaches that try to prioritize fundamentals. The first game of this series is scheduled for Tuesday, May 19. This is the matchup that was touted as the ideal matchup for the good of the NBA. The Warriors and Rockets are both exciting young teams with young fan bases, and youth is what the NBA thrives on. The revenue just wouldn’t be the same if the Memphis Grizzlies- a team with a boring, old, effective, hard-nosed style of play- had toppled the mighty giant that is the Golden State Warriors. With that brief rant about the ethics of the NBA over, it’s time to talk basketball. The Warriors are the most dynamic team in the league. They live or die by the three-point shot. The Rockets are slightly more balanced. They like to work the ball inside the post, then kick it out to one of their many perimeter shooters for an easy look. This appears to give the Rockets a slight advantage, but the Warriors are the best defensive team remaining. They’re allowing just 94.2 points per game this postseason, and opponents are making just 46 percent of their shots against the suffocating Golden State defense. Take all of this and add home court advantage, and you get a recipe for a fairly easy Golden State victory in this series.


Fireworks fly at the new Busch Stadium after the Cardinals defeated the Cincinnati Reds on September 27, 2008 in St. Louis, MO. (photo by Daniel M. Silva / shutterstock.com)

MLB Regular Season

Major League baseball may have just begun, but it has come out in full force. Many have speculated that baseball is a dying sport, but everything that this season has had to offer- from near-no-hitters to 400th home runs- has proven that baseball has been, is and will continue to be America’s Passtime. Thus far in the season, the St. Louis Cardinals have come out red hot. They are the owners of the MLB’s best record at 25-12, and they currently lead the NL Central by four games; the Dodgers lead the NL West by four and a half games with a 24-13 record; and the New York Mets are just one half of a game ahead of the Washington Nationals for the lead in the NL East with a 22-16 record. In the American League, the Houston Astros currently sit atop the AL West with a 25-13 record; the Kansas City Royals are 24-14 and lead the AL Central; and the New York Yankees are the leaders of the AL East at 22-17. Of these teams, the Astros are the most surprising. Everyone knew they would be better this year than in years past, but no one could have envisioned that they would be this good, and they are on pace to record the best season in franchise history.

If you haven’t read my previous article about the MLB, the link is right here. In what I call “Way Too Early MLB Postseason Predictions,” I outlined my predictions for the entire MLB season far more in-depth than I can in one paragraph, but I will say that the Cardinals are the only team I see winning more than 100 games, and I do think that the young Houston Astros will be able to continue their early success to win the AL West. The Astros’ current cast of players is very good, but it could be better. Dallas Keuchel is the undeniable ace of that pitching staff, but the depth of starting pitching in Houston is a little lacking. It would be great for them to be able to pick up a veteran like Cole Hamels or Scott Kazmir to bolster their starting pitching, but there are two big problems with that plan. The first problem is that the Phillies and Athletics want an arm and a leg for their pitchers, and an arm and a leg are not things that are easily given up be playoff contenders. Second, they will be in tough competition with a number of other teams. The Cardinals need someone to fill the void that Adam Wainwright’s injury left, and the Chicago Cubs are team fighting for a Wild Card that would love to be able to sign another elite southpaw like they did with Jon Lester this past offseason, not to mention every other team in the MLB that doesn’t have an ideal rotation, which is all of them. The races for division titles are going to be intense, but the races for left-handed pitchers that can drastically change a team’s destiny are going oto be just about as much fun to watch.

NFL Offseason

This is it. This is the last segment that I am going to write before taking the summer off to relax like I am sure all of you will. This is a very emotional time for me, so I hope you all will bear with me as I will attempt to dissect the NFL Draft and (again, bear with me) the Deflategate punishments. First, the draft. With the first pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected the troubled Jameis Winston. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Winston is a very good football player. He definitely deserves to play in the NFL, but he comes with a lot of off-field baggage. He was suspended for uttering an obscene phrase in the Florida St. lunch room; he was charged with the rape of Erica Kinsman while in college; and he is nationally known as a whiner. Even with all of these issues, the Bucs took Winston No. 1 overall, so they clearly think that they can help change his ways. I don’t see a change for Winston, but anything can happen, I suppose. In other draft news, Dante Fowler, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ first-round pick, suffered a torn ACL on his first day of rookie training camp, and he will be out for the entire season. The Jaguars had very high hopes for Fowler, but he will not be able to live up to the expectations sitting on the bench. This injury also means that the Jaguars will continue to be the undisputed doormat of the AFC South.

Now for the moment you must have been dreading since reading about it in the paragraph above- Jake’s Take on the Deflategate punishments. For those of you who don’t know, I am a self-identified fan of the New England Patriots, so the entire Deflategate scandal came as a huge slap in the face. I am also a fan of Tom Brady because he has led my favorite team to four Super Bowl Championships, but he is much more mortal now. He was suspended by Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner, for the first four game of the 2015-16 season. As much as it pains me to say it, Brady knew about the deflation of the footballs. It is nearly impossible for a quarterback, especially one as meticulous and controlling as Brady, to not know every detail about the footballs he is using, but there is an egregious lack of evidence for the suspension. The NFL has almost no tangible evidence upon which to base the suspension of Brady. This is why I believe the suspension will either be cut to two games or removed altogether. The part about the Deflategate penalties that is unnecessary and uncalled for is the penalties against the Patriots as a franchise. Robert Kraft, the owner, and Bill Belichick, the coach, were both waived free of guilt in this matter, yet Goodell deemed it necessary to fine the franchise $1 million and take away a 2016 first-round draft pick and a 2017 fourth-round pick. This just doesn’t make sense. If the franchise has already been decided as ignorant to the matter, then why is it being punished for something the quarterback that will be retired in three or four years did? This, in my opinion, is just a bad punishment by the NFL, and Goodell is really just trying to make an example of the Patriots because there are still some that are upset about the Spygate debacle of 2007.
And now, it’s over. Everything that I’ve written this entire school year has been leading up to this moment. Thank you for spending the time to read all of this, and I applaud you for not giving up on me at any point in this story. I hope that I will be back to keep entertaining all of my readers next fall, and I hope that you will be back to read and enjoy my works when they are being put out again. Again, thank you for reading, and good night.

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