A few here-and-there thoughts as we eagerly await the start of the conference finals tomorrow.
First, in case you didn't see it in the paper or at www.northjersey.com/sports, here's my For The Record in today's edition regarding the frustrations of trying to follow the NHL playoffs now that I'm not in the arenas.
Second, regarding the conference finals, I'll take the Penguins over the Hurricanes in seven and the Red Wings over the Blackhawks in five (experience, experience, experience). Interesting that three-fourths of the final four have coaches that did not start the season with their teams - Chicago's Joel Quenneville, Carolina's Paul Maurice and Pittsburgh's Dan Bylsma. Also, I'm sure the 'Canes-Pens series will be tough on Rangers defenseman Marc Staal since his brother Eric (Carolina) will be facing younger brother Jordan (Pittsburgh). Marc Staal often talks about how miserable his parents are when their loyalties have to be divided like that. I'm sure Marc will be going through the same thing.
And not to toot my own horn, but I'll point out that in my playoff predictions, I had Penguins over Hurricanes in seven in the conference finals and Carolina's Cam Ward as the goalie to watch. We won't, however, be talking about my Western Conference picks, where I had San Jose over Vancouver in five in the conference finals.
Somewhat off the topic, had the chance this week to see the city's two new ballparks, covering the Mets Wednesday and last night's Yankees' game. Quick impression: At least when I was at Yankee Stadium last night, I knew I was watching a Yankee game. The Stadium is a little too busy with all the stuff flashing at you and the crowd noise is not overwhelming like it was at the old Stadium, probably cause it seemed like the fans were further away from the field. The expensive seats are ridiculous in how they're set apart from the rest of the Stadium with security making sure nobody makes a dash for it, or bothers the high-end clientele. That's just not what baseball is about. Also, I found it incredibly depressing to walk past the old Stadium. I know the Yankees wanted the revenue stream but I, for one, found nothing wrong with the old Stadium, not even it's cramped corridors. As for the Mets' new park, it's nice, clean, pleasant. But sometime during the middle innings I looked up and realized I had no idea what park I was in or which teams were playing. The stadium could have been in Washington, Philadelphia, Cleveland. There was nothing to stamp it as the Mets' home park.
Lastly, here's today's Preakness picks, and I'm not usually a believer in "sure things" in athletics so I'll shy away from the filly, Rachel Alexandra, even though I believe she is a great horse. I'm also not going with Mine That Bird to continue his Triple Crown run. He's obviously a better horse than people gave him credit for but the Preakness won't favor him if he's coming from behind again.
1. Pioneerof the Nile
2. Rachel Alexandra
3. Friesan Fire (should get a cleaner ride than in the Kentucky Derby)
And as for those Nikolai Zherdev/KHL rumors, still trying to get in touch with Zherdev's agent.