When Lafayette opened its football summer camp on Friday, Zach Zweizig (left) was out there working as the No. 3 quarterback in a four-man rotation. Mustache middle gap.
That the 6-5 former Wilson West Lawn star was there at all is somewhat of a surprise to many – including, perhaps, Zweizig, who took over the starting job in the seventh game of his sophomore season and started seven straight games before a concussion against Penn last fall put him on the sidelines.
Recurring post-concussion symptoms kept him out for the remainder of the year, and in the spring of this year, he was in camp, but was not in pads.
He said that his re-exposure to the game in the spring did rekindle his love for the game, but “over the summer, I decided not to play.”
When Zweizig was hurt at Penn, Andrew Dzurik took over the QB spot. But at halftime of Lafayette’s game against Harvard, when Dzurik continued to have problems, Leopards head coach Frank Tavani and defensive coordinator Mickey Fein elected to go to freshman Drew Reed.
Reed lit a fire under the Lafayette offense, and that fire became a blaze and destroyed four of five Patriot League teams down the stretch to help the Leopards win their first league title since 2006 and advance to the FCS postseason tournament. The Leopards didn’t win at New Hampshire, and late in the game, Blake Searfoss, another freshman, replaced Reed at quarterback and took Lafayette to its only touchdown in a 34-6 loss.
Dzurik decided to leave Lafayette at the end of the first semester, leaving Tavani with just two for-sure quarterbacks. Tavani recruited Josh Davis from San Juan Capistrano, Calif., then, for insurance, he brought in Thomas Martin of Kansas City, Mo., a kicker-quarterback.
Martin was back with kickers Ryan Gralish and Ryan Forrester on Friday.
Zweizig said that after he decided he would not play football in his final year at Lafayette, he began having second thoughts.
“I thought, three more months and my career is over, and if I decide not to play, I have the rest of my life to regret not playing. For this three months, I can suck it up, be out here with my teammates, enjoy myself and I can’t be mad at myself for not playing.”
That’s fine with Tavani and Fein, who don’t have to think long to know the dilemma that faced them just last season. Having a player of Zweizig’s experience at the ready could be a real comfort for the coaches and the team.
Zweizig, who told me, “I don’t care if I’m second team, third team or fourth team,” is convinced he can contribute in whatever role he’s asked to play.
“I’m on the field and I will try to be the best leader I can be and help the young guys,” he said. “It would be nice to get into a game, but if not, I’m happy just being out here and being with my teammates.”
When I talked to Tavani earlier in the week, he said he would probably have all four quarterbacks on his travel roster. Three of them would dress for the game, while the fourth would be on to chart plays and other things. That way all four would be up to speed on what’s going on.
Zweizig threw well on Friday, and it’s possible that, given his experience, he could regain the No. 2 spot behind Reed, but Tavani and Fein are putting no pressure on him.
That’s fine with Zweizig, who said he was “really stressed” by being the starter as a sophomore. He lost 25 pounds during that season, when he had added stress when his father, with whom he was extremely close, died just prior to the Lafayette-Lehigh game.
He did not work out with the team this summer, because it has been his regular practice to work on a neighbor’s farm in Berks County. He said he threw a football “only two or three times” but did run, and he passed the physical test on Thursday.
He said, “My shoulder feels pretty good, but I’m sure it’s going to be a little sore tomorrow.
“God forbid something happens to Drew or Blake, but if I have to step in, I will and I’ll do the best I can.”
In the eight games in which he has played, Zweizig completed 128 of 197 passes for 1,486 yards, 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Tavani told me early in the week that he expected to have 86 players at the opening day of camp. Well, that didn’t work out. Freshman linebacker Michael Root suffered a hamstring injury that might cause him to be sidelined for most, if not all of the preseason practices. … Starting defensive end Collin Albershardt and freshman LB J.J. Conn were both in blue jerseys, meaning their practice was restricted because of hamstring tweaks. Running back Deuce Gruden and wide receiver Matt Mrazek were also slowed, but did compete all morning. … This was my first look at the incoming freshmen, and let me tell you, there seems to be a talent level that is going to make for some very interesting battles for those back-up spots on both sides of the ball. One guy who caught my eye was defensive lineman Beau Bosch. He’s listed at 6-5, 215, but he LOOKS much bigger. I’m told this group of recruits was impressive in testing. Soon, we’ll get a look at them at full speed. … I talked a moment with tight end Quinn Smith, a freshman who was not able to be on campus for the workouts last month. “My head is spinning a little right now,” he admitted. He has a bit of a learning curve that I’m sure he will make up. He’s 6-5, 230, and he’s at a position where that can be a big asset for him. He’s two inches taller than any of the returning tight end candidates. … It was a helmets-only day, but when the offensive and defensive lines got together, it was anything but tame. But none of the wrestling matches escalated into anything serious. … It’s helmets-only again from 9-11 a.m. Saturday, and shoulder pads are added on Sunday. I think everyone will be happy when some live work can be added to the activities, but as Tavani said earlier, the plan is to not overdo the scrimmage work. The Leopards’ only day of scrimmaging with officials is Aug. 20.
As I sat in Frank Tavani’s office the other day in the Bourger Varsity Football House, I looked out in wonderment at the Fisher Field playing surface – and the two long lines of sprinklers that were watering it.
Fisher Field is FieldTurf. Artificial grass. So, what’s with the water?
“They’re getting ready for us,” Tavani said when I said I was befuddled by the watering operation.
He then proceeded to tell me that on the really hot summer days, when the field temperature can get up to 120 degrees or so, the practice for the last three years has been to water the field for three hours prior to the afternoon practice.
“The field will take 22 inches of water,” Tavani said. “When you water it for about three hours, you can put down about six inches of water. That water can lower the temperature of the field by about 30 degrees. When the temperature is 120 and you skid on the surface, it’ll take the skin right off. Watering it takes it down to about 90 degrees; what a tremendous difference.”
Tavani said that the first year the FieldTurf was used, Lafayette plant operations didn’t know about the water hint. He said when the coaches and players got on the hot surface, the glue on the bottom of their shoes actually melted.
“Nobody wanted to believe me at first,” he said. “Now, in Florida, when they put the FieldTurf down, they put watering systems right into it. Here, we have the hoses along the wall, and when we take the temperature of the field and decide it needs water, it takes about 15 minutes for two guys to set it up.
“They’re just doing a dry run today – or, I guess it’s a wet run.”
In the past, Lafayette had practices from 1 to 4 p.m. during summer training camp. Things are different this year. Practices will be 9-11 a.m. when it’s a one-a-day schedule and 8:30-10:15 a.m. and 3:20-5 p.m. for two-a-day sessions.
The Leopards freshmen players had their first practice Thursday afternoon, while upperclassmen were arriving and going through testing. The first full team practice is at 9 Friday morning.
The Patriot League has a 92-player roster limit for 2014. Lafayette thought it would have 91 players, but Damarcus Ingraham, who had some problems with concussion last year, decided to give up the sport. Four other players are out for the season with injuries. Linebacker Matt Gill, defensive end Tyrus White and cornerback Alex Merriman are all rehabbing torn ACLs and wide receiver Jack Poetzsch tore a pectoral muscle while lifting during the off-season.
On another injury-relate note, eight members of the Leopards’ senior class are eligible to apply for a fifth season of football because of injuries that have kept them out at some time during their careers. They must apply, be approved and then drop out of school for the spring semester and return next fall. Coach Tavani says he thinks most of them plan to apply, and that makes for some interesting thinking. Listen to the list: Matt Gill, Tyrus White, Jared Roberts, Shane Dorner and Shane Black from the defense; on offense, you have Zach Zweizig, Max Ngolla and Ben Jeannot. Add six or seven of those to the third class of scholarship freshmen and you have some very interesting possibilities for 2015.
But, of course, I’m getting way ahead of myself. Last year, six players were eligible to apply for the extra year. Only three of them applied, and although all were approved, only one, Dion King, went through with it.
EARLY ADJUSTMENT PERIOD – Twenty-five of the 27 freshmen players this year were in Easton for the final four-week summer training session, with only tight end Quinn Smith and running back Rajhanc Mariwether not able to make it.
“That was huge,” Tavani said. “Now, they’re not lost on campus; they’re not totally homesick because they had chance to adjust in that phase of it, which is more than people want to believe. They’re also confident with what Coach [Brad] Potts gives them in training.”
Tavani said he saw the group – it was near 70 at the highest – make an end-of-workout run starting on Third Street in Easton, going along the Bushkill Creek and then up – and up – and up – past the tennis courts and onto the campus.
And, Tavani said, that run came after an hour-long workout in Fisher Stadium and a walk from Fisher down to the starting spot of the run. Wide receiver Mike Duncan was the fastest in the group, Tavani said. Second place went to freshman running back DeSean Brown.
“God bless ‘em all,” Tavani said.
HERE’S WHAT I’LL BE WATCHING CLOSELY
• I’m getting to like the look of the defensive front more and more all the time – a first unit of James Coscia and Darren Wright at ends and Steve Mercado and Matt Rothrock at tackles, with a backup unit that has Shane Dorner and Collin Albershardt at ends and Andy Labudev and Robin Cepeda at tackles. If Ian Dell can keep them healthy, he’ll have some good options.
• I’m also liking the offensive line – a first unit of Luke Chiarolanzio and Skyler Lash at tackles, Max Ngolla and Connor Staudle at guards and Zack Mazur at center, with a backup unit of Nick Zataveski, Paul Federinko, John Hoffman, John Lang and Ben Jeannot.
Top 10 mustaches
• A secondary of Matt Smalley and Darrell Crawford at corners and Jared Roberts and Draeland James at safety could be the best quartet in the league. Turns out that all the work Crawford got in the spring was more than an experiment. He starts summer camp already knowing virtually all he needs to know about the position.
• I’m hoping we can soon put to rest all the what-do-we-do-without-Mark-Ross talk. The tall guys come from the freshman class – Matt Mrazek and Rocco Palumbo – but Justin Adams is as tough as they come at the position, proving of course, that he can stay healthy, and Tim Vangelas and Demetrius Dixon have been waiting for their big chance, just as Ross had to do in his freshman year.
• The maturation of Drew Reed. He was the best freshman QB in the Patriot League last year, no matter what anyone else voted, and the expectations for him have no boundaries. We don’t yet know exactly how good Blake Searfoss might be because Reed was such a good find last fall. Searfoss looked great in one drive at New Hampshire. He’ll have Reed’s back and be ready to go. Zach Zweizig may never have to play a down, but he could be an emotional and spiritual leader among the QBs because he’s been there, too. And watch out for Josh Davis. I’m told he has a rocket arm.
I suppose I could go on, but there will be time for more. This is only the beginning.
Retired sports columnist Paul Reinhard is a freelance writer.
Ross Scheuerman has racked up nearly 4,500 yards of all-purpose offense during his career at Lafayette, but it often seems that he gets little or no respect because he operates in a low-key, blue-collar manner.
The 6-1, 205-pound senior from Creamridge, N.J., has gotten the attention of the people at The Sports Network, however. He has been picked as a second-team FCS All-American as an all-purpose back.
He goes into his final season for the Leopards ranked No. 8 on the career rushing list with 2,313 yards, but his contributions to the 2013 Patriot League championship effort went so much deeper than those 1,113 yards.
Scheuerman contributed 1,920 yards last season, going over the 1,000-yard mark rushing for the first time while scoring 14 touchdowns on the ground. He had four 100-yard rushing games and had five games in which he contributed more than 200 all-purpose yards.
For his career, Scheuerman also has caught 72 passes for 676 yards and has returned 68 kickoffs for 1,489 yards.
He is a three-time all-Patriot League pick, but has never been a first-teamer. He was the league’s Rookie of the Year in 2011 and has been selected as a second-team running back in each of his three seasons.
Scheuerman is one of three players with Lehigh Valley ties on The Sports Network’s preseason team.
Mike Coccia, a senior center from Freedom High School who started 30 consecutive games for New Hampshire before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury last year, was also named to the second team. It never struck me until reading his bio last night that he's not the only Division I scholarship athlete in his family. His sister Kristina, better known to me as Sharkey, was an outstanding gymnast with the Parkettes before going on to the University of Denver.
Lehigh offensive tackle Ned Daryoush was named to the third team.
Players from eight of Lafayette’s 2014 opponents have players on the preseason list. Here are the others.
FORDHAM – WR Sam Ajala, 6-0, 194, first team offense; LB Stephen Hodge, 6-0, 202, first team defense; QB Michael Nebrich, 6-1, 205, second team offense; OL Mason Halter, 6-6, 282, second team defense; TE Dan Light, 6-5, 250, third team offense;
HARVARD – DE Zach Hodges, 6-3, 235, first team defense; OL Nick Easton, 6-3, 300, second team offense;
SACRED HEART – DT Troy Moore, 6-3, 285, first team defense; RB Keshaudas Spence, 5-10, 230, second team offense;
WILLIAM & MARY – WR Tre McBride, 6-1, 200, second team offense; DE Mike Reilly, 6-4, 265, second team defense; LB Luke Rhodes, 6-2, 242, second team defense;
WAGNER – LS Phil Faccone, 5-9, 195, second team defense;
ROBERT MORRIS – PR Antwan Eddie, 5-10, 180, second team defense;
BUCKNELL – LB Evan Byers, 6-0, 225, third team defense;
Colgate, Holy Cross and Georgetown are the only Lafayette opponents that have no preseason All-America pick.
Helio Castroneves is protcted from a scorching sun while his team works on his car during Tuesday's IndyCar test session at Pocono Raceway.
You just assume that a guy named Will Power must be a never-give-up type.
And that name suits the guy who has led 279 laps in the first half of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, 114 laps more than his nearest challenger.
The 33-year-old Australian has won twice and sat on the pole twice, and as the series nears its return to Pocono Raceway for the second leg in the open wheel Triple Crown -- the Pocono IndyCar 500 Fueled by Sunoco, he is at the top of the point standings.
Helio Castroneves, because of things like his “Dancing With The Stars” success and his Spiderman climbs up fences when he wins races, is easily the leading attention-getter for Team Penske. He has won three Indianapolis 500s and came very close to joining the elite four-win club this year.
And Juan Pablo Montoya, who rejoined the Verizone IndyCar Series this season and is rapidly regaining the form that made him a success in 1999 and 2000, is constantly being asked about the difference between the Dallara Inday-car chassis he’s now driving and the car he drove for the last six years in NASCAR.
So, on Tuesday, I asked Power if he feels like the unappreciated member of the team.
“No, I love it,” Power said. “I like to keep low key, be to myself. It’s been really good having Juan and Helio because they have a lot of commitments and I don’t do much at all. I don’t want to be like these, guys, who get hassled all the time. It’s perfect for me.”
Power, who comes from a very eclectic family – one of his brothers is a stand-up comedian, another a choreographer and break-dancer and a third an accountant – has made his mark as a road racer. Of his 23 IndyCar wins, 20 of them have come on road or street courses. He has oval victories at Auto Club Speedway in California, Texas and Las Vegas.
He joined Team Penske in 2010 and all but four of his wins have some in his time with the sport’s most successful owner. He has yet to win a series championship, but he finished second in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Maybe all those bridesmaid finishes have kind of desensitized him.
“I don’t care about points,” he said Tuesday. “I race to race. I try not to think about points. I know I ‘m leading, but I don’t look. I don’t care. The only time to look is at the end. Otherwise, I race to win.”
He led last year’s Pocono IndyCar 400 Fueled by Sunoco four different times for a total of 15 laps, finishing fourth.
The Penske cars have had a great season to this point. Power has finished every lap of every race, has led six of the events and has finished in the top 10 in every event. Castroneves, who is second in points, has completed 928 of the season’s 929 laps, and Montoya has completed 928.
Much was made of the 1-3-4-6 finish of the Andretti Autosport cars at the Indianapolis 500, but Team Penske had a not-too-shabby 2-5-8 finish there. The Triple Crown battle will continue at Pocono, and Andretti and Penske will be in the thick of it, along with Chip Ganassi Racing, which swept the top three positions a year ago.
The Ganassi team is not testing this week at Pocono. I guess they figure they have the place figured out. We’ll see.
Lehigh University has never had one of its football players inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. If the Hall is looking for a legitimate – and eligible -- Brown and White candidate, I doubt that it could do better than Kim McQuilken.
I first covered a McQuilken football game when he was playing for my all-time favorite high school coach, George “Fritz” Halfacre at Allen.
When Kim became the starting quarterback at Lehigh in 1971, I saw him play only three games. I was covering Lafayette football at the time. McQuilken beat the Leopards three straight times, winning back-to-back Lafayette-Lehigh MVP awards in 1972-73. I fumbled on this paragraph in my original version of the blog, and I apologize to Kim and the rest of those 70s Engineers for that.
The reason for revisiting McQuilken’s playing days this week is to remember the time 40 years ago that he was selected in the third round of the NFL Draft. He didn’t have a professional career that was anywhere near that of his Lehigh career, but that should not detract from the fact that for three years, he was among the best in the country at what he did.
I went looking for a list of qualifications for inclusion into the National Football Foundation’s elite club. Here’s what I found on Wikipedia, which may not be the end-all of Internet sites, but certainly has its strong points.
Criterion: "A player must have received major first team All-America recognition."
McQuilken: He was an Associated Press and Kodak first-team All-American in 1973 and a third-teamer on the AP’s 1972 team.
Even though it went seven games, the New York Rangers dominated the Philadelphia Flyers for most of their Round 1 series.
Even if Flyers goalie Steve Mason played the first two games, the Rangers still would have won the series because Mason’s heroics in Game 7 weren’t enough for the lackluster, disorganized Flyers.
And the Rangers seem kind of anonymous. They didn’t look all that special, at least not on offense. They move the puck from side to side well, which was key in the first few games when they faced goalie Ray Emery, who is laterally-challenged.
Martin St-Louis scored two nice goals in the beginning of the series and Mats Zuccarello (four points) looked OK, but Derek Stephan (four points) was ordinary, Brad Richards was barely noticeable and Rick Nash (zero goals, four assists) was just plain ineffective.
But it isn’t about the offense with the Rangers, is it?
Defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi seem to block every puck shot within 10 feet of them. And the ones that are let through are usually gobbled up by goalie Henrik Lundqvist, especially when they are shot away from the crease.
That is the real secret to beating the Rangers – penetrating their D the way Flyers power forward Wayne Simmonds did in Game 6 when he scored a hat trick and shooting behind or next to the Rangers defensemen.
Can the Penguins do that? And if they do, will their leaky-at-times goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury (whose 2.81 goals against average is second-worst of all the starting goalies remaining) hold up his end of the deal enough to win?
The Pens have the more talented roster, but I see them losing in Round 2 in a series that could feature the most dives and heads whipping back to accentuate high sticks in the history of the sport.
Sidney Crosby was pretty much shut down in Round 1 by the Columbus’ defense and forward Brandon Dubinsky.
Jack Johnson emerged as an absolute stud at both ends of the ice for the Blue Jackets, and James Wisniewski was crafty with the puck and good enough on D. But the Rangers D has the ability to suffocate Crosby, who had zero goals and six assists last round.
I know, I know, there’s that Evgeni Malkin guy. But Malkin was pretty silent too until he score his only three goals in Game 6. (It was a nice time to show up.)
All the Rangers have to do is continue their stifling style and let Lundqvist clean up the rest.
Fleury, meanwhile, can get lit up, even by some of the marginal forwards the Rangers have.
I think the Rangers, who are more dedicated to their system than any other team in the league besides the Boston Bruins, will pull this out in seven games.
Here’s how I see the rest of Round 2 going:
My Round 1 prediction record, by the way, was 6-2.
Boston Bruins (1) vs. Montreal Canadiens (3)
The Canadiens are certainly fun to watch – especially their magician, P.K. Subban, and perennial playoff producer Danny Briere. And their 4-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning was impressive. But the Bruins are a whole different story. As good as Canadiens’ goalie Carey Price is (1.98 GAA in the playoffs so far), Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask has been even better (1.16 GAA).
And the Bruins are better everywhere else with monsters Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara and great playoff grinders like Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
Anaheim Ducks (1) vs. Los Angeles Kings (3)
LA is always the hardest team to evaluate because their sum is better than their parts. On one hand, they showed weakness by going down 0-3 against the San Jose Sharks in Round 1. Then they showed incredible determination in coming back and winning the series. So who are they?
I really like Anaheim’s top-end talent. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Cam Fowler are all dynamic players. But the Kings have the horses to contain them. And they can outscore them, too, with Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams.
Plus they have an edge in net with Jonathan Quick.
Chicago Blackhawks (3) vs. Minnesota Wild (4)
A Wild series win against the Cup champs would be an awesome David-and-Goliath story. And it would be a great redemption story for Ilya Bryzgalov if he’s forced to play. (He had to come in at the end of the Wild’s Round 1, Game 7 win against the Colorado Avalanche after Darcy Kuemper was injured.)
But unless the Blackhawks completely implode or some of the stars are injured, they’re going to win this series. They just have too much with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook etc.
Corey Crawford is often viewed as one of the areas that can be exploited by other teams (his glove hand, specifically) but he’ll be the better goalie in this series.
Some things in the NHL playoffs are guarantees.
Penguins star Sidney Crosby will again grow a pathetic mustache and make annoying whiny faces when he’s hit.
His teammate, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, will implode at some point and let up seven or so goals.
And by the time the Stanley Cup is raised, NBC’s between-the-benches color commentator Pierre McGuire will tell us every player’s hometown, where they played junior or college hockey and something great a past coach has said about each player like, “He really came to play not just in every game, but in every practice.”
But this year, there seems to be more uncertainty than ever on who will actually advance in what is now a true bracket. Last year’s Cup Final teams still look strong – the Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks and the runner-up Boston Bruins.
But both have tough tests right away and could get knocked out in the first round.
So could this be the year for one of the local teams – the Flyers, Rangers and Devils? Oh, I forgot, the Devils took this season off. Let me try again.
Could this be the Flyers' or Rangers' year? Why not? The Rangers got better offensively with Martin St-Louis (he had just eight points in 19 games after the Rangers picked him up at the trade deadline, but expect him to pick it up for the playoffs).
How to thin your mustache
And the Flyers fixed their biggest problem – goaltending – by acquiring Steve Mason and Ray Emery.
Since they meet in the opening round, one team will go home quickly. But for the other, this could be its best shot at getting to the Final in years.
Pittsburgh just hasn’t looked right and had been struck with injuries all season. Boston is missing a major minute-munching defenseman in Dennis Seidenberg; Tampa Bay has questions in net and Columbus has questions everywhere else. Montreal can be bullied and Detroit is missing its best player.
But I usually have a pretty good idea. Below are my predictions:
Boston Bruins (1) vs. Detroit Red Wings (4)
The Bruins will miss steady D-man Dennis Seidenberg for this playoff run, but they still have too much for Detroit, especially since Red Wings Captain and star Henrik Zetterberg is out for at least the first two games. Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand and Zdeno Chara will bring the pain as usual and Patrice Bergeron will be a major factor at both ends of the ice.
Tampa Bay Lightning (2) vs. Montreal Canadiens (3)
Ryan Callahan, brought in at the trade deadline in the Martin St-Louis trade, will provide better defense down the middle, but the team (specifically Steven Stamkos) seems less dangerous offensively with St-Louis gone. St-Louis knew just when to hit Stamkos for that nasty one-timer in the left part of the slot. They were John Stockton and Karl Malone; Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison. Now they’re “uncoupled” like Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow. And neither is better off.
The Lightning did beat Montreal three times out of four this season and they are a tougher team than the Canadiens with players like Ryan Malone and Teddy Purcell (Canadiens tough guy George Parros won’t play enough to be a factor). But Montreal has better goaltending in Carey Price and a more solid all-around team. P.K. Subban will provide feistiness and flair and Thomas Vanek, Brendan Gallagher and company should be able to pop in enough goals to win games. Perennial playoff stud Daniel Briere only scored 13 goals this season, but if he gets going, the Lightning will get zapped even quicker.
Pittsburgh Penguins (1) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (4)
Columbus has decent defense, especially with Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski. But unless goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is unbeatable – which is a possibility – the Pens are going to roll. Even if Pens netminder Marc-Andre Fleury chokes again this playoffs, the Penguins have too much star power with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang etc.
New York Rangers (2) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (3)
I was ready to give the edge to the Flyers, but with Steve Mason out for at least Game 1, they’re not going to pull this out. For starters, the Flyers haven’t won in Madison Square Garden since February. February of 2011. Yikes. (The teams did split this regular-season season 2-2.)
The Flyers scored 19 more goals than the Rangers this season, but let up 37 more goals. Double yikes.
The Flyers do have more talent spread throughout the roster. Vinny Lecavalier is the fourth-line center for Pete’s sake. He’s one of seven Flyers to score more than 20 goals this season. The Rangers only had two.
And the Flyers far and away will have the best player on the ice in Claude Giroux, who finished third in the league in points with 86. (St-Louis was the highest scoring Ranger with 69 points but 61 of those points were tallied while he was with Tampa Bay.)
But the Flyers big dogs have gone silent for long periods of time and Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist could easily make that happen again over a maximum of seven games. The difference between him and Ray Emery is greater than the talent gap everywhere else between the two teams. Even if Mason returns in say, Game 2, the fact that he can’t play in Game 1 tells you he won’t be right.
Colorado Avalanche (1) vs. Minnesota Wild (4)
Colorado finished with the third most points in the league, which is amazing considering they missed the playoffs last year, have a rookie head coach in Patrick Roy and are carried by such young players. The top four scorers were Matt Duchene, only 23, Gabriel Landeskog, 21, Ryan O’Reilly, 23 and Nathan MacKinnon, just 18. That’s amazing. It could also hurt them in the playoffs. Minnesota has many more veterans in its core like Danny Heatley (33), Mikko Koivu (32), Matt Moulson (30), and Zach Parise (29). But the Avs will get through this series because they’re faster and their goaltending is better.
St. Louis Blues (2) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (3)
The Blues were front runners for much of the season and took a dip at the end, losing seven of nine. And now they have to face the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. To make things worse, two of the Blues’ first-line players, center David Backes and winger T.J. Oshie, were injured in the last stretch, but both are scheduled to return for this series. The Blackhawks probably smell blood and with their ridiculous talent (Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and company), they should pull this out.
Anaheim Ducks (1) vs. Dallas Stars (4)
The Stars have come a long way since missing the playoffs last season. They’re looking good in their new jerseys and their young stars – Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin – have been electrifying at times. But the Ducks have too much (Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne, Cam Fowler etc.) and they seem ready to make a serious run.
San Jose Sharks (2) vs. Los Angeles Kings (3)
San Jose finished with 11 more points, but the Kings took regular-season series 3-1-1. This could wind up being the closest series of all the first rounders. Both goalies have won the Stanley Cup (Antti Niemi with Chicago). Both have plenty of grit mixed with talent. My brain tells me the Kings should win, but my gut tells me the Sharks. Especially because vets Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton are going to push as hard as ever for a chance to win the Cup. I’m going against my brain and with my gut.
Darrell Crawford was making a good impression on the Lafayette offensive coaches this spring. How good?
“I was playing really well on offense,” the 5-9, 187-pound Wilkes-Barre GAR grad said after Saturday’s practice-scrimmage in Fisher Stadium.
Head coach Frank Tavani took that a step further.
Frank Tavani has said all along that the highlight of this year's spring football "camp" won't look anything like the Maroon and White games of past years.
I checked with him today to see if everything was on schedule, and he gave me the following agenda.
St. Luke’s Hospice Charity Bike Ride will take place Saturday, May 3 in a new location this year that’s guaranteed to increase the enjoyment of the vent.
The ride will take place on the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor Trail (affectionately known as the D&L) from the Lehighton Trailhead south to Lehigh Gap.
This year’s ride offers 18-mile and 36-mile options and joins with St. Luke’s University Health Network and the D&L initiative called “Get Your Tail on the Trail!” that promotes healthy, active lifestyles.
Loaner bikes for the crushed limestone rtail will be available through Poconon Biking.com
Registration is required through www.active.com. Search for St. Luke’s Hospice. A registration fee of $40 includes a participation kit, shirt, bike loaner and shuttle
service, if needed. All proceeds will benefit the St. Luke’s Hospice program.
Online registration will close at 10 p.m. April 30. Registration is available at the event beginning at 8:30 a.m. May 3.