ST. LOUIS SINGING THE STANLEY CUP BLUES

NHL 19It took a full six games for the St. Louis Blues professional Ice Hockey team to defeat the stubborn San Jose Sharks and advance to the NHL finals where they will face the legendary Boston Bruins, who have been practically perennial contenders for the Stanley Cup title for the past 20 years or so.

Although most of us were not aware that St. Louis even had an ice hockey team way back in 1970. That was the last time that the Blues participated in the Stanley Cup Finals, after 3 consecutive appearances there, only to be denied by these same Boston Bruins they will be facing on May 27.

The seven game series for the coveted Stanley Cup begins on May 27th at TD Garden in Boston when Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy and team captain Zdeno Chara will lead the Boston NHL franchise to its fourth professional ice hockey finals in as many years. The Bruins last won the Stanley Cup back in 2011, it was their sixth NHL Championship in franchise history.

The St. Louis Blues team has a roster made up predominantly of Canadian hockey players.  Not all, but most, of their star players are from north of the border. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that, where else would one go to find ice hockey players. Head Coach Craig Berube and team captain Alex Pietrangelo have taken the Blues from a terrible beginning to the season to a team scoring 99 goals in 2019 and landing in the NHL Finals.

Blues fans in St. Louis are true-blue and loyal as ever, but perhaps not as optimistic as they could be taking into consideration the amount of disillusionment and heartbreak these fans have know in recent years as their cherished Blues struggled its way to the top of the NHL hierarchy.

In fact, they didn’t start up the “We want the Cup!” cheer until the Blues had a solid 3 goal lead on the San Jose Sharks in game six of the playoffs.  Such was the faith, but the fans have come around now and are all in for a run at the Stanley Cup.

As one longtime Blues season ticket holder told reporters, “I’m feeling excitement. This is as close as we’ve come in the last 50 years”.  Then he added, “And it’s possible. This is a hell of a good team. It’s solid. Four lines. Great goaltending. Team defense.  We could do this!”

But on January 1 this year the St. Louis Blues were tied with the Ottawa Senators for the fewest points in the NHL at 34 each.  Hardly reason for optimism for diehard Blues fans.  One couple, who back in 2014 had postponed their honeymoon to follow their team for a playoff run, only to see St. Louis eliminated in the first round by the Blackhawks.

This same guy was in Vegas back in January when the Blues were listed at 100 to 1 to win the 2019 Stanley Cup. For reasons known only to true-heart sports fans with unwavering, inexplicable, loyalty to their team, he put down $25 on St. Louis to win the Stanley Cup.

That little bet ‘on faith’ is looking pretty damned good right now!  It’s looking to be a close series. Las Vegas oddsmakers are posting moneyline odds of +135 for the Blues and -155 for the Bruins.  That’s practically a push!

IT’S TUFF TO BE A BIG LEAGUER

young baseball playerLooking at those astronomical contracts major league athletes are signing these days leads one to wonder if they are actually worth it.  Exactly how special are they?  What does it take to be a major league ball player?

First of all, they have to totally dedicate their lives to their sport. If you are going to be a major league baseball player, you play baseball every day of your life, for your whole life. And for every hour spent on a baseball diamond, 2 or 3 are spent in the weight room or in other forms of training and conditioning.

These young fellows they call ‘rookies’  we see taking the field in a major league ball park for the first time have already played in thousands of baseball games, some of them for championships at local, state or even national levels, long before arriving at MLB.  Their entire youth is spent striving to reach the major leagues only to find out when they finally get there that it is even harder to stay a big leaguer than to become on in the first place.

But how hard is it?  One would think that a gifted athlete, even though not brought up majoring in the baseball, could still make the transition using his natural and developed athletic abilities.  Surely that could be done, right?

Now we have a guy out there who was a great football player, highly intelligent, gifted athlete, Heisman Trophy winner and NCAA National Championship winner, who wants more than anything to play major league baseball. You know the guy, it’s Tim Tebow.

Tebow does not need to prove anything, and he doesn’t need the money, but ole Tim is out there busting his butt every day trying his best just to make it in the minor leagues, and struggling a bit at times at that.  Tim is finding out first hand just how hard it is to be a big leaguer.

That right there should be ample evidence of just how difficult it is to make it in the majors and thrive there.  Those that do make it are living the dream, but at a price.  Professional athletes must, by definition of the job, give themselves over to the team and the team time table and team discipline for a large portion of the year.

But of course these guys are being paid big bucks to play a game they love.  They would gladly be doing it for a lot less money if modern economics didn’t dictate the high salaries we see today.  They are having fun out there!

Part of the enjoyment of watching a baseball game, especially being there in person, is picking up on the energy generated by the players executing their sport with precision skills, and having a ball doing it.

But it still ain’t exactly easy.  Just watch how many of big leaguers show up on the disabled list every day, it’s always something.  When you go all out at full speed, you stand a chance of getting hurt, but that’s part of the game and yet another example of how tuff it is to be a big leaguer.  Just ask Tim Tebow.

GOLDEN STATE LOOKS TO CONTINUE DYNASTY RUN

The-NBA-Finals-2019-300x193Since winning their first NBA Championship since 1975 by defeating LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers back during the short reign of head coach David Blatt, the Golden State Warriors, behind the always entertaining antics of Stephen Curry, have pretty much dominated professional basketball in North America.

The Warriors are the new kids on the block, although Golden State actually won the NBA title way back in 1975. The Cleveland Cavaliers have hung around to challenge the Warriors for every NBA Finals series since 2015, until now. For the first time in a long time, the Cavs did not even make it to the NBA playoffs and have been home watching the finals on TV, which must seem very strange to some team members.

The Warriors defeated the Cavaliers for the 2015 title then Tyronn Lue took over as head coach in Cleveland and the Cavs managed to beat the Warriors in an exciting 7 game series in 2016.  2017 and 2018 saw the same bill of fare at the finals with Golden State winning and maintaining the NBA title both years. A championship they are now bound to defend yet again.

Now, four years hardly constitutes a bona-fide dynasty, but it’s off to a very good start.  The storied franchise of the Boston Celtics holds the mark for the most NBA titles at 17.  More impressive yet is that the Celtics did it 8 times in a row from 1959 until 1966.  We will see how the Warriors stack up to that record.

The Lakers of Los Angeles have contested the title more than any other team since the Finals were began back in 1947 with 31 appearances, the most recent of which came from 2008-2010 under head coach Phil Jackson.  Oddly enough, the Golden State Warriors have never faced their in-state rival Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.

Now the Warriors have punched their ticket to the final round of the 2019 NBA Finals while the Lakers, the Celtics and the Cavaliers are long gone. Golden State staged another of its famous second half comebacks to eliminate the Portland Trail Blazers, and the younger Curry brother, from competition.

The Warriors are a little banged up having lost both super-star Kevin Durant and his buddy Andre Iguodala to calf injuries. Even so, they are a formidable basketball team displaying both speed and agility as well as an exceptional basketball I.Q. every time they take the court.

The remaining core of the Warrior team consists of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to whom double and even triple doubles are becoming commonplace.  The pinpoint shooting accuracy and smothering defense of Golden State put away an excellent Portland team lead by Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in four straight matches.

So now the Warriors are resting up and awaiting the winners of the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptor series.  While Las Vegas oddsmakers are listing the Raptors at +1000 and the Bucks at Even money, wagering on Golden State requires that the bettor must risk $450 to win $100.

So, odds are, the Warrior dynasty is likely to continue for another year at least.

THE PREAKNESS STAKES AT PIMLICO

Preakness17HeroEclipseThe 2019 Kentucky Derby was a mess.  Messy track, messy horses, messy jocks and messy finish. Controversial to say the least.  Articles are still being written about the Derby finish over a week after the event.  The Maximum Security camp is still sure that they won the race and were robbed of the victory. The Country House camp is counting their blessings and holding pat.

But the Triple Crown must go on and the second leg is set to run this weekend at Pimlico Race Course outside of Baltimore.  Funny thing is, neither Maximum Security nor Country House will be running in the 2019 Preakness Stakes.  In fact only four horses that participated in the Kentucky Derby this year will be running at Pimlico.

The Preakness is a mile and three sixteenths long race that falls between the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes in both time and the length of the race. The purse this year will be around $1,500,000, which is a lot of money.

Such is the importance of the Triple Crown races that NBCSports will air a total of 7 hours of coverage from Pimlico featuring stakes-rich race cards and culminating in the running of the 144th Preakness Stakes. Post time for the big race is set at 6:50 EST, preceded by all the pomp and circumstance relegated to such a dignified event.

Those in attendance at the race will be ‘dressed to the nines’, as they say. The lucky ones will have ‘paddock passes’ which will allow them to walk through the paddocks where the horses and kept and prepped for the races.  Walking among these magnificent creatures at rest and feeling the pent up energy all around them is one of the more unforgettable race day experiences for many, and to some, more fun than the race itself.

Of course, the favorites for the Preakness are the top horses remaining from the derby entrants.  Improbable ran strong in Louisville but was blocked for most of the way around the back stretch.  He is picked as the favorite at 5-2 to win at Pimlico as legendary trainer, and 2 time Triple Crown winner, Bob Baffert, will coach both horse and jockey to maximum effort to win the second leg of the 2019 Triple Crown.

Close behind comes another veteran from the Derby, War of Will, who was embroiled in the bumping controversy with Maximum Security.  The longer track should tell the tale for trainer Mark Casse and War of Will who is currently listed at 4-1.

This year at Pimlico they have a local favorite running in the Preakness by the name of Alwaysmining coming off of six straight wins at Laurel Park and going off at 8-1 with strong local support.

So, grab a Daily Racing Form, study up and place your wagers for the Preakness Stakes for 2019.

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