Sports Post!

Well, the baseball playoffs have started, so I'm behind in my predictions, but here you are anyway:

National League
Padres-Cardinals: Cards in 4
Dodgers-Mets: LA in 5
Dodgers over Mets in 7

American League
Yankees-Tigers: Yanks in 4
Twins-A's: A's in 3
A's over Yanks in 6

A's over Dodgers in 5

The problem I have with predicting the outcome of things like "the playoffs" is that I then look back and see that I picked Oakland to win the World Series and that's just ridiculous.

Also ridiculous: Andrew Miller not on the Tigers postseason roster. Who cares if he's given up 7 ERs in 9 innings of work! He went to the CWS this year! He's 6'6"! He's left-handed! I need fewer exclamation points! Seriously, though I hope Detroit pulls it out against the Yanks and he gets added. Some of the most fun I have as a sports fan is watching the kids (I say that like I'm not the same age or younger) I cheered for as Tar Heels make the big leagues: my (other) boy Chris Iannetta made his debut with Colorado this year.

It's nearly hockey season and I'm psyched. I'm disappointed not to be in Atlanta, for the Thrashers WILL make the playoffs this year, but what can you do. I say Lehtonen stays healthy, Kovalchuk's in the race for the scoring title and Hossa could be an MVP candidate. So the outlook for Southern hockey:

Carolina Hurricanes: It's not the same lineup that won the Cup, with Recchi and Weight back to Pittsburgh and St. Louis, respectively, but I don't see any reason Staal won't equal last season's production and with Cole healthy again and Walker wearing red and white, the offense isn't going to be a problem. Ward and Tverdovsky have departed, but Wesley-Hedican-Kaberle-Wallin is a solid top-4 and Carolina has always been about defense as a unit. The biggest question mark for this team, I think, is Cam Ward. He was outstanding in the playoffs, but he's untested in a full season, and I'm not sure Grahame is the answer if Ward falters. Still, they should take the Southeast.

Nashville Predators: They have an outstanding, proven goalie in Tomas Vokoun and he can take them a long way. Proven scoring up front with Kariya, Hartnell, Erat, Legwand and a strong defensive corps. Jordin Tootoo and Scottie Upshall add a chippy presence (Tootoo already had a run-in with Atlanta's Kovalchuk in the preseason) and the fans in Nashville seem to have come to life. They have a good mix of youth and leadership and their team speed is excellent. I think they compete for tops in the West.

Atlanta Thrashers: Ahh, the Thrashers. An excellent deal this summer dropped some dead weight by sending appalling bad defenseman Jaroslav Modry and original Thrasher Patrick Stefan to Dallas (where true to form, he'll start the season on the IR). Aubin, Petrovicky and Vigier are easily replaceable players, so the only big losses Atlanta suffered in the offseason were Marc Savard and his 100 points and the team's third-leading scorer Peter Bondra. As I don't see Steve Rucchin stepping in for Bondra numbers-wise, it'll have to be a group affair to replace the two centers. Are Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa up to the task? If Bob Hartley can find the right mix of linemates for his stars, I'd say yes. The good news is that Rucchin and Niko Kapanen, who came over from Dallas, are strong defensive centermen and should help a slightly-better Thrashers D -- with the addition of Vitaly Vishnevski -- rise from the bottom of the NHL in goals-against. Atlanta's biggest signings, however, were probably in goal. While the playoff fate of the team likely rests on Kari Lehtonen's somewhat skinny shoulders and hopefully no-longer-fragile groin, Johan Hedberg is a more than capable backup and Fred Braithwaite is a solid third option. There should be no ECHL goalie sightings at Philips this year. I say second in the SE, sixth in the conference.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Hopefully Marc Denis solves their goaltending issues, but I'm not terribly convinced of that. They're a fast and dynamic team well-suited to the new NHL, with a well-meshed defense and high-flying offense. I can't say I share John Buccigross's optimism that they'll win the entire East, but Vinny Lecavalier and Mary St. Louis could sneak a third SE team into the playoffs this year.

Florida Panthers: I think the Cats are one big question mark. How will Bertuzzi fare in Miami? I'd guess that the change of scenary could only be good for him, hell, half of the Panther fans probably don't even remember Steve Moore. Some of the best young players in the league are down there too -- Jay Bouwmeester, Nathan Horton, Stephen Weiss. Mix them up with Gary Roberts, Marty Gelinas, Joe Nieuwendyk and Ruslan Salei with Olli Jokinen's leadership and I guess anything can happen. But their goalie is Ed Belfour. So I'm going with 10th in the East.

Four out of five playoff-caliber teams. We're coming along nicely, my fellow southerners.

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