Thursday, 12 April 2012

Collation of Guest Blog Spots

Running Total : +90.32 pts

Jockey Club Stakes
Newmarket, May 5th
Results : +28pts, happy with that, carry on

Punchestown Champion Hurdle
Punchestown, April 27th
Results : +12.35pts, should've been braver.

Maghull Novices' Chase
Aintree, April 14th
Rsults : +23.6pts, this was an easy one.

Melling Chase
Aintree, April 13th
Results : -10pts, stinker, move on.

Dubai Golden Shaheen
Meydan, March 31tst
Results : +45pts, bazinga, race run exactly as suspected, favourite split up my exactas otherwise would've been huge.

Grand Annual Chase
Cheltenham, March 16th
Results : -8.37pts, not great, but made some positive comments on the winner.

Cross Country Chase
Cheltenham, March 13th
Results: Got the right 2nd place, but nothing else. No pointed staking plan.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Western Conference Preview

NHL Playoffs Preview 2012

The most exciting part of the year has arrived, the quest for Lord Stanley's Cup. Sixteen teams remain in the hunt including the defending champion Boston Bruins. Let's have a closer look at this year's opening round match-ups and see if we can find a bit of value to have a punt, or something silly to bet with your mates. We'll finish with the West.


#1 Vancouver Canucks (H: 27-10-4, A: 24-12-5, 111pts)
#8 Los Angeles Kings (H: 22-14-5, A: 18-13-10, 95pts)

What do you do when your team loses Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Finals on home ice? Riot? No, but that's Vancouver's usual answer. Complain about the referees and the other team cheating? No, that's Montreal. The answer is you rebuild, you salvage the good parts from last season and you get rid of the dead weight and find some new parts to make your hockey team work. Credit to them, that's what the Canucks have done, their success has been built on an abundance of skill and a good Power Play, 3rd best amongst the playoff teams. They've also added a bit more grit, something they lacked as the Bruins dismantled them in Game 7. They added Sami Pahlsson, Steven Reinprecht and Zack Kassian and won another President's Trophy, the game plan seems to be the same as last year, but the goaltending has a slight change as Cory Schneider has stepped up and has a better winning percentage, goals against average and save percentage, so barring any Luongo moments, the Canucks are built to go deep.
Key Man: Henrik Sedin, the captain was anonymous in the Finals last year with 1 point, and after leasing the league in assists with 67, he has to be more involved if Vancouver are going to go the distance.

Emerging from the tightest division in the West are the Kings, they were only 2 points off the #3 seed, and as a reward they get to face the reigning Western champs. It's a tough ask and if they're going to have any chance, they have to be disciplined and keep Vancouver off the PP. That said, their penalty killing unit is the 3rd best of the remaining teams, but if you give the Canucks enough opportunities, they'll bury you. Anze Kopitar was the stand out King this season amassing 25 goals and 51 assists. In order to beat Vancouver, LA will need to have their goalie at his best, and he has been outstanding this year. Jonathan Quick leads the league in shutouts with 10 and has a 1.95 GAA and .929 save percentage. He will need to bring those numbers into the postseason, otherwise there could be a slaughter in this series.
Key Man: Jonathan Quick, needs to maintain his regular season form and allow his team-mates to beat Vancouver the same way Tim Thomas did last season.

FIRST GAME: Wednesday 10.30pm ET, NBC
PREDICTION: Progress as usual, Vancouver win in four games. (17/2 @ Bet365)
EXOTIC BET: Vancouver to score over 6.5 Power Play goals

#2 St. Louis Blues (H: 30-6-5, A: 19-16-6, 109pts)
#7 San Jose Sharks (H: 26-12-3, A: 17-17-7, 96pts)

St. Louis rely on a stellar home record and some mean goaltending, good for success in the playoffs usually, but they struggle at times for offense. In David Backes they have a player being talked about in the Selke Trophy reckoning (that Trophy is Bergeron's, so don't even think about it) and he's also led them in goals and points. The only thing I have against St. Louis is the fact that they have two excellent goaltenders, yes I know, pretty counter-intuitive, but stick with me. This time of the season is all about consistency and Jaroslav Halak has only played 45 games, Brian Elliott has played the other 37, and although both goalies have a sub 2.00 GAA the question remains, who is the number 1 goalie? The last  Cup-winning team to have a similar 2 goalie problem was the 2008 Red Wings, and this Blues team just isn't as good. They do however have in their favour Ken Hitchcock as coach, who has steadied the ship this season and turned St. Louis into contenders and he already has a Cup to his name, so he knows how to win this thing.
Key Man: Kevin Shattenkirk, last year he was an All-Star in Colorado, this year he's been a big part of the Blues' success, he needs to shut down the Sharks attacking threat and provide some offense at the other end.

San Jose scrapped their way into the playoffs despite trading Devon Setoguchi and Dany Heatley, they still had Joe Thornton and Logan Couture to drag them to the big show. Joe Pavelski was 3rd in the league in faceoff percentage which becomes important at this time of year, and Antti Niemi was solid in goal with his experience as a Cup winner priceless on this team along with Dan Boyle who came the other way in the Setoguchi trade with Minnesota. Can they go deep, maybe. Will they go deep, probably not. They'll be scrappy and try to nick games by the odd goal, but their dead last penalty kill worries me, and even although they have a strong PP, it's the PK that wins championships, just ask Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
Key Man: Joe Thornton: captain fantastic has seen his old side win the Cup last year, so he'd love to succeed them, and this is one of his last chances.

FIRST GAME: Thursday 7.30pm ET, CNBC
PREDICTION: Stingy defenses, probably rivalling Florida v New Jersey for the most boring first round series, Blues win in five games (4/1 @ Bet365)
EXOTIC BET: Total Power Play goals in the series under 4.5

#3 Phoenix Coyotes (H: 22-13-6, A: 20-14-7, 97pts)
#6 Chicago Blackhawks (H: 27-8-6, A: 18-18-5, 101 pts)

The Coyotes got over the trade of Ilya Bryzgalov by adding Mike Smith from the Lightning and he's been excellent for one of the worst offensive teams left in the West. They had a stellar February going 11-0-1 and they won their last 5 games to win the Pacific division. Ray Whitney, despite being part of almost every trade rumour at the deadline, stayed in Phoenix and led them in points, assists and plus/minus. This is a strong team, with the emphasis on the team, and they'll need to be that to beat the Hawks. This is likely Phoenix's last season before hopefully moving to Quebec.
Key Man: Shane Doan, has to prove why he's considered in everybody's Norris Trophy shortlists and deal with Chicago's multitude of attacking talents.

The Blackhawks are two years removed from their Cup triumph and have kept intact a large part of that team. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa are the star names, and although Toews missed some of the season he led the league in faceoff percentage at 59.4%. As the Hawks play in the toughest division in the East, they are the #6 seed despite finishing the season 11-2-4 and decent goaltending from Corey Crawford gives them a chance this year. The main issue Chicago has is their woeful special teams. They are 15th of the playoff teams in Power Play efficiency and 15th on the PK. The 78.1% kill could be their killer and they will need to find a way to shut the back door, or keep it 5 on 5. If not this team may struggle to put together another championship run before Toews, Kane and Duncan Keith have to re-sign.
Key Man: Patrick Sharp, at the heart of everything good Chicago does offensively, he has to put his stamp on the series for Chicago to progress.

FIRST GAME: Thursday 10pm ET, NBC
PREDICTION: A back and forth series, the pick of the West first-round, Chicago win in seven games (9/2 @ Bet365)
EXOTIC BET: Coyotes to score more total goals in the series

#4 Nashville Predators (H: 26-10-5, A: 22-16-3, 104 pts)
#5 Detroit Red Wings (H: 31-7-3, A: 17-21-3, 102pts)

Nashville are built on strong goaltending from Pekka Rinne who led the league with 43 wins, an excellent Power Play at 21.6% and a strong record on their own rink. Add to that Patric Hornqvist's 27 goals and 5 other 15+ goalscorers, they have a pretty balanced offense, able to cause problems for most teams. They have a previous Cup winner in Hal Gill and they should be good to go. What's stopping them, well they don't have a great deal of playoff experience as a group. Last season's win over Anaheim was Nashville's first series win in franchise history, and their opponents are the most successful US team in playoff history, tough task, but I think they can raise their intensity to play with the big boys.
Key Man: Pekka Rinne, has to keep them in the series, especially with Detroit's talent laden line-up.

Detroit is arguably the most talented team in all of hockey. Pavel Datsyuk is a magician, Henrik Zetterberg is also capable of magic, and Valtteri Filppula can change the focus of a game in an instant. So why are the only the #5 seed if they're so good, i hear you ask? They stink away from the Joe, that's why, they have a losing record away from their fortress. So while the octopuses will be flying onto the ice at home, Jimmy Howard will most likely be sprawled in a similar fashion during games in Nashville. They've got a chance, but they will have to nick at least one game away from Detroit and they haven't looked likely to do that so far this season.
Key Man: Valterri Filppula, he's a 23-43-66 man this season and having tasted Cup triumph in 2008, he  needs to step up and join Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Lidstrom as a Detroit hero, before the latter turns into a pumpkin (not really, Nick just has to retire this summer, he may think it, but he's not Gordie Howe)

FIRST GAME: Wednesday 8pm ET, CNBC
PREDICTION: Predictable home team dominance, Nashville win in seven games (4/1 @ Bet365)
EXOTIC BET: Total goals scored in the series under 30.5

That's us for the first round, hopefully there'll be plenty of talking points, and I'll see you back here for a Round 2 playoff in a couple of weeks.

Eastern Conference Preview

NHL Playoffs Preview 2012

The most exciting part of the year has arrived, the quest for Lord Stanley's Cup. Sixteen teams remain in the hunt including the defending champion Boston Bruins. Let's have a closer look at this year's opening round match-ups and see if we can find a bit of value to have a punt, or something silly to bet with your mates. We'll start in the East.


#1 New York Rangers (H: 27-12-2, A: 24-12-5, 109pts)
#8 Ottawa Senators (H: 20-17-4, A: 21-14-6, 92pts)

The Rangers started the season strong and maintained that pace throughout the season, playing solid hockey and not really being troubled too much. The team is built on solid defense and physicality in front of some excellent goaltending. Lundqvist probably will and definitely should win the Vezina Trophy and on top of a good well spread offense, this year the Rangers added Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik who provided 142 points between them. The penalty kill is solid and ranks 4th amongst teams in the playoffs, but their power play is 14th of those teams and needs some improvement for the Rangers to make it all the way.
Key Man : Ryan Callahan, captain fantastic leads by example and will drive this team forward.

Ottawa rely heavily on their All-Star "selections" (see previous blog about that) in Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson. They slumped into the playoffs after dropping back from Boston in the Northeastern division. They should've been pushing for the 6th seed, but only made the 8th spot because the Sabres were so dire in the last month of the season. The Sens have solid, if not spectacular goaltending and their special teams units rank middle of the pack. If they're going to have any chance, their Power Play needs to be firing on all cylinders and they'll need to improve their PK drastically.
Key Man : Eric Karlsson, only 21 but a two-time All Star and 59 assists this season could help offensive output.

FIRST GAME: Thursday 7pm ET, NHL Network
PREDICTION: Nothing special, Rangers win in five games. (10/3 @ Bet365)
EXOTIC BET: New York -6.5 goals over Ottawa

#2 Boston Bruins (H: 24-24-3, A: 25-15-1, 102pts)
#7 Washington Capitals (H: 26-11-4, A: 16-21-4, 92pts)

The defending champions got off to a slow start, mainly because of their long season (25 playoff games) and took a while to get going. Through November and December however, they were the best team in hockey, when we got to January they started slumping again. They enter the playoffs with a bit of momentum going 9-2-1 in their last 12. Injuries to key players like Nathan Horton, Rich Peverley and Tuukka Rask meant that lines were changed frequently and call ups from the minors were fairly regular. As a result Boston probably have the most balanced attack in the NHL, they were the only team with 6 different 20 goal scorers and they also have the best goal differential in the league. They had the top 5 players in the plus/minus category, and this year's presumptive Selke Trophy winner Patrice Bergeron finished 2nd in face-off percentage. All that said, the Caps have owned them 3-1 this season, so it'll be up to the Bruins to send a message early that the playoffs are their time of year and send Washington home early.
Key Man: Tim Thomas, reigning Conn Smythe and Vezina winner is nearly 38 and with Rask's injury he's played a lot more games than anybody wanted. If he shows the same form as last season, Boston could be the first back-to-back winner since Detroit.

The Caps are an enigma, after Bruce Boudreau lead them to a couple of #1 seeds and a president's trophy, the ownership in Washington decided they'd rather have post-season than regular season success, showed him the door and brought in Dale Hunter. The Caps are still a team that relies far too heavily on Alex Ovechkin and their goalkeeping tandem doesn't seem to be working well either. They have a bit of momentum coming into the playoffs and nearly stole the #3 seed from the Panthers, so that will carry them forward into this series and make things a bit more competitive with Boston.
Key Man: Alexander Ovechkin, the Caps play as Ovechkin plays. No Ovi, no hope.

FIRST GAME: Thursday 7.30pm ET, NBC
PREDICTION: Back and forth series but more frustration for Caps fans, Boston win in seven games (7/2 @ Bet365)
EXOTIC BET: Series total goals over 36.5

#3 Florida Panthers (H: 21-9-11, A: 17-17-7, 94pts)
#6 New Jersey Devils (H: 24-13-4, A: 24-15-2, 102 pts)

Probably the least exciting match-up of the first round for me. The Panthers make their first postseason appearance since the lock-out and I don't think they'll last long. They added a few decent free agents and made some good trades before the season, the best of those being Tomas Fleischmann who led them in points and goals. Goaltending continues to be and issue and they are one of only two postseason teams with a negative goal difference. Their weak penalty kill could expose them as the Devils have the best PP of the teams left. Florida's strong home record will be the only thing keeping this season alive.
Key Man: Tomas Fleischmann, the driving force in the offense, he has to have a big series to give the Panthers hope.

The Devils suffered from being in the strongest division in the NHL, they finished 4th in the Atlantic Division with 102 points. Ilya Kovalchuk's acquisition finally seems to be paying dividends and strong contributions from Zach Parise and Patrik Elias have paced the team throughout the season. Brodeur looks to be having his last hurrah in net and this looks like one of his last chances to win another Cup. The Devils strong and quick play should be enough to set them up for a second round date with the Rangers and it seems a question of when rather than if they beat Florida

FIRST GAME: Friday 7pm ET, NHL Network
PREDICTION: The Devils have too much and a couple of home wins for Florida extends the series, New Jersey win in six games (3/1 @ Bet365)
EXOTIC BET: Total goals in series under 30.5

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins (H: 29-10-2, A: 22-15-4, 108 pts)
#5 Philadelphia Flyers (H: 22-13-6, A: 25-13-3, 103pts)

The series everyone wants to see, Crosby is back for the Penguins and Malkin is this season's Hart Trophy winner, Evgeni led the league in points with 109 and was second in goals with 50 only behind Steven Stamkos who probably playing golf right now. Stellar goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury and  real toughness and great coaching from Dan Bylsma has led this team through most of the season without their captain and the NHL's biggest star in Crosby. They have a good PP at 19.7%, an excellent PK at 87.8% and the league's second best goal differential at +61, so you'd expect this series to be tight, well it might be for the first couple of games, but once the cross-state emotion kicks in there will be fights, goals and everything else you'd want in a series.
Key Man: Sidney Crosby, the captain has been missing most of the season through injury but his return came at the right team and he could lead this team all the way to the Finals.

The Flyers recovered from their tough festive period and losing in the Winter Classic to the Rangers, and with Claude Giroux concussion-free added to the career best figures from Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds, Philly have recover to finish the season well. They still struggle for consistency in the goaltending department and have missed Chris Pronger and his abnormally shaped head massively this season. Big free agent signing Ilya Bryzgalov had a dip in confidence, co-incidentally shortly after his "Universe" piece on Road to the Winter Classic, and Sergei Bobrovsky hasn't been that great deputising. For a team that changes goaltenders like toothbrushes, Bryzgalov has been better than most in recent memory, and it's upon that foundation the Flyers' hopes will rest. There will be plenty goals in this series so it's going to come down to Bryzgalov to save some shots that he shouldn't and hold everything he should.
Key Man: Ilya Bryzgalov: In a town where sports fans boo Santa, it won't take much to chase the Russian from the net, but if he's solid, Philly have a chance

FIRST GAME: Wednesday 7.30pm ET, NHL Network
PREDICTION: A war of attrition shall ensue and the Pens will just have enough to sneak it, Pittsburgh win in seven games (7/2 @ Bet365)
EXOTIC BET: Total penalty minutes in the series over 140.5

PART 2 previewing the WESTERN CONFERENCE, will be put up tonight, at Primetime Pacific Time.