NBA DRAFT: Best pick for the team…..not player rankings

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First-Round Order

1. Minnesota – Jahlil Okafor – Pekovic already under contract through 2017-18 for $12 million and he’s serviceable as a traditional center (big, rebounder) grabbing 8 rebounds and pitching in 12+ points per game. Okafor can move well and score as a power forward while not having to guard the opponents best big man. (Karl-Anthony Towns, )
2. L.A. Lakers – Karl-Anthony Towns – Jordan Hill has been great and he’s been not-so-great.  Even at his best he’s not a true, back-to-the-basket center.  Towns could provide the offense and strength to throw twin towers at Western opponents.  (Justise Winslow, D’Angelo Russell)
3. Philadelphia – D’Angelo Russell – Sixers couldn’t score last year and were 24th in the league in assists.  Noel, Aldemir and, hopefully, Embiid can hold down the lane or Philly can pick up a big in FA……they only have  $30 million on the books for 15-16 right now. (Justise Winslow, Devin Booker)
4. New York – Willie Cauley-Stein – Carmelo is a basketball black hole so it’s best to surround him with defenders and passers who don’t need the ball to be productive.  WCS is a proven defender and hustler with passing skills and the quickness to run the floor and move on offense.  The Knicks could easily go point guard here as well. (Jerian Grant, Tyus Jones)
5. Orlando  – Mario Hezonja – Slasher who can take it to the rack.  New coach Scott Skiles needs more efficient and, well, just MORE scoring.  Other scorers are available, but Hezonja might be better fit for a team that already has an international feel.  (Trey Lyles, Devin Booker)
6. Sacramento – Bobby Portis – DeMarcus Cousins is the Dude in Sac-Town.  Portis can be a face up 4 to compliment Boogie’s physical style.  In a rotational role he could still post up and is an awesome passer for a big guy.  He was a great team guy at Arkansas.  (Guillermo Hernangomez, Cameron Payne)
7. Denver – R.J. Hunter – Yup….my sleeper pick.  Denver isn’t a great shooting team but Ty Lawson gets the ball to guys in positions to score and Hunter is a scorer, just needs some carbs.  This team rebounds well but isn’t exactly a grinding bunch.  Other direction could be a mobile big.  (Frank Kaminsky, Robert Upshaw)
8. Detroit – Justise Winslow – This is the kinda guy to pull defenses away from Greg Monroe and take some of the scoring load as well.  If they don’t re-sign Monroe then all bets are off and they’re looking for a cornerstone.  (Myles Turner, Frank Kaminsky)
9. Charlotte – Trey Lyles – The Hornets get little-to-no contribution from their power forwards and Lyles can contribute facing the basket as a one-two punch with Al Jefferson.  He should be back since I don’t see him getting a better payday in free agency.  Charlotte needs an efficient shooter, like yesterday! (Stanley Johnson, Kevon Looney)
10. Miami – Emmanuel Mudiay – I’m not as high on this guy as most, but he could really grow on this team.  They need a playmaker to allow Dragic to slide into the 2 spot for Wade to get his breath.  Mudiay wouldn’t need to lead right away.  (Jerian Grant, Kevon Looney)
11. Indiana – Frank Kaminsky – Pacers need a scoring big man.  They would prefer a back to the basket guy, but The Tank can open up the middle with his perimeter shooting.  Allows Hill, Stuckey and George to attack the basket.  (Devin Booker, Delon Wright)
12. Utah – Kristaps Porzingis – He’s a project and this team is young enough to hide a project until he’s ready.  Dude is a bean-pole but he can get bigger over a year or two while the rest of the team continues to gel.  Other options are PG and SG help.  (Devin Booker, Tyus Jones)
13. Phoenix – Myles Turner – The Suns can score but don’t play defense and the Morris twins don’t make good decisions on or off the court.  Turner is a shot blocker, rebounder (another Phoenix weakness) and he makes good shot decisions.  (Christian Wood, Robert Upshaw)
14. Oklahoma City – Jerian Grant –The Thunder need a defending PG who can shoot if necessary, but mainly there to help Russ get the ball up the court and pass it back to him when he loses his dribble.  OKC has solid rebounding and interior D so no need for a big.  (Tyus Jones, Terry Rozier)
15. Atlanta (From Brooklyn) – Robert Upshaw – The Hawks need a true center yesterday.  They were outrebounded all season and the Cavs looked like big brothers holding the ball above their heads in the playoffs.  Upshaw can score, but his physical presence will do more in the paint on defense than anything else.  (Christian Wood, Dakari Johnson)
16. Boston – Devon Booker – I think Booker is ready to score more than any other wing player in the draft and the Celtics could use his range.  They didn’t fare well from behind the arc last year and with aggressive guards they need someone to kick it to outside.  (Kelly Oubre Jr, Trey Lyles) 
17. Milwaukee – Cameron Payne – The Bucks need to solve their PG puzzle.  MCW and Knight tried, but both turn the ball over too much yet still lead the team in scoring.  Payne could add an outside threat while still distributing and keeping the offense moving.  (Tyus Jones, Terry Rozier)
18. Houston (From New Orleans) – Kevon Looney – The Rockets got out-hustled and out-nastied against Golden State.  Looney will grind inside and get his hands dirtier than Dwight Howard or Josh Smith ever would.  Perfect emotional fit with this mercurial squad.  (Montrezl Harrell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson)
19. Washington – Justin Anderson – John Wall and Bradley Beal carry this team with driving and streaky shooting.  Anderson is efficient from the arc and a strong rebounder and defender for his 6-6/228 frame.  Understands how to contribute without the ball, important on a Wall/Beal team.  (Sam Dekker, Kelly Oubre Jr)
20. Toronto – Kelly Oubre, Jr – Toronto also needs some interior defense, but Oubre is a slasher in the making and his athleticism is all upside.  The Raptors collection of power forwards could be bundled to trade for taller defense.  (Jordan Mickey, Dakari Johnson)
21. Dallas – Tyus Jones – Monta Ellis, Dirk and Chandler Parsons can put the ball in the basket.  The Mavs need to groom a point guard to get those guys the ball…..and it won’t be Rajon Rondo.  Barrea and Harris are getting long in the tooth and Raymond Felton hasn’t been the guy anywhere he’s played.  (Oliver Hanlan, Terry Rozier)
22. Chicago – Stanley Johnson – He’s a strong 3 who can grab a rebound or pop a three.  He’ll need some ball-handling work, but he could allow Butler to play less of a role on D to let him focus on scoring.  If Kaminsky is still on the board they might snatch him up to understudy Gasol.  (Frank Kaminsky, Pat Connaughton)
23. Portland – Christian Wood – He’s big, can block shots and rebound and will round into the interior scoring threat to balance Portland’s offense.  If LaMarcus Aldridge re-signs they could look for PG help for Lillard.  (Chris McCullough, Jarell Martin)
24. Cleveland – TJ McConnell – A point guard to back up LeBron and Kyrie could keep them off the IR and allow JR Smith to play off-ball more and spot up.  McConnell is also a great FT shooter, the Cavs biggest weakness.  (Oliver Hanlan, Quinn Cook)
25. Memphis – Andrew Harrison – Better shooter and good at getting to FT line and his size will be a nice change of pace for the Grizzlies.  He’s also used to feeding dominant big men and moving without the ball to force defensive shifts.  Must improve ball-handling.  (Delon Wright, Quinn Cook)
26. San Antonio – Cedi Osman – Just because he’s the prototypical Spur.  If they believe they have a shot with the Senior Squad the Spurs will look for immediate help.  Probably a post scorer to take some heat off Leonard.  (Rakeem Christmas, Robert Upshaw)
27. L.A. Lakers (From Houston) – Quinn Cook – They don’t want to pay Jeremy Lin $14 million dollars but they need a skipper to get the ball inside to Towns.  With Kobe leaving this is the Floor General pick they need to handle the big personalities on this team.  If they take Justise Winslow with their earlier pick this will be a PF/C pick.  (Mouhammadou Jaiteh, Guillermo Hernangomez)
28. Boston (From L.A. Clippers) – Larry Nance, Jr – He’s the kind of tweener Brad Stevens can use in multiple roles to create mismatches.  He scores efficiently and from inside and out.  His shooting and rebounding will make Boston harder to defend.  (Sam Dekker, Jonathan Holmes)
29. Brooklyn (From Atlanta) – Aaron Harrison – They will need a big guard moving forward without Deron Williams.  Jarrett Jack doesn’t have the size to go against the taller guards in the league.  He’ll need to improve ball handling and shooting.  (Delon Wright, Georges Lucas Alves de Paula)
30. Golden State – Pat Connaughton – He fits what they’re doing and will learn a lot under Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.  He can fill multiple roles and that’s what the Dubs are all about.  He can stretch to guard multiple positions.  (Dakari Johnson, Mouhammadou Jaiteh)

 

Hello, my name is…..

Your guide to this year’s international prospects in the NBA draft.

With the Warriors celebrating and the LeBron-haters hatin’, it’s time for the 2015 Draft.  As usual, there’s tons of talk about the top domestic prospects we all saw in the NCAA Tournament and college basketball season.  And as usual there are prospects from Europe and beyond who sound mysterious and are completely off the usual fan’s radar.  There are really only five players of note and I’ve given you a brief breakdown so you can be the smartest person in the room on Thursday.  (My first round suggestions will be out soon.)

Emmanuel Mudiay (China) – This kid is ranked as high as third in some mock drafts, but I’m not seeing it.  He’s got good size (6-5, 200), speed and strength which allows him to finish at the rim and post up smaller defenders.  He’s also an above average passer who will outgrow his tendency to force passes……all point guards do.  But, he’s a 58% free throw shooter and has very little long range game.  He’s serviceable from 15 feet but often passes up that shot to drive to the basket.  He also loses interest in defense if his offense is lagging or the opponent slows the tempo.  He would do well to land on a team with a veteran point guard (Brooklyn, San Antonio) but someone will jump on him based on potential.

Kristaps Porzingis (Spain) – Here’s another talk Euro who can shoot from three and dribble a little.  Problem is he’s 7-0, 220 and needs ankle weights to keep from blowing away.  He can flat-out shoot and is a terror for other bigs to defend.  He moves well without the ball which sets him up for open looks on the perimeter.  Unfortunately, a traditional center would eat him alive at the other end of the floor.  Some teams are looking at him as a power forward (emphasis on “forward”, not “power”) to work alongside a true post player.  That works until, oh yeah, he has to play defense.  He’s also not a very cerebral player.  He doesn’t really understand the flow of the game and can often lose his man or fail to help out against penetration.  This guy needs carbs and a strength coach.

Mario Hezonja (Spain) – This dude is killing it at team workouts.  He’s got the quickness and slashing ability to score against 2’s and 3’s with a developing outside game that will make him tough for GM’s to pass up.  His teammates in Spain like him because he’s a solid passer and is a fiery competitor.  Just like many of these imports, he’s gotta put on some muscle and improve his defensive consistency.  It will also be interesting to see if he is as successful getting his own shot at the NBA level.  Still, he’s the best of the international prospects.

Guillermo Hernangomez (Spain) – Talk about a beast…..this cat is 6-11, 255 and strong as hell!  He has no problem moving defenders where he wants them and establishing position deep in the post.  Once he’s there, he catches any pass that’s thrown near him.  It sometimes takes a couple of tries for him to put it in the basket, but offensive rebounding is a strength.  His game doesn’t really move out of the 10 foot range, but he can hit a corner jumper.  He’ll need to improve his passing to avoid double team troubles and his lack of explosiveness means he’s not a rim protector, but his strength and tenacity make him a contributor right away.  This kid has Western Conference bully written all over him.

Mouhammadou Jaiteh (France) – This young man is a real development project.  Some scouting services have him listed at 6-11, but he’s definitely no taller than 6-9 but he has the makings of a solid frame and comes in at 250 lbs.  He’s aggressive with the ball, moving forward and keeping it high and in front of him,….similar to James Harden’s foul-drawing technique.  His one-on-one offensive skills are extremely underdeveloped, giving him not real post moves and no abilities off the dribble.  He has lapses, especially on defense, where he doesn’t seem to understand how he fits into what’s going on.  The real story is how he understands his deficiencies and works hard on the floor.  He will put the time in to improve, he’ll just need the right organization with patience and a good coaching staff.

There are other players on the radar, such as Nikola Milutinov or Cedi Osman, but Mudiay, Porzingis, Hezonja, Hernandgomez and Jaiteh are the prospects being floated for early consideration.  With the exception of Hernandgomez, all of these players need to add strength and weight to handle the physicality of the NBA.  Also, the rigors of guarding NBA talent may separate the real from the fake in years to come.

But don’t worry about the “invasion” from foreign lands this year.  There’s homegrown talent at every position that SHOULD be taken ahead of these young men.  Whether GM’s and coaches see that is a different question for a different post.

Enjoy the hype and stay tuned for my “This Is What They Should Do” list.

Alex Rodriguez is the Newest Mr. 3000…Should We Celebrate?

 

It is official: Alex Rodriguez is the newest member of the 3000 hit club with a solo homerun off of one pitch from former Cy Young Award winner and Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander in the bottom of the first inning. He is the 29th player ever to have accomplished the feat. Rodriguez follows his former teammate Derek Jeter, who also hit a homerun for his 3000th hit back in 2011. While this accomplishment is a major milestone for any baseball player in the MLB, the million-dollar question still remains for a number of parties including the MLB, the New York Yankees, and Yankees fans: Should the accomplishment actually be celebrated?

Why the Accomplishment Should be Celebrated

 Performance-enhancing drugs or not, obtaining 3000 hits over the course of a career is really difficult to accomplish. Only 29 players have ever done it. Many more players were caught taking PEDs and never came close to reaching the 3000 mark including Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and the ‘Godfather of Steroids’ Jose Canseco.

However you look at it, great hitters are the only ones that can hit a baseball 3000 times. Remember, a drug isn’t hitting the ball for Rodriguez. He still had to work extremely hard to get to where he is now. Besides, no one other than Rodriguez himself knows how long he has cheated. It isn’t like there is a blimp in the sky going past MLB officials stating the exact years in which Rodriguez has cheated. Even if they knew those exact years, they have never erased a player’s statistics so why start now?

 

Why the Accomplishment Should Not be Celebrated

The short answer to all parties involved: hypocrisy. It is hypocritical for anyone including Rodriguez to celebrate this achievement. Back in 2009, A-Rod admitted in an interview that he took PEDs during a three-year period when he played for the Texas Rangers back in 2001. Just about everyone believed he was telling the truth when he said he only took PEDs during those years until his name became associated with a little-known organization by the name of Biogenesis four years later.

The MLB, which has stated many times that it wants to clean up the game, basically painted Rodriguez as the face of steroids during that time. For the MLB to celebrate him when they have vilified him for his actions is hypocritical.

If the Yankees organization celebrates A-Rod, they will show that they do not care about their own players being caught using PEDs. Then again, he did help them capture a World Series so maybe they shouldn’t complain at all. In a previous article, I mentioned how fans contribute to cheating in sports. Whelp, so do sports teams as well.

Think about it, when a player is suspended from his/her team, the team usually just accepts that player’s punishment. When the player has finished his/her suspension, he/she is free to join the team as if he/she just took a really long vacation. Behind closed doors, maybe the coach or owner has a talk with that player, but he/she isn’t publicly shamed for the suspension. The team usually forgives the player and moves on. Until that all-is-forgiven mentality is replaced with a harsher attitude, sports teams will always contribute to cheating.

Last but certainly not least, let’s not forget about Yankees fans. Yankees fans generally acted as if they were against A-Rod when the Biogenesis scandal made headlines and he was once again involved with cheating. Now that he’s served his punishment, Rodriguez is back within the good graces of the fans and life goes on. I wonder if that championship that he helped the Yankees win had anything to do with that? ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, a self-proclaimed “diehard Yankees fan” has joked many times about how he was only upset with A-Rod because he didn’t continue to cheat after being caught with Biogenesis. Who’s to say that many other Yankees fan don’t feel that way too?

At the end of the day, the choice to celebrate Rodriguez’s accomplishment isn’t the end of the world. I just hope that those of you who choose to celebrate have all of the cards on the table before making that decision.

Tiger Woods swings to a career low


On Thursday Tiger Woods shot 10-over 80 at Chambers Bay his worst US Open score.

 

On the  8th hole,  Woods, swings and sends his club flying out of his hands and landing in the grass behind him.  Afterwards Woods stated, “”I’m trying as hard as I can to do it, and for some reason I just can’t get the consistency that I’d like to have out there.”

 

USWNT Survive Group of Death, Advance in Women’s World Cup

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Before their game against Nigeria, the USWNT sat atop the Group of Death and were in control of their own destiny. A tie would ensure they moved on to the round of 16, a win would help them win the group. But in order to get a win, they needed to score goals. That is kind of the whole point of the game. Goals have been hard to come by for the USWNT, recently. Although they scored three goals against Australia in the first game of group play, the US women had been held scoreless in 5 of their past 13 games, including their 0-0 tie against Sweden in the last game. Wambach went as far as to suggest that the turf fields being used during the World Cup was the problem. “For me, I definitely think that the U.S. has more goals if we’re playing on grass,” said Wambach after the game against Sweden.

To try and remedy their offensive woes, coach Jill Ellis inserted Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan into the starting lineup to run up top, and Tobin Heath at outside midfield. The changes were noticed immediately as Wambach played a great header to Morgan early, although she couldn’t quite get her foot on it for the goal. A few minutes later, Wambach  headed the ball over to Julie Johnston who easily knocked in what  looked like the game’s first…until she was called offsides.

And then it came. Right before the end of the half- in the game’s 45th minute- Megan Rapinoe sent a corner kick to the front of the goal. Naturally, Abby Wambach flew through the air to get her foot on the ball, her first goal of the Cup, and a lead for the US going into the half.

The second half started with more of the same for the US. Morgan made some quality runs and got chances, but was unable to convert any of them before she was subbed out for Sydney Leroux in the 65th minute. Leroux soon got tangled up with Nigeria’s Sarah Nndoim. Consequently, Nndoim would get her second yellow card of the game, forcing the Nigerians to play with only 10 players on the field for the rest of the game. With the player-advantage, Ellis brought on Shannon Boxx and Christie Rampone to bolster the Americans’ already stout defensive play.

Wambach’s goal in the 45th minute proved to be enough as the USWNT defeated Nigeria 1-0, won the Group of Death, and advanced to the round of 16. Wambach’s goal was the 14th Women’s World Cup goal of her career, tied for second in Women’s World Cup history. The US defense continued to stand out, shutting down a speedy Nigerian attack. Through the three games of group play, the US defense only gave up one goal (v Australia). Hope Solo’s second consecutive clean sheet gives her seven in World Cup play, tying her for second all-time.

The American women have secured their spot in the next round, but are still unsure who their first opponent will be. Look for more of Wambach and Morgan starting together up top after their strong performance against Nigeria. Their next game is scheduled for Monday, June 22. 

Spygate II: Cardinals’ Officials Accused of Hacking into Astros’ Network

 

Performance-enhancing drugs and gambling are considered big no-nos in the world of Major League Baseball. The latter is punishable by lifetime banishment while the former is punishable based on the type of drug and the number of times the offense has occurred. The question that matters now: How will the MLB punish…hacking?

The F.B.I. and Justice Department prosecutors are investigating St. Louis Cardinals’ front-office officials (none of which have been named) to determine whether or not they hacked into the network of the Houston Astros, a rival team of the Cardinals from the last two decades.

According to the New York Times, investigators from both the F.B.I. and the Justice Department found out that the Cardinals hacked into the Astros’ network, gaining access to information including scouting reports, statistics, player/trade discussions, and other proprietary information.

In 2013, Cardinals’ front-office officials allegedly hacked into Ground Control, the Houston Astros’ private database that contained all of the information listed, by examining a list of passwords used by current Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and other Astros officials that previously worked for the Cardinals. Luhnow himself was the Cardinals general manager from 2003-2011.

According to law enforcement officials, the hacking was carried out by Cardinals’ front-office officials who intended to destroy the work of Luhnow.

Luhnow had created a similar database called Redbird when he worked for the Cardinals. The accused Cardinals’ front-office officials thought Luhnow stole their idea and proprietary baseball information when he began working for the Astros.

Leaked information from Ground Control was anonymously posted on the Internet, according to an article from Deadspin.

The Cardinals, Astros, and the MLB have issued statements Tuesday stating they have fully cooperated with the federal investigation, which is close to conclusion according to ESPN legal analyst Lester Munson.

Both the Cardinals and the MLB have been issued subpoenas but no charges have been filed against the officials involved.

What This Means for the Cardinals

 The St. Louis Cardinals are one of MLB’s winningest franchises ever, having captured two World Series championships and four divisional championships within the last decade alone. Similarly to the NFL’s New England Patriots, the Cardinals name and reputation will probably be associated with cheating from this day forward. No one knows for how long they have been cheating so MLB fans are going to start making up their own assumptions regardless of accuracy, just as NFL fans have done to the Patriots.

What This Means for the MLB (Organization/Fans)

Hacking in sports is a bizarre concept in of itself. When we think of hacking, we think of personal data (usually financial) being accessed. That is what I thought when I first heard this story, but hacking into a database to access scouting reports and trade discussions just goes to show the obsession that sports teams have with winning and the obsession that winning franchises have to continue winning.

Like it or not, we sports fans are partly to blame because just as easily as we can support (financially, emotionally, and even physically) teams that win, we just as easily can stop supporting them when they lose. The goal at the end of the day for the sports industry, like any other industry, is to make money and the easiest way to accomplish that is to win.

However, winning to many sports teams is the abbreviation for winning at any cost. As such, leagues that run these teams are left with the decision of how to punish those teams that go beyond legal boundaries to win. That is what the MLB and Commissioner Rob Manfred will have to decide at the conclusion of this investigation.

The decision that Manfred will have to make is without a doubt a difficult one. If he hands down a slap-of-the-wrist punishment like a fine/takeaway of some draft picks to the Cardinals organization, it will be implied that hacking isn’t that big of a deal even if it is under federal investigation. If he suspends the suspected officials for an extended period of time, it will be implied that hacking is on par with players taking PEDs. If he permanently bans them, it will be implied that this cheating is just as bad as Pete Rose’s gambling even though this kind of cheating should be considered worse.

I can’t imagine having to make that decision. Luckily, I’m not a commissioner having to actually make that decision but an aspiring sportswriter who only has to cover it.

 

 

 

Allegations, Arrest and Endorsements–Hope Solo Hot Topic of the World Cup

 

When I think of soccer the first person comes to mind is David Beckham. But there is a US Soccer player and Olympic Gold medalist named Hope Solo. With the Women World Cup underway 33 year old Solo is getting heavy media coverage and it’s not because of her performance on the soccer field. Solo’s husband former NFL player Jerramy Stevens defends her by commenting, “she’s in the right.”

Stevens was speaking about a prior run in with the law last June when Solo was charged with two counts of domestic violence assault from an altercation that involved her sister and her 17 year old nephew.

With allegations looming, Solo has not said much to the media since the World Cup has began. With the opportunity to earn more multi- million dollar endorsements the debatable topic is that Solo’s brand is tarnished and her earnings are limited. Compared to other female athletes who have not been involved with domestic violence allegation such as, Danica Patrick and Serena Williams who consistently gain and retain lucrative endorsements based on the visibility of their sport.

Thought of the Day:

Hope Solo is an excellent soccer player and is regarded as one of the best goalkeeper in the US. She has the potential to make more high earning endorsement but she must remain focus on the World Cup. Silence is not always a bad thing.

 

Dynasty: Blackhawks beat Lightning, win Stanley Cup

 

Corey Crawford and Andrew Shaw by howsmyliving, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  howsmyliving 


Last night, history was made on the ice at United Center. The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in game 6 to win the series 4-2, their third Stanley Cup since 2010. Yes, folks. A dynasty has been born. Over the past six seasons, the Chicago Blackhawks have been to the Stanley Cup finals 3 times. Over the past six seasons, the Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup finals 3 times. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s 3 for 3. That’s pretty good.

After splitting games in Tampa Bay to start the series, the Blackhawks lost on home ice and Tampa Bay led the series 2-1. But lightning never struck the next two games and the Blackhawks soon led 3-2 with a chance to end the series and win the Cup at home for the first time since 1938.

From the very start, it just felt like Chicago’s night. The fans were ready, nearly drowning out the National Anthem with what sounded more like battle cries than cheers. “We want the cup!” echoed throughout the arena. And the guys on the ice definitely did, too. The first period was a blur of scoring chances with each team seeing pucks hit posts and slide past open nets. But no goals. At the end of 1 it was 0-0, but the Blackhawks outshot the Lightning 13-4.

The second period started and the Lightning came out hot and looking to score. Within in the first minute of the period, Steven Stamkos- Tampa Bay’s most dangerous goal scorer- had an open breakaway and a chance to take the lead, but Corey Crawford came up with a huge save. The score remained tied at 0. Still, Tampa Bay seemed in control, dominating possession and keeping the puck below Chicago’s blue line. But Chicago wasn’t on the verge of another Stanley Cup for no reason. And with 2:47 left in the second period, veteran defenseman Duncan Keith put his own rebound over Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop’s glove. The sirens went off. The scoring had begun. The Blackhawks were that much closer to victory. At the end of 2, Chicago led 1-0.

Even with a lead in the third period, the Blackhawks weren’t exactly safe. Stamkos or Callahan or Filppula or Palat could put the puck in the net at any time for the Lightning. Chicago needed another goal. With just over five minutes left in the game, Brandon Saad led an odd man rush for Chicago. Saad to Richards, Richards to Kane. Goal. It seems only fitting that Patrick Kane, one of the core guys throughout Chicago’s quest for a dynasty and the 2010 Conn Smythe winner, scored the game clinching goal. The 2-0 lead was the first time either team had been ahead by two goals during the series, and a two goal lead would be enough. At the end of the third period, the Chicago Blackhawks were Stanley Cup champions.

Corey Crawford posted the first shutout of the Stanley Cup finals by either goaltender, making a total of 25 saves. Duncan Keith was awarded the 2015 Conn Smyhte trophy. His 18 playoff assists set a franchise record for assists by a defenseman in the postseason. All three of his postseason goals were game winners.

2015 Conn Smythe Trophy Winner: Chicago by Ron Cogswell, on FlickrCreative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licenseby  Ron Cogswell