This is how I felt after every ice cold Budweiser I drank this weekend when I had to make the short walk to the fridge for another one. This is really what my spring break this weekend is going to consist of for anyone who is wondering. Cheers with a mixture of work and the occasional beer. Okay, more than the occasional beer…
Oh ya and the fact that march madness starts Thursday, college hockey conference semis and finals are this weekend means that it is a good thing I have the weekend off. Everyone is starting to look over their brackets and try to look at the marquee upsets and who is going to have to play Kansas in the final four cause we all know Oregon isn’t going to make it there. Michigan State is a popular choice to come out and know Virginia off in the Midwest section and North Carolina in the east could make a deep run as long as they get by a potential sweet sixteen matchup with Kentucky. I will do some bracket section previews tomorrow and Wednesday.
Last night the finish of the Cup race in Phoenix was another stellar one with Kevin Harvick be able to inch his way ahead of Carl Edwards as they were rubbing and banging there way to the finish line all the way down the front stretch. It was just another one in the line of great finishes this year in the small sample size that NASCAR has put out for us. This was Harvick’s 8th win down in the desert and he has officially became the master in Phoenix. The Cup series rolls into California and to Auto Club Speedway next Sunday.
On to the golf for the weekend where we saw Charls Schwartzel fire a final round 67 and defeat Bill Haas in a playoff to win the Valspar Championship. The snake pit jumped up and grabbed most of the field but Schwartzel and young 22 year old amateur Lee McCoy were the only ones in the last 10 groups to play it under par. Through the windy conditions and the course’s overall difficulty, the final round was more of a survival than it was scoring barrage. Next week the tour moves to Bay Hill and to Arnold Palmer’s tournament.
When it comes to Phoenix International Raceway there is only one name that comes up, Kevin Harvick. Happy Harvick has been completely dominant here having won 7 previous times. Harvick swept the 2 races last year and is looking to find a way to clinch his way into the chase in the fourth race of the season. Phoenix is a difficult track to drive at only 1 mile and has many interesting characteristics that drivers will have to navigate for 500 miles.
Yesterday my main man Kyle Busch won the Busch series race in dominant fashion, giving him three straight wins at that level. He starts on the pole today and has another fast ride this week. His teammate Carl Edwards starts just outside him and Denny Hamlin starts 3rd as the Joe Gibbs cars look to be the cars to beat again this week. As fast as they are they are going to have to try and hold off Harvick and fellow Stewart-Haas driver Kurt Busch who has won here before. Lastly, last weeks winner Jimmie Johnson will be up there putting his nose in the fray by the end of the race and we all know how good old 6 time is.
My pick to win the week is going to go against the norm as everyone is picking Harvick. I know he will be there at the end but his teammate Kurt Busch is my pick to clinch his spot in the chase today. Busch has won at Phoenix before and is always fast here. My dark horse this week is going to be Jamie McMurray. He has had some poor luck here so far in 2016 but is someone who can come out of nowhere and contend here. McMurray will go off from the 11th position and will be looking to get a solid top 5 finish at one of his better tracks over his career.
I just want to point out how well Kyle Busch has driven to start out 2016. He has shown the maturity and patience that led him to a championship last year in the first three races this season. He has 3 top-5’s to start the season and in all three he had the chance to push the limits, jeopardizing his strong finish, or getting what he could get and moving on. Choosing the latter in all these cases had made him a more all around driver that is going to be a threat for many years to come.
Unless you have ever been in the position, you can’t understand what it is like to try and sleep the night before a championship game. With the anxiety and excitement and adrenaline running through your body, sleep really isn’t an option. When my head hit the pillow on Friday night I was left there staring at the ceiling for hours to come. Alright it wasn’t quite as bad as my senior year the night before the state, but it is the closest I have ever been to that feeling since. It’s a battle for the rest of your life to try and get that feeling back. Sean Payton, the head coach of the New Orleans Saints, said in a documentary about high school football that is true with all of these high end athletes that we see in St. Paul.
“Hope we are going to get tickets”, is what he says to me as I am sprinting around the outside of the Xcel Center in St. Paul praying that I am going to see The Tourney. It is semifinal Friday and there is a stacked lineup of 2A games but so is the line that has assembled outside the box office. Going into this whole experience I had heard about the lines but never in my wildest dreams would I think that it was true. About the same time, we get into a line that seemed to go on forever, Tucker gets a call from his boss saying they might have extra suite tickets. My mind is racing at this point all over the place.
This weekend my main goal in leaving home and going 1800 miles away to school was finally accomplished. Thanks to my friend Tucker and the well timed question, “You wanna go?”, I finally pulled the trigger and made my way to St. Paul and the Xcel Center for The Tourney. The next three days I will be posting and recapping my experiences at what could possibly be the best weekend of high school hockey I have ever had the pleasure to be a part of.
As far as 1-0 hockey games go, The Bruins and Lightning game last night could be the best one I have ever seen. It was an up and down, high flying, heavy contact matchup that left bruises on everyone who participated. Jonas Gustavsson made 42 saves for the shutout and looked very solid in his first start in 7 games. The Bruins scored the only goal of the game just 10 seconds into the overtime after Patrice Bergeron was able to win the face-off to Torrey Krug, got a pass back and set up Brad Marchand on the ensuing two on one. This was Marchand’s 34th goal on the season as he and Bergeron continues to be on a tear. The Bruins are back in action Thursday when they come home to play Carolina.
Full Box Score: BOS 1, TB 0.
It has been a few days since I have posted anything due too a few tested and work yesterday and the fact that I finally got to live out a lifelong dream. I was able, with a big shout out to my friend Tucker Arenz, finally get to experience the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament and it was everything I expected and more. During the week I am going to do a 3 part tournament experience column starting tomorrow afternoon, so stay tune for that.
Last night the Bruins traveled down to the Sunshine state to take on the Florida Panthers. They jumped out to a 4-1 lead after a first period offensive explosion. They continued to play porous in their own end throughout the night after giving up the 4 goal lead and needing overtime to get the two points. Lee Stempniak got his first goal as a Bruin in overtime as the Bergeron, Marchand, and Stempniak line has become a complete force since the trade deadline. Its funny how since that it has forced me to completely put my foot in my mouth about the move. I would like to give a shout out to head coach Claude Julien for his 388th win as the leader of the Boston Bruins. Last nights win helped him pass Art Ross for the most in Bruins coaching history. The B’s are back in action tonight when they take on the Tampa Bay Lighting.