NHL – Boston Bruins @ Vancouver Canucks

Absolutely nothing has changed in this matchup since I wrote the below preview a few days ago.

“Coming into the playoffs the Vancouver Canucks were probably the best team in hockey and they probably still are. The Canucks are 1st in Goals Scored, 1st in Goals Against, 1st in Power Play % and 3rd in Penalty Kill %. Compare that to the Boston Bruins who were 5th in Goals, 2nd in Goals against, 20th in Power Plays and 16th in Penalty kills.

Vancouver is cruising in the playoffs so far thisĀ  year. After a tough first series against the defending Champion Chicago Blackhawks, the Canucks won in 6 against Nashville, and 5 against a very, very good San Jose squad. Vancouver has even won 7 of their last 9 playoff games and has seemingly gotten stronger the further into the playoffs they have pushed. Vancouver has the offense to score when needed, and the defense to shut down opponents so they can control the tempo and pace of the game.

The Boston Bruins have just emerged by the skin of their teeth winning in 7 games against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Conference Finals. Boston is actually 2-2 in their last 4 and is hardly on a roll. They are a bit banged up with several players health being a question mark and they have benefited from some inspired play of some young players. Boston has also struggled on the road lately going 1-2 in their last 3 road games.

Vancouver is the odds on favorite in this series and many are even picking the Canucks to sweep the Bruins. I don’t think this series will end in a sweep but the way that the Canucks are playing entering play and the fact that they will have home ice advantage does lead me to believe they will take the opener.”

Well a few things have changed. Vancouver has now won 8 of their last 10 games, Vancouver completely shut down Boston in Game 1 and won 1-0. Boston’s struggles have continued and they are now 2-3 over their last 5 games and 1-3 in their last 4 road games. I feel the exact same way as I did about the previous review. I don’t think Vancouver will sweep Boston but at home and on a roll I just don’t see Vancouver losing. I could be wrong, it wouldn’t be the first time, but I would be very surprised if Boston took Game 2.

Pick: Vancouver Canucks

Soccer – Spain @ USA

This is an interesting friendly. Like the Dutch Brazil match, the Spanish players are basically on vacation for this one. This match really isn’t a very big deal for Spain. Sure there is some desire to best a team which upset Spain in the FIFA Confederations Cup back in 2009 but after winning the World Cup in 2010 Spain can’t really hold to much of a grudge against an American team which didn’t even come close to making a run in the World Cup. Still the Spanish team is full of weapons and most of them will be on display on Saturday.

 

The United States meanwhile is a team which will be playing tooth and nail. Most American players rarely get to play against the likes of the players that make up the Spanish lineup and on home turf the USA will be striving to give a good show for the American spectators. Upsets like the Draw last time the USA played Argentina earlier this year give some sense of legitimacy to a club which really has to fight very hard for any attention at all outside of when the World Cup rolls around. Unlike the Spanish athletics most of the American soccer players live on rather meager wages when compared to other American sports and one could argue the way that soccer is overlooked in the USA creates a sort of need to legitimize the sport within the USA at every chance.

 

I think this match is a lot closer than many realize if only because of the motivation factor. Spain is certainly capable of taking this one 3-1, or 2-0 but the Americans tend to play very defensive minded soccer so I think a 1-0 or 1-1 result is the most likely. While Spain should win this match I will go out on a limb and say the USA will manage a surprising 1-1 draw like they did against Argentina back in march. Still I won’t be picking on it myself and I highly recommend none of you do either.

 

Pick: USA, Win or Draw

Soccer – Netherlands @ Brazil

At full strength these two teams would be a very close match. However, both teams are not full strength. The Netherlands will be playing with some of its star power but their goalkeeper will be remaining in Holland so it will be interesting to see how his fill in performs against the always explosive Brazil. Further Netherlands while not having lost since the World Cup Finals in 2010 has very little motivation in this matchup. The Netherlands is essentially just enjoying a friendly stay in Brazil.

Brazil on the other hand badly wants revenge for their defeat in the 2010 World Cup at the hands of none other than the Netherlands. Brazil is also at home. Brazil is also attempting to get into good form for the international tournament of South America known as Copa America, a tournament which Brazil won and is looking to defend.

That being said what makes this match a closer match is the fact that Brazil will be without critical players like, Kaka, Ronaldinho, Pato, and Ganso. Still despite these losses the bigger loss will still be the Netherlands goalkeeper. Brazil is a deeper squad than the Netherlands and playing in front of their home fans and hungry for revenge from the 2010 World Cup I think Brazil takes this one comfortably.

Pick: Brazil to win

Soccer – Bulgaria @ Montenegro

Montenegro has been on a roll of late and they have not lost in their last 7 matches. They have been a surprise here in the group stage of qualifying for the Euro 2012 tournament and are in very good position for early qualification. Montenegro defeated Bulgaria on the road in the first matchup of group stage qualifying last year.

 

Bulgaria has been struggling in the Euro 2012 group stage of qualifying. In four games Bulgaria has won just one match and scored only one goal in Euro 2012 qualifying so far. Bulgaria is facing a must win game here if they hope to have any chance of a group stage qualification and to get that win they will need to do so on the road.

 

Montenegro was not expected to be better than Bulgaria in this group and despite performing exceptionally well of late they are probably not the more talented team. Bulgaria meanwhile has figured out how to score again in their last few matches, they scored two against Estonia in a friendly and one against lowly Cyprus. I don’t expect Bulgaria to win this match against a hot Montenegrin side but I do think a draw is pretty likely. Bulgaria hasn’t lost their last 3 international match and that includes a pretty impressive draw against a stronger Swiss side. Not to mention Bulgaria will be desperate for a win in this one to avoid a long drawn out attempt to qualify for Euro 2012 and I think a solid appearance on the road will lead these two teams into a draw.

 

Pick: Bulgaria, win or draw