Thursday, April 29, 2010

NHL 2nd Round Playoff Predictions

Well it was certainly a tough first round to choose the winners; I went five for eight in my picks. Getting three wrong when one of them was an eighth seed upset isn't too shabby (I had the same percentage of correct picks as all of the ESPN NHL experts including Barry "cool is the word" Melrose). The second round is where things get tough. The teams are closer in talent and drive and everybody wants it that much more, but I'll give it my best shot.

Western Conference
#1 San Jose Sharks vs. #5 Detroit Red Wings
Season Series: 3-1 Red Wings

San Jose Preview
Well as the #1 seed, the Sharks made it past the first round. And considering San Jose's past history and seeing what happened to the Capitals, getting to the second round is definitely something to be proud of. The Avalanche played the Sharks tough and gave them a good battle last week and that certainly bodes well for the Sharks because the Red Wings are going to be an even tougher opponent. Joe Pavelski led San Jose in goals last round with five and Evgeni Nabokov looked sharp against Colorado with a 1.76 GAA. Joe Thorton has yet to heat up yet either--he didn't score a goal in the first round and is a -4. The Sharks are looking to get back to the Conference Finals for the first time since 2004, can they do it? 

Detroit Preview
 Detroit has been here before--they've been to the Stanley Cup Finals the past two seasons and upended the Sharks in the second round back in 2007. Jimmy Howard was superb in game seven against Phoenix stopping 32 of 33 shots but was only average in the series as a whole (2.59 GAA and a .919 SV%). Henrik Zetterberg is tied for second in the playoffs in both points (11) and goals (7). The Wings showed why they've been to the Cup two years in a row--they have that extra gear that few playoff teams have. But can they rev it up again after a grueling series against the Coyotes?
 Prediction: Detroit wins the series in 7

#2 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #3 Vancouver Canucks
Season Series: Tied 2-2

Chicago Preview
The Blackhawks are Barry Melrose's so-called "team of destiny." They won game five against the Predators in stunning fashion by pulling the goalie while on a five minute penalty kill and scoring with 0:14 left on the clock to tie the game. They killed off Marian Hossa's major penalty in overtime and he is the one who netted the game winner 4:07 into the first OT--his first of this postseason. Antti Niemi was solid in his first playoff series with a 2.15 GAA. Jonathan Toews showed why he's the captain of the Hawks by leading the team in scoring with eight points. Is Chicago a "team of destiny," who knows? Does Barry Melrose have the greatest mullet and goatee of all time? That we do know.

Vancouver Preview
Well the Sedin twins are at it again. Daniel has 10 points and four goals while Henrik has eight points and seven helpers. And they're not even the team's top scorers; Mikael Samuelsson is leading the team in scoring with 11 points. The shakiest player on the Canucks may have been in goal in the form of 2010 Olympic gold-medalist Roberto Luongo. He was pulled in game three in favor of Andrew Raycroft. He did settle down later in the series and came up with some huge saves in game six to clinch the win for Vancouver.
I want to pick the Canucks here, I really do. But I just don't know if I have the guts to do it...
Prediction: Chicago wins the series in 7

Eastern Conference
#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #8 Montreal Canadiens
 Season Series: 3-1 Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Preview
The Penguins got past the first round after a tough battle with the Ottawa Senators . Some say the Sens lost the series more than the Pens won it, but Pittsburgh is in the semifinals and Ottawa isn't and that's really all that matters. Sidney Crosby showed why he is one of the best forwards in the game by leading the league in playoff scoring with 14 points. Perennial playoff scoring machine Max Talbot did little in the first round as did goaltender Marc-André Fleury. He had a 2.75 GAA and a .890 SV%. He let in a few softies in both Pittsburgh losses in the series and if the Penguins want to advance to the Conference Finals for the third straight year, Fleury needs to be better.

Montreal Preview
Who beat the Washington Capitals? No, it wasn't the Montreal Canadiens; it was Jaroslav Halak. He made 131 saves on 134 shots in the series' final three games. He was without a doubt the team's MVP. Mike Cammalleri led the Habs in points with five goals and five assists but was a -4. If Montreal wants to have any chance of beating the Penguins they're going to need Halak to have a repeat performance. What also bodes well for the Canadiens is the fact that Washington and Pittsburgh are built very similarly. Neither team has a huge defense and most of their scoring lies within the top two lines. Once again, I want to pick Montreal to upset the Pens, but I don't think I can do it.
Prediction: Pittsburgh win the series in 7

#6 Boston Bruins vs. #7 Philadelphia Flyers
Season Series: Tied 2-2

Boston Preview
Another big upset in the East turned out to be the Boston Bruins over the Buffalo Sabres. Not many people gave the Bruins a chance over Ryan Miller and the Sabres, but they got it done. Like Philadelphia, Boston is missing some key players--Defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Mark Stuart. The Bruins have good scoring depth; no one on the team has more than five points and veteran Mark Recchi shared the team lead in goals with three. Tuukka Rask was up to the challenge against Buffalo and had a better GAA (2.18) and SV% (.927) than U.S. Olympic hero Ryan Miller. Boston will be getting injured forward Marc Savard back in the lineup for this series as well. Can the Bruins have a repeat performance of the Winter Classic here in the spring?

Philadelphia Preview
Much like the Canadiens, the Flyers series MVP was their goaltender Brian Boucher. He leads this year's playoff goalies with a .940 SV% and a 1.59 GAA. He made key stops when the team needed them and kept the large rebounds to a minimum. He also played very well against the Bruins the two times he played them in the regular season (1.35 GAA and a .949 SV%).The Flyers are without forwards Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne and penalty-killer extraordinaire Ian Laperriere. Captain Mike Richards was the teams playoff scoring leader (8 pts), but sophomore forward Claude Giroux was arguably the best skater for the Flyers. This looks like a rematch of the Bruins/Flyers games from the early 70s. The Flyers haven't played a playoff game in Boston since 1978 and they're 0-5 in playoff games in Boston since 1976. The Bruins are, like in the first round with the Devils, the best opponent Philadelphia could have hoped for. Can they come up with another playoff upset?
Prediction: Philadelphia wins the series in 6 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Eastern Conference First Round Predictions

#1 Washington Capitals vs. #8 Montreal Canadiens
Season Series: Tied 2-2

Washington has been playing fairly well as of late, winning six out of their last ten and three of the losses during that span have come in overtime or a shootout. The same can't be said for Montreal though, they're 3-4-3 in their last ten and have lost three straight. It looks as though Jaroslav Halak will be in goal for the Canadiens while Jose Theodore will man the pipes for Washington. Both teams have able netminders waiting in the wings (Semyon Varlamov-WAS and Carey Price-MON) in case any trouble arises.

Well this is what Washington has been waiting for all season; a chance to prove that they're not just a regular season fluke like San Jose has been the past few seasons. The Caps have arguably the best offense in the league, headed by captain Alexander Ovechkin. They lead the league in goals-per-game (3.82) and have the highest ranked power play in the NHL at 25.2 percent (nearly four percentage points higher than their closest opponent, Montreal). They're led by Ovechkin's 50 goals but not too far behind is Alexander Semin with 40, Nicklas Backstrom with 33, and veteran/garbage goal extraordinaire Mike Knuble with 29. Montreal may have the second best power play in the league, but they fail at 5-on-5 play. They scored a measly 130 goals while at full strength, good enough for last in the league. Brian Gionta led the team in goals with 28 but Tomas Plekanec led in points with 70. Neither team is great defensively. The Habs have two solid d-men in Andrei Markov and Marc-Andre Bergeron, but fall off after that. The Capitals have one of the best offensive defensemen in the league in Mike Green and their defensive core has some of the best blue liners in the NHL as far as plus/minus goes, but that's mostly a result of them scoring in bunches while at full strength. The Caps won in the regular season because they can outscore their opponents by large margins, but can their defense and goaltending hold up in the playoffs? In the first round, yes.
Prediction: Washington wins the series in 4

#2 New Jersey Devils vs. #7 Philadelphia Flyers
Season Series: 5-1 Philadelphia

Neither of these two teams lit it up at the end of the season as far as wins go. The Devils went 5-2-3 down the stretch but are on a two game win streak heading into the playoffs. The Flyers struggled to close out the season, going 4-5-1 in their last ten but won in dramatic fashion on Sunday in a shootout against the Rangers to clinch a playoff berth. New Jersey will have the postseason machine in net, Marty Brodeur (1.98 career GAA in the playoffs). Philadelphia will have the once playoff phenom Brian Boucher in goal as the team's final stopper.

You basically know what you're going to get when you play Jacques Lemaire and the Devils. Marty Brodeur is going to be a brick wall in net (although he hadn't been during the regular season against the Flyers) and they're going to play a defensive style that is incredibly boring to watch and drives opposing teams crazy (see: the neutral zone trap). As they have throughout most of their history, New Jersey has a solid defense. They have a bunch of guys most people have never heard of with Colin White, Andy Greene and Mike Mottau, but they're doing their job and doing it well. The one difference on this year's Devils team is the fact that they have a bonafide sniper in the form of Ilya Kovalchuk. It took Kovy a little while to become accustomed to the Devils style of play, but having him, Travis Zajac and the always dangerous Zach Parise on the same power play is very scary. The Flyers have been extremely inconsistent this season. Picked in the preseason by The Hockey News to win the Stanley Cup, Philly had to get a win in the last game of the season just to qualify for the playoffs. They were forced to dress seven different goalies this year because of injury, but otherwise, the Flyers are relatively healthy now. Philadelphia's leading scorer was the captain Mike Richards with 62 points and "just-off-of-injury" Jeff Carter wasn't far behind with 61, but it tails off after them. The Flyers no longer have the six guys with 25+ goals like they had last season. Scott Hartnell was in the penalty box more than he was on the ice this year and the losses of Mike Knuble and Joffrey Lupul hurt the team more than they thought it would. Philadelphia's two veteran defensemen, Kimmo Timonen and 2007 Stanley Cup winner Chris Pronger, along with the reemergence of Matt Carle, do give the Flyers quite a menacing blue line though. Philadelphia handled the Devils easily in the regular season, but will their physical style (and goaltending) do the same in the playoffs?
Prediction: Philadelphia wins the series in 6

#3 Buffalo Sabres vs. #6 Boston Bruins
Season Series: 4-2 Boston

Boston played pretty well down the stretch, winning four out of their last five and beating Buffalo one of those times. Buffalo stumbled during the regular season's final month, going 2-4-0 and failing at the chance of grabbing the No. 2 overall seed. Buffalo is going to have the 2010 Olympic MVP Ryan Miller in net while Boston is starting rookie netminder Tuukka Rask in goal.

Well if the Bruins plan on winning this series, they're certainly not going to do it by outscoring the Sabres. Forget the fact that Buffalo has Ryan Miller in net, Boston was dead last in the NHL in goals scored and since Marc Savard went down with a head injury, goals have been even harder to come by. They do have Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci along with veteran Mark Recchi, but that hasn't been enough to improve the B's scoring troubles. It's tough to name any other Boston d-man after Zdeno Chara with all of the injuries they have had. Dennis Seidenberg, Mark Stuart and Andrew Ference are all out and it has left the Bruins scrambling to find some answers. Rookie Tyler Myers has been a great surprise for the Sabres defense this season. He had 48 points and he along with veterans like former Anaheim Duck Steve Montador, make Buffalo's D a formidable opponent. Like their blue line, the Sabres offense isn't spectacular, but it does pack some serious punch. They have Thomas Vanek who led the team in goals with 28 and Derek Roy who led the team in points with 69. They also have Jason Pominville and Tim Connolly who had 62 and 65 points respectively. The Sabres are a very well-rounded team with a superstar goalie, but can they prove that what Boston did to them in the regular season was a stroke of bad luck?
Prediction: Buffalo wins the series in 6

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #5 Ottawa Senators
Season Series: Tied 2-2

The Senators ended the season on a fairly high note, going 7-2-1 but lost their last two games of the season to Tampa Bay in a shootout and Buffalo in regulation. The Penguins were about average at the end, going 5-4-1 in their last ten. Ottawa's goalie will be Brian Elliott, starting in the playoffs for the first time in his career, and Pittsburgh will have the seemingly unflappable Marc-André Fleury in net.

The Penguins are trying to go back to the Stanley Cup Finals for the third straight year in 2010 and the Senators are the first stop along the way. Sidney Crosby tied Tampa Bay's Steve Stamkos for most goals in the league this season with 51 and is a viable candidate for league MVP once again. He's supported by last year's Art Ross Trophy winner, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan "the other" Staal and newcomer Alexi Ponikarovsky. The Pens also have quiet contributors in two-time Stanley Cup Champion Ruslan Fedotenko and Max Talbot. Pittsburgh's biggest flaw has to be on defense. After Sergei Gonchar, the Penguin defense really struggles. They picked up Jordan Leopold at the trade deadline, but it has done little to improve their 2.87 goals against per game, which was good enough for 20th in the league. The Senators offense is a lot like the Sabres; they're certainly not the Capitals, but they're not the Oilers either. They have veterans Alexei Kovalev and team captain Daniel Alfredsson to put the puck in the net along with Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher. The Sens have arguably the most intimidating defense in the league as well. They have Chris Neil (245 hits), Andy Sutton (197 hits) and Anton Volchenkov (153 hits and 172 blocked shots). The Senators are looking to play a very physical game against the Penguins, but will it be enough to overcome Pittsburgh's heavy supply of offensive talent?
Prediction: Pittsburgh wins the series in 5

Monday, April 12, 2010

Western Conference First Round Predictions

#1 San Jose Sharks vs. #8 Colorado Avalanche
Season Series: 3-1 San Jose

Colorado is 3-5-2 in their last ten games and San Jose is 8-1-1 and winners of three straight. The Sharks have the always solid Evgeni Nabokov in net while the Avs have career journeyman Craig Anderson.

The Avalanche are an up-and-coming team with a ton of young, skilled players such as Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene. Plus, they also have the veteran presence a team needs in the playoffs in Milan Hejduk. The Sharks on the other hand, seem to have a never-ending supply of talent. They have the perennial top tier guys in Joe Thorton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau. But they also have 20+ goal scorers in Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi. The Sharks have been a playoff disappointment for the past couple of years and they think this year will be different.Will it?
Prediction: San Jose wins the series in 4

#2 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #7 Nashville Predators
Season Series: 4-2 Chicago

Both teams are 6-3-1 in their last ten games. The Blackhawks have won six out of their last seven, their only loss coming in their most recent game against Red Wings in overtime. Nashville will have Pekka Rinne to man the pipes while Chicago will be sending out the relatively young Antti Niemi over the veteran Cristobal Huet.

The Hawks were many scout's and analyst's pick to win the Cup this year. They have the offensive talent to compete with any club in the league. Led by third year forward Patrick Kane, Chicago has captain Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa all with 24+ goals. Nashville has five forwards with more than 15 goals, but only two exceeding 20 with sophomore Patrick Hornqvist leading the team with 30. Assistant captain Shea Weber (yes, the same Shea Weber who shot the puck through the net in the Olympics) and Ryan Suter are the team's top d-men and are looking to take the Preds past the quarterfinal round for the first time in franchise history. Defense is Nashville's unquestioned strength, but will it be enough to power the Predators past the high-flying Chicago offense? 
Prediction: Chicago wins the series in 5

#3 Vancouver Canucks vs. #6 Los Angeles Kings
Season Series: 3-1 Vancouver

Neither team has been playing particularly well lately. The Canucks are 5-4-1 in their last ten and Los Angeles is 4-3-3 over the same span. Neither team's goaltender has been lighting it up either. Roberto Luongo has struggled since the Olympic break and after starting off great at the beginning of the season, Jonathan Quick hasn't won since March 22nd.

Vancouver has the league's Art Ross Trophy winner for most points in the season in the form of Henrik Sedin. He's a crazy-good assist man, notching 83 helpers this season. The Canucks have six forwards with 25+ goals and two who have over 30, with Alexandre Burrows leading the pack with 35. Vancouver has a solid defensive core led by silent killers Christian Ehrhoff and Alexander Edler. The Kings may have them topped though. They have Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty, the team's second leading scorer with 59 points, and they have one of last year's Stanley Cup winners, Rob Scuderi, to round out the D. The King's offense ain't too shabby either. Anze Kopitar and youngster Dustin Brown led the team in goals netting 34 and 24 respectively. They have a talented veteran presence as well with Ryan Smyth, Michal Handzus and another Stanley Cup winner in Justin Williams rounding out the troops. But can that experience and skill be enough for LA to complete the upset? 
Prediction: Los Angeles wins the series in 6

#4 Phoenix Coyotes vs. #5 Detroit Red Wings
Season Series: Tied 2-2

Phoenix is 5-3-2 over their last ten games and Detroit is 8-1-1 and winners of three straight. The Red Wings will start rookie netminder Jimmy Howard who won 37 games this year. And the Coyotes will have MVP-candidate Ilya Bryzgalov with his 42 wins, 2.20 GAA and .920 save percentage in goal.

Phoenix was quite possibly the league's biggest surprise. Few expected the Yotes to be where they are, especially amidst all of the rumors of the team relocating to Winnipeg. They don't have the league's most potent offense; their leading scorer Radim Vrbata has only 24 goals. And Phoenix lost one of their best wingers when Scottie Upshall went down with an injury in January. Their defense is nothing to write home about either, but they've managed to get it done. The Wings on the other hand struggled early on in the season and many wondered if they would even make the postseason. But they have completely turned things around, getting hot at the right time and becoming the team no one wanted to face. They're 17-3-2 over their last 22 games and coach Mike Babcock has Detroit playing with a vengeance. The Wings have a very formidable offensive attack with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom; all of whom were in Detroit when the team won the cup in 2008 (and lost in 2009). They have one of the most experienced blue lines in the entire NHL. Captain Nicklas Lindstrom and Brian Rafalski have both won multiple Stanley Cups in their careers and are looking to win it again this year. It's going to be nearly impossible to root against the Coyotes with the way they have exceeded expectations this year. But rooting for a team and picking them to win is a different story.
Prediction: Detroit wins the series in 5

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Reid-ing Between the Lines of the McNabb Trade

After all the speculation of whether he would go here or there, to Oakland or to Buffalo, stay in Philadelphia or continue his career in another city, it's all over. Donovan McNabb is a Washington Redskin.

It certainly sounds strange to utter those words. Donovan has basically been my only quarterback. Sure there were the Bobby Hoying days in the late 90s and the injury-riddled seasons that saw players like A.J. Feeley, Koy Detmer and Jeff Garcia man the helm. But since I was old enough to know what intentional grounding was and why teams defer to the second half, Andy Reid has been my team's coach and Donovan McNabb has been it's QB. It's the only thing I've known. And when No. 5 comes out of the away tunnel at Lincoln Financial Field wearing burgundy and gold instead of the midnight green we've all become accustomed to seeing, it's going to be a strange sight indeed.

When all is said and done and all of the McNabb lovers have stopped crying and all of the McNabb haters have stopped rejoicing, the Eagles got a second round pick, 37th overall, in the 2010 draft and a conditional third or fourth round pick in 2011.

This is about what most expected McNabb was worth in the open market; a second rounder and a couple later round picks. So as far as what the Eagles got in return for Donovan, I'm fairly pleased. What I don't understand though, is why Philadelphia would trade him to a division rival.

Andy Reid was quoted as saying how he wanted to make McNabb happy as far who his next team would be. Donovan didn't want to go to Oakland (who could blame him) and he didn't want to go to Buffalo. And the only other contending team who offered the Eagles what they wanted for McNabb was, we can only assume, the Washington Redskins. Does Andy Reid and the rest of the Eagles management not realize that Washington is in the same NFC East that Philadelphia is in and that they play the Eagles twice a year? Who cares where Donovan wants to go if where he goes poses a potential risk to your own team. Reid should have been more concerned about the success of his own team and pleasing its millions of fans instead of its now former QB.

Just look at what Brett Favre did to the Packers when he played them twice in 2009. A 30-23 win in Minnesota and a 38-26 beat down in Green Bay. McNabb is certainly going to be pumped for the games against the Birds and it would not surprise me at all for those two games be his best of the season.

But this is a completely different team for McNabb. He's obviously not with the Eagles anymore, so he may not be as successful (or unsuccessful, depends on which way you look at it) as he once was. He could, according to some (not me), never find a way to win the "big game" when it really mattered. Another quarterback from the past 20 or so years had a reputation for not being able to win the crucial games? A certain Hall of Fame quarterback named John Elway.

Elway was successful as the QB of the Broncos early on in his career. He took his team to three Super Bowls in four years from 1986-89 but didn't win any of them. Some said he would never be able to win the big game. Then in 1995 the Broncos got a new coach, the current head coach of the Washington Redskins, Mike Shanahan. Shanahan and Elway took the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowls in 1998 and 1999 and won both of them. Elway, like McNabb, had the reputation of choking when his team needed a win in its biggest games. Shanahan turned that reputation around when became the head coach of the Broncos and turned John Elway into a Hall of Famer and one of the most successful quarterbacks of all time.

Now will Shanahan do that with McNabb and the Redskins? No one knows, but what we do know is that McNabb will be ready to play the Eagles come fall. And I wouldn't at all be surprised to see Donovan take the Redskins to the playoffs for the first time since 2007, leaving the Eagles on the outside looking in.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Colin Campbell: A Top-Notch Idiot

Players like Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby get special treatment from the NHL because they're superstars. The refs keep a special eye on them at all times to make sure that no opposing player is intentionally trying to injure them because, after all, they are the face of the league. I have disagreed with giving certain players special treatment for a long time, and I still do. But I do see the reason for trying to protect the NHL's most valuable assets. What doesn't make any sense at all is how the NHL hands out its punishments.

Take a look at these hits...
Matt Cooke hit on Marc Savard

It's a blatant cheap shot elbow to the head of Savard. It was basically the last straw that forced the NHL to implement a new "hits to the head" rule. "A guy like that has to be suspended," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "That's the way I see it, because it's an elbow to the head from the blind side. That's exactly the examples they show of what we've got to get out of this game. We have a guy who's got a concussion. Our best player. He's going to be out for a while. He was [unconscious] on the ice for a bit. That's unacceptable."

Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell's decision: No suspension. "I know Matt Cooke is a repeat offender, he's been suspended twice in the last year," Campbell said. "I can't suspend Matt Cooke for being a repeat offender, I have to find a reason."

So, Campbell isn't suspending Cooke for the hit, but he gives out a two game suspension for this?
Dan Carcillo high stick on David Clarkson

According to Rich Chere, a Devils beat writer for the Star-Ledger, Carcillo verbally apologized to Clarkson right after the incident while the two were still on the ice. Carcillo could even be seen patting Clarkson on the back after he noticed that Clarkson was cut. Clarkson is quoted by Chere as saying that Carcillo shoved him and his stick got a little high, and that he didn't know if Carcillo would be suspended for it. This was, according to the suspension given out by Campbell, an obvious "intent to injure." No, I don't think so.

There's no denying that Dan Carcillo is a repeat offender. He has four career suspensions totaling 12 games. But Campbell said he can't suspend a player for being a repeat offender, right? Well then I would love to know his reason for suspending Carcillo but not Cooke if it's not because he's a repeat offender. Maybe it's because he's missing his front teeth or maybe, and more likely, it's because he's wearing the orange and black.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

No Tricks for Kendrick This Time

Kyle Kendrick battled Jamie Moyer for the fifth spot in the rotation during the entire 2010 spring training and came out on the short end of the stick. Moyer basically got the job because this will be about his 50th season in the majors, and he has some valuable experience (and a contract) that Kendrick doesn't have.

But with the recent news that Joe Blanton will be out for three to six weeks with a strained oblique, it looks as if Kendrick is going to be thrust into the starting rotation after all.

He is going to be taking the third spot in the rotation, making his 2010 debut on Thursday in the final game of the series at Washington. Yea, I know. He went from not making the rotation at all, to starting the third game of the season, but don't be alarmed. If Kendrick continues to play how he has played in the spring, Phillies fans have nothing to worry about.

Kendrick's spring training ERA was an astounding 1.66 in 21 2/3 innings pitched, the most innings of any Phillie. He had only five walks in those innings and gave up a measly 14 hits. Although spring training stats rarely translate to the regular season, it was good to see Kendrick pitching well early on. For Kendrick to be pitching this effectively shows that he was determined to make the ball club this season and worked hard in the offseason to accomplish that goal. Considering his 2009 spring training stats--9.20 ERA, 27 hits, in 14 2/3 innings-- Kendrick certainly proved that he deserved a spot on this team, and I'm glad he got it.

Phillies fans should all be excited to see what Kendrick can bring to the team while Blanton is out. And if Kendrick continues to pitch as well in regular season as he did in the spring, the Phils may have another pitching quandary on their hands. But this time, it will be a good dilemma to have.

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