What To Watch For In Sports This Week (6/6)
Sports |  Source: usatoday.com

What To Watch For In Sports This Week (6/6)

Other than the NBA Finals, of course.

Don't act like you don't know what's in store for this week.

Already down 2-0 to Golden State, LeBron James is two losses away from a 2-5 NBA Finals record -- which would make him just the second player in history to lose five finals next to Lakers legend Jerry West (1-8).

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh holds a 2-1 lead heading into a pivotal Game 4 at San Jose. The Penguins have an opportunity to steal another on the road before heading back home to close things out for their first Stanley Cup since 2009.

This is the only time out of the year where the absolute best basketball and hockey in the world is being played. Why miss out on that kind of opportunity?

Monday, June 6

NHL: Pittsburgh at San Jose, Game 4 (8 p.m. ET, NBC)
"We've battled through a lot this season,"San Jose forward Logan Couture told SI.com. "When we're pushed, we've pushed back. We know in our room we didn't play well at all last [game]. We made a lot of mistakes that we haven't been making throughout these playoffs. But Game 5 is a new opportunity for us."

Sustaining longer possessions and avoiding turnovers will be key for the Sharks in tonight's Game 5. Can they even the series out before heading back to Pittsburgh?

Wednesday, June 8

NBA: Golden State at Cleveland, Game 3 (9 p.m. ET, ABC)
Even if you predicted Golden State to win the first two games of the NBA Finals, it's unlikely you saw two blowouts like that coming. Cleveland followed up its 15-point loss in Game 1 by getting embarrassed, 110-77, on Sunday night.

Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, who did not play in last year's finals, have combined to shoot 35 percent. LeBron James is 16-of-38 (42.1 percent) thus far. The Cavaliers are shooting 36.8 percent as a team, and less than 28 percent from the 3-point line. That's not a winning recipe; especially against a Warriors team that won an NBA record 73 games during the regular season.

Cleveland needs to not only win Game 3, but win with confidence. Leaving Quicken Loans Arena without tying this series up will all but guarantee a second straight title for the Warriors.

Thursday, June 9

NHL: San Jose at Pittsburgh, Game 5 (8 p.m. ET, NBC)
Will Pittsburgh have the opportunity to finish things off in front of their own crowd, or will San Jose even the series at 2-2 in Game 4? Either way, the intensity and severity of the moment should be enough for you to have this on your TV during your Thirsty Thursday festivities.

Friday, June 10

NBA: Golden State at Cleveland, Game 4 (9 p.m. ET, ABC)
No team in NBA history that trailed 3-0 has ever won a four-game series. Even with one of the greatest players of all time in James, that's a statistic that wouldn't bode well for the Cavs.

Sunday, June 12

NASCAR: Sprint Cup Series at Michigan (1 p.m. ET, FS1)

NHL: Pittsburgh at San Jose, Game 6 (8 p.m. ET, NBC)*

*If necessary

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Sports |  Source: csnne.com

This NHL Playoff Game Had A Hail Mary And A Fail Mary

HOCKEY: STILL CRAZY.

This is an incredible time of year for sports fans. We've got the beginning of baseball season, the beginning of the NBA playoffs, and the beginning of the NHL playoffs. (And the NFL Draft!)

Thanks to its fourth-tier status in American sports, though, hockey's postseason is often pushed to the bottom of the pile even when it's just as entertaining as any sport's playoff, hands down. Then folks miss incredible games with incredible plays, like Game 3 of Senators vs. Bruins from Monday night, which had... some serious insanity.

First off, there was this super embarrassing mistake by a Senators defenseman, letting former St. Louis Blue and never-aging-ever forward David Backes to waltz right in on goal for the tally.

We've all been there in class, right? The professor is lecturing, but we get caught watching a bird out the window or scrolling through Facebook a little too intensely, and then all of a sudden you have nooooooo clue what is happening on the chalkboard. Whoops!

Luckily, it didn't sting too bad for the Senators. They had this incredible, play-of-the-year goal earlier in the game:

HOW. DO. YOU. DO. THAT?!?

Here's the thing: I can't imagine throwing anything even close to that accurately while standing on concrete, with no opponents trying to stop me from succeeding, from 20 feet away. Erik Karlsson just launched a rubber puck 116 feet, right to his teammate's tape, while standing on a sheet of frozen water, with very large men trying to stop him.

Unreal.

The Senators won in overtime, 4-3, to cap off a truly ridiculous hockey night.

Lesson: watch more hockey!

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Sports |  Source: dollartapeclub.com

The Beauty Of The Playoff Beard

You don't even have to be an athlete to do it.

It started in the 1980s with the New York Islanders team that won four straight Stanley Cups. Now, I've seen it more and more on campuses since first entering undergrad. I, of course, am talking about the superstitious practice known as playoff beard.

For those who don't know, playoff beards are grown by players of teams who make their league playoffs, and the players stop shaving. This continues until the player's team has been eliminated from the postseason or wins the championship.

SOURCE: BEARDSOURCE.COM

While the playoff beard is generally a hockey thing, it has seen crossover to players and fans of MLB and NFL teams.

SOURCE: SPREEGOOGS.COM

Personally, I generally feel superstitions are stupid and depended on way too much. But this one I can really dig. I even participate in it myself -- both in and out of hockey (more on that later).

It's something so simple, and yet it means so much for a player and/or his team to not shave, with all of their fortune and future seemingly depending on it. That, or it's just some traditional playoff fun.

But that simple act gets the player in a "playoff hockey mindset" from the moment they start the practice. Once the razors are stored away somewhere and those few extra hairs around the lips, chin and neck start growing in, the focus is intensified. Suddenly the game, teammates and performance mean a hell of a lot more in players' minds.

It definitely can give a boost to team unity, too, if the team is all behind it.

SOURCE: THESTAR.COM

It can also help to connect the team and its fans. Because it's such a simple action, fans can grow out their beards, too. The ladies and kids can even buy fake beards to support the team's playoff run. It's all something I have seen year after year since first falling in love with hockey.

I definitely encourage those who can to grow out their beards in support of their NHL team's chase for the Cup. And so has the NHL -- they've hosted Beard-A-Thon campaigns in an effort to raise money for charities while fans grew and grew two support two great causes.

Unfortunately, not everyone is behind it. Some NBC Sports exec said he feels the beards ruin the ability for the players to be recognized on TV. Well, a lot of the time we're seeing the players from wide shots anyways, meaning we generally see the jerseys more than the player's faces.

No thanks, I'm having fun with this tradition.

And for you big hockey guys out there, not every gal out there will be fully supportive of you growing out a big, fluffy beard. So, exercise caution...or make her put up with it for a little while. It's your team, dammit. And more importantly, it's the Cup, dammit!

It doesn't even have to be a sports thing.

Okay, so, confession: when the last week or two of classes come, any shaving I'd do comes to a halt, period. I might trim the beard beforehand, but once that time period hits, and finals come into full swing, it stops. I generally use this superstitious tradition as both a good luck charm and some fun during a completely stressful time (we're all in our own playoffs during finals, aren't we?)

Turns out, I'm not the only one who does this, which is also called a study beard or finals beard.

SOURCE: ROOSTERTEETH.COM

Again, if your girl doesn't like facial hair on you, this may prove an unpopular decision. But dammit, we've all done crazy s*** for finals. They should understand!

So, grow out those playoff/study beards and enjoy their majestic beauty.

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Sports |  Source: youtube.com

A Story of Perseverance: Jaromir Jagr

He's like hockey's Energizer bunny.

From syllabus week to finals week, college has become all about perseverance.

Sitting through that three hour long poli-sci night class becomes harder and harder as the semester slowly drags on, and with finals week right around the corner college campuses across the country are full of students hoping that their semester long diligence will pay off.

So while you sit there staring as the cursor flashes on your blank word document, here's how the ageless wonder of the NHL has been able to prolong his enjoyable and successful career on the ice.

According to quanthockey.com the average age of a forward in the NHL in 2015-2016 is between 26 and 27 years old, and the average NHL career lasts only five years.

At age 44 Jaromir Jagr just completed his 22nd season in the NHL, where he and the Florida Panthers fell to the New York Islanders in six games during the first round of the 2016 NHL Playoffs.

In the 2015-2016 NHL regular season Jagr appeared in 79 games for the Panthers where he scored 27 goals and added 39 assists. Jagr's 66 points would lead his young Panthers squad back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since the 2011-2012 season. This would be the Panthers second playoff appearance in 16 years.

While Jagr's highlight reel performances on the ice have been dazzling fans both young and old all over the world for more than 25 years, there is something else that sets him apart from the pack...

He posted on this on his Facebook, which made it's way to Reddit:

"It's 11:15pm. Most people are asleep and I'm just finishing my last exercise with my 30lb vest. I sit on the bench to have some rest. I look at myself in the mirror. After a while, I ask myself a question: 'Is it really still worth it?' Unfortunately, I don't think I can answer this question. I really can't. I keep thinking: 'You are alone, no family, you work like a horse, there is no one waiting for you at home....' This doesn't sound too great, I think. But then another question pops up: 'Then why do you keep doing it?' I know the answer to this question without hesitation. 'Because I love it.'"

Jagr is completely self-motivated, with no children, wife or family of his own. Hockey has become what defines him. Jagr wakes up every morning, has his daily muffin and pushes his 44-year-old aging body to the limit day in and day out.

All for the love and enjoyment his success has brought him for over a quarter of a century.

Jaromir Jagr is living proof that by putting the extra time in and losing a little sleep, anything is possible.

Even that A in political science.

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Sports |  Source: post-gazette.com

Sidney Crosby Deserves More Respect

He's earned the success he's had.

It was the 2010 Gold Medal game. Zach Parise of Team USA had just tied it up in the waning seconds, shocking the vastly pro-Canada crowd into silence. All of the momentum was suddenly shifting in favor of the Americans, and they were one goal away from their first hockey gold medal since the Miracle on Ice.

But Sidney Crosby, just 7:40 into sudden death overtime, snuck one through the legs of goaltender Ryan Miller and earned his spot as Public Enemy No. 1. At just 22 years old, he had already been selected as an All-Star, become the youngest captain to hoist a Stanley Cup, and become a Canadian Olympic hero.

These achievements demand respect, even veneration. Yet Sidney Crosby is arguably the most hated player in the NHL, especially among the younger generation of fans that has grown up watching him. Outside of Pittsburgh, Crosby is called a crybaby, a sore loser, and all kinds of obscene names I probably shouldn't mention here. Even fans of Canadian teams join the angry mob, seemingly forgetting how big a role he played in two consecutive gold medals.

Now, I'm no Crosby fan. Six years later, thinking about his "golden goal" still makes me nauseous. But I've watched enough hockey in my day to know that there are far less talented players in the NHL, who do far worse things on the ice, who should be hated more.

In 2013, Crosby took a Brooks Orpik slap shot square in the mouth. The force of the 90 MPH shot damaged 10 of his teeth and broke his jaw. What's worse is the injury came right after he returned from a major concussion that had him sidelined for the better part of 18 months. After this setback, some people doubted he'd ever play again.

However, the Penguins' captain, the crybaby himself, almost unrecognizable due to his facial damage, returned to the lineup in time for the postseason and took the Pens to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Next, Crosby does damage when he's on the ice. For that reason, he's probably the most targeted player in the league.

Teams send their enforcers on him with really one purpose in mind: to take Crosby out of the game. If he wants to retaliate every now and then, I think he gets a free pass.

Crosby has earned every bit of success he's had thus far. He put in the work, but is hated regardless. But we'll keep hating on others success, right?

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Sports |  Source: sportingnews.com

Alex Ovechkin Just Can't Catch A Break

The playoffs are his kryptonite.

Team sports add an interesting wrinkle to evaluating bodies of work. For every person lauding Dan Marino for his incredible career with the Dolphins, there will be a sea of detractors unimpressed because Marino never won a Super Bowl. He is the greatest quarterback to never win one, but when we evaluate a career, what is that worth?

After the Capitals lost to the Penguins on Tuesday, eliminating Washington from the postseason, Alexander Ovechkin continues to rest in a very similar situation, occupying that nebulous area between incredible individual achievement and team-based frustration.

In the wide view, Ovechkin is the greatest goal-scorer of his era, unrivaled in every statistical category, and one of the most deadly shooters in the history of hockey. At 30 years old, he's scored 525 goals, which puts him at No. 33 in league history. If he only scores 175 more goals for the rest of his career, a conservative estimate, he'll end up in the Top 10 of All-Time.

However, when it comes to scoring goals without team success, Ovechkin is historically peerless.

The Great Eight has scored the second most goals of any player who has never reached the conference finals, behind just Marcel Dionne.

We're not talking winning a championship. Lifting the Stanley Cup is a brutally difficult task; just ask Mike Gartner, who scored the seventh-most goals in league history (708) without even reaching the final series of the season. No, we're not talking anything like that.

In Ovechkin's case, we're talking about his teams never making it to the second-to-last round of the playoffs. To reach this point, his teams would have had to win just eight of 14 games, an eminently doable .571 winning percentage when wins are tantamount.

Instead, Ovechkin has now gone the first 11 years of his career without having the opportunity to play for a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Now, pinning team failure on one player is never, ever fair. Ovechkin is a stupendous player who, in his younger years, was felled by a Washington team that never fielded a defense worthy of contending in the postseason.

This year, after dominating the regular season, the Capitals simply ran into a Penguins team that is hotter than any other team in the league since undergoing a coaching change midway through the season. (Sounds a little bit like 2009, no?)

Of course, because of their proximity in NHL history, and our insatiable desire for narrative, it's worth noting that Ovechkin's primary "rival," Sidney Crosby, who missed extensive time because of career-threatening concussions, has already won a Stanley Cup and is now one series away from playing in the third of his career.

Long story short, this is just another example of team sports always rewarding great teams, and sometimes spitting in the face of truly transcendent players on the way.