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The Sports Page: Super Bowl XLV Predictions

 Corey Barnes The Sports Page: Super Bowl XLV Predictions
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Super Bowl Prediction:

I am from Cleveland. Therefore, on principle, I cannot predict that the Pittsburgh Steelers will beat the Green Bay Packers in Dallas on Sunday. So I approach my choice from a different angle. I am an enthusiastic Ohio State football fan and of course want the players I support on Saturdays to one day find similar success on Sundays. By that logic, should I not support whichever team that has the most Buckeyes on it? In that respect, the Packers outshine the Steelers 3-1. 

As much as I respect safety Will Allen, he unfortunately finds himself as the only Ohio Stater in western Pennsylvania. Green Bay on the other hand suits up linebacker Matt Wilhelm, defensive end Ryan Pickett, and most famously linebacker A.J. Hawk. Mr. Hawk is actually one of the reasons I think eastern Wisconsin will be celebrating on Sunday. Much of the buzz about this game concerns the alleged offensive explosion we can expect from two prolific quarterbacks – Aaron Rodgers from GB and Ben Roethlisberger from Pittsburgh. Naturally, I expect a low scoring affair. Even though over one hundred points combined may be more fun to watch, defense still wins championships. I think the Pack will stand a little taller and yield a little less in Texas next week.

My prediction: Green Bay 20 – Pittsburgh 17

Columbus Blue Jackets Week in Review:

It would have been nice.

Another win before the All-Star break, two more valuable points in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, more momentum than the city can handle. Boy it would have been nice. Alas, it was not in the cards as the Columbus Blue Jackets dropped their only game last week 3-2 to the Anaheim Ducks. But that’s life in the League.

Winning in the NHL is difficult, especially when you start the game in a 2-0 hole. Officially the scoreboard reads two zeros when the first puck drops, but it sure seems like the Jackets have been starting down a pair recently. Each of the past three games, Columbus keeper Steve Mason has given up a duo of first period goals. Additionally the opposition has netted at least one tally in the first period of each of the last five games. Last Tuesday, Columbus managed to cut the deficit in half later in the first period thanks to a power play goal by Captain Rick Nash. The Captain was also the only Jacket to represent the Buckeye State during Sunday’s All-Star Game in Raleigh, North Carolina – more on that later. Neither team was able to find the net during the second period. Early in the third period Anaheim pushed the lead to 3-1.A Derick Brassard power play goal brought the game back to within one point but that would be as close as the Unionmen would get that night. When the final horn sounded, The Pride of Nationwide went into the All-Star break with a 23-21-5 record. Columbus remains in thirteenth place in the Western Conference and is five points behind the San Jose Sharks for the eighth and final playoff spot.

The goal of the previous paragraph was not to put down Steve Mason. He is still a Calder Trophy winner and a young man full of promise. Opponents have seen that when he is in the zone he is all but unbeatable. The message is that the entire team needs to come out sharper during the first period, tighten up their play, and minimize any damage. With only 33 games remaining on the slate, every match is important. The Jackets cannot afford to start February as sluggishly as they did January. They do not have to win every game necessarily but two at home and one on the road from here on out sounds like a good formula for punching postseason tickets.

NHL All-Star Game:

Defense in the NHL All-Star Game is like paying with exact change. It’s encouraged but doesn’t actually happen often. For example, the preposterously high final score of 11-10 in Sunday’s contest broke down as follows:

Team Period 1 Period 2 Period 3 Final
Lindstrom 4 3 4 11
Staal 4 2 4 10

Clearly, the focus of the game was on the offensive side.

The lone Jacket in the game – Captain Rick Nash – made the Arch City proud in his fifth career All-Star contest recording one goal and one assist in just over fifteen minutes on the ice for Team Staal. Sadly his team came up short on the scoreboard. He was, however, part of a unique All-Star experience.

For the past few years, the League’s Winter Classic on New Year’s Day has been a tremendous ratings boost as well as an attraction to the casual hockey fan. In an effort to similarly promote the midseason classic and generate some buzz this season, the 58th annual NHL All-Star Game was conducted a little differently. First of all, instead of dividing up the teams by conference or country of origin, two captains were chosen to select teams like a pick-up game – Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom and Carolina’s Eric Staal. (Columbus’ Rick Nash was selected ninth overall by Team Staal). Additionally, there was a special guest in the broadcast booth during the first period. Net minder Cam Ward was mic’d up and was chatting with the announcers while on the ice. Forget interviewing a player after a period or game, the commentators were able to pick Ward’s brain immediately after each shot. Some of these innovations may seem a bit gimmicky but if nothing else they created a different feel for this game and legitimate interest leading up to the game. With the NHL hoping to ink a major network deal in the near future, any news is good news for the League.

Columbus Crew Bring Back Cunningham:

On Friday the Columbus Crew announced the signing of forward Jeff Cunningham to a multi-year contract, bringing back one of the Major League Soccer’s most prolific scorers. The 34-year-old will start the 2011 campaign with 132 career goals, trailing all-time MLS leader Jaime Moreno by one. Cunningham is happy to be back in Ohio’s capital, where he has had great success in the past. From 1998 to 2004, Cunningham found the net 62 times, much to the delight of the Black and Gold faithful. His record for most goals in Columbus history remains tied with Brian McBride, and is all but a lock to be broken early on this spring. Cunningham also holds the distinction of being the first player to score a goal in Crew Stadium on May 15, 1999. After leaving the Crew, Cunningham found a paycheck in Colorado, Salt Lake City, Toronto, and most recently Dallas. At 34 he may not have the legs he once did, but Cunningham is an experienced scorer and a welcome addition to Columbus’ roster.

Corey Barnes is a third year at The Ohio State University studying business. He hails from Cleveland, Ohio and has a profound understanding of sports suffering and mediocrity. In addition to this column, he also writes sports things at buckeyenerd.tumblr.com and can be followed on The Twitter @Corey_Barnes.

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