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SPRINGFIELD, IL… I have seen a lot of auto racing in my time, not so much the past few years, but the love is still there. I’m not much into the NASCAR circuit, but if I ever watch it, I love when they cutaway to the on-board cameras, turn up the sound and the broadcasters actually shut up for a bit. That’s car racing nirvana right there. What I am into is Indy cars, Formula 1 and Sprint cars. The USAC midget circuit is also pretty intense. That might just be some of the best racing of all.
So it has been a solid tradition for me to see the Indy 500 over the years, ever since I was a young kid. My mother’s sister’s former husband, (and dad of my cousin) has been to almost 60 in a row now. I have been relegated to TV observance thus far, but it is on my list of events to see. But yesterday, my cousin, her husband, step brother and dad were in attendance for the 100th anniversary running of the greatest race spectacle in the world and they had quite an enjoyable time. For the first time in my memory, the traditional song “Back home again in Indiana” was not sung by the great Jim Nabors. Last year was his last appearance. But still, every other long held tradition was observed.
The race itself was one of the better 500’s in recent memory and was won by a first timer from California, Alexander Rossi. He ran out of fuel shortly after crossing the finish line. The race attendance was estimated at 350,000 fans. Outside of some pit lane minor mishaps, most of the race went fairly smooth. Oddly enough, I went through Indy on Saturday morning, and in the downtown area, right by the Indy Colts stadium was a tall building, and one whole side of it was a mural honoring the iconic race. It had the famed checkered pattern in a dark steel blue and upon that were the words “Epic Race, Epic City”. It was totally cool and had me smiling for many miles. I am looking forward to the day when I can put the checkmark on my list next to this great event….
EVERY YEAR BEFORE the Indy 500 takes place and on the same day, the famed Monaco Grand Prix F1 race takes place and I was up bright and early to see this as well. It was raining pre-race yesterday and that caused a slight delay, but once they got racing it was a good show. Lewis Hamilton from the Mercedes AMG team took 1st place. These cars start the race with a specific amount of fuel on-board so if there is a delay or mishap, the race continues and is known as a “safety car” lap. Obviously they have to decelerate, but maintain their positions until getting the green again. Check this race out next year!
THE GREATEST OF ALL SPORT TOURNAMENTS begins it’s final round this eve and I am just about to commence my pre-game floor pacing. The Stanley Cup Final kicks off between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks. Who is the favorite this year? That’s a fantastic question, and I’m am not sure I have a good answer for you. I could see either team hoisting the Cup to be honest. Current Vegas odds are favoring the Pens, however, I know little about sports betting and could make a case for either club.
For a Minnesotan “home” flavor the Pens have Iron Ranger Matt Cullen, and I guess you may as well mention former Gopher and Cheeseland native Phil Kessel. Phil is actually having a superb playoff and could be a possible Conn Smythe candidate for playoff MVP. Cully has been a major contributor as well. On the Sharks side, Paul Martin from Elk River has a prominent role on the Shark blueline, along with Justin Braun from Minneapolis. Twin Cities native Matt Tennyson is on IR, and of course former Badger Joe Pavelski is a premiere player on the Sharks and in the NHL.
There is some major star power on both sides with Crosby, Malkin, Letang etc on the Pens and Thornton, Marleau, Vlasic and former Wild D-man Brent Burns on the Sharks side. The Pens have veteran Coach, (but Pens newbie) Mike Sullivan and the Sharks have NHL vet Pete DeBoer behind the bench. Both are quite capable and I look at the coaches as a bit of a wash. The Pens will go with rookie net minder and Thunder Bay native Matt Murray while the Sharks will feature Martin Jones. This is Jones first season as a number one net minder, but I will give him a slight edge at this position.
Here is the Tale of the Tape; (based on regular season stats) Goals for per game, Pens 2.939, Sharks 2.8902. Goals against per game, Pens 2.4268, Sharks 2.5244. 5 on 5 shooting percent, Pens 7.59, Sharks 7.69. Save percentage 5 on 5, Pens .9305, Sharks .923. Power Play percent, Pens 18.39, Sharks 22.55. Penalty kill percent, Pens 84.44, Sharks 80.51. Shot attempts percent, Pens 52.72, Sharks 51.68. Face-off win percent, Pens 50.16, Sharks 50.7. Point percentage, Pens .634, Sharks 50.7.
In head to head competition, they split two regular season games. Shots on goal were 68-63 Pens. The Pens had 6 goals for, 4 goals against. The Pens were 2 for 8 on the PP and allowed one goal on 7 PP chances. The Pens were 69-58 on faceoffs. Is there any pattern of statistical advantage here for either club? The percentages are close but the Pens are slightly better in 6 of 9 categories. However, I would also point out that both teams are quite a bit better now then they were at the mid-season mark. With the Western Conference dominating recent Cup wins with 7 of the last 10, I am almost inclined to state that this Final is too close to call and it is probably the East’s turn to hoist it.
In the NHL bracket challenge I have the Pengwah. My Magic 8-ball was 2 out of 3 for the Pens. A 2 out of 3 coin flip had the Sharks. So, who will do what with which to whom? Holy Schnikees, too close to call, but I’ll roll with the Pens…. PEACE