Photo Credit: TalkSport.Com via Getty Images

*This was originally posted on May 17, 2022*

The weather is (slowly) starting to get warmer and the playoffs in the NHL and NBA are in full force, baseball is in full swing and European soccer leagues are wrapping up.

I really don’t know how to start these so let’s get into Avid Thoughts.

Crazy Whitecaps game

In the first half of the Vancouver Whitecaps Saturday night match with the San Jose Earthquakes at BC Place, not much was happening. 

San Jose controlled the possession but they weren’t doing a lot with it. The Whitecaps did have early chances which included a Lucas Cavallini header that was saved by JT Marcinkowski. Other than that and a few Cody Cropper saves, not a lot was going on in the first half.

The second half was a different story. 

There were chances on both ends and the Whitecaps looked very threatening. Cavallini got his goal after a nice give-and-go with Ryan Raposo. Raposo also got one himself, and defender Erik Godoy scored on a corner kick. 

The Whitecaps looked quick and fluid. 

However, the Whitecaps defending needs work. Two out of the three goals the Earthquakes scored were in transition and they burned the Whitecaps. It goes to show how much a guy like Ranko Vesilinovic is to the backline as well as the injured Tristan Blackmon. They both make smart and simple defensive plays and do a good job stopping the transitions. 

The passing also didn’t look great, especially in the first half. Some were just careless. 

Cavallini almost blew the roof off BC Place when his header just went off the post in the dying stages of the game. The Whitecaps had to settle with one point instead of three.

Vanni Sartini said after the game that was Cavallini’s best game as a Whitecaps and I have to agree. 

He was getting numerous chances and constantly used his strength to get around defenders. He was also showing some good pace. Cavallini is slowly looking like the player he was with Mexico. It’s safe to say he is having a good year.

Ryan Raposo was low on the depth chart for the Whitecaps at the start of the season but he has been starting more. He has also been playing well. Raposo has been scoring but also has done well with the crosses and passes.

The Whitecaps are up against FC Dallas at BC Place on Wednesday. It’s not going to be easy. FC Dallas is second in the Western Conference with a 6-2-1 record.

NHL Game 7s are the best

Very few sporting events compare to an NHL game 7. 

Game 7s in the NHL provide entertainment and drama. There were five game 7s this past weekend and they did not disappoint. 

Let’s start with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Same old Leafs. 

It really just gets funnier every year. They had a 60-goal scorer in Auston Matthews and had a franchise record in points. But they faced the Tampa Bay Lightning who are the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions. It was a fun series but the Lightning got the better of the Leafs in game 7.

The Leafs are the first team in the NHL, NBA and MLB to lose a game 7 in five straight years. That is sad. Or it is hilarious if you live for Leafs schadenfreude. The schadenfreude was off the charts across Canada Saturday night. 

Where do the Leafs go from here? No, blowing it up isn’t the best move. They need to make changes but what kind of changes? Would those changes make Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares show up in the playoffs? Speaking of Tavares, he has kind of had a down year and it looks like the decline is starting. The Leafs are also paying him 11 million dollars for three more seasons.

A lot of people took joy in the tears of Steve Dangle and the rest of the Leafs fans. The memes live. Never change Leafs.

Things got even worse for Marner. He was robbed at gunpoint in Etobicoke on Monday evening. Yikes.

The Boston Bruins also bowed out to the Carolina Hurricanes in a game which saw Max Domi score twice and get an assist.

The Canes’ aggressive forecheck was tough for the Bruins to handle. If this is it for Patrice Bergeron, what a career. He is a first-ballot Hall of Famer for sure. 

The Bruins have become a team that can make the playoffs but not go far. How can Don Sweeney get them back to contending status and build around Jeremy Swayman, David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy especially if Bergeron does retire?

The Edmonton Oilers were a tire fire in January but things changed when Jay Woodcroft replaced Dave Tippet behind the bench and they signed Evander Kane. Kane is a good player but not a good person.

Kane did score some big goals in this series. Do you know who else did? Connor McDavid. McDavid ended up scoring the winner in game 7 in which the LA Kings just gave up because Sean Durzi was called for a penalty.

Mike Smith’s goaltending has been criticized heavily but he did well in game 7 with the shutout. 

You got to give props to the Kings, however. They have a bright future with a lot of young talent. It was also the end of a career for Dustin Brown who had a great career. 

Artemi Panarin got the winner in overtime in a thrilling game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in game 7. 

Four years ago they started their rebuild and now they are off to round two. Yes, some lottery luck did accelerate the rebuild. 

Igor Shesterkin bounced back after being pulled twice in Pittsburgh and Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider let the way offensively. The Rangers have talent with an elite goaltender and looked like a dark horse for the Stanley Cup.

As for the Penguins, the window isn’t closed but it’s slowing closing. Are Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang going to come back next year? Sidney Crosby is still a great player but how long can he continue being a great player. Oh, and Their prospect pool is one of the worst in the NHL. 

The Penguins crashing into obscurity is inevitable. It’s not a matter of if but when in Pittsburgh.

Jake Oettinger, take a bow. 

He was giving Bubble Demko vibes not just in game 7 but in the entire series. If it weren’t for him, the Dallas Stars could have lost to the Calgary Flames in five.

It was just save after save after save from Oettinger. You were just saying “HOW?!!” after he made these jaw-dropping saves on the Flames. Remember he was the third-stringer for the Stars heading into this season. He got the starting job thanks to season-ending injuries to Anton Khudobin and Braden Holtby. 

At just 23, Oettinger almost took the Stars to the second round. He has got a bright future.

Johnny Gaudreau sent the Flames to round two with his OT heroics. He had a quiet start to the series but scored the biggest goal of it. 

The Flames bullied the Stars with their puck movement and heavy forechecking. I’m glad my bracket isn’t nuked.

I got six out of eight playoff predictions right. The wrong ones were from the Stars-Wild and Oilers-Kings series.

We get the Battle of Alberta and The Battle of The Florida Men in round two! Bring them on! 

Predictions for round two:

Flames over Oilers in 6.

Avalanche over Blues in 6.

Hurricanes over Rangers in 6.

Lightning over Panthers in 7.

A tough year for Chelsea

Yes, Chelsea has secured Champions League football for next season and yes, they won two trophies this season. But it isn’t good enough.

With the loss on penalties to Liverpool on Saturday, Chelsea has lost three straight FA Cup Finals. They are the only team ever to do that. Mason Mount missed a key penalty. He has lost six straight finals at Wembley. Those are the three FA Cup Finals, the Carabao Cup Final against Liverpool last February, the Euro Final with England and the Championship Playoff Final when he was on loan at Derby County. Poor Mount. His Wembley curse continues.

It was a good game. There were chances at both ends but no finish. For Chelsea, Christian Pulisic and Marcos Alonso had glorious chances but flubbed on them. Romelu Lukaku was OK. He was moving but he was chasing his first touch and his only shot sailed over the crossbar. There was some great goalkeeping from Mendy and solid defending from Trevoh Chalobah, Antonio Rudiger and Thiago Silva. Silva was seen limping when leaving Wembley Stadium. 37 years old and he was still putting his body on the line for 120 minutes, what a titan.

Chelsea came into the season with so much promise. They just won the Champions League and were seen as the team to beat across England and Europe. Thomas Tuchel was a world-class coach ready to take his team to the next level. Lukaku was brought in because he was absolutely world-class with Inter Milan and he was ready to show Premier League he has improved since leaving Manchester United in 2019. Lukaku was playing for the team he cheered for as a kid and it looked like a match made in heaven when he signed.

But it has been a disappointing year. The UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup are nice to have but there needs to be more. I expected them to challenge for the Premier League title this year and challenge for every other trophy. But it has been a year of disappointments and a year of turmoil off the pitch with the Lukaku interview, the sanctions and the sale of the club.

The season peaked when Chelsea destroyed Juventus 4-0 in the Champions League group stage in November. I thought Chelsea could defend their title from last season and I was crazy for thinking they could do the Quadruple. But that was the game Ben Chilwell tore his ACL and Chelsea were never the same after that. 

The attack has looked lifeless at times and the midfield looked leaky as well as the defending at times. 

Chelsea has not won a domestic cup since winning the FA Cup in 2018. That and three straight FA Cup finals are simply unacceptable. 

How will they be fixed this summer? We shall see,

Oh, and it looks like the sale to Todd Boehly has hit a snag as it seems the UK government is clashing with Roman Abramovich over disagreements over the terms of the sale. If the sale doesn’t happen by the end of May, Chelsea can’t play any games next season.

One regular day at Chelsea FC is all I ask for.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s Avid Thoughts! Check back next week for more!