Shanoff's W.U.C.: Pens-Caps, Big Baby, Mayo

Today's Calls: Big Baby vs. Dwight Howard, Lakers vs. Rockets, Penguins vs. Caps, O.J. Mayo vs. Tim Floyd, Roy Halladay vs. Ryan Zimmerman, Roger Clemens vs. The World, Manny Ramirez vs. David Ortiz, Doug Collins vs. Mike Leach and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: This is as good as it will get for the NHL. ↵

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↵The Capitals and Penguins play Game 7 tonight of their thus-far epic East semifinal series. The game features the two most marketable (and arguably talented) stars in the league — Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. The atmosphere in D.C. will be rocking (the red!) ↵

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↵If the NHL was ever going to attract casual fans and expand its base beyond the admirably avid fans who support the sport, this would be the game. ↵

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↵The bar isn't high. While TV ratings are up, the absolute audience numbers remain small. (To the league's credit, they are packing fans into arenas like they haven't in a decade.) ↵

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↵If the NHL and its most vocal fans in the media (do they even WANT us casual fans hopping on the bandwagon?) ever wanted the ultimate showcase for its sport, tonight is the night. ↵

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↵The sport doesn't need to bring a fan like me in for an entire season. Getting me excited about the playoffs (or, say, the novelty of the annual Outdoor Game aka the Winter Classic) is a start. But make no mistake: If I was ever going to watch, I should want to watch THIS game, tonight. And I do. ↵

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↵Will you be watching? ↵

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↵Lakers destroy Rockets: What was that about the Rockets' Game 4 win as some kind of "statement?" Let's redefine "statement" — the Lakers coming back the very next game and shellacking the Rockets' "Moneyball" lineup by 40. ↵

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↵The Magic are such chokers: Enough said. (Well, not quite: Big Baby has emerged as the biggest breakout star of these NBA playoffs.) ↵

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↵NBA Tonight: The difference between the Nuggets obliterating the Mavs and simply out-lasting them (or even losing to them)? Chris Andersen, who apparently will be back after missing Game 5 (and being ineffective from injury most of Game 4). Oh, and the game is in Denver. Fin. ↵

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↵Coaching Carousel: Doug Collins was exaggerating to the media about a team's interest in having him coach? GET OUT OF HERE. ↵

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↵O.J. Mayo Scandal: Did Tim Floyd pay off O.J. Mayo’s associate as part of the deal to bring him to USC? Not that the NCAA seems to be able to act on intrepid investigative reporting. (Come ON, people: Does this really even surprise you?) ↵

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↵MLB Talking Points: Everything but Rocket, Manny and PEDs! ↵

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↵— Once and for all: Yes, the Jays are for real. ↵

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↵— Injury Watch: Josh Hamilton is back (hits HR, naturally) ↵

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↵— Ryan Zimmerman Hit Streak: 30 ↵

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↵— Fantasy Stud: Jayson Werth (2-for-4, 2 R, 4 SB) ↵

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↵Roger Clemens Denial Tour: More denials! At least he has spent the last few months of silence coming up with some wild new theories — with his family's history of heart conditions, how could he have POSSIBLY juiced? (Easily.) ↵

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↵PED Watch: Did the Red Sox teach their players how to most effectively take steroids? Well, their championships are now tainted by a confirmed cheat. (Note: Kidding. NOT tainted.) ↵

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↵NHL Playoffs: Everyone's focus may be on the Caps-Pens Game 7 tonight (see Last Word, below), but it is great for hockey that it has two other Game 7s coming up, after last night's wins by the Ducks (over the Wings) and the Bruins (over the Canes). ↵

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↵Favre Watch: Now he is folding high school kids into his little game of "Will I Or Won't I?" Won't someone think of the children?! ↵

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↵NFL: Another game in Europe? Look, the fans over there may love the NFL, but how do you take a home game from a die-hard fan base here — at least without replacing it with an extra home game ... say, from a 17th (or even 18th) regular-season game? ↵

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↵CFB: More on Mike Leach's 64-team playoff, via Spencer Hall. ↵

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↵Apologies: The way Big Baby is playing right now, he can afford to be magnanimous with his apologies. ↵
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↵Blogging: Welcome to The Baseline, which will instantly become one of your favorite NBA blogs — if only because it is edited by Bethlehem Shoals. Maybe I'll even get a chance to post from time to time there, too. ↵

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↵(From The Baseline: Sean Deveney's 2009 NBA Mock Draft.) ↵

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↵Politics: We are that much closer to having legalized sports gambling on the East Coast. And when it drives hundreds of millions of dollars into Delaware's budget, you will see a lot of pressure for other states to adopt it, too. ↵

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↵The Last Word: "This situation has shocked me. That's not the guy I know." ↵
↵— David Ortiz, on Manny. There is no bigger cliche than to say one is "shocked" when one hears of yet another PED bust in baseball. I mean would you be shocked if — say — you found out Papi's power surge came from PEDs? ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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