“And so this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over and a new one just begun!”-John Lennon
Yes, here we are in the heart of the holiday season once again. Amid the gift shopping and partying that is December, it is also time to wrap up the year that was. So it is now time for the Karpelblog annual year in review. This will be a two-part edition of the blog, today we look back at the first half of 2017. Next week we wrap up the year with the second half of 2017 and our year-end awards.
We begin our trip back in time on January 9th at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. The College Football National Championship Game pitted number 1 ranked Alabama against number 2 ranked Clemson. Alabama came into the game as the favorite to claim yet another title.
Clemson trailed 31-28 in the waning moments of the game, and the campus in Tuscaloosa was bracing to celebrate Alabama’s latest National Championship. What followed was a 9 play 68 yard drive for the ages led by Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. On the game’s final play Watson hit Hunter Renfrow in the end zone from two yards out. The Clemson Tigers finished a come-from-behind victory for the ages, claiming the National Championship and set off a celebration on their South Carolina campus!
Clemson’s Hunter Renfrow reels in the National Championship winning touchdown.
While we are on the subject of epic comebacks, we now move on to Houston’s NRG Stadium, site of Super Bowl 51. Much like the National Championship Game in January, it pitted a perennial champion looking to add-on to its resume. This time it was the New England Patriots chance to add another feather in its championship cap. Regular season MVP Matt Ryan led the upstart Atlanta Falcons into Houston, seeking the franchise’s first Super Bowl title.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Falcons began to dominate the game. Three Atlanta touchdowns (one by a run, one by a pass, and an 82 yard pick six) had a party ready to happen on Peachtree Street. The Falcons went into the locker room holding a 21-3 lead. Atlanta came out of the locker room and added a third quarter touchdown, advancing the lead to 28-3. This touchdown stunned all of New England, you can hear a pin drop from Maine to Connecticut.
The New England Patriots cap the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history. They won the title in the first overtime period in the event’s history.
Then it started to unfold. With just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Tom Brady hit James White in the end zone with a five yard pass. New England failed on a two-point conversion, making the score 28-9. With the Falcons driving, later in the stanza, the Patriots defense caused a fumble that changed the entire complexion of the contest. The turnover led to a New England field goal and proved to be the turning point of the contest.
New England took over the game in the fourth quarter. While holding the Falcons scoreless, the Patriots would put up a 33 yard field goal, and a Danny Amendola touchdown reception (that was followed by a two-point conversion). With 57 seconds left on the clock, James White’s 1 yard run, combined with Amendola’s reception for the two-point conversion completed the comeback. Super Bowl 51 was tied at 28! This set up the first ever overtime period in Super Bowl history.
With 11:02 remaining in overtime White would be the hero again. That pin could now be heard along Peachtree Street after the Patriots running back punched the ball into the end zone from two yards out. The celebration was on throughout New England!
Our next stop on the review caravan involves the end of old business from 2016. After 108 long years, a very special championship flag was raised in a historic ballpark. Following an epic World Series win in 2016, the Chicago Cubs opened their home season by raising the championship flag. How do you raise a World Series pennant 108 years in the making? The Cubs themselves took turns raising the flag that will forever fly over historic Wrigley Field.
Next, it’s off to that hockey capital known as… Nashville Tennessee? Yes, Nashville’s Predators are the subject of our next segment.
The Nashville Predators enter the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the bottom seed in the Western Conference. They finish the playoffs two games short of a Stanley Cup title.
The Nashville Predators began the Stanley Cup playoffs at the bottom of the Western Conference bracket. They won the second of two Wild Cards, which gave them the #1 seeded Chicago Blackhawks as a first round draw. The first round matchup turned out to be one of the biggest upsets of the postseason, as Nashville swept the 2015 Stanley Cup champs in four games.
Next up for the hockey team from the Music City, the St. Louis Blues. The Blues franchise has always been a playoff contender, unfortunately they have built a reputation as the greatest team to never win a Stanley Cup. The magical story continued in Nashville, the drought in St. Louis also continued as the Predators advanced to the Western Conference Finals in six games.
The Anaheim Ducks were heavily favored to end the Country Music Onslaught in the Western Conference Finals. The Preds would continue their unlikely assault on the Stanley Cup, dispatching Anaheim in six games.
The boys from Tennessee, however, would run out of gas in the Stanley Cup Finals. This leads to our next story, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The defending champions began their trip to the Stanley Cup Finals with a relatively easy five game victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. What followed in the second round was an epic seven game win over the President’s Trophy winning Washington Capitals. Like the Blues, the Capitals continue to thrive in the regular season, and fail to win the prize.
The surprising Ottawa Senators would take the Pens to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. In another epic seven game thriller, Pittsburgh earned their second consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Pittsburgh Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby hoists the Stanley Cup for the second straight year.
Nashville would play another six game series in the Stanley Cup Finals, however a goaltending performance for the ages by Pittsburgh netminder Matt Murray may have been the difference. The Penguins became the first team to win back-to-back Stanley Cup championships since the 1997 and 1998 Detroit Red Wings.
Next stop, the tale of two basketball teams, one from the Bay Area of California, one from Cleveland, Ohio. Two epic squads led by future Hall of Famers spent the spring of 2017 on a crash course to a Championship Series meeting.
The Golden State Warriors celebrate after winning the 2017 NBA Championship.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, led by Lebron James would lose a total of one game on their way to the NBA Finals. Cleveland would dispatch the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors in four game sweeps to get to the Eastern Conference Finals. Their opponents in the Conference Finals were the Boston Celtics. Boston’s 111-108 win in Game 3 would be the Cavs only setback in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
While Lebron and Company were prancing through the East, their was an ever so slightly bigger story happening out west. Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors one-upped the Cavaliers by completely sweeping their way to the Finals.
The Warriors dispatched the Portland Trailblazers, Utah Jazz, and San Antonio Spurs on their way to taking on Lebron and the Cavs.
In what was supposed to be an NBA Finals for the ages, frankly fell flat. The Warriors headed to Cleveland after defeating the Cavaliers by the scores of 113-91 in game one and 132-113 in game two. The return home for the Cavaliers didn’t change things, Golden State put Cleveland in a 3-0 hole with a 118-113 win.
Cleveland would extend the series by winning Game 5, handing the Warriors their only loss of the postseason. Back home for Game 6 the Warriors claimed their title with a 129-120 victory.
What a loaded first half of this year! Next week we look at the second half of the sports year of 2017, as well as the Karpelblog Sports Story of the Year and Athlete of the Year! See you next week.