Stanley Cup Finals are going, and the 3rd period last night was very good …Ducks are up. My pick for the finals? Not sure. Ducks in 7? But Heatley and Senators are fun to watch…
Perhaps we were a bit hasty in dismissing these Anaheim Ducks.
In the seemingly interminable gap between the end of the Western Conference finals and Monday's opening game of the Stanley Cup finals, it seemed the Ducks' flaws multiplied exponentially while the invincibility of the Ottawa Senators likewise grew.
The Ducks were too thin up front, too thin on the back end, took too many penalties. In short, they were lucky to be here. The Sens? Gee, they were really good weren't they? Yet, when the dust cleared at the end of Monday's Game 1, it was Anaheim that dominated, twice erasing one-goal deficits to win 3-2.
More impressively, the Ducks did exactly what they wanted to do, which was to physically pound the Senators into mistakes.
After the game, the Senators said as much -- they knew what to expect coming into the series and that this game was a marked departure from their earlier playoff rounds.
It's entirely possible they were hit harder in the first period Monday than in all their other playoff games put together.
"You have to win a game here and we didn't start very well. We didn't finish very well. They had the majority of the chances," Ottawa coach Bryan Murray said. "Their checking line played head to head with our [top] guys and they ended up getting the winning goal. So that's the whole game in a nutshell."
The game sets up some interesting questions for the Senators.
They have never trailed in a series this spring so they will now have to play catch-up for the first time. Monday also marked the first time the Senators lost a game in which they scored first -- they're now 8-1. They also lost for just the second time this spring when leading after two periods.
Meanwhile, The Spurs are now 48 mintues from the Finals …
The Utah Jazz had splintered another Spurs lead, bumping and clawing their way within a single point as the frenzied sellout crowd filling EnergySolutions Arena roared its approval.
Manu Ginobili, apparently, had seen and heard enough. Having watched the Spurs wither under Utah's physicality just two days earlier, he cradled the ball with both hands and barreled into the lane, crashing into Jazz forward Paul Millsap before dropping to the court.
Ginobili picked himself up, then stepped to the free-throw line, a process he would repeat time and again for the remainder of the game. Drive. Crash. Free throw. Drive. Crash. Free throw.
By the time Ginobili was done Monday, he had scored 16 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, sent Utah coach Jerry Sloan and Derek Fisher marching to the locker room in frustration and pushed the Spurs to a 91-79 victory that left them on the edge of the NBA Finals.
"I just tried to do the same thing," Ginobili said. "Play as tough as them."
That was enough to give the Spurs a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference finals. They
will attempt to close out the best-of-7 series Wednesday at the AT&T Center.
"It is a great position to be in," said Tim Duncan, who provided 19 points, nine rebounds and five blocks. "But we don't in any way think we are just going to walk in our building and take these guys out.
"They have shown they can play with us. They have shown that they are very physical."
Today in Kobe news, He wants to be traded …
Tangled as their web was, they didn't think things could get any worse … until news that Lamar Odom and Kwame Brown would need surgery, complicating trades, and Western Conference rivals Portland and Seattle drew the picks with which they're expected to take budding superstars Greg Oden and Kevin Durant.
Seeming to raise the stakes with every telephone interview, Bryant told The Times' Mike Bresnahan that his frustration was ongoing, turning our Sunday paper into a special section on Kobe.
Then Bryant did his usual number with ESPN's Ric Bucher, who was obliged to go on camera and state Bryant's views, as opposed to quoting him directly.
Bryant said he wanted West back. Bucher paraphrased him as adding, "Short of doing that, yes, I have a no-trade clause. Yes, I'd be willing to waive that. You might as well go ahead and trade me because I can't wait for the current team to develop."
Bucher says that after going on the air, he checked back and Bryant said he'd been accurately represented.
However, the same day, Bryant told Bresnahan that he wanted West, but it wasn't an ultimatum — "It's not something where I demand he comes here. All I can do is offer my thoughts. I love being a Laker. I want to retire a Laker. I want to fix this thing or at least help any way I can."
And, JJT wants to get him for Dirk …look. The Lakers are not trading Kobe. If they do, they are not trading him in the West. And if they do, they are not trading him for Dirk. Total waste of space here, but anyway…
Bryant is mad at the only franchise he's ever played for because they haven't gotten him enough help to make the Lakers a legitimate contender.
And nothing is going to change this off-season because Lamar Odom's shoulder injury means he has little trade value. Neither does Kwame Brown, the only other player on the roster worth more than a Wal-Mart gift card, though his contract expires at the end of next season.
It's Bryant's fault he's in this predicament because he's the one who chased off O'Neal, so he could be the focal point of the team. Now that it's not working out, he wants to wear a new uniform next season if he doesn't get what he wants.
We all know Cuban has a soft spot for Nowitzki because of the 7-footer's work ethic, talent and ability to lead the Mavericks from the abyss of the '90s. Nowitzki is the most decorated player in franchise history, with a low-maintenance personality to match.
Those are just some of the reasons Cuban was so emotional at the news conference to announce that Nowitzki had been named MVP. But he also loves the Mavericks and he'll be doing his club a disservice if he doesn't explore every avenue to make it a better basketball team.
You can't convince me adding Bryant doesn't improve the Mavericks. I'll worry about who's playing power forward later.
If you think it's laughable to move Dirk Nowitzki (foreground) for Kobe Bryant, think again.
It's not that Nowitzki isn't a great player. Winning the MVP proves that just in case you weren't impressed that he averaged 24.6 points and 8.9 rebounds for a team that won 67 games.
But we all know he doesn't always embrace the moment and deliver in the Mavericks' most important games. We all know he has a reputation for being soft, perhaps because he didn't learn the game on inner-city black tops, where you call your own fouls, or spend a summer playing at Rucker Park in New York.
Oh look. Rangers get their butt beat again …And Ron Washington is getting tired of this bit…
Maybe it was the season-high six-game losing streak. Maybe it was the fact that the Rangers now own the worst record in baseball. It could have been because their starters’ ERA is now the second-worst by any team in the last 50 years.
Whatever it was, something set Rangers manager Ron Washington off after a 5-3 loss to the Athletics, his old team, on Monday. After watching Robinson Tejeda exit after only three innings for the second consecutive start, the usually reserved Washington could reserve judgment no longer.
“He just didn’t show me no guts,” Washington said of Tejeda, who walked four batters and allowed two demoralizing home runs. “He’s got good stuff — there’s no reason to run away from bats. Whatever the problem is, we certainly better straighten it out.
“It’s time to start growing up and throwing the ball in the strike zone. Because after awhile, there ain’t going to be no more scholarships.”
Washington’s challenge to the 25-year-old pitcher was unmistakable. For his part, Tejeda said he believes his mechanics have gone awry, leading to a lack of control. Tejeda has walked 14 batters over his past 14 2/3 innings and has lost four of five games after starting the season 3-1.
“In the beginning, I was pounding the strike zone a lot,” Tejeda said. “I was very aggressive. ... Maybe I’m doing something different now with my delivery that changes the whole story. I just need to go talk to my pitching coach and see what he sees in me and what he thinks we have to work out and follow him. That’s the only thing I can do right now. ... It’s not like you throw the ball and you have a mirror in front of you that you can see what you’re doing wrong.”
Tejeda did not record an out in the fourth inning and left after allowing five runs and five hits, including a three-run homer to Eric Chavez. His start echoed his previous outing, when he also lasted three innings and allowed five runs.
The story for the Rangers seems to be the same nearly every night. Starting pitching is always the first part to fall off the Texas jalopy as it sputters toward another loss.
The Rangers’ starters’ ERA is now 6.32, higher than any team in the past 50 seasons but the ’96 Tigers.
Nine times in 51 games — essentially, at least once every trip through the rotation — starters have pitched three innings or less.
Washington’s vote of confidence in his rotation wasn’t too forceful Monday.
“That’s what we’ve got,” Washington, “so we send them out there every night.”
The Rangers fell a half-game behind the Reds for 30th place in baseball Monday. It’s the first time the Rangers have held the worst record in the majors since June 1, 1990, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Their record then was 4 1/2 games ahead of the 18-33 mark they possess now.
Random Cowboys story of the day …
Quarterback Tony Romo calls it a meaningless word. But it's a word and a description that has come to be a part of the Dallas Cowboys, much like the star on the helmet, for two years now.
They sure are close.
Close at Valley Ranch means one thing -- Super Bowl. Gone are the days when Cowboys
owner/general manager Jerry Jones openly spoke of the big game, but his optimism remains perpetually boundless. With Jones agreeing he is going for it all by signing offensive lineman Leonard Davis in the off-season, the Cowboys remain hopeful they are close ...even if the evidence isn't overwhelmingly in their favor.
But even in a diluted NFC, the Cowboys don't want to hear the word close until they at least prove it.
"I just think it's tough to say we're close when we haven't even played for a division championship," linebacker Bradie James said. "When we get to that point, then we'll be close. Until then, we need to get some playoff wins. It takes more than just making the playoffs."
The Colts, the most recent Super Bowl champions, can recount horror stories of close and the pain that comes with it. With quarterback Peyton Manning, the Colts qualified for the playoffs in seven of the past eight seasons before finally winning it all in February.
The Steelers were close for nearly a decade. Between 1996 and 2005, they had six 10-plus win seasons, six playoff appearances and four AFC title game appearances. They didn't win a Super Bowl until the 2005 season.
Then there are the Eagles, who played in four consecutive NFC title games before reaching the Super Bowl -- and losing -- in the 2004 season.
"The difference between us and the Eagles? They were playing for the NFC East [title] all the time. We haven't done that," James said. "We haven't made a championship game."
The Cowboys have made the playoffs three times since 1999, haven't won a playoff game since '96, have recorded one 10-win season in the past eight years and are coming off their first consecutive winning seasons since 1995-96.
"We were 9-7 two years in a row; that's not close," defensive end Chris Canty said. "We're a team that's good, we've had some winning seasons, but we're trying to get over that hump to become great."
So why do they deserve the label of "close?"
Aiding, and confusing, their stature is the fact that the Cowboys play in an NFC
that has won just two of the past 10 Super Bowls and doesn't exactly boast any super powers, which allows the Cowboys to accurately claim they are close. Of course, any number of NFC teams can probably make the same claim.
My Brother’s blog – containing nothing but religious discussion …so, if it is your cup of tea…
Star Wars Quotes ranked …
Here are some emails for you:
Some of my Texas Tech buddies and I were sitting around one night and we realized that Texas Tech needed a blog…
And there isn’t one out there (worth a damn) – until now…
Your site has had a huge influence on us – we wanted to let you know that.
Keep an eye on us – I told my boys that one day we want to grow up and be just like you…we’ve linked your blog at our site – maybe one day you can do the same for us…
Bond J Bond
I am not sure how much you have been following the NHL playoffs since the Stars were ousted, but I am sure Sports Sturm can appreciate what a shot at the cup means for Ottawa, a small market team (pop. 800,000) whose franchise was on life support 4 years ago. What makes it even more satisfying is when you look back at some of the low-points (mind you, some quite hilarious) in the history of this franchise.
Quotes taken from the Ottawa Citizen…
1 - Chief executive officer Roy Mlakar : "The low point for me was telling the team they wouldn't get paid." In late December, the team's finances were in shambles and players had their Dec. 30, 2002 paycheque withheld.
2 - At the 1992 NHL expansion draft, Senators general manager Mel Bridgman selects three ineligible players in a row, prompting eye-rolling from other teams' representatives, and Mel's famous line: "Ottawa apologizes."
3 - An Ottawa Sun circulation employee, a former Ottawa 67's player named Larry Skinner, who played a few dozen NHL games in the 1970s, attends the Senators' first training camp to do a first-person diary. Skinner leads the camp in scoring.
4 - The Senators lose 41 consecutive road games in 1992-'93. When they beat the New York Islanders on the Island (April 10, 1993), for their first road win, players react as though they have won the Stanley Cup.
5 - The Senators have bus issues in Boston. They end up on a city subway. A local spots a couple of well-dressed young men with sports bags slung over their shoulder and asks where they're from.
"Ottawa!" the Bostonian replies. "Great city. Lousy hockey team."
"This is the hockey team," he is told.
"A hockey team riding dah subway? No wondah you guys stink!"
6 - Thieves break into the practice facility of the expansion Senators and steal a bunch of video equipment, but leave the videotapes behind. "Burglars with taste," then-assistant coach E.J. McGuire says.
7- ESPN had one highlight from the Senators' first season (10 wins, 70 losses, four ties) in their year-end package. The highlight? Winger Andrew McBain is ejected from a game in Chicago and falls down the steep steps of the old Stadium on his way to the dressing room.
8 - After Rick Bowness, the Senators' classy inaugural coach, is fired during the 1995-'96 season, he is replaced by Dave "Sparky" Allison. In a desperate attempt to stop the losing, Allison asks his assistants to participate in a seance to speak to the ghosts of dead Senators. Allison would have fit in with the CFL's Ottawa Rough Riders.
9 - Alexandre Daigle, Ottawa's first overall pick in the 1993 draft: "Nobody remembers No. 2," ... A quote that will live on in draft infamy. Really? No. 2 that year was Chris Pronger, still an NHL superstar on defence, while Daigle rides out his modest professional career by playing in Switzerland.
I keep hearing people all over the metroplex complaining about the cost of going to a Ranger's game. I hear numbers thrown all over the place like $15 to park, $30 tickets, food, memorabilia, etc. The reality is that going to the Ranger's game can be extraordinarily cheap if you know how to do it.
The Star Telegram press pass gets you two free tickets to one select game in a month. Sure, you don't get to see the Red Sox or Yankees, but you do get to go to a game. Are the seats great? Not even close, but I have not been to one game where I couldn't move up a class or two of seats with any problem.
Parking? Please...$6 if you don't mind walking a bit. Only suckers pay that much for parking, and (once again) I have never had a problem getting the cheap parking.
Rangers Ballpark (is that what it is called now?) is one of only 4 ballparks in the nation that allows you to bring in your own cooler. Whatever you want to bring in, as long as the cooler is soft sided. How can you beat that?
Most Rangers games, my family of 4 only spends about $15. I am tired of hearing people bitch about the cost of the games, when if they just did a little research and maybe showed a little restraint (like not buying 4 beers or not buying that Ranger's jersey), they could afford to go to a game too.
LeBron – the only man who can save us from a boring NBA Finals now…
Pirate Master – I’ll give it a try Thursday night