Let’s all congratulate Mike Modano for finally getting that piano off his back. It seems like Mike Modano has been chasing some sort of record for the last 3 or 4 seasons, but now I don’t think there are any more within realistic range. The record chases are behind us, so now they need his complete focus on being himself, and helping this team win.
Incidentally, lost in the excitement last night is the fact that Marty Turco stole 2 points for the Stars. I keep saying that the Stars are paying huge dollars on goaltending, but are generally only getting average goaltending in return. Average isn’t good enough. They have to have Turco as the best player on the ice quite often to compete. And last night, when you go into San Jose, get out-shot 39-12, and still win, then you tip your hat to Marty Turco.
He was great last night, and to get them anywhere this year, he has to be at that same level as Kiprusoff, Luongo, and Lundqvist.
Modano gets his Record …
Mike Modano became the highest-scoring American in NHL history the same way he does most everything else on ice -- very quickly.
Modano scored two goals in the first 4:24 to surpass Phil Housley's career record for points by a U.S.-born player in the Dallas Stars' 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday night.
Modano, the 37-year-old Michigan native who has been the star of Stars for nearly two decades in Minnesota and Dallas, tied the mark with a long slap shot past Evgeni Nabokov just 2:19 in. The speedy center added a short-handed goal moments later, earning gracious applause from the Shark Tank crowd for the longtime foe's latest remarkable feat.
Modano thought he would reach the mark much earlier in the season, even gathering his family and friends in Dallas for a few fruitless home games. He felt elation mixed with relief when he finally held the record-setting puck in front of a banner printed up by the Stars marking the occasion.
"The longer it's drawn out, the more it's forced me to appreciate the situation and enjoy it, start having some fun," Modano said. "I think it's kind of dragged me down a little bit emotionally thinking about it every night, going out there and trying to make it happen. The two tonight couldn't have been written up any better with the first two shots, two goals."
Dallas sat on the cushion provided by Modano for the rest of the night. Steve Ott also scored for the Stars, who were outshot 39-12 -- but Marty Turco made 38 saves in Dallas' fourth straight victory in San Jose.
Modano's teammates are planning a celebration and a gift when they return to Dallas, but they simply enjoyed another night of brilliance from their playmaking center.
"I think maybe it was only fitting that he did it all alone on a breakaway with the spotlight on him," Turco said. "When you talk about it, there's just one guy that stands out in American hockey."
Matt Carle scored and Nabokov made just nine saves for the Sharks, who have lost four of their conference-low five home games despite maddeningly huge shot advantages. The Sharks have 64 shots more than their opponents in those four losses.
But Joe Thornton and his teammates couldn't score -- not like Modano.
The six-time All-Star has 1,233 points in 1,253 regular-season games -- 242 games fewer than Housley played. Modano became the American career goal-scoring leader March 17, and he extended his record to 511 goals with his two quick tallies.
"It was really special to watch, especially the way he did it [with] two beautiful, beautiful goals," said Sharks forward Jeremy Roenick, who's one goal shy of becoming the third U.S.-born player with 500 goals. "I wish we could have done it on the same night. I was just really proud to be here when he did it."
This from the Stars:
Join us on Wednesday, November 21 as the Dallas Stars honor Mike Modano as America's All-Time Goals and Points leader! That night's game vs. the Anaheim Ducks is Mike Modano Tribute Night - complete with a pre-game ceremony that includes some special guests to honor the Stars' No. 9. And there will be some more fun and surprises throughout the entire game.
All fans in attendance will receive a complimentary copy of the 2007-08 Dallas Stars Yearbook, a great collectible that includes a Modano cover and exclusive content inside celebrating his career (as well as your entire '07-08 Dallas Stars team). Fans are encouraged to arrive early for the ceremony as the Stars kick off the Thanksgiving weekend with a tribute night for Mike Modano - America's Greatest NHL Scorer!
Tonight, on TNT, Mavs return to their house of pain ….
For the Warriors and their fans, the game is an inspirational reminder and a respite from the early troubles of a winless season.
"We just played over our heads," Golden State coach Don Nelson said of that playoff series. "It's really that simple. It's one of those things that will happen for a short period of time.
"You can't go back. You can't capture what was going on at that time. We had a lucky moment in sports, and it was wonderful to go through.
"But that's over. That's behind us. This is totally different."
The perception exists that the Mavericks aren't all that different from the team that had their championship hopes dashed by Golden State. That's not true. Virtually every move the team has made since that May evening is a reaction to the loss.
Johnson has vowed to ease off a bit, just a bit, during the regular season. He wants his players fresh mentally and strong physically – which is why he presides over a new weight training program – once these playoffs begin.
The Warriors are the reason Jason Terry is now a sixth man, as the Mavericks want more size and defense in the backcourt next to Devin Harris. Golden State is the reason the club flirted with Chris Webber and P.J. Brown, signed Brandon Bass and Juwan Howard and drafted Nick Fazekas. The goal is to place a decent scoring threat at center so teams don't ignore the position and place an extra interior defender on Nowitzki.
Rave all you want about Jackson's defense on Nowitzki. It was tenacious. But the reason Nowitzki couldn't take advantage of his size in the low post is that he was also shadowed by Andris Biedrins, Al Harrington or whoever else was at center for the Warriors. The Mavericks were playing 4-on-5 on every possession.
"I felt for Dirk," Nelson said. "He had the best year he's ever had. Then to get beat in the first round of the playoffs ...
"I felt for all of those guys, to be quite honest with you, all the guys I've coached. It was a high for me and a low for them. I certainly know, I've been on the other end. I know the feeling."
Preview from the Bay Area …
Even in their shriveled and shorthanded state, the Warriors have succeeded in positioning the Dallas Mavericks for another round of ridicule.
It's one thing for the Mavs to lose three regular-season games to a team led by their former coach. It's another for them to lose a playoff series to a searing-hot team that was deceptively seeded eighth.
But for the Mavs to lose the first meeting since then to a winless Warriors team missing two of their top three players from last season's epic matchup?
"I think Dallas has more to prove then we do," suspended forward Stephen Jackson said. "We're trying to get to a point where we're playing well and we're able to win a game."
At 0-4, Golden State's "bunch of schmoes" shtick is a lot more fitting these days than it ever was during last season's mastery of Dallas.
The Mavs want to beat the one team they haven't. The Warriors just want to beat somebody - anybody - with Jackson suspended, Jason Richardson traded away, Baron Davis overworked, and injuries piling up faster than defeats.
Forward Matt Barnes is questionable after spraining his right ring finger during the Cavaliers game, and starting guard Kelenna Azubuike has had an old bone bruise in his left ankle flare up.
Both missed Wednesday's practice along with guard Monta Ellis, who was sent home with the flu, though Azubuike and Ellis are expected to play tonight.
The Warriors-Mavs rematch serves as Golden State's reintroduction to a national audience charmed by last season's swashbuckling playoff run, and Davis expects there to be "fireworks" as the Mavs seek revenge for their playoff ouster.
"I think ever since they lost they've been waiting for this game, just to kind of get it off their chests," Davis said.
The Mavs don't bother disputing the notion.
"Oh yeah," forward Josh Howard told reporters in Dallas. "You know we're going to want this win bad, especially on their home court. For them to beat us, they came out on fire, but it's a new year, new things and we're going to go out there and get a win."
Added MVP Dirk Nowitzki: "We all still have a bitter taste in our mouths, knowing we had a great season last year and they ended our season pretty harsh."
Strangely, the rivals are also linked by their harsh starts. The Mavs began last season with four straight losses before finishing with 67 wins.
Both Al Harrington and Andris Biedrins said they were confident in the Warriors' ability to win their first game of the season given their matchup history with the Mavericks. Progress, though, remains the order of the day.
"We can't worry about this game, that game. We got to worry about getting better at this point," Davis said. "It's early in the season, and the only thing we can do is get better."
At the Halfway point, Pro Football Weekly places the Cowboys at #3 in the NFL …
Biggest surprise: Not counting the blocked kick that was the result of a missed blocking assignment, rookie PK Nick Folk has been tremendous. He is 14-of-16 overall with one miss from 50 yards. Folk’s shining moment of the season was not one but two game-winners from 53 yards away against the Bills, making the first attempt after timeout was called and then making the one that counted as time expired to give the Cowboys a miraculous win in Buffalo under the lights of “Monday Night Football.”
Biggest disappointment: It’s hard to complain about the running game with Marion Barber doing so well, but the fact that Julius Jones has not had a breakout game is something that has bothered the offensive coaching staff. He had a couple of nice runs against the Patriots and has had a couple of plays called back because of penalties, but Jones hasn’t made enough of a statement to back the coaches’ decision to start him over Barber.
Player to watch: OLB Greg Ellis is back now, and when the Cowboys play the Giants, it will be almost a year removed from the Achilles injury that ended his 2006 season. Ellis started his first game of the season in Week Seven and provides an ideal rotation — he and rookie Anthony Spencer can platoon by series or situation, and the team now finally can at least spell DeMarcus Ware, who almost never comes off the field. Ellis’ return also opens up tempting nickel possibilities, including using all three rushers in a five-man line.
Team MVP: There’s little question that QB Tony Romo has earned his new contract
extension with good reason. He has appeared more poised and assured, and talk of his snafu vs. Seattle in last year’s playoffs is a distant memory. Romo has led the team back to victory in five of the six games the Cowboys have trailed, and he has cut down on the mistakes and sloppy mechanical issues that led to his second-half struggles last season.
Fearless prediction: Hey, winning the division is a good place to start — especially when the team hasn’t won the NFC East since 1998. The Giants are the Cowboys’ best competition, and they look strong, but Dallas will hold them off.
On Sunday, Fear Plaxico …
To hear Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips tell it, the New York Giants' Plaxico Burress is simply unstoppable.
"The problem with him is he is so big and strong," Phillips said of the 6-foot-5, 232-pound receiver. "If he is covered, they throw it to him and he still catches it. And if they throw a short one to him, he stiff-arms the corner, knocks him down and runs for a touchdown."
It's no surprise Phillips describes Burress in such glowing terms. The former Michigan State standout gave the Cowboys all they could handle in the opener, catching eight passes for 144 yards and three touchdowns, including one that covered 60 yards just 89 seconds into the game.
"We didn't do a great job against him the first game," Phillips understated Wednesday. "We've got to do a better job."
Much of Dallas' defensive game plan for Sunday's NFC East showdown in the Meadowlands will center on Burress, who is second in the NFC to Minnesota's Adrian Peterson in scoring among non-kickers with 48 points on eight TD catches.
Burress leads the Giants (6-2) with 37 catches for 564 yards, remarkable numbers for someone who has been plagued by a sprained ankle since training camp. The injury prevented him from practicing the last two months, but he returned Wednesday to a standing ovation from his teammates.
"My goal was to go into the bye week and get a lot of rehab and come back and see if I can get a couple of days of practice in," Burress told reporters in East Rutherford, N.J. "Lucky for me, I was able to accomplish that.
"The more reps I can go out and get, the more beneficial it will be to me and (quarterback) Eli (Manning)."
Burress, who is on pace for 74 catches for 1,128 yards and 16 TDs, said he did "pretty well" during the first half of the season but sees room to improve.
"My objective is to take it to another level in the second part of the season," he said. "I want to try to improve on the little things, running better routes and whatever I can do to help my team win."
Look who is still great – the stinking Red Wings …
They're the smallest team (average height six feet) and the lightest team (average weight 195 pounds) and they're not going to make anyone forget about Philadelphia's famed Broad Street Bullies.
But, forward Dan Cleary of the Detroit Red Wings said they're not just painting pretty pictures with their puck-possession game.
Cleary feels the Wings' physical game isn't about fighting or blasting guys through the boards.
"It comes down to will," Cleary said. "If you want it more than the other guy, you'll do the job better and want the puck harder.
"Everyone in here is strong. Just because you're 20 pounds lighter doesn't mean you can't get the puck from them. If you want it, go get it. That's the mindset we have."
Detroit goalie Chris Osgood cites the team's sweep of their recent three-game swing through Western Canada as evidence of how hard they are to play against.
It's the first time in club history that Detroit has defeated Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton in the same trip.
"We've been down and dirty and won some ugly games," Osgood said. "That's what it takes to win in the playoffs.
"We've ground out some wins on the road. In Edmonton, we didn't have our 'A' game, but we played great defence and ground out a win."
The Wings credit last year's playoff run, where they defeated supposedly physically superior clubs in Calgary and San Jose and then gave Anaheim all they could handle, with boosting their confidence in playing a more physical style.
"I really saw the tide turn late last year when critics, pundits and so-called hockey scholars were saying Detroit's soft, a bit of a puppy team," Cleary said.
"When they challenged us physically and said we had to be a tougher team to play against, everybody accepted it and rose to the challenge. It's just carried over."
Defenceman Chris Chelios said while the Wings' skilled players aren't big and Nick Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski aren't noted as physical defencemen, Detroit has size in the right places.
"This is some of the biggest groups of forwards we've had," Chelios said. "Guys underestimate guys like (Mikael) Samuelsson, (Johan) Franzen, (Tomas) Kopecky. We added (Aaron) Downey, look what he did for us in San Jose, challenging (Kyle) McLaren."
Chelios said he feels the Wings are moving back towards the model that won Stanley Cups in the late 1990s.
The Wings had Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan and the Russian Five, but they also had plenty of sandpaper in the lineup, too.
"I've always been a big fan of having a physical presence," Chelios said. "We did that in Chicago and that's the way it was.
"In Detroit, with Scotty (Bowman), the team was so skilled we were able to get away with that, but don't forget when they won the Cups in the beginning they had McCarty, Lapointe (and Kocur), so there was that element there, too."
Rough start for Gillispie at Kentucky …
Billy Gillispie's honeymoon lasted only until his birthday.
Gardner-Webb stunned the No. 20 University of Kentucky 84-68 last night in Rupp Arena, giving Gillispie his first loss as the Wildcats' head coach on the day he turned 48 and bouncing the Wildcats from the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic.
Denied a trip to New York City, the Cats (1-1) instead took a long walk off the court as boos rained down from some in the crowd -- announced at 19,845 but considerably smaller by then.
"I don't think you couldn't hear it; I don't think it was a few instances," Gillispie said. "It was obvious. We deserve it. We played like that. That's what we should get."
What the Cats got was a thumping, courtesy of a Gardner-Webb team that won nine games last season and is picked to finish eighth in the 12-team Atlantic Sun Conference.
But the Runnin' Bulldogs (2-0) ran out to a 14-0 lead, led by 11 at halftime and thwarted UK's only significant second-half rally with a flurry of clutch plays.
"They whipped us," Gillispie said repeatedly in his postgame news conference.
Reasons Fran Failed …
1. Failure to accurately gauge A&M's precarious position in the Big 12
When Franchione replaced R.C. Slocum, he failed to understand that there was no latitude for taking a step backward in anticipation of two steps forward. A&M needed solutions to pressing, serious questions, not a trial-and-error period that only invited new questions. His debut season in 2003 resulted in the Aggies' first losing record in 21 years.
2. Failure to recognize and maintain the team's trademark strength — defensive speed
Franchione scrapped the 3-4 defensive alignment that Slocum had helped make famous, shifted to the 4-3 for a time and finally settled on the more dainty 4-2-5. A&M's passion for speed, especially on the flanks, was lost in the shuffle. The Aggies' ability to sack the quarterback — much less terrorize him — nearly vanished. The same program that led the nation in total defense in 1991 finished 107th in 2005.
3. Failure to search for the best and brightest coaches to serve on his staff
Call it loyalty. Or overconfidence. Franchione toted nearly his entire staff from TCU to Alabama to A&M — some even holdovers from his New Mexico days. Slocum once fired Franchione's offensive coordinator, Les Koenning Jr., for his shortcomings as a receivers coach. Franchione's predecessors, Slocum and Jackie Sherrill, reaped huge benefits from handpicked, marquee assistants — although Slocum often struggled to keep them around.
4. Failure to make the most of Reggie McNeal
Slocum recruited McNeal to A&M as the equal to Vince Young at Texas. Franchione inherited McNeal after his late-season flash to fame in 2002. McNeal set A&M's single-season passing record in 2004, but a season later faded into obscurity while Young led the Longhorns to the national title. The single failure to develop McNeal, who was required to run the option his senior season, underscores the disparity in the development skills of the UT and A&M staffs.
5. Failure to present a dynamic public persona
Franchione's rival, Mack Brown, is a well-maintained, always visible and always intensely partisan public figure — a sports celebrity. Franchione comes off as the substitute teacher handing out lesson plans until the real thing returns. His low-key, smug approach smacks of indifference — an abomination to Aggies. It's also reminiscent of Brown's predecessor at UT, John Mackovic — but at least Mackovic won a Big 12 title.
Big 12 Insider …
Oh No! 24 is pulled? …
Fox, the network best situated to withstand a long writers' strike -- thank you, "American Idol" -- got out ahead of the game yesterday and announced its Writers' Strike Schedule, on which it yanks serialized action drama "24," possibly for the season, "to ensure that 'Day 7' can air uninterrupted, in its entirety."
With the new lineup, Fox gives its two best time slots -- the post-"Idol" slots -- to reality series "Hell's Kitchen" and new "The Moment of Truth." Reality show writers are not covered by the Writers Guild of America and those series will continue in production during the strike, which started Monday.
Fox had planned to pair "Idol" with scripted series "House" and " 'Til Death." Instead, it will use the best time slots in all of broadcast TV to nurture two reality series in hopes they will become the next generation of strike-proof programming. That's called "irony."
"One of the things we've tried to do, given the hand we've been dealt . . . is to see if we can grow some successes to prepare us," Fox scheduling chief Preston Beckman told The TV Column. "Hell's Kitchen" and "Moment of Truth" are "shows we can bring back if there's a very prolonged strike. We have to do what we need to do," he said.
"If the strike is resolved, we will revisit '24,' " Beckman added. "We respect how the audience consumes this show on network television and we don't want to violate the pact we've made with them over the last three years."
And if that audience includes some very loud personalities, say a Rush Limbaugh, who want to wax angry about what the strike hath wrought, well, that's just gravy.
Replacing "24" in its announced Monday time slot, starting Jan. 14: Fox's "Terminator" TV spinoff, "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles."
This show, which was to have been the companion to "24" on the night it airs, will be paired instead with "Prison Break," at least for a while. Fox has held back five "Prison Break" episodes to use in launching "Terminator." Once "Prison Break" dries up, it will be replaced by reality series "When Women Rule the World." Fox says the new series will be "set in a primitive, remote location" and explores "what happens when a group of strong, educated and independent women, tired of living in a man's world, rule over a group of unsuspecting men used to calling the shots."
Tuesdays and Wednesdays, starting Jan. 15, "American Idol" -- the country's most watched program -- returns. The season debut is scheduled as a two-night, four-hour orgy of product placement and bad auditions.
Fun with Time Wasting
Because it feels so good, a trip down memory lane