Further, I also thought the best way not to beat the dead horse of the Mavericks was to lead with something else…So I did. Consider the unlikely scenario of Bob leading with Washington Capitals hockey is a silent protest against Mavs basketball.
In case you missed it, Alexander Ovechkin might be the best player in hockey. He scored 3 more goals last night, and now draws near to this list of distinguished gentlemen. Please note the games each have played:
TOP GOAL SCORERS SINCE 2000
00-01 Pavel Bure, Fla 59 goals – 82 games
05-06 Jonathan Cheechoo, SJ 56 goals – 82 games
05-06 Jaromir Jagr, NYR 54 goals – 82 games
00-01 Joe Sakic, Col 54 goals – 82 games
07-08 Alex Ovechkin, Wash 52 goals – 67 games
By the way, how did Cheechoo ever do that?
And in case you are curious, nobody has broke the 60 goal barrier since:
95-96 Mario Lemieux, Pitt 69 goals in 70 games!
So, as you can see, The man who just signed a 13 year, $124 million deal likely has the game to back it up. And he is 22 years old, trying to get the Washington Capitals into the playoffs. It seems pretty likely he will be the first to hit 60 since Mario.
The win yesterday didn’t hurt Washington’s playoff chances, either …
Alex Ovechkin's first shot of the day -- fired during the morning skate -- rang off goaltender Olie Kolzig's mask.
Ovechkin's aim, though, was much more accurate last night against the Boston Bruins.
The all-star winger netted goals 50, 51 and 52 to highlight a six-goal opening period for the Washington Capitals, who cruised to a 10-2 victory over the Boston Bruins and pulled within three points of the Southeast Division lead with 15 games remaining.
Ovechkin, 22, has five career games with at least three tallies, including a pair of four-goal games this season. Last night's hat trick came in Washington's 67th game; he reached the 50-goal plateau faster than any player since Pavel Bure got there in 63 games during the 1999-2000 season.
Ovechkin also had two assists, putting him atop the league in goals and points with 90, two more than Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin.
"It just happens," Ovechkin said, shrugging. "You are going to score lots of games, and some you aren't. Today, everything just went to the net."
For the Capitals, the outburst marked their highest goal total since a 12-2 pasting of the Florida Panthers on Jan. 11, 2003 -- and it provided an emphatic response to Saturday's 3-2 loss to Toronto, a defeat Coach Bruce Boudreau called "unacceptable."
"I don't think anyone expected a first period like that," Boudreau said. "We wanted to score the first goal, and keep coming."
Did they ever.
Recently acquired energy winger Matt Cooke got things going with his first strike as a Capital only 32 seconds into the game.
Ovechkin took it from there, scoring three of the next four goals to help send the Capitals into the first intermission ahead 6-0. By the time he was done, Ovechkin had also equaled his career high for goals in a season, set in 2005-06, and joined Peter Bondra and Dennis Maruk as the only Capitals to record two 50-goal seasons.
"You can't keep a guy like Alex down," Boudreau said. "If you get six, seven shots on goal every night, you're going to score goals, especially when your shot is a powerful as his."
In case you missed it…
Now, on to the tired head Mavericks again…
I am running low on patience and answers. Another loss. Another effort that was not complete enough in a hostile environment. Another night of good heart, but poor execution. Another night of realizing even another team in the West can beat the Mavericks in a 7 game series. Another night of realizing the league is not going to take a break and wait for the Mavs to get their house in order. Another night of falling way behind, mounting a furious rally, and then falling apart in the worst possible moments of the game.
The frustration mounts.
But, 9 out of 10 at home starts Thursday. Let’s hope this is the start of something good. Because if it is not, the hopes may be dashed by Easter. And Easter is really early this year.
The lessons of Salt Lake City …
After Monday's 116-110 loss, the Mavs are 4-4 with Jason Kidd and against the Spurs, Lakers and now the Jazz, they have failed to close out a victory after holding the lead with six minutes or less left in each game.
They have also yet to beat a team with a winning record. The next chance comes Thursday against the red-hot Rockets, a team that passed the Mavs in the standings Sunday with its 15th consecutive victory.
The Jazz stole the game back with two swipes of Dirk Nowitzki during a 16-0 finishing stretch after the Mavs had clawed all the way back from 21 down to lead 92-89 with 6:25 left.
"Our team is a team that has a lot of intestinal fortitude. They battled. They are not quitters," Mavs coach Avery Johnson said. "We're just not able to close games like we should. The last four minutes of the game we historically have been able to win a lot of close games going down the stretch, and we're not there yet. Boy, once we get there, I think the sky is the limit."
As the gut-wrenching losses add up, the Mavs believe it will only strengthen their resolve as they continue to mesh.
"We just had a big trade happen; we ain't going to just snap up and play A-1 basketball," said Josh Howard, who broke out of a funk with 25 points. "The games we've lost have been close, so we know we're right there at the tip."
Early on, as Utah broke out to a 28-8 lead, the predictably difficult task of playing about 30 hours after the draining overtime loss to the Lakers only grew tougher. Now the regular season comes down to a final 21 games.
The next 10 -- with only a trip to downtrodden Miami away from home -- could go a long way in determining whether the Mavs, now 14-19 on the road, open the playoffs with home-court advantage.
The Mavs (39-22) are tied in the loss column with eighth-seed Golden State (36-22) and have matching records with Utah, which, by virtue of leading the Northwest Division, occupies the No. 4 seed.
Deron Williams – 20 assists! …
Starting fast "was definitely a concern of ours," Williams said. "We wanted to try to set the tempo early and I think we did a good job of that. We were able to get out and run in transition and get some easy baskets."
And his assists just kept coming - 14 in the first half (one short of John Stockton's franchise record) and 20 for the game (tying Williams' season high, one short of his career high) to go with his 17 points.
"Each time he takes the floor, he gets better," Kidd said.
"He was phenomenal," Boozer said. "He got everybody involved - pinpoint passes, precision passes. All you've got to do is get your hands ready and catch it and put it in."
That last part is essential to an assist, as Stockton would attest. At the point in the second quarter when Williams recorded his 13th assist, his teammates had helped him look good by shooting 70 percent.
Those last seven assists did not come as frequently or easily, thanks to a determined Dallas effort.
Kidd prevented assist No. 21, with a foul that stopped Matt Harpring from making an easy layup. Williams' last chance came when Mehmet Okur missed a three-point try from his signature spot. But that's about all that went wrong for the Jazz down the stretch, when they overcame the Mavs' Kidd-driven comeback with a 16-0 run that initially featured Williams' assists to Boozer for a layup and Kyle Korver for a three-pointer.
It took all that and more to finally subdue the Mavs, who were coming off Sunday's overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, yet did not back down after falling behind by 21 points in the first quarter. Kidd would not let his team go away quietly, scoring 16 of his 19 points in the fourth period.
If this was a playoff preview - that's a phrase you'll hear a lot between now and mid-April - it showed great promise. Beyond the feelings that will linger in the stands, if not on the floor, from Dirk Nowitzki's takedown of Andrei Kirilenko, there will be always be Kidd vs. Williams.
If the first three quarters were a case of Williams' schooling the veteran, Kidd responded. Two weeks into the second phase of his career with the Mavs, Kidd looks comfortable. That's according to Williams, who said, "He's a guy who can go to any team and fit in. He's one of the best to ever play the game."
But right here, right now? Willams is better. Of course, he would never say that. He might think it, but never say it.
Gramps on the Rangers off-season …
As the new team president, Nolan Ryan will not be depending on Baseball America to inform him about the Rangers' future. He will be judging prospects for himself. Nolan could even bring in outside, independent baseball people to give him evaluations.
"The Plan" is real simple to describe, but not so simple when it comes to success. A team builds through its minor league system, identifying, drafting or trading for young prospects who will eventually be in the majors and provide a winning foundation.
Jon Daniels, the general manager, is devoted to "The Plan." Good for him. What we don't know is if Jon Boy has the wisdom to pull it off.
And, with the Rangers, well...
They say one thing, and then turn around and go the exact opposite from "The Plan."
Over the winter, the team threw huge dollars ($15 million a year for six years) at a 32-year-old free-agent center fielder, Torii Hunter.
I love Hunter's game, but he had no business being offered a dime by a team such as the Rangers. That was so far removed from "The Plan" it made "The Plan" look like a sham.
All Hunter did was milk the Rangers for an offer, drive up the price, then finally sign for more money with the Angels, the kind of contending club that should be going after this kind of player.
Out of meanness, I mentioned Hunter's name to Daniels the other day. Jon knows this was a move that tainted his plan. Jon also didn't appear too uncomfortable explaining why the Rangers went after Hunter, but it was an explanation that didn't make sense.
What Daniels couldn't say was this move wasn't initiated by him, or at least I don't think it was.
Dusting for prints, I immediately found Tom Hicks guilty. Tom brags repeatedly on "The Plan," but, at times, he still can't help himself when it comes to the Hunters of the baseball planet.
Meanwhile, Daniels is obviously banking on continued employment under Ryan coming down to the two deals he did in July with Atlanta and Boston involving Mark Teixeira and Eric Gagné. Plus, and this is important, the college and high school draft in June, when most baseball people praised the team's picks.
The trades and that draft immediately jump-started a farm system that was limited to say the least. Or as Baseball America said, only two organizations in baseball were once lower.
But the wait to see if any of these dividends end up being productive in Arlington is probably two years away, minimum.
Unfortunately, the Rangers' "plan" should already be far ahead of where it is, if not for disastrous deals under both Daniels, and his baseball godfather, John Hart, the worst GM in the history of the Rangers.
Travis Hafner, sent packing by Hart five years ago, would be the heart of the batting order at now age 30. That's the kind of DH thunder the Rangers don't have.
On the blunder side for Daniels, is the much-cussed trade with San Diego two seasons ago. Adrian Gonzalez would now be the good-bat, good-glove first baseman at age 25.
And don't get any Rangers fan started on pitcher Chris Young, who at age 28 would be anchoring the current gawd-awful rotation.
Those are the kinds of trades that hindsight tells us can derail an entire organization. But, with the Rangers, it's indicative of a bad decade for baseball decisions.
The history of “popping that jersey” …
Like most dance steps and slang words, no one really knows who started the latest thing. One of the first documented accounts of jersey-popping occurred in December 2000, when U.C.L.A. point guard Earl Watson faced the student section at Pauley Pavilion and tugged at the front of his jersey after the Bruins erased a 19-point deficit against North Carolina.
The current U.C.L.A. point guard, Jordan Farmar, gives his predecessor some of the sartorial credit, but not all of it.
"Basketball is an urban sport, a hip-hop sport, and what you're seeing right now comes from that," Farmar said. "If a guy is wearing a really nice shirt on the street and he wants to show it off to everyone, he'll do what's called popping his collar - he'll sort of flick his collar to demonstrate the value it has. What guys are doing now with their jerseys is the same thing, only they have taken it to another level."
There are three basic styles within the same fad. Long-range shooters often celebrate 3-pointers by pinching a piece of jersey between their thumb and forefinger, then releasing it flamboyantly.
Power forwards who muscle inside for contested dunks are more likely to grab two fistfuls of fabric and thrust them forward violently. And when midmajor teams claim landmark victories, it is not uncommon to see the captain with his thumbs tucked inside his jersey, either pulling it taught or flapping it in front of fans.
"I might do that if I ever won a national championship," Gonzaga forward Adam Morrison said. "Otherwise, I think it's pretty dumb."
8 Spots in the Quarterfinals up for grabs in the Champions League ….Liverpool and Inter wait until next week, but the other 7 will be won today and tomorrow…
UEFA Champions League
Round of 16 - 2nd leg Matches & Scores (with 1st leg scores included):
-Tue Mar 4
Barcelona v Celtic (3-2) - delayed at 4pm central on ESPN Classic
Man United v Lyon (1-1) - live at 1:45pm central on Setanta
Sevilla v Fenerbahce (2-3) - delayed at 5pm central on Setanta
Milan v Arsenal (0-0) - live at 1:30pm central on ESPN2
-Wed Mar 5
Porto v Schalke (1-0) - live at 1:45pm central on Setanta Premium
Real Madrid v Roma (1-2) - live at 1:30pm central on Setanta
Chelsea v Olympiacos (0-0) - live at 1:30pm central on ESPN2
Star Wars in 30 seconds
President Bush and the Queen - I know its old...