Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Protect This House

I spent a little time last night looking at the Dallas Stars home playoff history. My theory is that the Stars have not played well in the AAC at all in the playoffs. Well, there is some truth to that, as the Stars are 5-9 all time at home in the playoffs in the new arena. In fact, they have only won 3 of their last 11 going back to the first game of the Anaheim Series in 2003 (surely you recall that 5 OT heart-breaker when Petr Sykora broke the hearts and backs of the Stars).

But, to be fair, the poor home play goes back to Reunion Arena. Since the 2000 Finals, the Stars have been 7-15 in home playoff games. Before that, they had won 20 of 24!

Starting with the 2000 Stanley Cup Finals, when the Stars returned home from New Jersey with the series locked at 1 game apiece, the Stars proceeded to lose ALL 3 games at home to the Devils, 2-1, 3-1, and 2-1. The next year, they beat Edmonton at home 2 out of 3, but then the Ken Hitchcock/Ed Belfour/Bob Gainey playoff era ended in a 4 game sweep to the Blues and Roman Turek with the Stars losing the first two on Reunion Ice.

Then, with Dave Tippett and Marty Turco in the New AAC, the Stars beat Edmonton 2 out of 3 at home in round 1 in 2003. Since then, I hate to show you what has happened on home ice.

2003 Anaheim – Loss, Loss, Win
2004 Colorado – Win, Loss
2006 Colorado – Loss, Loss, Loss
2007 Vancouver – Loss, Loss, Win


Here is one trend that appears to be about the American Airlines Center:

Losing Overtime Home Playoff Games:

Since Langenbrunner’s shot from Center Ice beat Detroit, the Stars were 5-2 in Reunion Arena in OT. The two losses were Jason Wooley in Game 1 of 1999’s Finals vs. Buffalo, and of course, Jason Arnott in Game 6 against the Devils.

But, since moving, only Steve Ott has scored an overtime winner for the good guys (Game 3 against the Avalanche in 2004). The Stars are 1-6 in the new building. Sykora, Mike LeClerc, Marek Svatos, Joe Sakic, Andrew Brunette, and Taylor Pyatt have all scored overtime winners that have left us all in stunned silence.

These. Numbers. Must. Change…Tonight.

Wear Black, and Make it a Fortress, Dallas.

Arnott’s heartbreaker in 2000

Wooley’s OT winner in 1999 – Game 1

The Home trend is touched on by Heika

Entering Monday, home teams had won 11 of 19 playoff games (.579). Last season, they captured 44 of 80 (.550). And with Dallas winning just one of its last seven postseason contests at American Airlines Center, there certainly is some concern among fans that the Stars take advantage of winning Games 1 and 2 in Anaheim.

"I've never thought it was a big deal," Stars center Mike Modano said. "Once, the puck drops, it's the same, 50-50."

But certainly there has to be a reason.

"The atmosphere away from the rink is different," Modano explained. "Kids and family and friends and everybody in town. I think when you're on the road, you're together and your focus is on hockey."

Stars goalie Marty Turco said it's simply a reflection of the league's parity. And while he acknowledges that home ice is a bigger boon during the regular season, he said that teams play closer to their potential in the playoffs.

"I think a lot of it has to do with players' willingness to prepare and sell out," Turco said. "It's very tight out there in the playoffs."

So much so that Stars coach Dave Tippett said games can turn on one play, and that play can happen anywhere at anytime.

"The games are so competitive that one big play or one big call can change the game," he said. "That's how close these things are. We have a good group, and we don't want to change our mind-set at all between home and the road. That's how we're going to be successful."

Revo thinks Kinsler will figure out how to play 2B

In the days of yore, when baseball writers occasionally waxed poetic, if a particular player showed consistent ineptitude with the glove, we might label him a
card-carrying member of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters Union.

We'd call him a butcher, in other words, without actually saying it quite that bluntly.

So when a local talk show host threw the B-word out to describe Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler after the home opener last week, it immediately caught my attention.

"Butcher" is such a brutal word, dripping with blood and gore, but the talk show guy made his case by the numbers, and it was a good one.

A major league-high 17 errors at second base by Kinsler in 2007; another three already to kick off this season. It was similar numbers at the same position that prompted the Washington Nationals to turn Alfonso Soriano into a left fielder, something Rangers management never had the guts to do when he was here.

Funny thing, though. I turned on SportsCenter on Monday morning and there was Kinsler featured in its Top 10 plays, sprawling in the dirt to start a spectacular double play against the Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon.

Butcher or Top 10 playmaker?

I'm here to tell you that Kinsler is a lot closer to the latter than he is the former, and he's no Soriano at second, no matter what the numbers say.

What Kinsler is, is a work in progress. In fact, you can pretty much say the same thing about most of the Rangers' infield.

That's why manager Ron Washington remains patient. His postgame talk with his team after a particularly brutal Saturday night against the Blue Jays was far more pep talk than fire and brimstone sermon.

"It was just a reminder. It wasn't like I went up and chewed anybody out," Washington said before the Rangers opened up a quick two-game series with the Angels on Monday night. "I just had to remind them what we committed to each other out of spring training, and that was we were going to pitch well, we were going to catch well, and then we were going to let the chips fall where they may.

"Well, we've been pitching well. We just haven't been catching well, and we have to correct that."

Washington's reminder may have caught the Rangers' attention. They played very well defensively in a 5-4 loss to the Jays on Sunday, including Kinsler's play. And, while we're on the subject of spectacular plays, his backhand up the middle to nail Luke Scott at first in the ninth inning of the nightcap in Thursday's doubleheader was as good a play under pressure as you'll ever see a second baseman make.

"You can't say that this is the same Kinsler that was there at the beginning of the year last year that's here now. It isn't," Washington said. "He's much improved.
"But improvement is a process. I don't think there are too many guys in this league that turn the double play as good as he does."

Remember, the Rangers' infielders are only just beginning the second year of a process that began last season. Washington is still in teaching mode and Kinsler, shortstop Michael Young and third baseman Hank Blalock are still learning to do things the manager's way.

4 straight home losses for the Rangers

Texas Rangers starter Jason Jennings showed flashes Monday night of what they expected when they signed the right-hander in the off-season.

Jennings retired seven consecutive Los Angeles batters at one point during his third start of the season. If only Jennings could get back what happened before and after that stretch.

The Angels sandwiched seven runs and seven hits around that solid spurt on their way
to a 7-4 victory over the Rangers. The Rangers have now lost four straight since getting over the .500 mark for the first time since 2006.

Jennings (0-3), who saw his ERA balloon to 8.79, didn't make it out of the fifth inning. In his three starts, the Mesquite product has failed to go more than five innings. Monday he went 4 2/3 , throwing 107 pitches while striking out five and walking four in giving up six earned runs.

Jennings felt good about the way he pitched at times but knows he has to do better.
"Right now I think it's repeating my delivery and getting consistent with that is the thing I'm lacking right now," Jennings said. "I think it's going to come with time. It's frustrating trying to get to that point. It's not something I'm enjoying right now."

Jennings felt particularly bad about the second inning. After allowing two runs in the first, the Rangers' offense responded with three runs in the bottom of the inning. Hank Blalock's two-run homer put the Rangers up 3-2.

But Jennings couldn't hold the lead, allowing three runs in the top of the second with Mike Napoli's homer starting the inning and an RBI single in which center fielder Josh Hamilton threw to short instead of home capping the inning.

Los Angeles chased Jennings with two more in the fifth as Marlon Byrd's fielding
error turned an RBI single into a two-run hit for Maicer Izturis.

Rangers manager Ron Washington isn't about to give up on Jennings after only three starts.

"He has a track record of performance and hopefully next time he takes the ball he can start performing the way he's capable of performing and the way we hope he performs," Washington said. "He's out there fighting. They made him work."

I want Jason Jennings to work out here. I really do. He is a good dude, from the Metroplex, and you just want it to work out.

BUT. Did you hear this stat? Since the start of 2007, Jason Jennings has pitched in 22 games (21 of them were starts). In those games, his team has won 3 times and lost 19.

I cannot imagine anyone can match a 3-19 trend. That is very, very bad.

April15 is a good day for NFL Fans

The NFL plans to announce its full 2008 schedule Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET.
The planned announcement, confirmed by the league in a news release Monday, will reveal dates, times and television schedules. Teams have known their opponents for months, thanks to the NFL's scheduling formula.

Since every mock draft has him joining the Cowboys, We better get to know Felix Jones

Felix Jones Reel – Forgive the music

April 15, 1989 is the day of the biggest tragedy in British Football history. That day, 96 Liverpool fans died at Hillsborough. You can read all about it here ….

And see news reports here from the BBC

Sean Avery makes Broduer crazy


Adam said...

effin Cote. Still makes me sick.

If they lose tonight please call off the "black out". Any puck above the boards is going to be hard for a goalie to pick up...including Turco.

dim499 said...

Good times for D-FW's pro sports teams Thursday, especially for the Dallas Mavericks.

The Mavs' playoffs-clinching home win against Utah drew a very nice-sized 172,928 homes on TXA21.

But get this. The game's closing 15 minutes (9:45 to 10 p.m.), in which Dirk Nowitzki sank a three-pointer to climax a 97-94 win, drew more total homes (297,143) and advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds (261,732) than anything else Thursday, including Fox's American Idol. The latter peaked at 284,497 D-FW homes (from 7:45 to 8 p.m.) and 249,119 viewers in the 18-to-49 demo (from 7:30 to 7:45 p.m.)

Not as popular were the Dallas Stars, who beat Anaheim on the road in their first Stanley Cup playoff game. The late-night puck-off averaged 14,614 homes on Fox Sports Southwest.

Flaco said...

Tipp should've had the team stay in a hotel.

They don't need to be seeing their wives and kids and girlfriends.

Marty will have to be good tonight. Really good.

Jay Beerley said...

Agree on the hotel thing...

And Sean Avery is an idiot. Has anyone ever had a rule made for specifically what they did so fast? That was nuts.

Flaco said...

Roy Williams?

Jay Beerley said...

Not two days after. It took until the off-season for him.

Big Anthony said...

Fuck Marty Turco and Marty Borduer (sp). One cant play here anymore and one is a whinny lil bitch, I wish the Stars had a Sean Avery type player, oh wait they do but Steve Ott sucks