I happily kept the faith in the Stanley Cup Finals and was rewarded with quality last night. Wonderful stuff, as the Penguins give us hope for the future of exciting hockey…for at least a few days…
Game 3 from Scott Burnside …
There were two prevailing themes that emerged from the first two games of the Stanley Cup finals -- the Detroit Red Wings were really, really good and the Pittsburgh Penguins were junk.
The Red Wings are good, but the Penguins announced Wednesday night they didn't sneak into the finals in the back of the turnip truck with a hard-hitting 3-2 victory that for the first time revealed the kind of hockey this series had promised at the onset.
Game 4 is here Saturday and the Penguins will be looking to run their home playoff record to 10-0. The Penguins have not lost at Mellon Arena in regulation time since Feb. 13.
"[The] media's going to be media, and obviously when you're down 2-0, they're not going to say probably too many positive things about you," said Pittsburgh defenseman Darryl Sydor, who was inserted in the lineup for the first time since March 31. "But we know in this room, as a family here, we felt confident. We just tried to narrow it down to coming out today and winning this game and tomorrow's a new day."
When you get to this point of the playoffs, the two remaining teams have enjoyed far more success than failure. So when the inevitable happens and one team falls behind, those moments of failure become magnified because they are so foreign to that team. The offensively gifted Penguins had failed to score in the first two games and the reviews suggested this was going to be a Stanley Cup flop.
"You know what, for a lot of those players, this is their first win at the Stanley Cup final, and it's huge for them," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "And it's huge for the confidence, especially the way that we play at home, the way that the crowd supports our team."
So, did the Penguins learn they were actually a good team on Wednesday night, or did they know it all along and simply start to execute? Maybe a bit of both.
"As far as creating things, I think we did a better job creating more. I think that came from patience," said Crosby, who moved back into a tie for the NHL playoff scoring lead (23 points) with Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg after his two-goal performance. "They're a team that plays in your face, but sometimes you realize you have a little bit more time in certain plays, and just focusing on deciding when to hold onto it and when to dump it in. [It] probably just took a little time to get used to."
Spurs try to stay alive tonight …
The Spurs hit the floor at Staples Center for Game 5 tonight, for the first of what they can only hope will be three elimination games.
There are three bullets to dodge, three miracles to pull off. The Spurs’ season has been pronounced terminal, and all they can do is try to keep it alive, one day at a time.
“If you’re a fan, it’s like politics — it’s killing you, and you talk about it and talk about it,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said before the team left for Los Angeles on Wednesday afternoon. “We have to let it go. If you don’t, you can’t focus on the task at hand.
“By the time we land in L.A., it will be gone and we’ll be concentrating on just what we can do to win basketball games.”
The Spurs have never won a playoff series after trailing 3-1. In fact, before they came back on New Orleans in this year’s conference semifinals, a 3-2 deficit was a death sentence.
In order to survive their latest bout with 3-1, the Spurs must put together a three-game winning streak against a Lakers team that hasn’t lost three in a row since Pau Gasol arrived in February.
The Spurs find themselves here courtesy of two very different kinds of heartbreakers.
In Game 1, they were up by 20 points in the third quarter on the Lakers’ home floor, only to see the whole thing dissolve into an 89-85 defeat. In Game 4, it took a Brent Barry miss at the buzzer — as well as a controversial no-call — to secure the Lakers’ victory.
Of the three Spurs’ losses in this series, only Game 2 — a 101-71 affair in Los Angeles — was lopsided.
This series, coupled with the nail-biting, seven-game affair with New Orleans in the semifinals, has reaffirmed Popovich’s belief that winning a championship requires a whole lot of luck.
The Cowboys section of every blog and newspaper is growing. I am starting to think that this season has all the makings of The Bronx Zoo . There really seems to be too much “flying circus” going on right now….I can’t imagine a Cowboys fan can be pleased to see all of this silliness when football should be the sole focus…
Greg Ellis is a beating …
Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Greg Ellis will not participate in the last day of organized team activities today because he's upset with his repetitions being reduced in practice, sources said.
Ellis missed the first two days of OTAs this week and doesn't plan on coming back to practice at Valley Ranch unless he gets more repetitions.
Last week, the Cowboys told Ellis some of his practice time would be reduced to give 2007 first-round pick Anthony Spencer more time on the field. The Cowboys like Spencer's speed and intelligence, and coach Wade Phillips praised his performance in practice Wednesday. But Phillips said Ellis remains the starter.
According to the sources, the Cowboys have told Ellis they don't want to wear down his 32-year-old body in May. But a source said Ellis doesn't trust the team's motives.
Ellis was unavailable, and his agent, James Williams, declined to comment.
Team owner and general manager Jerry Jones downplayed Ellis' absence, saying the OTAs are voluntary.
His team-mates are up to speed …
But as linebacker Bradie James jokingly added, "It's the off-season, so you know Greg is upset about something."
Terry Glenn must sign a waiver? …
The Dallas Cowboys want wide receiver Terry Glenn on the field for the organized team activities.
But because of the fragile status of his right knee, the team has requested that Glenn accept a $500,000 settlement that would go into effect if he re-injures the knee and is lost for the season, sources said.
Glenn has refused to sign the settlement, and until he does, the Cowboys will not allow him to practice.
"I really want to play," Glenn said. "I thought the team had confidence in what I was doing in the off-season program that I can make it through the season. But with this contract, there might not be that much faith at all."
Worrick Robinson, an attorney for suspended cornerback Pacman Jones, told a Nashville, Tenn., television station the player has money problems. Also, the same television station, Fox 17 News, reported that Jones' Nashville townhouse was foreclosed in April.
Jones has a 3,000-square-foot home in Franklin, Tenn., for sale at about $1.8 million.
"He has not played football in 18 months or so," Robinson told the television station. "That was his primary source of income; that's why it's very important to him to be reinstated and get back on the field."
Keep in mind that this is a man who has a rookie contract worth $13.5 million of guaranteed money.
Meanwhile, back to hockey, The Stars off-season from the Hockey News …
The Stars have wasted little time in their preparations for next season, re-signing co-GMs Brett Hull and Les Jackson and head coach Dave Tippett to three-year contract extensions.
Long-time Stars forward Mike Modano said he’ll return next season, but the futures of several of his teammates remain uncertain.
Veterans Stu Barnes and Mattias Norstrom are slated to become unrestricted free agents this summer and may also be considering retirement. Should they both opt to return, the Stars could place more emphasis on re-signing Norstrom.
Other potential UFAs include forwards Niklas Hagman, Antti Miettinen, Toby Petersen and Brad Winchester and backup goalie Johan Holmqvist.
The most likely to be retained are Petersen and Holmqvist. Hagman and Miettinen struggled offensively in the post-season, which could factor into any potential decision by management to re-sign them.
With just over $43 million committed to payroll next season the Stars have the cap space to re-sign restricted free agents Loui Eriksson and Trevor Daley to affordable new contracts and still have enough to retain their key UFAs and perhaps add scoring depth via the unrestricted free agent market.
England toys with the US, 2-0 …
This was the best of the three performances under Fabio Capello. That was not a major achievement, after the disordered win over Switzerland and the defeat in Paris , but there were aspects here that will hearten the Italian. After a sluggish half-hour, England passed the ball conscientiously. The next friendly, with Trinidad & Tobago on Sunday, will be viewed with interest.
No one dare be disdainful of these occasions under Capello. There was a keenness in a starting line-up that contained seven men who might have been jaded after the Champions League final. One of them found relief in scoring the opener. John Terry, who had also notched the first goal at the new Wembley, against Brazil, must have found the place therapeutic after the Luzhniki Stadium.
Others were also supposed to find a new beginning. Capello had spoken of wishing to see the return of the Wayne Rooney who played with such zest at Euro 2004. The manager did what he could to recreate the circumstances in which the forward had dazzled. Since Michael Owen, absent with a virus, could not operate ahead of Rooney as he had in Portugal, Capello put another poacher there in the shape of Jermain Defoe.
The value of the pairing is still open to debate. Any link was sporadic and the Portsmouth striker was wasteful when he missed after purposeful build-up by
Rooney and Steven Gerrard in the 34th minute. The erratic aspect of Defoe would be obvious again when he tamed an Ashley Cole cross perfectly and then hit a mediocre shot at the substitute goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
The United States were quite durable in open play and it took a Beckham set piece to highlight their weaknesses with an opening goal seven minutes from half-time. Ricardo Clark fouled Wes Brown and the former England captain flighted the free-kick towards the man who wore the armband last night. Terry leapt to head it low into the corner of the net.
There was an irony in a finish of such aplomb into the same spot, beyond a goalkeeper's left hand, that the Chelsea centre-half had been aiming for when he missed that penalty in the Champions League shoot-out with Manchester United, but Terry did not look as if he was brooding on that. Joy mingled with relief that he had once more imposed his mighty willpower. A match such as this did not offer many opportunities to show that he should lead England but Terry had come up with a way to make a case for himself.
He had been abetted by Beckham, the 33-year-old who was honoured beforehand for collecting his 100th cap against France two months ago. His accurate use of the ball was a reprimand to those who mistook the presentation for a retirement gift. The midfielder took part for a mere 45 minutes but his distribution was reliable and David Bentley, who took over, had no such impact.
Capello had been correct to sense that Beckham, who is in the early days of the Major League Soccer season, would be fresh for this game. It was Gerrard, all the same, who made the deepest impression. The 27-year-old relished a position on the left last night which was almost that of a winger. Rooney found the Liverpool captain after 34 minutes and Defoe ought not to have missed the target from Gerrard's careful cut-back.
England, sporadically, had looked capable of breaking free and Rooney enjoyed one particularly forthright run, but he was an intermittent force, which is perhaps understandable since he will now have the hernia operation that had been put off for a few weeks.
FC Dallas has got to stop doing this! Another stoppage time goal hurts the team …
As it did in their first meeting of the season, FC Dallas let a seemingly sure victory slip away in the waning moments against defending champion Houston on Wednesday night at Pizza Hut Park.
Dwayne De Rosario's goal in the 93rd minute led to a 2-2 draw.
"It takes focus all the way through 90 minutes and the extra time," said FC Dallas interim coach Marco Ferruzzi, who is 1-0-1. "We are still building our mental fitness and toughness and getting through those last couple of minutes.
"We'll get there."
It's the third time this season FC Dallas has allowed a tying score in the final minutes.
During the Texas rivals' first match of the season, on April 6, FC Dallas led most of the match before allowing a goal by Geoff Cameron in the 91st minute for a 3-3 tie.
On Wednesday, Kenny Cooper's sixth goal of the season, in the 35th minute, opened the scoring. Dallas native Drew Moor headed in his first goal of the season in the 69th minute off Andre Rocha's corner kick.
UFC Fighters still appear to be poor …
The Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) has released the fighter payouts for UFC 84 “Ill Will” this past Saturday. As usual the total fighter payout is around one million dollars (unless Chuck Liddell or Cro Cop are on the card).
Keith Jardine pulled in a disappointing $10k for his loss to Wanderlei Silva. Love him or hate him, the guy has fought tough fighters like Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin, Wanderlei Silva, Houston Alexander, Wilson Gouveia, Stephan Bonnar and Mike Whitehead.
UFC 84 Payouts
B.J. Penn ($250,000 to fight and win)
Sean Sherk ($35,000 to fight)
Wanderlei Silva ($150,000 to fight, no bonus)
Keith Jardine ($10,000 to fight)
Goran Reljic ($6,000 to fight and win)
Wilson Gouveia ($18,000 to fight)
Lyoto Machida ($100,000 to fight and win)
Tito Ortiz ($210,000 to fight)
Thiago Silva ($50,000 to fight and win)
Antonio Mendes ($4,000 to fight)
Rousimar Palhares ($10,000 to fight and win)
Ivan Salaverry ($20,000 to fight)
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou ($80,000 to fight and win)
Kazuhiro Nakamura ($20,00O to fight)
Rich Clementi ($40,000 to fight and win)
Terry Etim ($10,000 to fight)
Yoshiyuki Yoshida ($12,000 to fight and win)
Jon Koppenhaver ($8,000 to fight)
Dong Hyun Kim ($40,000 to fight and win)
Jason Tan ($3000 to fight)
Shane Carwin ($12,000 to fight and win)
Christian Wellisch ($10,000 to fight)
Total Payout: $1,098,000 - 3.8 Million in just ticket sales
These numbers do not include sponsorships or fight bonuses. Fighter also incur the cost of taxes, medical, licenses, gym dues, and more.
Fighter Bonuses of $75,000 go to:
Fight of the Night: Goran Reljic and Wilson Gouveia
Knockout of the Night: Wanderlei Silva.
Submission of the Night: Rousimar Palhares
Try not to laugh
Bobby Carpenter needs an intervention
Sunday Night on Versus Pulver - Faber