You know what, in being a good enough sport to reprise a character he already looked absolutely ridiculous playing a good 20-some-odd years ago, the actor officially known as Patrick Warburton and cult figure known as David Puddy really hit the nail on the head with one of his signature lines...
The New Jersey Devils can, in fact, beat anybody. They damn near proved it in taking down a gauntlet of great teams en route to their first playoff berth in six years. That's why it's a little disappointing that "anybody" currently has a huge upper hand in a series that's starting to look like nothing more than a learning experience.
Now, unexpected is something it's definitely not, but I really can't help but feel like the Devils didn't just owe it to themselves to take this thing back to Tampa Bay tied at two, but also owed it to the 53 year old man that gladly painted both his face and his chest in maniacal support of the team. Granted, he probably basked in having both a non-obnoxious opportunity to go topless given his stunning amount of upper body definition. Still, that was a shocking amount of dedication to method acting from someone whose decades removed from having to do it to break into the industry. If for no other reason than it was at least deserving of a win in return, the Devils need to bring this back to New Jersey so Puddy can get his payoff.
Days After Brandon Marshall Let Dez Bryant Know That The Giants Don't Have Room For Him On The Roster, The Release Of Brandon Marshall Created Some Room On The Roster
I want to feel bad for Brandon Marshall, I really do. Sports are the one profession that is liable to make even the most young and promising employee look stupid for thinking he has any semblance of job security. Unfortunately, I cannot feel bad for Brandon Marshall, because - as everyone other than himself, apparently, knows - he is neither the most young or the most promising employee anymore. In fact, he actually makes the recently released and definitely declining Dez Bryant look young and promising by comparison, so acting as if a 34 year old with the dropsies was going to make the Giants chisel their offensive depth chart in stone in April takes an astronomical amount of overconfidence.
I don't want to make it sound like I wasn't surprised by this move too, because I absolutely was. After the disastrous third of a season for which he was healthy last year, I was absolutely stunned that New York hadn't already nixed what I wrongfully presumed to be a cautiously optimistic one-year deal. Hell, there might well have been so much hullabaloo about Odell Beckham Jr. that David Gettleman just flat out forgot that Brandon Marshall was still squatting on an inevitable wide receiver vacancy. I bet one of his grandkids stumbled upon that Instagram post and alerted their grandpa to the fact that he forgot to ax his aging pass catcher while asking him for some money for an appetite ruining snack. Okay fine, probably not, but that's the most logical hypothetical I can craft in rationalizing why the Giants held on to Brandon Marshall for long enough for him to feel at all safe about his spot on the team.
I Don't Know That Asking LeBron About The Passing Of Gregg Popovich's Wife In The Postgame Was Right Or Wrong, But It Sure Was Uncomfortable And Unnecessary
I don't mean to...ahem...interrupt, but doesn't LeBron James have his very own media company? That he uses to publicly portray his thoughts and opinions on things that either interest him or effect him? And he can do so whenever he chooses, thus making it easier for him to remain clear-headed in having full control of his message? I mean, watching him struggle to find the words for an opposing head coach that was probably mourning the passing of his wife of four decades as opposed to tuning into TNT's postgame coverage was super satisfying and all, but I can't help but feel like there was a more appropriate time, place, and platform for a commiseration than on a basketball court seconds after the subject went from dropping 40+ to being delivered heartbreaking news.
Well, well, well....would you look at that?!
To be clear, I'm glad that LeBron James cleared both the air and the name of a reporter in promising that she didn't just drop death on his doorstep during live television, but - somehow, someway - the fact that he already knew prior to the camera rolling then acted shocked when notified on-air makes that whole scene even more awkward.
I don't blame LeBron James, clearly he wasn't going to turn down the opportunity to offer his compassion to Pop. I don't blame Allie LaForce, clearly she wasn't going to say no after he had already said yes to giving her a stirring soundbite. Hell, I don't even fully blame the producer for what comes off as an awful attempt at a ratings grab. It's not like there is some obvious formulaic way in which you're supposed to deal with a situation this rare, so - procedurally speaking - I'm not at liberty to say if this was handled right or wrong.
I am, however, at liberty to say that, in retrospect, it was handled so uncomfortably that it managed to unite the entirety of the most disagreeable of viewing audiences. I can't imagine there's one person that came away from that interview saying to themselves "that was far more enlightening than it was excruciating!", and that's the bare minimum bar that should be met by the asking of relatively impromptu condolences. No one ever has the words they want or need in the immediate wake of disastrous news, so hopefully TNT - and every other broadcast network, for that matter - learned that the respect to be lost far outweighs the content to be gained. All they got was a rough draft of LeBron's thoughts and prayers, and now were talking about the untimeliness of them instead of the tragic passing of someone who was beloved by both her universally respected husband of 40 years and the rest of the NBA family.
My first inclination was to start off talking about the questionable Nikita Kucherov hit that left Sami Vatanen in the locker room, and - unfortunately - that speaks volumes about how ordinary the Devils' effort was in being pushed to within a loss of their offseason. There were certainly things to like about a flawless penalty killing performance that highlighted the work of a depleted defense that was without its most important player for the final forty minutes, but there were just as many things not to like a pitiful powerplay that low-lighted the work of an impotent offense that couldn't get much going after coming up empty on a couple point blank chances. Nico Hischier looked much like his bathroom scale reads and, on first glance, Taylor Hall appeared to fall victim to the Lightning's much more concerted effort to not let him beat them. While I think that considering New Jersey a one man show is insanely stupid, the Devils don't exactly have multiple headliners and their main one wasn't as much of a rockstar as he usually is. Like any top-end team would, Tampa Bay made adjustments that flustered an inexperienced group and coaching staff that's still learning the intricacies of the chess match that is playoff hockey.
Now, having their two-way defenseman that, mostly out of necessity, admirably carries their top defensive pairing and mans both special teams units available to them probably could have aided in creating some offense, and for his absence we have Nikita Kucherov to thank...
Honestly, if you had asked me last night then a stoning in the public square would be the only acceptable form of justice, but - having had time to digest the disappointment - I actually don't think the hit was all that dirty. Of course, "dirty" isn't supposed to be the only grounds for suspension, but that's neither here nor there...
At this point, I would be the most annoyed if I were Drew Doughty, for it's clear that the NHL just scapegoated the front-runner for the superlative Most Likely To Deserve It in trying to convince people that they really, really do give star players the same treatment. Seeing as I don't think Sami Vatanen spent two periods in the locker room with a bruised bosum after having his head jerked back in a fashion fitting of a fender bender, I think we've already begun to let semantics decide suspensions. Nikita Kucherov should have been temporarily sent to timeout for no other reasoning than the NHL's own goddamn reasoning. That fact that he's not going to be, during a series that has gotten increasingly out of the hands of the officials, is just another sign that the NHL values its predictable unpredictability over player safety.
I suppose it's also of note that someone who knows a thing or two about in-zone coverage decided to examine the lack of it from the player you'd most expect to get picked on during film study...
In turning his full back on one of the most dangerous snipers in the sport while he sat in the slot, Damon Severson basically displayed the situational awareness of someone trying to answer an e-mail while at gunpoint. What he was thinking? Well, much like the logic behind every decision that's forced the Devils to send one of their two most talented defensemen to a luxury suite, the world may never know. Scott Stevens broke down exactly why he's just as polarizing as he is both promising and infuriating. He's just as likely to be brilliant as he is to be braindead, and sometimes being flat out bad is easier on your teammates than being bipolar.
That's not to say that one blind box out or one uncalled hit to the head cost the Devils the game. They merely played pretty good against a great team, and - especially when you're not opportunistic - that's not going to cut it in the postseason. They've played their best hockey when their backs are against the wall, so counting them out completely - no matter how bleak things currently look - is a fool's errand. That said, if Sami Vatanen is out for any amount of time and the powerplay and penalty kill don't start clicking in conjunction, then that wall is going to give way pretty damn quickly.
A Redskins Fan Wrote A Letter To Dan Snyder Begging Him To Sign Kirk Cousins In December, And Just Received A Signed Picture Of Him In Return
On December 1 of 2017, I wrote a letter to Dan Snyder imploring him to do everything in his power to keep Kirk Cousins. Yesterday, I got a FedEx containing only an autographed picture of Dan himself ?? (h/t Reddit)
For what it's worth professionally, which is absolutely fucking nothing, I have never found Dan Snyder more entertaining personally than I do in this exact moment. I'm sure it will be very hard for most of the Washington faithful to look past the fact that signing a 33 year old Alex Smith to a long term deal as a way to save yourself some money on the Kirk Cousins front is just a preposterous way to team build. Those that are able to, however, would have to concede that - intentionally or not - this is an objectively hilarious way to respond to a disgruntled fan.
I mean, look at that un-tailored suit, the awkward pose, those fidgety hands, and that smirk that just screams "are we done yet?". That picture looks as though it went straight from a photography studio in a local strip mall that recently went out of business to the doorstep of a fan who deserved whatever came his way after wasting his time pleading with a billionaire via penmanship. I'm sure it wasn't meant to be when it was originally mass-produced and put in the bottom drawer of his desk to collect dust while waiting for the desperate cries of those that want an autograph of an asshole, but that picture is still pure comedy. Whether Dan Snyder truly believes that his signed glamour shot is a worthwhile piece of memorabilia or if he has just enough of a sense of humor to lightly troll the fanbase he's spent the last two decades triggering, he just made me laugh. If I were as self-important as he appears to be then, considering his lack of NFL success, I'd encourage him to move that accomplishment up on his resume.
While The Missed Call On Eric Staal Was Inexcusable, It's A Bit Much For Bruce Boudreau To Claim It Cost His Team The Game
First and foremost, the play above is one in which a penalty inarguably needs to be called, regardless of circumstance. Even if the NHL weren't in the midst of taking a long overdue stance against head shots in their sport, their officials letting an obvious crosscheck to the side of a player's face go undisciplined solely because it happened to occur when the guilty party was already on the penalty kill is the type of antiquated and overly traditionalist bullshit that makes the league look as though it's about as capable of governing itself as internet comment sections. The game is no longer organized warfare, and thus a successful homicide should not be a requirement of every two-man advantage throughout its playoffs.
That being said, what this instance isn't - or shouldn't be, anyway - is an opportunity for a losing team to pin all of their own failures on one first period play...
I don't want to call into question the character of someone with which my familiarity is limited to watching his face turn the color of the warning sign that should pop up on the screen as the camera scans to his lips when things aren't going his way. However, I'd be lying if I said that Bruce Boudreau didn't strike me as the type of old-fashioned antagonist that typically loves when referees pick and choose when to put their whistles away. I could be wrong, of course, but he also doesn't come off as someone who would adamantly demand an immediate ejection for a wayward stick to the face if not for said face belonging to his 40+ goal scorer.
I'm not going to go as far as calling him a hypocrite because it's impossible for anyone to remain objective in judging the officiating of a game in which they're emotionally invested, never mind someone whose job security depends on it. On the other hand, I will go as far as calling him a finger-pointing son of a bitch who probably should have put more thought into coaching the contest as it stood as opposed to crafting a hypothetical game script in which, for some reason, his team's 5-on-3 powerplay would have only been successful in erasing their careless defensive zone breakdown.
I surely sympathize with his frustration, but I guess what I am trying to say is that if a head coach ignores the butterfly effect while listing off a bunch of dependent assumptions that favor his team and, in crafting his biased best case scenario, still doesn't envision said team scoring a single goal in regulation then they probably needed a hell of a lot more help than one whistle.
By no means does the following excuse the officials' stupidity, but sometimes in hockey shit just happens. The best teams are those that wipe it and move the hell on, because needing everything to go your way to win is a loser's mentality.
Despite Getting Worked By Him In Back-To-Back Playoff Games, Eric Bledsoe Pretended Not To Know Of The Name Terry Rozier
And there you have it, further proof that timing is, and always has been, everything. The truth is, I don't hate that Eric Bledsoe felt some type of way about Terry Rozier's seemingly innocent botching of his first name that crossed both sports and race (as seen below). What makes the NBA the best soap opera on the planet is how thin the skin and how tightly held the grudges are of those that compete in it...
In theory, it makes sense for him to return fire at a player that isn't as accomplished and only starting out of necessity who, albeit accidentally, bruised his ego. Unfortunately, he's literally never had less ammunition than he did after getting taken to the woodshed for the second straight postseason game and having what could have potentially been a mismatch receive the Freaky Friday treatment. Seeing as he's spent far too much time staring at nameplate of the Celtics' guard, he knows exactly who Terry Rozier is. Pretending he doesn't, whether it was reactionary or not, somehow makes him look both worse and less situationally aware than this play did and I didn't even think that was possible...
Bury the disproportional amount of hate if you so choose, but you simply can't release it publicly when you're getting crossed into an early offseason by a player who's bolstering the name you can't seem to recall at your expense. So, perhaps it would have been wise for the person who begged his way onto a playoff team to average more than 10 points per game on more than 30-something percent shooting for a team that's better than 0-for-2 against a vulnerable opponent before limping into a petty war with someone who's currently armed and dangerous...
After Being Left Exposed By The Kings In The Expansion Draft, Brayden McNabb Swept Up Their Season In Scoring The Game-Winning Goal For The Golden Knights
I guess my only question is, when does it end? That's not at all a desperate plea for the clock to strike midnight on the Cinderella season of the Golden Knights. Unlike almost every executive on the NHL payroll, I want what's best for hockey. An expansion team in a non-traditional market making an immediate playoff run with an upstart group that's thrown together recyclables just about as efficiently as those community initiatives that somehow repurpose actual trash as eco-friendly playgrounds is good for business. Plus, the 11th hour has a much different meaning in a city where time is of absolute no essence, so it's very fitting that the nightcap to this fairytale is getting extended one round at a time.
That being said, are we really going to exhaust even the most implausible of feel good stories during their first season in the league? I wanted to force a topical gambling reference here, but I truly don't think there's anything available at the sportsbook that's as unlikely as a stay-at-home defenseman who came into the contest having scored 12 goals in 322 career games coming back to haunt the team that let him walk by stepping up into the play, getting down on one knee, and unleashing a game winning one-timer like he got body snatched by Brent Burns. If it embarrasses an organization that encourages Drew Doughty then I'm typically all for it, but was Marc-Andre Fleury completing his slow and steady transformation from postseason parking cone to impenetrable shield of armor not a perfect enough narrative for a team that's been producing them as frequently as the rainbows they keep shooting out of their ass?
Did defying all sorts of odds and analytics to sweep up the divisional opponent with which they are most likely to become rivals in their first ever postseason series as a franchise make for more of a filler column than a front page story?
I'm a big fan of the "how you like me now?" angle that was produced by the most unlikely of sources, but Brayden McNabb sealing the Kings' fate feels a little too fit for a movie script that's being acted out hourly on the strip. I don't hate that the Vegas Golden Knights can't stop, won't stop making the rest of the league look stupid. However, now that they've silenced Hollywood, could they at least space out the show times on their ironic acts of comeuppance before they saturate the market and force us all to start resenting them in the same way we begin to resent their city during the cab ride to the airport?
An Undisclosed NBA Owner Reportedly Ripped Into His Head Coach For Sabotaging His Self Sabotage By Winning A Meaningless Game
LBS- In the latest edition of his podcast with Bobby Marks, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski spoke about how rampant tanking was across the league during the final weeks of the regular season. According to Woj, one NBA owner went off on his head coach after his team beat a quality opponent on the road.
“There were teams literally signing G League players, intentionally bringing up guys they knew could not play in the NBA because they were determined to lose games,” Wojnarowski said. “I never heard more talk from front office executives — frustration with coaches who were winning games they didn’t want them to win. And owners, I know of an instance of an owner berating — really berating — his coach here in the last several weeks of the season for going in and beating a pretty good team on the road and going, ‘What are you doing?’”
Ah, to be a fly on the wall in a office in which an owner was giving his head coach the business for choosing the worst possible time to actually do his job admirably. I can only imagine a tongue lashing that almost assuredly would read something like "What good are you? You can't even fucking lose right!" if transcribed would have been an absolute hoot to witness live.
What I find even more fascinating, however, is the idea that said fly probably would have been buzzing up a goddamn storm on a light fixture in support of ownership if he happened to be a diehard fan of the team whose front office he infiltrated. Forget how you feel about tanking for a second, and focus on the fact that the priorities of the paying customer and franchise proprietor typically line up about as well Kevin Durant's haircut. Remaining adamant in actively creating a losing culture does a lot of things, but it doesn't make for a short term financial gain. Yet, here was this hero, bearing the cross for his dwindling number of clients that continue to purchase $10 beers to make it easier to stomach silently rooting that their shitty, hopeless team experiences the darkest of times to shorten the road to a luminescent future.
It took a money man becoming incensed by a head coach that sabotaged his team's self-sabotage (aka won) that he went out of his way to reprimand him, but a billionaire actually managed to become relatable to your average, every day sports fan that ironically despises nothing more than mediocrity. Not exactly the most commendable of common causes, but still one that, if only for one tirade demanding productive counter-productivity, united the long-term aspirations of the top and bottom rung of the organizational hierarchy.
In What May Be My Favorite Made Up Stat Of All Time, One Scout Gave The Saints A 50/50 Chance Of Drafting Lamar Jackson
247Sports- NFL scout and Sporting News analyst Eric Galko is of the opinion that the Saints’ connection to Jackson is much stronger than most people think.
“I’ll just throw this out there and you can choose to ignore it: Lamar Jackson, probably a 50 percent chance he goes with 31 teams, and a 50 percent chance he is drafted by the New Orleans Saints,” Galko said on his “Scanning the Field” podcast.
“I’ll just leave that there. I’m saying, literally 50-50.”
BREAKING NEWS: There's a fairly good chance that the Saints draft polarizing quarterback prospect Lamar Jackson in hopes of solidifying themselves under center for the next decade, and...and...and...you'll never believe this but...there's a perfectly equal chance that they don't.
WHAT ARE THE ODDS OF THAT HAPPENING? ISN'T MATH MAGICAL?!?
The truth is, I think this might be my favorite made up stat of all time. It's pretty much neck-in-neck with that time I was at a wedding and the priest said that "only 2% of couples that have faith get divorced". Not that it's a hard bar to set, but the fact that the agenda attached to this one is far less blatant might have it coming into final stretch just a white lie-induced grown nose ahead of the pack.
I mean, to put a percentage point on a proclamation that he'd need access to every single finalized draft board throughout the entire league to calculate, Eric Galko definitely proved that he's completely full of shit. That said, who isn't completely full of shit come draft time? When it comes to predicting how the dice will happen to land in a league-wide crap shoot, being half right is actually incredibly impressive. No matter what the color of the jersey Lamar Jackson dons on stage come April 26th, no one can say that everyone's favorite overly literal draft analyst was more wrong than right about the Louisville product's professional destination, and - given his line of work - that's an invaluable accomplishment to add to his resume. Say what you want about it being an empty assessment that only stands to make him look smarter in time, because - when the undeniable allure of a 51/49 split came-a-calling - he stayed strong in covering all his bases.
Now, of course, I don't think this means that the Saints won't draft Lamar Jackson. If anything, knowing Sean Payton, his suspiciously timed and overly critical critique of the quarterbacks in this draft class (below) lead me to believe that Eric should probably shoot his shot with an 80/20. Still, the fact remains that the math would add up just as admirably on a 62/47 as it does on 50/50 that somehow turned hundreds of fluid factors into a simple "that or that".
In What I'm Deeming An Inevitable Accident, Radko Gudas Likely Ended Sean Couturier's Sensational Season During Practice
I don't want to blame Radko Gudas for likely ending the season of his first line center who was enjoying a career year up until the point he got his legs violently clipped out from under him by an oblivious teammate. It's probably not his fault that, during the time of the year in which health is of the upmost priority, a moronic drill was designed to have to two professional hockey players receiving passes from opposite directions while at high rates of speed in the same area of the ice. Call me crazy, but I feel pretty confident in saying that the preeminent big dumb animal of all the big dumb animals that have filled the antiquated role of penalty box pundit/hooligan in the Flyers' lineup is forbidden from laying his graceless hands on the clipboard. Therefore, pointing a finger in his direction is relatively senseless given that the insanely dangerous collision somehow didn't appear to be too far off from how it was drawn up.
Sadly though, I have no choice but to do just that. You see, in my eyes, Radko Gudas has long lost the benefit of the doubt. His "it was an accident" card has been punched so many goddamn times that it has more holes than the Flyers' postseason resume, and I'm pretty sure it got flat out revoked after that time he tried to behead someone with his stick. Add a full beard and an appetite for injury while subtracting any and all hirable qualities and he's basically 'Mayhem' from the AllState commercials. He lurks around for long enough and disaster is universally known to strike sooner rather than later, so no - his reputation is not currently insured from unfortunate circumstances that are outside of his control.
Radko Gudas legitimately would have had a tough time throwing a dirtier hit if he was actually trying to, and that's truly saying something. That something is that the Flyers have been playing with fire by keeping him employed, and - while I hate making a joke of a seemingly avoidable injury to a high-level player - they finally burned themselves in a way that can't just be padded by Sidney Crosby's powerplay stats with their 'Broad Street Bullies' bullshit.
Plus. can you really call something an accident when it's preceded by a warning sign?
How Psychotic Do You Have To Be To Think Beaning An 11 Year Old Girl Out Of A Youth Baseball League Is A Socially Acceptable Thought?
FoxNews- The father of the only girl player in a New Hampshire youth baseball league said he learned that two coaches talked about beaning his 11-year-old daughter in hopes to intimidate her so that she would stop playing, Fosters.com reported.
Dan Klein, the father, told the paper that he was alerted about the alleged conversation that took place during a draft meeting where players get assigned to a team. The coaches talked about drilling her in the head during practice, Klein said.
He said he found out about the threat from two coaches who were at the draft meeting where his daughter was selected last.
Durham police said they are determining if an investigation is warranted. Oyster River Youth Association officials said the organization is also investigating.
Klein told the paper that his daughter played in the league since T-ball in 2012.
Klein said he did not reach out to police and is not necessarily looking for any penalties for the coaches in question.
“I hope that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again, and that kids will be protected from this sort of language and be safe,” he said.
And the answer to the question in the title is.....apparently not enough to be alone in that line of thinking. What's almost as crazy as grown men colluding to force one child to inflict pain on another child out of blind hope that the latter is merely one headache away from instead spending her free time inside the co-ed confines of a baking class is the fact that I merely found myself half-surprised while reading this story. Like, the psychotic lengths they maliciously planned on going to in an effort to rid their youth baseball league of a girl is pretty shocking, but the fact that they desperately wanted to do so seems pretty fitting of the type of lunatics that live and die coaching recreational sports.
Of course, these particular lunatics took the insecurity that they've masked as a sex-based superiority complex to a whole new level by going through the initial stages of putting out a hit an 11 year old girl by taking the temperature of the room after suggesting it. Still, we pretty much let youth sports get to the point of no return in terms of "supervisors" making it about themselves so whatever happens from here on out is just a logically illogical regression. That much is made evident by the fact that there were TWO people that thought "you know, manipulating children and compromising their safety is probably the best way to maintain the integrity of our all-boys club".
I just find it hilarious that two guys, who were so convinced that a girl couldn't hang, decided the best way to send that message to her was to test the Oyster River Youth Association's concussion protocol. It's not even just the end goal that's sickening, but rather the caveman-esque way they thought they could "achieve" it that I find insulting. As someone who was once one of the last men off the bench for a travel baseball team, I can promise you that a meritless jog to first is not how you show a kid that he or she doesn't belong. Hell, if this line of thinking existed when I was growing up I would have worn a wig under my hat, lightly stuffed a training bra, and kept a bottle of Advil in my back pocket while gladly leading the league in on-base percentage.
You want to successfully be the Archie Bunker of Little League then have your prepubescent ace sling some 42.5 MPH gas straight down the middle that has Little Dottie Hinson's swing closer to making contact with the next pitch than the last pitch. I speak from experience when I say that being embarrassed at the plate is a hell of a lot more likely to emasculate someone into an early retirement than being beaned upside the head. Plus, seeing as it's no longer 1952, it would be nice if these two could keep up the illusion that they are respectable members of modern society by being a little less violent in forcing an underaged female to do what they want while making her think that it's her idea. That is, unless they are too scared she'll prove them wrong.
Now, let's lighten the mood with a mildly relevant GIF...
Twenty four hours ago, the Devils were averaging five goals against during two straight losses of which they spent exactly zero seconds with the lead. Now, you could legitimately envision a scenario in which existing pieces could be put together to solve the puzzle that is the Tampa Bay Lightning, so I guess that's why you should wait until both teams get an opportunity to play at home before writing one of them off. Every small victory that could be taken from the games in Tampa Bay was moral in nature, but - in instilling a little bit of doubt into the heavy favorite - the Devils stumbled upon quite a few avenues to get this thing back to Tampa tied at two.
First and foremost, Cory Schneider was excellent in a way that makes me want to waterboard myself for questioning the decision to start him. I think the rap he's gotten since his return from injury has somehow been worse than every mumbled musical abortion that has been released in 2018. Still, the truth of the matter is that he was undeniably struggling and when his team needed him the most he battled through both the physical and mental bumps and bruises to give them a chance to win. The problem with making the call on goaltending controversies is that it's largely up to the 18 players in front of them to make you look like either a genius or an idiot with absolutely no in between. Continuing to ride Keith Kinkaid was the safe choice in that it would have made smaller that disparity, so credit to the selfless veteran whose ups have always been undeservingly overshadowed by his downs for making everyone look smart with a stellar performance. He was given the chance, but he earned back his net when a failure to do so would have effectively ended the season. The rest of the book remains unwritten, but Cory Schneider penned a hell of an opening chapter to his redemption story.
That said, acting as if a goalie switch was the only thing to turn the tides on Tampa would be quite the disservice to the rest of the team. Marcus Johansson's puck carrying ability was a breathe of air that was as fresh as his legs seemed to be. The endorsements of Travis Zajac rung louder and louder with each face-off leading to yet another even strength shift in which Steven Stamkos name went without mention. The dominance of Taylor Hall continued to be predetermined, even in the postseason. Guys like Blake Coleman and Pat Maroon spent just as much time annoying the opposition with their in-your-face styles of play as they did with the non-stop motors on their mouthes. For as strategically limited as Will Butcher's role is, both his goal and his blocked shot were necessary in making sure the Devils' powerplay didn't work against them at the worst possible time. The rest of the defense, while not exactly reminiscent of those that currently line the rafters, did an admirable job in avoiding the half-forced disasters that doomed them in Tampa Bay.
All in all, it was an effort that was a lot more like what we grew accustomed to seeing from a team that's makes up the length they are from perfect with perseverance. The Devils needed to be a difficult team to play against, and look no further than Tampa's temper tantrum for proof that they got back to that last night. A player who typically remains unfazed in playing a Norris Trophy-caliber brand of defense doesn't stick a 19 year old in the dick for no apparent reason because he has an elementary sense of humor....
Rather, he does so because he's clearly frustrated, and a hard-fought, fast-paced game devolving into a laugher complete with death threats was proof that he was far from the only one...
It won't matter much if they continue to take penalties against a Lightning team that treats powerplays like magic mushrooms, but the Devils clearly found their way under the skin of the superior team last night. If that was a precursor for Wednesday then there's no reason to think their relentlessness won't be relevant in a series that's more than likely going to be a hell of a lot tighter than the first three scores would lead you to believe. The Lightning can outscore the best of them, but they certainly aren't the type of team that excels at being forced to grind out victories. The Devils did just that in fighting their way off the mat that they were complicit in pinning themselves to, and - in a building whose raucousness has been six years in the making - they have a chance to reaffirm that they now have a better command of the postseason ropes.
Just listen to that reaction and tell me it's not amazing the difference a day can make...
The Arizona Diamondbacks Had a 3-Run Homer Taken Off The Board Due To A Base Running Gaffe, And The MLB Proved They Can Nit Pick With The Best Of Them
Come on in Major League Baseball! Get in on the fun! Help yourself to some party favors! The drug of choice is instant replay, and - when it comes to viewing the most mundane aspects of game footage from professional sports through a microscope - everyone is chopping it up and OD'ing on it! Take as much as you need to get your fix, because - if the NHL's unpredictable judgements on goaltender interference and the NFL's dubious definition of a catch are any indication - there's more than enough slowed-down camera angles available in compromising the integrity of sports that weren't meant to be decided by a matter of completely inconsequential inches.
I suppose I understand that this rare case would have needed to play out in all its ingloriousness for the people with the power to change the rule to realize how goddamn stupid said rule is. However, now that it actually has and a player had his first dinger of the season dinged from the stat sheet due to his teammate's inability to perceive depth, we're all in agreement though, right? There's no baseball nerds out there arguing about the blessedness of the base paths when the ball isn't even the goddamn park anymore, correct? Something in sports being universally agreed upon is about as rare as stumbling upon a truly objective fan in the wild, but for the sake of my sanity I just want to believe that no one is so blind to baseball's flaws that they can't see the absurdity in calling someone out on a hit that couldn't have been caught by someone with Hakeem Olajuwon's wingspan.
I mean, surely there were quite a few losers that proudly well, actually'd one of the most exciting feats in the sport when the player who went yard got one step ahead of himself in fulfilling the empty obligation of rounding the diamond, but can we please ignore their pleas to stick to antiquated traditions that run completely contrary to common fucking sense?
After Months Spent Battling Concussion Issues, Marcus Johansson Is Making His Much Anticipated Return To The Devils' Lineup And Not A Moment Too Soon
I think I speak for almost every New Jersey Devils' fan in saying that a smile shot across my face as I read that Marcus Johansson was finally making his return from his second head injury of the season. Never mind what he brings as a player, because this is great news for him as a person, and I think he would agree that it feels long, long overdue.
Now, that said, I have absolute no idea what to expect out of him tonight. The optimist in me says it should be an infusion of experience, puck skills, and creative on the left side of the second line, as well as a desperately needed puck carrier and playmaker for the second power play unit. The pessimist in me says someone who looks like a shell of the player whose compromised health never allowed him to carve out a consistent role in a lineup that didn't truly take shape until well after Brad Marchand got a 5-game slap on the wrist for trying to end his career.
Considering that he's been skating for awhile now and John Hynes isn't currently in a position to be handing out pity plays in the Top 6, I'm inclined to believe it's closer to the former than the latter and that should bode well for a team that could benefit from any and all forms of offensive firepower at their disposal. I have no choice but to speak theoretically until he takes a shift or two, but the lineup should be one that's both deepened and improved by the presence of a proven playoff performer like Marcus Johansson.
More so, I wouldn't discount what this means in the locker room. If the decision to start Cory Schneider is at least partly an attempt to light a fire under this team, then seeing a guy that's been doing everything in his power to get back on the ice finally have the chance to lace them up when it matters most has to serve as at least a couple dozen squirts of gasoline.
I don't think that a lack of inspiration is what cost the Devils two games in which they reverted back to being disaster-prone defensively. That said, it'll be impossible for them to take this opportunity for granted having just got their MoJo back for the first playoff game in front of a fanbase that has been itching and scratching like Tyrone Biggums to finally, after six long ass years, turn home ice into a meaningful advantage. This Devils' team has proved they can play with the Tampa Bay Lightning for prolonged stretches, so the one thing this wealth of internal motivation doesn't provide them is an excuse if that next prolonged stretch isn't 60 minutes (and possibly +). They should be familiar with the concept of do-or-die hockey by now, and they should be more equipped to breathe some life into this series than they have been at any point this season.
Alanis Morissette would have a goddamn field day with this revelation, because the idea that the guy with two decades of dominance under his belt had to start losing to be the last to realize that winning cures all is quite ironic, don't ya think? Hell, Gregg Popovich is probably so used to sleep-walking to sixty wins that he didn't even consider that his petulant personality might need medicating as it's ridiculously ill-fitted for a followup to an uncompetitive loss,
Admittedly, I find enjoyment in the mocking of media that tend to be ferociously formulaic, so I'm just as guilty as anyone of encouraging the "grumpy old man who's too smart for your stupid questions" routine. Unfortunately, it plays a hell of a lot better when the team he's putting on the court is undeniable proof of his superior basketball IQ. I don't care how long you've worn the label of irreproachable genius, because that adhesive starts to wear mighty thin once your team turns into nothing more than a small speed bump for an opponent that's playing without a 2x-MVP.
Simply put, arrogance in sports is earned annually, and being an asshole is a lot cuter when it's complimented by far more endearing qualities. The San Antonio Spurs, for the first time in the longest of times, don't possess any of those qualities. Never mind that the crotchety coach is likely the best strategist in the sport, because that matters very little when - despite being cleared by team doctors months ago - a soft-spoken superstar like Kawhi Leonard is letting his continued inaction speak all sorts of volumes. Again, most of the time I find Grumpy Gregg highly entertaining, but that's because most of the time he's not condescendingly circumventing easy, open-ended inquiries when the alternative line of questioning should be in regards to an unprecedented amount of reports that hint at organizational dysfunction. Captain the model franchise and cruise into title contention every season and you can have the snarl of a drunken sailor. However, if you struggle with in-fighting issues, suffer from a lack of transparency regarding your best player's on-court absence, and barely squeeze into the playoffs only to get railroaded when you get there then you should be expected to cleanse your colon of the stick shoved up it and wash down your humble pie with some sugary electrolytes.
After A Rocky Reality Check On The Road, The Devils Desperately Need To Find Their Poise At The Prudential Center
Not so coincidentally, it's never the team that's used and, in the case of Tampa Bay fans and their mind-numbingly obnoxious children's toys, abused their home ice advantage that is left banging the drum and loudly repeating to anyone that will listen that a playoff series doesn't truly start until a team loses in their own building. I don't think that overused phrase was coined solely to give hope to the hopeless so there is probably some merit to it, but if the Devils' confidence and consistency doesn't match their urgency then that well of wishes will run dry very, very quickly.
If there's one thing that could be said about a young team that was resilient in its constant surpassing of expectations it's that, even when the standings appeared the bleakest and the schedule looked the most daunting, they never let one mistake lead to another. The Devils may have been short on experience while desperately clinging to their playoff spot all season, but they were also short on memory. The exact opposite could be said about the last two games in which stretches of play plagued by tentativeness, indiscipline, disorganization, and a lack of focus have dug them into meteoric holes that would have Chilean miners considering the ensuing uphill battle a pointless one.
The first period may have been better this time around, but it was much of the same in regards to quickly crumbling due to self-destructive plays. Instead of an egregious turnover or two, it was a poorly-timed change that left Andy Greene and Damon Severson staring at each other like two kids who knocked into a vase while playing ball in the house and were more concerned about figuring out who was going to take the rap for breaking it as opposed to grabbing it mid-wobble. Instead of Miles Wood selfishly taking an unnecessary slashing penalty, it was Ben Lovejoy's rushed and nervous taking of an unnecessary delay of game penalty. Instead of Mirco Mueller whacking a puck waywardly into a wide-open one timer, it was Sami Vatanen providing an even more "helpful" hand in stopping at no amount of rebounds while stuffing the puck into his own goddamn net.
In living up to their name, the Lightning are no strangers to striking quickly, but the Devils have turned themselves into the most prototypical of victims by drowning deep in their own end of the talent pool while the skies are at their darkest. The opponent is quite obviously a formidable one, but their job is being made a hell of a lot easier by a team that's doing the hockey equivalent of standing under a tree and tightly clutching a metal flag pole during a thunderstorm. Tampa Bay is deadly enough to make even the best teams in the league look dumb in their demise, but there have been periods in which it looked like New Jersey was actively campaigning to win a Darwin Award. Those periods are only made more frustrating by the amount of fight they have shown in making things look as respectable as their effort outside the mental bathroom breaks that have flushed their odds of an upset.
To be honest, I'm not too concerned with the personnel decisions, because the last two games haven't been close enough to be decided by the absence of one particular skill-set or an over-reliance on another. Those losses were team efforts no matter who was on the ice, just as the wins that that got them into the postseason in the first place were team efforts regardless of who was on the ice. John Hynes will always be the scapegoat because that's one of his top 2-3 responsibilities as the head coach of a professional hockey team, but - much like one healthy scratch isn't to blame for them coming out the gates slow - the inevitable changes to the 4th line or the 3rd pairing, in and off themselves, aren't capable of getting the Devils back up to speed in this series.
Therefore, there's really only one upcoming choice that's worth debating, and boy, oh boy, is it a doozy...
The truth is, there is no definitive answer when it comes to who to start in net for Game 3. It doesn't matter who it ends up being, if that person puts forth a better then average showing in victory then it was the right decision, and if that person puts forth a subpar showing in defeat then it was the wrong decision. That said, I think I'd stick with the guy who, since dragging the Devils into the playoffs, has done nothing other than been hung out to dry by the team in front of him. The worst goal Keith Kinkaid gave up last game was a Brayden Point-blank shot that got pinned perfectly under the crossbar, so - while he's been lit up like a Christmas tree - he certainly hasn't been most responsible for the abundance of red lights flickering around him.
I'm generally a Cory Schneider apologist in that I don't think he was nearly as bad as some would lead you to believe in the first two starts he made after returning from the IR, nor do I completely dismiss what was a hell of a first half to his season due to some circumstantial losing streak that spanned both a sickness and an injury. Still, thinking he should start means thinking that one very good period in one of the least pressurized situations the Devils have faced in the last month and a half completely cured what's been ailing the combination of his groin and his psyche.
Cory Schneider is the more talented net minder, but that was also true when he was forced to the end of the bench like he stole something during both ends of a back-to-back against bottom-feeders like the Islanders and Canadiens. Maybe he's found his game, but the entirety of the organization better know that to be the case if he's the choice, because one early goal against is much more liable to kill his confidence in cold blood than it is the person who has earned a reputation of being able to recover in willing the Devils to the playoffs.
Long story short, if the reasoning is nothing more than "maybe a team that prides itself on self-starting will be magically sparked into playing less stupid by benching the player that saved their season" then it's purely a desperation move, and that line of thinking runs directly contrary to the idea that this series is still very much undecided.
I tend to agree with Taylor Hall in believing that goaltending is the least of their concerns, but that doesn't change the fact that going away from Keith Kinkaid before he even got a well-deserved postseason start at home is much more likely to create questions than answer them. It's a tough decision that will undoubtedly be judged too harshly or praised too adamantly in retrospect, so let's hope the person making that decision is taking every possible ramification into consideration as opposed to making a change for the sake of making a change. This Devils team didn't get where they are by panicking, and - as inevitable as a Cory Schneider spot start would be during an sort of significant playoff run - they damn sure aren't going to get where they want to go by doing so either.
Cam Jordan Hopped Back On The Recruiting Trail For Dez Bryant, And His Role As Saints' Twitter Scout Is Officially In Jeopardy
Annnnd, that'll do it. As much as I love Cam Jordan and am liable to agree with just about every one of his opinions following a DPOY-caliber season, the three-strike rule exists for a reason. Despite his best efforts, he swung and missed on Jimmy Graham and Ndamukong Suh, and I think he's now officially out as the Saints' social media recruiter after reaching for a ball that would have hit Dez Bryant in between the numbers before falling harmlessly to the ground.
I don't even hate the former Cowboy as a person, like a lot of football fans, but as a player...in the year 2018? His relative worth as a limited talent is shriveling up quicker than Jerry Jones' junk. I'd honestly rather watch Cameron Meredith limp through the route tree on an air-cast than watch someone who is a pass catcher in position only whine for more wasted targets. The Cowboys' best receiver is Allen Hurns and they just willingly cut ties with Dez Bryant without even suggesting that he take a pay cut. Saying that merely "speaks volumes" would be like saying that Stephen A. Smith has a mumbling problem.
Whatever spot would be made available to Dez Bryant in an offense that's also home to Michael Thomas, Tedd Ginn Jr. (shame on Cam for that exclusion), and Alvin Kamara is one that would undoubtedly leave him bickering about how much better he thinks he is than everyone else knows he is. Therefore, you can count me all the way out on him as the Saints' #4 wide receiver, and - for the first time - you can count me as skeptical of Cam Jordan's long-term future as a Saints' scout.
I Need The Anonymous NFL GM That Referred To Baker Mayfield As "That 6 Foot Jerk" Identified Immediately
As someone who has very little, if any, expertise in projecting the professional outlook of college quarterbacks, I like Baker Mayfield. I think his competitiveness is an asset, and I think his propensity to piss people off, if harnessed, is more of a 'them' problem than a 'him' problem. That said, I can certainly see why others might not appreciate seeing personality at a leadership position in which charisma has come to be treated as a bigger indictment of a player than a lack of accuracy against questionable competition. I just think you've got to come with a more scathing critique than "that 6 foot jerk" if you feel that way.
Ironically, the most hyper-critical and outspoken of General Managers also happen to be the most anonymous, but I think this is the rare case in which insider/executive confidentiality needs to be breached. I'm not saying that whoever evaluated a high-level pro prospect with nothing more than a height-based insult doesn't have his reasons for doing so, but - considering the state of quarterback play in the NFL - I'd absolutely love to see if his resume is worthy of just as childish a diss.
I mean, go through the list and tell me how many team-builders have the cachet to be taken seriously when they say they wouldn't gladly take a supremely talented quarterback simply because he's a relatively short "jerk". If I were to guess liberally I'd say it's about a dozen. Therefore, in playing the odds, I'd be more than willing to bet that the nameless, faceless GM who offered his "expert opinion" to someone who promised to leave it unsourced would look like either a huge hypocrite or a giant jackass (to keep with the immature size-shaming and name-calling) if we saw what he's had under center for the last decade. You know, since it wouldn't make much sense for Adam Schefter to consult the teams that didn't suck their way into a position to draft Baker Mayfield on Baker Mayfield.
I tried to think about the best way to put this in perspective for a person who has never picked up a hockey stick and, in conjunction with the puck, used it to completely demoralize the person standing between them and the net. I searched and searched for the best cross-sport analogy, and here is what I have come up with.
Filip Forsberg having the balls to even attempt going through both his legs and the legs of his defender in a one-goal playoff game is like trying to throw down what would be a certified '50' in a dunk contest within the framework of a half-court offense. Think Vince Carter jumping clear over a 7'2 French dude at the Olympics, but with less compromised testicles. If fans of the And 1 Mixtape Tour happened to be tuned into the NHL Playoffs for some odd reason they would be left wondering what the Predators faithful were still doing in their seats, for they would have long run out of the goddamn gym hissing and hollering like a catfish out of water after witnessing such a high level of emasculation. In fact, it was a display so disrespectful that if we were judging by the unwritten rules of baseball, the Colorado Avalanche would have to lineup and pelt Filip Forsberg in the jugular with at least 6-8 slapshots before they felt as though retribution had been achieved and the matter had been resolved.
Pulling off a move with that many moving parts would be impressive no matter who the opponent or what the stage. When you consider the moving parts belonged to a professional athlete skating at full speed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the idea of manipulating them so effortlessly is almost as incomprehensible as a team letting go of a player that possesses that type of talent.
Oh well, at least he's in another conference so the Capitals don't have to worry about being directly haunted by right-handed left wingers that are endlessly crafty, wear #9, and were traded for far less than they are worth. Am I right?!?