NHL General

Crashing the Zamboni: Weekend Recap

1. The Kings of the Island
On Sunday night, the Islanders and Rangers battled it out for the crown of second-best team in New York (the Sabres play there too, remember). In the end, the Isles come away victorious, snatching a 7-4 win from their in-state rivals and moving to the top of the Atlantic Division. Viktor Kozlov had an incredible night for the boys in blue and orange, netting four goals for the first time in his 14 year career. His performance overshadowed the Rangers’ trusty veteran Brendan Shanahan, who posted a hat trick of his own on Sunday at the Garden. Defensively, Rick DiPietro had a nice night for the Isles, stopping 39 of 43 shots for win number 11 on the year. The Islanders have now won five of their last seven games.

2. Ovechkin’s rite of passage

Alexander Ovechkin’s 17th goal of the season in the first period of Saturday’s game helped the Washington Capitals down the Buffalo Sabres by a score of 7-4. Just one period later, he was thrown from the contest with a game misconduct- the first of his young career. Congratulations on the accomplishment, Alex. Of course you’ve never really solidified yourself in the NHL until you’ve been tossed from a game, as Mr. Ovechkin was for his check from behind on Buffalo’s Daniel Briere. Washington’s Matt Pettinger picked up the slack after Ovechkin left, slipping the puck past Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller two times in the game. It was the third win in a row for Washington, who has moved up to the middle of the pack in the Southeast Division.

3. Is Savard The Answer?
After his first three games behind the bench, the Chicago Blackhawks certainly think so. After a 4-3 overtime win over the Preds on Saturday in Nashville, Chicago improved to 3-0 on the year under new coach Denis Savard, who took the head coach spot from Trent Yawney a week ago. Chicago’s Jeff Hamilton netted a hat trick and added an assist in the game against Nashville, who has lost all three decisions against Chi-town this season. Who would have thought that nearly half of the Preds’ (who are second in the Western Conference) losses would come at the hand of the Hawks (who are in the bottom five in the Western)?

Check It Out
The Calgary Sun’s David Unkle talks about the Flyers’ season so far, and the youngsters they’re looking to for victories, thanks to injuries and poor play from the everyday veterans. Obviously it isn’t working out for Philadelphia this year, who are dead last in the Eastern Conference.

Game of the Night: San Jose at Dallas
Sharks look to improve to 4-0 on four-game road trip

The Last Shot
Hope Sebastien Caron’s parents weren’t in attendance:

Thanks to Off Wing’s Eric Mcerlain for the pointer.

NHL General

Crashing the Zamboni: Weekend Recap

1. Jagr Scores #600
Jaromir Jagr etched his name into the hockey record books on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. With his first period goal, Jagr became only the sixteenth player in NHL history to hit the twine 600 times (he also added two assists in the game to contribute to a 4-1 win over the Lightning).
Jagr epitomizes everything that makes the NHL great–an incredible intensity, relentless passion, and an unmatched motivational drive to be great. A first-round draft pick of Pittsburgh in 1990 (what’s the deal with all of these great Penguin 1st rounders?), he played 11 seasons for the Pens before moving on to a brief stint with the Washington Capitals. During the 2003-’04 season, he packed his bags to move along to New York, where he’s become the captain of the Rangers. Currently, he is only 46 points shy of 1500 for his career.

2. Dunham Dominates

Getting a rare start in net was just what Islander Mike Dunham needed on Saturday night. Rick DiPietro’s backup stopped 43 shots in a victorious 4-1 effort against the Florida Panthers at the Bank Atlantic Center in Fort Lauderdale. The Islanders have played well on this five-game road trip, posting a record of 3-0-1. They will complete the road stand tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs, then head back to the Nassau Coliseum for a contest with the Hurricanes on Wednesday. New York needs help from their primary goaltender to stay on the right track; so far this year, DiPietro is a sub-par 6-5-1. The Isles are sitting hot on the heels of their New York counterpart for 2nd in the Atlantic Division.

3. Flames Are Hot

The Calgary Flames put an end to the Detroit Red Wings’ nine game winning streak on Friday night, coming away with a 4-1 win. Perhaps more importantly, it was the sixth straight win for Calgary–throwing them right into the mix of things in the Western Conference after a less than stellar start. Mikka Kiprusoff is looking like his usual self on this hot streak, giving up only six goals and posting two shutouts. The Flames will go for their 7th win in a row when they face the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night.

Check It Out

Columnist Paula Wolf tries her best to explain the woes of the Philadelphia Flyers this season. You have to praise Paula for even trying, because this Philly club is a bit of a mystery. At 5-13-2, they’re simply playing with no life–and the on-again-off-again injuries of captain Peter Forsberg are never a welcome sidestory for Flyers fans.

Game of the Night: Florida at Boston
Bruins going for 5th straight win

The Last Shot
Jaromir Jagr is not the only Ranger to reach the 600 goal plateau… Brendan Shanahan scored #600 in New York’s first game of the season.

Texas Rangers

Sep 13 in Sports History: Texas Chair Toss

In 2004: Texas Rangers relief pitcher Frank Francisco was arrested and charged with aggravated battery for throwing a chair in the stands. The incident started when Oakland fans behind the bullpen were reportedly heckling Rangers pitcher Doug Brocail about his stillborn son. Francisco hit a woman in the face with the chair and was suspended for the remainder of the season. He plead guilty to misdemeanor assault and was ordered to take anger management classes. He missed the 2005 season because of elbow surgery and was just recently recalled to the Rangers.

In 1981: The Atlanta Falcons tied an NFL record by scoring 31 points in a nine-minute span during the fourth quarter in a 31-17 victory over the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau Field. The early-season loss would ultimately cost the Packers a chance to win the NFC Central Division, as they finished a game behind Tampa Bay.

In 1973 Congress and President Nixon passed a bill to lift the NFL’s blackout policy. Before this, local games were not available in the home team’s city. This means that the Pittsburgh Steelers “Immaculate Reception” victory over the Oakland Raiders in the 1972 playoffs was not seen in Pittsburgh.

MLB General

The Full Count: The return of Mark Teixeira

1. Big Tex’s Big Game: Of all the disappointing players from the first half of the season, perhaps none was more puzzling than Mark Teixeira. The slugger, who was an All Star in 2005 with 43 homers and 143 RBIs, only had 9 and 49, made his first step to a comeback yesterday. He crushed 3 homers and 7 RBIs off the weak Orioles pitching. That means in one day he achieved one-third of his first-half homerun total and one-seventh of the RBIs! Tex wasn’t the only offensive star in the Rangers’ 15-1 rout of the O’s. Mark DeRosa went 4-4 and homered, and Brad Wilkerson drove in four runs. The awful Baltimore bullpen combined to allow 11 runs, including 5 homers.

2. Albert Again: When people think of the great clutch hitters in baseball, David Ortiz and Derek Jeter usually come to mind. But now that short list should definitely include Albert Pujols, who once again won the game for the Cardinals yesterday. Pujols homered in the 14th inning to break a long-lasting 2-2 tie. It was his 30th homer of the year, and he also has 77 RBIs. Pujols also won a game last Saturday with a homerun.

3. Offense rules: That saying is apparently upheld by the Rockies and the Reds, two perennially high-scoring teams who combined for 4 multi-run innings at the Great American Ballpark last night. The Reds started the scoring with a three-run first, including a two-RBI single, a steal, and a run by Adam Dunn. The score was 4-1 Reds in the sixth when the Rockies’ Todd Helton connected with a two-run shot. The seventh inning was all-Reds, as Ken Griffey Jr. and Juan Castro both hit shots to right to lead a 5-run inning. The game was apparently sealed in the ninth, with the Reds up 9-3. But no lead is too large when you have the Reds’ bullpen, and Jason Standridge and Eddie Guadardo nearly blew the game in the ninth. They allowed four runs, all charged to Standridge, but Guadardo struck out Helton with two outs to finally end this showdown.

4. Why’d they do that?: The Reds had more action last night than just their game. They were also involved in a semi-blockbuster trade. Cincy sent shortstop Felipe Lopez and outfielder Austin Kearns to the Nationals, but they didn’t acquire a big-name player from the willing-to-deal Washington organization. In return for these two offensive standouts, the Reds got relievers Bill Bray and Gary Majewski in addition to three other players. The Reds are desperate for bullpen help, but this might be going a little too far. They traded two everyday players to get relievers with mid-three’s ERAs on the year. In our esteemed opinion, that’s not a good deal.

5. His life: That might be the only thing that Jose Canseco is not willing to give federal officials. Yesterday Canseco told investigators the names of more former major league players who used steroids. Even more importantly, he told them the names of managers and administrators who might have known about the illegal drug use but did nothing to stop it. Canseco is even willing to join the investigators and “use his friendship with [the players] to talk to them comfortably [about steroids].” Canseco probably isn’t the most trustworthy of sources in our books. He recently called baseball the “mafia” and said they played favorites with drug tests.

New York Rangers

June 14 in sports history: Rangers win the Stanley Cup

End of the drought

In 1994: Hockey fans outside of the Big Apple were denied the opportunity of continuing one of the greatest taunts in sports history: the “NINETEEN-FOUR-TEE!” chant, as the New York Rangers won their first Stanley Cup since 1940. The Rangers, led by captain Mark Messier, defeated the upstart Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals at Madison Square Garden. It was one of the best finals series ever, as each contest wasn’t decided until late. Messier– as he’d been the entire playoffs–was the hero, scoring what proved to be the game-winning goal in the third period. Canucks’ fans watching the game back in Vancouver expressed their disappointment in losing by rioting in the streets. New Yorkers were just too relieved. Brian Leetch of the Rangers was named playoff MVP.

In 1998: Michael Jordan hit the game-winning jumper with 5.2 seconds left as the Chicago Bulls won their sixth title in eight years by defeating the Utah Jazz 87-86 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals at the Delta Center. Jordan, who took home his record sixth Finals MVP, finished with 45 points and had a key steal off Karl Malone, which led to sinking the signature jumper. The shot was controversial in Utah because some believed that Jordan pushed off Jazz defender Bryon Russell. It proved to be the end of an era in which the NBA enjoyed unprecedented popularity and its highest ratings ever. Jordan would retire from the Bulls before the next season (which was shortened by a lockout) began. He would return in 2001 with the Washington Wizards.

MLB General

Full Count for Wed May 17 2006: Yankees and Rangers put on a show

1. Offensive fireworks: The Yankees-Rangers series just seemed poised to be a great hitting series, and Tuesday’s game didn’t disappoint. The Rangers crushed Yankee pitching early, with 9 runs in the first two innings. The Yanks were scoreless at that point, but they never gave up. With a 6-run sixth inning on top of 5 previous runs, the Yankees came back from the 9-run deficit. The epic comeback matched the biggest in Yankees franchise history. With the game tied at 12 entering the ninth, the Rangers scored a run in the top of the inning off Mariano Rivera. But Jorge Posada hit a walkoff, 2-run shot to end this incredible game. Derek Jeter and Posada were the Yankees’ best offensive performers on the night, with a combined 6 hits, 5 runs, and 9 RBIs. For the Rangers, Hank Blalock homered and drove in 4, and Mark Teixeria went 4-5 with two doubles. The Rangers are hit with the loss despite 17 hits, which has to feel pretty bad. They are still leading the AL West at 20-18.

2. Upside down: The White Sox and Devil Rays are at opposite ends of the league, that’s for sure. The Sox have the best record in the majors and are defending world champs, while the Devil Rays are in last as always and their minor league teams are making news for the wrong reasons. With all of this, you would think that the White Sox could easily sweep the team. Wrong. Despite a 6-run 8th inning, the Sox lost to the D’Rays 10-7 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score suggests. Thome and Konerko both homered for Chicago, but the big news was Tampa Bay’s offense. They blasted Sox pitching for 12 hits and 2 homers, knocking out starter Brandon McCarthy in the 4th inning. Carl Crawford and Johnny Gomes each hit 3 ribbies, and Scott Kazmir pitched another fine start. Kazmir allowed one and stuck out 8 to improve to 6-2 on the season. He is on pace for a 25 win season, about the entire team’s win total the past few years.

3. They missed the D-Train: Let’s face it–Marlins ace Dontrelle Willis has been very disappointing this year. But when the Marlins finally got a good game out of him, they lost. Willis pitched 9 innings and allowed only 2 runs, but Braves starter Tim Hudson allowed the same. In extra innings, the Marlins scored a run in the top of the 11th. But the Brave answered back, with an Andruw Jones RBI double and later run, giving them a narrow 4-3 victory. The game wouldn’t have gone to extras if Jeff Francoeur hadn’t hit a game-tying homerun in the 9th. Francoeur is past his slow start–his hitting streak is now at 14 games. Atlanta is now a game away from .500 for the first time since April.

4. News flash!: There were huge, HUGE surprises at Jacobs Field on Tuesday night. The Cleveland Indians came into the game with five straight losses against their opponent, the powerful Kansas City Royals. In fact, wins against the Indians have made up half the Royals’ win total. But last night, the Indians rallied to win the game. Coming into the 9th down 4-3, a Grady Sizemore homer tied the game up. With a runner on and slugger Travis Hafner up, the Royals wouldn’t give him anything to hit, right? Well, no, Hafner actually went yard to win the game. Cleveland was finally able to end an embarrassing streak, though they are still well out of the lead in the suddenly tough AL Central division.

5. It’s almost Lima Time: Anybody who thinks Jose Lima is a good pitcher is nuts. The guy hasn’t been effective this millennium. His career ERA is 5.24. He even has a losing career record. So that’s why we’re glad that he’s getting one last start for the Mets. Plus, it’s just fun to say “It’s Lima Time” whenever he starts. Lima will be filling in for injured rookie Brian Bannister, and filling in poorly. Mets manager Willie said it would be a sign of “panic” to put in Bannister, though we think he will be more panicked watching Lima get knocked out of the third inning.