A look at three of the biggest stories from the NHL weekend and how they’ll play into the coming days.
It’s Good to Be Kings
The Kings came into the weekend as one of the hottest teams in the league, riding a five-game win streak and outscoring their opponents 12-1 over their last three.
On Saturday afternoon, they toyed with the Senators on their way to a 5-2 win, opening the scoring at the 21-second mark and chasing Craig Anderson before the game was five minutes old on their way to a 3-0 first-period lead. The Senators closed to within one before the Kings added a pair of late goals to ice the win.
“We just keep winning. There’s a bunch of things going right right now, and we’ve just got to make sure we stay on top of it,” said Jarret Stoll after the game. “Even on this road trip we knew we were maybe getting away with some plays and some situations where they didn’t score, and we ended up finding ways to win games.”
In case you were busy officially filling out the paperwork necessary to hand over the title of "World's Most Obnoxious Argonauts Fan," here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
Cam Newton's late-game heroics, and a controversial non-call on a game-ending interception, gave the Panthers a 24-20 victory over the New England Patriots, their sixth straight win. Bill Belichick was furious with the officiating after the game, asking quarterback Tom Brady, "Who are those officials carrying all those flags for anyway? Goodell? Is that it? Goodell? Well I tell you, let me give you a little inside information about Goodell." Flames roared behind Belichick, and the stench of brimstone hung in the air as he added, "Goodell likes to watch. He's a prankster. Think about it. He gives men instincts. He gives players this extraordinary gift: instinct. And then what does He do — I swear for His own amusement, his own private, cosmic gag reel — He sets the rules in opposition." An increasingly animated Belichick continued, "It's the goof of all time. Look, but don't touch. Touch, but don't grab. Grab, but don't catch." Belichick then let out a horrible laugh, pointed to the ground, and yelled, "And while you're jumpin' from one foot to the next, what is he doing? He's laughin' His sick ass off! He's a tight-ass! He's a sadist! He's an absentee landlord! Worship Goodell? Never!"
Tony Allen was ejected for kicking Chris Paul in the face, but his Grizzlies held on, beating the Los Angeles Clippers, 106-102, at Staples Center. After the game, an excited Blake Griffin ran to Paul and said, "Dude, dude, dude. I have the best idea for a dunk-contest dunk, dude. Dude, will you help me do it?" Paul nodded and asked Griffin, "Does it involve kicking me in the face?" Griffin's eyes got wide as he said, "How did you know? Dude. Dude. Are you psychic?" But Paul didn't answer, and instead just shook his head and walked away.
In case you were busy preparing to take back a national park from the bears, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
Jim Leyland's decision to move Austin Jackson down in the batting order could not have worked out better, as the Tigers outfielder broke out of his slump, reaching base in all four of his plate appearances in Detroit's ALCS-equalizing 7-3 win over the Boston Red Sox. Or could it have worked better? See, Jackson's suddenly hot bat raises this question: Why did Leyland demote his best hitter, costing him a valuable fifth plate appearance? Leyland clearly must now rectify his obvious mistake and move Jackson back up to the top of the order. However, because the outcome of every at-bat is at least somewhat dependent on the context in which it occurred, the question arises as to whether Jackson would have been able to succeed were he given a different set of at-bats. Which means that it's quite clear Leyland should bench Jackson for the remainder of the series lest he make another huge managerial blunder. But doesn't that theory apply to every offensive player on the Tigers' roster? Who is to say any of them can be expected to simply slot into a batting order and play baseball effectively? Which leaves Leyland with only one rational choice as manager: forfeit the remaining games of the series and resign in disgrace. So I think it's fair to say Leyland's decision to move Jackson down in the batting order could have worked out better.
Adrian Gonzalez hit two home runs and Zack Greinke threw seven strong innings as the Los Angeles Dodgers staved off elimination in the NLCS by beating the St. Louis Cardinals 6-4. "How dare they?" asked Cardinals manager Mike Matheny after the game, as his lip quivered with rage. "We go to their stadium and we expect to be hosted with a little bit of decency. But no. Instead we're treated to home runs and fast pitching and no winning! Don't they know we deserve to win? Isn't that a thing they know? How much winning we deserve? We deserve it. Because we care and we're better and we're the best and honor and America!" Matheny then balled his hands into fists and exclaimed, "Ri-ooo! Poon-toe! Puuu-eeg!" as if swearing in short high-pitched bursts.
A look at three of the biggest stories from the NHL weekend and how they’ll play into the coming days.
The New York Rangers: Still Marginally Better Than the Giants
On Saturday, the Rangers gave up five goals and lost, and it was considered a massive improvement.
That’s how bad things have gotten in New York, where the Rangers have started the season 1-4-0. And that record may even be flattering, since their -16 goal differential is the worst in the league by a large margin (the -11 Panthers are next worst), and their back-to-back blowout losses earlier in the week were as bad a two-game stretch as any team has had in more than a decade.
New York did manage to hang tough with the undefeated Blues for a period Saturday, but gave up three goals on five shots in the second period, despite largely dominating the play. Ryan Callahan’s second goal of the night made it 4-3 in the third and marked the first time all season that the Blues have given up three in a game, but it wasn’t enough. Vladimir Tarasenko restored the two-goal lead midway through the third, and the 5-3 score would hold up as the final.
And that’s all well and good if you’re the sort of person who enjoys happy stories. But what about the other 99 percent of us? What about the fans who want to see a good old-fashioned debacle? Luckily, the NHL seems like it should have plenty of those to offer up too.
As we head toward opening night, here are some of the story lines that are simmering now, but have the potential to boil over some point during the season.
NHL training camps are beginning to open around the league, and that means that after months of trades, signings, hirings, firings, wild speculation, and unfounded rumors, we can finally declare the 2013 offseason over.
How closely were you paying attention to the summer’s news? Take this handy quiz to find out.
If you’re thinking to yourself Um, that was kind of an odd group of moves to bunch together into a lede; I bet there’s some sort of connection he’s about to reveal, then you’re right, because each of those four transactions involved a team parting ways with its captain. And in what’s become an odd subplot to the 2013 offseason, that seems to be a trend around the league.
There are now eight NHL teams that find themselves without a captain, an all-time NHL record according to the Department of Facts I Didn’t Bother to Research But Sound Plausible Enough. That means we’ll see as many as eight new captains named before the start of the season. But who?
Here’s a look at the eight current captainless teams, and our best guess as to which player in each city will end up being handed the "C."
At 35 years old, his best days are clearly behind him. The only NHL team he’s ever played for, the Calgary Flames, hasn’t made the playoffs since 2008–09 and isn’t likely to break that streak this year. His contract is up at the end of the season, unrestricted free agency beckons, and the experts all seem to agree that it’s time for the Flames to finally trade him before next week’s deadline.
But should he go? And if so, where? Iginla has a no-trade clause and could veto any deal. Does he want to uproot his family just to be some team’s short-term rental? How would that affect his legacy in Calgary? What kind of message is he sending to his fans if he leaves? Then again, with the Flames going nowhere and only a few chances left to win his first Stanley Cup, what kind of message is he sending if he stays?
What to do, what to do.
Luckily, Iginla isn’t the first player to be in this situation. NHL history is filled with similar cases — star players, firmly identified with one team, who found themselves facing a possible move late in their career. And thanks to those players and the various choices they made, we have a pretty good idea about the different ways Iginla could go, and what those decisions would mean for him.
I’m here for you, Jarome. So I’ve put together a list of the possible ways that the last few years of your career could play out. Sit back, grab a coffee, review the options, and then choose the one that’s best for you.
In case you just saw the trailer for Upside Down and found yourself suddenly back to square-one on your big screenplay idea, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
Wide receiver Wes Welker has left the New England Patriots, signing a two-year contract with the Denver Broncos. "I always hated Welker," said Northeastern sophomore and Patriots superfan Aaron Sullivan. "Just like I always hated Clemens, Vinatieri, Damon, Beckett, Ray Ray, Manny B, and Tom Brady." When asked why he hated Tom Brady, who never has left a Boston-based team to play for a rival, Sullivan responded, "Oh, guy thinks he's so great because he never left the Pats. Real Pats leave. Period."
The Miami Heat won their 20th consecutive game, beating the Philadelphia 76ers, 98-94, on the road. "Twenty in a row, that's a perfect game in Magic: The Gathering, am I right?" asked Heat forward Shane Battier after the game. "If only someone on this team would play with me. I have a sweet black/blue deck I want to try out. I tried to teach Chris Andersen how to play, but he kept folding up the cards and throwing them at me while yelling, 'Cacaw!' It was disappointing."
Kobe Bryant suffered an ankle injury while landing awkwardly on a late field goal attempt defended by Dahntay Jones, as the Los Angeles Lakers fell to the Hawks in Atlanta, 96-92. Bryant has been ruled out indefinitely with the injury, saying after the game, "Revenge isn't the sort of thing that has a timetable. Except for a 30-minute head start." When told of Bryant's statement half an hour later, Jones asked, "Wait, when did he say that?" before slipping on a loose piece of linoleum and bruising his knee.
Just one day after trying (and failing) to land Avalanche free agent Ryan O’Reilly with an aggressive offer sheet, Jay Feaster and the Calgary Flames found themselves in the center of a controversy over whether they’d almost committed an all-time blunder.
According to a report, the Flames would have had to place O’Reilly on waivers as soon as they signed him. That means Calgary would have given up the draft pick compensation and the $2.5 million signing bonus, only to see its new player immediately wind up elsewhere. That didn’t end up happening, because the Avalanche matched the offer sheet, robbing us all of what would have no doubt been a fascinating legal scramble, but the incident embarrassed the Flames and has fans calling for Feaster’s head.
All of which puts Feaster & Friends in good company. After all, NHL hockey is complicated business, and the Flames’ offer-sheet saga certainly wasn’t the first time that somebody in the hockey world found themselves getting tripped up by a legal loophole.
Whether it was through confusion, dishonesty, or just plain old incompetence, here are some infamous moments in NHL history that had fans and team officials alike scratching their heads and checking their rulebooks.
We’ll use the same format as we did earlier this week — expectations, reality, and whether it will continue — but add a special fourth category to deal with the possible fallout if the player continues to struggle.
We’re roughly 10 percent of the way through the NHL season, and that means it’s time for some teams to panic.
Not really, of course. Even in this abbreviated season, jumping to conclusions based on four or five games would be downright irrational. So any of you hockey fans who are completely rational when it comes to your team can go ahead and stop reading right now.
The other 98 percent of you still with me? Good. Let’s hit the panic button.
One note: We’re focused here on teams that are struggling relative to expectations. The Blue Jackets may have been iffy so far, but they’re clearly in rebuilding mode, and just about everyone had already picked them for last place. A team like that can’t be considered to be in panic mode by any reasonable definition.
The same can’t be said for many of the early season’s other underachievers. Here’s a look at some of the teams that aren’t living up to expectations right now:
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Nelson Cruz hit the first walk-off grand slam in postseason history as the Rangers beat the Tigers 7-3 in 11 innings. The moment was so joyous that when Cruz crossed the plate, a camera caught Texas owner Nolan Ryan almost not scowling for the briefest of moments. Then he was definitely scowling again.