The fans inside United Center were the very last to know. They were on their feet (most up off their feet, really) hollering and high-fiving in their Kane and Chelios and novelty Griswold jerseys, finally releasing all the tension that had gripped them throughout Wednesday's Game 7 between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings. Chicago's Niklas Hjalmarsson had just scored to break a 1-1 tie with 1:49 to play, and now "Chelsea Dagger" was DA-da-da-DA-da-da-DA-da-da-DA-ing over the PA system, and life was pretty great.
Viewers watching at home found out almost immediately that the goal was being disallowed. In the press box, partially deafened by the goal horns, we struggled to make sense of the little things that didn't seem quite right — the refs were huddling, Chicago captain Jonathan Toews seemed angrier than usual, and no one was skating toward center ice. But most of the fans were too busy celebrating to really notice — like some scene from a dark comedy in which a happy, waving, unsuspecting dude doesn't realize he's about to get taken out by a bus. (Actually, that dude could be Hjalmarsson himself: "I was probably looking like a fool celebrating in the middle of the ice," he later said.)
In case you were out grillaxing (grilling while attempting to fend off an ax-wielding dwarf) here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
Tony Parker had 37 points as the San Antonio Spurs completed a four-game sweep of the Memphis Grizzlies with a 93-86 win. Despite having only two first-half dunks, the Spurs outscored Memphis 52-32 in the paint, as they once again reinforced the old Popovichian adage, "Dunk for show, make relatively uncontested layups and midrange jumpers for dough."
We're heading back to Chicago as the Blackhawks overcame a second-period deficit to beat the Detroit Red Wings, 4-3, to force a Game 7 in their Western Conference semifinal. The decisive goal was scored on a penalty shot by Michael Frolik, despite Red Wings coach Mike Babcock distinctly warning his goalkeeper Jimmy Howard: "I know his move, triple deke, hit the brakes, pause, glove side." Howard asked, "What if he goes stick side?" but Babcock insisted that Frolik was fancy and would go glove side. Unfortunately for the Red Wings, while Frolik did go glove side, he did not stop his action to grin at the opposing goalkeeper, keeping the entire audience in suspense before firing off his shot, instead taking it as part of a single fluid motion.
In case you were busy not making up with Sergio Garcia, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
Detroit overcame a Patrick Kane third-period goal, as the Red Wings topped the Chicago Blackhawks, 3-1, to take a 2-1 series lead in their Western Conference semifinal matchup. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville held himself responsible for the loss, explaining, "I motivated our team before Game 1 by having them all watch Ridley Scott's Gladiator. Worked like a charm. Then I'm like, boom, stick with Scott, but emphasize teamwork: Black Hawk Down. But they all got hung up on the title. Mixed message on my part. OK, Game 3, Prometheus. Huge mistake. Movie makes no sense. Totally lost control of the team." When asked if there were any actual tactical or line adjustments he would implement, Quenneville said, "I'm this close to going with Thelma & Louise before Game 4 just to mix things up."
In case you were busy weighing the pros and cons of employing Vinny Del Negro at your place of business, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
Dwyane Wade was scintillating down the stretch as the Miami Heat moved on to the Eastern Conference finals after a 94-91 win eliminated the Chicago Bulls from the NBA playoffs. After the game, Bulls point guard Derrick Rose did a teleconferenced interview from his home, saying, "Oh no! I was ready to go tomorrow! What are the odds? Come on guys, we had this! Oh well, guess I got to shut it back down." Just as the feed went out, the camera trained on Rose zoomed out to reveal a shoddy backdrop of a Chicago home in the middle of a sunny beach locale, with Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich in the background drinking extravagantly large blended drinks.
The top seed in the West has fallen as the Memphis Grizzlies ousted the Oklahoma City Thunder with an 88-84 win. Meanwhile, in Blaine, Washington, Chad McFadden, a man whose allegiances were as divided as his geographic proximity to Vancouver and Seattle, awoke up from a decadelong coma. Bleary-eyed and confused, he cheered the Grizzlies win while lamenting that what seemed to be the Sonics were once again unable to make the Finals as the top seed. "I remember '94, before there even was a Grizzlies team to spit my affection wait what the hell is this? WHAT THE HELL IS THIS? SOMEONE EXPLAIN TO ME WHAT HAPPENED! THE ONLY PERSON I RECOGNIZE IS BRYANT BIG COUNTRY REEVES!" But it wasn't Bryant Reeves at all that he recognized, and when McFadden was told that he was watching Pau Gasol's little brother dominate defensively for the Memphis Grizzlies against an Oklahoma City Thunder team that had once been the Sonics, McFadden lost consciousness again.
In case you were busy asking, "yeah, but when is Spoiled Only-Child Day?" here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
Tiger Woods won his second career Players Championship and his fourth PGA Tour event this year, finishing the tournament at 13-under. Woods benefited from Sergio Garcia's quadruple-bogey on TPC's iconic 17th hole. "I can't believe it," Tiger said after the tournament, "I thought for sure I was in trouble. You don't just stare down Sergio Garcia and live to tell the tale. I'm shocked that he made it easy for me. Shoooooocked." When told of Woods's comments, Garcia said, "Why? What's his problem, man? Guy has everything. He has a boat that holds other boats in it. He has a trophy case that is just all of the trophies he doesn't like melted down and turned into a trophy case. Why's he gotta come after me? What's he compensating for? What trouble has Tiger f-ing Woods ever had to deal with? Can we talk about that for a second? Can we talk about Tiger Woods's hypothetical personal troubles?" When told of Garcia's questions, Woods asked, "Wasn't he married to Greg Norman's daughter?" before winking provocatively at the press corps. When told of Tiger's wink, Sergio let out a frustrated scream. When told of Sergio's scream, Tiger let out a sarcastic chuckle. When told of Tiger's sarcastic chuckle, Sergio sighed. When told of Sergio's sigh, Tiger fist-pumped. When told of Tiger's fist pump, Sergio's lip began to quiver. When told of Sergio's lip quiver, Tiger didn't look up from his dinner of truffles and lobsters. When told of Tiger's feast, Sergio let one tear trickle down his cheek. When told of Sergio's tear, Tiger turned his laptop toward the reporter talking to him; the laptop had a really smug animated GIF playing on loop. When told of Tiger's GIF burn, Sergio asked, "Isn't that pronounced with a hard 'G,' like Garcia?" But it isn't, and when a reporter went to tell Tiger of Sergio's foolishness, he was too busy watching someone polishing his trophy case made of trophies to acknowledge the reporter's existence.
Even with Stephen Curry at less than full strength, the Golden State Warriors evened up their series with the San Antonio Spurs with a 97-87 overtime win. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was concerned after the game, saying, "Now that Curry is banged up, Mark Jackson discovered he's allowed to rest him. That sprained ankle cost us a massive competitive advantage in this series."
In case you were busy watching The Great Gatsby in 3-D as an ill-advised cram session for your 11th-grade English final, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
The Miami Heat rebounded from a disappointing Game 1 defeat by pasting the Chicago Bulls, 115-78, to even up their second-round series. After a pair of ejections, the Bulls found themselves playing without Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, and Taj Gibson, meaning they had to play a mostly reserve lineup of B.J. Armstrong, Jud Buechler, Toni Kukoc, Bill Wennington and Luc Longley. Despite the influx of forgotten veterans, the oldest player on the court remained Heat reserve Juwan Howard, who was inactive with "being tired, man; real, real tired."
Klay Thompson had 34 points and 14 rebounds as the Golden State Warriors held off the San Antonio Spurs, 100-91. Midway through Thompson's explosive first half, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was seen staring at the Warriors' wing, mumbling, "decent athleticism, floor-stretching 3-point shooting, on a rookie contract … how do I not possess him?" Popovich then wiped off the small amount of drool that had collected at the corner of his mouth, snapped at Spurs guard Danny Green for being a "lollygagger," before making a mental note to himself to take the title of "general manager" back from R.C. Buford after the game.
In the next few hours, a winning-goal scorer will think briefly about his accomplishment, and he will shrug and toothlessly smile. "Hey, that's playoff hockey," he will say, as if that explains it. In another room not far away, a heavy and defeated defenseman will shake his head, trying to find an answer for what went wrong. "We can't be making these mistakes," he will say. "This is playoff hockey."
The concept of playoff hockey is like the notion of wellness: It's an ideal, an asymptote, something to strive for and live by but not something that can be explained other than to crane your neck and give a head nod when a living example walks by. When it comes to wellness, routine begets stability and control. In playoff hockey, familiarity breeds sweet, sweet contempt.
And coming off a lockout-shortened season, this particular edition of playoff hockey ought to be as insane as ever. We'll be previewing the postseason series that begin this week. Here's a look at the three games making up the playoffs' opening schedule tonight.
The NHL playoffs are here, and if you cheer for one of the 16 teams that made the cut, you know what you need to do: Put fresh batteries in the remote, kiss your loved ones good-bye, and get ready for the emotional roller coaster that you’re about to ride.
But what if your team didn’t make it? What if you find yourself looking for a bandwagon to jump on over the next few weeks? Well, in that case you could refuse to do that because bandwagon-jumpers are the absolute worst fans in sports better choose carefully!
It’s not an easy decision. In fact, choosing a temporary team can be one of the toughest calls a sports fan can make. You want a team that’s fun to watch, is riding a nice story, and preferably has a chance to win at least a round or two. You might prefer a franchise with some recent success, but not so much that you seem like a front-runner. And of course, you’ll want to be associating yourself with a worthy fan base, even if the relationship is only going to be short term.
I’m here to help. So I went through all 16 playoff teams and ranked them in terms of their desirability as a bandwagon destination. If you want someone to root for during the postseason but you’re not sure which team to choose, consult this handy guide to make sure you don’t make a decision you’ll regret.
In case you were busy using an already awesome milk shake as the base for an even thicker and more decadent uber-milk shake, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Sergio Garcia and Marc Leishman shot 6-under to share the opening-round lead at the Masters. Garcia, considered among the best active players to have never won a major, said afterward, "Oh, no, please don't notice I'm leading. I can't choke if I'm not in front. I had no idea my round would be good enough to put me on top. Please, don't even talk to me. Talk to Leishman! Just talk to Leishman! Why won't you just talk to Leishman?!" Garcia then ran into a greenside bunker at the fourth hole, attempting to bury himself in the sand.
The Bulls continued their streak-snapping ways, and Nate Robinson scored 35 points in Chicago's 118-111 win over the New York Knicks at United Center. New York came to Chicago on a 13-game winning streak. Knicks coach Mike Woodson was reflective after the loss, saying, "Oh, we laughed when Erik Spoelstra came in shouting, 'I'm out!' when the Bulls brought down his team's streak earlier this year. And we shrugged off his warning that they'd lay us low, as well. We were sure we'd remain kings of our castle, masters of our domain, lords of our manors. And yet here we are, sweaty, drained, and out of the winning streak contest ourselves."
It feels like just a few weeks ago that we were watching the NHL’s opening night. And it was. Thanks, Bettman!
But in this lockout-shortened season, we’re already in the home stretch. In fact, today is one of just 18 days left on the NHL schedule. In a perfect world, you’d watch them all. But in this imperfect world, there’s a good chance you’re stuck with things like “a job” or “family” or “friends,” so you have to pick your spots.
I’m here for you. I went through each of the remaining 18 days on the NHL regular-season calendar to figure out which were likely to be worth watching, and which could safely be skipped.
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.
In case you were out getting back what's rightfully yours, here's what you missed in sports this weekend.
Duke avenged an earlier loss at Miami to beat the Hurricanes at Cameron Indoor Stadium, 79-76, behind 36 points from Ryan Kelly. Kelly, who had missed the previous two months with a foot injury, said after the game of Miami's NCAA title chances, "We have done far worse than killed them; we have hurt them. And I wish to go on hurting them. I shall leave them as they had left us: marooned, on the periphery of contention. Buried alive. Buried alive."
In case you were out fighting off the pre-Valentine's Day crowds at your local florist, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
The Boston Celtics beat the Chicago Bulls, 71-69, at home in a low-scoring matchup of traditional Eastern Conference powers. "Even though we lost, tonight's game was as if the perfect game of my dreams sprung to life before me on the court," said Bulls head coach and former Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau. "The game waved at me. I waved back. 'Hello,' I said. 'You may not be beautiful to others, but to me you are perfection.' The game giggled at me coquettishly, but it would not allow anyone to score. No matter, that only made the game more appealing to me." Thibodeau then, suddenly lost in reverie, began waltzing with an invisible dance partner as he murmured sweet nothings about defensive rotations and clogged passing lanes into her invisible ear.
In case you were busy watching the test signal on the NFL RedZone channel and holding back the tears, here's what you missed in sports last weekend.
Notre Dame outlasted Louisville, 104-101, in a five-overtime thriller in South Bend. Now, I just looked at the box score for this game, and I saw something a bit suspicious. The score was the same at the end of regulation, the first overtime, the second overtime, the third overtime, and the fourth overtime? Isn't that a little fishy? A little too fishy? See, both teams had 60 points at the end of regulation. Then they both scored eight points in the first overtime. Then seven in the second. OK, that's weird enough, but get this: In the third overtime, they both scored eight again. Too much, right? But it gets worse. In the fourth overtime, they both score 10. Perfect 10. Then, just to throw me off the trail, Louisville scores eight again, but Notre Dame, the Irish, I kid you not, scores 11. Lucky number 11. Now I don't want to accuse the good people of Notre Dame of any misconduct without proof, but it seems as if they were trying to get the same score at the end of every period, doesn't it? Until, quite naturally, they scored two different numbers. Very clever, guys. A little too clever. I'm keeping my eye on you, Notre Dame.
Wisconsin upset Michigan, 65-62, in overtime, after Badgers junior Ben Brust made an improbable half-court shot to tie the game at the end of regulation. "That's the sort of shot that needs to be immortalized with a song parody," overexcited Wisconsin junior Walker Nelson said after the game. "How does Brustified sound? Like, Justin Timberlake? But like, with Brust. We could do a whole suite of parody songs, like, 'Bringing Devin Back' in reference to [former Badgers point guard] Devin Harris. I'm totally going to get on this right away." Nelson then went back to his fraternity house, where he watched his ill-conceived ’N Sync parody from freshman year, "J.J. Watt You Back," and thought long and hard about his life choices.
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: