In case you were the one guy in the office who was actually working yesterday, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
Break up the Crimson! Harvard mounted the biggest upset of the first day of the NCAA tournament, beating New Mexico, 68-62. Harvard coach Tommy Amaker was near tears after the game, saying, "No one thought New Mexico could be beat. No one. But we took a ragtag bunch of kids with no futures, and we brought down Goliath. No one will hear 'Harvard' and think second-rate any longer. This changes everything."
Davidson's bid to upset Marquette fell just short as a late turnover doomed the Wildcats to a 59-58 defeat at the hands of the Golden Eagles. "Not hands — talons," said Marquette coach Buzz Williams after the game, who credited his team's victory to their "unnecessarily specific mascot name. The Wildcats never had a chance."
Here’s a general rule about hockey fans: They hate just about everyone.
If you’re an NHL player, it doesn’t take much for hockey fans to turn against you. Sidney Crosby? Too whiny. The Sedins? The whole twin thing is creepy. Alexander Ovechkin? Once he scored a goal and then looked happy about it, so screw that guy. Basically, if a player has ever signed a big contract or won a fight or expressed an opinion, some large bloc of fans have already added him to their enemies list.
But every once in a while, a player manages to stick-handle through the neutral zone trap of hockey hatred and break in alone on the goaltender of positivity and — holy crap, that was a terrible metaphor, but I’m leaving it in because you get the point.
Anyway, here are a dozen of the NHL’s most universally admired active players, the reasons we love them, and a suggestion for why we should all just turn against them now and get it over with.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
Kevin Durant's 34 points and 14 boards led the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 107-99 win over the San Antonio Spurs and an NBA Finals berth. A despondent Tim Duncan began his postgame comments on a melancholic note. "I used to rule the world," he said. "Seas would rise when I gave the word. Now in the morning I sleep alone sweep the streets that I used to own." He continued in this vein for about two minutes as some reporters began to realize he was quoting a Coldplay song. The rest of them picked up on it when he sprang up for the chorus, ripped off his shirt, and pumped both fists as he sang, "I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing! Roman cavalry choirs are singing!"
Martin Brodeur made 21 saves as the New Jersey Devils beat the Kings 3-1 to avoid a sweep in the Stanley Cup finals. Kings coach Darryl Sutter kept a brave face, but when he finally got a moment alone, after the game, he broke down weeping and called his wife. "Those decorative brooms I made?" he said. "One for each player? So festive, so vibrant? Burn them. Maybe then I'll stop dreaming like a stupid little boy. A STUPID LITTLE BOY! A STUPID LITTLE BOY! A STUPID LITTLE BOY!"
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
Josh Hamilton hit four home runs — only the 16th time that feat has been accomplished in major league history — in a 10-3 win over the Orioles. "This seems like as good a time as any to start collapsing," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter, as his players nodded in agreement. "I mean, if that's not a sign four home runs? Come on. See you in 2013. Maybe."
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
Notes kept by Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long during his investigation show that former head coach Bobby Petrino's relationship with his assistant began with a kiss over lunch last fall. "Hi, I'm Bobby Petrino," the coach said immediately afterward. "Thanks for not being weird when I kissed you just now."
I can't say for certain, but there's a pretty good chance that the New York Rangers' John Mitchell was haunted by some fever dreams last night: Think something along the lines of Elephants on Parade, except with the Cheshire grin of Marc-Andre Fleury in place of all the Dumbo heads.
Fleury was in net Thursday night as the Penguins came to Madison Square Garden to take on the Rangers, who held a six-point lead over Pittsburgh in the Atlantic Division (and the Eastern Conference). By the end of the night, though, that gap had narrowed to four, as the Penguins defeated New York 5-2 based in large part on the play in net by the goaltender colloquially known to teammates as Flower. He stopped 29 of the Rangers' shots, five of which belonged to poor Mitchell, who was robbed every which way by the 27-year-old netminder. After one sequence in which Fleury, already down on his side after making some pad saves, managed to glove an attempt by Mitchell, the Rangers forward couldn't help but take out his mouth guard so he could laugh.
Poor Mike Smith. In two recent games, the Phoenix Coyotes goalie has made saves — one during overtime and one in a shootout — that may well end up on year-end highlight reels. In both cases, though, he didn't get to go home with the win.
When Marian Gaborik, one of the best goal-scorers in the league this season, earned an overtime penalty shot in the New York Rangers' contest against Phoenix last week, it seemed like the game might be over. But Smith's improbable stick save kept hope and the game alive — for a short while, at least. (The Rangers ultimately won in the sixth round of a shootout.)
Two weeks ago, the Minnesota Wild came thisclose to having a 51-year old embroidery store owner named Paul Deutsch suit up as an emergency backup goalie. The Wild's top guy, Niklas Backstrom, was scratched late on game day, Josh Harding would be starting in net -- and it wasn't clear whether the team's preferred backup guy, 21-year-old Matt Hackett of the AHL's Houston Aeros, would be able to make it to the game in time.
"SLASHVILLE," screamed the cover of The Hockey News's "Money Issue" that arrived in my mailbox just yesterday. "Suter. Weber. Rinne. Who Would You Kiss Goodbye?"
Like a multiple choice test, we can now eliminate at least one of those answers. The Nashville Predators, a team closely-watched around the league this season as it figures out how to handle a tangle of two top defensemen and a stalwart goaltender who are all on the verge of some form of free agency, began to unravel yesterday when they came to terms with goalie Pekka Rinne on a 7-year, $49-million deal.
It was a pretty sweet 29th birthday present for Rinne, who was drafted by Nashville in the eighth round in 2004. He has been part of a conveyer belt of goalies identified-by and developed-within the Predators' defense-first system championed by coach Barry Trotz and bolstered by legendary goalie coach Mitch Korn (who once worked with Dominik Hasek during his glory days with the Buffalo Sabres.) The Finnish netminder celebrated his birthday and new windfall with a 35-save shutout over the Phoenix Coyotes, his third blanking of the season.
Reaction to the deal has been mixed. On the one hand, Rinne is by most definitions one of the league's best in breed — he earned second in Vezina Trophy (best goaltender) voting last season and placed fourth for the Hart (the league's MVP) and so far has started every game for the Preds. On the other hand, goaltending can be a fickle position, that's a whole lot of dough, and Nashville's own status as something of a goalie factory almost ends up working against it — can't they just churn out a new, cheaper model?