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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Kyrie loses to Milwaukee 121-84 and gets injured!

Kyrie Irving played very well despite injuring his right shoulder in the second quarter and finished with 29 points but the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers other than Alonzo Gee's 19 points were ineffective on offense and defense as the Milwaukee Bucks crushed Cleveland 121-84 at the Q.
Milwaukee led by 27 at the half and it got worse as the game went along.
Not much else to say other than on to the Garden tomorrow night against the Knicks...

Swashbucklings

1) Kyrie Irving was more than a match for Brandon Jennings and without Irving,Cleveland could have lost by fifty.
Irving hit 11 of 20 from the floor and sat out the entire fourth quarter with a right shoulder sprain that he said was injured in the second quarter.
It was smart keeping Irving out of the game in a meaningless game,although I might have kept him out of the third period,if he was injured in the second...

2) Milwaukee shot over 56 percent from the floor.
It was not just jumpers either,although the team drained ten of sixteen from beyond the three point arc, as the Bucks drove the lane so effectively that I swore I saw Bango the Buck drive the lane and lay in a finger roll or two.
A lot of bad interior defense on this night from the Cavaliers...

3) Other than the two players mentioned above,only Tristan Thompson bothered to play in the loss.Thompson scored 15 points and finished with eleven boards with nine off the offensive glass.
The most encouraging point for Thompson was his move off the offensive glass with a light touch putback.
Earlier this season,Thompson would have went for the slam because that was his only viable option.
Thompson is making strides in his offensive game and adding weapons to a limited arsenal..

4) Antawn Jamison gets lots of criticisms in the Cavalier press for shooting so often and being a selfish player.
On this night,Jamison showed his selfishness in an opposite manner as Jamison looked to be be saying "you want to criticize me for shooting so much?,I will not shoot at all".
Jamison played thirty minutes,shot just four times and finished with two points on the night.
Ugh.

5) With the likely end of the season for Daniel Gibson with a severe foot injury,the Cavaliers signed Lester Hudson to a ten day contract.
Byron Scott had wanted a player addition to the team to help the depth and to be able to run practices.
Hudson did play in the blowout against the Bucks and scored two points.

6) Cleveland lost for the sixth game in a row and ninth in ten games.
If Kyrie Irving misses substantial time,the Cavaliers might have seen their last win for quite a while...

Photo Credit:Unknown

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Offensive eruption!

The New Jersey Devils battled back from three different deficits to Ryan Malone,err Tampa Bay Lightning and used their season high six goal output for a 6-4 win over the Lightning at the Rock.
Six different Devils lit the lamp as part of the offensive eruption.
Ilya Kovalchuk (33),David Clarkson (29),Dainius Zubrus (17 shorthanded),Alexei Ponikarovsky (13),Jacob Josefson (2) and Marek Zidlicky (2 power play) divided the scoring among them.
New Jersey travels to Raleigh on Saturday against the Hurricanes....

Hell Raisers

1) The Devils could have clinched a playoff berth tonight had Washington lost in Boston.
However,the Capitals won a shootout and kept the Devils from locking up a spot.
I would not say that I am concerned as the Devils would have to lose all four of their remaining games in regulation and Washington would have to win all four to earn a tie,so it is just delayed for a bit.

2)  Dainius Zubrus's shorthanded goal was the teams 15th of the season when down a man to lead the league in that department.
When a team feels comfortable playing their breakaway threats such as Kovalchuk and Parise on penalty kills,that can open up the shorthanded chances...

3) Marek Zidlicky's goal on the power play was what the Devils hoped for when they acquired him from Minnesota,but the key was the Ilya Kovalchuk pass after drawing the Lightning defenders to him.
If the defensemen can take advantage of the openings created by Kovalchuk on the PP,the Devils could be quite dangerous....

4) Good news for the defense-the Lightning only had 20 shots on goal,which is a very acceptable total.
Bad news-four went and the three Ryan Malone goals were more on the defense than Martin Brodeur.

5) Looked like Bryce Salvador was going to get a rare goal with a blast from the point,but the goal was changed to Alexei Ponikarovsky after the replay showed he tipped the shot in.
Unlucky for Salvador,who seldom scores.

6) Anton Volchenkov returned to the lineup from injury and Adam Larsson was once again a healthy scratch for Peter Harrold.
Bet on Larsson playing in the playoffs for Harrold when the time comes....

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Happy Fifth Anniversary!!!

It is amazingly hard for me to believe that this little blog of mine is five years old today.
It is just as hard for me to believe that we have some dedicated readers that actually care what I have to say about mainly sports,but "other important items" as well.

If I had to do things over,I might have named the blog differently,but now we have raised our search engine profile to the point that renaming the blog would be counter-productive.

Readership has exploded over the past year to the point of setting our five highest months of hits ever over the past year and four of them over the last four months.
We have reached the point of considering advertising as we have been asked about advertising on the blog in the past,but only now is the point arriving of making a few dollars at this.
I did not start this to make money,but I certainly am not against the greenback dollar and if I decide to go with the ad's,this might be my chance to use the income to make the next step in the evolution of my vision for what I see for the blog.

It is funny how many readers stumble upon us via things that we do not cover everyday.
I get hits all the time from our post on the space program and the pic of the universe,the picture of rain falling and from around the world from our Forgotten Superstars post on Carlos Monzon.
I think that is kinda neat to pull in readers from different walks of life other than sports.

But our bread and butter is coverage of our teams,along with the minor leagues and the autograph circuit.
Most of our readers come here looking for one or more of the teams or the On the Signing Front stuff,but occasionally some of our most popular posts is the Cleaning out the inbox stuff that cover things that I find interesting from beyond the sports world.
I know that we saw a major bump from the average for the day recently,when we devoted an entire post to food issues in the inbox.
As much as I love to write about sports,I like to write about other things as well and I would not enjoy this nearly as much if I was confined to just sports.

I have heard throughout the life of the blog that if I focused on just the Pirates or the Browns etc that the readership would grow faster,but I have always wanted to comment on all of the teams that I love as well as things that I care about both now and in the past.
It has been a longer path to take in building the blog,but I am happier doing this the way that I prefer.

Time to thank a few of you that have been important in the building process.
Thanks to the lovely Cherie for the idea of this initially and for just being wonderful enough that tolerate me,this and everything that goes with the territory.
Thanks to Rachel for the special season of Devils hockey this season.
I love the team,but this season may be the most special and that includes the three Stanley Cup seasons because I have shared it with her....

Thanks to my occasional contributors that send me things of interest-Battlin' Bob and Big Don and my friends that hit the road with me on the signing front-Bill Cover and Corey Cunningham.
Thanks to Luke Erickson of NationalsProspects.com for his links to us and kind words on his site.
Everything that continues to happen with the Hagerstown Suns usually gets readers our way and many of them are by the way of Luke's site.

And finally,thanks to the people that read this and have stuck around.
Things have changed a bit,we had a very adversarial relationship with the Hagerstown Suns early on and things are very good with the current management.
We have revised things from the beginning and I am sure that we will continue to change and add more things to discuss.
With the ability to do more from work with the laptop addition (finally!),I have more time and more things that I want to add,I really believe that we are going to make a huge jump in readership over the next year just as we did this year..

Keep an eye out as the post that I have been working on is finished,but I wanted to wait until this was finished and I plan on working on the Pirates and Indians prospect series next week as the minor league season will get underway...

Thanks again and stick around,things just might get even better!!!


Bad,Bad and Dangerous to watch

The Cleveland Cavaliers continued their losing ways in a dull and listless effort in losing to the Detroit Pistons at the Q 87-75 .
Kyrie Irving led Cleveland with 22 points in the defeat and only Antawn Jamison joined Irving as Cavaliers in double figures for the night.
Cleveland will host Milwaukee on Friday night and then travel to New York for the Knicks on Saturday evening...

Swashbucklings

1) 75 points and a 34 percent shooting percentage shows you just how poorly that the Cavaliers shot and as a result how they played.
Just terrible shooting as only Samardo Samuels (2 of 3 ) shot over fifty percent and only Kyrie Irving shot better than forty percent.

2) Antawn Jamison continues to fire it up until it drops with another 20 plus shot evening and only dropped in seven of them.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer recently tried to make an argument to re-sign Jamison and I just do not believe keeping Jamison around after this season is the best step for the future of the franchise.
Shooting the ball this much on a team that could have four new players that could earn significant playing time,will do nothing to enhance those players talent...

3) Detroit generally controlled the game,but the Cavalier did make a late third/early fourth period run that saw Omri Casspi hit a miracle off balance prayer while being fouled that cut the lead to five.
Casspi then clanked the free throw that could have cut the lead to four and Detroit then used two quick hoops from high scorer Tayshaun Prince and the game was essentially over...

4) Prince may have been the high scorer,but the player that I was most impressed with was Jason Maxiell with 12 points,nine boards and three blocks.
Maxiell only averages six points a game,but on this night,Maxiell looked like the type of role player that could really help a better team....

5) The loss dropped the Cavaliers into last place in the division and from eighth overall to seventh :)
This gives the Cavaliers extra ping pong balls in the hopper for the lottery and with some more losses,I would not be surprised to see the team finish in the fourth or fifth slot!

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cavaliers drop 4th in a row.

The Cleveland Cavaliers traveled to Philadelphia and were never really in the game against the 76ers as they lost their fourth straight game to Philly 103-85.
The 17-30 Cavaliers were led by Anthony Parker's 14 points and will be in Detroit tonight against the Pistons.

Swashbucklings

1) When Anthony Parker and 14 points leads your team in scoring for the night that says more than I can write for the quality of the Cavaliers on this evening.

2) Forty percent from the floor will not win too many games and when the bench accounts for the highest percentage,that means problems.
When your best three starters (Irving,Jamison and Gee) shoot 13 for 39 on the game,the amount of games that are won are likely to be few...

3) Luke Walton made his Cavalier debut against Phoenix in a game that I missed,so this was the first game that I have seen Walton with the team.
Walton played 14 minutes and drilled a three pointer for his only points...

4) Kyrie Irving did hit three shots from beyond the arc,but only one otherwise in a 12 point,seven assist game.
Irving is sharpening up his long range shooting as the season goes and I believe that adding that refinement to his game will pay dividends next season to go with a full training camp.

5) Omri Casspi bothers me.
Casspi shot 0 for 5 from the floor and was seen laughing coming off the floor after another miss.
I have always been bothered by guys that are so full of smiles after poor outings,which Casspi has given many of this season...

I am working on a feature that I am sure some of you will enjoy and I am hoping to finish that tomorrow night from the road office....

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Devils lack punch,escape with win

The New Jersey Devils played a less than inspired game from offense to defense and went five players deep in the shootout until Travis Zajac scored the game winner and allowed New Jersey to escape with a not full deserved 2-1 win at the Rock over the Chicago Blackhawks.
Petr Sykora scored the only Devils goal (18 power play) in regulation play.
New Jersey will host Tampa Bay on Thursday.

Hell Raisers

1) Martin Brodeur should get extra credit for the victory because it was almost totally due to his play.
Brodeur made 37 saves,many of them terrific and considering the shot margin against the Devils,Brodeur seemed to be constantly making great saves....

2) New Jersey was outshot 38-22 and only put eight shots on goal combined against Corey Crawford in the final two periods.
Those numbers will not be getting the goal done in the playoffs.

3) Adam Larsson was a healthy scratch and Peter Harrold was recalled from Albany to take his place.
Harrold is nothing to be excited about,but I do like the fact that the Devils are not happy with the recent play of Larsson and are attempting to send a message to Larsson that he needs to pick the pace up a bit....

4) I told Rachel after the David Clarkson miss that Travis Zajac might be the next shooter after she asked.
I had no concrete reasoning for so,just thought that after Toronto's shootout success with players with limited shootout time this season,that Peter DeBoer might give the returning Zajac a try.

5) The power play was not sharp in their three tries and only the Sykora goal with seconds remaining in the man advantage made the numbers looks better than they were.
The Devils were generally ineffective with the exception of Sykora's redirection of an Adam Henrique shot....

Back later with the Cavaliers in Philly and maybe a post that I have been working over the last day or so,that I might finish from work tomorrow...

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Monday, March 26, 2012

Popped in Pittsburgh..

The New Jersey Devils suffered through defensive breakdowns and lost the battle to the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2 in Pittsburgh.
New Jersey scores by Ilya Kovalchuk (32) and Zach Parise (30).
The Devils will host Chicago on Tuesday....

Hell Raisers

1) Travis Zajac made his return to the ice in the loss and finished with an assist on the Ilya Kovalchuk goal,setting it up with a sharp pass to the opposite side of the net.

2) Still not thrilled with the defense,which took a hit with the absence of Anton Volchenkov from the lineup.Matt Taormina played in the Volchenkov slot after being a scratch for the previous ten games.
Marek Zidlicky,Adam Larsson and Mark Fayne each made mistakes that ended in a goal for the Penguins.
Pittsburgh will make many teams look bad,but the Devils D was not good at all...

3) Peter DeBoer shook the lines up and did not really get a ton of reward for the attempt.
Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk were separated and even though they were responsible for both goals,
I am not sure that the shakeup developed more chances.

4) The addition of Travis Zajac definitely adds depth down the middle and should give the Devils four decent lines as long as the Devils sit Eric Boulton/Cam Janssen.
These final few games of the season will use the time to test chemistry for the playoffs and to see what players will gel better as a group..

5) The first goal for each team came off blunders by the opposite goalie.
Martin Brodeur had the puck stolen from him and quickly deposited in the net,while Marc-Andre Fleury was out of position on Sidney Crosby's mishandling of the puck on the Zach Parise goal.
Odd.

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Cleaning out the inbox-Food Edition

Time to complete the cleaning of the inbox with some of the accumulated items from the food world.

This article discusses Cast Iron cookware and that Cast Iron might be the greenest choice for non-stick cookware.
I bought the lovely Cherie a five piece set of Lodge (the gold standard of the genre') cookware at their Tennessee outlet store when Corey and I  hit the Volunteer State last season and I will tell you that I love cooking in them.
I had bought Cherie a cast iron skillet in the past and I liked it enough to buy some more.
The other skillet was not a Lodge however and the Lodges quickly moved the other pan to the back of the pack.
I could not recommend Lodge Cast Iron items any higher and those of you that need new cookware or are looking for a great gift for the person that likes to cook,think about Lodge.
Plus,these will last forever and can be passed down as an almost heirloom through your families.

The lovely one enjoys the blog and television show of Ree Drummond-The Pioneer Woman.
Mrs,Drummond must be on a book tour or something as she hit Pittsburgh and writes about Primanti Brothers and their terrific sandwiches.
Mrs.Drummond recommends the Pastrami,which I will have to try,although I loved the Corned Beef in my last stop and Pastrami will have to go a long way to beat that!
By the way,the lovely one also fixes Primanti style sandwiches here and they are as close to the real thing as one can get from cooking at home!

The Lake County Captains have made their entry into the massive food item derby with the Moby Dick fish sandwich.
Check this baby out,fish lovers: Three-pounds of food including five quarter-pound fish filets, eight slices of cheese, six ounces of clam strips, one-third pound of french fries, one cup of cole slaw, handfuls of lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and tartar sauce on a 15-inch sesame seed roll.
The Moby will cost you in dollars and calories as in twenty dollars and four THOUSAND calories....

There is a new number two person in Hamburgers as Wendy's has supplanted Burger King at the second spot on the totem pole for the first time since Wendy's was started in 1969.
Wendy's nipped BK 8.5 billion to 8.4 billion to grab the second spot,although Subway and Starbucks had higher sales than both.
McDonald's is still the clearcut number one as Wendy's and Burger King combined do not make up half of the Golden Arches total....

And finally this article deals with WalMart and their wonderful habit of building stores to fit their use and no one besides them,only to leave them hollow and empty as they build "Supercenters" on previously vacant land.
WalMart pulled that stunt here,but the biggest offender is the Lowe's chain of home improvement stores.
The plague of empty Lowe's stores that were built in the 1990's,only to be abandoned in less than five years is a blight on small cities/towns across the country.
It took this area years and only in this past year to finally get any kind of use of the abandoned Lowes store locally....

Photo Credits
Cast Iron:Lodge Cookware
Sandwich:Lake County Captains

Friday, March 23, 2012

Late Rally earns Devils a point,but not two

The New Jersey Devils rallied from two separate two goal deficits and forced an overtime against the Toronto Maple Leafs before losing to the Leafs in the shootout 4-3.
The Devils received goals from Zach Parise (29),Adam Henrique (16) and Jacob Josefson (1) in the defeat that saw the Devils salvage a point from a game that looked to be solidly in the loss column.
New Jersey will return to the ice against Pittsburgh on Sunday evening....

Hell Raisers

1) Despite a less than stellar effort for most of the game,the Devils rally to give themselves one point.
The point moved the Devils ahead of seventh place Ottawa by six points for the sixth playoff position.

2) The Devils had a season high for shots on goal in the loss as the team put 46 shots on James Reimer and held Toronto to just 17.
The difference shows the defense had its lulls during the game.
Mark Fayne and Andy Greene stood around on one goal and I did not see much of an effort to clear traffic on the third goal by former Devil Dave Steckel.
Not a great night for the Devils D except for the usual two of Bryce Salvador and Anton Volchenkov.

3) Martin Brodeur struggled in the shootout as he allowed three goals by guys that were not the main Toronto shooters,but were straight from a Newark hot dog stand.
The worst part was that Brodeur was not even close to saving any of the goals.
Not having a book on these guys might have had something to do with it,but still,that bad???

4) Jacob Josefson finally broke his scoreless skid with the first Devils goal.
Josefson slipped a rebound off his own shot in the second period past James Reimer for his first goal of the season.
Hopefully,this will be the beginning of a hot streak for Josefson as sometimes a strong run follows a cold spell....

5) I am not sure if the Devils can make it work under the cap,but I am starting to come around on a return of Bryce Salvador for next season.
Salvador has played so well as of late that I am beginning to think that the Devils should try to work out a deal to bring him back for next season....

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Cleaning out the inbox-Sports Edition

The inbox is literally full,so we will be cleaning out the sports stuff tonight and the non-sports stuff in the near future.

Bill Livingston of the Cleveland Plain Dealer says that Ohio State should play Cincinnati in basketball on a regular basis.
I'll go further than that and add Xavier to the rotation and think that Ohio State should be playing either team every year.
Ohio State offers the line for beating up the state schools in football of wanting to keep the money in state,so why not in basketball as well?
The answer-they won't be losing in football,where the chances are far far higher than the Buckeyes could lose to the Bearcats and Musketeers.
I am a OSU loyalist,but truth is truth...

ESPN takes a look back at the 1979 ring death of Willie Classen against Wilford Scypion that changed the way that promoters and state commissions handle on site issues.
It is hard to believe that before that fight,ambulances were not required to be on site for every event,but before the Scypion-Classen fight they weren't.
The article looks at the fight,the career of Classen and how things turned out for Wilford Scypion,who lost a challenge for the Middleweight title to Marvin Hagler a few years after the Classen fight.

St.Louis Cardinals slugger and former Houston Astro Lance Berkman says the commissioner of baseball-Bud Selig extorted the Astros into their move into the American League next season.
In a comment from us of just a few words-Lance,you are damn right he did.

Bill Simmons-"the Sports Guy" fires off one of the columns that he is known for with this "60 ways to annoy your fan base" look at the various bad moves of the Golden State Warriors over the last 30+ years.
I am sure that it will provide some chuckles at the dumbness involved.

Scott Bowden and his Kentucky Fried Wrestling has a hilarious Faux news release on the New Orleans Saints suspension of Sean Payton,who would be replaced by "The Midnight Rider".
The Midnight Rider was basically an angle that was used a few times by Dusty Rhodes in Florida and for Jim Crockett promotions that saw top babyface Dusty Rhodes be reluctantly suspended and then return under a mask as the Midnight Rider.
In another of the ways that wrestling often made no sense,companies would often tell the heels that screamed about the Rider being Rhodes,that if they could prove Rhodes was the Rider,Rhodes would have an even longer suspension.
However,what would stop Rhodes from coming back under a different mask???

Time for a few goodbyes.

Goodbye to longtime favorite Doug Furnas,who passed away at the age of 52 in his sleep.
Furnas had been battling Parkinson's Disease for years.
The extremely powerful Furnas,might have been the best all around athlete in the game in his prime.
Furnas spent time in all the major United State promotions,but achieved his most prominent success in the physical style of All Japan pro wrestling with "Dan Kroffat" also known as Phil LaFon.
Furnas held numerous records for powerlifting (Legitimate records,not the type of worked records mentioned on wrestling programs" and was a starting fullback at Tennessee for the Volunteers.

Another goodbye to the ace of the Boston Red Sox pitching rotation in the 1940's and 50's as Mel Parnell died at the age of 89 at his home in Louisiana.
Parnell won 123 games for Boston from 1947-1956 and completed 113 games with an ERA under four.
Parnell's best season with the Red Sox was his 25-7 season with 27 complete games in 1949.
Parnell ranks as perhaps the best lefthander in team history and could have ranked even higher before an arm injury after the 1953 season.
Parnell was never the same pitcher after that although he managed to throw a no-hitter in his final season-1956.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cavaliers nipped in overtime in Atlanta

The Cleveland Cavaliers simply had to stop Atlanta from nailing a three pointer on the last possession of regulation and the Cavaliers then allowed Joe Johnson to nail just that over a barely guarding Anthony Parker to force overtime.
Cleveland then took a six point lead in overtime and promptly lost the lead before having the final possession with a chance to win the game.
Kyrie Irving's shot hit iron,but Alonzo Gee slid in through the line,grabbed the offensive rebound and tossed a putback up for the victory.
However,Gee's shot was no good and it was Atlanta that bounced out of the Phillips Arena with a 103-102 victory.
Kyrie Irving led Cleveland with 29 points.
Cleveland will be in Orlando on Friday,I am unsure on whether I'll be covering this game with the Xavier Sweet 16 game against Baylor and the Devils against the Maple Leafs at the same time.

Swashbucklings

1) Joe Johnson was kept under control under the final regulation shot and then suddenly Cleveland decided to stop defending him.
Alonzo Gee was doing an excellent job on Johnson and then suddenly Anthony Parker was guarding him and just as suddenly Johnson started drilling shots.
I would hope that this is just something that happened and was not a coaching decision...

2) Antawn Jamison started strongly with ten first period points but faded in the fourth,where he scored just one point between the fourth and overtime.
Jamison looked pretty worn out to me and might benefit from a few less minutes on the floor.

3) Another super game from Kyrie Irving with 29 points and nine assists.
Irving's game winner rolled in and out,but it was very close and you cannot hit them all,but Irving is shaping up in being the game ending assassin that Cleveland has usually lacked...

4) The best player on the floor in the first half? Atlanta's aging Jerry Stackhouse,who does not see a ton of playing time,but was all over the floor in a five minute run that showed flashes of what Stackhouse once was.
It is ironic that Stackhouse learned how to play team basketball after many of his physical skills had passed him by.
Stackhouse finished with ten points in a hair over ten minutes of play.

5) The Cavaliers released Ryan Hollins earlier in the day.
Cleveland appears to have given most of minutes that Hollins was playing and given them to Tristan Thompson as Semih Erden played just over two minutes in accumulating no stats other than a personal foul.....

6) None of the bench players played twenty minutes in the loss as only Manny Harris played close with a 19:53 playing term.
Harris finished with 11 points in his longest period of playing time since returning to the team.

Photo Credit: AP Photo

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

One timer,One goal=Two Points

Ilya Kovalchuk's second period one timer off a Marek Zidlicky pass on a second period power play eluded Ben Bishop for the only goal of the game and a 1-0 win for the New Jersey Devils over the Ottawa Senators.
Kovalchuk's 31st goal of the season was the 400th of the Russian snipers career.
Johan Hedberg made 34 saves in earning his fourth shutout of the season.
The Devils will return to the ice on Friday at the Rock against Toronto.

Hell Raisers

1) Johan Hedberg was huge in this one.Terrific save and terrific save and Hedberg was the main factor in this win.
It is hard to believe that as well as Martin Brodeur has played this season and the odd game that Hedberg starts that it is Hedberg that leads the team in shutouts.....

2) Hedberg's main save came early as he stopped Erik Condra on a first period penalty shot.
In a game that saw just one goal scored,every shot can be pivotal,so Hedberg stood tall and did so early and did not allow a cheap early goal that could have swung momentum Ottawa's way.

3) Ilya Kovalchuk's 400th career goal came on what Kovalchuk does best-a slap shot from the circle off a one timer.
Kovalchuk has proven to the naysayers that thought that he was a bust as a Devil with his play this season that he is far from that.
The playoffs will go a long way towards shutting the final doubters down for good with a strong performance....

4) Kudos to the penalty killers,who were on the ice for the final 3:38 with a portion of that time to be spent with Ottawa having a five on three.
The Devils especially used strong performances from Bryce Salvador and Anton Volchenkov on the kill.
Both players had excellent games,except for Volchenkov being the player that pulled down Eric Condra to give Condra the penalty shot.

5) Give Ottawa's Ben Bishop plenty of credit as well as he made 33 saves on the Devils and had no chance against the Kovalchuk rifle shot.
I wondered about Bishop with his huge (6'7) frame and wondered about the agility of the netminder.
I came away quite impressed....

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Terrific rookies cut down the Nets!

The Cleveland Cavaliers led by as many as 15 points in the first quarter,allowed the New Jersey Nets battle back into the game by halftime and then took over in the fourth quarter late to win a 105-100 nod at the Rock in Newark.
Cleveland was led by their rookies in the win as Tristan Thompson scored a career high 27 points and Kyrie Irving scored 26 more as the Cavaliers kept the Nets slowed down late in the game when the teams swapped the lead.
Cleveland improves to 17-26 with the win and will travel to Atlanta Wednesday night.

Swashbucklings

1) Tristan Thompson had to be the star of this win as he scored 27 points and grabbed 12 boards.
Thompson was not hitting jumpers as almost all of his points were from three feet or less as Thompson had several slams,but the biggest play was a light tip-in with a little over a minute to go to give the Cavaliers a lead that they would not allow themselves to lose.

2) Look in the above picture in the upper left corner.The Devils championship banners are visible.
The Nets are playing at the Rock until their new arena in Brooklyn is ready next season and from what I saw,the drawing power looks pretty limited as the crowd looked pretty sparse.

3) Kyrie Irving continues to be the Cavaliers Mr.Clutch as he scored the final six points of the game following the Thompson tip-in.
Irving had a total of 14 points in the fourth quarter alone.
Not much more that I can say about Irving than I have written before...

4) Daniel Gibson sprained an ankle and did not return to the game .
Donald Sloan played 19 minutes as he had to pick up the slack of the missing Gibson.
Sloan finished with 11 points in his first substantial playing time as a Cavalier.

5) Samardo Samuels scored ten first half points with some nice moves around the hoop,including a hook shot or two.
Samuels gives you just enough hope to keep stringing you along in thinking that he can eventually be a productive performer.

6) Manny Harris was marked inactive in what Byron Scott termed as a clerical error,so the Cavaliers were actually playing a man down.
That decision also contributed to the nick under twenty minutes of playing time for Donald Sloan.

7) Former Cavalier J.J. Hickson was bought out of his contract by the Sacramento Kings.
Looks like neither side of the Hickson for Omri Casspi are particularly thrilled with their off season trade at this point as Casspi is playing just 15-18 minutes a night after being a starter earlier in the season.

Photo Credit:Chris Chambers-Getty Images

Devils brawl and sprawl in Rangers loss

The New Jersey Devils sent three players that are not afraid to throw their hams around out to start their visit to Madison Square Garden.
The New York Rangers countered with three more and the result was the fight of the season just three seconds into the game.
After that type of start,everything else was anti-climactic and the result was a 4-2 win for the first place Rangers.
Both of the Devils goals came in the second period and were scored by Patrik Elias (25) and Petr Sykora (17).
The Devils remain in sixth place in the conference,four points ahead of their Tuesday opponent in the Ottawa Senators.

Hell Raisers

1) The fight was the best all year and it was easily superior to the first battle at MSG,two seconds into the game.
Lots of blood,lots of punches and all of what you would expect from the Devils and Rangers hooking it up!



2) That said,having both Eric Boulton and Cam Janssen backfired as usual with Boulton being called for a moronic boarding penalty that led to the Rangers power play goal and a 3-1 lead for the Blueshirts.
I like physical hockey and I have no problems with enforcers,but the issue to me is that having both Boulton and Janssen on the ice leads to goals for the other team and Boulton is not a good enough enforcer to put up with his deficiencies.

3) Adam Larsson continues his struggles as he allowed the Rangers Brandon Dubinsky to get inside beat Martin Brodeur for the first goal of the game.
I have no idea what the issue with Larsson-health,confidence or being in shape are just possible reasons,but whatever the problem,the Devils need the solution quickly.

4) The Rangers did a solid job in stopping the Devils top line,but the Elias/Sykora/Zubrus line was the dominant line of the evening.Most of the Devils top scoring chances came off this line.

5) I found John Tortorella's screaming at the Devils bench about the fight to be frankly-BS.
The home team turns in their lineup last,so if Tortorella did not want things to break down,then he should not have sent out Mike Rupp,Brandon Prust and Stu Bickel to start the contest.

6) Apparently,Peter DeBoer thinks the same on the above issue as I typed the fifth bullet point before reading this link on the matter.

7) Travis Zajac will be traveling with the team to Ottawa to skate with the team.
No word on if Zajac will be playing in the game.
Ottawa was the site of the last game for the center on January second.

Back later with Cavaliers vs Nets

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cavaliers buzzed by Hawks

The Cleveland Cavaliers were generally outplayed for most of the game against the Atlanta Hawks with the exception of a third quarter run that got Cleveland as close as six points before the Hawks dominated the fourth period in a 103-87 Atlanta victory.
Alonzo Gee led Cleveland in scoring with 20 points.
Cleveland travels to the Rock tomorrow for a meeting against the Nets at 7:30.

Swashbucklings

1) Alonzo Gee did most of his damage in the first half with some spectacular slams.Gee also grabbed nine boards and just missed a double double.
Gee has flourished since entering the starting lineup and has to have put himself solidly in the plans for the future.

2) Tristan Thompson was announced as the starting center by Byron Scott until the return of Anderson Varejao.
Thompson finished with seven points and six boards and he is pretty much the teams only interior threat-which says all you need to know...

3) Byron Scott says that the team will be using a three guard rotation until Donald Sloan and Manny Harris are up to speed.
The Anthony Parker/Daniel Gibson part of the three was pretty bad as they combined for just nine points on the day.
Going to need more production than that to win the occasional game.

4) Another of those quiet 17 point nights from Antawn Jamison with a six of twenty two shooting night from the floor.
I know many wish Jamison was gone,but it is not like his time is keeping a young guy on the bench and stopping someone's development.

5) Luke Walton practiced with the team and might play against the Nets for a short stint.
Not sure what Walton has left in the tank,but since you are going to pay him,might as well use him.

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Penguins roll over Devils 5-2

The Pittsburgh Penguins came to town on a roll and had Sidney Crosby back in the lineup,so you knew that this was going to be a tough day.
It was worse than expected as the New Jersey Devils did not play well in a 5-2 loss that could have been far worse had Martin Brodeur not played well.
The Devils received goals from Petr Sykora (16) and Andy Greene (1) in the loss.
The Devils will be on the road on Monday and Tuesday against the Rangers and then on to Ottawa.


Hell Raisers

1) That says about all that I can say about the game when the goaltender that allowed five goals on the box score played the best of any player on the team.
Martin Brodeur's stat line was deceiving-he played very well...

2) The Devils wore their red and green jersey for their around St.Patrick Day game for the third year in a row.
It is well known that I love those jerseys with the red helmets and wish they were the full time togs,but I wish Pittsburgh would have played along with their baby blue throwbacks,which I also wish were their full time uniforms...

3) Outshot 44-14?
A period high of six?
I know the Penguins are playing sizzling hockey right now,but that number is ridiculous!

4) Bad defensive effort from top to bottom,read numbers 1 and 3 again for more facts than I feel like writing.

5) Admission time-I went to bed in the third period at 5-2.
I was exhausted from work and had not been to bed yet,I knew the Devils were not coming back and things might get worse,although they did not.
Sue me :)

Photo Credit:Bruce Bennett-Getty Images

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Talking hoops!

This is not a true cleaning of the inbox as usual,but more of an assortment of thoughts on a day that sees college hoops all day long.

I am not the college fanatic that I was once was.but I still enjoy the time of year,rooting for Ohio State and Xavier,pulling for the huge upsets that make the tournament so much fun to watch,even when they destroy my brackets (Thanks Missouri).

I loved Duke's shocking loss to Lehigh and I did watch the end of that one and give it up to the Patriot League,which not only had the Lehigh win,but saw Patriot member and regular season champion Bucknell travel to top seeded Arizona and dump the Wildcats in their bracket of the NIT.
I have always enjoyed watching the Patriot League on various local sports channels and the atmosphere in some of their arenas can be crazy considering the sizes of the schools and arenas involved.
Lehigh,Bucknell and American all won 20 or more games this season in a strong campaign for the Patriot League..
Congratulations to the Mountain Hawks and Bison!

I did not watch Ohio State's easy Thursday win over Loyola MD.,but I did get to watch the entire Xavier game and their win over Notre Dame.
The Musketeers have the door open to the Sweet 16 as instead of playing Duke as expected,they will get Lehigh instead.
I am not taking Lehigh lightly,but their win does give a less difficult road there on paper.
I am still deciding as I type on whether I want to do a recap of Xavier's win or future wins,so we will have to see about that.

Xavier has the talent to make a run,but things have never seemed to be in sync as perfectly as they did before the craziness at the Crosstown shootout.
Xavier does have the type of senior presence though that could go a long way in the tournament and the Duke upset could be just the ticket to clear the path a bit.
Tu Holloway is just the type of point guard(17 second half points against Notre Dame) that can take a team on a roll and I just have a funny feeling that the win over Notre Dame can put the Muskies on their way for a while.

Ohio State gets Gonzaga tomorrow at 2:45 and with the Devils taking on the Penguins at one,I will likely miss the beginning of the game,but should be able to watch the second half.
Not sure if I will be doing a recap or not,as the same applies to the Buckeyes as to the Musketeers.

Ohio schools went 4-0 in the first round with wins by aforementioned Ohio State and Xavier in addition to Cincinnati and Ohio U,who pulled an upset over michigan.
Wonder what Brady Hoke thinks about the Wolverines losing to Ohio with his constant calling of OSU as "Ohio"?
That whole thing is childish anyway,so anything that draws attention to that silliness is a plus to me.

The Cleveland Cavaliers released Jason Kapono after just one day on the roster after adding the veteran in the Ramon Sessions trade yesterday.
I am not sure if this was a joint decision,but if it was strictly a Cavalier decision,I am mildly surprised as I thought Kapono could have helped the team that needs outside shooting.
It could have been that a Southern California resident that played for the Lakers simply did not want to move east for a month or so to finish a season that he would have been a free agent at the end of anyway.
This might have been the best move for Kapono and likely did not make much of a difference to the Cavaliers either way.

Cleveland re-signed shooting guard Manny Harris ,who played very little in a 20 day stint earlier this season to a contract for the remainder of the season to replace Kapono on the roster and added point guard Donald Sloan from the Erie franchise of the D League earlier on Friday to replace the slot created by moving Sessions.
I know next to nothing about Sloan,but the team did need to sign a point guard to spell Kyrie Irving for the occasional breather and Sloan appears to have fit the bill.
Sloan played eight games earlier this season in stints with the Hawks and Hornets.

The Cavaliers host the Atlanta Hawks Sunday afternoon at 3,while Xavier has just announced that their game with Lehigh on Sunday will be a 7:45 tip,so I should be able to see both games in a rare occasion that things work out like that for me.

Photo Credit:Streeter Lecka-Getty Images

Friday, March 16, 2012

Frostee and Juqua

No,the title is not a long lost pilot for a 1970's buddy police show,it is the sum total of the Cleveland Browns signings from outside the organization.
Defensive linemen Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker will hopefully add the pass rush across from Jabaal Sheard that Jayme Mitchell was unable to deliver.

Frostee Rucker was a part time starter for the Bengals last season and set career highs in both tackles and sacks in his fifth year in Cincinnati.
Rucker was a third round draft pick by the Bengals in 2006 out of USC.
Rucker is reported to be more of a well rounded end than a pure pass rusher and the Bengals had placed a high priority on keeping him,but the Browns were able to sign him with the promise of being the full time starter along with a five year contract worth 21 million and eight of that being guaranteed.

My question with Rucker is this-If Rucker is a defensive end that could make a difference,why did it take him five years to produce and reach the starting lineup?
If Rucker can maintain last years level performance,then this is not a terrible signing,but there is a considerable chance that the Browns signed a lesser player coming off his career year.
I'll keep an open mind on Rucker,but I am not totally confident in the signing at that cost.

Juqua Parker was -Surprise- a member of the Philadelphia Eagles for the last seven years.
Parker had no fewer than five sacks a year for the previous five seasons before the 2011 campaign,so Parker is capable of providing a pass rush,but he finished 2011 with just a sack and a half and is now 33 years old.
Parker is expected to be part of the end rotation,which hopefully will be able to limit his plays and therefore keeping him fresher.
Parker signed a one year deal that could reach three million dollars,if Parker hit all of his incentives,which does not seem likely.

The Browns also kept a few of their own players that Tom Heckert seems to think so highly of.
The most notable of these was corner Dmitri Patterson,who did play well,especially late last season.
Patterson was signed from the Eagles before last season as a nickel back and considering the three year,sixteen million dollar contract,the Browns must have been pleased enough to sign him at start at corner next season.
If that moves slow footed Sheldon Brown to safety,where he should be more effective,then I am all for it.

The Browns also inked deals with tight end Alex Smith and offensive lineman Oneil Cousins to return to the team.
Smith is the teams best blocking tight end among the non-Ben Watson bunch that that includes Evan Moore and Jordan Cameron,but is not of the type that should be a starter.
Cousins was claimed off waivers from Baltimore and played in a handful of games early in the season when the right side of the line was hampered by injuries.
Cousins was so good that he could not bump a guy (Tony Pashos) that played most of last season on a foot that had a ruptured tendon and was pretty bad when healthy,off the field.
Nothing to be steamed about there,but nothing to be excited about either.
And that comment pretty much covers all the Browns free agent activity.

Photo Credits
Rucker:Bengals.com
Parker:Unknown

Jamison stays and Sessions goes....

The Cleveland Cavaliers made a decision to move one of the players that were rumored to be on the trading block and kept the other as Ramon Sessions was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers and Antawn Jamison stayed with the team.
Sessions along with disappointing former number one pick Christian Eyenga were sent to the Lakers in exchange for Luke Walton,Jason Kapono,the Lakers first round pick in this years draft along with the right to swap the first round pick obtained from Miami in the 2013 draft with the Lakers 2013 first rounder,if the Lakers have a higher pick than the Heat in that draft.

The Cavaliers are basically eating the remaining money from the contracts of Kapono,who was originally drafted by Cleveland, and Walton in order to make the trade work in order to add another first rounder for this years draft.
The addition of the pick gives Cleveland two first rounders and two second rounders that should help bulk up the talent around Kyrie Irving.
Some question why Cleveland would take on the one year remaining on Luke Walton's contract at an unreal 6 million for a guy that is rarely healthy and plays rarely or well (1.3 PPG in nine games this season) when able to play,but to me,it was worth the cost to add the first rounder and Walton's contract that will expire at the end of next season could prove a valuable chip at next years trade deadline,if the team does not buy him out before then.

Kapono played about ten minutes a game for the Lakers averaging two points a night,but does bring a decent outside shot to Cleveland on a team that could use a bit of that feature to the floor.
Kapono's 1.2 million dollar contract does expire at the end of the season,so his cap space will be off the books.

The key to the deal of course is adding another first rounder to the teams haul for next season.
Cleveland has four picks in the next draft what looks to be in the first 35-40 picks as the Cavaliers own the Hornets second rounder,which should be one of the first few picks in the second round.
The second rounders can be valuable,but only when used wisely as seen last season by none other than the Cavaliers,who had the second pick in the round last year and traded it to Orlando and later in the round selected Milan Macvan,who was noted as quickly as the showing of the video highlights that he was never likely to play in the league.
The ability to swap 2013 first rounders with the Miami pick might be worth a few spots in that draft,so I do like the fact that the Cavaliers front office were thinking ahead and making a move that flew under the radar today,but could pay off a bit next season.

Antawn Jamison stays as a Cavalier at the end of the day.
I would not have been surprised if he had been moved or remained in Cleveland,basically because there could be a case built for both sides of the decision.
If someone was willing to give something up for Jamison,I certainly supported trading him,but keeping him will make the team more competitive for the remainder of the season,which you can argue might not be a good thing,although it will make the games much closer than without him.
Considering everything,it appears that the market just was not there for Jamison and the Cavaliers could have just decided to take his money off the cap at seasons end,especially with adding the Luke Walton contract.

Cleveland will likely lose some games anyway without Ramon Sessions being around.
Ironically,Sessions will go from being a backup on a below average team to a starter for a title contender as the Lakers moved Derek Fisher in another deal to make room for Sessions.
Cleveland will have to get someone to play the point in order to give Kyrie Irving a breather during games and there is currently no one on the roster to fill that bill.
A veteran that can run the offense would be a nice asset,but there is not a ton of those guys around that are available to sign right now,so I would hesitate to recommend any player in particular.
Sessions will be missed,but I always approve when non-contenders make moves to get something tangible for players that will likely leave and leave the team with nothing in return for the player.

The trade will not turn things around by itself,but it continues to be another piece of the gradual rebuilding of the Cavaliers.
I have not agreed with everything done thus far and I have been wrong (Derrick Williams by a hair over Kyrie Irving) along with reserving the right to be right (Tristan Thompson over Jonas Valancinuas) in the future,but one thing that cannot be denied is this-The Cleveland Cavaliers are not going to be happy being mediocre,the goal is and was to get strong again and to do so as quickly as possible.
It is nice to see one team in Cleveland that has this view for a change.

I'll be back later with the Browns new show "Frostee and Juqua"!

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tonight we're gonna party like it's 2003?

Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise each scored in the shootout for the only goals of the evening against either Martin Brodeur and Jean-Sebastian Giguere and the New Jersey Devils earned a 1-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche at the Rock.
Martin Brodeur made 28 saves in his second shutout of the season.
The Devils will be off Friday before a Saturday afternoon game against the Penguins on a St.Patrick's Day special that will be the Devils annual throwback uniform day.

Hell Raisers

1) Jean-Sebastian Giguere is the backup goalie for Colorado,but this rematch of goalies from the 2003 Stanley Cup finals showed both goalies at top form.
Giguere has lost much of his edge since the rule that regulated pad size went into effect,but he was more than a match for New Jersey on this night,

2) Martin Brodeur was excellent as well as both goalies repelled several shots from rushes inside the crease.
Neither goalie had to do with too many shots from the outside or breakaways,but both were peppered often from short range and made several excellent saves in keeping the other off the board..

3) Ilya Kovalchuk continued his shootout success with his goal against Giguere. Kovalchuk is now 10 of 12 on the season in the shootout...

4) The game could have ended sooner,but Jacob Josefson missed on two different chances inside the crease against Giguere,
Josefson continues to look for his first goal of the season and these misses could prove one or two things-either Josefson is awfully close to a breakthrough or is snakebitten this year...

5) The game moved very quickly and when the referees call just one penalty on each team,games tend to speed along.
Considering the game was finished in under two and a half hours and included a shootout and overtime,that is a short night...

6) Travis Zajac skated with the team today and looks to be closer to a return to action.
A return of a healthy Zajac and this team could be pretty tough in rolling threatening scoring line come playoff time...

Back later with a look at the move that the Cavaliers made and the one that they did not.

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Cavaliers at the deadline

With the NBA trade deadline approaching,the Cleveland Cavaliers have a choice,deal or stand pat.
The choice that they make will affect the remainder of this season,the off-season and as a result-the future of the franchise.

The Cleveland Cavaliers might have played two of the most important games in the franchise's history in the last two days as it may have set the course for the path that will be taken.
The Cavaliers have fallen two games out of the final playoff position with losses to Toronto and Milwaukee and those losses might have made things easier to make trades today than victories that would have kept them in a virtual tie for the final spot.

The issue is pretty clear-should the team move some of the players that have value to a true contender that could use them or keep them and try to keep the train moving towards grabbing one of those playoff spots?
My opinion in this is just as clear-move whatever player that you can in return for building blocks for the future when just making the playoffs is not the goal,but for the day that the team is capable of making a championship run.

If someone like the Lakers or Hawks (two rumored destinations) offer you a first rounder for Ramon Sessions-you take it.
If a team is interested in Antawn Jamison and is willing to move a first or someone else second that might be a high second rounder,you have to take it and the same goes for Daniel Gibson or anyone else that is not named Irving,Thompson,Varejao and maybe Gee.
Sessions and Jamison will be gone at the seasons end anyway,so why not get a return for them that could be part of the future?
Besides,if either of those players truly loved Cleveland and wanted to return,they certainly could do so after the season as free agents.

What I do not want to see is a shortsighted approach that sees the Cavaliers worry about the now and not about the later.
What is the best case scenario? Finishing in eighth,likely winning one game at best and then being out of the playoffs seems to be the most likely end game to that scenario.
That is not what I think is the best thing for the long term health of the team.

Ramon Sessions is a valuable chip to a contender,while Antawn Jamison could be of use to a contender or as an expiring contract to a lottery member.
In either case,if deals are available,they need to be taken advantage of.
Adding two first rounders to a possible Cavalier lottery selection could be just the ticket to sending Kyrie Irving to the playoffs and with a chance to succeed,not just as cannon fodder for the top seeded team in round one.

Imagine the Cavaliers with two or  three teams worth of ping pong balls in the hopper for the lottery in what could be a multi-starter haul to team with Irving....
Perhaps the Cavaliers could even use those extra picks to move up and add an impact player high in the draft?
None of these things happen by keeping Sessions and Jamison and none of those things happen by standing pat with a mediocre,albeit overachieving team.

The choice is clear-play for tomorrow and not for today.....

Bucked in Milwaukee

The Milwaukee Bucks broke open a close game with runs in the late third and fourth quarters to pull away for a 115-105 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Milwaukee.
Kyrie Irving led Cleveland with 28 points with Alonzo Gee adding 19 with Daniel Gibson tossing in 18 more.

Swashbucklings

1) Former Cavalier Drew Gooden finished with his second triple double against Cleveland this season and he did it without touching the floor in the fourth quarter.
Gooden can be very inconsistent,but I have always liked his game...

2) Kyrie Irving basically carried the Cavaliers with his 28 points and this was not one of those Antawn Jamison nights,where he accumulates points by shooting poorly but often.Irving hit 11 of 16 shots and drilled two from beyond the three point line.
If Irving shoots even close to this,he will be among the best two or three point guards in the game...

3) Daniel Gibson had a great evening off the bench with five three pointers.
Gibson might be the sleeper player that gets moved at tomorrow's trade deadline due to his strong defense and Gibson can shoot the three ball as well....

4) People can say whatever they like about professional athletes not being bothered by things such as trade rumors,but they are human and it has to at least be on their mind on where they would be playing in 24 hours.
Antawn Jamison was 4 of 15 and Ramon Sessions finished 0 for 8 on the night and by coincidence-those are two names most tossed around to possibly be former Cavaliers this afternoon...

5) Alonzo Gee was excellent in the first half and finished with 19 points,but since Gee was installed in the starting lineup,Omri Casspi has seen his time dwindle to just 15 minutes a night.
Casspi had every opportunity to secure his spot and has a long way to go get a starting job back.

6) Could these back to back losses push the Cavaliers back to seller mode today?
Perhaps that will be so,with the Bucks making a trade and the Knicks firing Mike D'Antoni today,the Cavaliers should have a reality check and plan for the future.

Coming up a post will look at the Cavaliers at the deadline,what might happen and what I would do if I were running the team in the next handful of hours...

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Devils shutout in Philly 3-0

The New Jersey Devils watched their four game winning streak end with a 3-0 loss to the Flyers in Philadelphia.
Not much else to report from the scoring side and I apologize for this being late and short,but it was a beautiful day outside and the big man needs to move around more!
The Devils are back tomorrow night at the Rock against Colorado.

Hell Raisers

1) A bad outing for the Devils and worse yet-a lazy one.
Both Flyer goals against Martin Brodeur were off loose pucks in the crease and no defensemen actively cleaning up.
This one will be chalked as just an off night,at least I hope..

2) Adam Larsson has really struggled with getting in the flow since his return from injury.
Larsson was extremely passive in his touch of Jakub Voracek on the second Flyers goal.
I am not sure if Larsson has "hit the wall" or not in shape,but he has been pretty bad since the return.

3) Peter DeBoer gambled on pulling Martin Brodeur with until 5 minutes to go for an extra skater creating a 6 on 4 power play,which promptly resulted in a empty net goal.
Seemed a bit (Well,a lot) soon for this,but considering the cruise control play of the team all night,I can see why he tried it.

4) The Ilya Kovalchuk slash on Sean Couturier was a deserved one,but with due cause as the rookie had chopped Kovalchuk in the stomach with his stick.
As in the playground,the second player gets caught and it was a fair call,but I liked that Kovalchuk battled back instead of meekly taking it.

5) Martin Brodeur might have been the only Devil to show up strong.
Brodeur made several great saves and without such a great effort,this game could have easily been 5-0.

Back on the overnight with what could be three posts,if the internet signal holds up at the Satellite Home Office,which is kind of Dick Nixon's Western White House,I guess.
We will look at the Cavaliers in Milwaukee tonight (I missed the loss to Toronto),a look at the Cavaliers going into tomorrow's trade deadline and the Browns huge free agent signing,snicker...

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Winchester wobbles,will Hagerstown take advantage?

Well,local baseball fans,the door is open for professional baseball to stay in Hagerstown as the Winchester City Council voted 8-0 against the proposed Winchester baseball stadium.

That means the hard work by Mayor Bob Bruchey (who has earned my vote,by the way) has a chance of paying off soon.
A two year lease extension for the Muni could be worked out and voted upon soon that would have stipulations on things progressing towards a new stadium for the Suns.

Now,this is not finished yet,so I would encourage the city council to not drop the ball and get this extension deal done expeditiously and lock things up for a few more years to buy time for more stadium talk.
I am not thrilled with the Baltimore Street location,but one takes what is offered often times in these situations.
I think a closer to an interstate site would help draw more fans from Chambersburg PA,Martinsburg WVA and yes Winchester VA.
Visiting fans that are not familiar with the Hub City often grumble about how difficult it can be to find the Muni,and the proposed location could have similar issues.

However,I do not want to worry about that for now,let's get an extension finished and move on from there.
There will be plenty of time to debate the P's and Q's of the new park that range from building it at all to location and to its other uses,which making it multi-functional or not is the pet project of Ashley Haywood.
A dream scenario for me?
The Suns get their stadium and Ms.Haywood gets what she wants-a multi-purpose facility that could host many different things-in other words an arena/convention center,which Hagerstown has needed for as long as I can remember.
Granted,that is a pipe dream,but imagine a 5,000 seat convention center that could house minor league basketball or hockey,rented out for any private event that you can name,car shows,pro wrestling,various conventions,local civic groups could be based there such as the boys and girls clubs etc.
I can dream,right???

I do feel for Winchester in this scenario.
Not enough to give them the team,mind you,but I do feel for the baseball fans there.
Hang in there,maybe you can find a team yet.
If the desire is truly there,these things have a way of getting done.

In any event,thanks to Bob Bruchey for hanging tough and thanks to Bruce Quinn and his staff for giving Hagerstown every chance to get back into the game.
We still have a runner in scoring position that needs to be driven home,but for now things are looking brighter for the HAGERSTOWN Suns.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Fantasy Browns free agency

We are less than 16 hours as of this writing before the 4 PM beginning of the free agency period for the Cleveland Browns and the rest of the league,so I thought I would take a look at the available free agents.
For this purposes of this post,I'll be selecting a player that I would like to see the Browns go after,although they may not look at things in the same direction.
I am not listing any restricted free agents,such as Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace as the Browns will not be signing any of those players as they will not want to lose the draft choice that would be lost for signing those players.
I realize that the Browns will not be signing a player at every position,but I am going to look at all the positions,just in case.

Quarterback
This is a position that the Browns and I likely agree on-Matt Flynn of the Packers.
Flynn is a gamble,but worth the risk of just dollars.
Cleveland has a narrow window of hope of signing Flynn as the Dolphins were expected to be the top pursuer of Flynn,but they are in the Peyton Manning hunt,which would give the Browns a chance to wrap Flynn up,if they act quickly.
I am not convinced that Flynn is the answer,but he is the closest thing available in free agency....

Running Back
I would like to see the team try to bring Peyton Hillis back,but assuming that does not happen and I have to look at another back,Michael Bush of Oakland would be intriguing to me.
Bush was very effective when Darren McFadden was out with injury and Bush is a player that could help the Browns.

Wide Receiver
Vincent Jackson would be at the top of the list on talent,but the Browns will likely be leery of attitude issues there and to be honest,I do not like the list of big name wideout failures that have changed teams in the past.
The two names that intrigue me the most that could be affordable players and upgrade the team are Pierre Garcon of the Colts and Robert Meachem of the Saints.
Garcon is an all around receiver that could become a number one or a solid two eventually,while Meachem would give the team the deep threat that the Browns currently lack.
A corps of these two,Greg Little and a high draft pick could see Colt McCoy or his replacement with a solid group of pass catchers...

Tight End

The Browns already have Ben Watson,who is dealing with concussion issues and despite the talent of Watson-I would feel uneasy counting on him for 2012,blocker Alex Smith and pass catching types Evan Moore and Jordan Cameron.
Tight end is not a huge need,but John Carlson of Seattle is available and with Carlson's all around skills,he would be a huge pickup.Carlson missed 2011 with a torn labrum,but will be ready to go for this season and is a three down tight end that would allow the team to move away from Watson or at least allow them to waive Smith.
I loved Carlson in Seattle and would love to see him as a Brown.


Tackle
The Browns have a huge need at right tackle even before the release of Tony Pashos,who was an injury and performance problem in his two years as a Brown.
The problem is that I don't see a huge solution in free agency.
If pressed,a player that could help is Buffalo's Demetrius Bell,who has also had injury problems,but has the physical skills to start.

Guard
The guards are stronger than the tackles,which of course is the Browns luck as they need a tackle more than a guard.
New Orleans All Pro Carl Nicks would be an upgrade that might be a luxury that the Browns cannot afford.
Baltimore's Ben Grubbs would be a little cheaper,he knows the division well and would also be a huge insurance policy on the return of Eric Steinbach.
Signing either of these players would be likely the end of Steinbach in Cleveland...


Center
Assuming the Browns were happy with Christian Yount as the long snappper,this is a spot the Browns have no need at.

Defensive End
The Browns do need a pass rusher opposite Jabaal Sheard,but my pick would be Seattle's run stuffer Red Bryant.
Bryant could also move inside and play some tackle,but he is also a huge addition to the special teams as the Browns saw in their win over Seattle,which Bryant was unblockable in the placekicking game.

Defensive Tackle
The Browns tried to trade for Broderick Bunkley last season and instead Bunkley went to Denver and had a solid season.
Bunkley played all season after failing a Cleveland physical and could give the Browns a very strong defensive tackle rotation...

Linebacker
Two players stand out here that could be very helpful and at a reasonable cost.
David Hawthorne has led the Seahawks in tackles for the last three seasons and makes some big plays as well.
Jarret Johnson of Baltimore would be the solid player that could replace the aging Scott Fujita on the outside,
The Browns have to add speed at this position along with a playmaker that is currently lacking on the roster...

Cornerback
The Browns will try to re-sign Dimitri Patterson,but the player of this group that would be a huge addition would be Kansas City's Brandon Carr,who's physical size and skills would enable him to match up with any of the taller/more physical receivers in the game.
Carr would be a great signing...

Safety
LaRon Landry of the Redskins has battled Achilles problems for the last two seasons,but if and that is a large IF,Landry can go 100% and could be signed to an incentive laden deal,Landry would be a All Pro level addition to the Browns.


Just some players to keep an eye on over the next few days and see how many become Cleveland Browns.
The night before free agency for Browns fans is usually far superior to the actual signing period.
After all,it is always nice to dream....

Monday, March 12, 2012

Houston-you had a problem plus trade talks!!

Antawn Jamison's 28 points led six Cleveland Cavaliers in double figures as the Cavaliers outscored the Houston Rockets by 14 points in the final quarter in a 118-107 win at the Q.
Kyrie Irving tossed in 21 points,16 in the final 4:14 and Ramon Sessions added 15 more for Cleveland,which won its third game in a row and has put themselves back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Cleveland will host Toronto on Tuesday before traveling to Milwaukee on Wednesday......

Swashbucklings

1) Kyrie Irving continues to step up in the fourth quarter with huge point displays.
Much of this is the willingness of defenders to allow him to drive the lane for high percentage shots and another factor is being able to hit his free throws.
Funny,how hitting free throws tend to add up....

2) Antawn Jamison was 8 for 16 and hit all eight of his trips to the charity line for his points.
Jamison continues to lead the team in scoring at just over 18 points per contest.

3) Daniel Gibson had a nice game with with 11 points and was + 21 for the game,which was the highest of all players for Cleveland.
Gibson is a such defensive terror that he will roll up super plus/minus numbers when he is able to hit a decent percentage from the floor..

4) Add the name Luis Scola as the latest power forward/center to slash the Cavaliers in the paint.
Scola's 30 points was a season high and Cleveland had no answer for Scola all game from any of the interior options that they tried...

5) Trade rumors are flying all over for the trade deadline.
Some have the Cavaliers being a seller with Antawn Jamison and Ramon Sessions.
Some have Cleveland being a buyer as a rumored trade with Atlanta for Josh Smith and Marvin Williams is bouncing around.
Note:If this is an actual offer,I would have done this before they finished the sentence.
But the most intriguing rumor is with the New Orleans Hornets,who have decided (rumor) that the 28 million dollars owed to Emeka Okafor is enough of a drag that they are willing to add one of their lottery picks (Their own and Minnesota's) to any team willing to take Okafor off their hands.
Cleveland is reported to have made this offer earlier this season and were rebuffed,but things may have changed.
Not only would two first rounders put the Cavaliers closer to a final product,but Okafor will immediately be an improvement in the middle over the riff-raff currently posing as NBA big men.
I have no claims on being a salary cap expert and have no clue whether the Cavaliers can do both of these rumored deals,although it seems by all accounts that they could make one of them for sure,but it does seem to be a fun few days with the team on a three game winning streak and two more games between now and the deadline....

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Top line sizzles,Flyers burn 4-1

The top line of the New Jersey Devils continued its strong play as Ilya Kovachuk and Zach Parise each scored a goal and added two assists as the Devils whipped the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 at the Rock.
The Devils scored three times in the final period as Anton Volchenkov (2),Kovalchuk (30) and Parise (28 power play) all scored after Claude Giroux had tied the game at one apiece seconds into the final period.
Patrik Elias scored the only goal (24 power play) of the first two periods late in the first with a flip over Sergei Bobrovsky on a power play.
The same two teams will meet in Philadelphia Tuesday night...

Hell Raisers

1) Martin Brodeur only needed to make 18 saves and aside from a flashy glove save or two did not have to be spectacular,but he did one thing amazing in the win.
Brodeur won his 650th game in his career,giving Marty 100 more than second place Patrick Roy.
If Marty decides to play next year,675 is almost a sure bet-the bigger question is this-Can Brodeur make it to win 700???

2) Ilya Kovalchuk scored a goal for the third consecutive game,but the bigger play to me was his 2 on 1 pass to Anton Volchenkov for what proved to be the game winner.
Considering the lack of an offensive option with him on the breakaway,Kovalchuk could have easily kept the puck himself despite having a more difficult shot..
Instead,showing the confidence in Volchenkov,he made the pass  and Volchenkov buried the puck in the back of the net.
This Kovalchuk is proving far superior to the higher scoring player in Atlanta...

3) Two assists for Marek Zidlicky,both with the Kovalchuk/Parise combo and one on the power play.
Could we be seeing the beginnings of some chemistry there?

4) I really liked the flipped,tumbling goal by Patrik Elias over Sergei Bobrovsky to end the first period.
The shot came off the stick almost like a clear on a penalty kill,popped up into the air and over Bobrovsky's head and into the net.
Pretty neat from short range....

5) More cheap shots from Zac Rinaldo,this time with a really dirty shot on Ryan Carter that resulted in the power play goal from Zach Parise.
What is it with this guy?
Looks like Philly has their very own Sean Avery with the less than clean play,instigating and refusal to drop the gloves.
Looking forward to seeing this guy pasted by someone....

6) Devils and Flyers now tied for fifth in the conference with 85 points,although the Flyers have one game in hand.
Both teams are 13 points ahead of tied for ninth place Winnipeg and Buffalo.
They may not have clinched yet,but I'd say they are in.

7) The races in the Eastern Conference that look to go down to the wire is in the crummy Southeast Division,where the question is does Florida or Washington get the division and undeserved third seed?
Floria leads Washington by one point right now with the Capitals holding eighth by four points over the Winnipeg/Buffalo pair.
I really do not care who the Devils play in round one,as long as it is not Washington!
I don't think I could stand an entire playoff series of Beninati and Laughlin!!!

Photo Credit:Andy Marlin-Getty Images

Boom Boom! Out goes the Islander lights!!

For the first 58 minutes,the New York Islanders and rookie goaltender Anders Nilsson appeared ready to claim their second 1-0 win over the New Jersey Devils at the Nassau Coliseum in less than a week,
The Devils had something to say about that as after the dust cleared from a wild 14 seconds,the Devils staggered out the door with a 2-1 win over the Islanders.
David Clarkson squeezed the puck through a keyhole sized gap (28) between Nilsson and the left post to tie the game with 1:39 to go just before P.A.Parenteau was called for boarding on Bryce Salvador after the ensuing faceoff.
Marek Zidlicky then beat Nilsson on the power play (1) for the game winner just 14 seconds after the Clarkson goal for the victory.
New Jersey hosts Philadelphia tomorrow at the Rock at seven..

Hell Raisers

1) This was easily the best comeback win this season fir the Devils as the team played with more verve than in the loss at Nassau last week,Anders Nilsson was still standing tall in goal before the dam finally broke.
I must admit that I sure did not see this coming!

2)We kept hearing what Marek Zidlicky was going to bring to the power play and finally it arrived with the game winning goal.
It looked like David Clarkson completed his strong fourteen seconds with a super screen on Anders Nilsson,who never seemed to pick up the puck until it got by him and Zidlicky's shot finally showed just what it is that Lou Lamoriello thought he could add to the franchise.

3) Johan Hedberg was the star of the game to me.Hedberg made save after save and the only shot that that eluded him by John Tavares came off of a lazer pass from behind the net that Hedberg never saw coming.
Hedberg continues to step up in his occasional spot starts and to me was the unsung hero of this win...

4) For a game that finished 2-1 and had no goals for the first two periods,this game was fun to watch.
Between great goaltending,one one breakaways and plenty of hard hitting,this game had about all you could ask for from a 2-1 game except for a fight...

5) Underrated game from Jacob Josefson.No points or anything,but from here,I think that Josefson is on the verge of a breakthrough.
Just a hunch...

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Saturday, March 10, 2012

No RG III,so now what?

Sitting at work and just heard that the St.Louis Rams passed over the Cleveland Browns offer as Mike Holmgren is reported to have dithered on a final offer as the Washington Redskins leaped over Cleveland and obtained the second overall pick in April's draft.

The Redskins traded their top pick in the draft at the sixth spot,their first rounders in the 2013 and 2014 drafts and their second rounder in this years draft in return for moving four spots up in the first round.

Washington will likely wind up with Baylor's Robert Griffin III unless Indianapolis unexpectedly passes on Stanford's Andrew Luck in favor of Griffin.
Washington will have to use free agency well over the next few seasons as the Redskins will be unable to use the draft for the next few seasons to accumulate talent around Griffin.
Considering the Dan Snyder owned Redskins lack of success in free agency in the past,I would not feel particularly great about the chances of Washington doing that very well.
This deal is a huge pill to swallow for the Washington Redskins and the team had better hope Robert Griffin makes the cost worthwhile because if he does not,Washington is going to be a bad football team for a long,long time to come.

And now what for the Cleveland Browns,who thought they could get Griffin over the Redskins,due to their pick being higher in the first round.
The Browns have to hope Griffin is a bust in the making as if he is not,the Mike Holmgren front office could be looking back at the lack of making the deal with the Rams as the mistake that set the franchise back even further.
 The Browns are reported to have been willing to trade the three first rounders,but were not willing to move the second rounder and that is how the Redskins were able to trump Cleveland and finish the deal that landed them Griffin.
I cannot blast the Browns for not making the deal as much as I would have loved to have seen Griffin in Cleveland,considering the Rams asking price.
The Browns have too many needs and holes to be able to justify paying that type of price at this time and I agree with them not making the deal at the cost that Washington paid.

The bigger question is what now for the Browns at quarterback?
The team was expected to be the frontrunner to trade for Griffin,so where does that leave the Browns without him?
Does Colt McCoy get another chance with hopefully some upgraded talent at the skill positions?
Tom Heckert has denied interest in Matt Flynn,but he denied any substantive talks with the Rams as well,could the Browns have a renewed interest in Flynn now that Griffin is out of the picture?
Will the Browns now focus on another quarterback in the draft such as Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill or Oklahoma State's Brandon Weedon and hope that their talent outweighs their limitations?

I do not have an answer for those questions,but I will say this-I would rather see Colt McCoy get another year than spend the Atlanta first rounder on either of those two players.
Tannehill has only been a quarterback for a short time after being a wide receiver initially,while Weedon is 28 years old and is a few years older than Colt McCoy.
It is kinda tough to give up on McCoy for either of those two players,in my opinion.

Where do the Browns go from here? That decision will decide the future of the franchise and most likely this management teams legacy as well...

Photo Credit:Unknown