Thursday, February 28, 2013

Erik Arnesen Interview-Part 2

We finish our talk with Erik Arnesen today.
Thanks again to Erik for taking the time to speak with us...

TRS: Is it tougher to relate to younger players in the minors now than in the past?
Being 28 last season and having far younger teammates were you more of a mentor or do you prefer to
keep to yourself?

EA: Actually, in AAA, 28 is about average; I definitely wasn’t the oldest player on the team last season,
and there weren’t too many young guys. However, I have never had a hard time getting along with the
younger players. During spring training and even in AA I would say I'm more of a mentor. I believe it's
important to play the game the right way and I try to encourage the younger players to do the same. I
strive to be an example on and off the field to all of my teammates.

TRS: Have you talked to other teams about signing with them or are the Nationals your top choice?

EA: I have spoken with other teams, but have not signed anywhere yet. I would have loved to make it
to the big leagues with the Nationals; I gave it everything I had while I was with them and I did my best to
do everything they asked of me. I played with some great guys and for some amazing coaches, and wish
everybody in the organization the best.

TRS: Now that you have two children,does that factor in where you would sign and how much longer that
you want to play?

EA: The toughest part about playing this game is being away from my family. It never gets easier,
and with the kids it actually gets exponentially harder. My wife has always done an amazing job traveling
to see me during the season, and as a general rule, we’ve tried to avoid going any longer than 2 weeks
without seeing each other. While it would be great to play close to home, we’re committed to making it work no matter where I sign. Regarding how much longer I want to play, it’s something my wife and I have discussed, and I’m going to play for as long as the game wants me.

TRS: What is the negotiating like for a minor league free agent? Do you have to sell yourself or are the
teams selling themselves to you?

EA: This is my first year as a free agent and I wasn't really sure what to expect. I have done very
little negotiating with teams; I have a great agent, Billy Martin, Jr., of Pro Agents, Inc., and he’s been
contacting teams. I leave the negotiating in his very capable hands.

TRS: Has it been frustrating dealing with not knowing where you will be playing next season?
Are you frustrated with the Nationals or just the situation?

EA: Not knowing where I’ll be playing next season has been a new experience in uncertainty, and not
exactly pleasant. I’ve always found the off season to be the most frustrating part of playing baseball for
a living. During the season, it's hard to argue with results and what is being done on the field. During the
off season, there are a lot more factors at play that have nothing to do with your performance as a ball
player. It's frustrating, but I don't let the things I can't control affect the way I play or live.

TRS:We always wrap up with a question about faith.
With just one step left to take for your big league dream,and if you never take that step,how will your faith help you to deal with falling short?

EA: In everything I do, I try to give glory to God. I believe we are called to be the absolute best we can
be no matter where we are. I know that I have given all I can to the game and will continue to do so for as long as I can. If I don’t make it to the big leagues, I will not have “fallen short.” As anyone who has played in AAA will tell you, most of the players at that level have the necessary skill and experience to play in the big leagues; at that point, it’s really just about being in the right place at the right time, having the right roster spot open up, and catching the attention of the decision makers. A lot of guys who could have had successful big league careers end up retiring with no big league time; that’s just a reality of the game. I hope that when I do hang up my cleats that it will be after a big league career, but I know I will have no regrets either way. No matter what happens, God gave me a desire to play this wonderful game, the skills and the drive to do it well, and the opportunity to play at a level that every little league player dreams of and most never experience. I am incredibly blessed.

Thanks again,Erik and here is hoping you get a call soon from some lucky organization!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Erik Arnesen Interview-Part 1

Our first interview subject ever returns for a two part series as Erik Arnesen was kind enough to answer a few questions.
Arnesen is currently a free agent after leaving the Washington organization....

TRS; You spent last season with Syracuse for your first full season in AAA,Were there any differences in the
leagues between 2011 and 2012?

EA: 2012 was my first full season in AAA. I only spent a few weeks there in 2011 and spent
the remainder of the year in AA. The biggest difference that I have noticed between AA and AAA is
experience. The majority of the players in AAA have either spent time in the big leagues or are good
enough to play there and are just awaiting an opportunity. AA on the other hand will have a lot more
younger prospects, with a ton of potential but not a lot of experience.

TRS:You became an almost entirely a reliever last season,did you enjoy that role or did you prefer being in
the rotation?

EA: Early in my career I would have said that I prefer being a starter, but over the course of the last
several seasons I have learned to enjoy being a reliever. At this point I am happy doing whatever it takes
to pitch in the big leagues. I understand how to pitch and what I need to do to get people out. Starting and relieving are very different in terms of an approach to hitters, but both present challenges that make the respective roles fun. I have learned how to be successful as a starter and as a reliever. Spot starting, on the other hand, I have found to be the most challenging, which I think most pitchers would agree with. It’s
especially difficult late in the season, when your pitch count has been at a certain place, and then you’re
expected to throw substantially more in one outing.

TRS: Did the team think relieving was the best way for you to make the bigs? Or was it simply the best way
to fill a need?

EA:As a player, you’re generally not privy to the reasoning behind roster decisions. During spring
training last year I was throwing as a starter; I built up my innings and I thought I was in the rotation even
when I got to Syracuse. It wasn't until the rotation was posted that I learned I was relieving. It was a role
they needed filled and I was happy to do it.

TRS:The Syracuse Chiefs do much of their travel by air,but through smaller airports,did you find that limited
the camaraderie or enhanced it compared to the bus...

EA: The toughest part about flying instead of busing is how early the flights are. Everyone is half-
asleep or actually asleep on the plane. It does limit the camaraderie a bit, but there are plenty of long bus
trips to make up for it. Flying is usually a welcomed change in the travel routine.

TRS: Your strikeouts were down a bit last season,do you attribute that to AAA hitters or a pitch to contact
mentality from the pen?

EA: My strikeouts being down a bit last year I would contribute primarily to my role as a long reliever;
coming into a game, I knew that I had to do my best to keep my pitch count down and eat up a few
innings. Strategically, that doesn’t lend itself to a lot of strikeouts. Of course, the experience of many of
the hitters and their ability to battle in deeper counts also played a role.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Jets defeat Devils 4-2

A day late,but the Winnipeg Jets surprised a flat New Jersey Devils team and grabbed a 4-2 decision Sunday night at the Rock.
The Devils received goals in the second period from Travis Zajac and Steve Bernier to hold a 2-1 lead before three unanswered goals lifted Winnipeg to the win.
The Devils will visit Winnipeg on Thursday...

Hell Raisers

1) Martin Brodeur was scheduled to get the start,but had issues in the pre-game warmups and was unable to play.
The Devils announced that the issue is with Brodeur's back and they did not say if Brodeur would be able to play in Winnipeg.

2) Considering the lack of preparation time for Hedberg,he did not play that poorly,but he was not sharp either.
Hedberg had one goal go off his glove and another was attributed to a missed poke check.
I could give him a pass because of the circumstances,but still...

3) Evander Kane's goal came off a very soft Adam Larsson pass.
Young or not,that was a pass that in that area needed to be zipped with some velocity.
Larsson just handed the puck in open ice to a speedy finisher and New Jersey paid the price.

4) The officials missed a call late in the game as Ron Hainsey covered and threw the puck out of the crease .
Marek Zidlicky took the puck and fired it into the net.
I could have lived with a penalty or a penalty shot,of course a goal would have been better,but to get nothing with a referee standing right in front of the play?

5) Just a dull,listless performance and a continued lack of pop from the offense.
I cannot blame the loss of Dainius Zubrus on the decreased production,but the team definitely needs something and it might take more than Alexei Ponikarovsky for that.
The defense bunch is less than strong and I cannot say I am thrilled with them considering the money spent on some of them.
This might be a short term issue,but I am somewhat concerned  about the play of late and it needs to pick before a slump becomes a habit...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Capitals late rush drop Devils 5-1

For over two periods,the New Jersey Devils played fairly well and as a result,their game against the Washington Capitals was a close one.
In the third,it was a different story and Washington drove away with a 5-1 win.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored the Devils only goal (7) in the second period.
The Devils get little downtime as they host Winnipeg this afternoon...

Hell Raisers

1) The Devils continue their surprisingly poor recent play on the penalty kill as Washington scored two power play goals.
New Jersey has now allowed 12 goals when down a man in the last eight games....

2) Easy to blame Johan Hedberg for his puck gaffe' for the shorthanded goal when the Capitals put the game in the sack,but Andy Greene never got into position to help Hedberg out.
Hedberg was supposed to set the puck up for Greene,who never got there as he was muscled off the play.
Hedberg needed to move the puck of course,but Greene had his share of the blame too.

3) Steve Bernier missed on a penalty shot,but I was hoping that the Devils would have gotten another call on the play.
Bernier had never taken a penalty shot and I don't ever remember seeing him take part in the shootout either.
The Devils were on the power play,so given a choice (They didn't have one),I would have rather had a five on three than a Bernier penalty shot...

4) On the first of the three Alex Ovechkin goals,Anton Volchenkov didn't even try to put the body on Ovechkin as he was afraid Ovechkin would put the moves on him.
Instead by not touching him,he was abused in a different way as Ovechkin had plenty of space to shoot through.
Volchenkov's strength is his physical play,he needs to play to it...

5) All and all,a weak third period overshadowed a decent enough first two,albeit one with defensive breakdowns and a split of two games in three days on the road cannot be looked at as a failure.
However,the issues on the penalty kill are becoming alarming and for the third time in four games,the Devils scored just one goal.
Things are beginning to get interesting....

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Friday, February 22, 2013

Devils 3-2 win starts DC pair

Ilya Kovalchuk's third period bullet (6 power play) beat Braden Holtby on a five on three power play to break a two all tie and give the New Jersey Devils a 3-2 win in the first of a two game set in Washington against the Capitals.
Patrik Elias scored the teams first goal in the second period shorthanded (5) and Andrei Loktionov tied the game in third period play off an Adam Larsson rebound (1) for his first goal as a Devil.
The same two teams in the same place tomorrow afternoon at noon...

Hell Raisers

1) This was a crazy and not all that well played game that saw both teams (and fans) howling at the officiating.
The Devils were the victims in the first and second of some borderline calls and Washington in the third.
Not a stellar night for the officials and I bet Saturday is a closer called game....

2) I usually get very vocal about Ilya Kovalchuk's dancing with the puck and not shooting enough on the power play and once again,Kovalchuk did just that and often,but his game winner showed just why when he chooses to fire,he is among the most feared sniper in the game.

3) Andrei Loktionov's first goal as a Devil was one of grunt work as he slammed home a rebound from short range off an Adam Larsson shot.
That type of goal is the type that good teams find a way to score and that is just the type of goal that Jacob Josefson (Loktionov's predecessor) never seemed to find a way to score.

4) I thought Andy Greene and Henrik Tallinder had rough evenings.
Both players seemed to be constantly a step behind and I didn't think either played well at all...

5) Loved the Patrik Elias shorthanded goal,but the real play was made by Adam Henrique,who kept the puck alive along the boards,won possession and then made the pass to a drive to the net by Elias.
Have to love hustle plays....

6) Ilya Kovalchuk was terrific (loads of ice time) and the Devils logged lots of power play time,but the key was the five on five play.
This game was not especially well played,but the Devils dominated at even strength and that made the difference...

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cleaning out the Inbox

Apologies for missing the Devils loss to Ottawa on Monday.
Lots going on at the world headquarters and things were and still are hectic for a while.
I decided instead of doing a recap of a game from a few days ago,I'll dump the inbox and get that finished....

First,a goodbye to Fred Talbot at 71.
The journeyman pitcher would likely have been long forgotten.if not for his appearance in Jim Bouton's classic Ball Four as a Bouton antagonist.
Talbot was the target of two practical jokes in the book,most famously for his homer for Donald Dubois in "Home Run for the money",which was a promotion of the Seattle Pilots for fans.
Talbot received a letter from Dubois,(written by Bouton) offering him a stake from the winnings,which was not the case.
Ryan and I have used "Dear Mr Talbert" (spelling error as in the book) too many times through the years to count....

My favorite classic baseball site is Hardball Times and they are doing a series on the Cubs which has been very interesting.
The series has completed two parts comprising of 1961-65 and 1966-69.
Good stuff whether you are a Cubs fan or just a fan of 60's baseball....

Cannot believe the Olympics have removed wrestling from the games.
With all the trash sports that have been added through the years and the one that is picked to go is one that dates back to the original games?

Another Grantland score with this one on the splintering of the Big East.
I am only a casual college hoops fan,but the proposed conference of the hoops only schools with a few additions might pique my interest.
Any league that will not breaking itself up for football might earn a fan in me...

More Grantland as Grill em all takes Best Coast guitar man Big Bobb Bruno as he talks Best Coast,the guitar and burgers.
I just discovered Best Coast in the last six months or so,but I listen to their stuff a lot....

You all know my long time opinion on Gus Johnson being the worst announcer around,but the media is starting to catch on too!
Will Leitch says what I have been saying for years here.
Take that with the news that Fox is grooming Johnson for its main voice for soccer and finally there is Gus Johnson news that I can get behind!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bob Bruchey in as Hagerstown Suns GM

It's been a long day at the home office.
Make that a Looooong day,but one piece of news bumped the Devils 2-1 shootout loss to Ottawa off our page for the day.
If time permits,I'll have a look at the loss later.

The big news is with the Hagerstown Suns as Bill Farley has resigned as the Hagerstown Suns general manager and the replacement on an "interim" tag of 2013 is former Hagerstown Mayor Bob Bruchey.
This is somewhat of a surprise this late in the winter as Farley resigned " to seek other opportunities",which basically is PR for he had a better offer somewhere else.

I never had any issues with Bill Farley,who always went out of his way to be nice to me,but I always got the feeling that this was just another job.
Nothing wrong with that and baseball is a business,but I believe things usually are better when we do a job that we are passionate about and that was just a perception that I had.

Bob Bruchey is a person that I have never met,unless you count my appearance before him at a city council meeting last year,so I do not have a preconceived notion of him as so many do after his terms as the mayor of the city.
However,this does look bad.
I don't think that the hiring of Bruchey was a prid quo pro for his support for a new stadium,but many will believe just that.
Such an arrangement might make sense from Bruchey's point,but makes little from the Suns point of view.
Bruchey's pull with a new city council is very limited with one member in particular more likely to vote against anything the team needs with Bruchey involved.
Bruce Quinn public statement that Bruchey will not be involved any way with stadium negotiations and any other issues that need to be worked on with the city was a smart one.
If the Suns are able to keep Bruchey as the GM and not as the main negotiator that will go a long way in showing that this was not a repayment for services rendered and any controversy could slowly die off.

I am interested in seeing what changes the team has in store for the year and I do not have anything against Bob Bruchey,who I give credit for working hard to keep baseball in Hagerstown,albeit having a flawed plan for a stadium location in an almost universally hated location might have been the arrow that doomed the entire project as well Bruchey's re-election bid,but there are still questions about how draw fans to a crumbling facility and fight off a perception of why should fans come to support a team that many believe (not I) that is aching to leave town.

2013 just got a whole lot more interesting......

Monday, February 18, 2013

Jordan Conley Interview-Part 5

We finish our interview with Jordan Conley today.
We will be covering today's Devils-Senators game and will starting another interview later this week.
Thanks again to Jordan Conley for taking the time to share his thoughts with us.

TRS: Have the Marlins asked you to work on anything in the off season?

JC: Every year they give us an off-season workout packet and ask us what our goals are for next season. We combine our own goals with some recommendations from them and come up with a plan. Usually it includes fitness type stuff like gaining weight or strengthening something like your lower body or working on flexibility. For pitchers it includes an off-season throwing program, when to start throwing, how far to throw, and how long to throw. Then later getting into bullpen sessions.

TRS: Do you attend any Xavier basketball games in the off season?

JC: Honestly I haven't been to a Xavier game since I went there. even when I went there I probably went to 2 games. If you are a student at Xavier you have to wait in line the day prior to the game to get a ticket and sometimes even camp out for tickets. With an extensive baseball practice schedule this was just not possible. The students there are crazy about the basketball program, some might of even of based their whole decision to come to Xavier on the basketball. I wasn't even going to try to compete with those nuts to get a ticket.

TRS: What do you do in the downtime as a hobby to get away from baseball?

JC: During the season there really isn't much downtime but when there is a rare off day I like to go fishing or hopefully if my wife is in town we go do something like going to the movies or have a nice dinner which is great after eating post game spreads every night. In the off-season I work with a guy who does home improvement and an occasional full house rehab. I love working on homes and would like to get into flipping houses someday. I obviously love sports as well and root on all the hometown teams: Reds, Bengals, Buckeyes, Bearcats, and Musketeers. I am also a man of faith and like going to church. I thank God everyday for the gift I've been given. When the baseball season becomes a grind you just have to think of how many other people would love to be doing what you have the opportunity to do. When you play baseball for as long as I have it becomes part of your identity as a person. It's what you do and what your known for but really it's not what matters in life. What really matters is your relationship with Jesus Christ because he is the only one that knows your future. If baseball was taken away and I was done I would be fine. He has a plan for me and he would never lead me into something I can't handle as long as I am faithful to him.

 TRS: Finally,you are known for some strong political opinions,do you see yourself as politically active or just concerned about the direction of country today?

JC: I love politics and am not afraid to let people know how I see it and voice my opinion on the topic. I am very concerned about our country and am very afraid we are losing sight of the morals that our country is based on. We need God in our country that is the key in which we are losing sight of and you can see where that's taking us. We could be in the middle of the the worst presidency in our history. We have no rights anymore case and point is making a national healthcare system mandatory. Now Obama wants to bypass Congress to ban guns. That is not a Democracy that is a dictatorship or a monarchy. The very thing most of our ancestors fled. Taking guns away started the Revolutionary War. Hitler banned guns and look what he did. Chicago banned handguns and their crime rate went up. He has added more debt than all the other presidents combined. I just don't understand how the American people can't see what is going on here. I feel like we are uninformed by liberal media and people are more interested in a celebrity as president and are oblivious to the facts. I just wish these people good luck finding a decent job and hope the people who are getting a smaller paycheck because of the new taxes in place realize their mistake. I pray for the direction of our country. I don't know why we're going down this path but God has a reason for everything.

Thanks again,Jordan!
Photo Credit:Jordan Conley

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tavares a terror as Devils drop decision

The New York Islanders used two silly penalties to break open a scoreless game late in the second period to score 2 power play goals among a three goal blitz and cruised thereafter to a 5-1 win over the New Jersey Devils at the Nassau Coliseum.
John Tavares finished with a hat trick for the Islanders and only a third period goal on the power play by Marek Zidlicky (1) allowed the Devils to avoid the shutout.
New Jersey gets one day off before a Presidents Day matinee' against the battered Ottawa Senators.

Hell Raisers

1) This game was decided by two dumb penalties by veteran defensemen that should know better.
Bryce Salvador was called for a high stick that was mainly part of a push and shove battle with Matt Martin,which as mom and dad always told us,the second person always gets caught.
Henrik Tallinder then was called for an easily avoidable tripping penalty for another power play that resulted in the kill shot for the evening.
I expect more from veterans.

2) Speaking of Tallinder,he had been scratched for the previous few games and had complained about it somewhat.
After his performance in last night's game,I would not be against some more downtime for the Swede.
Could it have been rust? Perhaps,but if I am picking by performance,Tallinder returns to the bench...
Tallinder also was called for a hook that led to an Islander penalty shot.

3) Johan Hedberg tailed off in the third period,but the second period goals were not his fault,especially one goal that was set up by a Andy Greene swing and miss that brought Nick Swisher to mind.
Hedberg also gets credit for a nice save on a penalty shot against David Ullstrom,so an evening that was not as bad as five goals looks on the scoresheet...

4) I know it seems like I am picking on the defense.but it deserves it as I cannot pick one guy that had a nice game.
Adam Larsson was average,I suppose and Marek Zidlicky scored a goal,which made up for the one that he could be blamed for,but the rest are better unmentioned than particularly mentioned...

5) Rachel will hate to see this,but Jacob Josefson makes me wonder.
Every time that I think that he is on the verge of putting things together,he disappears for games at a time.
Josefson has just one assist on the season....

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Devils straighten up-defeat Flyers 5-3

The New Jersey Devils watched a fast start and lead disappear within two minutes as the Philadelphia Flyers scored three first period goals and a 3-1 lead for the visitors.
Thereafter the Devils chipped away,tied the game in the second and when David Clarkson redirected (10) a Adam Larsson shot into the net,the Devils had completed their rally for a 5-3 win.
Ilya Kovalchuk assisted on the first three goals and Patrik Elias finished the game with a goal (4) and two assists.
The remaining Devils goals to Steve Bernier (4 empty net),Alexei Ponikarovsky (3) and Travis Zajac (3).
The Devils travel to the dump in Nassau County tonight at seven for their last trip of the season against the Islanders.

Hell Raisers

1) Horrible first period.
As easy as it is to look at the scoresheet and think that Martin Brodeur played poorly in the first period,it just is not true.
Brodeur's play kept Philadelphia from at least two more goals in the first period at minimum,which in the end allowed the Devils to stay afloat until the rally was started...

2) Terrific play by Adam Larsson on the game winning goal by David Clarkson.
The Devils were pressing the action on the forecheck when the Flyers Matt Read attempted to clear the puck.
Larsson grabbed the puck in mid air,when it truly should have made it out of the zone and almost in one smooth motion moved the disc to the ice and fired the puck on net.
A super play and in what was his best game of the season,Adam Larsson shows the promise of a number one defenseman....

3) David Clarkson hit double digits in goals with the game winner as he continues to lead the team in goals.
Looks like a nice contract on the horizon for Clarkson this summer..

4) Alexei Ponikarovsky scored in his return to the team off an Ilya Kovalchuk pass enabled him to beat Ilya Brzygalov..
Ponikarovsky played on the Kovalchuk line with Travis Zajac and did not miss a beat.
The return of Ponikarovsky means less PT for Stefan Matteau,who was scratched and will be the main loser with the addition to the lineup.

5) Martin Brodeur assisted on the Ponikarovsky goal with a long bomb of a pass to Ilya Kovalchuk.
Plays like that is what makes Brodeur Brodeur-the unparalleled handling of the puck.

6) Mattias Tedenby suffered a serious cut to his face in Albany as the A-Devils took on Adirondack.
Tedenby drove to the net and as he went to the ice was slashed by an opponent and will require some plastic surgery to correct the issue.
Best wishes to Tedenby.

Photo Credit;AP Photo

Friday, February 15, 2013

Jordan Conley Interview-Part 4

We continue our interview with Miami Marlins prospect Jordan Conley.
I'll have Devils coverage (which so few of you read Ha Ha) over the next two days and then finish off our interview with Jordan after that.
I'll then take a few days off before starting our next interview..

TRS: The jump from High A to AA is often thought of as the most difficult,did you find it to be different and if so,how?

JC: I would say this is very accurate. The hitters are smarter and much more talented. they will sit on that one pitch and if they get it they usually don't miss. At lower levels they might foul off that pitch but in AA they don't miss it. You have to spot up and execute your pitches. If you miss a spot your going to pay for it. Also as a reliever and a 5 games series they might see you multiple times in a week long series so they know you and what pitches you tend to throw in certain counts. So execution of your pitches is essential to survive as well as changing up your tendencies.

TRS: What is good or bad about playing in the somewhat sterile environment of the Florida State League?

JC: I guess you just have to look at it as you still have a job and its all part of your development to get to the next level. All the guys in the big leagues had to do the same thing so you just have to motivate yourself a little more everyday. It's weird sometimes playing in an empty stadium so you can't thrive off of that fan energy. That's where your own self motivation has to kick in. You have to bring out that competitiveness from within that drives you to be the best for yourself and your team whether the fans are there or not. Look, I know about no fans since I went to a small school. It's nothing new, if you don't have it within you to want to beat each and every hitter that steps into the box in whatever league your playing in then you're probably not cutout for a competitive sport.

TRS:  Looking back at the SAL,FSL and Southern Leagues,did you have any favorite parks and/or cities in each of those leagues?

 JC:  Although I haven't been to all of the places in the Southern League the one that stands out the most is Pensacola. its a brand new park with a great fan base. not to mention the park is right on the ocean. It helped that it is the affiliate of the Reds which is my hometown team in which I'm not afraid to say that I still pull for except when they play the Marlins of coarse. I did get the opportunity to play at Fenway when I was in the NY/Penn League which was a chance of a lifetime.

TRS; Least favorite in each?

JC:The worst was definitely Hagerstown. I could go on and on about that place as I did before but I think I'll leave it at that.

Editor's Note:Ever wonder why every person that does an interview with TRS ranks Hagerstown and the Muni at the bottom?????
Makes one wonder why this town even needs a new stadium, doesn't it?

Photo Credit:Jordan Conley

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Alexei Ponikarovsky returns to the Devils Den

Lou Lamoriello was forced into a corner yesterday and he attempted to fight his way out with the addition of former Devil Alexei Ponikarovsky from the Winnipeg Jets.
Ponikarovsky had left the organization after a half season with the Devils last year,having been brought in from Carolina and performed well in scoring seven goals and eleven assists along with a strong postseason run.
New Jersey sent a 7th round pick in the 2013 draft and a 4th rounder in the 2014 draft to Winnipeg  in order to bring the former Devil back into the fold.

Ponikarovsky scored two goals for Winnipeg this season in his short tenure with the Jets after signing a one year deal that Lamoriello said was signed despite the Devils interest in retaining him,they "had to wait on someone else".
That someone else was Zach Parise.

The Devils needed to make a deal because Dainius Zubrus will miss between two to eight weeks after surgery on a wrist.
Zubrus has missed the last few games with said injury and the team says it will know more in the next day or so on how long Zubrus will be out of the lineup,which explains the wide difference in the possible timetable for a return.

Good deal for the Devils,who either need someone to take up some offensive slack for the loss of Zubrus or if the injury is not a longer term one,someone that instantly improves the lower lines as well as provide a seamless transition with his experience with the team.....

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sluggish Devils end winning streak

The New Jersey Devils just seemed a little off last night against the visiting Carolina Hurricanes,but for a while,they just might pull off a win.
Sadly,a third period defensive breakdown and an empty netter,allowed the Hurricanes to escape with a 4-2 win over New Jersey at the Rock.
Devils goals to Ilya Kovalchuk (5 power play) and Ryan Carter (2).
The Devils are off until Friday and the Philadelphia Flyers.....

Hell Raisers

1) Defensive breakdowns.
That says it all in this one and that is so unlike Devils hockey.
Andy Greene was completely out of position on one Carolina goal and on another Carolina goal saw a fluttering puck that saw Bryce Salvador and Anton Volchenkov standing around and the deflection went in...

2) The play of the game? Mark Fayne's very dumb penalty in the third penalty for interference gave Carolina the power play that would win the game.
Fayne has to be smarter as it was a retaliation penalty as he jostled with Jeff Skinner and as usually happens in life-the second guy gets caught...

3) The Devils still almost pulled this one out as a late game rally saw two almost goals.
Patrik Elias and Adam Henrique just missed on a 2 on 1 chance shorthanded and with Martin Brodeur pulled from the net,the 6 on 5 bunch had a few good opportunities as well with a sprawling Bobby Butler's chance the best of the crew.

4) Ryan Carter tied the game in the third with a slick steal and shot which showcased a nice touch.
Carter has been far more than I expected after a waiver claim last season.

5) This game looked like a trap game with the Devils coming off two division games against Pittsburgh and a home game against a non-division opponent.
Don't forget this note-the Devils really don't think of Carolina often,while the Canes look at the Devils as a rival.

6) Funny point on the Ilya Kovalchuk goal saw the puck go past Cam Ward,but with the speed of the shot,the refs and goal judge didn't see it go in.
The result was the goal could not be reviewed until play stopped-which it didn't for three more minutes.
After the goal was given on the review,the clock returned to the time that the puck went into the net,so three minutes of hockey were played,that really weren't officially played.
Sounds like a bad Doctor Who episode,which is REALLY bad.....
A pumped up team against a flat one can mean an upset in the making.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Indians ink Michael Bourn and some reclaimation projects..

In somewhat of a surprise signing,the Cleveland Indians added speedy center fielder Michael Bourn to the top of their lineup by signing the former Brave to a four year contract worth 48 million dollars.

Bourn had been having trouble finding a team despite his skills due to the new agreement for compensation as teams outside of the top ten would have surrendered their first pick in the amateur draft.
The Indians sent Atlanta a third rounder as their pick is in the top ten,so it is protected and the Wahoo's second rounder was shipped to the Yankees for the signing of Nick Swisher.

Bourn slots right into center field as the leadoff batter and will likely keep Michael Brantley in left field for the time being.
Bourn hit around his career average last season (low .270's) and stole 42 bases with the Braves.
Add to that,his plus defensive ability in the outfield and Bourn brings some zip to a team in need of it.

That said,this is not a perfect deal.
Bourn does strike out a lot (155 times last season) and I am a little concerned about a four year contract for a player that relies so much on speed as the major part of his game at thirty years of age.
However,this is Cleveland and teams in this market often times have to overpay in either money or years,so while not ideal,it is understandable for the Indians to go the extra mile to reel Bourn in.

I have often been critical of the Indians for their discount shopping,but apparently the team is pouring some of the profits of the Sports Time Ohio sale into the team,so one cannot complain about that.
Discount shopping is not all bad as I have a sneaky suspicion that Cleveland just might get some mileage of Daisuke Matsuzaka this season,assuming he stays healthy.

Matsuzaka might be set for the second year bounce from the Tommy John surgery and if he has anything left,Terry Francona might be able to get it out of him with the familiarity with his background.
The former Seibu Lions star was pounded last season in eleven starts in Boston finishing with an ERA above eight,but one intriguing stat makes me ponder-41 strikeouts in 45 innings.
That tells me that the stuff is still there and with a full spring,Francona and new surroundings that Matsuzaka just might surprise some people....

I am not as hopeful on the addition of Jason Giambi to a minor league contract.
The 42 year old Giambi hit just one homer last season in Colorado,which tells me that this goose is likely cooked.
I would be surprised if Giambi makes the team,but I suppose he is worth a look at least.

The Indians have added some names to the team over this off season,let's see if they improved their team with those names.....

Jordan Conley Interview-Part 3

Our interview with Jordan Conley continues today.
Best wishes to Jordan,who was in an auto accident,but seems to be fine after the accident.

TRS: Have you found it tough working your way through the system as an undrafted free agent?

JC: I definitely think I'm behind the 8 ball. They don't have any money invested in me like the do with some of the draft guys. So if I crash and burn then there's no loss. If its between me and a money guy then there most likely going to send me packing. I feel as if I have no room for error where those guys get chance after chance. I have to put up numbers and be successful every season where those guys might have a bad year and get another invite to spring training. I finally felt as if they had actually noticed me last year when I got sent to AA. I mean I was an All Star closer in the Rookie ball and the put me in extended spring training the next spring. It's like what do I have to do to prove to you that I can play at this level? So that's exactly what I've been doing and by the grace of God I'll keep doing it. I look at it as more doubters that I'm going to have to prove wrong once again until I'm in the big leagues.

TRS: Your numbers have been strong at every stop,do you think that you are on schedule in your development?

JC: To be honest with you i don't think anyone though I would make it this far. I have moved up a level every year so I would have to say yes. I have been one of the oldest guys on the team throughout since I was a four year college guy and didn't skip the stop in the Gulf Coast League as some players do. But the move to AA last year had me with guys more my age. It sounds crazy but I kind of feel old at 26 in the minor leagues especially when you see many guys in their early twenties already in the bigs.

TRS;  I met you in Hagerstown,do you have any thoughts or memories about Greensboro's stop at the Muni?

JC: Oh yes, I was their for the media frenzy of Stephen Strasburg's debut after Tommy John surgery. I've never seen so many cameras in my life and when our young catcher JT Realmuto who was straight out of high school took him deep to the opposite field was pretty memorable. Then there was Bryce Harper who had his own following that was pretty crazy as well especially after he hit a bomb and then blew a kiss to our pitcher that made sportscenter.

TRS: What are the memories of the Bryce Harper kiss night? Were the Hoppers really ticked about it? I was in the stands and it looked like Harper said something to the pitcher first,then a response and then the kiss. What did the team think? Did the team consider retribution? and what did you think/what would you have done had you been on the mound?

JC:  If you didn't notice he really pimped that home run.(Editor's Note:I definitely noticed and we will hear an opposing view in an upcoming interview)  Any pitcher with any competitiveness is going to take exception to something like that. As he strolled around third I think our pitcher said something to him and he said something back and blew him a kiss. Our catcher wasn't too happy about it either. Personally I wanted to go into that game so bad just to hit him. But when it's a one run ballgame it's not the time. You don't show up a team like that to not expect some time of payback. The next game everyone wanted a crack at him but we were advised not to do anything. Management didn't want the publicity of it and we were instructed to do our talking on the field with a win.

TRS: Where does Hagerstown rank among the worst places that you have played?

JC: I would have to say it ranks up there with Jamestown and Batavia as the worst. I remember a huge sod patch in short left field that was raised about 2 inches higher that the rest of the grass because the light pole had crashed onto the field. Then there were the hills in the outfield and a dugout that was the size of a shoebox. But the one thing that I will never forget is the locker room. It was the size of a bedroom and there were 30 guys in there. As we all know there are a lot of guys naked in a locker room and with personal space at a minimum it wasn't very pleasant. Then having only 3 shower heads in working order made it a cluster to get out of there after a game.

TRS: Last season you spent some time at AA Jacksonville,most of the players that I talk to are AA Eastern League vets,the Southern League is more noted for long bus trips,how does the SL rank in travel against the Low A South Atlantic League?

JC: We had a long one up to Lakewood, NJ in the the SALLY League but being in Jacksonville we were the farthest east team in the league. So the bus trips are all long overnight trips usually besides Pensacola. Being called up to AA mid season didn't help either. On one trip being that I was the new guy and low man on the totem pole their weren't enough seats on the bus so I had to spend the entire trip on the floor. You talk about miserable. But I guess it makes for a good story to tell!

Photo Credit:Jordan Conley

Monday, February 11, 2013

Popping the Penguins Again...

The New Jersey Devils completed a weekend sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins with an identical 3-1 win,this time in Pittsburgh.
David Clarkson sandwiched two goals (8 and 9 power play) around an Ilya Kovalchuk goal (4) for the Devils scores.
Johan Hedberg finished with 23 saves on the evening in a spot start.
The Devils return to action on Tuesday against Carolina..

Hell Raisers

1) Ilya Kovalchuk ripped a shot by Tomas Vokoun on a 2 on 1 with Adam Henrique,but the underrated play was by Stefan Matteau,who set the play up with a hustling takeaway from former Devil Paul Martin.

2) David Clarkson continues his lamp lighting with two more that were scored in different manners.
Clarkson fired one past Vokoun on a 2 on 1 breakaway and the other was chipped in off a Patrik Elias rebound.
The maturation of Clarkson's game has been fun to watch over the last two seasons....

3) Loved the play of Johan Hedberg,who has played well in each start.
Hedberg has done exactly what you hope that you get from your backup goalie-play well enough to give your team a chance to win.

4) Slow start for the Devils,who put only six shots on the board in a first period that saw the Devils on their heels for most of the period.
All of that and the defense managed to surf the wave to allow the Devils to keep from being overwhelmed early...

5) However,the second period might have been one of the best played thus far.
The Devils took the game to Pittsburgh and did not allow the Penguins to have any offensive flow at all in the period.
Looking at the total game,this was exceedingly well played and took the life right out of the Penguins.

6) One quarter of the season in the books-first place in not only the division,but in the conference!
I'll take it!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Power play picks off Penguins

Two third period power play goals lifted the New Jersey Devils to a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first of a weekend set between the two squads.
The home victory lifted the Devils into a tie for first along with Pittsburgh.
Adam Henrique scored the game winner (4) off a Bobby Butler rebound in the third period.
Butler would then salt the game away on another man advantage (1) shortly thereafter.
Stefan Matteau scored his first career goal to tie the game in the second period.
Same two teams Sunday night in Pittsburgh....

Hell Raisers

1) One thing about Bobby Butler-he is not afraid to put shots on the net.
Butler may have finished with just one shot on the game,but he seems to have a knack for getting the puck around the net-and that leads to rebounds and....

2) Adam Henrique did just that in burying a Butler rebound.
Henrique reminds me of another star of Devils past-Kirk Muller.
I cannot quite put my finger on why,but Adam Henrique has a career like Kirk Muller's,I'll be pretty happy...

3) Martin Brodeur only allowed one goal,but was in a funny spot that saw him scramble for his stick and almost allow a goal from down the ice.
Pittsburgh was called offsides,so even if the puck had gone in,it would not have counted,but it did make my heart race a bit!

4) Two assists for Andy Greene as Greene has rebounded from a slow start.
Greene's fake shot and pass to a open Stefan Matteau was very nice and indicative of his recent upturn in play....

5) Still way too many penalties (six),but the referees did call this game very tight as they called ten on the Penguins.

6) Krys Barch had an impressive fight vs Derek Engelland,but he almost scored a goal with an impressive drive to the net. Barch might be just another tough guy,but Barch has impressed me more by not being as much of a liability as the usual fighter...

7) Congrats to Stefan Matteau on his first goal.
Matteau has a long way to go in his development,but the physical tools are there for him to be a solid power forward.

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Cleaning out the Inbox

Time to clean out the inbox with a few notes...

We start with some thanks to the readership.
Things have begun to bounce back here and it is appreciated!

Two goodbyes from the baseball world.

Goodbye to former Indians and Senators outfielder Chuck Hinton.
Hinton passed away at the age of 78 from complications of Parkinson's Disease.
Hinton did not make the big leagues until the age of 27,but complied a solid career that saw he hit over .300 twice and was the last Senator to accomplish the task.....

We just mentioned former catcher Earl Williams a few weeks ago and he too passed recently at the age of 64.Williams had been battling leukemia.
The power hitting backstop hit 58 homers in his first two years in Atlanta,but watched his career spiral downwards thereafter due to a trade to Baltimore.

A non-sports goodbye to Chris Kyle-author and military sniper.
Kyle was killed as he attempted to help a veteran that had been struggling with his return to the country.
The all time leader in confirmed kills (sorry,if that sounds like a sports stat) with 160,Kyle wrote a best selling autobiography after his return home from duty.
Chris Kyle was 38.

The Browns released starting defensive end Frostee Rucker after Rucker's one season in Cleveland.
This was an expected move after the announcement of the switch to the 3-4 defense,in which Rucker's skills make him a poor fit for.
Rucker was the biggest name of last seasons free agents (says a lot) and finished with four sacks on the year....

The John T.Brush stairway is being restored.
What is the John T. Brush stairway? It is a long and narrow stairway that was used starting in 1913 to connect fans from the upper part of Harlem and the former home of the Giants,Yankees and Mets to the Polo Grounds.
Most of the lettering of the name in the bases had broken away through the years,but is being used and put into place again for the re-dedication later this spring.
All three of the former tenants of the ballpark contributed money to the project,which carried a price tag of 950,000 dollars.

Grantland scores with a terrific article on my favorite basketball coach,Larry Brown,who is now at SMU.
The article looks at Brown's career and his work in yet another rebuilding program with the Mustangs.

The Spokane Indians are working on a renovation of their stadium offices and discovered a floor safe when doing so.
There are no immediate plans to pop the safe,but the stadium was built in 1958,so whatever it contains could be as old as 55 years of age...

We wrap up with the Week's seven stories to ruin Disneyland.
Just goes to show you that bad stuff happens everywhere!

Next time (or two) will be covering the Devils pair against Pittsburgh before we return for more of the Jordan Conley interview....

Friday, February 8, 2013

Kovalchuk comeback leads Devils

Ilya Kovalchuk's steal and followup breakaway goal while killing a penalty snapped a tie and sent the New Jersey Devils on their way to a 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Newark.
Adam Henrique scored the first goal of the game in the second period (3) before a Tampa goal that tied the game at one.
Kovalchuk's shorthanded goal (3) allowed the Devils to lead at intermission 2-1 and would never trail.
New Jersey would salt the game away with five minutes to go as two five on three power plays resulted in goals from Andy Greene (2) and Patrik Elias (3)..
The win for the Devils was their third in a row before a weekend home and home set against the Pittsburgh Penguins....

Hell Raisers

1) Ilya Kovalchuk's goal showed that in some cases being too unselfish can almost be selfish.
Let me explain-Kovalchuk has almost been pass first on many chances that he should have fired on.
Kovalchuk is being paid as a sniper not a playmaker.
Let's hope that last night's goal gets him back on track...

2) Patrik Elias may have gotten a break on his knuckleball of a goal, but his two assists sure were nice,
Elias continues his smooth play that almost isn't noticed until you look at the end of the game.
It was the second game in a row that Elias finished with three points.

3) Andy Greene scored his goal on the power play and had a point for the fourth straight game.
Greene is seeing more power play time as a result of his..well results...

4) The player that I am concerned about of late is Travis Zajac,who smacked a wide open net from short range off the side in his best chance of the game.

5) The Devils played Stefan Matteau,so even though the team can return him to juniors at any time,he has now used one year toward his entry level contract...
I'm not sure if that was the best idea,but what's done is now done....

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Jordan Conley Interview-Part 2

Our interview with Miami Marlins prospect Jordan Conley continues with his stories on the draft,his pitches and his time in the NY/Penn league...

TRS: You were an undrafted free agent and then signed with the Marlins.
What was the process that you went through both in waiting to be drafted and then signing after not being selected? Were you contacted by other teams?
JC: I listened to the entire draft at my house with my Dad. I was probably about 90% sure i would get taken by someone as a pitcher. I mean I had to of filled out 10-12 prospect forms sent to me by teams. As we listened it started getting into the later rounds and I was getting pretty frustrated. Then I heard the name of another closer in the conference get called who made 2nd team relief pitcher behind me. I was fed up and didn't understand. So I helped coach the Hamilton Joes, A college summer team in my hometown who played in the Great Lakes League. During that month after the draft I was about to sign with the Florence Freedom and Independent team in the Frontier League and the Marlins called and said your leaving tomorrow. So I said I'll be there. I just wanted a chance and the Marlins gave it to me. The Rangers called a week later but I was already in Florida. That's not to say that I still didn't have a little bitterness inside from the draft. Not being drafted is still what drives me to this day. I just want to prove everyone wrong that said i was too small in high school, who didn't think I could go D1, who didn't think I was good enough to get drafted, who said I didn't throw hard enough, and the people who decided to stick me in extended spring training 2 years in row.
TRS: Why the Marlins?

JC:  I chose the Marlins because they were the first one that called. If you give me a chance then I'm indebted to you for giving me the opportunity and I going to bust my butt for you.

TRS:Tell me a bit about what you throw and what you are comfortable throwing.

JC: I throw and 4 seam fastball, changeup, and slider. I'm pretty comfortable with all three. When you don't have a power fastball then you better be able to throw all your pitches for strikes. Spotting up with the fastball is crucial for me to get ahead in the count so I don't have to show my off speed early in the count.

TRS:Which is your true "out" pitch?

JC: It would have to be my slider, but my changeup is coming along.

TRS:The NY/Penn league is known for some old ballparks and you played in one in Jamestown-any good bad facility stories?

JC: The best park in the New York Penn League was probably Aberdeen or State College but it's a big dropoff after that. Some of them were embarrassing to play at they were so bad. But the worst was probably Batavia and Jamestown was a close second. But lucky for the young Marlins they have now moved from Jamestown to Batavia. Great move right, haha. A pretty funny story in Jamestown was when second base was stolen. Literally someone stole the base off our field. The GM was convinced that it was one of the players since we lived next to the field. He even made a police report over a stolen base. He was screaming and yelling saying he was going to check every one of the players rooms and when he found it he was going to send them home. Come to find out the base turns up in a nearby field. Lets just say one of our coaches knew right where it was in the field. Is he guilty of messing with the GM? I guess we'll never know.....

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Clarkson raps the Rags!

David Clarkson scored twice (6 and 7) and assisted on Adam Henrique's goal (2) to pace the New Jersey Devils to a 3-1 win in their first game of the season against the rival New York Rangers.
Patrik Elias assisted on all three goals with Martin Brodeur stopping 24 shots in his return from a game off.
The Devils will host Tampa Bay on Thursday...

Hell Raisers

1) I must admit,I was unsure that David Clarkson was going to repeat his offensive form of last season,but Clarkson has avoided the top pitfall of dirty work players.
Which is thinking that they are flashy scorers and then watching their goal totals fall.
David Clarkson isn't changing his game and as a result,his play has not suffered.

2) Adam "the Ranger Killer" Henrique continued to round into shape and centered the Elias/Clarkson line.
Henrique was especially effective on the forecheck and seems to have good chemistry with Elias and Clarkson.
I hope to see more of this line and not be temporary because it could be the Devils best line...

3) Martin Brodeur was sharp in his return with several highlight film style saves.
Brodeur stopped Rick Nash in the first with the puck crossing the line after the net was broken away.
His save on Karl Hagelin in the third was better with Marty falling stomach first on the puck like a King Kong Bundy big splash!

4) Marty might be best served this year taking more time off,if this game is any indication.
Between Brodeur's strong game against the Rangers and Johan Hedberg's play in his two starts,this makes a lot of sense to me....

5) The play of the game was not just one play,it was four minutes of play.
The first period high stick of Andy Greene that cut former Devil Aaron Asham gave the Rangers four minutes of power play time.
The PK unit that burned that penalty took the life right out of the Rangers...

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Jordan Conley Interview-Part 1

We start another interview today with Jordan Conley.
Jordan is a relief pitching prospect with the Miami Marlins and is a former standout at Xavier University.
Jordan was a member of the 2010 SAL Champion Greensboro Grasshoppers and split last season between High A Jupiter and AA Jacksonville.
Thanks to Jordan to taking the time to do an interview with us....

ThoughtsofRS:  You played shortstop at Xavier as well as being their closer,tell me a bit about playing shortstop in the college game.....

JC: I can't think of a better position on the field to play. On average I would say you are involved in more plays in a game besides the pitcher and catcher. I would rather have it come my way than anyone else. That is just the way you have to think, you have to be confident in your ability. That's why you practice to master your skill everyday. Its still the same game as high school as it is in college but it just gets faster at every level.
TRS: You set the record for Saves in a season at Xavier,did you think that pitching was your ticket to pro ball or did you think you had a chance as a hitter?

JC: I really never thought of myself as a pitcher. I have always done both but I have always considered myself a shortstop first. I just wanted to play the game day in and day out. I just can't understand why you would want to sit and wait to pitch on a given day and have the chance not to play at all. I really thought I was good enough to get a shot to play shortstop and hitter at the professional level. In fact I know I was. But I have learned to understand the development side of the minor leagues. I think I could have played short at the lower levels but as you see the young guys out of high school grow up and get better every year I realized that I probably wouldn't have progressed as well as them. I just think i got the most out of the ability God had given me and I wouldn't have progressed as rapidly as them. So if the Marlins come calling and want you to pitch then that's what you do. You don't pass up an opportunity to play pro ball just because you may be bitter for not getting a chance as a hitter.

TRS: What attracted you to attend Xavier,were there any other schools that you considered?

JC: I really just wanted to go back home and play. I went to John A. Logan Junior College in Illinois for two years as a position player only. Its no secret that I really wanted to go to the University of Cincinnati. Basically they told me I wasn't good enough. So when Xavier called and I was pumped, close to home and we play Cincinnati every year. They also wanted to give me an opportunity to pitch again. I really wanted that chance to prove Cincinnati wrong as well. I took a few visits to other schools but the only actual offer I received was from North Alabama.

TRS:  What were the advantages to playing at the mid-major level?

JC: I never really looked at it as mid-major. All I knew is that I got a chance to play at the division 1 level. For a guy that was planning on signing up for the Marine Corp as a Junior in high school I feel as if I've done alright for myself. As for being a small school I felt the underdog status when we played some big teams. You just always want to prove that you are worthy to be on the same field as those big school recruits. The only reason that those teams even know who Xavier is is because of basketball. My team was looking to change that perception in 2009 when we made out first regional in school history. I think we snuck up on some people that overlooked us.

TRS: The disadvantages?

JC: The problem with a small school/northern school is exposure to scouts. The only time they may see us during the course of the year is when we head south in early spring. It's very tough to be on your game early in the year being a northern school. You basically come straight out of the gym to playing teams that have been outside all winter. So unless you have a stud on your team the scouts aren't coming out to see you play back home.

In the next portion of our interview with Jordan Conley,Jordan discusses the draft,working his way through the minors and what he likes to throw....

Monday, February 4, 2013

Bernier bounces Islanders!

Johan Hedberg and Evgeni Nabokov swapped spectacular saves for almost the entire game and both looked to be headed for an overtime showdown at zero.
Steve Bernier had other plans as the Devils winger scored two goals in eighty seconds ( 2 power play and 3) in the final four minutes of the game to lift the New Jersey Devils to a 3-0 win over the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum.
David Clarkson added the final Devil goal (5 empty net) with the goalie pulled.
Johan Hedberg made 22 saves,many of them spectacular, in posting the shutout.
The Devils end a four game losing streak and will tackle the Rangers Tuesday night....

Hell Raisers

1) One would usually think that Steve Bernier would earn the first star with two goals,but Johan Hedberg gets it from me with a effort that could only be called tremendous.
Hedberg's save on Michael Grabner on a shorthanded breakaway by cutting off the corner of the net with an old fashioned pad stack was the play of the night.

2) Not to downgrade the night for Steve Bernier,who scored the two goals.
The power play goal was a nice one,but I liked the second one,which saw Bernier stuff the puck in from in close.
The Devils need to do more of the dirty work and is what I would like to see more of...

3) Too many penalties as in seven.
Looks like the penalty kill is back as all seven were stopped,but many of these were simply calls that the Devils need to avoid...

4) One call though was awful as Adam Larsson was called for interfering with John Tavares.
If by interfering you mean ,Tavares flopped to the ice while Larsson "might" have brushed against him,then I guess it was.
Tavares must have been taking the Sidney Crosby course of falling to the ice and flopping around during the lockout....

5) Mark Fayne returned to the lineup and Henrik Tallinder was scratched.
I like having all this depth along the blueline,but every night someone is getting sat down that should play.
I know all about injury,but I bet one of these guys goes at the deadline in an attempt to infuse some pop to the offense..

6) Liked what I saw from Bobby Butler in short bursts.
Butler was on the ice for the first Bernier goal and I'd like to see more of him...

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Frozen in the third

The New Jersey Devils collapsed in the third period,allowing three goals as the Pittsburgh Penguins turned a close game into a runaway 5-1 win in Pittsburgh.
Andy Greene scored the only Devils goal (1 shorthanded) in the second period.
The Devils travel to the beautiful Nassau Coliseum Sunday at three against the Islanders.

Hell Raisers

1) Bad backchecking is the story here.
The Devils defenders were simply too passive against the Pittsburgh forecheck in the New Jersey zone.
The defensemen were very weak today and need to pick things up...

2) Martin Brodeur was very good in the first two periods,but not so strong in the third.
As stated,the defense was little help,as Marek Zidlicky screened his own man on one goal and Anton Volchenkov botched a clear on another...

3) Andy Greene did score shorthanded so that was something....

4) The Devils recalled Bobby Butler from Albany after the game in an attempt to inject some offense into the team or something else,maybe.

5) Sorry,I'm done for today,
The Devils played terrible and I was only able to half watch the first two at best after a wonderful day trying to get my furnace fixed.
What an awful day,but at least Art Modell didn't make the Hall of Fame,so there's your silver lining...

Photo Credt:AP

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Slow day

Today looks like a slow day,but Saturday is the lowest day of the week for hits,so I decided to start our next interview on Monday.

I have four interviews ready to go and over the next month or so,you'll get to read all of them.
I hope that you enjoy hearing from an old friend of ours and meeting three more as part of our interview series.

I have Devils games today and tomorrow,so look for Monday for the series to begin.

Looks like a fun month!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Three OT losses in a row

The New Jersey Devils followed a familiar script as they fell behind by two goals,fought back to force overtime to gain one point and then lost in overtime to the New York Islanders 5-4 at the Rock.
All four Devils goals were scored by players scoring their first goal of the season-Steve Bernier,Ryan Carter,Henrik Tallinder and Adam Henrique.
The Devils take today off before two weekend day games against Pittsburgh and these same New York Islanders.

Hell Raisers
1) I give this team full credit,they do not quit as they have rallied from deficits in each of their three losses.
However.there has been some very sloppy hockey filled with plays that have cost games.
Tonight's was the Martin Brodeur miscue in trying to cover the puck in overtime.
Now,as many times through the years as Brodeur has saved games with his puckhandling,I feel badly about pointing out an error,but the truth is the truth.

2) Huge difference in penalty killing as the Islanders entered the game red hot on the power play and kept it up with three man advantage goals including the game winner.
Some of that might be a strong PP and considering that the Devils are usually strong on the penalty kill,I'm willing to chalk it to the former.

3) Worst call of the game came in the second period when the puck hit off the skates of an Islander,knocking him off his skates and resulted in a tripping penalty on Marek Zidlicky.
The Islanders would then score on the ensuing power play.

4) Adam Larsson finally played and had a positive and negative on the night.
Larsson made a super pass that ended in the Steve Bernier goal and showed the ability to be what we all hoped he would be-a number one defenseman.
He also tipped a Islander shot into the net as he hustled to get to the puck,when the better play would have been to let Martin Brodeur play the shot.
I like the effort,but needs to play a smarter game.

5) Adam Henrique returned from injury and scored the goal that would force overtime.
I recently wrote that the Devils needed an additional scorer,Henrique will definitely help in that aspect of the game.

6) Same thing as Adam Larsson for Henrik Tallinder.
Like his goal,of course,but his cross checking penalty in overtime was the type of play that you don't expect from a veteran-dumb.

7) Sometimes the puck bounces your way and sometimes it does not and it seemed like the Islander received lots of breaks as far as right place right time.
These things even out and walking with a point is not all bad....