Speed Read: It Looks Like The NHL Is Finally Back

Two Game 6 classics in one night? An OT winner from the Caps that guarantees an Ovie-Crosby grudge match on Wednesday night? A 12-goal outburst in front of an insane crowd at the United Center that cemented the Blackhawks’ return to relevance once and for all? Sorry NBA, Monday night was owned by the NHL.

Blackhawks celebrate

First, in Pittsburgh, Dave Steckel’s sweet tip-in of Brooks Laich’s wrister from the point 6:22 into OT saved the Capitals’ season and silenced an Igloo crowd that was ready to celebrate a return trip to the conference finals.

Sidney Crosby’s tying goal with just over four minutes left in regulation gave the Penguins the momentum back after blowing a lead earlier in the period. But in the end, Marc-Andre Fleury was just a little too shaky. He only stopped 19 of 24 shots on the night while his Washington counterpart Simeon Varlamov outplayed him yet again, turning aside 38 of 42. The NEW YORK TIMES sums it all up better than I can:

Five one-goal decisions in six games, three overtimes and 41 goals, with Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby striking for 13 and assisting on 10 others. The Capitals and the Penguins have played a marvelous Eastern Conference semifinal series, and after Washington’s 5-4 overtime victory Monday, it will continue, fittingly, to Game 7 at Verizon Center on Wednesday.

That just about says it all.

Caps celebrate

Meanwhile, in Chicago, Vancouver rallied from a 3-1 deficit to take leads of 4-3 and 5-4 in the third period.  The Canucks thought the last lead might be enough to force a Game 7, but the Blackhawks went nuts in the final seven minutes, scoring three times to take a 7-5 win and advance to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 1995. 21-year-old Chicago captain Jonathan Toews scored twice, and 20-year-old Patrick Kane’s rocket of a backhander with 3:43 left gave him a hat trick and sealed the deal for the Hawks (Kane actually overslept on Monday and missed the morning skate). Think this team has a bright future?

As recently as two seasons ago, the Hawks were a failing franchise that could barely fill half of the United Center. Now, there isn’t a tougher ticket in town and the team went over the million mark in attendance for the season last night. As if all this isn’t enough, they’re likely going to be facing the Detroit Red Wings in the next round (provided the Wings can win one of two against Anaheim). And, I’m just going to throw it out there now: if they do play the Wings, I’m saying there’s a 50% chance that at least one fan is going to die in an incident directly related to that series. I’ve been to regular season games between those teams at the UC that have seen near riots in the 300 level. I’ve heard Hawks fans start a rousing “De-troit sucks” chant during a game against the L.A. Kings. They’ve been waiting for this for years.

Oh yeah, the NBA playoffs were on the schedule last night, too. The LeBrons finally put the Atlanta Hawks out of their misery with a ho-hum 84-74 win to wrap up another sweep. It actually was a pretty close game, and guys like Delonte West and Mo Williams stepped up with big contributions down the stretch to hold off a scrappy Atlanta squad that just didn’t have enough healthy guys to compete. The Cavs are 8-0 in the playoffs, with all of the wins coming by double digits.

In Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki had 44 points (one for every alias used by his fianceé), including 19 in the fourth quarter, as the Mavs shook off a crapload of technical fouls and stayed alive with a 119-117 win over the Nuggets. Dallas trailed by 10 at halftime and for much of the second half as well, but finally took the lead on a Dirk jumper with less than three minutes left. Nowitzki’s heroics overshadowed Carmelo Anthony’s 41 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, and 5 steals. Denver’s still up 3-1 and doesn’t look all that beatable at home against the Mavs, so don’t look for this one to be coming back to Dallas.

• At this point, I think the possibility of getting taunted on YouTube would be more of a deterrent than a yellow card for taking a ridiculous dive in soccer. West Ham’s David di Michele boned a breakaway against Liverpool on Saturday so bad that he had to act like someone tripped him, and nobody was buying it (he needs to attend the Drogba School of Diving). THE SPOILER has the video.

Randy Johnson gave up three homers in five innings but did enough to earn his 298th career win. If he can squeeze two more out of his arm before it falls off, he may just be the last pitcher to ever reach that mark. (Do you see CC Sabathia winning 15 games a year until 2022? Me neither)

• The duo of former Miami Dolphin cheerleaders came up just a bit short in their quest to win the Amazing Race. Jaime and Cara would’ve been the first all-female duo to win, but they finished second to the Asian brother-sister lawyers.

Dolphins cheerleaders Amazing Race

Chipper Jones loved Shea Stadium so much that he hyperextended his elbow on Sunday so he didn’t have to play at Citi Field last night. Larry even claimed last night that the two seats he purchased from Shea before it was a pile of rubble never made it to him in Atlanta, but the Mets countered that the chairs had indeed been delivered and signed for by a Mr. Jones, according to the NY DAILY NEWS.

• Giants closer Brian Wilson (not the guy who stayed in bed for two years) is a bit miffed at Casey Blake. Blake, who’s not a big fan of showmanship by other players, mockingly made the gesture that Wilson makes after a successful save after he took him deep on Sunday afternoon. Well, it turns out that Wilson’s seemingly brash gesture is a tribute to his Christian faith and to his late father. Not only does this make Blake a bit of an a-hole, but Aubrey Huff’s fists pumps after taking Joba Chamberlain out of the yard were way funnier.

• The silly scheme to keep Rachel Alexandra from running in the Preakness Stakes has been squashed, and the filly will run with the big boys on Saturday. Incidentally, Rachel Nichols‘ maiden name was Alexander, so expect Rachel Alexandra to start following around a horse named Brett Favra sometime next week.

• While John Calipari has trees exhumed from his new yard, the Kentucky Wildcat cheerleaders recently got back from spring break. And, by the looks of these photos (courtesy of UNCOACHED), they had a pretty good time:

Kentucky cheerleaders

• A New Jersey teenager has been suspended for hosting an NCAA Tournament-style bracket to pick his high school’s hottest girl. Must’ve been brutal to end up in the play-in game in that one.

David Cone is now on the phone personally trying to sell the expensive seats at Yankee Stadium, according to CAN’T STOP THE BLEEDING. I suppose that means he can get his wife into the ballpark, unlike some Yankee legends/broadcasters.

• Guess who Peter King says is the best team in the NFL going into next year? It’s not the Steelers.

Who ya got in Game 7?

View Results

Pens Fans Know Only Death Can Stop Ovechkin

One of the big knocks on Penguins fans is that they’re bandwagon jumpers. That they couldn’t fill their arena until they tanked to get two top-2 picks in a row. Basically, that at one point, Kansas City was considered a better hockey market than Pittsburgh. Well, one fan took it upon himself to show the world just how much passion Pens backers have.

Sidney Crosby

(Pic semi-related…just looking for an excuse to post it again.)

A 17-year-old from Pennsylvania is under investigation for posting a death threat to Alexander Ovechkin on a message board. The threat read: “I’m killing Ovechkin. I’ll go to jail. I don’t care anymore.” Actually, it had less punctuation and capitalization than that, but we all accept the Internet is as much a cesspool as central PA.

Screenshot of the threat, after the jump.

Read more…

Speed Read: Wings Denied By Ref’s Early Whistle

It might not have seemed possible a few months ago, but it appears as if Ed Hochuli has no longer made the worst officiating gaffe of the last 12 months. That honor now belongs to NHL ref Brad Watson, who probably didn’t sleep very well after the mistake he made in last night’s Red Wings-Ducks game in Anaheim.

Wings Ducks puck highlighted

(I guess Brad Watson still needs that glowing puck they used to have on FOX)

Trailing 2-1 with just over a minute left, Detroit’s Marian Hossa knocked in a loose puck that squirted free from Jonas Hiller’s pads and was sitting all by itself in the crease (as you can see above) for the apparent tying goal. But, astonishingly, Watson blew his whistle just before Hossa scored, wiping out the goal because he says he lost sight of the puck (admittedly, Watson was at a terrible angle to see where the puck was) even though the rest of the world could see the thing sitting right in the middle of the crease. The play wasn’t reviewable, and the Ducks held on for a 2-1 win to take an identical lead in the series. Wings fans are irate, but since everyone else in hockey hates Detroit the screams aren’t resonating much outside of Michigan. Here’s the full video of the play:

For what it’s worth, the announcers are right that NHL refs are required to blow the whistle as soon as they lose sight of the puck. And, while Hossa’s shot clearly goes in before the whistle sounds, the rule is that the play is dead as soon as the ref decides to blow the whistle, which is a second or so before he actually does. Procedurally, Watson did everything right. But the whole thing about not seeing a puck right there in plain sight? Yeah, he messed that up pretty bad.

Brad Watson and Islanders cheerleaders

(Hey Watson, are your eyes ever where they’re supposed to be?)

In the NBA playoffs, The Hawks hung around for a while, but eventually the Cleveland Cavs ran away and hid, making it eight straight games involving Atlanta that has ended in a blowout. LeBron accepted the MVP award from David Stern before the game, then tossed up a ho-hum 34 and 10 in a 99-72 win. The Cavs outscored the Hawks 50-28 in the second half and lead the Eastern semis 1-0.

LeBron MVP

The Nuggets also used a second-half run to take a 2-0 lead in their series with the Mavs. Carmelo Anthony and Nene each scored 25 in a 117-105 Denver victory. Dallas was one of the hottest teams down the stretch but this just looks like a bad matchup for them. They’re now 0-6 against the Nuggets this season and, including their only home loss after the All-Star break. DALLAS MORNING NEWS columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor has already declared the series over.

The Dodgers beat Arizona 3-1 last night to move to 12-0 at home this season, which is just obscene in a sport like baseball. The win tied them with the 1911 Detroit Tigers for the best home start in Major League history. Even more obscene is that L.A. won the game with Jeff Weaver on the mound. Is Scott Erickson not with the team anymore?

In the Bronx, the Red Sox pounded Joba Chamberlain for four runs before an out was recorded, and cruised to a 7-3 win, making them 5-0 against the Yankees this season. Even though Joba got roughed up early, he recovered and ended up striking out 12 batters in 5 2/3 innings. Regardless, he still had a better day than his mother.

Jason Bay

(The new Yankee killer)

• SI’s Jon Heyman says MLB is now “investigating” the pitch-tipping allegations about Alex Rodriguez. If you haven’t heard, Selena Roberts says in her book that A-Rod would let opposing batters know what pitches were coming in blowout games, with the understanding that they would return the favor later. There’s about a 0% chance that we’ll ever know what really happened. But it all seems a little far-fetched. Wouldn’t somebody notice this? And who are the other people in on this scheme?

• SPORTS RUBBISH brings us footage of a soccer team called Corinthians in Brazil celebrating a major tournament victory by setting their team captain (known only as “William”) on fire during the trophy presentation. They didn’t mean to, but I’m sure that’s of little consolation to the guy who was on fire:

• According to the INDIANAPOLIS STAR, the Titans will travel to New York Jersey in September to play…the Titans?

• Remember when the Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix in the late ’90s and everyone said it was crazy that they thought a hockey team would work in Arizona? Well, looks like everyone was right. The Coyotes are bankrupt and the CEO of BlackBerry wants to buy the team and move it to Ontario (the Canadian province, not the dusty city in California with an airport).

• Manchester United is going back to the Champions League final for the second straight year, after throttling Arsenal 3-1 in London. Man U scored twice in the first 11 minutes and never gave the Gunners a chance to compete. Through all of this, United is still finding time to wheel and deal, reportedly offering $127 million to Bayern Munich for French star Franck Ribery.

• The Patriots’ cheerleaders just got back from a week-long photo shoot in Aruba, where they were joined by 150 Pats fans, says the BOSTON GLOBE. The girls reportedly engaged in some beach volleyball, presumably to the delight of said 150 fans.

Pats cheerleader

• Shockingly, LeBron James is not going to be rolling around in that new Kia he got for winning the MVP, choosing to donate it instead, according to CARS.COM.

• The Nats and Astros played to a tie after nearly 11 innings yesterday in D.C. and then the rain came. And everyone just shrugged and said “really, does anyone think the outcome of this game is going to matter in September?” and decided to just call it off. Well, that would be the reasonable thing to do. In reality, they will resume the game in July in Houston (but the Nats will still be the home team).

• If you offer any of the Pittsburgh Pirates a beer right now, they might punch you in the face. The Bucs have now lost to the Brewers 17 times in a row after an 8-5 decision last night. It’s the longest such streak for any two teams in almost 40 years.

Zack Greinke missed most of the 2006 season because of anxiety and depression. Three years later, he’s the AL’s pitcher of the month and one of only three pitchers in ML history to start 6-0 with an ERA of 0.50 or less (the other two are Fernando Valenzuela and Walter Johnson).

Is Zack Greinke the real deal?

View Results

Speed Read: Sox Sweep As Ellsbury Steals Home

You had your fun, Red Sox haters, when Boston was 2-6 and looking like a mediocre mess. Now, the Sox have won 10 straight and look like the team to beat in the AL East (can Toronto really keep this up?). The Yankees found three different ways to lose to the Sox over the weekend, and were further embarrassed when Jacoby Ellsbury stole home off of Andy Pettite:

Ellsbury’s theft highlighted a three-run fifth inning that led the Red Sox to a 4-1 win on Sunday Night Baseball.  It was the weekend in a nutshell for the Yankees, who are now facing mounting questions about their pitching staff, which is ruining things for an offense that’s scoring more than five runs per game (and will get better when A-Rod returns).

So, you’re the Orlando Magic, you’re down 2-1 in the series to heavy underdog Philly, and you just dumped a nine-point lead late in the fourth quarter and find yourself tied in the final seconds. You don’t want this going to OT because the Sixers have all the momentum. So now what? Clearly, it’s time for Hedo Turkoglu to just dribble around for a while and then drain a 26-footer to win it 84-81:

Just how you drew it up, right Stan?

In Houston, the Portland Trail Blazers once again had a chance to steal a game from the Rockets…and once again, gave it away late. The Rockets killed the Blazers on the offensive boards, getting two huge second chances that led to three-point daggers from Shane Battier in the final minutes. Portland still had a chance to tie it with 20 seconds remaining, but Brandon Roy was called for an offensive foul, then Travis Outlaw missed a deep three. The Rockets held on, 89-88, to take a 3-1 series lead. Houston needs just one more game to advance to the second round for the first time since 1997. And, unfortunately for Blazer fans, Tracy McGrady isn’t around to blow this one.

Luis Scola

(How does his hair stay behind his ears all the time like that?)

In the NHL’s late game, the Hurricanes blanked the Devils 4-0 to push their series to a deciding game in Newark on Tuesday night. In related news, NHL.COM has told Kevin Smith he can’t blog about the series on their site anymore. Apparently, the NHL wants to be “family friendly” and didn’t realize they had commissioned one of the filthiest mouths anywhere to write about the series. So now, Smith has moved his playoff blog to his own site.

Kevin Smith

• The Broncos, along with all of the former AFL teams, are going to wear throwback jerseys for the first two games this season. No, not those orange ones we all remember from our youth. It’s this monstrosity that thankfully was retired after only two seasons (according to the DENVER POST, they were acquired secondhand from a defunct bowl game):

Denver Broncos horrible uniforms

• Man, the Royals even suck in India.

• PRO FOOTBALL TALK notes that Mike Singletary confirmed yesterday that ex-Ball State quarterback Nate Davis has dyslexia. The 49ers still drafted him anyway.

• Amputee Kyle Maynard, who we’ve mentioned a few times here on SbB, lost in his MMA debut last night in Alabama. But he did last the full three rounds. FIGHT REPORT has all the details, including some video.

• The Caps drilled the Rangers 5-3 yesterday to send their series to a seventh game, but Rangers fans like THE MANIC RANGER are incensed that Donald Brashear got away with crushing an unsuspecting Blair Betts at center ice in the first period. See for yourself. It was pretty much a cheap shot, and if Game 7 gets out of hand either way, expect Brashear to get lit up by somebody:

• BUGS AND CRANKS thinks Ozzie Smith was copping a feel on Alyssa Milano’s sideboob at the 2007 All-Star festivities.

• ESPN called on Erin Andrews to moderate the historic Quan Cosby-Bill Cosby summit at the NFL Draft. Yalta can rest easy, though. As you can see, it mostly involved Quan talking on his phone while Bill babbled incoherently and tried to put on his old Temple helmet:

Quan Cosby Bill Cosby Erin Andrews

MJD over at YAHOO! SPORTS says the Bengals obviously are still not all that concerned about character, judging by their early draft picks.

• Seahawks LB Leroy Hill failed in his attempt to have his franchise tag removed by the team by getting arrested for pot possession. But now the ‘Hawks have drafted Aaron Curry, so Hill has been cut loose. That whole staged arrest seems like a waste of time now, eh, Leroy?

• This may not be sports-related, but lets face it, Bea Arthur was twice the man that A-Rod will ever be. So in honor of her sad demise, here’s some grainy footage of her embarrassing performance in the horrible Star Wars Holiday Special:

What was the most embarrassing loss for the Yankees this weekend?

View Results

ESPN Adds Don Cherry To Sweeten NHL Coverage

In order to bring some flash & flair to their March Madness coverage, ESPN invited Bob Knight to set his butt down at the Bristol anchor desk. Now, the Worldwide Leader is hoping to repeat the same success with the NHL playoffs (or at least the same media buzz) by bringing aboard Don Cherry.

SbB Girls Colene Alex Crystal with Don Cherry

(SbB Girls Colene, Alex & Crystal stay healthy with Cherry)

The TORONTO GLOBE & MAIL reports that the CBC hockey hothead and 7th Greatest Canadian Ever will be adding his analysis and aggravations to SportsCenter (or as they call it up north, “SportsCentre”). Don makes his debut this Friday, but he won’t be carrying on from the Connecticut studios.

(Wild wardrobe gallery from the Don Cherry collection after the jump.)

Read more…

Blog-A-Roni: WWE Diva Wrestling w/Escort Claims

• WITH LEATHER slams down rumors of Ashley Massaro, a WWE Diva that TMZ claims has been grappling with opponents outside the ring while working for an escort service.

Ashley Massaro

• Speaking of the squared circle, THE SPORTS HERNIA catches Dancing fool Jason Taylor showing off more wrestling moves.

WALKOFF WALK has pics and BUGS &CRANKS have video of Jennifer Anniston & Owen Wilson dogging it during a Marlins game.

• Remember that kid who had been wearing a Brett Favre jersey for the past 4 years? Well, YOU BEEN BLINDED follows up that the boy has finally shed the shirt.

Read more…

Victoria Principal Goes Fivehole On NHL Playoffs

As far as I can remember, I’ve watched one hockey game in my life. That being said, some people actually like hockey. You might even think that the VERSUS network likes hockey since, you know, they’re the only people who broadcast it these days.

Victoria Principal

(Is that Victoria Principal you’re wearing? YES!)

Of course, you’d be wrong. Read more…

The NHL Playoffs Started - And Nobody Noticed

The NHL playoffs have started again, and the league doesn’t seem to care whether you watch or not.

The chase for Lord Stanley’s Cup, arguably the greatest and most storied trophy in professional sports, suffers from being too long, including too many teams, and not gathering significant interest from casual fans. In other words, it’s the WNBA on skates. Read more…

Dems, GOP Place Partisan Bets On NHL Playoffs

In the game of hockey, two opposing teams try to win by outscoring the other. Of course, unwritten in the rules is that late in the game, the two teams will usually fight each other for the smallest reason. So it’s no wonder that the Democrats and Republicans have picked NHL arenas for their national conventions this summer. Hockey is played just like general elections.

NHL political bet

The Republican National Convention will take place in St. Paul’s XCel Energy Center, home of the Minnesota Wild. And the Democrats will nationally convene at Denver’s Pepsi Center, home of the Colorado Avalanche. Coincidentally, the Wild and Avalanche play each other in the first round of the NHL playoffs. This has led to quite the wager. Read more…