Embed from Getty Images Overwhelming favorites to win the Stanley Cup, the Tampa Bay Lightning look completely lost and over matched against the Columbus Blue Jackets. How did this happen? A closer looks shows us what has happened.
The Tampa Bay Lightning winners of 62 regular season games and 128 points in route to the Presidents Trophy, were heavily favored over the Blue Jackets. However, the Columbus Blue Jackets have shown they should not be treated lightly.
Game one of the playoffs saw the Lightning jump out to a 3-0 lead. Then the bottom dropped out. The Blue Jackets stunned Tampa and came back and won. Game two saw Columbus put the pedal to the metal and cruse to a 5-1 win and a 2-0 series lead.
David vs Goliath, Buster Douglas vs Mike Tyson pick your analogy. Columbus fought and barley made the playoffs. That does not matter. Tampa has looked like the 8th seed.
The Lightning star players have gone silent. Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point finished the season with 40 goals each and a combined 318 points! Through two games they have zero goals and zero assists. Kutcherov and Point are -2 and Stamkos is -3. No hockey fan or writer saw that coming.
Heading back to Columbus, Kucherov has been suspended 1 game for a bad hit to the Blue Jackets, Markus Nutivaara. Dealing the Stanley Cup favorites what could be a death blow.
Another reason Columbus has taken control is they have been more physical than Tampa Bay. Blue Jackets defenders have punished Lightning offensive players. Columbus has been dominant on the forecheck knocking the Lightning off their game.
Sergei Bobrovsky has been unreal. After a shaky start to game one. Bobrovsky has looked like the two time Vezina Trophy winner. Since giving up 3 game one goals, Sergei Bobrovsky has stopped 40 of 41 shots. Proving his elite status and when he is on Bob is a game-changer.
What has set Columbus apart is they are getting scoring from all over the place. Tampa Bay has had no answers for the speed Columbus has. It has been a full Blue Jackets effort.
The Lightning had the top ranked power play and penalty kill during the regular season. Yet, Columbus is 3 for 6 with a man advantage and are a perfect 5 for 5 on the penalty kill.
The Lightning are in trouble leading head coach Jon Cooper to say his team is in “a five-alarm fire.”
Embed from Getty Images After one of the worst offensive season in the history of Michigan State, All eyes have been and are on the Spartans offense this spring. The new offense will be on showcase this Saturday during Michigan State’s spring game.
Brad Salam will show off his new offense this coming weekend in the Green and White game. All eyes and every media microscope will be fixed squarely on the offensive unit, they simply can not be as deplorable as last seasons. At least that is the hope coming from East Lansing.
While spring games are usually dialed back in terms of plays, expect the Spartans to drop hints of what they have been working on to improve over last seasons woeful bunch. Head Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said “we are not going to bag everything from last season.” That may be good, but it may be bad as well.
Brad Salam said he understands the pull back. That teams do not show everything April 13, but wait until the season kickoff to start showing how far the team has come. One interesting thing is that Salam said he liked plays from last seasons playbook and has made a few tweaks.
One can presume because Dantiono did not bring in fresh coaches that Michigan State will be more of the same. Given Salam’s comments, it will be interesting to see what changes have been made. After the disappointment of last season the Spartan fan base was not thrilled to hear the playbook had bee tweaked. They were hoping for a complete overhaul.
Coaches talk, players play, writers write. Coaches talk is only confirmed by action. Michigan State must show that they have grown since last season. That shuffling coaches and hoping for a different result is not a grasp at straws. It will be hard to hind come April 13, what the Green and White spring game takes place.
Michigan State must show enough that they have changed or else.
Embed from Getty Images The Detroit Red Wings in the tail end of a rebuild will pick sixth overall in the first round of the 2019 NHL draft. Red Wings fans freaked out saying the team should have tanked for better draft position. I respectfully disagree.
Detroit Red Wings fans are a fickle group. They want their team to have the top pick every year. This season like last the Red Wings will pick sixth. It is a good position for the team to be in. Fans are angry.
The Detroit Red Wings will have their pick of top players. Anyone from Russian winger Vasili Podkolzin, to Swedish defensemen Victor Soderstrom. Great prospects will come Detroit’s way. It is a very good draft class.
Detroit Red Wings fans, are a group I would love to sit down with and explain one thing to. While having the first pick in the draft is nice, It pales in comparison to having the young core player (Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzie, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Filip Hronek, Dennis Cholowski and Filip Zadina) take HUGE steps forward this season.
The young Red Wings got hot at the end of the season and had a winning streak that should carry over into next season. Yet, for some reason that is not enough for Red Wings Nation. They wanted the grand prize in the 2019 draft Jack Hughes. I wanted the young players to show it was time to pull out of the rebuild and time to win. They did.
The kicker in all of this is the Detroit Red Wings have over $17 million coming off the salary cap. Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, Can upgrade his team at will. That is a ton of money to have to offer free agents. Holland himself said just last week the team plans to spend this summer.
All of this just proves how good of shape the Red Wings are in. All eyes are now focused on the draft.
Embed from Getty Images Talking to the media Monday after the Detroit Red Wings cleaned out their lockers at Little Caesars Arena, general manager Ken Holland gave insight as to when the Wings will have another player with a ‘C’ on his sweater.
During the 2018-19 season the Red Wings went with four alternates captains instead of one. Frans Nielsen , Niklas Kronwall and Justin Abdelkader joined Larking with an “A” on their sweaters. That is simply too many voices in the locker room.
Veteran Wings forward Thomas Vanek noted how much growth he has seen in Larkin this past season. “For sure I can see him be a good captain, a good leader.” Vanek said matter-of-factly.
Holland left open the possibility that if the Wings sign a superstar in free agency, “maybe that affects your thinking.” It is difficult to see someone who has yet to play for the Red Wings being handed the team leader. Henrik Zetterberg and his predecessors, Nicklas Lidstrom and Steve Yzerman, were all draft picks who spent their entire careers with the Red Wings organization.
Detroit drafted Dylan Larkin in 2014, ahead of their rebuild. He has been a leader in the locker room, on ice and in the community. Ken Holland ended by saying this, “He’s a legitimate candidate, He plays hard. He’s a tremendous player. He’s going to be the face of this franchise. Certainly he would be a leading candidate to be the next captain, but I’m not prepared to have that announcement today.”
The end of the season is not the time or place to name a captain. Players were packing their belongings before heading off to the homes. With the season that saw setbacks and a glimpse at a brighter future. It was time to disengage and focus on summer.
Training camp will open soon enough. A new season, a bright future, a new captain.
Embed from Getty Images It has never been done in the history of Major League Baseball. On Tuesday afternoon the Detroit Tigers will carry the first of 17 “Players Only” broadcasts. Fox Sports Detroit general manager Gregg Hammaren said “We’re always trying to come up with something fresh.”
The “Players Only” broadcast will consist of former players and perhaps current Tigers players as well. It is an attempt to bring fans closer to the game. Former Detroit Tigers, Jack Morris, Kirk Gibson, Craig Monroe, Dan Petry and some special guests will take part.
Fox Sports Detroit is using The Video Call Center which basically eliminates a three-second delay in transmitting communication. This will allow the players to join in the conversation live.
Fox Sports Detroit’s executive director Jeff Byle said “We all have to pay attention, but we want to add a different flavor. One of a bunch of players watching the game from their couch.”
Byle would not say exactly who would be joining the broadcast along with the former Tigers already with the network. Players may only be able to join for an inning to two depending on their schedule.
MLB has said they are going to keep an eye out for the groundbreaking broadcast. Perhaps to plan some of their own like ventures during games. This could change broadcasting as we know it. No more two maybe three people in the booth. If the Detroit Tigers can pull this off the sky is the limit.
The baseball season is long. It is nice to see an attempt at a new angle for the game. With so many great former players and Hall of Famers this should create a buzz not only in terms of baseball but of all sports. It just so happens that Detroit is doing it first.
Embed from Getty Images As the Detroit Lions front office and coaching staff are in deep preparations for the 2019 NFL Draft, an upgrade to Ford Field could be forthcoming. The team is looking to replace the six year old playing surface inside the stadium.
“We will likely be replacing that as part of our offseason in 2019,” Lions vice president of operations Todd Argust said. Last month at the NFL annual meeting Detroit Lions president Rod Wood said the team did not have any major investments in the stadium.
Wood also said the team was looking at improving parking and ingress and egress concerns in the area to provide a better experience for the fans. The Lions last replace the field surface in 2013. They do not play on astro turf. They play on a state of the art surface called Field Turf. It is used indoors and is actually like playing on natural grass.
Field Turf lasts for about a decade and then needs to be replaced. The Lions also use the Field Turf at the teams practice facility. Currently four other NFL teams use the surface. The Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks New England Patriots and Lions. Other teams have tried it and gotten rid of it.
Some players complain the surface is too soft. But it is a way to bring the outside in, in an artificial way.
Embed from Getty Images Thayer Munford is the starting left tackle on the Ohio State offensive line. When he is healthy he is a game changer for the Buckeyes running game. One problem, Munford played through a string of nagging injuries last season.
Thayer Munford has a spot on the Ohio State offensive line already secured. He is taking it light this spring in overcoming the injuries that by and large are gone. Thayer is still fighting through some mild discomfort.
The Ohio State coaching staff has talked about moving Thayer to right tackle as it is not as demanding as the left side. That is not a slight on Munford. Not at all. The Ohio State rushing attack is better when he is healthy and can fully participate at maximum strength. In other word the Buckeyes need Munford on the field not on a medical table.
There is no pressure for Thayer Munford to take part in spring reps right now. One thing Ohio State coaches are doing is checking on the offensive line depth this spring. Offensive line coach Greg Studrawa said “The good news is those young kids are getting a ton of reps, and they have a chance this spring to get better.”
That is the good. The bad is Ohio State needs Thayer Munford on the field this fall as he is a proven player. With a new head coach and a new quarterback returning starters are even more important then is other seasons.
If a player is taking it easy coming back from injuries this is the best time it could happen. That way the player, coaches and teammates can go all out when it counts.
Embed from Getty Images In what could be one of Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella’s best coaching jobs to date, he somehow managed to rally a Blue Jackets team that had many different distractions this season. From pending free agents to a goalie who struggled for most of the season to find his game. Tortorella held the team together.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs! That is the good news. The bad news, the Tampa Bay Lightning awaits them. The same Lightning team that won 62 regular season games and racked up 128 points. The fourth best numbers seen by an NHL team, ever.
Tampa Bay lost back-to-back games only two time this season. The Lightning were so good they finished the season with a +103 goal differential. One more point the Tampa Bay Lightning were 3-0 verses Columbus this season.
So the real question is do the Blue Jackets have any real shot to slay the beast from the East? Let’s take a look.
The Columbus Blue Jackets absolutely need to steal a win at Tampa. Does not matter what game. They need to win on enemy ice to take home ice advantage away.
Two time Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky who’s playoff struggles have been well documented needs to have the series of his life. Bobrovsky played very well coming down the stretch. That needs to carry over into the playoffs.
Last season the Blue Jackets jumped out to a 2-0 series lead over the Washington Capitols. Then they could not stay out of the sin bin. Penalties suffocated the team and Washington took the series. The Blue Jackets must stay out of the penalty box against Tampa or they will fair no better than last year.
Columbus goal scoring was great down the stretch. The Jackets outscored opponents 30-6. They are playing as well as any team right now. They need to keep that momentum up.
If Oliver Bjorkstrand can keep up his scoring the Jackets have something the Lightning do not. Secondary scoring off the bench.
The Blue Jackets defense needs to keep the play in front of them and not allow anything behind them. It will not be easy. But Tampa does not have the team speed Columbus does. I think this series could be closer than many.
Embed from Getty Images The Detroit Pistons are cold again. As high as the sixth seed last week, the Pistons are now an eighth seed. The good news is it would take total collapse for the team to miss the playoffs.
Blake Griffin has missed three games in a row due to a sore left knee. The Pistons have lost two games in a row. But, it really is not that bad. The Detroit Pistons are looking for their second playoff appearance in the past decade. Which would please owner Tom Gores who did not want to begin a rebuild.
A weak remaining schedule gives the Pistons the old “punchers chance.” Detroit, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic and Miami Heat are in a battle for the last three playoff spots. It will be fun coming down to the finish line.
The Pistons hold tiebreakers over the Magic and Heat. With four regular seasons left Detroit is in the drivers seat. So much so the Pistons have a 99% chance at making the playoffs, with Orlando at 95%, Brooklyn 78% and Miami 25%. So the Pistons have really good odds.
So it really would take an epic collapse against teams under .500 for the Pistons to miss the playoffs. The Detroit Pistons need to begin to play better in order gain some momentum heading into the postseason.
Embed from Getty Images 19 year old Alexandre Texier from Grenoble, France, has been called up by the Columbus Blue Jackets. He will join the team tonight as the Jackets take on the New York Rangers in a huge game for Columbus. Texier has one of the highest ceilings in the entire Blue Jackets pipeline of prospects.
Alexandre Texier, has a genuine chance to be special with his play. He plays both center and left wing. Texier isn’t a one-dimensional player, he plays very well in the defensive end of the ice. Alexadre is a dynamic offensive talent who is mature and can handle playing against any competition.
Current Columbus Blue Jacket Alexander Wennberg seems to have fallen out of favor with the entire Blue Jackets organization. His poor play and lack of goals at $5.4 million per season has placed him as a regular healthy scratch.
Tonight, the Columbus Blue Jackets will play their biggest game of the season. Win and they will enter the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The team has once again scratched Wennberg in favor of the speed demon Texier who possesses good goal-scoring ability and puck-handling skills that set him above Wennberg skill wise.
If you can not tell I am VERY bullish on Alexadre Texier because he has the tools and pedigree to become a top-line player. Alexadre projects as having a point-per-game potential.
The young player from France, skates well, handles puck well and and also has good sense. Very good upside. One more point, if fans want something else to drool over Texier has lightning fast speed. When he takes the ice tonight at Madison Square Garden Alexandre Texier will be the fastest player on the ice for both teams.
In what is critical to his development Texier rarely looks overmatched on the ice. That could be the reason Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekäläinen made the call to bring the young player up and give him ice time right off the bat. It is a daring move to be sure. But, it is a move that could pay high dividends for the Columbus Blue Jackets.