Thursday, May 31, 2012

N.J. Devils ~ Kings Slay Devils in OT

From the desk of:   THE BRICK CITY DEMONS




2011 - 2012
NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE
STANLEY CUP FINALS

GAME ONE

Los Angeles Kings
vs.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
From
THE ROCK
Brick City, Newark



FINAL:
Kings 2
Devils 1
OVERTIME






NEW JERSEY DEVILS:  Bedeviled in Game One.


In the opening game of the Stanley Cup Finals, New Jersey was reminded what it's like to get scored on early, and having to play from behind.  The Kings came barrelling in on the forecheck and got deep in the Devils' zone, where Jordan Nolan gained possession of the puck behind net.  He found and passed to centerman Colin Fraser positioned at the edge of the right circle, who one-timed a shot passed Brodeur for a 1-0 Los Angeles lead, midway through the first.


The Kings owned the first period battle of the face-offs by a 12-5 count.  But overall, shots on goal were limited in the first period to five apiece.  Only problem was, Broduer let one get by too early.  With 2:15 left, Bryce Salvador had the Devils' best chance on net.  But no goal.  So, off went the Devils into the first intermission trailing by a 1-0 score.


L.A. committed one penalty which they successfully killed off.


The Kings came into the second period like they entered the first; aggressively.  They were the ones taking taking shots over the first half of the second, and were throwing the body more often, again, like in the first period.  The Devils showed they were getting their legs back over the latter half of the first period however.  But the trend didn't seem to be continuing in the second.


With 7:18 left in the second, Marty challenged a shot from point, and won, to kept it a 1-0 game.


New Jersey put L.A. on the power play after committing their first penalty, and even managed a short-handed opportunity by Zach Parise.  They successfully killed off penalty.  At 4:28, they finally managed their first shot on goal of the second period.  Dainius Zubrus had a great look but got stoned by Jonathan Quick on the shot.  Then...


Score at 1:12 - Patrick Elias tied the game off a big rebound/deflection left by Jonathan Quick following Anton Volchenkov's shot from the top of the left circle.


Over the first five minutes of the third period, this time New Jersey was carrying the play.  Zach Parise had a goal waived off after he forced a puck in net with his hand.  But the point is, the Devils were forcing the issue now.  Ryan Carter had another good look against Jonathan Quick, but was stopped with thirteen minutes to go.  But neither team managed much else during regulation.


Into overtime they went.  At 8:47, the Kings scored and the crowd in The Rock crumbled once Anze Kopitar scored.  He juked, and deeked, as he came in on Brodeur virtually unmolested, and scored the Game One winner.


Kings lead the series, one game, to none.




Mike.BTB

N.Y. Mets ~ Failed Opportunity

From the desk of:   HEAD BUTTING MR. MET



NEW YORK METS:  Two Opportunities Lost.


Opportunities lost indeed.  With no Roy Halladay to face, the Mets had Cole Hamels right where they wanted him Monday.  Wednesday night, the Mets similarly had Cliff Lee right where they wanted him as well.  In both cases, the bottom of the bullpen fell out.

Monday's meltdown centered around Manny Acosta.  And it cost him his job.  After seeing what happened to D.J. Carrasco prior to that, the word is out - Sandy will cut you; no other descriptive needed.

Wednesday night, everyone who stepped out of the bullpen got roughed up.  Bobby Parnell took a second tumble this series.  Along with Parnell, Tim Byrdak and Jon Rouch, I believe are just matters of usage.  So I won't harp on a loss with regards to them.  And for the moment, it's not fair to pick on Chris Schwinden either. 

So that leaves us with Ramon Ramirez, who took his turn at folly Thursday evening.  He surrendered only his second home run this season, to Jimmy Rollins.  Thing with Ramon Ramirez is, when he's on, he's good.  When he's off, he's really off.  And he's terribly streaky.  So I hope this isn't about to begin a new string of troubles for him, and us.  This would be the absolute wrong time for that.

Guys like Ramirez and Miguel Batista just became more important to the Mets.  After all, there are only so many appendages Sandy Alderson can amputate from the bullpen, before Buffalo, and Binghampton run out; if they haven't already.  And quite obviously, what we can reasonably expect from Chris Schwinden, is negligible.  Which is to say, we have a real precarious situation on our hands, as this schedule begins to test the Mets.

For a night, or a series, Bobby Parnell, Tim Byrdak, and Jon Rauch, at least I feel, we all victims of over-use heading into Wednesday night.  And not just lately, but over all this season.  Sometimes over-use manifests itself at different times, even on the heels of recent, long and strong performances by Johan Santana and Dickey.

Losing two out of three games to the Phillies was an opportunity lost on the Mets.  In the face of mystifying offensive accomplishments, the Mets still betrayed their own timely hitting and decently strong pitching with an array of confounding bullpen performances.  These two losses to the Phillies are the kinds that haunt.  These are the ones you rue not winning.  This was a series designed to seize the moment.

What is still undeniable about these Mets however, is their ability to, if not staying in against strong opposing starting pitchers, but they also have shown they can indeed out-last them.  This was the second time against Cliff Lee this season, and they had him where they wanted him too.



Mike.BTB

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

L.I. Ducks ~ Riversharks Bite Ducks in Ninth

From the desk of:   THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE




LONG ISLAND DUCKS:  After a Marvelous Pitcher's Duel, Camden Riversharks Serve Up Last Licks on Ducks.

For six innings, Long Island's starter, Gustavo Chacin, and Camden's Kevin Reese, engaged in a fine pitcher's duel at Campbell's Field.

Gustavo pitched through the seventh, surrendering only three hits, and striking out five, while walking two.  Kevin Reese was relieved after six.  But he similarly only allowed four hits, walked one, and struck out three.  Then Camden's bullpen took over.

Through seven innings, Kraig Binick was 2 for 4, and was the only Ducks player with multiple hits.  Brandon Sing, Matt Esquivel, and Ray Navarrete, had the other three Long Island hits.

After the Ducks failed to score in the top of the eighth, Coach Baez opted to turn the game over to his bullpen.  He summoned Jason Monti, who promptly sat down the Riversharks in order.  The Ducks were likewise set down in order in the top of the ninth.


Jason Monti went out to the hill for his second inning of work.  Suffice to say, after a lead off double, an intentional walk, and a hit-by-pitch to load the bases, Monti was in trouble.  A sac-fly to right later, and this game went final.  Ducks lose on Camden's last licks.


So, after winning the first two games of the series, Camden gets one back.  Thursday will be the fourth and final game of this series.  The Riversharks will be looking for a split.



Mike.BTB

Newark Bears ~ Take Matinee Game Over Tornadoes

From the desk of:   THE BRICK CITY NINE






NEWARK BEARS:  Yesterday's Pitching Duel Turned Into This Morning's Loss.  Brick City Drops Rain Suspended Game.

Bears Strike Back in Today's Matinee Game for 7-4 Win Over Worcester.

Tuesday - RAIN HALTS PITCHER'S DUEL in WORCESTER



The Bears and Tornadoes were tied after six innings in Wednesday's matinee game.  Newark jumped out to an early 3-0 lead after two.  Daryle Ward doubled home Alex Bardeguez in the first inning.  In the second, Bryce Lane led off the inning with a walk.  A two out double by Dan Coury scored Lane.  And yet another two out double by Quentin Davis drove in Dan Coury.


Worcester picked up two runs in the third.  The Bears then scored their fourth run in the fourth, to take a 4-2 lead on Dan Coury's home run.  In the bottom half of the fourth, Worcester rallied against Newark's starting pitcher, Brian Parker, again for another run, making it a 4-3 game.  With one out, Coach Oberkfell then made his move to the bullpen, and brought in Damian Sequen.


Brian Parker pitched 5.1 innings and got peppered for eleven hits.  He allowed four earned runs, no walks, and struck out five before being relieved.


Damian Sequen held Worcester in the sixth.  Three Bears' relievers combined on 3.2 innings to keep Worcester at four runs.  Anthony Pluta pitched 1.1 innings, with two strikeouts.  Jorge Vasquez took care of the ninth by striking out the side.  Damian Sequen was credited with the win, and Vasquez the save.


In the seventh inning, Alex Bardeguez scored an insurance run on a passed ball.  Newark scored a second time when Daryle Ward scored on a wild pitch.  Then in the ninth inning, they tacked on one more run for good measure.  Juan Martinez doubled home Eric McGee with the Bears' seventh, and final run.



Tuesday's Game Continuation:
The two teams concluded Tuesday night's rain suspended game this morning.  Click link above for game details of a fine pitcher's duel.  Today, Worcester's catcher, Chris Torres launched the game winning home run in the home ninth, giving the Tornadoes a 2-1 victory.  And of course, the Bears earned a split of the series in today's matinee.  They will play the rubber game of this series on Thursday.





Mike.BTB

Newark Bears ~ Rain Halts Pitcher's Duel in Worcester

From the desk of:   THE BRICK CITY NINE







NEWARK BEARS:  Mother Nature Halts a Heck of a Game.


Heading into the ninth inning of a 1-1 tie game, Mother Nature interceded to delay the outcome of this contest.  And it's a shame.  Because this game deserved a winner Tuesday night.

Mike Ness of the Bears, and Kevin Cooper of the Tornadoes, engaged in a classic pitcher's duel over the first eight innings of the game.

Mike Ness surrendered three hits, and allowed but one run.  He walked one batter and struck out seven.  Worcester's Kevin Cooper, similarly allowed three hits, and surrendered one Newark run.  He walked two and struck out nine Bears.  In the top of the ninth, Cooper was relieved by Michael Bourdon.  He managed two outs before the umpires ordered players off the field due to rain.

The game was ultimately suspended.

Shortstop Alex Bardeguez drove in the lone Newark run.  Tornadoes' second baseman Brandon Pickney drove in Worester's one run.

Jose Canseco of the Tornadoes was held hitless on four at-bats.  Left fielder Brendon Kelliher had two hits in three times up.  Billy Alvino had one hit and scored Newark's run.  Quentin Davis, Bardeguez, and Burt Reynolds, also hit safely for the Bears.

They will resume Game One of this four game series Wednesday.

The St. Paul Saints defeated the Quebec Capitales 8-2 Tuesday evening, which means the Bears still maintain a half game lead over Quebec, for the early circuit lead.  The Bears and St. Paul Saints will meet for the first time ever, next weekend, at Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium.

TUESDAY UPDATE:


The Bears and Tornadoes concluded Tuesday's game early on Wednesday.  In the bottom of the ninth, Worcester catcher Chris Torres hit the game-winning home run in the home ninth inning, to give the Tornadoes a 2-1 win.


Mike.BTB

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

N.Y. Mets ~ Amazins Have Much Hinging on June

From the desk of:   HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET





NEW YORK METS:  Sandy Alderson Wastes No Time; Continues To Address Bullpen Issues.  Manny Acosta Gets Designated for Assignment After Game One of Most Competitive Stretch in Amazin's Schedule So Far.

Mets Must Generate Power To Stay Cool This Summer.

Popular Opinion has it the Mets will not be able to sustain this level of play through the summer.  If the Mets keep getting injured at this rate, the Opinionated might be right.  If the Mets stumble, and fall during this next 19-game stretch; including Monday's loss to Philadelphia, the Opinionated might again, be right.  Nineteen games from now lands the Mets in a series with Baltimore, then it's right back against the Yankees again in the Citi Field portion of the Subway Series.

In other words, it's time to sink or swim boys.  Moving forward, they will be defined by June.  Not April or May.  Because that's what happens when you're only (for now) five games over the .500 level.  And that's what happens when the Braves hit a horrific stretch and suffer eight consecutive losses heading into Tuesday's games.  And that's what happens when Philly gets ravaged by Met-Like high end injuries.  Make what ever you will of the Marlins.  But now that Memorial Day has passed, no one will remember all the Feel-Good the Mets gave us for the first two months of Spring.

Right off the bat, Monday night, I feel the Mets failed to seize the moment.  They had Cole Hamels on the ropes, and damn near out-lasted him, hitting two, two-run home runs off the Philly hurler.  Jon Niese did little however, to help his own cause with five walks in five innings pitched.  Even then, the bullpen, namely Manny Acosta, couldn't keep the Phils where they were.

This season, the 31-year old Manny Acosta, was in a word, terrible.  In twenty-two innings pitched, he possessed a still escalating 11.28 ERA.  He gave up thirty-five hits and walked another fifteen.  And in those twenty-two innings, he gave up six dreadful home runs.  Like D.J. Carrasco before him, Manny Acosta was designated for assignment by Sandy Alderson Tuesday.  Chris Schwinden was recalled to fill the roster spot.

With offensive statistics starting to paint a very grim picture for the upcoming Mets' Summer, every lead is precious as you can imagine.  Especially since the Mets are still somehow defeating the odds.  So, Sandy Alderson decided he can't have Acosta polluting his bullpen a single game longer.  And say this for the Mets' General Manager - there is no such thing as paralysis through analysis with him.  He's fair, but when it comes time to cut the cord on someone, Sandy does not hesitate.  He wields his scythe swiftly.

Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez, and the Purge, were different matters.  I'm taking about the move he made last season at second base, when it was clear Brad Emaus wasn't the answer there.  He promptly DFA'd him, and we moved on nicely at second base since then.  If only we can have some of that fortune rub off on the bullpen.  Because this makes two arms Sandy has jettisoned now, due to lack of performance.  At least Frank Francisco is looking like he might have some staying power.

Back to matters of injury, add Justin Turner to the list of wounded.  No one is about to say shortstop is now haunted, but talk about having some horrible luck at the position this season.  Tonight, they sported shortstop number four, or even five.  I lost count.  The Mets might finally catch a break however, once Ruben Tejada returns.  But even he is having a tough time getting back on the field.

All these factors exist to test the Mets' resilience, and maybe even their temerity.  After all, there is something to youthful exuberance.  It's what the Mets have been relying on.  How much longer will it last?  If Scott Hairston is answering that question, he'll say all season long!  He had a pinch hit home run for the Mets Tuesday night - his sixth of the season.  He now leads the Mets.  David Wright, Lucas Duda, and Ike Davis, are all behind him.  There's an obvious problem there.

As with the problems Sandy Alderson is having plugging the fifth spot in the rotation, he will not easily pluck someone from the farm system for instant power either.  That sort of tact may work with the bullpen for now.  But unless Sandy can find that fifth starter other than by utilizing some of the burgeoning talent the Mets have percolating in the minors, the only other solution to the Mets problem in the back end of the rotation, and with their dearth of hitting power, are simply, player production.

Tuesday night, the latest fifth starter made his third start as a Met.  For a night, Jeremy Hefner made Sandy Alderson look like a smart man.  Not only did the kid hit his first MLB home run to help his own cause, he left on the winning side of a 6-3 game.  Jeremy allowed three earned runs on six hits.  He walked none and struck out four.

Then.., about that bullpen - Bobby Parnell pitched a scoreless seventh.  In the eighth, John Rauch allowed a lead-off single to Jimmy Rollins.  A couple of batters later, the rains came and interrupted the game.  But for the purposes of this post however, I do not need a final score.

It's enough to say - if the Mets regular power hitters can just show up, like Jeremy Hefner did in Game Two versus the Phils Tuesday, they'll succeed in making many June games, important ones.



Read my articles on the New York Mets at Rising Apple.com




Mike.BTB

Monday, May 28, 2012

L.I. Ducks ~ The Webbed Nine Take a Bite Out of Camden

From the desk of:   THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE







LONG ISLAND DUCKS:  Open Road Trip With 8-0 Blanking of River Sharks.


Mike Loree pitched like the Ducks' ace of old Monday evening in Camden.  He hand-cuffed the Sharks over seven innings, allowing a mere three hits and no runs.  He walked none and struck out five, before giving way to Dan Meyer and Conner Graham, who took care of the eighth and ninth innings to end Camden's night.  Long Island pitching held the River Sharks to five hits.

After a pair of rocky starts, and a few no decisions, Mike Loree pitched, by far, his best game of the season over five starts so far, and picked up his second win in the process.  Mike also lowered his ERA to a 3.18 mark.

Long Island got on the board right away against Camden starter, Mike McGuire.  Kraig Binick led off the game with a walk, and later came around to score for a 1-0 lead.  In the fourth, Long Island used power and took advantage of shoddy defense to score three more runs.  Ray Navarrete led off the inning with a home run.  Then two River Sharks' errors led to two more runs for the Ducks, and a 4-0 lead.

Bryant Nelson led off the fifth with a single, then scored on a Ray Navarrete sac-fly.  In the eighth, Ried Gorecki launched his first home run of the season; a solo shot, to give the Ducks a 6-0 lead.  Then in the ninth, Long Island tacked on two more for good measure.  Matt Esquivel and Ray Navarrete hit back to back doubles, for a 7-0 lead.  Shawn Williams' sac-fly to center scored Navarrete, and capping the Ducks scoring at eight.

That's the Ducks' third win in a row.  They are now the first team to reach twenty wins this season.  Long Island has also opened up a 4.5 game lead over the Bridgeport Bluefish, who lost at home to the Revolution.  Only the Sugar Land Skeeters are a hotter club than the Ducks over the last ten games of the season.

Armando Benitez, signed by the Ducks on May 24, is yet to appear in a game.





Mike.BTB

N.Y. Rangers ~ The Big Blue Iceberg Will Surge Again

From the desk of:   RAISE GRESCH WITH THE GREATS






The NYR's 2011-2012 Season Was Still a Classic.


NEW YORK RANGERS:  If That's the Way it Ends..., So Be it.


Right off the bat, I will tell you the New York Rangers met my 2011-2012 expectations.  And today, I am a happy fan.  I am one of those forward thinkers, who believes the best days for these Rangers are still ahead of them.  Of course I wouldn't be so comfortable saying that had this team not been under construction the right way.  Or at least the way they've been constructed so far, which most of us have been quite satisfied with.  So why kill them for losing?  If anything, these youngsters still need to learn how to become finishers.  And there are other matters to address as well.


But look how far they've come in such a short time.  Today we beat on the door.  Tomorrow we knock it down.


I still believe we will have our day soon.  I do not view this as an opportunity lost, and a fleeting chance we'll have to wait another eighteen years for again.  Hardly.   I was against making a deal at the trade-deadline for a reason.  And with this blog as my witness, I stand by it all.


Knowing everything we knew about the Rangers, I think our downfall had more to do with the absence of Brandon Dubinsky than anything else.  Now that I've had some separation between Game Six and today, I'm less inclined to hurl blame at people for our Conference Finals failure against the Devils.  Winning a Cup would have been nice and all, but I'm still of the notion we are a young rebuilding hockey club.


The time to tinker with this club is now, or soon; during the up coming off-season.  Not during the trade deadline that passed.  Now we can go out and find more scoring, having still retained Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan McDonagh or Michael Del Zotto, and Chris Kreider.  And we'll be better for it.  This is not Back To The 'Ol Drawing Board.


The Big Blue Iceberg got held up.  But when it slips forward again, watch out.  There will be a lot of stored energy released.




Mike.BTB

L.I. Ducks ~ Salvage Game Versus Bridgeport; At The Game

From the desk of:   THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE
*Corrected on Tuesday










LONG ISLAND DUCKS:  Another Fine Day in The Pond.


The Ducks salvaged a win versus the Bridgeport Bluefish Sunday afternoon in the second installment of this season's Ferry Cup Series.  The Bluefish now lead the benefit series four games to one.  Game Three will be Monday.




Play Ball!  First Pitch



Long Island's starter, Randy Keisler, labored through 102 pitches in six innings.  He was touched for six hits and three earned runs.  And struggled with control, walking four, and struck out three.


Bridgeport took a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning on a two run home run by third baseman, Brock Peterson.  But Long Island struck back for three runs in their half of the inning.  Ray Navarrete led off the home half of the fourth with a walk.  Brandon Sing followed with a single.  Then Shawn Williams drove them both home with a one out triple.  Ried Gorecki lofted a fly ball to center for a sacrifice fly RBI, and a 3-1 Ducks lead.  Bridgeport tied the game however in their next at-bat off Randy Keisler.









By the sixth inning, Randy Keisler's day was through.  But not before the Ducks supplied him with four more runs in the bottom of the sixth, to put Keisler on the winning side of the game again.  This was Randy's third win of the season against just one loss.


After Shawn Williams led of with another extra-base hit; a double this time; Ried Gorecki drove him home with a single.  Josh Johnson followed with another single to score Gorecki who had previously advanced to second.  Yet another single by Bryant Nelson later delivered Josh Johnson.  A sac-fly by Brandon Sing drove home Kraig Binick, and the fourth Ducks' run of the frame.  An error led to one more Long Island run in the eighth, giving them an 8-3 lead, and eventual final.




Kraig Binick and Ray Navarrete




Brandon Sing




In the lead-off spot, Kraig Binick was 3 for 4 Sunday, with a walk, and two runs scored.  First baseman Shawn Williams, was 2 for 4, with a double, triple, and two RBI.  Ried Gorecki also had two RBI.


After Randy Keisler, Long Island's bullpen took care of the final three innings.  Jason Monti pitched two innings, allowed three hits and two walks, and struck out three.  Jeremy Hill closed out the ninth inning, surrendering a hit, and a walk


The Ducks begin a four set in Camden against the River Sharks Tuesday evening.








My Sixth Inning Foul Ball.






Mike.BTB

Saturday, May 26, 2012

N.J. Devils ~ MARTY'S REVENGE

From the desk of:   THE BRICK CITY DEMONS




NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE ~ STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS

Eastern Conference Finals

GAME SIX
New York Rangers  2
New Jersey Devils    3

DEVILS WIN SERIES 4-2
I  -  NYR 3; NJD 0
II  -  NJD 3; NYR 2
III  -  NYR 3; NJD 0
IV  -  NJD 4; NYR 1
V  -  NJD 5; NYR 3
VI  -  NJD 3; NYR 2*
*overtime




2011-2012
EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS


NEW JERSEY DEVILS:  Lou Lamoriello's Club is Headed to Their Fifth Stanley Cup Finals.


At age forty, Marty Brodeur finally gets his revenge against the New York Rangers.  Eighteen years after being sent home upon the Rangers scoring a double-overtime goal in Game Seven of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, Marty exorcises his personal demon.  Maybe now he'll retire in peace, but not before he has a little more fun against the L.A. Kings.  Marty stressed over and over, he was having fun this season.  So, I'm sure he's having a ball right about now.  And why not?  The renaissance man had a great series.s


For the NHL's All-Time Career Shut-Outs leader, and for the NHL's All-Time Wins leader, Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals was career playoff win number one-hundred and ten.  And save for raising the Stanley Cup three times, this was probably his most satisfying win of all.  Lou Lamoriello's 1990 draft pick is taking the Devils to their fifth Stanley Cup appearance in the franchise's history.


In Game Six, Martin Brodeur faced thirty-five shots, and turned back thirty-three Rangers' pucks on goal, sending his chief nemesis back through the Holland Tunnel, a dejected team.  He even recorded another assist this series.  And by the way, his ability to handle the puck, and make accurate stretch passes back to mid-ice, in large part, ruined the Rangers' season long formidable forechecking.


And for Lou Lamoriello?  Vindication.  He has rebuilt this team into a Stanley Cup contender, again.  Only one of the greatest team executives the metropolitan area has ever known, Lou Lamoriello persisted through chiding he was cap challenged, which reached a pitched level when he signed Ilya Kovalchuck to what many thought would be a franchise breaking contract.  While the organization's financial footing is a whole other matter, Ilya Kovalchuck and Lou Lamoriello finally made this union work.


And the "What If's" over last season's poor start will persist.  Lou Lamoriello's hiring of John MacLean to be head coach nearly doused the fires in Newark.  Jacques LeMaire returned, and spear-headed a furious recovery and charge towards the playoffs.  But they fell just short and missed the tournament for the first time in nearly two decades.


Lou then hired little known Peter DeBoer, whom most widely agree got shafted by the Florida Panthers.  The new coach then led these Devils to a 102-point season inside a brutal Atlantic Division in which four teams amassed over 100 points.  Additionally, they finished the regular season by winning six in a row.  In this playoff encounter, I think Peter DeBoer played Coach Torts brilliantly.  But that is not to say either coach out-coached the other.  But Peter clearly won the battles along the peripheral fronts.


Lou also drafted a centerman whom I think is a tremendous hockey player; Adam Henrique.  Heading into Game Two, I posted here, how at the game, I told my son to keep an eye on Henrique in the offensive zone.  He's going to kill us; the Rangers that is.  I thought that about Dave Clarkson as well.  But it was Henrique who ultimately ended the Rangers' season.  Adam Larsson was another defensive draft pick Lou made which, along with the acquisition of Marek Zidlicki, vastly contributed to the Devils' defensive success this season.


These teams split the regular season battle of the Hudson with three wins apiece.  By the time New Jersey met the Rangers in the Conference Finals, New Jersey clearly emerged as the better team.  While the Rangers' overall scoring came from a most ponderous and broad range of skaters this series, the Devils' forward lines dominated enough of Game Two, Four, Five and Six , to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.


Really, in any given game, the Parise/Zajak/Zubrus line was the best line on the ice.  Then Peter DeBoer's late season creation; the Bernier/Carter/Gionta line; also at many times this series, was the best line on the ice.  Those two lines wracked up points like they were playing pinball.  Zach Parise in particular, put up points like no Ranger could.  Ryan Carter was putting up points like no Ranger could.  Travis Zajac scored his seventh goal of the playoffs in this series.  He, was putting up points like no Rangers' forward could, unless you include the many Ryan Callahan deflection goals.  Ilya Kovalchuck...ditto.


The Rangers needed scoring from their defensemen in order to stay alive.  The Devils' back line scoring matched them.  Bryce Salvador, and of course, Adam Henrique, saw to that.  And before Game Five, I doubt many Ranger fans even heard of Mark Fayne.  After the night he had in Game Five, not many Ranger fans will forget him.


Yea, I'm a Rangers Fan.  Good Luck Devils.  You out-Rangered the Rangers.  You won face-offs, won the battle along the boards, had more guys in front of the net, blocked as many shots, and managed to neutralize our shot-blocking.  You guys skated faster, passed better, took two games at MSG, were more disciplined, and cashed in on your opportunities in a way we couldn't.  The Devils' experience rose to the top, and their ability to finish games was markedly better than that of the young Rangers.


I will continue talking Devils Hockey throughout the next round against the Los Angeles Kings.


Maaar-Teeeee! - has his Revenge.  The near dynastic era of the New Jersey Devils is not over yet.  They are the NHL 's 2011-2012 Eastern Conference Champions for the fifth time in their history.





* Devil's Playground Graffiti-Bushwich, BK
Mike.BTB

Friday, May 25, 2012

L.I. Ducks ~ Too Much Fight in the Bluefish

From the desk of:   THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE







LONG ISLAND DUCKS:  Bluefish Dominating The Pond.  Ducks Drop Fifth Straight to Bridgeport.  Ferry Cup Series Proving Half-Empty For Long Island.

Thursday's was a comeback that fell short.  After Brideport jumped ahead with four runs in the second inning, and another run in the third, the Ducks found themselves behind 5-0 early.

The Bluefish roughed up Joe Esposito during his abbreviated 2.1 innings of work.  He surrendered eight hits and allowed five of six earned runs.  Joe walked one and struck out one in suffering his third loss of the season.

Long Island's bullpen kept Bridgeport off the scoreboard for the rest of the night.  But the damage was already done.  Conner Graham and Dan Meyer took care of the next four innings.  Eric Niesen struggled in his appearance, as he walked three batters out of eight he faced.  Jeremy Hill finished out for the Ducks.
The home team started their comeback in the fifth inning with a lead off home run by Josh Johnson.  In the sixth, Long Island scored again on Josh Johnson's RBI single.  But two more runs in the seventh fell just a little short of a full comeback however.  Matt Esquivel and Ried Gorecki both drove in a run each with singles, but the Ducks couldn't manage another.

This game ended in a 5-4 final.

In Friday night's affair, the Bluefish continued to befuddle Long Island for a fifth consecutive game this season.  Bridgeport swept Long Island earlier in the season, and so far in this series, the Fish have shown no signs of letting up.

Gustavo Chacin took the hill for Long Island and immediately found himself in a 2-0 hole after the first inning of play.  Another run in the third, and three more in the sixth knocked Chacin out of the box after having allowed six earned runs over 6.2 innings.  The Bluefish tagged him for eight hits.  Recent pick-up, Jared Lansford, came in to relieve.

Through six, all the Ducks could manage off Bridgeport's starter, Paul Oseguera, were two hits.  But they finally broke through for a few runs in the eighth.  After Ried Gorecki and Dan Lyons reached safely, Wilberto Ortiz drove in Gorecki with a single.  Brandon Sing then stepped up and jacked a three run home run to cut Bridgeport's lead in half.  That was Brandon's seventh.  But by then, Bridgeport had already scored eight runs off Ducks' pitching.  Dan Meyer got touched for two of those, as the Ducks used five relievers to get through the game.


The Bluefish have now crept back to within 1.5 games of the Ducks for first in the Liberty Division.



Bridgeport Bluefish lead Ferry Cup Series 5-0





Mike.BTB

Newark Bears ~ Look Who's In First

From the desk of:   THE BRICK CITY NINE





NEWARK BEARS:  Brick City Jumps Out to an Early Circuit Lead.


* Friday night's game in Newark versus the Quebec Capitales was postponed.


As of - Thursday, May 24, 2012:


For the second consecutive night, Newark needed two runs in the top of the ninth inning in order to gain victory over Rockland in the rubber game of a three game set.


In his second start this season, Brian Parker pitched into the seventh inning for a second consecutive time.  He allowed Rockland three scattered runs off six hits.  He walked three and struck out five before giving way to Anthony Pluta.  With a run in the sixth however, the Boulders relegated Parker's effort to no-decision status.


Newark held the early lead with a run in the first after Daryle Ward connected on his second home run this season.  After Rockland tied the game in their next at-bat, the Bears picked up two more in the third.  Billy Alvino reached first on an E-6, and later came around to score on a fielder's choice.  A Juan Martinez single drove in Matt Tomczyk with the second unearned run of the inning.


Rockland tied the game in the sixth at three.  And it stayed that way till the ninth.  In the visitor's half, Eric McGee led off with a double.  Billy Alvino then came through with a clutch two out base hit to deliver McGee from second.  Alvino eventually scored on another two out single by Matt Tomczyk.


After having pitched a scoreless eighth, with two strikeouts, Anthony Pluta was the beneficiary of Newark's effort in the ninth.  He gained his second relief win this season.  Then Jorge Vasquez was summoned to close out the ninth inning for Newark.  He did so in grand fashion by striking out the side.


...And behold, the Newark Bears are a first place club.  With Thursday's win, the Bears affixed themselves to a firm one game lead atop the circuit over the Quebec Capitales.  The Bears are the first team to five wins.  Along with timely hitting, the Bears have been able to do so behind quality pitching that's getting deep into games.  But it's relief pitchers Anthony Pluta and Matt Fitton who lead the league so far in wins with two apiece.  Brian Parker is second in the league with twelve strikeouts.


Offensively, Bryce Lane has the early lead in RBI with nine.




The Bears and Quebec Capitales will make up Friday's game with a double-header on Saturday, at 'ol Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium.




Mike.BTB

Thursday, May 24, 2012

L.I. Ducks ~ Next Up; The Bluefish in a Battle for First

From the desk of:   THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE






LONG ISLAND DUCKS:   After Dropping Opening Game, Ducks Comeback to Take Series from Lancaster.  Next, the Bluefish Invade The Pond in a Clash For First Place.

The Ferry Cup Series Resumes.



What do you do when the Barnstormers ruin your home winning streak at nine?  You start a new streak by winning the next two.  And so, the Ducks came back to win the final two games in their series against Lancaster.


In Tuesday's game, Randy Keisler, Jeremy Hill, and Dan Meyer, all pitched brilliantly against former major leaguer, John Halama and company.  Randy Keisler tossed seven innings of seven hit, shut-out ball.  He walked one and struck out eight.  After 103 pitches, Randy gave way to Jeremy Hill staked to a 6-0 lead.


In the first inning, Kraig Binick led off the game with a double, and scored on Bryant Nelson's single, and an error by the third baseman.  Reid Gorecki later singled home Bryant Nelson for a 2-0 Ducks' lead.


It stayed that way until the bottom of the seventh inning.  For John Halama's part, he was snake bit by errors over 6.2 innings.  Of the six runs charged to him, only two were earned.  He did surrender nine hits however, and walked three.


After a good seventh inning stretch, the Ducks beefed up their lead with four more runs.  After an E-5, a wild pitch, a walk, and a single by Bryant Nelson to load the bases, John Halama was on the ropes.  After missing some time, Brandon Sing made his return to play in time for this series, and said hello to John Halama with a grand slam home run, for a 6-0 Ducks' lead.  It was Brandon's first home run since returning over the weekend, and his sixth of the season.


The Ducks tacked on one more run in the eighth on Wilberto Ortiz' second home run of the season.


Jeremy Hill pitched a scoreless eighth and struck out two.  And Dan Meyer pitched a scoreless ninth to finish off the win.




On Wednesday, the Ducks picked up where they left off.  Jason Monti hung in and pitched five innings of four hit ball.  He gave up one earned run and struck out three with no walks on the way to recording his third win of the season.  Jason trails Mike Loree by one strikeout (21/22) for the team lead.


By the fourth inning, the Ducks already posted their ten runs.  Brandon Sing seems to be getting his swing in order.  He was 3 for 5, with a double and a run scored.  Along with Sing.., Kraig Binick, Bryant Nelson, Ray Navarrete, and James McOwen, all had multiple hits.  Shawn Williams was the only Duck to homer Wednesday and had three RBI.  Bryant Nelson drove in his team leading 19th RBI.  And Ray Navarrete was 2 for 4 with four RBI and two runs scored.  In all, the Ducks had fifteen hits.


Once Jason Monti was out of the game, the bullpen had some trouble closing out.  Connor Graham, and Eric Niesen, combined to pitch four innings (two each), and surrendered four runs on six hits, and walked four.


So a flaky bullpen and two errors get covered up by ten runs for a day...  Winning can do that.


The Ducks are now 17-8, and remain the only team with single digit losses.  They maintain a 3.5 game lead over the Bridgeport Bluefish in the Liberty Division, who conveniently swim into The Pond Thursday night for a four game series in what is now a battle for first place.  But Bridgeport is 3-7 in their last ten, while the Ducks are just the opposite with a 7-3 record in their last ten games.  The Bluefish were 4-2 losers to Southern Maryland Wednesday.  The Ducks are now 11-1 at home.


The Ferry Cup Series continues.  In the last meeting between these teams, the Bluefish swept a three game series in Bridgeport.





Mike.BTB

N.Y. Rangers ~ MSG Empties Out In Silence

From the desk of:   RAISE GRESCH WITH THE GREATS  &  THE BRICK CITY DEMONS






BATTLE OF THE HUDSON




CHILLER THEATER!

GAME FIVE ~ FINAL
DEVILS      5
RANGERS  3



Madison Square Garden engineers better check for cracks in the foundation before they let anyone back in for a possible Game Seven.  After Wednesday night, the place may not be safe to re-enter. Your Broadway Blueshirts were a smash.


The Call of the Garden Wild shook the walls of MSG like the renovation of the World's Most Famous Arena hasn't.  You could hear them from 33rd Street all the way to Trenton.  Maaaa-aaarty! ...they screamed.


This was the third period.  MSG was bedlam.  To start, everyone was just mad.  The Devils jumped out to a near instant three goal lead in the first period.  Everything after that was nothing short of a classic.


The Rangers came all the way back from being down 3-0 midway through the first period.  Their Captain almost willed them back by himself.  Marian Gaborik tied the game at three as the third period commenced.


Then the Devils took a deep breath, resettled themselves, and took aim at the Rangers again.  At one point, Brad Richards mistakenly took a most remarkable shot at his own goalie, but it drew a needed whistle.  The Rangers really needed one at that point.  But not like that.


The Devils were surging-on with fury ever since the Rangers scored goal number three.  Then Ryan Carter, the guy who the Rangers like to beat-up any chance they get, and the man Carl Hagelin failed to cover for this one shift, beat the Rangers.  He scored the game winning goal with just over four minutes to go.  The Devils would score a fifth goal on an empty net.  And Madison Square Garden emptied in silence.


Unlike the more experienced Devils, the Rangers; through five games only; are proving they are too young to know how to finish.  In that regard, Brandon Dubinsky would have helped imeasurably over the previous four games.  Now the young Blueshirts are forced to be stupid enough to win two in a row.




More later.





Mike.BTB

Newark Bears ~ Ninth Inning Rally Equals Win Number Four

From the desk of:   THE BRICK CITY NINE




NEWARK BEARS:  Brick City Busts Some Rocks for Ninth Inning Win.






Series Tied 1-1
I - Boulders 8; Bears 4
II - Bears 6; Boulders 4





Game Three ~ Thursday



The Bears took their first ride up to Rockland Tuesday night where they dropped the first game of their series against the Boulders by an 8-4 final.  Pedro Rivera was making his first start for Newark, and quite frankly, could have used a little more help.  Two errors in the second inning led to Rockland's first two unearned runs.  Another error led to Ryan Mollica's three run home run off Rivera in the third inning, bringing the number of unearned Boulder runs to five.  Then in the sixth, Ryan Mollica sent Pedro Rivera off to the showers with his second home run of the game.


In the seventh inning, Newark committed yet another error; their fourth of the game; which opened the door for Rockland second baseman, Cole Kraft's 2-run home run off Damian Sequen, who pitched the seventh and eighth innings for Newark.


Newark's scoring came in the top of the second inning, and in the seventh.  Eric McGee doubled home Burt Reynolds, and scored when Billy Alvino grounded into a double play.  And in the seventh, Bryce Lane hit a solo run home run; his second.


Wednesday games mean morning games.  And so the teams convened in Rockland at 10:30am for Game Two of this three game set.  Making his second start, Mike Ness, pitched six full innings and left on the winning side of a 4-3 game.  He gave up three earned runs on seven hits, and two walks.  He struck out two.


Quentin Davis doubled and scored in the first inning.  Courtney Billingslea hit a solo home run in the second.  And after singling in the third, Quentin Davis scored again to give the Bears a 3-0 lead after two and a half innings of play.


Rockland got a run back in the bottom of the third.  And picked up two more runs against Mike Ness in the fourth to tie the game.  But the Bears picked up their pitcher with a go ahead run in the sixth.  Once again, Quentin Davis factored in the scoring when he singled home Bryce Lane.


The Boulders remained stout and scored against Matt Fitton in the home seventh to tie the game at four.  But then came back the Bears in the top of the ninth.  Bryce Lane drew a bases loaded walk for the go ahead run.  And for insurance, Daryle Ward scored on Courtney Billingslea's sac-fly.


Anthony Pluta was the beneficiary of those two runs and earned the win.  Jorge Vasquez pitched the bottom of the ninth to close out the Bears' fourth win of the season.


Final Score - Bears 6; Rockland 4


Newark and Rockland will play the rubber game of this series Thursday evening.


So far this season, the Newark Bears, and last season's three-peat CanAm Champs, the Quebec Capitales, are first to four wins, and sit atop the five team circuit.  Remember, there is no split season this year.  The top two teams in the division after 100 games played will make the playoffs.  So that's six down and ninety four to go.  After the Bears wrap up this series with Rockland, they will host the defending champions for three games.


Go Bears.





Mike.BTB

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

N.Y. Mets ~ Late Scoring Makes Dickey a Six Game Winner

From the desk of:   HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET





NEW YORK METS:
It's Time To Start Talking About R.A. Dickey the All*Star.


After seven full innings pitched in Pittsburgh, R.A. Dickey achieved his career high for strikeouts in a game with eleven.  R.A. surrendered but five hits, one earned run, and walked none.

In the top of the eighth, Coach Terry was faced with leaving Dickey in the game, as he only had thrown eighty-nine pitches to that point, or pinch hitting for him, because the Mets were tied with the Pirates at one, with the pitcher due to lead off.  Buc's starter, James McDonald, was equal to the task with seven innings of one run baseball as well.  He allowed four Met hits, walked two, and struck out eight.

The scoring re-cap is easy.  Mike Nickeas singled home Daniel Murphy back in the second.  And Pittsburgh scored on a sac-fly in the sixth.

Coach Terry sent up Andres Torres to pinch hit, who promptly struck out.  So much for strategy.  Mike  Baxter then lined a double to straight away center field.  Kirk Nieuwenhuis did well to work out a walk which brought up David Wright.  But the (now) .403 Kid struck out too.  So up stepped Lucas Duda looking for a clutch two out hit.  And you know..., he came through.  He pulled righty Juan Cruz' offering past first base for an RBI single.  Baxter scored from second on the hit.  James McDonald's line was now complete and would be marked by a no-decision.

The Bucs brought in another righty, Chris Resop, to face lefty Daniel Murphy with two outs and Nieuwenhuis on third.  An E-5 put Murphy on first, and allowed Nieuwenhuis to score for a 3-1 Mets lead.  Ike Davis, who was 0 for 4 on the night, with two strikeouts, ended the threat.

Then, in came the Mets' bullpen.  After suffering the loss in Monday's game, Jon Rauch was first.  A one out double by Jose Tabata to right was followed up with a fine play by Nickeas, 2-3 for the out.  Tabata moved to third on the play and scored when Daniel Murphy couldn't make an over the shoulder catch on a flair to short right.  The game was now 3-2 Mets, with the tying run on first.  Out went Rauch.  In came Tim Byrdak to face Pedro Alvarez.  Andrew McCutchen stole second to put the tying run at second.  Then on a 1-2 pitch, Tim Byrdak struck out his man and preserved the Mets lead.  The book on R.A. Dickey wasn't closed yet.

Frank Francisco began to muster in the bullpen while the Mets took their at-bat in the top of the ninth.  Once they failed to tack on any insurance runs, the big righty entered the game in search of his eleventh save, or his fourth loss, or his third blown save.  We never know these days.

A grounder to Murphy, and a strikeout, left Pittsburgh down to their last at-bat.  Rod Barajas popped up that opportunity a mile high and Kirk Nieuwenhuis squeezed it for the last out.  And so Frank Francisco's eleventh save indeed, came without incident.  R.A. Dickey is now a six game winner versus just one loss.

Scott Hairston is still the only Met to hit a home run on this road trip.  Pittsburgh barely has more than New York.  After tomorrow's rubber game, the Mets will host the San Diego Padres - the only team with less home runs than the Roosevelt Avenue Scrappers.

In lieu of power, the Mets have five, two-out RBI, against Pittsburgh so far.  And unlike their paltry .179 batting with RiSP against Toronto, the Mets are now 4 for 13 (.308) with RiSP this series.

Even with no power to speak of, everything the Metrs aren't getting accomplished against a string a good starting pitchers this month, they've done well to take out on relief pitchers.  The Mets continue to outlast many quality starts, and score late against team's bullpens.  James McDonald's was just the latest good start and Pittsburgh's bullpen was just the latest to implode against the Mets.

Such style of Baseball is tough on starting pitcher's baseball card.  But unlike last season, when a preponderance of R.A. Dickey's quality starts were relegated to no-decisions, or toe-tagged with a blown loss, this season, the Mets are doing a better job getting R.A. wins.

His continues to be a remarkable story.  Signed out of the ether by Omar Minaya to a minor league contract over the winter of 2009-10, he's become the Mets' most reliable, and consistent starting pitcher.  While improving his staff leading record to 6-1, he also lowered his ERA to a 3.45 in nine starts.  He leads the Mets rotation with 57.1 innings pitched, by far offering the Mets bullpen the most respite.

I think it's time we starting talking about R.A. Dickey in the same sentence with All-Star Game.

The Mets came back to split two games and will play the rubber match against the Pirates tomorrow in an early afternoon matinee, before returning home.  After dropping two of three to Toronto, they can end this road trip (2-3), and bring their overall road record (11-12) this season to .500 with a win Wednesday.





Mike.BTB

N.J. Devils ~ Coach DeBoer Putting Rangers Through Hell

From the desks of:   RAISE GRESCH WITH THE GREATS  &  THE BRICK CITY DEMONS








GAME FOUR FINAL
N.Y. Rangers   1
N.J. Devils       4



NEW JERSEY DEVILS:  DeBoer's Demons
Playing With Pitchforks High!

NEW YORK RANGERS GET BURNT IN DEVILS' PLAYGROUND


Battle of the Coaches Heats Up ~ Coach Tortorella and Coach DeBoer moved their series feud from the press room to the benches.  The two engaged in a heated third period exchange, which rumor has it, turned personal in nature. 
Both coaches declined to comment after the game.


Game Four Preview; GRUDGE MATCH, and links to all my Eastern Conference Finals posts.


The Devils beat Philadelphia, primarily because the Flyers were terribly undisciplined and because the Devils wouldn't allow themselves to succumb to their level.  Coach DeBoer constantly implored his team to look the other way in the face of any Flyers' transgressions.  They all listened, and after Game Four against the New York Rangers Monday night, New Jersey is again, clearly the more composed and competent team on the ice.


The Rangers put the Devils on the Power Play another six times in Game Four, although New Jersey only scored once.  But for the Rangers, you can't establish a tempo, or flow, and in the Blueshirts case - grind, or mount any kind of offense when you're consistently killing penalties.  Now, here's the worst part of that.  If Blueshirts fans think staying out of the penalty box alone will help the Rangers, WE are all sadly mistaken.  For a team who's forte used to be playing at even strength, the Rangers have scored a mere two goals throughout these four games while playing five on five hockey.


Late in the first period, Mike Rupp authored the Rangers' best offensive rush of the evening; Ruslan Fedotenko's goal aside.  Rupp's attempt didn't get past Martin Brodeur, but he did draw a penalty.  And for a change, that wasn't a bad proposition.  Unlike the regular season, the Rangers have actually been somewhat successful on the Power Play these playoffs.  They are four for eleven this series.  And we all know they didn't have a near 40% success rate during the season.  But unlike the Rangers were doing, the Devils only put the Rangers on the power play this one time.


Let's be clear.  Mike Rupp was the Rangers' best forward Monday night, right up until he wiped out Peter Harrold behind the net, took a swipe at Anton Volchenkov, then punched Martin Brodeur in the chest.  When a melee ensued, Steve Bernier came charging in towards Mike Rupp.  But Bernier made a mistake by leaving his feet and lunging at Rupp.  So, Mike Rupp wiped him out in mid-air too.


That's it.  That's the extent of the Rangers speakable effort from Monday.


While New Jersey's Forwards were busy skating circles around the Rangers and accumulating eight points, the Ranger Forwards looked like they were skating in sand.  Zach Parise scored twice and assisted once.  Travis Zajac scored his sixth goal of the playoffs.  Ponikarovsky, Clarkson, and Zubrus all assisted on those goals.  Then you can figure in contributions they got from their defensemen.  Bryce Salvador's scored the opening salvo of the evening, and they got an assist from Adam Henrique.


The Rangers' blueliners?  Michael Del Zotto had perhaps his worst game of the playoffs.  And Ryan McDonagh can't be tangling with Adam Henrique like that.  The Devils will take that trade off every time.  Especially now, since the Rangers' defensemen represent so much of the Blueshirts' offense.  Which brings us right back to Mike Rupp.


Mike Rupp was indeed the Rangers best forward Monday night, even as he walked through the tunnel on his way to the locker room.  So what does that say?  The same thing I said yesterday.  I'm still waiting for a Rangers' forward line to dominate a game, like Parise-Zajac-Zubrus did in Game Four, and not having us pray for another Lundqvist miracle.


But John Tortorella's usage of Mike Rupp represented everything that went wrong for the Flyers last round against the Devils.  As a matter of fact, Coach Torts' usage of a number of players showed that some old grudges never went away.  But Peter DeBoer and the Devils, just aren't going there.  Or that's what they would have you believe.  They've successfully fought their battles so far through the Media, inside the Rangers zone, and now from the corners of the bench.  Coach DeBoer even snuck in a goon too.  However, the Devils consistently posted four goals a night against Philly because the Flyers played exactly the way the Rangers did Monday night, over an entire series.  So with the Rangers mirroring something from that series, the Devils wound up posting four goals against the Rangers as well.


As the series heads back to the Garden Wednesday night, even I, a self-admitted Torts Grunt, believes he needs to come up with a better plan than the one he unleashed Monday night.  There was something a little desperate looking about Game Four's decisions and efforts, considering it was the Rangers who held a 2-1 series lead, and not the other way around.  Nor in Game Four did the Rangers resemble the team who made adjustments after games two and three of the previous two series.  This lot looked more than just a little bit lost.


After the game, Coach Torts said his team needs to possess the puck more.  That means our forcheck isn't working.  Martin Brodeur's ability to make a long stretch pass to the blue line has something to do with that.  The Devils' quickness and accurate passing has been another factor hampering the Blueshirt forcheck.  And without the puck, that means the Rangers aren't spending much time in the Devils' zone.  Game Four ended with both goalies facing twenty-nine shots each.  But the Rangers shots came in late period flurries, and not through anything sustained like the Devils have created for themselves.


Nothing is lost for the Rangers.  Not by a long shot.  For Blue leaning Fans like myself, the series boils down to them imposing their will upon the Devils.  But Peter DeBoer and the Devils have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, the Rangers better do it smartly.  Reducing the game to alternative hockey will not help the Rangers.  In Game Four, the Devils also proved they can be patient enough to negate many of the Rangers blocked shots.  For Monday night, the Devils managed twenty-nine shots against Henrik, while the Rangers and Devils were tied with only six blocked shots each by the midway point of the third period.


The third period was supposed to be the Rangers' period.  That's how the first three games played out.  The Rangers have outscored the Devils 6-1 in the third period this series.  But not this time.  It is Coach Tortorella's turn to make adjustments now.  The series might only be tied, but after Game Four's performance, Coach DeBeor holds a distinct edge.


The Rangers can not continue to rely on their defensemen for scoring, nor the wily machinations of their Head Coach.  At some point, and it better be soon, the Forward Lines need to start taking control of these games or else the Devils will be playing for a Stanley Cup.


But these are the Rangers, and they prefer to do things the hard way.  They've been in worse positions than this.   After all, we are only headed into Game Five tied at two apiece.  The Rangers have dug down deep before.  They'll know how to dig in again.  But can they?  Or has their system reached it Law of Diminished Returns?


In any case, Coach Torts is right - it starts with possessing the puck.


The Battle of the Hudson Continues...



2011-2012
NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE - STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

SERIES TIED 2-2
I  -  NYR 3; NJD 0
II  -  NJD 3; NYR 2
III  -  NYR 3; NJD 0
IV  -  NJD 4; NYR 1



GAME FIVE ~ WEDNESDAY

NEW JERSEY DEVILS
vs.
NEW YORK RANGERS
From
MADISON SQUARE GARDEN
33rd Street at 7th Avenue
NYC






*Devil's Playground ~ Bushwick Urban Art, BK
Mike.BTB

Monday, May 21, 2012

L.I. Ducks ~ Barnstormers End Ducks' Home Win Streak

From the desk of:   THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE




LONG ISLAND DUCKS:  Lancaster Barnstormers Put An End To Nine Game Win Streak At The Pond.

Friday night's series opener against the Somerset Patriots required an eighth inning three run comeback.  Saturday's game turned into a 15-3 drubbing of the Patriots.  And Sunday's victory came in dramatic 9th inning walk-off fashion.  In sweeping the Somerset Patriots over the weekend, the Long Island Ducks extended their home winning streak beginning the season to nine consecutive games.

The series sweep upped the Ducks' record to 15-7, which gave them a 2.5 game lead over the Bridgeport Bluefish for first place in the Liberty Division.  On the other side of the ledger, in getting swept, the Patriots dropped out of their tie with Lancaster, and are now a full game behind the Freedom Division first place Barnstormers.

Slugger Brandon Sing finally returned to the line-up after being absent since May 12th due to a neck injury.  The Ducks also signed some bullpen help.  Jared Lansford, the son of Carney Lansford, is a twenty-five year old right-hander who comes to the Ducks after spending the 2011 season in the Oakland A's organization.

The Lancaster Barnstormers came to Bethpage Ballpark Monday night, and ruined everything.  Long Island's streak stops at nine.  After a scoreless first inning, the Barnstormers scored a run in each of the next six innings against the very reliable Bob Zimmermann, who seemed to be battle himself more than anything.  Lancaster peppered him for eleven hits over his 6.1 innings pitched.  Bob walked two and struck out three before giving way to Eric Niesen.

Wynn Pelzer was next out of the Ducks' bullpen, and allowed Lancaster two more runs in the top of the eighth.

The lone Ducks' run came in the home sixth, on an RBI single by Ray Navarrete, who by the way, just recently celebrated his 34th birthday over the weekend.  Ray was 3 for 4 in the game.  But an error by Navarrete at second base allowed a run to score off Bob Zimmermann.

The Bridgeport Bluefish were 8-4 losers to the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.  The Ducks lose no ground in the standings.




Mike.BTB

N.Y. Rangers ~ Grudge Match; Game Four

From the desks of:   RAISE GRESCH WITH THE GREATS  &  THE BRICK CITY DEMONS





Battle of the Hudson
Game Four ~ Grudge Match


2011-2012
NHL STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

Rangers Lead Series 2-1
I  -  NYR 3; NJD 0
II  -  NJD 3; NYR 2
III  -  NYR 3; NJD 0



TONIGHT

GAME FOUR

NEW YORK RANGERS
vs.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
From
THE ROCK
Brick City - Newark







NEW YORK RANGERS:
Tonight, We Dance Around The Fire!

The deeper these playoffs have gone, the longer Ranger Fans wait for their forward lines to dominate a game for a change, instead of looking to their goalie for miracles.  Well, that's what I've been doing.  In the mean time, the Rangers have three pairs of defensemen who've been contributing an overwhelming portion of the team's offense.  And the Devils?   They have done everything they've needed to do in order to get plenty of shots on Lundqvist.  But Broadway's liege has stopped them cold, as he's done to all comers in these playoffs.

That almost seems secondary now.  The real battle has just begun.  While the Media kept badgering Coach Torts to talk, he quietly compiled his own list of gripes against the Devils, but never aired them out; until Sunday that is.  He's been refusing to delve into any kind of outward exchange with the opposing coach or the Media.  Conversely, Peter DeBoer and Marty Brodeur continued to air out their grievances in public.  Now, finally, by speaking out Sunday, Coach Torts finally gave everyone what they wanted ~ a grudge match.

In response to Peter DeBoer's "head-hunter" barb regarding Brandon Prust, Coach showed up at his media session Sunday armed with accusations the Devils were setting picks on their power play opportunities, he voiced displeasure with Zach Parise's hit on Michael Del Zotto, and likewise expressed his annoyance with Dainius Zubrus' hit on Anton Stralman.  Coach was going to keep all that in-house, and between him and the League.  But the cat is out of the bag now.

What John Tortorella worked so hard to avoid in these playoffs is now front and center.  Damn if you do, and Damned if you don't, Coach.  The Media wanted it, and now they got it.  The inner beast in Coach has been summoned upon the instigation of a one, Coach Peter DeBoer.  Brilliant!  Remember, I like Caoch DeBoer.  But going forward, whether this becomes his folly remains to be seen.

Game Three ended with both teams feeling a little ill-tempered too.  Upon the final horn to end regulation, a scrum ensued surrounding Brandon Prust.  That won't happen in Game Four.  Brendan Shanahan suspended Prust one game for his elbow the back of Alex Volchenkov's head.  That doesn't mean the bad blood between these teams won't spill over tonight.  We'll see, as we have ill will between teams, dirty hits and other questionable player infractions to ponder, and two coaches finally engaged in a full blown war of words.

But what Coach DeBoer is trying so hard to accomplish in the now, still does not compare with what Coach Torts started working on back in October.   Coach Torts made it his business to make sure Henrik Lundqvist was fresh (fresher) for these playoffs, than in years and playoffs past.  Coach made the reluctant King sit for twenty-one games during the regular season.   They signed Marty Biron precisely to get that accomplished.   Henrik Lundqvist started 62 regular season games this season; his lowest total in six years.  If you don't think there a correlation between Coach Torts' plan and the fact Henrik Lundqvist shut out the Devils twice now in this third round series, you're stoned.

Outside of Chris Kreider, Coach Torts long ago ensured Henrik Lunqvist would be the freshest guy on the ice in Game Four tonight.  That fact continues to go unspoken.  Instead, the Media continues to prod Coach Torts for their columns.  If they just look at his methods and moves over a full season, and not just casually show up in April or May, they'd know full well Coach Torts is in full control of his team and his faculties, and has all his bases covered.  Which points directly to the reason why he treats the Media the way he does.

Instead, it is the Devils who seem rattled.  Their Coach and goalie are the chirpy ones.  On the ice, the Devils are proving to be the chippy ones as well.  And Zach Parise shuns the Media?  Those are the signs of a frustrated team.  Whether or not the Devils really have a sympathetic media on their side remains to be seen.  Coach DeBeor is trying his damnedest.  But Coach Torts seems well prepared to take them both on regardless.

The Rangers can make life very miserable for the Devils tonight.  The Devils know that, and are acting like it.  But if they do have any temerity to them, which I think they do, the Devils will salvage a game at home tonight and tie the series.  The odds say if they keep doing what they've been doing, eventually, some shots will find the net.  If only Henrik Lundqvist wasn't so well preserved by a coach who many think acts and behaves like a troglodyte.  Well, so far the Grunts lead this series two games to one.

But not so fast.  The Rangers are asking for trouble if they let the Devils hang around.  Especially if they are going to put New Jersey on the PP another five times.  Or let the Devils outplay them two out of three periods again.  Or let them take over thirty shots against Henrik Lundqvist again.  All that aside, the Rangers still came out in Game Three and played a much darker shade of Blue.  In order to secure another two wins against the Devils, they'll have to get even darker.  For the Devils will not go quietly into the night.

Tonight, everyone dances around the fire.








Mike.BTB