by Rich Kincaide I would have watched the Blackhawks beat the Sharks 2-1 in Game 1 of the NHL Western Conference Final yesterday, really I would have, but I was watching the Twins v. The Team That Shall Not Be Named live from the stadium named for The Team That Shall Not Be Named instead. TTTSNBN had a 3-1 lead over Minnesota after 7 which was good since it is the Twins that the second-place Tigers are trying to catch for the Division lead. (I can’t remember the name of the Division in which the Tigers play but it’s either the AL “North”, the AL “Central” or the AL “Norris”.) TTTSNBN brings in Joba Chamberlain, their 8th-inning specialist, to serve and protect that 2-run lead but he’s not particularly special on this day and the Twins load ‘em up on him with two outs. No problemo. The Evil Wearers of the Pin-Stripes bring in Mariano Rivera, a.k.a “The Best Closer in the History of Organized Ball” to record what should be an altogether routine 4-out save. But Rivera goes three-and-oh on Jim Thome before walking him on a full count to force in a run and then gives up a Granny to Jason Kubel—whoever he is—and the Twins lead 6-3 and the game is over. So Detroit, a 5-1 winner over the Red Socks (sorry, Spellcheck sez it’s Socks, not Sox and who am I to argue?) is not a game and a half off the lead but rather two and a half back all thanks to the New York bleeping Yankees who suck and who always have sucked and who always will suck and that’s all there is to say about that.
So, I missed seeing the Chicago’s beat the San Jose’s 2-1 and I missed seeing Blackhawk goalie Antti Niemi or whatever his name is, I had to look it up and besides, I thought he was Chi’s backup goalie anyway, stop 44 of 45 shots which must have been quite a performance on his part unless they were all on dump-ins by San Jose which they probably were not. I suppose I could watch the 10-minute video game re-cap on NHL.com to get up to speed, and maybe I will.
I missed the Canadians/Flyers game, too. This maybe isn’t such a great column, ‘ya think? I thought they’d be playing the two Conference Finals on alternating nights meaning I thought Game 1 of the Eastern series would be tonight so I would up watching the finale of “The Pacific” on HBO last night. I can tell you that that was pretty good, if it helps. Reminder to self: Always check the Program Guide!!!
Montreal, in spite of being nipped 6-0 by Philadelphia in Game 1, matching the worst margin of defeat in Canadiens playoff history except for when they got beat this one time by 7 goals back in 1919 which I am not sure should even count, is my team in this match-up of Teams of Destiny.
Montreal is a Team of Destiny because when I saw it was #8 seed Montreal v. Alex Ovechkin and the #1 seed Washington Capitals in Round One and I said, “No way Montreal wins.” Canadiens beat ‘em in 7. They won on account of their goalie Jaroslav Halak. Remember, Halak battled for the starting job all season with Carey Price and was even replaced by Price after Montreal lost a couple of games to the Caps. After Price got lit up, Halak went back in and stopped 131 of 134 Washington shots (.978) in the last three games and Canadiens pulled off one of the biggest playoff upsets, ever. Measurably. Washington—first overall in the NHL standings this season (enjoy that President’s Trophy, boys)—finished 33 points ahead of Montreal. There have been only four occasions where a team knocked off a playoff opponent when that team had finished more than 33 points ahead of them. So, statistically, this tied for the 5th-biggest playoff upset in NHL history. Then it was Montreal v. Sidney Crosby and the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 2 and I said, “No way Montreal wins.” Canadiens win in 7 again. Montreal is outshot 18-3 in the 3rd period of the final game and Halak stops all 18. They are a Team of Destiny. Philadelphia is a Team of Destiny for becoming the 4th team in all best-of-seven series’ in all sports ever played to overcome a 3-games-to-none deficit and win and because they happen to have a documentary about their previous Cup-winning teams (see: Broad Street Bullies) in the rotation on the HBO family of networks right now. Playing their own Game 7, on the road naturally, the Flyers overcame a 3-0 Boston lead. It was the first time this season Boston lost a game in which they led 3-0 (they had been 15-0) and the first time the Bruins lost a game in which they led by 3 goals at any point (had been 18-0). These are the factors which make Philly a Team of Destiny.
Oh, and this is weird. While it’s the #1 seed (San Jose) v. the #2 seed (Chicago) in the Western Conference Final, it’s the #7 seed (Philadelphia) v. the #8 seed (Montreal) in the Eastern Final. A 7-8 Conference Final matchup is unprecedented and has never happened before, either.
But, back to baseball. The Tigers went 5-2 in against TTTSNBN and Boston last week. Wow. I did not see that coming. Meanwhile, Detroit made some personnel moves. Max Scherzer was demoted to Triple-A Toledo after getting his brains beat in (again) v. the Red Socks Friday. When Scherzer gave up that 3-run homer to David Ortiz in the first inning (you remember, that 450-foot Moon Shot to center) his line from that point working back to include his previous 13.1 Innings Pitched was, well, a little untidy: 26 Runs (Earned), 31 Hits, 5 HR and 8 Walks. ERA is Earned Runs Allowed x 9 / Innings Pitched . In this case, that works out to 17.59 and that, friends, will get you sent down. His replacement, Armando Galarraga, looked terrific yesterday (1 earned run in 5.2 innings). It was of note who replaced him Sunday. Jeremy Bonderman came out of the bullpen for the first time this season, taken out of the rotation after starting the year with six starts which can best be described as inconsistent.
And one other thing, Dontrelle WIllis walked 7 in three-and-a-third Saturday night. Don’t think the brain trust isn’t a little worried about that. It was control, actually the lack thereof of course, which knocked Willis out of Baseball for basically the last two seasons. If he’s lost the strike zone again…
Chicago—soon to become the next team to fire its manager—brings their 15-22 record to town tonight. They are already 9 games out of first in the AL Norris. Or whatever…