04/20/15 Lightning Strikes
DETROIT — Valtteri Filppula will be right here. He just needs a few moments.
Lightning practice ended about an hour ago and Filppula will be glad to talk about his new team, his old team and how his new team is playing his old team in these Stanley Cup playoffs. But, before all that, he has something else a little more important to tend to.
First, a deep-muscle massage then a little work from the chiropractor....
Most disappointing show
Just last week I sang the praises of ESPN's outstanding Outside the Lines. Then it comes out with one of its weakest efforts. Sunday's show was dedicated to whether or not the Bucs should draft Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and make him the face of their franchise despite questions about Winston's character.
Worthy topic, poorly executed....
04/18/15 Lightning Strikes
The history of the Stanley Cup playoffs is littered with obscure players who made a name for themselves with unexpected playoff success.
Right here in Tampa Bay, we've seen little-known players become postseason stars. Ruslan Fedotenko and Sean Bergenheim, for instance.
While you need everyone to chip in and do their part this time of year, here's the secret to hockey success: If you want to make a deep playoff run, your best players must be your best players....
04/17/15 Lightning Strikes
Win or lose, the routine is typically the same for NHL coaches after the game.
Grab a bite to eat, maybe knock back a cold beverage (or two, depending on the result) and, at some point before the next day's practice, dissect the videotape of the game just played.
The Lightning's Jon Cooper and the Red Wings' Mike Babcock both did just that in the 12 hours or so between Detroit's 3-2 victory in Game 1 of their opening-round playoff series Thursday night and each team's practice Friday afternoon....
04/16/15 Lightning Strikes
You didn't think this was going to be easy, did you?
You didn't think the Lightning would simply show up, leisurely skate around for a couple of hours and skate off with a victory in Thursday night's Game 1 of the playoffs against the Red Wings, did you?
Actually, many of you probably did. And you know what? You could hardly be blamed for getting a little giddy about your team and a little ahead of yourselves....
04/15/15 Lightning Strikes
They were here, in this exact spot, one year ago.
The Stanley Cup playoffs were about to begin, and the Lightning was ready to plow over all comers in a two-month joyride to a championship.
Despite that messy soap opera with captain Marty St. Louis and the horrific injury to Steven Stamkos, the resilient Lightning put together a 101-point season and thought of itself as a legitimate Cup contender as the playoffs got under way....
04/13/15 Lightning Strikes
How wide open is this year's race for the Stanley Cup?
Well, consider this: the defending champion Kings didn't make the postseason. Neither did the Big Bad Bruins, the team with the best record in hockey just a season ago. Seven teams that missed the playoffs last season are in this season. That's the biggest turnover in the history of the league.
So, as the playoffs are set to begin Wednesday, here's a look at what should be a crazy first round....
Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.
When did it become acceptable for golf announcers to openly root for golfers?
You hear it all the time on all the networks, announcers wanting golfers to do well. Here's an example:
During Saturday's third round of the Masters, Charley Hoffman had a short putt on No. 16. As the putt was sliding past the hole, CBS's Verne Lundquist (near right) yelled, "Get in there!'' When it didn't, Lundquist let out a disappointed "Awww.''...
The ratings game
• The NCAA men's basketball ball tournament averaged 11.3 million viewers, the best it has averaged since 1993 when 12.7 million viewers tuned in. The Monday night final between Duke and Wisconsin had 28.30 million viewers, the most since 28.36 million watched Kentucky and Arizona in 1997.
• Meantime, the game did well in Canada, too. TSN drew 325,00 viewers. Maybe that doesn't sound like a lot, but it was a record for a the championship game on the network....
Maybe it's a good thing that the Rays are out of town this weekend because this probably wouldn't go over too well in their clubhouse.
But don't you sometimes think baseball players are a little soft, at least when compared to other athletes?
For starters, baseball players aren't in nearly as good of shape as other athletes. Babe Ruth might have been the greatest baseball player ever and he looked like he ate a steady diet of powder doughnuts, hot dogs and beer. Have you seen the Red Sox's Pablo Sandoval lately? Or the Yankees' CC Sabathia?...
Good team, bad audience
Last week, I wrote that, perhaps, UConn's dominance in women's basketball was actually bad for the sport. It wasn't meant to slam UConn, but the point was fans might lose interest because they already knew who was going to win. Well, consider this: Tuesday's championship game on ESPN in which UConn won a third national title in a row and 10th overall, drew 3.08 million viewers. It was the lowest audience in six years. More viewers (3.9 million) watched the final round of the PGA's Houston Open....
One night after Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski put down stakes among the best coaches in the history of college basketball, Connecticut women's coach Geno Auriemma planted his name among the all-time greats.
Ever. In any sport.
This son of Italian immigrants who moved to Philadelphia when Geno was 7 is now in rarefied air, right next to coaching legends such as John Wooden and Phil Jackson. On Tuesday night, right here at Amalie Arena, Auriemma claimed his 10th national title and third in a row when his Huskies methodically dispensed of plucky Notre Dame in the women's final....
04/06/15 The Heater
ST. PETERSBURG — A framed poster of Bo Jackson holding a baseball bat hangs on one wall. On another is a Florida State baseball sign. That's about it. Save for a couple of desk-sized photos of his kids, that's about the extent of the decorations inside the office of new Rays manager Kevin Cash.
"I need to do a little bit more," Cash said.
You'll have to pardon his dust. Right now, he's busy trying to construct something a little more important: a competitive baseball club. This fixer-upper, missing a few of its support beams, might require lots of sweat judging by Monday's season opener....
Notre Dame's familiar fight song echoed through Amalie Arena. Irish players danced and hugged in front of their bench. A Notre Dame assistant coach raised her arms and yelled to the Irish faithful, "Let's go!" but the fans needed no prodding. They were already giddy from Notre Dame's heart-fluttering, nail-biting, stomach-testing 66-65 victory over South Carolina in Sunday evening's national semifinal....
Familiar with ESPN's K-Zone? It's the little box that appears over home plate that shows whether a pitch was a ball or a strike during a game. Usually, the K-Zone is used strictly on replays. But this season, look for ESPN to use it during live action for most pitches. That's what ESPN producer Phil Orlins told Sports Business Daily.
Ugh. Not sure I like this idea. I don't even like TBS's use of the strike-zone box and that's limited to the corner of the television screen. The ESPN K-Zone will be a box over the middle of the plate. Sounds like it could be a distraction. Then again, most of us thought the boxes in the corner of the screen telling viewers the score and the count and the inning and number of outs used to be a distraction and now we can't imagine watching even one pitch without it....