04/24/15 Lightning Strikes
BRANDON — There are plenty of flowery words to describe the Lightning's come-from-behind Game 4 series-saving overtime victory Thursday night in Detroit.
Amazing. Remarkable. Miraculous. Improbable. Incredible.
Well, here is one more: meaningless.
That amazing, remarkable, miraculous, improbable, incredible victory won't mean a thing if the Lightning now gives it back this evening in Game 5 at Amalie Arena....
04/23/15 Lightning Strikes
The Lightning was dead. This series was over. This season was over.
Just a few more minutes. Just one more inevitable loss after that and the Lightning was headed off to the next round — the next round of golf, that is.
But then something strange happened on the way to elimination.
It wasn't that the Lightning realized it was good. It realized that it wasn't good enough....
04/22/15 Lightning Strikes
Time to step up, Steven.
Time to dominate. Time to take over. Time to gather your teammates, lift them on to your back and say, "Follow me, boys, I'll show you the way."
Time for you to be what you are: the team's leader and best player. And the time is now. Tonight.
This is why you're here. This is why you were drafted first overall. These are the moments when you get to prove you are truly one of the elite players in the world....
04/21/15 Lightning Strikes
Joe Louis Arena was dark save for the lights on all the cellphone screens. Opening faceoff of Game 3 of these Stanley Cup playoffs between the Lightning and Red Wings was still a few minutes away when the chant began.
"Let's Go Red Wings … Let's Go Red Wings … LET'S GO RED WINGS."
Louder and louder it grew.
When the lights came back on and revealed a sea of red jerseys waving white towels, the roar was shaking this old-time hockey barn. ...
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....