Stomach-punch losses

One of the reasons Bill Simmons is so successful as a sportswriter is his ability to wrap the fan perspective into all of his writing. He’s not an “objective” journalist. He doesn’t hide his emotions, and he pours his heart out when his team loses.

He’s also funny as hell, and mixes in pop culture references better than anybody in sports media.

His latest column is a classic, as he recounts his young daughter’s love for the Los Angeles Kings, and how she experienced her first “stomach-punch loss” recently when the Kings couldn’t close out the Devils in Game 5 last Wednesday.

So Wednesday’s game … man.

I tried to warn her. I tried to prepare her: “Look, this is sports, you never know, you can’t just assume they’re going to win.” She wouldn’t hear it. She kept saying, “Dad, stop it, just stop. They’re going to win.” She had the whole night planned in her head, inadvertently jinxing it with questions like, “Who gets to hold the Cup first again?” and “How long will they pass it around?” She insisted on arriving 40 minutes early for warm-ups. On the way there, she leaned out her window and waved to anyone wearing a Kings jersey. We made it downtown and realized it had morphed into a sea of Kings jerseys — more than we had ever seen. She was delighted.

“Look at all the jerseys!!!!” she gushed. “Did the Lakers ever have this many?”

And I just watched the whole thing happen, unable to stop it, knowing the entire time, “Oh God, tonight’s probably the night … her first stomach-punch loss.”

The night ended with his daughter sobbing in their car on the ride home. After last nights loss in New Jersey, the pressure is suddenly on the Kings in game 6. Hopefully she and other Kings fans can celebrate a win that will feel even better after the disappointment of the last two games.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

2009 NHL Preview: New Jersey Devils

We’ve partnered with On Goal Analysis to bring you a team-by-team preview of the upcoming NHL season. (Just scroll down on the OGA website and hit the calendar.) Here is the preview for the New Jersey Devils…

Team Play: ISSUE – Too much defense? It’s ba-ack. Or is it? Is the stifling 2-1 defensive game of Coach-Lemaire-in-New-Jersey-and-Minnesota fame coming to a Prudential Center near you? According to players interviewed after the first day of camp, changes made were ‘small tweaks’ and they have no instructions to sit back and trap. Might it come out if the team is ahead in a crucial game or if key players are injured during the season? That remains to be seen. But for now, this is not looking like your Daddy’s Coach Lemaire.

The early CBS Sports page for the Devils indicates a No. 1 line of Parise–Zajac–Langenbrunner from left to right, and Elias–Zubrus–Rolston at No. 2. One issue here is the health of Patrick Elias. It has been widely reported that ‘minor’ groin surgery (is that possible?) conducted Tuesday, 15 September will keep him off the ice until sometime between 6 and 27 October. That’s two-to-nine games to come back and three-to-10 for the sea legs to settle in. When you are the team’s most prolific scorer, that might dampen prospects. However, indications are the other forwards will tote the note and get scoring done by committee, especially when early training camp indications are positive for some of the youngsters (like Patrice Cormier and Rod Pelley).

Click here to read the rest of the preview (which includes the site’s unique Playoff Qualifying Curve and fantasy information) at the On Goal Analysis site.

Rangers coach suspended for Game 6 today

New York Rangers forward Sean Avery was benched for Game 5 because of his lack of discipline play in Game 4…and now the Rangers will play today’s potential series closeout Game 6 without head coach John Tortorella behind the bench due to his lack of discipline on Friday night.

The NHL imposed a one-game suspension on the Rangers head coach for his tantrum during a confrontation with a fan behind the team’s bench. His actions included Tortorella firing a water bottle into the stands that hit an innocent bystander and grabbing the hockey stick of Rangers forward Aaron Voros to use as a sword.

In the league’s statement about the suspension:

“We do not take this action lightly,” said league disciplinarian Colin Campbell. “It is the result of an entire day of investigation and evaluation that included the retrieval and review of videotape of the incident and discussions with Mr. Tortorella, other Rangers’ bench personnel and a number of other people, including the security personnel at the Verizon Center. That investigation revealed that Mr. Tortorella squirted a fan with water before Mr. Tortorella was doused with a beverage. While it is a difficult decision to suspend a coach at this point in a playoff series, it has been made clear to all of our players, coaches and other bench personnel that the National Hockey League cannot — and will not — tolerate any physical contact with fans,” added Campbell.

Assistant coach Jim Schoenfeld will direct the team in Tortorella’s absence. He is the only other head coach in league history to have been suspended in the playoffs. As the coach of the New Jersey Devils, Schoenfeld sat out Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals as a result of his famous “Have another doughnut” comment to referee Don Koharski following a Game 3 loss to the Boston Bruins.

Couch Potato Alert: 4/24

The Detroit Lions are now on the clock.

Well, they have been on the clock since the first week of preseason. The unofficial kickoff to the upcoming football season is here, as the 2009 NFL Draft will be the highlight event of the weekend. Your mock draft is due prior to the start of the draft. So be sure to cram in every player’s 40 yard time and wonderlic score during an all-night study session tonight. And if you want to play a good drinking game on Saturday, take a sip when Mel Kiper says “that was a value pick” or “he was the best player available.” I guarantee you will pass out halfway through the first round.

All times ET…

Sat, 4 PM: 2009 NFL Draft (ESPN/ESPN2/NFL Network)
Sun, 10 AM: 2009 NFL Draft (ESPN/NFL Network)

NBA Playoffs
Fri, 7 PM: Cleveland Cavaliers @ Detroit Pistons (ESPN)
Fri, 8 PM: Orlando Magic @ Philadelphia 76ers (ESPN2)
Fri, 9:30 PM: Portland Trail Blazers @ Houston Rockets (ESPN)
Sat, 1 PM: Denver Nuggets @ New Orleans Hornets (ESPN)
Sat, 4 PM: San Antonio Spurs @ Dallas Mavericks (TNT)
Sat, 6:30 PM: Atlanta Hawks @ Miami Heat (TNT)
Sat, 9 PM: Los Angeles Lakers @ Utah Jazz (ESPN)
Sun, 1 PM: Boston Celtics @ Chicago Bulls (ABC)
Sun, 3:30 PM: Cleveland Cavaliers @ Detroit Pistons (ABC)
Sun, 6:30 PM: Orlando Magic @ Philadelphia 76ers (TNT)
Sun, 9 PM: Portland Trail Blazers @ Houston Rockets (TNT)

NHL Playoffs
Fri, 7 PM: New York Rangers @ Washington Capitals (Versus)
Sat, 1 PM: Pittsburgh Penguins @ Philadelphia Flyers (NBC)
Sat, 10 PM: Anaheim Ducks @ San Jose Sharks (Versus)
Sun, 2 PM: Washington Capitals @ New York Rangers*if necessary (NBC)
Sun, TBD: New Jersey Devils @ Carolina Hurricanes (Versus)

Sat, 4:10PM: New York Yankees @ Boston Red Sox (Fox)
Sun., 12 PM: Philadelphia Phillies @ Florida Marlins (TBS)
Sun., 8 PM: New York Yankees @ Boston Red Sox (ESPN)

Martin Brodeur is hockey’s man behind the mask

The Prudential Center crowd chanted, “Marr-tty…Marr-tty,” in the closing moments of yet another New Jersey Devils’ victory on Tuesday night. But this night was special; Martin Brodeur recorded his record-breaking 552nd win, eclipsing Patrick Roy’s NHL record for career victories by a goaltender. He finished his historic chase in typical Marty fashion by winning eight of his last nine starts since returning to the lineup on February 26th.

Major elbow surgery in November kept him out of the lineup for 50 games. Brodeur didn’t think he would even play again this season, as he never sustained a major injury in his 15-year career. Doctors reassured him that he would be back between the pipes for the Devils in 16 weeks if there were no setbacks in his rehabilitation process.

Early on, skeptics questioned if Brodeur could play in consecutive games. Hey, this is Martin Brodeur, a man who started in a record 78 games in the 2006-07 season and averaged 70 starts for 10-straight years. There’s no question that he is durable enough to handle the physical rigors of playing back-to-back games especially considering how fresh he was by being away from competition for four months.

Brodeur’s run to the record was virtually uncovered by the press until he headed back to his hometown last weekend. The Montreal radio airwaves were buzzing with “Marty talk” leading up to Saturday night’s contest at the Bell Centre. And he didn’t disappoint his hometown fans, stopping 22 of the 23 shots attempted for a 3-1 victory over the struggling Montreal Canadiens. Afterward, he received a hero’s welcome with a standing O from the Montreal fans.

Eight wins seemed like an eternity for Brodeur after sustaining a major elbow injury. It was a remarkable feat achieving history in a mere nine games since his return to the lineup. But the milestones do not stop there; he is three shutouts away from breaking Terry Sawchuk’s league record of 103 shutouts in a career. This could be another amazing ride towards history, but the way he is playing, it could be a short one.

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