NEW YORK– By Daniel Friedman
Things I Think
1) I think the Pittsburgh Penguins had all the potential in the world to win this series and, by losing their composure, they became nothing but a “humongous big” waste of talent and depth. I also think Pens owner Mario Lemieux owes the entire hockey world an apology for all this hypocrisy, though I doubt he’ll deliver one. I’m not shocked that head coach Dan Bylsma couldn’t control the situation, but where’s captain Sidney Crosby? I’ll tell you where Sidney Crosby is, he’s “leading by example.” And he’s not setting a very good one right now. This is what happens when you think you’re entitled to everything and do nothing but whine and complain. For a team that’s been to a pair of Stanley Cup Finals, they sure don’t look like one.
2) I think Rangers F Carl Hagelin’s three-game suspension was a bit too hefty. There’s no question he deserved a suspension — he left his feet and targeted the head of Daniel Alfredsson. He deserved one, maybe two games. But three? Give me a break. Of course, the fact that Nashville’s Shea Weber got away scott free only adds to the confusion.
3) I think the Flyers will not win another round after they dispose of the Penguins. Don’t be fooled by the high goal-totals; they’re facing a Pittsburgh team that is unorganized and way off their game right now, and a goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury who’s as shaky as one can get. Ilya Bryzgalov has been awful as well and the defense in front of him hasn’t been particularly effective, either. They will not be able to pull this shtick against a team like Boston or the Rangers.
4) I think Vancouver’s 3-0 series deficit is far from surprising. I picked the Kings to win before this best-of-seven began and by the looks of things, that was a pretty good move. The Canucks aren’t as dangerous as they were last season and they have no response to LA’s physical style. Also, Jonathan Quick’s been a wall; Roberto Luongo, not so much. I also said Cory Schneider would be the starting goalie for the Canucks before this series ended; he’s starting Game Four.
5) I think the Florida Panthers are going to be a more formidable opponent than we thought. The Devils should win this series, but they need to stay out of the box. If they put the Cats on the power play too many times, they’re going to fall behind in hockey games because Florida is deadly with the man advantage.
6) I think the Rangers deviated a bit from their style towards the end of Game Two and that’s why they lost. The Blueshirts are usually more aggressive and, instead, it was almost as if they were retreating further and further into their own zone. Ottawa had them hemmed in and New York couldn’t clear the zone; they got burned for it. Also, Henrik Lundqvist was visibly ticked off after a puck ricocheted of Michael Del Zotto and into the net. That cannot happen again. If you think that had no psychological impact on his teammates, think again. It had a negative effect and he needs to be calm between the pipes.
Sox Red Hot Going Into Holiday
Over the weekend of Patriots’ Day, the Boston Red Sox found out its offense is really, really good. Remember when the Sox were favored to win the 2011 World Series because of its excellent lineup? Well the 2012 version put up 31 runs in three weekend wins over the pitching rich Tampa Bay Rays, winning 12-2 on Friday, 13-5 on Saturday and 6-4 on Sunday.
“They’re just really hot right now,” Rays Manager Joe Maddon said after Sunday’s loss. “It’s like they know what’s coming almost. They’re on every pitch.”
After the regular season’s first three series, the Red Sox lead the big leagues in runs and on base percentage and are second in batting average at a collective .284 clip. David Ortiz went a softball-esque 9-13 in the three games, including a five RBI performance on Saturday. He doubled home the eventual game-winning run in the sixth inning on Sunday and leads the best offense in baseball. Just like it was drawn up a year ago…
Rangers & Redbirds Staying Strong
Is it any surprise that the leaders in run differential are the two World Series participants from last season? Yes and no. Both Texas and St. Louis had to deal with significant losses to the Angels in the offseason.
The Cardinals replaced Albert Pujols with Carlos Beltran and the Redbirds only lead baseball in runs, average, OBP and slugging. An astounding five players with at least 20 at bats are hitting over .320, and David Freese has continued his torrid postseason with a fantastic start. Even understudies like Matt Carpenter are proving their worth to the team. Replacing an injured Lance Berkman over the weekend, Carpenter homered and drove in five in a 10-3 over the Cubs on Sunday.
Texas replaced C.J. Wilson with Yu Darvish, but the Rangers also got major improvements from the rest of the rotation. Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland and rotation newcomer Neftali Feliz all sport ERA’s under 3.50 and Texas is second in baseball in ERA at 2.30. Robbie Ross, Koji Uehara, Mark Lowe and Scott Feldman have all yet to allow a run in relief, and Mike Adams has done a tremendous job setting up new closer Joe Nathan thus far. The best teams in baseball adjust and the Rangers and Cardinals have done just that.