Wednesday, June 26, 2013

When history happens faster than your eyes can see

At around 10:45 p.m. Monday night I was contemplating what I was going to write in a blog entry this morning that essentially detailed both my excitement and my anxiety regarding Game 7 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. At the time, the Boston Bruins had somehow managed to hold a 2-1 lead over the Chicago Blackhawks in the waning minutes of Game 6, a remarkable feat considering what had transpired to that point. The Bruins had thoroughly dominated the first half of the game only to find themselves tied 1-1 after a demoralizing de facto shorthanded goal by Jonathan Toews and numerous fruitless power plays. This was the type of game we had all seen before. The team fighting for its life controls the pace and dominates, but doesn't manage to translate that domination to the scoreboard before the opposing -- and often better -- team weathers the storm before eventually wearing them down and pulling out a heart-wrenching victory.

This game had that written all over it.

But then in the third period Boston broke through, as Milan Lucic scored with just under nine minutes remaining, re-energizing TD Garden and putting the Bruins on the brink of forcing a decisive seventh game. As the clock ticked down this began to seem all the more certain. When the Blackhawks got a late power play and proceeded to look as dead as Aaron Hernandez's career for the entire two minutes, that seemed to seal the deal.

Much as I was rooting for the Blackhawks, this was, really, fine. This had been a series between two great teams with six taut, entertaining games including three that went to overtime. It was historic in nature and it warranted, nay deserved to have a seventh game. That was necessary to complete the legacy and etch the series into NHL lore as one of the greatest ever played.

And then with 1:16 to go, something crazy happened.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Was this a glimpse of the future? I sure hope so.

It is no secret. The Mets are not a good baseball team. In fact, my fantasy baseball team this season has the very original name "The Mets are bad.", and it's funny because it's true. This is a bad squad, and for most of the season it has seemed the only bright light, nay, the only reason to even bother watching once every five days, was to see the superb young arm of Matt Harvey. Given that these are the Mets, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that Harvey's arm will fall off at some point in the next year or so even though he is still a consistently dominant starter who just might be starting the All-Star Game this season if he had something remotely close to a Major League offense supporting him.

Given that the All-Star Game is in his home stadium, that might be a pretty nice highlight of the year for Mets fans who will have few of them in 2013.

Yesterday, though, we got lucky. The Mets' bullpen mediocrity is widely known and their lineup woes are essentially the stuff of legend at this point. But the starting rotation hasn't really been all that terrible behind Harvey. Jon Niese is a solid middle of the rotation starter, Dillion Gee has actually given the Mets a few strong outings and even Jeremy Hefner, his record aside, hasn't really been all that awful. But all this season, we've known that most of those people were placeholders.

For much of this season, beyond watching the maturation of Harvey most Mets fans were waiting until we might finally see Zack Wheeler make his way to the bigs. Wheeler was the haul brought into the organization in 2011, when the Mets dealt Carlos Beltran to the San Francisco Giants in the final year of his seven-year contract with New York. That Beltran was always unappreciated in New York -- fans will one day rightfully recognize him as the best defensive, and possibly best offensive outfielder in franchise history -- and that Wheeler, the No. 6-overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft, was highly touted seemed to make this a win-win situation. Well, maybe not for the Giants.

So with all that buildup, it's any wonder how Mets fans managed to sift through two years of anticipation to see the other half of their reputed two-headed pitching monster of the future. Yesterday, at long last, we got our first look.

Monday, June 10, 2013

OK, I'm going to get nostalgic about Chicago for a minute

As I think I've made it abundantly clear over the years to those who don't know me, I am, first and foremost when it comes to hockey, a New Jersey Devils fan. I have written about them at length, been to more than my fair share of games, felt triumph and tragedy on behalf of their exploits and gotten extremely scruffy for their sake. Unfortunately, given the Devils' less than stellar performance this season, I had the opportunity to do none of that once the regular season was over, but such is my life sometimes.

The Devils are always going to be first in my heart, but for those who know me and my professional history -- or really anything I've written on this blog -- it should not be a surprise that I have a soft spot in my heart for the Chicago Blackhawks. And lucky me, unlike the New Jersey Devils this season, the Blackhawks actually did pretty well. Historically well, actually. And after looking like the best team in the NHL for most of the season, with the League's 30 teams boiled down to two the Blackhawks are one of those left standing, thanks in large part to a not-so-bad performance by Patrick Kane in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final Saturday night.

Their reward is a date with the Boston Bruins in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, a matchup of two teams that are simply rolling heading into the championship series and might just be the two most complete teams to face off for the Cup in quite some time. Of course to get on that kind of a roll teams have to have some impetus to spark the momentum. In the Blackhawks' case that came in a rally against Detroit after trailing three games to one in the second round, culminating in Brent Seabrook's overtime winner in Game 7.

In the Bruins' case, that impetus came from a stunning rally from three goals down in Game 7 of the opening round against Toronto, including a mind-boggling two goals to tie the game in the final 90 seconds before winning in overtime. Since that monster of a rally the Bruins have looked nigh unbeatable, including an absolutely stupifying domination in the Eastern Conference Final of the Pittsburgh Penguins, whom most of the world had preordained as the East's likely Cup Final representative due to their staggering offensive talent.