Tampa Bounces Back in Game 2, 5-3

Tampa calmy regrouped and corrected their mistakes from Game 1, then basically showed Toronto who’s the two-time Stanely Cup defending champion with a somewhat easy 5-3 road win in Game 2.

If you look at this with complete objectivity the Lightning are still the team to beat in this Stanley Cup race.

Granted, I don’t believe any other team in the era of collective bargaining as ever won a three-peat and the Tampa roster has taken some hits…they’re still the team to beat.

Tampa has the best coach in Jon Cooper. The best goalie in Andrei Vasilevskiy. And the best power play in the game with an array of talented snipers.

Then of course they have a former Conn Smythe winner and future Hall of Famer in defenseman Victor Hedman.

So maybe we should tap the brakes on the celebration in Toronto.

This was a game where Toronto went to the penalty box way too much and paid for it by giving up three power play goals. You’re not going to beat Tampa sending them on the powerplay. That’s not happening.

This still by far should be the most compelling first round matchup, but Coach Keefe is basically going to have regroup his players mentally and see if they can stay out of the penalty box.

Game 3 in Tampa.

Jon Cooper…recovering lawyer and two-time Stanley Cup champion coach. Follow your heart.

Steven A’s Top 5 Hockey List

It’s raining again Deer Creek, Oklahoma. So… here’s what I’m doing…I’m bumping the NBA tonight for Game 2 of Tampa vs. Toronto.

Steven A doesn’t know cold. Cold is when you drop your kid off for a 6:00am practice at the rink when it’s twenty degrees outside.

I’m glad Steven is getting hockey into his First Takes shows.

There will be some consequential beer consumed tonight in Toronto on Young Street. You have not lived until you’ve spent a night on Young Street.

I’m amped about this game. I want to see if Coach Cooper said the right things.

Plus, the always sneaky good blue-collar St. Louis Blues play tonight. Don’t sleep on the Blues.

Dillion Brook’s Stupid Play Takes Out Gary Payton

Another great game between the Warriors and Memphis. We that love NBA hoops knew this would be special and it has been. It’s the Steven A in me even though unlike Steven A… I love hockey as well.

I’ve pretty much moved on from the Thunder until the draft. I went a lifetime without the Thunder before Katrina. This is not killing me. It might be killing restaurant and bar owners in Bricktown, but this is not a blip on my radar screen. In fact…it was becoming burdensome having to write about a team which hasn’t won a playoff series since 2016. I felt like I was diluting myself.

Sam Presti is an anal retent. No one is going to tell him what to do. So why fret things you literally have no control over whatsoever.

The part in Sam Anderson’s book where Presti is constantly reshuffling the balls in the basketball rack like Captain Quig was hilarious, and yet revealing.

Steve Kerr went a little too far in my view calling this a dirty play. This isn’t the Godfather, there was no Code Red broken here…just a stupid play by Dillion Brooks which will have a consequence. Oh, there will be a payback hit just like in a mens’ B league hockey game.

If you think it was a dirty play, then keep it to yourself and obliterate Ja Morant the first time he touches the ball in Game 3 in Oakland with your fans in the building. Just simply obliterate him.

I feel horrible for Gary Payton. He was turning himself into a nice player. But next guy up and that will be Johnny Kuminga.

Note to Dillion Brooks…dude, if you make a play like that there are consequences. I would very much be keeping my head up would be my advice. I think back to the hit Stevo put on Patrick Beverly after he took out Russell Westbrook’s knee….four years later. Just saying. Best play of Steven’s career, and Andre made a three!!!


Washington Caps Stun Florida Panthers in Game 1, 4-2 EN

A much better night of hockey on ESPN after last night’s array of bad games minus the LA Kings 4-3 win over Edmonton.

Scratch me covering the Avalanche-Nashville series. That was brutal and right there as unwatchable, awful hockey as the Avs rolled at home 7-2.

The triple overtime win by the Pittsburgh Pens over the NY Randers was pretty awesome considering the waved off Ranger goal for basically running the goalie with three minutes left in regulation. I thought it was the right call. That was me at my best in the mens’ B league on that play. When in doubt… run the goalie and see if the zebra makes the call.

But the game I enjoyed most was the Washington Caps comeback 4-2 win on the road versus the highly regarded Florida Panthers.

I think this will be the series I follow along with the Toronto-Tampa series in the first round.

I was happy for Alex Ovechkin. He’s one of my favorites. These past two months have surely been difficult for him. I thought the turnover he created at mid-ice was the most influential play of the first two nights of the tournament.

All the sudden we can’t forget the Washington Caps are still around and breathing as a team which won the Cup in 2018.

The Memphis win over Golden State was great, but for tonight it was Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Caps upsetting the Florida Panthers on the road.

It’s nice to see the NHL back on ESPN where it belongs.

I’d still love to hear Gary Thorne and Bill Clement do a few games though.

I believe Gary Thorne is currently teaching sports journalism at Arizona State. His voice in my mind is the best hockey play by play voice of all-time. And yet Gary Thorne loved being the broadcast voice of the Baltimore Orioles. I just wish he was part of this ESPN hockey package in some manner.

Toronto Bludgeons Tampa in Game 1, 5-0

Not much of a Game 1…that’s for certain. Toronto literally won every phase in this hockey game versus the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions who go by the name of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Even strength, power play, penalty kill, between the pipes. and even the fight with nine minutes left in the third period.

This game had Toronto all over it.

Those of us who love hockey know the Toronto story. They haven’t won a Cup since 1968. They haven’t won a first round series since Kevin Durant was still carrying the cupcake-snowflake Sam Presti on his back.

The Maple Leafs have become known as a regular season fake tough guy. But this year could be different if their goaltending can hold itself together.

This game was over when Coach Sheldon Keefe smartly used his timeout in the second period when his team had a 5 on 3 powerplay. He knew how important it was to score another goal and, in a sense demoralize the uninspired Lightning in Game 1 at home.

It was textbook. Touch, touch, Auston Matthews in the back of the net and this game was over in the second period. As in a standing eight count.

Toronto needs to win a Stanley Cup championship. An Original Six member in a city where it actually snows needs to hoist a Cup.

The Raptors won a championship just a few years ago over the injury ravaged Warriors. The Blue Jays won a World Series in 1993 when Oklahoma’s own Joe Carter walked-off against Mitch ‘Wild Thing’ in 1993.

My dad was Joe Carter Sr.’s lawyer. We were at his house that night Joe Jr. went yard. I swear it was something I’ll never forget. A black kid from Millwood high school winning a world series for the Toronto Blue Jays.

So… let’s get to the Sheldon Keefe postgame presser which I’m sure both the Oklahoman and Tulsa World will both be featuring this morning. That was sarcasm.

My press conference is this…the Tampa head coach is John Cooper. I think he’s the best head coach in the league. He knows what his team didn’t bring to the rink in Game 1. He knows. His team got outworked and the Lightning didn’t throw enough pucks at the net against Toronto’s at times soft goaltending. I’m sure his team will not go down without a fight.

Coach Cooper will look at the film with his team. Circle half a dozen plays and tell his team if they’d won those plays it would have been a different hockey game.

Gotta score goals. Jack Campbell is not Jonathon Quick. Put the puck on the net.

For the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs…I think I’ll primarily cover Tampa vs. Toronto and Nashville vs. Colorado.

Golden State Edges Memphis in Game 1, 117-116

This was a great basketball game to begin the Western Conference semi-finals. Everyone is talking about the Draymond ejection, but I thought the Warriors played much better without Draymond after he got tossed.

Whether he deserved an ejection or not, he can’t keep hurting his team with these childish displays of emotion.. This won’t wash if the Warriors reach the Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, or for that matter versus the Suns in the next round.

But give Kevon Looney, Otto Porter, and Gary Payton credit…they filled in admirably for Draymond as the Warriors hung on at the end with Ja Morant not touching the rim on a rushed layup attempt at the buzzer.

Klay Thompson had the game winner with around 14 seconds left with a picture perfect three.

Klay then missed a couple of free throws on the next possession and Golden State had to endure the last attempt from Morant with the Grizz inbounding a mid-court entry pass from mid-court with 3.5 seconds left in the game.

Jordan Poole was excellent and showed again why he was the Most Improved Player in the NBA this season. That is the difference with this Warrior team. Either Steph or Klay can have an off night and Jordan Poole will be there to pick them up production wise.

In the other game …one word. Giannis. The Celtics just a series against a Brooklyn team which played no defense and was just a notch below the Lakers as the most dysfunctional Super Team in the league this season.

The Boston Celtics better realize in a hurry beating the Nets didn’t mean all that much and become much more physical in this series. Plus, Jaylen and Tatum need make their shots.