On to the Eastern Conference Finals
Sorry the links have not been forthcoming, there's a new job on the horizon for me, and so I've had a few administrative details to nail down the past couple days. Onto the links...
Tim Panaccio has the game story on the series-clinching 3-2 OT victory that knocked Toronto out of the playoffs. The Flyers are now headed to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2000. Phil Sheridan gets Robert "Silent Bob" Esche to actually talk, saying, "we're only halfway to what we really want to achieve." Sheridan also has Coach Hitchcock still very disappointed at some of Toronto's cheap hits, especially the one on Sami Kapinen in OT (the replay of him struggling, falling, and regaining his feet, 3 times, is still quite compelling), which Hitch says had "an intent to injure." Darcy Tucker will surely be a marked man in future Flyers games. Rich Hofmann tells how Primeau acted as a captain should, especially toward one of his fallen comrades. Sam Donnellon quotes Hitchcock, speaking of the Flyers' aggressive play in OT, "we didn't sit back, we really went for it." This is in contrast to the tentative approach taken by many teams in sudden death overtime in the playoffs, which often lead to multiple overtime affairs.
So now the Flyers will face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the conference finals. Ed Moran believes this is a pretty good accomplishment for the second year coach. Tim Panaccio says that of the first 4 games of the series, two will be on consecutive Saturdays, meaning the series will be drawn out. Apparently, the NHL is taking a cue from the NBA on this one, and that's not a good thing, as I think the NBA Finals are scheduled to begin sometime around August. Shannon Ryan talks about the growing fan base of the Lightning, who are learning how to develop a "hockey mentality," which apparently involves "booing more." Shannon also has the Lightning anticipating a physical series with the Flyers. Ed Moran cites the incredible statistic that Tampa Bay's goalie Nikolai Khabibulin has a playoff goals-against average of 1.00, and a save percentage of .964. Moran also notes that Jeremy Roenick and Lightning coach John Tortorella are fellow Bostonians.
Jim Salisbury has the game story for the Phil's 5-4 victory yesterday, moving them to within a game of .500 on the year. In his notebook, he quotes Ed Wade as saying, "we're not actively looking for anything" in terms of personnel changes, in hopes of getting the Phils' bats out of their slump. Marcus Hayes says Larry Bowa is not going to lose any more sleep over the Phils' offense (or lack thereof). On another baseball note, MLB announced yesterday a joint marketing promotion (during the weekend games of June 11-13) of the Spider-Man 2 movie due out this summer. Don Steinberg says that "most of the money would be paid to [the league] directly and distributed evenly to all 30 teams, even those not hosting games," but Paul Hagen contradicts that by citing an AP report that claims the Red Sox and Yankees will receive more than $100,000, the other home teams will pocket $50,000, and the visiting teams that weekend will get zilch. I wonder which of those reports is the truth.
Yesterday, Phil Jasner reported that Jim O'Brien sat down for "an eyeball-to-eyeball" chat with Allen Iverson the day after being named the Sixers' new head coach. In today's article, Jasner notes O'Brien's intentions to lure some of his former staff with him to Philly, Lester Conner, Joe Gallagher (a Philadelphia native), and Frank Vogel (a Wildwood, NJ native). Of course, the biggest name added to O'Brien's staff is defensive guru Dick Harter, whom Joe Juliano notes will "fall in love with the Eagles again," but he will still like the Patriots. Jasner also writes about Jameer Nelson's scheduled workouts with NBA teams, and quotes Phil Martelli as saying the Charlotte expansion team has "real, sincere interest" in the St. Joe's point guard extraordinaire.
Kevin Mulligan is not happy with being forced to watch Boston-area topics on CN8's Sports Connection, where Lou Tillie frequently speaks to members of the Boston media.
CSN has Cardinals-Phiilies at 1:05 (already started, sorry, took awhile to organize today's links). TNT has Game 1 of Heat/Pacers tonight at 9.