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Lightning eliminate Devils in 3-1 win

The Tampa Bay Lightning took care of business eliminating the New Jersey Devils in decisive fashion 3-1 yesterday afternoon. The Lightning were never threatened in the series dominating the Devils from start to finish and taking them out in five games.

Andrei Vasilevskiy proved why is a Vezina trophy candidate as he stonewalled the Devils time after time. Give the Devils their due, they area very talented team and will be a team to be reckoned with in the future. Their lack of a true No. 1 goalie I think hurt them and after the first line of Hischier, Hall and Palmieri, there was no line that really worried the Lightning.

Nikita Kucherov who had been in a slump to close out the regular season had a great series scoring 4 goals and assisting on three others as he regained his scoring touch . The devils really had no answer as the lightning were able to roll four lines effectively creating matchup problems with New Jersey.

Steven Stamkos will have to get going at some point. he had a very quiet two assists in the series and the Lightning will need his scoring touch if they are to continue to advance.

The Lightning continued too get contributions from the young Guns who were called up from Syracuse mid-season. Anthony Cirelli who will be Called Tony going forward, was a key component on the PK, and was able to play crucial minutes at key times in the game. There was no hesitation on Cooper’s part to put in out there in tight spots and Cirelli delivered.

This was the first playoff series in the NHL for Mikhail Sergachev who scored his first playoff goal in the game yesterday and has played solid minutes in a all five games.

What can you say about Victor Hedman. The Norris trophy finalist led the Lightning in minutes played per game averging over 25, and was outstanding on the PK and the PP. This should be Hedman’s year to win the Norris. granted Drew Doughty and PK Subban also had good years, Hedman has been rock solid from start to finish and deserves the award.

So a good series win for the Lightning. They had their moments were they weren’t as focused as they should have been, but when it was money time, the guys delivered and the lightning are moving on.

The Lightning will get some rest as they await the winner of the Boston/Toronto series. The Leafs forced a game 6 Monday night after the 4-3 win in Boston last night. That’s good news as it will give Ryan Callahan time to get close to 100% and Dan Girardi some time to get over his bumps and bruises as he has not been 100% this series. But then again who is this time of year. Adam Erne continues to get closer to a return and may be ready some time during the next series.

There has been word on when the second round would begin. I’m thinking the NHL would wait until all second round series have been completed before announcing dates and times.

Enjoy the break Lightning fans. Let’s hope Toronto and Boston beat each other up the next two games. It would be nice if it would go seven. You would see a tired beaten team coming to Amalie to face a well rested Lightning team, and that could be a huge problem for the opponent.

Rays struggles continue…

The poor Tampa Bay Rays. They just can‘t seem to catch a break. We knew going into the season it would be difficult scoring runs. We knew the bullpen was going to be in a constaunt state of flux. Now we get the word that for the third year in a row the Rays best player Kevin Kiermaier will miss 8-12 weeks due to ligament damage in his thumb.

Kiermaier jammed the thumb sliding into second base yesterday and immediately left the game. The best case scenario is he will be back in late June. Worst case scenario late July after the all-star break.

When Kiermaier does come back, he will probably need to introduce himself to a lot of new teamates as the Rays will soon be trading anyone that has value and is making a decent salary to save even more money.

Wilson Ramos is already being talked up in trade talks with the New York Mets who lost both of their catchers to injuries last week. Travis d’Arnaud is out for the year and Kevin Plawecki will miss a couple of months. This leaves the catching duties to Jose Lobaton and rookie Tomas Nido.

Chris Archer’s value continues to drop like a rock, as he just struggles every time he takes the mound. In the last two years, the “ace of the staff“and the No. 1 starter in Tampa Bay has a 19-31 record with a 4.05 ERA. This year, Archer is 1-1 with a 7.84 ERA and had a early exit against the Phillies over the weekend. These are not numbers that indicate a No.1 pitcher is about to take the mound.

As the Rays go through this rebuilding process, they do not have an ace or a No. 1 pitcher that can be counted on to slam the door and shut down the opposition. Jacob Faria and Blake Snell are still learning how to pitch at the MLB level. Yonny Chirinos and Ryan Yarbrough are rookies trying to find their way.

The Rays are currently 29th in offense hitting .216. The Cleveland Indians are the only team below the Rays hitting .200.

With Brad Miller on the DL and Kevin Kiermaier joining him, the Rays will really need to count on the likes of Joey Wendle, Mallex Smith and Johnny Field to step in and contribute.

The Rays are 3-12 and off to the worst start in club history. Before the season started I thought the Rays would be good for 72-75 wins. After these last two weeks it‘s looking like 60 wins would be a good season.

The Rays have struggled putting complete games together the first part of the season. The offense does well and gives the pitchers a nice lead to work with and the bullpen blows it. Or the pitchers pitch extremely well holding the opposition to 2 runs or less, and the offense can’t manufacture any runs. Despite the record the Rays are averaging around 19,500 a game through seven home games.

I know I’m not the only one that saw this coming. I hope the Rays can get this turned around and quickly. The schedule should be in the Rays favor over the next 9 days as they play Texas and Minnesota at home before beginning a road trip in Baltimore against the Orioles.

This team can’t be this bad can they?

Lightning take care of business at home

The Tampa Bay Lightning did what they had to do at home the first two games of the series out scoring the New Jersey Devils 10-5 to lead the series 2-0.

The lightning look like a team ready to take a deep playoff run in their domination of the Devils. The line of Alex Killorn, Yanni Guarde, and Tony Cirelli has been one of the best lines of the series. The Johnson, Palat, Point line been very good as well.

The lightning need the line of Stamkos, Kucherov, and Miller to get going at some point, although they have not played poorly at all, they are just not showing up on the score sheet as much.

In game 2 the Devils outshot the Lightning 19-9 in the third period as desperation set in for the Devils. The lightning were also down Dan Girardi and Ryan Callahan, two players the Lightning count on to play in those situations With their experience and leadership.

You could see the lightning were a bit out of synch as New Jersey applied the pressure in the third period and the lightning were scrambling, just running around trying to make sure they kept New Jersey in check.

The Lightning won’t know anything definitive until Monday on both players, but it looks like both players will miss some time. Callahan may have re-injured the shoulder that bothered him throughout the season and caused him to miss some games in March.

After the game it was being called an upper body injury, and the Girardi injury was being called a lower body injury. If Girardi is out for any length of time, his toughness and tenacity will be hard to replace. Girardi is just rock solid back there and is rarely out of position.

That would open the door for Slater Koekkoek, Jake Dotchin, and Sustr to get some more minutes. Adam Erne is still recovering from his lower body injury and would probably not be available to replace Callahan immediately, although he is now skating.

Monday night the first 10 minutes of the game will set the tone for the rest of the game. New Jersey will throw everything at the Lightning as they are desperate down 0-2 with the next two games at home.

The Lightning challenge will be to wether that storm, play with composure, play their game, and just trust the system.

The lightning will need to come out of the locker room like they did in Tampa. Start quickly, and take the home crowd out of the game early.

Continue to keep the line of Hall, Hischier, and Palmieri in check as they have just three points in the two games so far.

Tampa will need to continue to have success on the power play, be aggressive on the forecheck, and stay out of the penalty box To continue to have success in the series. The Lightning were much better on the PK in game 2 after a not so good effort in game 1.

Andrei Vasilevskiy was outstanding in game 2 especially in the third period when it seemed he was under constant attack.

The goal is to win 2 games in New Jersey and then rest up for the winner of the Boston/Toronto series. I think the Lightning will split in Jersey and then come home and wrap it up on Saturday.

Bucs off-season has been a success

As the off-season continues for the Bucs with the draft just about 2 weeks away, this has been the best off-season for the Bucs in quite some time.

The Bucs have taken care of really two areas on the team that needed improvement the DL and the OL.

It was a late start for the Bucs in free agency, but once Jason Licht entered the playing field, things started happening quickly for the Bucs. Vinny Curry, Mitch Unrein, and Beau Allen were all signed as free agents. Licht then traded a draft pick to the Giants for Jason Pierre Paul who has been a top 10 defensive lineman his career.

Licht also shored up the OL by signing C Ryan Jensen from the Baltimore Ravens. This move strengthened the OL because it will allow Ali Marpet to move back to guard his natural position with Jensen bringing a nastiness and physical presence to the line.

Give Licht credit as he cut some dead weight. Doug Martin gone. Chris Baker gone, Robert Ayers out of here. With the Baker and Ayers moves sometimes you have to admit that you made a mistake by bringing those guys on board. Licht did that and the Bucs are moving on with a revamped DL.

Now we all wait draft day and what Jason Licht and the Bucs will do. There are still some holes on this team. The defensive backfield and the CB position have not been addressed at all. Yes they signed Brent Grimes to a one year deal who was the Bucs best player last year. But other than his signing, they have done nothing to address the needs at this position.

That is why I am advocating the Bucs take a DB with the No. 7 pick in the draft. And there will be one available. I like Minkah Fitzpatrick, just from the aspect that he can play several positions in the secondary. If he is not on the board when the Bucs choose, I would select Derwin James of FSU or even Denzel Ward of Ohio State.

There are two other players that may be available that the fans are clamoring for. Saquon Barkley the RB from Penn State may be there at No. 7, then again there is talk of the Browns taking him at No. 1. Barkley is a phonomal talent who can do it all. Return kicks, return punts, and catch the ball out of the ball field. He is the complete package.

The Bucs have Jacquizz Rodgers and Peyton Barber on the roster at the RB position. This is a draft that is deep in RB’s and the Bucs can get a quality back or two later in the draft.

OL Quenton Nelson may also be available when the Bucs select at 7. Again I would pass on Nelson. I understand that he may be a futureHOF’er, and will solidify the line for years to come. Again you can find quality lineman in the later rounds of the draft and build depth that will help your football team.

The biggest need on this Bucs team is the secondary and that is why I am advocating the Bucs a take a DB with the 7th pick.

The Bucs are still around 15 million under the cap, so a DB from the free agent market could still be signed if the price is right. However with contract extensions on the horizon for Ali Marpet, Kwon Alexander and Jameis Winston, the Bucs need to save a lot of that money for those extensions.

–April 16th, the Bucs begin off-season workouts.

–Mini-camp for the rookies will be May 11-14th.

Are the Rays relevant in Tampa Bay?

As the Tampa Bay Rays wind down spring training and get ready for the 2018 season, there are still a lot of question marks surrounding this team.

Will anyone show up at Tropicana Field this season to watch the Rays? The Rays are last in attendance this spring averaging around 3500 per home game in Port Charlotte. This ranks last in the AL in spring training attendance. Here is another interesting stat I ran across. Since the 2010-11 season in the NHL, the Lightning have averaged more fans per game than the Rays.

The Rays were able to draw 1.2 million last year at the trop for an average of 15,477 per game which was last in MLB. With the Trading away of the marquee players and the salary dump that the Rays front office have done over the winter, the Rays will be lucky to draw 1 million fans.

It is no surprise that MLB sued the Rays along with four other MLB teams for essentially not putting the revenue sharing money back into the product on the field and not making a good faith effort to put a winning product on the field.

ESPN HOF broadcaster Dick Vitale was especially harsh in his criticism of the Rays but kind of summed up what a majority of Rays fans are thinking in an interview with The Tampa Bay Times. “If you don’t want to own a team and give the fans a chance (to see competitive baseball), sell the team. There’ll be a buyer in a heartbeat.”

Vitale went on to say “The Rays ownership and front office have gutted this team and very few players remain that the fans can identify with.“ Evan Longoria gone to the Giants. Steven Souza gone. Jake Ordorizzi traded to Minnesota. Alex Cobb not re-signed when his contract expired. In the past, the Rays have parted ways with all-star David Price and James Shields.

The Rays have what I would call two marquee players on the roster. Chris Archer and Kevin Kiermaier. Archer may be gone at some point this season. Alex Colome the All-Star reliever may also be traded mid-season along with Wilson Ramos as the salary purge has not yet been completed.

Vitale added “If you want to play with the big boys, you have to have good players,” he said. “You have to give your fans a fighting chance. They have to be excited to come to the park and feel excitement, enthusiasm and energy. You can’t feel that at the ballpark when you go to the Trop. The point now has reached an embarrassment. It’s reached a humiliating state. When we lose the people we’ve been losing, it’s absolutely mind-boggling. You want to compete.”

Usually when the calendar rolls from late February into March, there is an excitement in the air that the baseball season is right around the corner. Not this year. There is absolutely no buzz at all regarding this Rays team.

I hope I am wrong. I hope this Rays team exceeds expectations. I guess I am hoping for the best and expecting the worst.

—The Rays announced the Chris Archer will start the season opener against Boston on March 29th. The third game of season will be a bullpen day, when Kevin Cash will use the bullpenfrom start to finish as the Rays will go with a four man rotation until mid-May.

—Mallex Smith has been out with a hamstring injury since March 8th, He says he will be ready for the regular season.

Brad Miller was back in the lineup this weekend after being out since the start of training camp with a broken toe. Miller has been hit hard by the injury bug since being traded to the Rays. He is expected to start at 2B for the Rays this season

Tampa Bay Sports Monday Musings


MAR. 26, 2018

The Tampa Bay Lightning have a 12-2-2 record over the last 16 games. Yet if you monitor the fan groups on social media outlets you would think that this Lightning team will have problems getting out of the first round of the playoffs.

Seven Stamkos said as much last week when he said there is a lot of negativity surrounding the team. Keep in mind last year the Lightning did not even qualify for the playoffs,and with 2 weeks left in the regular season the Lightning have the most points in the NHL with 106, which is tied for first with Nashville. Here are some other milestones this Lightning team can and will reach in the next two weeks:

—With a win against Arizona on Monday night, The Lightning will tie the all-time franchise record with 108 points

-Jon Cooper will pass Stanley Cup winning coach John Tortorella as the all time winningest coach in Lightning history with a win against the Coyotes on Monday night.

-This Lightning team has scored more goals in franchise history than any other team in history.

-Yanni Gourde has a chance to break the franchise record for points by a rookie. Brad Richards has the record with 62, and Gourde has 58 with 7 games remaining.

This has already been a special season for the Lightning, and could get even better with the hoisting of the Stanley Cup in June.

USA Today Sports

It has been a good off-season for Jason Licht and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I Give a Licht a solid A for his work in free agency. With the Acquisition of Jason Pierre-Paul the Bucs have one of the top ten D-Lines in the league.

The Bucs also improved the OL with the signing of Ryan Jensen last week which allows Ali Marpet to move back to guard his natural position.

The Bucs have about 10 million left in cap space after the free agency period and could still sign a DB to strengthen the defense.

With the draft just about a month the Bucs have alot of options, from a trade down to acquire an extra pick or two, to staying at number seven and taking the player they think will best help this team in 2018.

-Kevin Pamphile has signed with the Titans.

-Evan Smith has signed a 2 year contract to add depth to the OL.

-Robert Ayers will show up at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando this week as he tries to get a new deal.

USA Today Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays will begin their 20th season on Thursday, as they host the Boston Red Sox at the Trop.

The Rays wrapped up their spring training home schedule today with a record crownd of 7985 at Charlotte Sports Park as the Rays clobbered the Yankees 11-1. That was the largest ever to see a spring training game in Port Charlotte since the Rays have been there.

-The Rays also made a couple of roster moves after the game. Jonny Venters, Daniel Hudson, and Dan Jennings were informed they will not make the team.

-Yonny Chirinos, and Ryan Yarborough made the big league roster for the first time. Andrew Kitteredge made the team over Austin Pruitt. Nice to see these two kids get a chance. Pruitt was not impressive at all this spring and had some issues last season when he was in Tampa. I’m sure we will see Pruitt at some point this season as the pitching depth has been tested with the injuries to Brent Honeywell and Jose DeLeon.

Hated to see Jonny Venters not make the team as he had an outstanding spring, Venetrs did not give up a run in seven innings of work. Venters is trying to come back from a laundry list of injuries and hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2012.

-We will take a look at the Tampa Bay Rays 2018 season on Wednesday as we will have our season preview ready to go.

Bucs Chris Godwin surprises at camp

Just over one week into training camp and we are already starting to get a pretty good feel for this Buccaneers team. Coach Koetter has said that the the defense is ahead of the offense so far, and that is kind of the normal for the first week or so of training camp. Coach has not been real pleased with the offense. On more than one occasion Koetter has said that the offense needs to be much sharper and have better execution if they are to have the kind of success that is expected for the 2017 season.

WR Chris Godwin continues to impress. Koetter has said on more than one occasion that Godwin does not look like a rookie, has great practice habits and is all business when it comes to football.  I think Chris Godwin will be a big playmaker for this team  and down the road  possibly take over for DeSean Jackson as the No. 2 receiver. This kid has that kind of potential.

TE OJ Howard is another rookie that is turning heads at Bucs camp. Howard was drafted with a lot higher expectations than was Godwin, but still Howard has been as advertised and even better. Howard gets open downfield, makes the tough catches, and can also line up on the line of scrimmage and be a very good run blocker. Not many TE’s can do both extremely well. Howard has that ability

JR Sweezy who missed all of last season is back and having a good camp. He brings a little bit of an edge and some nastiness to that Bucs line which is needed.

On the defensive side of the ball, DT Gerald McCoy is having a great camp.  He has disrupted so many plays in the backfield that Koetter has said that they thought he was jumping off-sides. McCoy earlier this year said that he needed to and wanted to crank it up a few notches  and that he wanted to improve his game. It appears he is on his way. Now all he has to do is transfer that quickness to the regular season games.

S Keith Tandy is another player having a very good camp. Tandy really came on the second half of last season, and had some key interceptions in games against San Diego, and Carolina. Tandy has continued his progress during the OTA’s and moni-camp and is now showing  everyone what he is capable of doing.

It looks like K Roberto Aguayo is a little bit ahead of Nick Folk in the battle for the PK job. On Friday Aguayo was a perfect 7/7 on FG attempts and overall has been near perfect this camp. Now we will see if that translates over to the games. I think this battle will probably go to the final cuts and right now it looks like Aguayo has the edge.

Next Friday night the Bucs will be in Cincinnati to play the Benagals in the first pre-season game at 730PM