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Scott Taylor

Penguins to Repeat

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Scott Taylor

By Scott Taylor

Photos by James Carey Lauder and Jeff Miller

The Stanley Cup final begins on Monday night in Pittsburgh as the Nashville Predators face the defending champion Penguins in a series of firsts.

The Penguins can become the first team to win back-to-back Stanley Cup championships since the Detroit Red Wings pulled it 20 years ago in 1997 and 1998. In the Salary Cap Era, a time when the experts contend that there is parity in the NHL, a repeat by the Penguins would give the contrarians a point with which to argue.

For Nashville, it’s the first time the Predators franchise has reached the Final and the first time their only general manager, David Poile, has made it to a Final after more than 40 years in the hockey business.

It could be argued that just about every expert in the game called the Penguins (50-21-11). At the beginning of the playoffs, the defending champs seemed to have only one weakness – goaltending. Over the past two months, Matt Murray appears to have solved that problem.

Nashville is a big surprise. The Preds had only 94 points (41-29-12) this season and were the eighth seed in the West and No. 16 overall. This was a team that was lucky to be in the playoffs. However, they swept No. 1 Chicago in the Opening Round and then rode goaltender Pekka Rinne to series wins over St. Louis and Anaheim. Still, even though these teams split the two games they played this season, the Penguins finished 17 points ahead of the Predators.

The key for Nashville – besides Rinne, of course – has been the play of their defensive corps, led by PK Subban. If Subban pulls off 16 wins this spring it will certainly poke Montreal Canadiens fans in the eye. GM Poile sent 2016 Norris Trophy winner Shea Weber to the Canadiens for Subban last summer and despite some hiccups during the regular season, the 28-year-old All-Star from Toronto has been Conn Smythe Trophy-worthy this spring. 

Nashville Predators PK Subban

PK Subban – Nashville Predators

With the Championship series beginning Monday at 7 p.m. on NBC and CBC, here are the four keys to the Final:

The Stats

Nashville’s playoff power play is running at 14.9 percent (12th this spring) while the penalty kill is at 88.1 percent (fourth). With 2.94 goals per game, the Preds are first overall and with only 1.81 against (thanks to the brilliance of Rinne), the Preds are also first overall.

The Penguins power play is dangerous. At 23.6 per cent this spring, Pittsburgh is third overall. The penalty kill, at 84.9 per cent is ninth. Pittsburgh is third in goals scored at 2.89 and fifth in goals against at 2.21. If there is a Penguins weakness, it’s in goal.

The Injuries

The Predators will be without No. 1 centre Ryan Johansen. He will not play in the Final due to compartment syndrome in his left thigh. Kevin Fiala is also out for the remainder of the playoffs after sustaining a fractured femur in Game 1 of the second round. 

Mike Fisher is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. Craig Smith also remains day-to-day with an undisclosed injury, although he was on the ice for the pre-game warmup before to Game 6 of the West final. The Predators are optimistic both will be ready for Game 1 of the Final.

The Penguins were without Patric Hornqvist, Justin Schultz, Tom Kuhnhackl and Chad Ruhwedel for most or all of the Eastern Conference Final. Schultz was the only one who returned to the lineup for Game 7. He scored a goal and had an assist on the OT winner.

Gifted but oft-injured defenseman Kris Letang has missed the entire playoff run with a neck injury and will not return.

Underdog vs. Favorite

There is no doubt that Pittsburgh will be the heavy favorite and for good reason. They are led by two superstars, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and have already been to the dance and won.

Nashville is a clear underdog. They’ve never been this far in the playoffs in their history so this is completely new territory. But they play in a great rink with a sensational atmosphere and they have an outstanding goaltender. Anything can happen.   

The Conn Smythe Candidates

For Nashville, it’s clearly goaltender Pekka Rinne. His .941 save percentage is the best of any starting goalie this post-season as is his 1.70 GAA. Also watch Filip Forsberg and of course, PK Subban. Forsberg’s 14 even-strength points are the most of any forward still playing. Subban is one of the most exciting players in the game.

For Pittsburgh, it’s simple: Sidney Crosby has come back from a concussion in Round 2 to lead the Penguins to back-to-back finals. Then there’s Jake Guentzel, the playoff goal-scoring leader (9) who is where he is today because coach Mike Sullivan put him on Crosby’s line. The Pens also have Evgeni Malkin who leads Pittsburgh in total playoff points and Phil Kessel, the team leader in shots on goal and chances.

Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh Penguins

Players to Watch:

Pittsburgh: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel

Nashville: Pekka Rinne, Filip Forsberg, PK Subban

Season Series:

Even at 1-1.

Our Choice:

Pittsburgh in six games.

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GDG rundown for Memorial Day Weekend 2017 (May 26th-29th)

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It’s a long weekend for many across the country as we pay tribute to our Veterans, past and present.  While many of us will relax over the holiday, the world of sports continues on.  Eric and Larry keep us informed, broadcasting this week’s program from the Downtown Minneapolis studio.  As a matter of fact, there’s so much crammed into this edition, we had no time to bring on a guest.  The guys dive into the surprising Twins, the upcoming NBA Finals, the Lynx playing in a new venue, the misfortune surrounding the Vikings, and the new NFL rules that are raising some eyebrows.  Plus, how important are the stadiums the house all of these games?

Twins Staying On Top

Segment 1: The Twins are best in the MLB in something.  The guys look at the team’s impressive road record.  Could starter Ervin Santana and slugger Miguel Sano be candidates for some recognition later in the season?  What are some of the other factors that have led to first-place status in the division?

 

New Digs, Same Successful Lynx

Segment 2: The Minnesota Lynx may have changed home venues this season, but the winning continues.  Eric and Larry dig into the start of the team’s campaign.  How has the environment changed with them playing at Xcel Energy Center?  And what are the guys’ thoughts on Charlotte receiving another chance to host the NBA All-Star Game?

 

Final-ly: The NBA Matchup We’ve Been Waiting For

Segment 3: It hasn’t provided a lot of drama, but the NBA postseason might change very soon.  The fellas offer up their preview analysis of Round 3 in the Cleveland vs. Golden State trilogy.  Plus, have these playoffs held any intrigue to this point?  Maybe not as much as some of the tension that some famous sports TV personalities are experiencing.

 

More Injury News for the Vikings

Segment 4: We have a sighting!  Our hosts dig into the video showing Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater tossing the pigskin around.  But is Teddy’s knee the most pressing injury for the organization?  We hear more about another eye surgery for coach Mike Zimmer.  Then, does the NFL’s plan to shorten overtime periods make sense?

 

Some Changes are Coming for the Shield

Segment 5: The NFL changes don’t stop with just OT.  The guys give their opinions on the easing on penalties for end zone celebrations.  After that, they dive into the prolonged unemployment of QB Colin Kaepernick.  Is he being shut out of finding a job?

 

The Value of an Arena

Segment 6: There’s a lot of sports news that involves the fans…or their seats, at least.  We hear the latest stadium news in California and closer to home.  Which stadium is getting naming rights for the first time?  What can the Lynx do to improve the ambiance over at the X?  And how much increase in value could the Warriors see just by moving across the Bay?

 

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: The Minnesota Twins are thriving on the road

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By Eric Nelson
May 24, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the North Star State...

•Travel-Tested: The Minnesota Twins apparently love packing their bags, hopping on jets and staying in hotels. After their 2-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night at Camden Yards, the Twins are 13-5 on the road, which is much better than their 11-13 home record. The Twins (24-18) continue to be an early season surprise as they lead Cleveland by one game in the AL Central…

•Mound Magic: Twins P Ervin Santana was outstanding against the Orioles, throwing a complete game, two-hit shutout. Santana (7-2) is tied with Houston’s Dallas Keuchel and the LA Dodgers Clayton Kershaw for the most wins in MLB. Santana’s 1.80 ERA is the lowest in the majors…

•Sano Show: On Monday Miguel Sano put on a power display at Camden in Minnesota’s 14-7 win. Sano had four hits (including a home run), scored three times and drove in three runs. Sano has 37 RBI which is tied for the AL lead with Seattle’s Nelson Cruz

•Sunday Saturation: There was sports gridlock in the Twin Cities on Sunday. Kansas City and Minnesota played a double dip at Target Field, Gary and St. Paul played two games at CHS Field and the LA Galaxy took on Minnesota United at TCF Bank Stadium. The Royals-Twins games drew an announced 27,852 fans, the Railcats and Saints played before 7,511, while LA and Minn U attracted a crowd of 19,107. Not bad considering temps were in the mid-40’s and there was rain or mist coming down part of the day…

•Just Asking: What will happen first, the Golden State Warriors losing in the playoffs or Keuchel losing a game? The Warriors are 12-0 in the NBA’s postseason while Keuchel (currently on the 10 day DL) is 7-0…

•Ho Hum: The Minnesota Lynx (4-0) are off to another fast start. The Lynx squeaked by the Connecticut Sun 80-78 on Tuesday night in St. Paul. Sylvia Fowles scored 21 points and had 13 rebounds for the Lynx who have spoiled their fan base with consistent success…

•Hockey-Tonk: Music City is Hockey City now that Nashville has advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history. The Predators are the 14th sun belt team to play for the Cup and suddenly have become a trendy team in Tennessee…

•Fun is Good: Kudos to the NFL for easing up on player celebration penalties. The stuffy and buttoned up league that frowned on dancing and frolicking, is now going to let players be more expressive. Goal post dunks, snow angels and choreographed end zone dances will be en vogue again thanks to rule changes approved at the NFL spring meetings in Chicago…

•Coliseum Upgrades: According to the LA Times, the historic LA Coliseum is going to get a $270 million renovation. USC – the venue’s primary tenant – has raised $225 million for the project which will be finished in 2019. The Coliseum makeover includes new seats, wider aisles in some areas, a tower with luxury boxes and club seats on the stadium’s south side. Coliseum capacity will shrink from 94,000 to 77,000. The LAC is also the temporary home for the LA Rams…

Los Angeles Coliseum

Los Angeles Coliseum

•Name Game: The Times also reports that Coliseum naming rights have been sold to United Airlines. That means the 94-year old facility will have a new name for the first time ever…

•Prep Palace: According to the Houston Chronicle, Legacy Stadium in Katy, TX opens this fall. The tab is $72.1 million – making it the most expensive high school football venue in Texas history. Legacy’s capacity will be 12,000…

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Major League Baseball is competitive

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By Larry Fitzgerald
May 23, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

In the NBA, 16 of the 30 teams qualify for the playoffs; same thing in the National Hockey League. In the NFL just 12 of the 32 teams reach the playoffs.

Major League Baseball has long refused to qualify half of its league for post-season play. They do play a lot, 162 games in the regular season from April to October, but just 10 of 30 teams get playoff spots.

Thirty teams, and just five from each league, the American and National, qualify for the playoffs. The American League has the designated hitter rule — the pitcher does not bat. The National League allows the pitcher to hit for himself. In the NFL, everybody plays by the same set of rules, as in the NBA.

The NHL has a strange overtime rule where each game has a value of two points for regulation, unless the game goes to overtime when an extra point is added if the teams tie after 60 minutes of regulation time. The winner in overtime or the shootout gets two points; the loser gets one.

Since scoring in hockey is more difficult than in all the other sports because of the speed, in my view, the playoffs seem to be more unpredictable because the value of each team’s total points can be misleading depending on how many regular-season overtime games a team plays. Usually it’s 10-15 games per team.

Last season, of the 16 playoff teams in the NHL, nine teams had 100 points or more. With four teams remaining in the battle for the Stanley Cup, only Pittsburgh and Anaheim remain that have accumulated 100 points or more. I believe the extra point for overtime games over an 82-game season distorts the true strength of a team.

MLB, like the NFL in my view, gets it right — the fewer playoff qualifiers the better. That’s why the NFL and MLB are both financially way ahead of the NBA and the NHL. Qualifying fewer teams for the playoffs helps strengthen your regular season and places greater value on each game. That identifies the stronger teams and improves your post-season competition.

So far, MLB is off to a great 2017 start despite some awful weather across the country. Eighteen of the 30 teams are .500 or better percentage-wise. The Cubs are the defending World Series Champions and are being challenged by Milwaukee and St. Louis in their division. The Twins are tied for first with heavily favored Cleveland in the AL Central, even though last year they lost 103 games.

It’s good to see the overall improvement across MLB. The teams appear to be stronger fundamentally, and that’s a good thing for baseball.

 

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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GDG rundown for the weekend of May 19th-21st

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It was a good day for two over at Target Field on Thursday.  Eric and Larry decided to take advantage and broadcast this week’s show from the ballpark.  Along with the steady Twins, we hear the guys discuss the NBA Playoffs, the Stanley Cup surprises, the mash-up of sports & politics, and the lack of credit given to the Gopher softball team by the NCAA.  Plus, we’ll get some opinions from long-time Pioneer Press writer Charley Walters.

Baseball Fever is Among Us

Segment 1: Eric and Larry took in some of Thursday’s doubleheader over at Target Field.  They look at how the Twins have stayed near the top of the AL Central.  Plus, they take a tour around the MLB.

 

A Lack of Respect?

Segment 2: Did the Gopher softball get jobbed by not receiving a seed in the NCAA Tournament?  The guys look into it.  And why is an NFL running back suing a local financial company?

 

Building to the Crescendo

Segment 3: Is the NBA Finals’ matchup a foregone conclusion?  Our hosts discuss the impressive playoff runs of Cleveland and Golden State.  Then, what can the Timberwolves do with the 7th overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft?

 

Does Speaking Their Minds Matter?

Segment 4: Throughout the history of sports, athletes have used their platform to speak on social and political issues.  Do the fellas think that this is a good thing?

 

Shootin’ the Breeze: Pioneer Press Writer Charley Walters Joins the Show

Segment 5: Pioneer Press writer Charley Walters has seen a lot over his four-plus decades reporting on sports.  But has he seen such a crowded sports market?  He stops by the program to discuss the Twins, the St. Paul Saints, the Vikings, and Gopher softball.

 

NFL in dee-LA & Unfamiliar Names

Segment 6: There’s yet another delay concerning a football stadium being built in Los Angeles.  The Stanley Cup Playoffs have some surprising names in its Conference Finals.  And there is another incident involving a racial slur in baseball…this time, on the field.

 

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GDG rundown for the weekend of May 12th-14th

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There’s a lot of fun to be had during this week’s edition of the show, with some serious notes mixed in.  Eric and Larry dish it all out from the Downtown Minneapolis studio.  They jockeying back and forth from the Vikings’ new additions to the stories making waves in the MLB, with some insight on the NBA and NHL playoffs to boot.  Can baseball get back to its glory days?  How about some love for a few other squads, including MN United, the Gopher softball team, and the Lynx?  Plus, Boston Red Sox broadcaster Joe Castiglione discusses the good (and sometimes bad) that Beantown has had to offer lately.

On the Road to Traffic…& Greatness

Segment 1: You can’t get around it, past it, or through it.  Road construction continues across the region, and the guys use this time to vent a little more on all of the orange barrels and cones.  Then, they get into the ongoing NBA and NHL postseasons, including a preview of the Stanley Cup “Semifinals”.

 

More Offseason Moves for the Vikings

Segment 2: The Vikings have brought a local kid back home…but not without raising a couple of eyebrows.  Eric and Larry give their opinions on the signing of St. Paul native and Super Bowl-winning wideout Michael Floyd.  Is there any comparison between this situation and the controversial draft selection used to take running back Dalvin Cook?  And was this move initiated due to the inaction of rookie Laquon Treadwell?

 

Diamond-Lights: Highlights from the MLB

Segment 3: The fellas look around the Major Leagues to pick up some headlines.  Are the Yankees going beyond respectability and getting back to the good ol’ days of domination?  Then, what do they think about Albert Pujols approaching the majestic milestone of 600 home runs?

 

Can MLB Regain Its Past Luster?

Segment 4: Does the MLB still have a foothold on the American sports conscience?  The guys look at how America’s Pasttime got passed by on the road to now.  Where did it all slide for the guys representing the diamond?  And is Commissioner Rob Manfred taking the right steps to make it more popular?

 

The Voice of Sox Nation: Joe Castiglione Chats with GDG

Segment 5: He’s seen some of the biggest heartbreaks and celebrations in the history of Red Sox Nation.  Joe Castiglione has been behind the mic for the franchise for over three decades.  He was in town last weekend, and Eric caught up with him to chat about the team and the ugly incidents that took place at Fenway Park recently.

 

A Segment Filled with Shoutouts

Segment 6: MN United appears to be gaining some positive traction after last weekend’s win over Sporting KC.  Then, it’s time to show a little love for the ladies.  The Gopher softball team is experiencing an historic season as they enter the Big Ten tournament.  And the Lynx begin their journey to redemption this weekend as the WNBA regular season gets underway.

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Scott Taylor

Rinne the Star of 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs

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Scott Taylor

By Scott Taylor

The number sits out there like a shining beacon on the hill: .951.

That’s Pekka Rinne’s NHL-leading playoff save percentage, the day after he led the Nashville Predators into the Western Conference final.

Of the goalies remaining in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Rinne is clearly the hottest goalie of the bunch. Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers is next at .930 while Marc-Andre Fleury of the Penguins is third at .929. The Oilers’ Cam Talbot is fourth at .924 and then Ottawa’s Craig Anderson is a mediocre .909.

Frankly, the goaltending in the second round of this year’s post-season hasn’t been particularly sparkling. Heck, even Lundqvist gave up five in his last start. However, Rinne has been the exception.

After Jake Allen of the St. Louis Blues took out the Minnesota Wild in the first round – and make no mistake, Allen was the ONLY reason St. Louis upset the Wild – it appeared as if the second round matchup between Nashville and the Blues would be a thriller. Two hot goaltenders and two underdog teams were going to make this series memorable.

Neither occurred. All thanks to Rinne.

After taking out Chicago in four straight and then beating the Blues in six, Rinne is now 8-2 in the post-season with a league best 1.37 goals against average and that eye-popping .951 save percentage. He’s playing his best hockey and the league’s best hockey at exactly the right time

“He gives us the confidence we need,” defenseman Roman Josi told NBCSN. “I think every game he’s been our best player. He’s so confident back there. He’s confident in making saves. He’s confident in passing the puck. And he’s been unbelievable for us.”

He is the reason the Predators will face either the Anaheim Ducks or Edmonton Oilers in the Western final.

And make no mistake, he had to be good to be better than Allen, the goaltender he beat in the second round. After all, despite all the media analysis you might have seen or read about the Blues’ first-round victory over Minnesota, the real reason – and the only reason – St. Louis won that series was the play of Allen.

“I don’t know how we could have been better,” said Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau after Minnesota was removed in five games by the Blues. “Their goaltender stopped 40 shots a game. And it’s not like the shots didn’t come from everywhere. They came from in close, from between the circles and from the perimeter. We took shots from everywhere. Tip your cap. He was just better than we were.”

For those Minnesota fans and followers who still want to blame (a) Boudreau, (b) Parise and Suter, (c) Devan Dubnyk or (d) all the other players Chuck Fletcher ever brought to St. Paul, just check out these numbers: Jake Allen had a 1.47 goals-against average and a .956 save percentage in Round 1 against the Wild. That was monstrous.

After the first round against Minnesota, Allen was No. 2 in the running for the Conn Smythe Trophy. Of course, he was well behind Pekka Rinne.

Rinne is a 6-foot-5, 34-year-old goaltender from Finland with 11 years of NHL experience. He has long been one of the two or three best netminders in the NHL. In 64 games with the Preds this season, he had a 2.42 goals against average and a .918 save percentage to go with a 31-19-9 record. It wasn’t his best season in the NHL, but it certainly wasn’t his worst.

Right now, however, he’s in the midst of his best playoff run ever. Period. He led the Preds when they swept Chicago in the first round and he made Jake Allen look like, well, Jake Allen again, in Round 2 against St. Louis. Now, he has a chance to take the Predators to a place the franchise has never been before – the Stanley Cup final.

Don’t be surprised if he pulls it off…

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: The Minnesota Twins are no longer April fools

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By Eric Nelson
May 2, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the home of Trix...

 

•April Rebound: The Minnesota Twins were April fools in 2016 as they got off to a catastrophic 0-9 start that set the tone for a 59-103 season. This April, the Twins fared much better. They finished MLB’s first month of the season with a respectable 12-11 record and are just 1 1/2 games behind first place Cleveland in the AL Central. Minnesota capped off the month Sunday with a 7-5 win in Kansas City, and was 4-1 on the road trip to Texas and KC…

•Inv-A’s-ion: Minnesota begins a six-game home stand Tuesday night against Oakland (11-14) as former Twins 3B Trevor Plouffe returns to Minneapolis. Plouffe is batting .207 with four home runs and nine RBI for the A’s. Oakland LF Khris Davis has 10 home runs, which is tied for the AL lead…

Trevor Plouffe will return to Minneapolis as a member of the Oakland A’s – May 2, 2017

•Power Players: Minnesota and Milwaukee had two of baseball’s top offensive performers in April. Twins 3B Miguel Sano had an AL-high 25 RBI and Brewers 1B Eric Thames slugged 11 taters, which is tied for the MLB lead. Sano is the AL player of the week…

•Missing Aces: Two of the top pitchers in MLB are sidelined. San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner could be out until July after injuring his left shoulder in a dirt bike accident, and New York Mets star Noah Syndergaard is out indefinitely with a partially torn back muscle…

•Canada Dry: Montreal is the last team from Canada to win a Stanley Cup. That was way back in 1993 when the Canadiens defeated Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings. Will Canada’s cup drought finally end this season? Possibly. Both Edmonton and Ottawa lead in second round playoff series. The Oilers are up on Anaheim 2 games to 1 and the Senators lead the New York Rangers 2-0…

•Ratings Game: If the Oilers advance to the Western Conference Finals and the Senators do the same in the Eastern Conference, NBC will start to sweat. No way the peacock wants Edmonton and Ottawa playing in the Cup Finals on their airwaves…

•Yard Tracking: Just a hunch, but I have a feeling Viking fans will keep close track of how many yards Adrian Peterson and Dalvin Cook gain in the season opener on September 11. AP makes his debut for New Orleans that night and the rookie Cook will play his first NFL game for Minnesota…

•Comedy Central: Isn’t it funny how all 32 NFL teams think they had a good draft? This is nothing new and is the familiar spin we hear from coaches and GM’s after they fill out their draft cards. The truth is only a few teams selected well, but we won’t know which ones until three or four years from now…

•Party Central: The Golden State Warriors are not happy about playing Utah in the second round of the NBA playoffs. According to ESPN, Warrior players were disappointed the Jazz knocked the Clippers out of the post-season because the nightlife in Salt lake City is not as good as Los Angeles. That’s an odd reaction since Golden State’s focus should be on playoff wins, not post-game parties…

•Sightseeing: Forget the club scene, the Warriors should soak up the postcard-like views of Salt Lake City and the nearby Wasatch Mountains. SLC is one of the most scenic cities in the USA…

•Missed opportunities: The Clippers have failed to pounce on their chance to become a serious player in LA’s cluttered sports market. The once almighty Lakers are in chaos, which opened the door for the Clippers to cut into their immense popularity. But the Clippers have been unable to go on a serious post-season run, which means LA is still a Laker town…

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Minn U soccer at TCF is a cool event

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By Eric Nelson
April 25, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the land of 10 million potholes...

•Cool Vibe: I had a chance to see my first Minnesota United game at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday and was very impressed. The flag-waving, towel twirling crowd of 17,491 was involved and vocal the entire match. It was good theater. Midway through the second half there was a sunlight/shadow mix on the pitch, producing some spectacular visuals – which is another advantage to playing outside…

Minnesota United MLS soccer

Minnesota Loons at TCF Stadium
-April 2017

 

•Doubleheader: The Loons got their first-ever MLS shutout as Minn U blanked Colorado 1-0. The game-winning goal came when Johan Venegas used a header to get the ball to Miguel Ibarra who scored on a sprawling head shot. In this case, two heads were better than one..

 

•Money-Makers: According to the LA Times, the top 10 selling jerseys in MLB are:

  1. Kris Bryant (Chicago Cubs),
  2. Anthony Rizzo (Cubs),
  3. Clayton Kershaw (LA Dodgers),
  4. Javier Baez (Cubs),
  5. Kyle Schwarber (Cubs),
  6. Noah Syndergaard (NY Mets),
  7. Corey Seager (LA Dodgers),
  8. Buster Posey (SF),
  9. Gary Sanchez (NY Yankees)
  10. Mike Trout (LA Angels)

 

•Barefootball: According to the LA Times, the Chargers have been conducting some of their off-season workouts barefoot. What’s next, practicing on the beach..?

•PJ’s pitch: New U of M football coach PJ Fleck has been making his pitch to Gopher fans and potential recruits since being hired in early January. On Saturday he made another kind of pitch as he threw out the first pitch before the Detroit-Minnesota game at Target Field…

•Homecoming Hype: Now that Adrian Peterson has signed with the Saints, let the buildup begin. New Orleans and Minnesota open the season on September 11 in Minneapolis, meaning AP’s first game as a Saint is against his old team. ESPN is carrying the Monday night broadcast, which means the network will probably start hyping the telecast in July…

Adrian Peterson changes direction

•Standing O: Btw, AP deserves a loud ovation from the Purple Nation when he jogs onto the USB field turf. In 10 seasons with the Vikings AP ran for 11,747 yards, scored 102 touchdowns, played in seven Pro Bowls and was the 2012 NFL MVP when he gained 2,097 yards. That kind of production should garner him plenty of cheers…

•Cone Zone: Driving on I-94 through Brooklyn Center and Minneapolis these days means dodging orange barrels and cones, and driving over craters and potholes. “Minnesota’s Main Street” has been reduced to a couple of lanes in some parts because MNDOT has begun the monstrous $46.3 million project. Phase one of the I-94 construction will be finished by late October or early November and have no impact on Super Bowl LII. Construction will resume in late March or Early April of 2018…

•Capable and Qualified: Golden State HC Steve Kerr is one of the best in the business. But, with Kerr out because of a back injury, assistant Mike Brown took over the Warriors coaching duties for game 3 of their NBA playoff series against Portland. Golden State did not skip a beat, winning 119-113 and has a commanding 3-0 series lead. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Brown’s resume includes two stints as HC in Cleveland (2005-10, 2013-14) and with the LA Lakers (2011-12). Brown has coached in 83 playoff games, including the 2007 NBA Finals when San Antonio swept Cleveland in four games…

•Marathon Man: Joe Gagnon has accomplished his daunting goal of running six marathons on six continents in six days. Gagnon began his incredible journey in Australia on April 10 and finished up in Southern California on April 15. He ran in Sydney, Singapore, Johannesburg, London, Sao Paolo and Los Angeles…

•Mile Count: Gagnon did this to raise money for Project Bright Light which is part of LA-based Chimein.org, an organization that aids impoverished youth. He ran 156 miles, logged over 40,00 air miles in coach and did not stay in a hotel the entire trip…

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Ervin Santana’s mound magic is good news for the Minnesota Twins

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By Eric Nelson
April 18, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the land of April showers...

•Fast Start: MLB does not hand out Cy Young trophies in April, but if Ervin Santana keeps pitching like he has been, he might win the award. Santana (3-0, 0.41 ERA) has been outstanding with 15 strikeouts and just five walks in 22 innings. Santana’s most recent outing was a gem. He threw a complete game one-hitter in the Twins 6-0 win over the Chicago White Sox on Saturday…

•Mound Showdown: Santana’s next start is Thursday against Cleveland in Minneapolis. RHP Corey Kluber (1-1, 6.38 ERA) will start for the Indians. Kluber won the 2014 AL Cy Young award with an 18-9 record…

•Sputtering Starts: Twins’ CF Byron Buxton and 1B Joe Mauer are struggling this season. Buxton is batting .093 (no home runs, no RBI and 23 strikeouts), while Mauer’s average is .213 (no home runs, 6 RBI). All of Mauer’s 10 hits have been singles…

•Crowd Counts: Despite a respectable 7-6 start and mild April weather, people are not exactly flocking to trendy Target Field. Monday’s Indians-Twins game drew just 16,961 fans. In seven home dates Minnesota is averaging 21,677, which is 28th out of 30 MLB teams. Only Tampa Bay (17,977 average) and Oakland (17,131) attract fewer to the ballpark. St. Louis leads the majors in attendance (44,992)…

•Sparse Gathering: The Gopher football team knows all about small turnouts. The estimated crowd for Minnesota’s spring game was a meager 5,000, proving once again that on the college football map Minneapolis is light years away from hotbeds such as Ann Arbor, Baton Rouge, Columbus, Gainesville, Lincoln, Madison, State College, South Bend and Tuscaloosa…

•Free Fall: It’s a worst-case scenario come true for the Minnesota Wild. The Wild trail 3-0 in their first round playoff series and are on the brink of elimination. Compounding the misery is that the Wild are losing to St. Louis. Yes, the same Blues who are coached by Mike Yeo, a guy Minnesota kicked to the curb last season. It’s mind boggling that the Wild are in this spot, after they had their best regular season in franchise history with 106 points…

•Perception is Reality: If the Wild get bounced in round one it will add fuel to the fire for Bruce Boudrerau critics. Boudreau is the NHL’s version of Marty Schottenheimer – a great regular season coach who stumbles in the post-season…

•Hawk Shock: It’s also hard to believe, but the Blackhawks are in the same precarious predicament as the Wild. Nashville defeated Chicago 3-2 in overtime Monday in Tennessee. The Predators have a commanding 3-0 lead in that playoff series and have outscored the Blackhawks 9-2…

•Bad Timing: If the Wild and Blackhawks both get knocked out in round one, Minnesota fans will be saying, “woulda, coulda, shoulda” all off-season. Chicago historically has been playoff kryptonite for Minnesota and this would have been the Wild’s chance to advance without having to get past the Blackhawks…

•Home Cooking: After a 2-2 draw last week in Houston, Minnesota United returns to the Twin Cities for three straight games. Minn U plays Colorado on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium, then hosts San Jose on April 29 and Sporting KC on May 29…

•Knick Knacks: I am tired of the constant media hype surrounding Phil Jackson, Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks. Who cares? This soap opera is only relevant in the 212 area code. The Knicks are not a well run franchise and don’t have a great history. They get attention simply because they play in NYC. If the Knicks were in Denver, Indianapolis, Minneapolis or Salt Lake City they would be off the grid…

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Podcast

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Gameday Gold Radio – May 11, 2017 – s.1

There’s a lot of fun to be had during this week’s edition of the show, with some serious notes mixed in.  Eric and Larry dish it all out from the Downtown Minneapolis studio.  They jockeying back and forth from the Vikings’ new additions to the stories making waves in the MLB, with some insight on the NBA and NHL playoffs to boot.  Can baseball get back to its glory days?  How about some love for a few other squads, including MN United, the Gopher softball team, and the Lynx?  Plus, Boston Red Sox broadcaster Joe Castiglione discusses the good (and sometimes bad) that Beantown has had to offer lately.

On the Road to Traffic…& Greatness

Segment 1: You can’t get around it, past it, or through it.  Road construction continues across the region, and the guys use this time to vent a little more on all of the orange barrels and cones.  Then, they get into the ongoing NBA and NHL postseasons, including a preview of the Stanley Cup “Semifinals”.

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Gameday Gold Radio – April 20, 2017 – s.1

It’s a week of adulation and anticipation when it comes to sports.  Eric and Larry select the biggest headlines to share from the Downtown Minneapolis studio.  The Wild find themselves in some trouble as they play their 1st Round playoff series.  Can they wiggle out of it?  The Twins are starting to find some old issues after owning a bit of success.  The NBA Playoffs have some unexpected spark to them.  The Vikings know the “when” of their 2017 schedule.  And we’re joined by former NFL wideout Greg Jennings as he discusses the power of giving and the prominence of the league.

Wild Looking to Fight Back

Segment 1: The Wild entered the postseason with the second-best point total in the Western Conference.  All that matters now is that they win three straight to move on to the Conference Semifinals.  But can they complete an historic comeback against the Blues?  Eric and Larry provide some examples that could give local fans some hope.

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Gameday Gold Radio – April 13, 2017 – s.6

A Wild Tussle to Open the Playoffs

Segment 6: The fellas take a minute to look into the hot button topic of the man that was dragged off of a United Airlines flight.  After that, the Wild were bogged down in Game 1 of their First Round postseason series against St. Louis.  What should we expect from the rest of the series?  Eric and Larry break down the angles.

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Gameday Gold Radio – March 3, 2017 – s.6

Two Local Teams Peaking Towards the End

Segment 6: The Gopher men’s basketball team has now reached the level of “red hot” as they reach the close of the regular season.  The fellas take a closer look at this squad that appears to be a lock for an NCAA Tournament bid.  And, despite a Thursday night setback against Columbus, the Wild continue to lead the NHL’s Central Division…but for how long?

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Gameday Gold Radio – January 20, 2017 – s.6

A Little Cooler on the Ice and the Court

Segment 6: The Wild finally cooled off a bit after a big weekend after Central Division rivals.  Eric and Larry look at the team’s latest exploits on the ice.  MLB Hall of Fame member Willie McCovey receives quite a present from President Barack Obama.  Then, can Gopher men’s hoops turn their recent losing streak around against Wisconsin?

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Gameday Gold Radio – January 13, 2017 – s.5

Going Around the World of Sports with National Broadcaster Kenny Albert

Segment 5: What promised to be a goalie showdown turned into a Minnesota beatdown on Thursday.  Kenny Albert provided the play-by-play for NBC Sports Network, and he chatted with us after the game.  We get his thoughts on the Bruce Boudreau effect and the stacked Metropolitan Division, as well as some NBA and NFL tidbits.

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Gameday Gold Radio – January 13, 2017 – s.1

It has been a torrid stretch for the Minnesota Wild.  Eric and Larry got caught up in the whirlwind Thursday, as they broadcast this week’s show from St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center.  They look into this hot streak that the team has been on for the last five weeks.  And national broadcaster Kenny Albert gives his insight into the team’s recent play.  Plus, there’s a ton of other stories to get into this week.  The guys cover a big win for the Wolves, the major improvement for Gopher men’s hoops, the evolution of a new college football champion, previews of each of the weekend’s NFL Playoff games, and the lights being stomped out in San Diego.

The Wild Run Wild Over Montreal

Segment 1: The Minnesota Wild are the hottest thing going in the Twin Cities.  Our hosts got their fill on Thursday night, watching the team’s thorough victory over Montreal.  Eric and Larry break down the Wild’s hot streak.  And how can they keep it going this weekend?