MANY OF us expected the treasured Stanley Cup to be in St. Louis tonight, preparing to be hoisted.
But how many of us expected the Cup would be there only for the BLUES to win?
The developments of the last two games: the smothering play of the Blues, the return to form of rookie goalie Jordan Binnington, the botched officiating, have left this member of the Next Six — one of the teams that doubled the size of the league from six to 12 in 1967 — of the NHL on the verge of its first title.
Friday brought us news that Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy won’t be fined for his comments after Thursday night’s loss. Probably because the league knows he was right. The officiating was “egregious.” Cassidy’s words were not.
Now, his team has to figure out a way to get this done and keep the Blues from celebrating on home ice.
“Our play should define us, not a call,” Cassidy said Friday. “It’s not going to be talked about in the locker room. It happened. I thought we actually responded fairly well. We got ourselves back in the game, cut the deficit to 2-1. We had a chance to win, but our play is going to define us on the ice, not a non-call, call.
“St. Louis has done a terrific job — they did. That (missed hand pass in the San Jose series) really went against them, and they pushed on. High character in their locker room, and we have the same high character. I suspect we’ll put it behind us and off we go.”
Now, for our weekly trip around the sports landscape.
…While the Bruins are down 3-2, the NBA champion Warriors are down 3-1 returning to Toronto for Monday night after the Raptors, also seeking their first title, won twice in Oakland. Can Kevin Durant return as the savior before his days with the Dubs end? Doesn’t look like it. “You just try to win one game,” coach Steve Kerr said of the difficult road ahead.
…We warned you in this space of the dangers of Rick Porcello and the odd-numbered season. It’s right there in the record: 9-15 in 2015, 22-4 and the Cy Young Award in ’16, 11-17 in ‘17, 17-7 in ’18 and now 4-6 with a 4.86 ERA in ’19 after losing Friday night.
…Warriors part owner Mark Stevens was banned from NBA arenas for a year and fined $500,000 for shoving and cussing at Kyle Lowry in Game 3. He should be kicked out of the game for good, which is likely to happen.
…A piece by The Athletic had the Bruins with just $1.5 million in cap space after this season, making it difficult to bring Marcus Johansson back. The piece read, “New contracts for Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen could be pricey, so much so that bringing back Marcus Johansson feels like a long shot, despite his strong postseason.” Regardless, the piece suggests, the Bruins will be very good next season.
…The days after the end of the NBA Finals will be busy for the Celtics, and there’s not much time. The draft is June 20. You know we love mock drafts and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic has the Celtics, with the 14th, 20th and 22nd picks, taking 6-11 center Goga Bitadze from, Budocnost (Montenegro), Nickeil Alexander-Walker, a 6-5 combo guard from Virginia Tech and Keldon Johnson, a 6-6 freshman wing from Kentucky.
…Pete Rose has a new book out: “Play Hungry; The Making of a Ballplayer.” The other day, appearing with Michael Kay on the YES network, he said, among other things, “Being suspended from baseball, and I don’t think I ever told anybody this, probably cost me $80 million.” Talking about Sandy Koufax, he said, “I couldn’t hit him with a table.”
…Tickets for Game 6 in St. Louis in the secondary market were going for an average of $4,290, with the cheapest at $2,019, making it the second-highest ticket in the four major sports during this decade; second only to Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.
…Julian Edelman showed up on the field for Patriots mini-camp wearing a Bruins jersey.
…Red Sox starter Chris Sale on Craig Kimbrel signing with the Cubs: “I think everyone in this clubhouse would have liked to have him back but we understand it. I’m happy he found a home.”
…Celtics President Danny Ainge said “I have not received that indication, no,” when asked about Kyrie Irving‘s potential departure. He added, “I don’t know. There’s not much I can say about that, honestly. But there’s ongoing conversations. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens there.”
…On that topic, the Nets traded Allen Crabbe to Atlanta the other day and opened a max contract slot for Irving. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Irving and Brooklyn have a strong mutual interest, and that the Nets will have some $46 million in cap space if they choose to retain All-Star point guard D’Angelo Russell.
…Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, having a decent season but one not as good as 2018, to the Globe’s Pete Abraham: “Not that good. Just been trying to grind and do what I can to help the team score some runs. It seems like everybody else has been plugging along and I’m bringing up the rear … I feel fine physically. I’m comfortable. I’m just not doing anything right. It’s been tough.”
…Congrats to Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona, now a lieutenant in the United States Navy.
... Pats coach Bill Belichick‘s opening remarks at mini-camp Thursday included, “Obviously a day to remember our World War II veterans here on D-Day. It’s the 75th anniversary, that’s kind of a big one for us. I want to recognize all the things that they did. And I obviously wish the Bruins well tonight in Game 5.”
…Congrats to my friend Jonny Miller of WBZ radio, who has been elected to the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame – months after suffering a stroke on a plane heading to LA for Game 3 of the World Series. Well-deserved and I will be proud to attend the Sept. 27 luncheon.
…Sox manager Alex Cora on Kimbrel: “Good for him. Happy for him. Finally, he can go out there and do what he does. It’s a great organization. They’re in a good spot. I’m very happy that he was able to finish the deal and go play baseball.”
…Matt LaCosse is one of the guys trying to fill the Patriots’ tight end void left by the retirement of Rob Gronkowski. “I can play inside, outside, I’ve played in the backfield before, special teams, just all over the field,” LaCosse says. “Wherever you need me, that’s where I’m going to go.”
…Tony Massarotti of Boston’s 98.5 FM on Sale’s second immaculate (nine pitches, three Ks) inning in KC: “Chris Sale’s second immaculate inning of the season took 2 minutes, 33 seconds — an average of 20 seconds per pitch that included the Red Sox throwing the ball around the infield after each of the first two strikeouts.” Sale joined Lefty Grove – 1928 – as the only pitchers ever to do it twice in a season.
…Pats draft picks Jarrett Stidham and Damien Harris were teammates in youth football. Said Stidham: “Life comes full-circle & Damien and I were lucky enough to both get drafted by the Patriots and now we’re both here, hanging out on the weekends like old times, like we were 8 years old.”
…Minnesota’s Max Kepler delivered his second three-homer game against the Indians this week, joining Ted Williams as the only players ever with a pair of three-homer games against Cleveland. It was only the 10th three-dinger game in Twins history and he has two of them.
…Hats off to NBA star Dwyane Wade for surprising Marjory Stoneman Douglas students as the honorary speaker at their graduation last Sunday in Parkland, Fla. “I remember walking to the school, and I remember hearing absolutely nothing,” Wade said of his visit to the school after the 2018 massacre that took the lives of 17 students and teachers. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘I’ve never felt, I’ve never heard this kind of silence before in my life,’” said Wade, who has been a multiple-time visitor to the school and donated $200,000 to March for Our Lives, the group founded by survivors in a plea for gun control.
…David Wells, doing some strong work in the Yankees TV booth, came up with a reason for all the homers in the game lately. Snatching a baseball during batting practice, he brought it to the booth and said, “There’s no seams on it,” meaning the ball can’t be gripped properly by pitchers trying to throw breaking balls.
…Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask after the goals that spelled Game 4 defeat for his team: “Ladies tee slap shot, rebound, goal.”
…Next Thursday is Joe Kelly Bobblehead Night at Dodger Stadium. Through Friday night, Kelly was 1-2 with a 7.91 ERA.
…New Pats DL Michael Bennett on whether he got any advice from younger brother Martellus, a former Patriot: “He tried to give me some advice, but big brothers don’t take advice from little brothers.”
…Not quite done yet: through Friday, old pal Pablo Sandoval was hitting .285 with eight homers, 22 RBIs and a .901 OPS.
…Any Bruins fans still fretting over the loss of Ryan Donato, traded to Minnesota to in the Charlie Coyle deal? Think back to the panic in the weeks after that deal.
…MLB Network’s Jon Heyman: “Scout on Red Sox top pick: ‘Cameron Cannon will be a very quick mover. Polished bat. Fenway fans will see him and know him sooner than later.’”
…The Warriors trailed Oklahoma City 3-1 in the 2016 playoffs and came back to win. “In our locker room, we’re talking about believing,” Steph Curry said after Friday night’s loss to Toronto. The Dubs are also the only team to blow a 3-1 Finals lead before losing –- they did it against the Cavs in 2016.
…Do we love the Hunter Pence comeback story. Now with the overachieving Rangers, through Friday night Pence was hitting .287 with 13 homers, 41 RBIs and a .932 OPS. He played in 97 games for the Giants last year, batting .226 with four homers, 24 RBIs and a .590 OPS. Oh, and his high-socks look has become a fashion statement for his new team.
…The Bruins’ 20 different goal scorers in this postseason marks the most since New Jersey in 1995.
…Friday night’s loss to the rival Giants – Drew Pomeranz went five shutout innings to beat Clayton Kershaw – gave the Dodgers back-to-back losses for the first time since late April.
…WR Adam Humphries says Tom Brady‘s age led him to passing on the Patriots and signing with Tennessee. “Obviously, (Brady’s) the GOAT. That’s that simple,” Humphries told The Athletic. “But there’s so much that factors into a decision. It was a four-year deal. Who knows how many (years) he’s got left?” Care to guess? “Obviously the chance to play with him would have been awesome, but a lot of things factor into that decision,” he said. “Ultimately, I thought this was coming here to a team that was on the rise and with young talent on the offense and a really good defense. They’d had a taste of the playoffs. I felt like my need at the slot position was great. I felt like I could really contribute and start something new here.”
…This year it’s the Red Sox and Yankees – next season the Cardinals and Cubs will play the two games across The Pond in London. They will be St. Louis home games.
…Brady on getting used to life without Gronk: “The other guys are getting up to speed, Matt (LaCosse)’s done a good job, Ben (Watson)‘s done a good job, Stephen Anderson‘s done a good job. That’s got to be a position of strength even if it’s not one player but multiple players doing different roles. There were times in my career before that where we had similar approaches. No one’s going to make any excuses for our offense. We’re going to do everything we can to be the best we can be, score every time we touch the ball and the tight end position’s a big part of our offense and those guys are going to have to do a great job for us.”
…Finally, hard to believe it is now three years for me sharing my words with you here at the U-L. Thanks for reading and keeping me employed!
Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.