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The Washington Capitols became a most-deserving Stanley Cup champion by rallying for two third-period goals to defeat the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 and take the final series four games to two. Frankly, I didn’t care that the Caps won in Game 6, and I would have been happy to see Vegas complete its magical season and send the series back to Washington for Game 7.
But the fifth game ended 6-2 for the Caps, and it got grotesquely ugly when the Golden Knights tarnished their own image with some late-game muggings. Most agregious was Ryan Reaves, who went out for the final minute and took a series of cheapshots to instigate a fight, or a minibrawl. My older son, Jack, sent me a text at that moment and said at that point he hoped the Caps would win, for sure.
Back in Washington for Game 6, the Golden Knights played very well, back and forth, chance for chance, and broke from a scoreless first period to take a 3-2 lead in the second.
But a significant factor in that game, to me, was that coach Gerard Gallant chose to scratch Reaves for that game. Reaves had been tenacious, and had scored a controversial goal by cross-checking a Caps defenseman into the crease and scoring an instant later -- a goal I say should have been disallowed with Reaves retroactively penalized. But he also had proven himself capable of delivering cheap shots when he decided to do so.
I have no way of knowing, but I’d like to think that Gallant evaluated what a truly amazing first season this had been, and that Reaves had almost singlehandedly befouled that otherwise squeaky-clean image Vegas had established. If he did, then for sure he gets my vote as coach of the year.
Alex Ovechkin was named most valuable player for the playoffs, and who could argue? He scoed his 15th goal of these playoffs, leading in that category, in the deciding game. And the obvious fact that he immersed himself into the total team structure that propelled the Caps to the title. There were other great players. Braden Holtby in goal, Tom Wilson and T.J. Oshie at forward, and center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who led the playoffs in total points. But Ovechkin was captain, and lived up to that honor throughout the Cup.
And no one can deny that he knows how to celebrate, whether in the streets, or commemorative fountains, of Washington, D.C., or even on the plane flying home. He was great on the Jimmy Fallon Show, where he and Holtby picked up Fallon by his heels and dunked him into the Cup for a celebratory sip on network TV.
They’ll be back next year, and so will Vegas. But that’s a long way off. Training camps won’t start for what, three months?
Marshall Leads North to State
Grand Rapids has a chance to make a run at the state Class AAA championship, and South Ridge can do the same in Class A, but my guess is that Marshall will be the vanguard hope for the Northern Minnesota triumverate at the state high school baseball tournament.
Marshall made its first trip to state last year, and defended its Section 7AA title this year the hard way. The Hilltoppers lost a scintillating 1-0 game to Esko, and had to come back and ultimately beat Esko twice for the double-elimination title.
Marshall will face St. Cloud Cathedral at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud in Thursday’s quarterfinals of the state Class AA tournament. Marshall is No.1 seed, but St. Cloud Cathedral is very good, and plays its home games at Putz Field.
My guess is that Ben Pedersen, the top gun of Marshall’s deep and talented pitching staff, will get the call in against St. Cloud Cathedral. Pedersen can fire the ball, and the Hilltoppers have the hitting a defense and pitching depth to go all the way. But Game One is the key.
Grand Rapids is facing Mahtomedi in Class AAA at Siebert Field on the University of Minnesota campus in that Thursday quarterfinal. And South Ridge plays Rushford-Peterson in the Class A first round in Chaska.
It’s been a tough spring for Northern Minnesota baseball, but these three teams are all full of hope and potential to put their talent on display.
Huskies Continue to Play Entertaining Baseball
The Duluth Huskies have edged up to contention in the Northwoods League, winning in impressive fashion at Wade Stadium. And it’s not too early to point out that second baseman Augie Isaacson is a focal point of the Huskies offense.
He cleared the bases two games in a row with a pair of pivotal triples last week for a pair of victories, and this past weekend he came up with three hits as the Huskies rallied from a 5-3 deficit to beat the Mankato Moondogs 9-4 on Sunday, and on Monday, he went 4-for-5 including a single in the 10th inning to drive in the game-winning hit in a 3-2 victory.
There are great plays, go-for-it offenses, and an enjoyable atmosphere at Wade Stadium for Huskies games. And if the wind happens to not be blowing off the big lake, it can be downright pleasant, even after the sun goes down.
Twin Surprises Pace Surprising Twins
Before the season, the more veteran Twins fans among us were depending on the “dynamic duo” of Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier to lead the Twins into contention. Less experienced fans anticipated great years for a completely different dynamic duo — Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton.
As it turns out, the Twins are making a bid to stay in contention, but it is because of an entirely different dynamic duo, as outfielder Eddie Rosario and infielder Eduardo Escobar have been sizzling hot in recent weeks and are carrying the offense.
Rosario is a very skillful hitter, remindful of the injured Mauer for his patience at the plate, which is quite a departure for the notorious bad-ball chasing Rosario. He was hitting .313 to lead the Twins as they hit the road to play at Detroit on Tuesday. Escobar, who is outstanding at either third base or shortstop, is hitting .288. Escobar has 26 doubles and 12 home runs, with 31 runs scored and 39 RBIs. Rosario has 14 home runs to lead the team, with 16 doubles, 41 runs scored and a team-high 43 RBIs.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune had a neat little item that the two of them have accounted for 39 percent of the Twins home runs, and 33 percent of their RBIs and extra base hits.
Now, if the Twins can get Mauer past his concussion-syndrome stuff, and if they can get Dozier up above his .236 average, and Sano up from his .203 mark, and make the progression to get Buxton healthy and give him some intense work to become confident at the plate, the Twins could make a determined second-half bid.
The starting pitchers have been good, and we think Rosario and Escobar are going to stay hot all year.