Stanley Cup Playoffs Three Stars: Pavelski leads Sharks’ rout; Bolts on the brink

No. 1 Star: Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks

Pavelski had a three-point night in the Sharks 7-2 rout of the Los Angeles Kings, picking up a second assist on the Justin Braun goal that stood as the game-winner, then adding a goal and another assist once the Kings fell apart in the third. The Sharks scoured four in the final frame:

No. 2 Star: Brendan Gallagher, Montreal Canadiens

Gallagher capped off a massive momentum shift for the Canadiens versus the home Tampa Bay Lightning in the second period, scoring the go-ahead goal not long after Ryan Callahan has his go-ahead goal disallowed. Then in the third, he helped orchestrate a Tomas Plekanec goal which would stand as the game-winner in a 3-2 victory for the Canadiens. Game 4 now becomes our first elimination game of the playoffs.

No. 3 Star: Ray Emery, Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers were outshot 33 to 24, but Emery shut the door, making 31 saves to give the Flyers a 4-2 win over the New York Rangers, their first victory as Madison Square Garden in nine tries… Perhaps inspired by the incredible opening sequence at the Bell Centre, Rene Bourque scored just 11 seconds in:

Honorable mention: Steven Stamkos did his best, assisting on both Lightning goals in the loss, the second of which came after he returned from a nasty head hit by Alexei Emelin… Tuukka Rask made 34 saves as the Boston Bruins topped the Detroit Red Wings, 4-1, and tied their series at one win apiece.

Did You Know? Jonathan Quick has had a rough start to these playoffs:

Dishonorable mention: It’s got to be the LA Kings. Quick hasn’t been good, but the rest of his team has been overmatched as well. Seven goals allowed in Game 2. Fortunately, now they go home to the Staples Center, where they’re usually better. It’s hard to imagine them being much worse… This is some rough stuff from Jimmy Howard and Brenden Smith:

Everything you need to know about Raheem Sterling, ‘the best young player in European football’

Raheem Sterling scored twice in Liverpool’s 3-2 win over Norwich, keeping them in control of the Premier League title race. After the match, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers had high praise for the 19-year-old winger, saying, “He is the best young player in European football at the moment. At 19 years of age you don’t see anyone better. His intelligence with the ball, his movement and he’s scoring goals.” And with performances like this when Liverpool need them most, Sterling is forcing himself into consideration for a World Cup spot. So here is all the information you need to know about him.

-He was born in Jamaica and emigrated to England at the age of five (with his mother — he wasn’t just an adventures five-year-old).

-At the age of 15, a combination of scouting reports, a recommendation from former Liverpool academy director Frank McParland and an appearance on the Skills Skool segment of Sky Sports’ Soccer AM helped then manager Rafa Benitez convince the club to buy Sterling from QPR. Sterling lost his Skill Skool competition by split decision to Christian Nanetti, who now plays for sixth-division club Havant & Waterlooville.

-Sterling made his first team debut for Liverpool in March 2012 at the age of 1 7 years and 107 days old, making him the club’s third youngest player ever.

-Standing 5’7″, his speed and agility the first things people notice, but he combines that with intelligence on the pitch, plus strength and stamina that even surprised Liverpool when he first arrived at the club.

-In the six-part television miniseries documenting the start of Liverpool’s 2012/13 season, one of the most publicized moments was when Brendan Rodgers scolded him during a training session for what he thought was backtalk from Sterling, who later credited this moment as being the start of Rodgers helping him “massively” both on and off the pitch.

-Sterling was also the subject of then teammate Joe Cole’s prop comedy involving a children’s car seat.

-He made his England debut in November 2012, starting in a friendly against Sweden (in which Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his Puskas award winning goal). He didn’t earn his second cap until March of this year, winning the Man of the Match award after a 1-0 win over Denmark. 

-In his first full season, he scored twice in 36 appearances across all competitions. So far this season, he’s scored 10 times in 34 appearances. And this is after recovering from a regrettable hairdo during preseason.

-Since he’s already doing this well and winning praise at 19 years old, the unmatchable expectations and scrutiny placed upon him will likely lead to a backlash of harsh criticism and cruel jokes when he’s 20, followed by a career resurgence with the press and public once again backing him around the age of 21 or 22.

- – - – - – -

Brooks Peck is the editor of Dirty Tackle on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him or follow on Twitter!

Blue Jays reliever Todd Redmond sports MLB’s new protective hats

The recent focus on head injuries in sports coupled with traumatic injuries suffered by pitchers Brandon McCarthy, Juan Nicasio, Alex Cobb and, most recently, Aroldis Chapman, who were all on struck on the mound by line drive come backers, has led Major League Baseball to ramp up efforts to better protect pitchers.

One such invention that received MLB’s seal of approval in January were bulky caps designed with extra padding to help absorb the impact. The caps are currently available to all pitchers, and at this point are optional. However, we’ve yet to hear a pitcher express any serious interest in wearing one during a game.

However, just as a reminder that they are indeed available in the clubhouse, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Todd Redmond was spotted wearing one in the Blue Jays dugout prior to their game against the Cleveland Indians on Friday night.

That seems to be nearly unanimous. Players simply don’t feel comfortable wearing the oversized cap on their head while attempting to do their job. They’re willing to sacrifice safety for comfort and routine, and it doesn’t appear that will change until a model more to their liking comes along.

Really, when you look at this hat, it’s big, it’s bulky and it’s admittedly a bit awkward looking, but it’s tough to imagine a safer design that’s also smaller, more comfortable, and perhaps even more attractive. Pitchers aren’t going to sign off on wearing helmets or masks on the mound, so it has to be something in this mold, but what will it take to make it more appealing while also providing sufficient safety? 

As the Stew’s David Brown pointed out in January, it’s a challenging project that may do more to protect young kids playing the game in the short-term than major leaguers. That’s not a bad thing at all, and if kids start wearing them and actually become comfortable wearing them, we may start seeing the caps trickle in at higher levels. We’re a long way from there, obviously, and we may be a longer way away from the perfect solution, but at least the effort continues to be made.

BLS H/N: Eye on Baseball

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

- – - – - – -

Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

Bartolo Colon swings for the fences and loses his helmet

Why did it have to take so long for Bartolo Colon to return to the National League? The last time he played in the league was 2002, but even that stint was unsatisfying as he made only 17 starts for the Montreal Expos before moving back to the AL

In 17 seasons, those were his only NL appearances until he joined the New York Mets this winter. We’ve missed out on so many great years and so many great memories of Bartolo doing what Bartolo does best — entertaining us unintentionally through his awkwardness at the plate.

Oh well, at least we have the here and now, and so far it looks like Colon is prepared to make up for lost time.

Take, for example, his approach on Saturday night against the Atlanta Braves. Colon, who’s swings are ferocious and intense, yet aimless and fruitless, went for the downs on multiple swings against right-hander Ervin Santana. Perhaps he was looking to do like Martin Maldonado of the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night and hit the cover off the baseball — literally. Perhaps he was simply looking for career home No. 1.

Whatever the case, Santana figured out what Colon was doing after just one pitch. On the second pitch, he threw a beautiful slider at 83 mph and nearly spun Colon into the dirt. Colon was prepared to come out of his cleats as he saw the ball hanging up there, then he literally spun right out of his helmet as it disappeared.

Granted, it didn’t like the helmet fit anyway, but there was some serious force behind that hack. Especially for a guy who was questionable earlier in the week with a back issue

Predictably, Colon would go down swinging in that plate appearance on three pitches. The second plate appearance was more of the same, three pitches and out. Unfortunately, though, there was no third because Colon was out of the game after allowing three runs in seven innings. He ended up talking the loss in Atlanta’s 7-5 victory

Some people will probably see Colon’s at-bat as another good example of why the designated hitter needs to be instituted across the board. Quite honestly, there’s probably no other good way to actually take it. With that in mind, though, there’s something to be said for the entertainment aspect, and at this point Colon’s at-bats are must see TV. 

Is it an actual selling point for baseball? Of course not.

Would baseball fans miss watching pitchers hit? Some would, but probably not for long. 

Would baseball fans miss watching Bartolo Colon hit? That has to be a unanimous yes.

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

- – - – - – -

Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

The Grand Slam: Giancarlo Stanton delivers walkoff grand slam for Marlins

The hottest hitter in baseball struck again on Friday night when Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton connected on yet another impressive home run. Only this time the drama wasn’t attached to far it would go (a more than respectable 407 feet), because it served as a walkoff grand slam that gave Miami an 8-4 victory over the visiting Seattle Mariners.

Stanton’s slam came immediately after the umpires reversed a critical call at third base. Reed Johnson was originally ruled out on a force play, but the umpires determined third baseman Kyle Seager never controlled the baseball before transferring, which loaded the bases with nobody out. MLB intends on reviewing transfer plays next week, but that won’t be soon enough for Seattle. It hampered their game plan, which up to that point was to pitch around Stanton when possible.

”We tried to stay away from him all night, because he is the one guy in that lineup that can really hurt you,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. ”We had no choice there.”

Stanton finished the game 3 for 3 with two walks and five RBI. Through 17 games, he has six home runs and a league-high 26 RBI. With that in mind, Saturday’s game plan may call for avoidance at all costs.

It’s also worth noting that Stanton previously hit a walk-off grand slam on May 13, 2012 against the New York Mets.

AARON HARANG FLIRTS WITH NO-NO: Aaron Harang was a late addition to the Atlanta Braves roster, signing a one-year contract on March 24 only after the Braves learned that Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy would each require their second Tommy John surgery. On Friday, he looked like he belonged all along and nearly entered the history books after tossing seven no-hit innings in the Braves 6-0 triump over the New York Mets

Harang didn’t get a chance to pursue history on his own because it wasn’t his most efficient outing. Over seven innings, he walked six batters while striking out five. Two of those walks came as he labored through his final inning. He finally got Andrew Brown to swing through a slider low and away on his 121st pitch to escape. Based on the pitch count and the fact Harang’s was operating on fumes, Fredi Gonzalez turned to left-hander Luis Avalan without hesitation in the eighth.

”I want him pitching 27 more times,” Gonzalez said. ”If it was the ninth inning, maybe, think about it.”

”If I’m through eight, I’m going back out,” Harang said.

Harang didn’t make it that far. Neither did the no-hitter. With two outs in the eighth, David Wright singled for New York’s only hit.

Had the Braves completed the no-hit bid, it would have been their first since Kent Mercker against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 8, 1994. Mercker was also a part of the Braves last combined no-hitter, which happened on Sept. 11, 1991 against the San Diego Padres.

YANKEES BULLPEN HITS THE WALL: It was bound to happen eventually. The Yankees bullpen has been exceptional despite losing closer David Robertson, putting up nothing but zeros over the last seven games. That all changed on Friday, though, as the Rays offense erupted for eight runs in their final two at-bats to pull out an 11-5 victory.

Five different Yankees relievers allowed runs, including Adam Warren and César Cabral, who each allowed three. In fact, Cabral didn’t record a single out, hit three batters and was ejected by umpire Joe West. He was designated for assignment following the game.

James Loney’s two-out, two-run single in the seventh gave Tampa Bay their first lead and was easily the biggest hit in the game. Wil Myers put the icing on the cake with a two-run single in the eighth, breaking his 10-game RBI drought in the process.

PUJOLS NEARS CAREER MILESTONE: Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols is quickly and quietly approaching 500 home runs for his career. The 14-year veteran connected for No. 497 in the Angels 11-6 win over the Tigers on Friday night. We say quickly because Pujols has now hit five home runs since April 8. We say quietly because he really has no interest in talking about his pursuit.

”I don’t want to talk about that. Thank you,” Pujols said.

Fair enough.

Pujols’ three-run shot in the sixth inning off Luke Putkonen extended the Angels lead to 10-1. Earlier in the game, second baseman Howie Kendrick hit his first two home runs of the season, a pair of two-run blasts in the third and fourth innings respectively. Ian Stewart, filling in for an injured David Freese at third base, finished a home run shy of the cycle.

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

- – - – - – -

Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!