Is this the end for Devils' Martin Brodeur?


Is this the end for Devils' Martin Brodeur?

From Comcast SportsNet
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The New Jersey Devils' dreams of a historic comeback were all but dashed less than 11 minutes into Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals. Just 10:10 in, Steve Bernier drilled Los Angeles defenseman Rob Scuderi from behind into the end boards and essentially took his club out of the game. Bernier was given a major penalty and was ejected from the game. "He turned back," Bernier said of Scuderi. "I feel very bad, but it's a fast game out there, and it ends up being a bad play. You certainly don't want to get five minutes for it. I wish I could take that play back." The Kings took full advantage of the 5-minute power play and scored three times in a span of 3:58 en route to a 6-1 victory that clinched Los Angeles' first Stanley Cup championship in the franchise's 45-year history. "It was just an unfortunate situation with a player who plays the game really hard, and he's going to have to live with that," Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said. "I don't think it's a fair thing, but that's what happens when one person has the fate of a hockey game in their hands. I talked to him and told him it's not his fault. I can't say if it was a good call or not." New Jersey trailed 3-0 after the first period and 4-1 through 40 minutes. The Devils had little left for the third period, when the Kings went into lock-down mode and added two late insurance markers. "I didn't want to hurt my team, I wanted to help them," Bernier said. "This is extremely hard. It's been a long playoff run for us. To finish on that note, it's not fun for sure. But there's nothing I can do now." The Devils were trying to become just the third team to force a Game 7 in the finals after trailing 3-0. Only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs came all the way back to win the Cup, and New Jersey was thoroughly thwarted by the Kings in Los Angeles' third shot at the title. While it is of little consolation, New Jersey became the first team in 67 years to even get to a sixth game in the finals after falling behind 3-0. "You don't give yourself a lot of room for error," captain Zach Parise said. "We found ourselves in a pretty deep hole before we even realized that the finals started. But we didn't quit. We really felt that we could get back in it and force a Game 7." But Bernier never gave them a chance to take the series back to New Jersey. "Everybody feels bad, but he shouldn't. He's done a lot of good things for this team," right wing David Clarkson said. "There's no fingers being pointed -- at refs or anywhere else. He threw a bodycheck. I didn't think it was that bad of a play. But we dug ourselves a bit of a hole there and couldn't come out of it. It's tough to swallow." Bernier slammed Scuderi behind the Los Angeles net, driving him headfirst against the boards. The hit left Scuderi dazed and bloodied before he left the ice under his own power and headed to the dressing room. Scuderi returned to the bench, but Bernier was done for the night -- and the season. "That's what he's been doing the whole playoffs. He's been doing a great job of getting in on the forecheck and finishing checks," Parise said. "That's why he's here. That's what you want from him. "It's just unfortunate that it happened. It's not his fault." Kings captain Dustin Brown scored first at 11:03, and Jeff Carter made it 2-0 at 12:45. Just 16 seconds later, Trevor Lewis poked the puck past the 40-year-old Brodeur's glove after Dwight King's centering pass squirted through the crease. "I don't know if we were salivating when we got that power play, but we were just determined to capitalize on that opportunity," Doughty said. "We knew that this was our chance to put that team away and we did just that." Adding to the Devils' frustration was a one-timer by New Jersey's Patrik Elias that rang off the right post just 38 seconds before the first period ended. Carter made it 4-0 just 1 minutes into the second period, beating Brodeur with a wrist shot from the slot. By then, all that was left to determine was the final score. Adam Henrique cut the deficit to 4-1 with 1:15 left in the second period, but the Devils couldn't get any closer. The Devils also lost Ryan Carter and Clarkson to 10-minute misconducts that forced New Jersey to play with a diminished corps of forwards for large chunks of the game. Defenseman Bryce Salvador also served a 4-minute high-sticking penalty in the second period that didn't produce a goal, but milked important minutes off the clock. New Jersey was outdone by the Western Conference champions this time, and scored only eight goals in the six games. The Devils dropped a pair of 2-1 overtime decisions at home in the first two games, and fought uphill the rest of the way. The Devils were whistled for nine penalties that totaled 47 minutes in Game 6, after coming in with an average of just 8.7 in the playoffs -- the second-fewest in this postseason. New Jersey recorded only 18 shots on goalie Jonathan Quick, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. Brodeur, who backstopped New Jersey to Cup titles in 1995, 2000 and 2003, made 19 saves in the clincher. "They started to play really hard in Game 5, and they had a lot of momentum tonight," Brodeur said. "The major power play came at a time when the crowd was going crazy, and they were really feeling good. Those are situations where before we'd fight through it. Tonight, we didn't." For the second straight season, the Devils will be facing major offseason questions. A year ago, New Jersey was left to figure out how the club missed the playoffs for the first time since 1996. Now the Devils will have to face the possibility they will have to replace Brodeur and Parise, who could be on the move as one of the most attractive unrestricted free agents on July 1. The 27-year-old left wing, who has spent his first seven NHL seasons with the Devils, is coming off a 31-goal season. Brodeur, the winningest goalie in NHL history, has hinted that he would like to return next season at age 41. "This season and this playoff run answered a lot of questions about where my game's at, and I'm really happy to hopefully continue," Brodeur said. If Brodeur and Parise return, the Devils could be poised for another deep playoff run despite playing in the tough Atlantic Division that produced four 100-point teams this season -- the last being New Jersey, which was the No. 6 seed in the East. "We took down our two biggest rivals, the Flyers and the Rangers, and we took this series to six games," Brodeur said. "It's disappointing, but it's been a great season. We came a long way to challenge for the Stanley Cup from not making the playoffs last year. "There's only one team that can win. It's not us this time, but we're proud of what we've done."

Harbaugh on Dantonio: 'One of the best college football coaching jobs in the history of the game'


Harbaugh on Dantonio: 'One of the best college football coaching jobs in the history of the game'

It's been a tough season for Michigan State, a shockingly uncharacteristic campaign for Mark Dantonio's program that has seen five losses, all coming in the last five contests.

The Spartans were projected during the preseason to once again compete for a conference and national championship after winning the Big Ten title last season and reaching the College Football Playoff, but neither of those things will happen this time around, with Michigan State experiencing its worst season under Dantonio since 2009. In all likelihood, it will be the worst season, record-wise, during his tenure.

But there's at least one man who doesn't think anyone should lose sight of what Dantonio's done in East Lansing and what has made this season such an aberration: Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Michigan and Michigan State get together Saturday in the annual battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy, a game that was supposed to be one of the key contests shaping this season's Playoff picture. Instead, the Wolverines enter as heavy favorites, undefeated through seven games while their in-state rivals sit at 2-5.

But Harbuagh praised Dantonio on Monday, telling reporters that what Dantonio has done in turning Michigan State into a perennial contender deserves recognition in the annals of college football history.

"He's done a great job," Harbaugh said. "One of the best college football coaching jobs in the history of the game. It's been at the highest level."

Certainly Harbaugh is right. Dantonio took over a program that between 1991 and 2006 had just one double-digit-win season, featured only four campaigns with seven or more wins and had eight seasons of five or fewer wins.

In his 10 seasons, Dantonio has turned in five double-digit-win seasons, all coming in the past seven years and featuring two wins in the Big Ten Championship Game, a win in the Rose Bowl, a win in the Cotton Bowl and a trip to the Playoff.

In true college football coach fashion, Harbaugh went on to say that despite the lack of success for the Spartans this season and the fact that the Wolverines have pounded pretty much every opponent into the ground, his team needs to be ready for a "championship" kind of game.

And while that cliche gets a little tired sometimes, Harbaugh made a good point considering the outcome last season, when Michigan State beat Michigan on that legendary fumbled punt returned for a touchdown as time expired in Ann Arbor.

"It doesn't matter what's happened before this week for us or for an opponent. It never does," he said. "It matters what happens on the gameday. We know the task in front of us, we know the challenge, and it's up to us to make sure we get prepared to play that game so we can go out there confident and execute and have a chance at being successful.

"They're a very good football team. We know we'll be tough to beat, we know they'll be tough to beat. In the meantime, we'll get prepared for the game."

Bears get Jay Cutler back as QB competition with Brian Hoyer fades to black

Bears get Jay Cutler back as QB competition with Brian Hoyer fades to black

If there was any quarterback “controversy” swirling about the Bears – and one likely will be after this season – this one is safely resolved with Jay Cutler cleared by team medical staff to return from his injured thumb and begin practicing this week, all of this about the time that Brian Hoyer was undergoing surgery for his broken right arm suffered in the loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Whether Cutler would have been re-installed as the starter had Hoyer remained healthy, and throwing for 300 yards per game, is a moot point now. Indications were that Hoyer would not lose the job if he was playing well.

But now, “obviously Jay’s our starter,” said coach John Fox. “He was injured, not permitted to play medically. And now that he’s healed he’s back to being our starter.

“That’s really the facts and kind of what happened and where we’re at now. So I don’t know that there was a ‘competition’ to speak of. Just like there wasn’t a competition when Matt Barkley went in [at Green Bay]; he was our only quarterback left. So it’s good to have Jay back. We’re excited to have him back and hopefully he can remain healthy.”

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Team chemisty is difficult if not impossible to gauge from the outside. And whether teammates prefer Cutler or Hoyer personally is only marginally relevant anyway.

But Cutler was voted an offensive co-captain (along with Alshon Jeffery) and the offense ostensibly is more dangerous with Cutler and his deep-threat capability. Still, the Bears scored just 21 points in the combined seven quarters behind Cutler, while reaching 17-17-23-16 in whole games under Hoyer.

Cutler’s return is expected to have a ripple effect on the rest of the team.“We don’t really play into that much,” said center Cody Whitehair. “[Whoever’s] back there, we’re going to try and do our best to protect them and do our thing on the run.

“But you know, it is nice to have him back. He’s been a leader on the sideline even while he wasn’t playing and it’ll be nice to have him back out there.”