Cubs

Devils confidence continues to grow after Game 5 victory

789022.png

Devils confidence continues to grow after Game 5 victory

NEWARK, N.J. Why not us?

New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer posed that question heading into Game 5. Why shouldnt his Devils come back to win this series, come back and make history? But down 3-1 at the time there was more of a suggestion than a possibility.

Well, with another victory, that potential grows.

Bryce Salvadors seeing-eye shot proved to be the game-winner, and Martin Brodeur was stellar again as the Devils beat the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Saturday night. The Devils have clawed their way back and now trail 3-2 in the best-of-seven series; and the possibility of them joining the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs in overcoming a 3-0 deficit to win a Cup is not just a passing thought anymore.

Stressful? Nail-biting? Anxiety-ridden? These last two contests have been all that and more. But the results are a great incentive.

Its a difficult thing to get ready for games like that, now two in a row. It drains you a lot, takes a lot out of you. But its worth it, Brodeur said. Everyones constantly getting themselves ready and leaving it all out there. Its exciting, to do what were doing. Were having a great deal of fun. But we havent done anything yet. Thats why its important to keep it on the low key, keep grinding it out and well be just fine.

And the why-not-us mentality keeps increasing in the Devils locker room.

Its growing with every period, every goal we score, Devils defenseman Mark Fayne said. Were just working hard and its paying off.

That, and theyre getting those coveted breaks and bounces. Jonathan Quick semi-whiffed when he tried to clear the puck on a Devils power play, and Zach Parise was there to turn the turnover into a 1-0 lead. And Salvadors game-winning shot went off Slava Voynov, the second time this series a puck has deflected off the Kings defenseman and past Quick.

And just like that, the team that was so close to being knocked out is right back in it.

One thing about our group is that, you know, they believe that we can win. They believe we can win every game we play if we play the right way, DeBoer said It's just a matter of stringing together a couple more here.

Yes, theres still a climb awaiting the Devils. It took until Saturday night for the Kings to suffer their first road loss this postseason. The 10-0 mark finally has a blemish. But theyre still, nonetheless, just one win away from capturing their first Cup in franchise history. Back on their home ice, the Kings are going to be looking to snuff out the Devils once and for all.

But theres no doubt the Devils have more momentum now. They have the players who are experienced at this Cup thing Brodeur, Patrik Elias, Petr Sykora to name a few. And they know L.A. has to be getting a little antsy about the lack of closure.

Its a matter of us going into a tough environment in LA and trying to ruin the party again, Brodeur said. Theyre so close to winning the Cup. Im sure its getting to them a little bit, to have all these chances and not capitalize on them. Were just looking to stay alive, to win one more game.

Why believe the Devils have a chance to win four in a row and make history?

Why not?

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

0217-addison-russell.jpg
USA TODAY

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”

Five top-25 matchups highlight loaded episode of High School Lites

Five top-25 matchups highlight loaded episode of High School Lites

High School Lites had five matchups between top-25 teams on Friday night as the Public League Playoff semifinals and big matchups in the CSL South, Catholic League Blue and SouthWest Suburban Blue took shape.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for the latest news and scores for IHSA basketball.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Palatine's Eduardo Orozco

Saint Xavier Team of the Week: Maine West girls basketball

Highlights

No. 1 Simeon holds off No. 4 Whitney Young

No. 2 Orr gets revenge on No. 3 Curie

No. 9 New Trier takes down No. 6 Evanston

No. 8 Fenwick handles No. 10 Loyola Academy

No. 23 Homewood-Flossmoor rallies past No. 18 Bolingbrook

Oswego East upsets No. 20 Joliet Central

Andrew shuts down Thornridge

Sandburg tops Lockport in OT

Richards runs by Shepard

Maine West captures second straight girls basketball regional title