RandBall

Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could convince the world to love jumpsuits as much as he does. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.

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Wild postgame by the numbers: Dominant, except where it mattered

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated May 6th at 12:08am 302703281

Mike Yeo said in his postgame news conference Tuesday that the Wild probably didn’t get the outcome it deserved in a 1-0 loss to Chicago that put Minnesota in a nearly impossible 3-0 series hole.

Fans might roll their eyes at that — and yes: when you score zero goals in a game and fail to bury golden chances, it’s hard to say you didn’t get exactly what you deserved.

But: Statistically speaking — numbers that back up the eye test — Yeo was right in many ways. Let’s take a look at some of the stats and figures that told the story from the game:

65: That’s the number of shots the Wild attempted, a fairly staggering number. That includes 30 on net, 16 that went wide and another 19 that Chicago blocked. The total of 65 represents Minnesota’s Corsi number for the game, while Chicago had just 41. By comparison, Chicago had a 55-52 edge in Game 1 and a substantial 63-51 advantage in Game 2, per War on Ice. So the Wild was much better than it was in the first two games and was getting looks, particularly in the second period as this shot chart demonstrates (S=saves, B=blocked shots, M=missed net. Click to enlarge).

secondperiod

28: Scoring chances for the Wild, per War on Ice, compared to 23 for Chicago. But a lot of those scoring chances disintegrated into those 19 blocked shots. More telling, perhaps, was the inability of snipers Jason Pominville and Mikael Granlund to finish point-blank chances (unlike Patrick Kane, who buried his for the game’s lone goal). Having clinical finishers is a stat that’s hard to measure, and that stands as the biggest difference through three games so far.

22 of 59: The Wild was miserable in the faceoff circle, winning just 22 of 59 draws against Chicago on Tuesday. During the 2014-15 regular season, Minnesota won 49.5 percent of faceoffs, while Chicago won 51.9 percent — a slight edge, to be sure, but nothing like the huge disparity Tuesday. Many came in critical situations, including an offensive zone draw for the Wild with 45 seconds left that went to Chicago for a clear. Minnesota couldn’t do much with offensive zone draws all night, stifling other scoring chances.

4 of 176: Here’s the number that everyone will fixate on for the next 48 hours. In NHL history, a team that goes down 3-0 in a series has come back to win just four times while losing 176 times. (Those numbers on the link are through 2014, and two more teams in the NHL first round went down 3-0 and lost). Those are obviously terrible odds (barely 2 percent), though if there is a silver lining there is this: it’s happened just five times total in MLB, NBA and NHL playoffs, but four of the five times have been in the NHL.

SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE.

(Yes, that’s the proper Dumb and Dumber quote. Learn it. Love it. Don’t mess it up).

Yes, there’s a chance. If you want further optimism, consider that in three of the four playoff series the Wild has ever won, it has had to rally from big deficits — 3-1 against Colorado in 2003, 3-1 vs. Vancouver in 2003 and 3-2 against Colorado last year. Yes, none of them were 3-0 against a Chicago team this dangerous, but still. Also, this Wild team cannot be left for dead. We tried that already this season, and then Minnesota acquired Devan Dubnyk and made this improbable run to even be here.

The formula is this: Keep plugging away like the Wild did in Game 3, get Corey Crawford to become the vulnerable goalie he is against everyone but Minnesota, and try to start piecing wins together one at a time.

The numbers show the Wild very easily could have won Tuesday. It’s no consolation now, but it does mean all hope is not lost.

John Carlson, Minnesota native and former Viking with concussion history, retires from NFL at age 30

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated May 5th at 2:31pm 302602291

carlsonFormer Vikings tight end John Carlson, a standout at Litchfield High who went on to play for Notre Dame, abruptly retired at age 30 on Tuesday. Per NFL.com:

It has been an offseason of early retirements, and Arizona Cardinals tight end John Carlson is next in line.

“After much thought and consideration, my wife Danielle and I know that this is best decision for us,” Carlson said in a statement released by the team. “I was blessed to play seven seasons in the NFL for three tremendous organizations — the CardinalsVikings and Seahawks. I will always treasure the experiences and relationships made during that time but I’m also very excited about the next phase of my life and what’s ahead.”

Carlson was on the back end of a two-year, $4.65 million contract he signed in 2014. A second-round pick out of Notre Dame in 2008, Carlson had his best years as a rookie and sophomore with the Seahawks, catching 106 passes for 1,201 yards and 12 touchdowns.

A strong start earned him a five-year $25 million contract with his hometown Vikings before getting cut and signed by the Cardinals. … Carlson did not provide a reason for his early exit, though it’s safe to say it came as a surprise. He was working out with the team on Monday.

While it would be unfair to assume any reason for retirement since Carlson didn’t give one, it is fair to note this March 2014 Star Tribune story, which makes significant mention of Carlson’s concussion problems:

Carlson played 27 games and had 40 catches for 387 yards and one touchdown over two seasons with the Vikings. He finished last season on injured reserve because of a concussion he suffered in Week 14 against the Ravens. It was his third reported concussion in six NFL seasons. Carlson reviewed his health in the offseason with his family, and plans to continue his football career next season.

“It’s a serious thing, but I’m not ready to be done,” Carson said in February of 2014. “I’m not done, and the doctors are telling me that it’s OK that I’m not done.”

Whether or not concussions are the reason, he is done now.

Is the Twins' pace more sustainable than in recent seasons?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated May 5th at 12:07pm 302566511

hunter

I won’t profess to know everything about this 2015 Twins team, but 26 games in (after tonight’s game, the season will be one-sixth over), these trends are presenting themselves:

1) This is a resilient team. A lot of us wrote them off after a terrible first week. I was guilty of sending more than one text indicating I thought this could be the worst team of the past five Twins seasons. It was a good lesson in small sample sizes, I suppose, but the manner in which this team started 1-6 was alarming … and the manner in which it has now played itself into a 14-12 record is a testament to the manager and players staying the course (and performing better). That resiliency has been on display in individual games, including Monday’s comeback win over Oakland. Down 4-0 after a first-inning grand slam, the Twins looked like they were headed to an improbable 0-6 record in Phil Hughes’ starts. Instead they rallied and kept their momentum going.

2) This team is going to hit. The Twins are 12th in MLB in runs scored and eighth in batting average (.260), and that’s without any one player getting off to a torrid start. Rather, this lineup has the feel of being able to generate runs even if everyone isn’t clicking. Much of the damage Monday came from the bottom of the order: the 6-9 hitters combined for nine hits and 7 runs scored.

3) The pitching still isn’t great, but it’s better. Twins starters have a 4.43 ERA, 21st in MLB. That’s still bottom-third, but it’s a marked improvement over recent seasons. And that’s without Ervin Santana, of course. It speaks to improved depth.

4) Paul Molitor is getting high marks already for the way he manages. I like his mix-and-match lineups — with a willingness to platoon and take advantage of hot hitters or good matchups. I like the way he uses his bullpen and lets guys pitch two innings. I like that the Twins put Oswaldo Arcia on the DL immediately instead of waiting to see if his injury would clear. Playing with a short bench for multiple games puts a team at a disadvantage; whether that’s Molitor’s call or someone else’s call, it seems to be a difference over past years.

5) The biggest question now is to what degree all of this is sustainable. Resiliency can fade if losses mount, the pitching could go south and the bats could cool off. The question is to what degree. The Twins in recent years have had competent stretches of play that gave way to doldrums. And in general, it hasn’t been the first 100 games that have been the real problem; it’s been the final 62.

That said, this team already has a chance to do something no Twins team since 2010 has accomplished: go 3 games over .500. That chance comes tonight, along with a shot at a six-game winning streak. It’s more than some might have predicted at the start of the season, and certainly more than most would have predicted after the first week.

Here's a scouting report on Stephen Curry from before the 2009 NBA draft

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated May 4th at 5:58pm 302482401

Stephen Curry was named NBA MVP today, further cementing Wolves’ fans lament over the 2009 draft when Minnesota took Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn at No. 5 and No. 6 and left Curry to Golden State at No. 7.

Lest we forget, though, Curry was no sure thing coming out of college — as this scouting report from six years ago will attest:

Although he’s probably never going to be a pure playmaker in the Steve Nash or Chris Paul mold, he plays the game at an excellent pace, looks extremely poised at all times, and appears to show a good enough feel for the game to at least develop into a capable facilitator, ala Mike Bibby or Mo Williams. …

All in all, Curry has had a tougher time than he did last season with all the added attention that has been thrown his way, but he still projects as a very solid pro. In the right situation, alongside the right teammates, he could be a very effective NBA player, and his excellent intangibles and winning mentality lead you to believe that he’ll find a way to carve out a successful niche.

Sounds like a nice rotation player, maybe the fourth-best player on a good team — not the MVP, which he has become.

A different perspective on Fox Sports North Girls from someone who used to be one

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated May 4th at 10:35pm 302450501

jennytaftOver the weekend, I learned that Fox Sports was doing away with its “Fox Sports Girls” program. It started as a tip on Friday; on Saturday, a spokesperson for FSN confirmed it with a statement that read:

FOX Sports is constantly evaluating our marketing programs in an effort to keep them fresh and provide the most engaging experience for our viewers.  As a result, we have decided to end the FOX Sports Girls program to focus on other projects that serve our fans.

Since Fox Sports launched the “Girls” program in 2011, it’s been met with mixed reviews. The same could be said for the comments that followed this weekend after it was disbanded. Fans dislike the concept and like the concept for roughly the same reasons: there are pretty women on TV and at events.

“What’s not to like about that?” some fans say.

“It’s a sexist and demeaning concept,” others say.

I’ve always come down more on the side of the latter group, and I’m guessing there were enough viewers (many of them female, including my wife) who felt alienated by the concept that Fox was compelled for that reason to pull the plug.

In 2015, in my mind, the Fox Sports Girls — they had them for all the regional networks, just FSN, and all of them are going away — to be an antiquated concept that opened itself up to more criticism by calling the participants “girls” and by only referring to them by first name. They were somewhere between sideline reporters and cheerleaders — nice people caught in a strange assignment.

I have not, however, ever BEEN a Fox Sports Girl. But I did interview one of the original FSN Girls, Jenny Taft, for a 2013 story (when she was just “Jenny”). Back then, she encouraged me to replace “Girls” with “Ambassadors” when thinking of the role she and others played. That helped to a degree.

“We are trying to be a connection between fans and athletes,” Taft said back then, “and trying to get an inside look at teams and athletes from a fan’s perspective.”

Fair enough.

Taft, who played hockey in high school at Edina and lacrosse at Boston University (where she also studied journalism), was able to parlay her FSN Girls gig into a job with Fox Sports One as a reporter and host.

Reached Sunday, Taft (pictured above as both an FSN Girl and in her current job) said she had heard about the FS Girls program disbanding, though she had not heard an explanation as to why. But she did offer her own perspective on what it had meant to her.

“I enjoyed the job and I was very proud of the Fox Sports North Girls concept,” she said. “I worked with great people who were supportive and I believed in the concept. It also helped me start my career, so I was very lucky to be a part of it.”

Maybe Taft, who was given more on-camera responsibility by FSN as her time there continued, would have risen to her position at FS1 regardless, but so much of breaking into any industry, particularly in the media, is getting a foot in the door.

Maybe that foot in the door shouldn’t have had to come in a role that some would consider degrading, but Taft took it at face value. If the person doing the work doesn’t feel degraded, how do we ultimately judge it? That’s a bigger question that would require thousands of words to even begin to explain, but let’s end here:

Maybe Taft is an example, at least, of something good that came out of something many considered flawed?

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Cincinnati - WP: M. Lorenzen 7 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: J. Locke 1
Miami - WP: M. Latos 2 FINAL
Washington - LP: S. Strasburg 1
NY Yankees - WP: M. Pineda 6 FINAL
Toronto - LP: M. Estrada 3
Philadelphia - LP: C. Billingsley 0 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: S. Miller 9
Baltimore - LP: B. Norris 2 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: B. Colon 3
Tampa Bay - LP: D. Smyly 0 FINAL
Boston - WP: R. Porcello 2
Los Angeles - WP: Z. Greinke 8 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: M. Garza 2
Cleveland - LP: D. Salazar 3 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Vargas 5
Detroit - LP: S. Greene 2 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Samardzija 5
Oakland - WP: J. Chavez 2 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: T. May 1
Texas - WP: W. Rodriguez 7 FINAL
Houston - LP: S. Feldman 1
Chicago Cubs - LP: E. Jackson 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: M. Harris 7
Arizona 0 Postponed
Colorado 0
Seattle - LP: D. Leone 4 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: H. Street 5
San Diego - LP: A. Cashner 0 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: R. Vogelsong 6
Washington 90 FINAL
Atlanta 106
Memphis 97 FINAL
Golden State 90
Chicago 1 FINAL
Minnesota 0
Anaheim 3 FINAL(OT)
Calgary 4
San Jose 1 FINAL
Houston 0

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