Can the Tampa Bay Lightning Be Stopped?

Can the Tampa Bay Lightning Be Stopped?

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The most dangerous club in the National Hockey League will
be at the Wells Fargo Center Tuesday night – and no, we’re not talking about
the home team.

Little has changed for the Lighting since the Flyers did
battle against them in Tampa Bay 10 days ago. They maintain a firm grasp on
first place in the Southeast Division by virtue of their 12 points off of a 6-2
record. They also continue to exhibit the most explosive offense in the NHL,
only while the rest of the league has come back down to earth, the Bolts are
still setting an absolutely ludicrous pace.

Tampa Bay is averaging 4.88 goals per game, over a full
point more than second-place St. Louis. They’ve been held to three goals or
less in just two games – both losses – with their lowest output of the season currently
at two. Meanwhile the Lightning have scored five on two occasions, six on two
more occasions, and have set the bar with eight goals in a game already.

It’s a lot of the usual suspects. Two-time NHL goal scoring
champion is at it again, placing third with seven tallies, and second with 16
points. Six-time All Star Martin St. Louis is hot on Stamkos’ heels in with 14
points, while captain Vincent Lecavalier has chipped in 11.

But new arrivals have made the squad more formidable to
opposing goaltenders than ever. Rookie Cory Conacher, a player that went
undrafted out of college due to his size (5-7, 176), is off to a torrid start,
leading all rookies in points (12), assists (7), plus-minus (7), and tied for
the league lead with goals (5). Free-agent pickup and former Flyer Matt Carle
has quickly installed himself as an opportune scorer as well, leading all Tampa
Bay defensemen with six points.

They’ve come together to create a devastating attack under head
coach Guy Boucher, who in his first two seasons with the Lightning had his
squad finish in the top 10 in scoring. They also fell one game short of a
Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2010-11.

They’re a force to be reckoned with against any team in the
NHL, not just the Flyers – although the Orange & Black have had their
troubles with them.

The Lightning won the last meeting 5-1. Philly got out to an
early lead on a fluke goal, but Tampa stole the momentum after killing a
four-minute 5-on-4, then took advantage of backup netminder Michael Leighton
making his first start of the year. While it was a questionable decision to
start Leights that night (or ever), Ilya Bryzgalov hasn’t fared much better
against them. Bryz went 1-2-1 against the Bolts last season, posting a 3.44 GAA
and awful .814 SV%.

It’s probably unlikely Tampa Bay continues on at quite this
obnoxious of a pace, but at this rate they are likely to finish as one of the
top two or three highest-scoring teams in the NHL this season. So far, the most
any opponent has been able to do is slow the Lightning down, and give their
forwards a chance to take advantage of suspect defense and goaltending.

Tough for a team like the Flyers, less than full strength
and hardly averaging over two goals a game, to compete in that environment. Then
again, over the long haul it’s going to be tough for anybody in the NHL to
compete with this explosive offense.

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Yankees 9, Phillies 4: Cameron Perkins comes out swinging

Yankees 9, Phillies 4: Cameron Perkins comes out swinging

TAMPA -- The Phillies’ bats were slow getting started in the Grapefruit League opener Friday afternoon. The Phils did not have a baserunner through the first six innings in a 9-4 loss to the New York Yankees at Steinbrenner Field.

“First game, I’m just happy we got at-bats because the pitching is always ahead of the hitting this early,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said afterward.

Outfielder Cameron Perkins had the Phillies’ first hit, a single up the middle in the seventh inning. He added a solo homer in the ninth inning.

Perkins, 26, was the Phillies’ sixth-round pick in the 2012 draft out of Purdue University. He graduated from Southport High School in Indianapolis, the same school that produced Phillies great and Hall of Famer Chuck Klein.

A right-hander hitter who eschews batting gloves, Perkins hit .292 with eight homers and 47 RBIs at Triple A Lehigh Valley last season. He is not on the 40-man roster but was invited to camp for a look-see. He is considered a longshot to win a spot on the Phillies’ bench, but will certainly improve his chances if he keeps swinging it like he did Friday.

“I don’t think about it,” Perkins said of his bid to make the club. “All I can do is what I did today -- get my opportunity and make the most of it.”

Brock Stassi, another candidate for a job on the Phillies’ bench, also homered.

On the pitching side
Right-hander Alec Asher, who projects to open in the Triple A rotation, started for the Phils. He pitched two innings, allowed a home run to Didi Gregorius and struck out two.

Asher made big strides with his sinker last season. He’s added a cutter now.

Right-hander Nick Pivetta debuted with two scoreless innings. He gave up a hit, walked one and struck out three. The Phillies acquired Pivetta from Washington from Jonathan Papelbon in July 2015. He projects to open in the Triple A rotation, but first will pitch for Team Canada in the WBC in March.

“It’s a lifelong dream for me, right up there with whenever it is that I get my first start with the Phillies,” Pivetta said.

The bullpen
Mackanin has said he’d like to have two left-handed relievers in his bullpen. The Phillies have just one -- Joely Rodriguez -- on their 40-man roster, although it’s possible that Adam Morgan could be shifted from starter to reliever later in camp.

The Phils have brought two veteran lefties -- Sean Burnett and Cesar Ramos -- into camp on minor-league deals to compete for a job. Burnett made his debut Friday and gave up a triple, a sacrifice fly and a home run in his inning of work.

Luis Garcia was tagged for four hits and three runs in his spring debut.

Up next
The Phillies host the Yankees in Clearwater on Saturday afternoon. Morgan will start for the Phils against right-hander Adam Warren.

A Q & A with Siera Santos

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A Q & A with Siera Santos

What experience had the biggest impact on your life and career in sports and why? 
I’m often asked why I chose to be in sports broadcasting and the answer is not exactly brief. Most people aren’t familiar with my backstory. While I prefer to tell it face-to-face, here it is in a nutshell: Throughout high school, I had a lot of “problems” (that’s the gentle way of putting it). I didn’t graduate and instead got my GED while I was in a treatment center in Utah. That summer when I returned home to Arizona, I needed a healthy distraction and, although I had always been a casual Arizona Diamondbacks and Phoenix Suns fan, I started watching games every day and reading the sports section with my dad over our morning cup of coffee.

When the NBA season started, I begged my dad for season tickets. This was the Nash/Stoudemire/Marion era and tickets were incredibly expensive. While we didn’t get season tickets that year, we went to several regular season and playoff games. Next season rolled around and, once again, I pleaded with my dad to get us season tickets. He finally broke down and bought a half-season package. We went to nearly every other game. I knew at that point that I wanted to go to games for the rest of my life. I enrolled in community college for the spring with my heart set on getting a degree in broadcast journalism. Not only did Suns games change the course of my future, but they also repaired my relationship with my dad. 

Who’s had the biggest impact and why?  
It’s difficult to single out one person. Obviously my parents' unwavering support got me where I am today. If I had to name someone who is currently a mentor-figure in my life, it would definitely be Jesse Sanchez from MLB Network. He always checks in to make sure I’m OK (in both my career and personal life), and he’s given me invaluable feedback and advice. There aren’t many Latinos working in sports media at national level and he encourages me to embrace who I am. 

What are some of the funniest moments you’ve experienced as a woman in sports?
When I tell people I’m a sports broadcaster, the immediate follow-up question tends to be: “Oh, so you like sports?” It’s tough to not respond with something sarcastic so I usually say, “Nope! I hate them!” I just don’t think it’s a question that you would ask a man in sports broadcasting. 

What was the most negative moment you’ve experienced ... the one that got you fired up or perhaps made you think about quitting?
Overall, most of my interactions are very positive and the majority of athletes are professionals. But I did have an issue with one player who was unbelievably disrespectful. He had been inappropriate on two previous occasions and I dreaded having to crowd around his locker to do interviews with him after games. I stopped asking him questions and after one of the scrums, he said: “If you’re not going to ask any questions, move your ass to the back.” My cameraman was still rolling and the mic was still hot. It was caught on video. Eventually, the issue was resolved with the support of my superiors. However, the entire ordeal was embarrassing and made my job more difficult. 
 
Have you had any teachable moments, i.e. someone made an ignorant comment, but had no idea you were offended – until you said something?
Double-checking the pronunciation of names that I’m not familiar with has been a priority. If you slip-up on a name, viewers will crucify you. Most male broadcasters will be forgiven for a mispronunciation, but it’s not necessarily the same for women. 

Any awkward moments?  
Whenever an athlete crosses the line and tries to be flirtatious or ask for a date. It doesn’t happen as often as you’d think, but it’s still uncomfortable. 

What are you most proud of?
I’m often asked “Well, what’s next?” The truth is I’m very happy with where I am. My end goal was to be a team reporter for a regional sports network and that’s exactly what I’m doing. I live in an amazing city and I love what I do. After I dropped out of high school, I never thought I would make it this far, much less graduate college. I’m incredibly grateful to be here and I’m proud of where I am.

A lot of girls look up to you and aspire to be on TV covering sports. What is the most important message you want to send to them?
Be someone that people enjoy working with and being around. Always be open to feedback. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re not 100 percent sure. Oh, and don’t post anything on social media that you wouldn’t want your grandma to see.